Living below your means

Living not just within your means but below it

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

moneyFar too many people are living (well) above their means and cannot make ends meet. They live from paycheck to paycheck and often rely on so-called “pay-day lenders” to tide them over to the next payday. This is no way to carry on.

Many people are struggling financially and many without much fault of their own. But some financial hardships are self-inflicted in trying to keep us with the Joneses, so to speak.

Ordering take-outs most days of the week is not a good idea but many who live just around the breadline do just that, and not just only that, to cause themselves and their families problems in the financial sector.

We must, also for the sake of the Planet, all learn to live (well) beneath out means.

“But how do I do that”, I now hear many as, “with the cost of everything?”

First of all reduce needs and, especially, wants, for many perceived needs are all but wants. Then learn to reuse, repurpose and make as much as possible yourself.

Also change what you eat and here especially reducing meat in your and your family's diet. (Believe me I would not have believed it myself some while back that I'd ever say that).

Then reduce food waste by cooking from scratch and by learning how to use leftovers.

When it comes to food reduce your costs by cutting out meat at least once a week or, better still, go almost vegetarian by restricting yourself to meat only on Sundays and special occasions, as used to be the case for most people not so long ago even.

While it is true that many people in dire straights are not entirely – and I do stress the word entirely – responsible for the financial difficulties there are a huge number who are, or who are doing little to nothing to help themselves, and this even and especially among those who live from paycheck to paycheck. And the main problem is the desire to keep up with the neighbors as to possessions.

This is not a way to go about things when one already does not have the mean to do so and when one is just about able to make ends meet.

What does it matter whether the neighbors have a new car, a new large screen LCD TV, or whatever? They may not actually be able to afford it themselves either and have run up debt to pretend that they can. No need to keep up with them. It is not a race, it is not a competition.

There is not need to partake in such “games” of one-upmanship for, if your car is OK, your TV fine (though I would even go as far as suggest ditching your TV altogether), etc., then those wishes for new are not needs at all. Often, as said already, the needs that we perceive are nothing but wants.

There is no need for a new cellphone, a new computer, or whatever simply because there are new models out or a neighbor or friend has or gets a new one. But too many people fall into this trap. It is not good for our finance and it is also bad for the Planet.

Our needs – on al levels – are far removed, often, from our wants. But the latter are all too frequently confused for and with the former. Needs are one thing and wants a different one altogether and we must learn to differentiate between the two.

It is wants, all too often, perceived as needs and mistaken for them, that many times lead people into financial difficulties as they then try to, instead of saving up for something that they want, have immediately and look for instant gratification and forego real needs in order to fulfil their wants and desires, sometimes by means of loans with exorbitant interest rates (in the form of credit cards).

Living below your means is a skill for sure and especially a mindset and it requires first of all discipline.

It means to make do with fewer wants and to live frugally, making do with what you already have got and also to make things you need (and want) yourself, including from what others regard as waste, as trash, even.

Being frugal used to be the way in most households at least until the late 1970s after which the keeping up with the neighbors by whatever means became the name of the game. So far even that families who prided themselves on their frugal ways were and are still considered odd and eccentric.

In fact being frugal is being considered, in this time of economic downturn and austerity, as an act, and I kid you not, by the authorities, akin to terrorism. How far have we come from how things should be and used to be and how far have we become removed from reality.

Regardless of how and what the powers-that-be do and think frugality is what we should and must strive for, especially for the sake of the Planet, but also for our wallet.

We cannot continue on the consumption bandwagon the way many have done and do, even when they actually do not have the means to do so, just because the government says that we need to buy our way out of the crisis. It just will lead from one crisis to another.

There are many ways to live below your means but to understand what your needs and wants are is where to begin and then reducing the stuff you buy. You wallet and the Planet will be happier for it and so will you in the end.

© 2013