When researching ways to save money, you may have come across the common advice to “live below your means.” Spending less than your monthly income seems obvious, but it can be difficult if you don’t know where to start. You don’t want to feel deprived, but saving is still important, so what do you do? Consider the tips below for spending consciously without feeling restricted from living the life you want on your terms.
Use a Debit Card as Your Primary Payment Method
The simplest step you can take to improve your financial stability is to use a debit card for your purchases. Credit cards borrow funds from your issuer that you must repay. A debit card, however, is connected to your personal bank account for direct withdrawal.
When using one, you’re only spending the money you already have. You won’t need to pay it back later. As long as you are keeping track of your bank account, this is the most straightforward way to spend consciously.
Often you’ll find that many debit cards offer tempting benefits that make them worth it to utilize. Some cards, for example, will round up purchases to the nearest dollar and put the rounded amount into your savings.
Others will give you discounts and exclusive deals from certain retailers. This can encourage you to spend more, so choose deals wisely. It’s up to you which of these bonuses to consider, so take a look at your options before applying.
Budget With Flexibility
It’s easy to be intimidated by the thought of budgeting. It can often be stressful to monitor your bank account when you’re keeping a close eye on spending. But instead of putting off creating a budget, give yourself more reasons to begin. One way to do this is by removing the common psychological barrier of time.
Rather than setting aside an hour to pore over every small transaction, limit your budgeting to ten minutes at a time. In these ten minutes, only focus on the big picture and how you can improve your spending habits.
First, take note of your monthly income and necessary expenses such as groceries, utilities, subscriptions, and a credit card or loan payments. Ignore nonessential purchases for the moment and look at what funds are left over after you account for necessities. Instead, you can look at past leisure purchases and allocate a healthy amount for them in the future. It costs you nothing to plan, so make some goal lists of what you want to buy once you’re more solvent. This will allow you the flexibility of spontaneous shopping and give you the chance to put the rest into savings.
Pay Loans and Credit Cards on Time
Making your monthly credit and loan payments on time is a great way to secure your financial health. It also helps you live within your means.
Earmarking a certain amount each month to pay loans will help build your credit. This means you won’t be spending that money on whatever you want, but making the sacrifice now pays good dividends. Later on, your built-up credit will be your golden ticket to approval for larger loans like a home.
The issue with monthly credit card payments is that you can feel bogged down by them in difficult financial times. Luckily, you can mitigate this by only using credit cards for small purchases that you know you can payback. With caution, you can even take advantage of credit to pay for necessities. This risk, however, is only worth taking if you know you’ll be able to pay your bill when it comes.
Consider Alternative Living Arrangements
People often move to big cities in order to find work. The high demand for living space in larger cities can, in turn, raise rent prices. Higher costs of living can be detrimental to your financial health. To save on rent expenses, be sure to explore your options. You might find that you can save money by rethinking how and where you live.
You might consider taking on a roommate or choosing a studio apartment over a one- or two-bedroom one. Perhaps you can live with your family and still maintain your own space. Think, too, about location. Would you save money by living in a suburb and commuting? Or would living closer to work and walking each day make more sense?
Sometimes a move can make sense to save money. For example, the average rent in Manhattan is around $3,800/month, while in neighboring Brooklyn it is $2,800/month. Moving from one borough to another would be a savings of $1,000!
Find the Best Sources for Goods and Services
Groceries are essential purchases, and it’s easy to consistently overspend if you aren’t paying attention. This can happen even if you live in a lower-cost area depending on your household and item availability. Next time you plan your grocery list, find out which stores have lower prices for similar quality goods. After a bit of online and in-store research, you’ll know where to go to find items at the best prices.
You can extend your budgeting effort to other necessities as well to ensure you get the best value. Which Wi-Fi providers serve your area, which are the best, and which plans to offer the best bang for your buck? Which used cars offer the best gas mileage, and where are you able to look for the most reasonable price? By chipping away at these expenditures, you’ll ultimately be in a more comfortable financial position each month with little sacrifice.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to give up the comforts you love to live below your means. Make a few conscious decisions, do some research, and make a plan to live a full life while managing your finances. Instead of restricting yourself, you’ll be able to treat yourself every now and then while still keeping good financial habits. “Living below your means” can easily become a convenient and manageable way of life.