Living Below Your Means
Too often from my friends, co-workers, or family they tell me that they are experiencing financial difficulties. In some cases this is completely understandable. Unexpected bills come up, someone lost their income, etc. Of course these things can and at some point in time in your life, WILL happen. That’s when we should be there for each other and help out in any way we can. The situation only becomes aggravating to me when I know it could have been avoided, often very easily… LIVING BELOW YOUR MEANS.
That is something, that is unfortunately, pretty foreign to most, especially here in the United States. We are bombarded with advertisements every single day. In fact, the average American will be exposed from 150 to 3,000 advertisements a day in one form or another. We don’t even realize it. We are programmed to spend, spend, spend without thinking or planning a budget.
Not only does this foolishness create havoc, stress, failed marriages, and often poor health as a result; It’s not Biblical. Now, I’m not saying not to spend money. Of course we all have to spend money, even on things like toys and extras we really don’t need. It’s a great way to reward ourselves or our family for working hard, but this shouldn’t be something that is a daily or even at times a weekly routine. This leads me into my first tip on living below your means.
- Learning how to be content and saying “No” to yourself. The same rules of eating apply to spending, telling yourself that you don’t need another soda or piece of pie when you can barely button your pants. It’s so easy to think that we “need” that item sitting on the shelf, or a new car in the driveway. Many times I hear, “I had to buy it”. Wrong, you didn’t have to buy it, you could control your spending urges and tell yourself no. Then you could take that money and save it or wisely invest it toward something that your family really needs or wants. Don’t try to keep up with the Jones’ either, because they are broke. Ask yourself “Do I really need this now, or can it wait?”, or “Do I really need another ______ (fill in the blank)”. More often than not the answer is no, and you’ll be happy later when you continue this trend and start seeing the difference in your bank account after a while.
- Shop around. Compulsively buying things seldom is a wise decision. This is especially true for major items, like a new car or appliance. (You would be surprised how many people don’t do their homework before making a major purchase). Many times you can find a better deal, or make a wiser buying choice if you are patient and take your time.
- Try to stay healthy. Medical costs can be staggering. Not taking proper care of yourself can reap financial chaos. Of course there will be times in our lives when some medical bills are unavoidable, but staying on top of things like exercise, eating right, and check-ups can prevent a lot.
- Stay focused. Focus on your long term goals, don’t get side-tracked with instant gratification. Make small goals for yourself that add up or contribute to your big overall plans, and you will have many motivating small victories to keep the momentum going.
- Time Management. Ever heard the phrase “Time is money”? Well, it is. Properly managing your time and keeping the time-wasters to a minimum is huge. Turn off the TV, put down the X-Box remote, log off of Facebook, you’ll be surprised how much more time you have in your day. Use this time to do something a little more positive and productive. Don’t put off your work, prioritize your work and tackle it. Then when you’ve put in a good day’s work – relax, spend time with your loved ones and recharge so you have the juice to do it again tomorrow!
- Good CHEAP fun! Find ways to have good cheap fun. Many times the most fun my family and I have together is just spending time with each other. We don’t always need to spend major bucks to have a great time. Go for walks, play at the park, stay in and play games, watch movies, hang out with friends, etc. Don’t hang out in places like malls when your bored or just wanting to have fun. Shopping malls have done millions and millions of dollars of market research to get you to spend money on things you don’t need.
- Pay cash! Don’t finance, no matter how tempting, just don’t do it if at all possible. The only people making money when you finance are the credit card companies and the banks. Money talks too, you show up with cash in hand and that $10,000 pre-owned car is now $9,500 or lower. Don’t believe me? Ask a dealer next time you are shopping for a car what they would take with straight cash.
- Pray. Keeping the best advice for last, pray. Keep God at the center and focus of your goals. You do this and you can’t go wrong.
These are the main things that I personally use to keep my family on budget and focused on our long term goals, and trust me I need this advice just as much as anyone. Overall, of course there should be times to spend some money and go a little nuts, but only when you can afford to do so without breaking the bank or losing track of your long term goals. No matter what our budget, we should set aside a portion for the Lord’s work as well.
2 Corinthians 9:7 (NIV)
Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.