Entertainment, Health and Lifestyle

Living Below Your Means

I wouldn’t call it a radical new idea, although a social media channel declared recently that living below your means is the hot new trend!

It is a simple concept — spend less than you earn. Still, LBYM is seen by many as a life sentence, not the lifesaver that it is. It can take a crisis like unemployment, runaway inflation or a sudden illness to reveal to some people just how far in over their heads they really are. That’s when a lifesaver can look mighty good.

Your household is like a business. You have revenue and expenses. If you spend more than you bring in, you will eventually take on debt. A business that continually takes on debt will eventually fail. Same in a household. It is a healthy company that ends the year not just breaking even but with money in the bank. Same at home. That’s LBYM.

There is no better time than right now to make some decisions about the future. But a commitment to LBYM should not be taken lightly. It’s a big deal, particularly if you, like most people these days, have come to see credit as a necessary extension of your income.

If you’ve ever flown on a commercial jetliner, you have most certainly survived a “controlled crash,” aka landing. I’m no pilot, but I’ve read how much control is required to take a piece of machinery that weighs many tons going 600 mph and bring it to a full and complete stop precisely at the gate cited on that monitor inside the terminal. It’s called “reverse thrust,” and depending on the length of the runway, that braking sensation can be quite an interesting experience. You’re belted in and for good reason. You could get thrown on your head. Thankfully those systems work thousands of times every day.

If you struggle with living beyond your means, it’s likely you’ve been spending at a rate of about 600 mph, metaphorically speaking. Things are out of control. You need to bring your spending problem to a halt by making a serious commitment to stop living beyond your means.

Starting now, and for the next 30 days, track your spending. Write down everything, from that cup of coffee to your rent or mortgage payment and everything between. Track even the quarters you spend, and for sure all the dollars.

At first it will feel like you’ve just reversed your engines, that you’re about to be thrown on your head. Once you get your bearings, you’ll be ready to start the important work of plugging up all the places where money is leaking out of your life.

One of the best ways I know to plug those money leaks is to start talking to yourself. Whenever you are faced with a desire to spend, STOP long enough to ask yourself: Can I afford it? Do I really need it? Do I need it now? Do I have something like it already? Can I find a cheaper substitute? Is this the best deal?

If you make it through all six questions, go home and sleep on it. Tomorrow you’ll probably change your mind. And if not, you’ll have the confidence you need to make the best decision.

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Mary Hunt

Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, "Ask Mary." Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com/ . This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

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