You hear it all the time, but do you know what it means to live below your means? Have you figured out how to do that? To live below your means is to choose a lifestyle you can pay for with the money you have and still have some money left over.
Living below your means in this high-pressure, credit-based, gotta-have-it-all-right-now society is not exactly easy. It takes skill and determination to go against the tide and buck a system that encourages spending all we have now plus what we hope we’ll get in the future. It takes strength of character to protest against the message that insists that as long as you can get away with it, it’s OK to have what you want now and pay for it later.
Here’s the secret for living below your means in just eight little words: Buy what you need; want what you have. That’s it. Simple, profound and life-changing once that truth worms its way into your mind and soul. So how can we truly embrace those eight words and live well in a culture where everywhere we turn we’re tempted to live beyond our incomes? The principle has to become part of the fabric of your belief system. That is the way to choose contentment — to choose joy regardless of your situation right this moment. You choose to want what you have. Here are three ways to make that attitude a reality:
INSULATE: Choosing to be grateful for what you have is the way to build a layer of insulation around your life that will protect you from focusing on what you don’t have. Taking the time to add up the real cost of that new car you have your eye on, for example, can make your older, albeit paid for, vehicle look a lot better.
ISOLATE: If you are easily dissatisfied or prone to impulsive behaviors, identify your weak spots then remove yourself from them. Turn off the television. Skip past the magazine ads. Limit your exposure to websites like Pinterest. Isolate yourself from mindless shopping. Toss mail order catalogs in the trash unopened. Put distance between you and temptation. Avoid places you are most likely to slip back into your old ways of spending beyond your means.
SELF TALK: Confronting yourself is a great way to build your strength against the strong current of temptation to spend beyond your ability to pay. Ask yourself these kinds of questions, and then expect honest answers:
• Do I need this?
• Don’t I have something already that will do just as well?
• Am I sure this is a good value?
• Do I have the cash to pay for it?
• Could I delay the purchase for a few weeks?
• Am I willing to sit on my decision for 24 hours before acting?
Never feel you must apologize for choosing the high road when it comes to managing well the money that flows into your life.
If you’re embarrassed to say, “I can’t afford it,” don’t say it. Instead respond, “I just don’t choose to spend my money that way.”
Living below your means creates margin between you and the financial edge. It is the way to build wealth, reduce stress and improve your options, and that leads to peace of mind. Living below your means is an honorable way to conduct your life.
Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com and author of 23 books, including her 2012 release, “7 Money Rules for Life.” You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630. To find out more about Mary Hunt and read her past columns, please visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.