What does it mean to be living within your means? It depends. Approximately 50% of the United States population is considered middle class, lower middle class, or poverty class.
The median household income is $56,000 per year, and since I made well below that amount in 2016, I would be classified in the lower middle to poverty class. My budget was tighter than a skin tight leather jumpsuit.
However, I was aware of my circumstances and still able to survive living in Orange County, CA. It was tough, mind you, but I made it work. I had to, and I started like this.
Understand Your Reality
Sometimes, it’s difficult to accept your circumstances. In a place like Orange County, everyone looks like they’re thriving. Range Rovers and Jaguars everywhere you turn, and everyone is dressed in fancy clothes. However, I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating – things aren’t always as they seem.
We don’t know if the person with the Jag took out a ridiculous auto loan to put up a front to impress his or her peers. Also, we can’t be sure how the people in the fancy clothes make their money. They might work 3 jobs 7 days a week, with declining health due to lack of sleep. We really just don’t know, so stop comparing yourself to other people, and face your reality.
The first step to living within your means is understanding where you stand, and accepting your position. Also, you must know, that you aren’t going to be in that position for too long, because with TCC’s Master Your Budget series, you’re going to whip your finances into shape and inject quality into your life. Starting today, you’re going to download the Financial Goals Planner and Tracker (fill in the form above), and get started on your financial plan.
Be Intentional and Be Specific
Start off by setting strong, intentional goals, because your goals are the foundation for your success. If you don’t have clear, achievable, straightforward goals written down (yes, you must write them down), you’ll easily get lost and fall off-track.
When setting your goals, be very specific. For instance, if you want to go on a vacation next year with your family, you would write something like this:
Goal: Go to London with Ben and Sarah.
Why: We have been working so hard, and I believe we deserve a vacation.
When: July 1, 2018
- Start saving March 27, 2017.
- Save $700 every month and record savings balance on the last day of each month.
- Stop going out to eat and cook meals at home.
- Make coffee/tea at home and bring to school/work.
- Find free activities to keep us busy.
- Start a side hustle to build up an extra income stream.
Decide What You Really Need – Not Want
When you commit to living within your means, you are making a commitment to cut out the things that don’t add value to your life. Real, actual value.
Remember this: “It’s not a good deal if you don’t need it.”
Instead of putting your money into things you don’t need or won’t last, plant your money where it will grow (in the bank, investments, etc.) to help you reach your goals. Even if you’re not the investment type, putting your money into a savings account is better than spending it. At least in a savings account, the money is still yours. If you spend it, it’s just gone.
“Money looks better in the bank than in your closet.”
Know That This Won’t Last Forever
The whole point of setting financial goals is to create a life that you don’t have to spend years paying for. Eventually, you want to stop working and focus on enjoying life, spending time with family and friends, and still be growing your wealth.
In order to do that, you need to understand that: “If you don’t sacrifice for what you want, what you want becomes your sacrifice.”
If you’re serious about setting a solid financial foundation, you’re going to need to put your head on straight and keep your eyes on the prize (your goals). Don’t look at what Jim or Jane are doing. Look at what you are doing, where your life is now, and where you want to be next month, next year, and the year after that. Develop your game plan, and crush it.
Living within your means is something that should be natural, but with influences from the outside, media, and everyone around us, it’s easy to get caught up in all the fluff. Today, you face the problem, and accept the challenge to focus on your own life and your own goals. This is your time – right now.
If you found this post helpful, please share it with the social share buttons below. Every bit helps. Until next time, I wish you well!