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10 Good Changes During My One-Year Experiment Of “Living Below My Means”

10 Good Changes During My One-Year Experiment Of “Living Below My Means”

Living above your means is something that people do all the time. The enjoyment of getting things when you can’t afford them is what drives the credit card and loan industry. Unfortunately, there is also the absolutely infuriating side effect of being in serious debt all the time and that means you may have to live below your means for a while. I experienced this recently and actually some positive things happened. Here are some good changes I experienced by living below my means.

1. I started eating better

The first thing I gave up when I decided to live below my means is fast food and restaurants. It sucked at first because that food is undeniably delicious but after a while I got used to cooking all of my meals at home. Truth be told, I started eating better. My local grocer has 2.5lb bags of frozen vegetables for $2 each. A few bags of those and now I have veggies with every meal.

You wouldn’t think it but you can actually eat pretty well on a serious budget. Rice, noodles, pasta sauce, veggies, and other assorted items come pretty cheap and when you load up on everything, you can have very cheap meals that are pretty decent. I went from eating $200 worth of Taco Bell, Subway, and Chipotle every month along with groceries to spending $150 on only groceries and eating fresh cooked meat, veggies, and noodles that I make and season myself. That also allows me to control my sodium, fat, and calorie intake better!

2. I have become an eBay expert

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live below your means

    I am a technology buff which gets really expensive after a while. I like having a nice laptop, nice desktop, a nice phone, and a tablet. Unfortunately those things go for hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars. Thus, I have learned the ancient art of bargain shopping. I don’t get the very latest in technology but I built a desktop computer for $900 that can render a 10 minute video in 5 minutes and play pretty much any game on decent settings. There are always anxious sellers out there who are willing to get rid of good stuff for cheaper than it is worth. It’s just a matter of biding your time and being patient. Which brings me to…

    3. I have learned to be patient

    Getting exactly what you want exactly when you want it is expensive. Pre-ordering games is expensive. Buying the very latest technology and fashion is also expensive. I have learned to wait several months after new stuff comes out because then I can buy it used for a huge discount. This has easily saved me thousands of dollars over the course of the last year. If I don’t have a lot of money and I have a hankering for something specific, I can wait until my next payday to go get it. What used to be a “I must have it now” mentality has now evolved into a “I have to get that eventually.” That switch alone is worth thousands in savings.

    4. I have more disposable income

    live below your means

      This came as quite a shock to me. I used to think I was living right up to the very edge of my paycheck and I always considered getting a second job. Living below your means also means that you’re not spending money frivolously and that means your paychecks stretch longer. I went from having nothing at the end of a pay period to having at least a couple hundred dollars. That’s money in my savings account and it feels so good having a safety net which actually grows every month. Of course, it was good for other things too, like…

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      5. I have paid off a significant amount of my debt

      With the extra money, I was able to take control of my finances and a lot of my debt has been paid off. It took some time and some painful payments, but I went from forking out $350/month in debt repayment to a paltry $70/month. By saving money, I was able to pay off debts and now I have even more money. That’s an extra couple hundred dollars every month and all of a sudden I don’t feel like I’m under the squeeze so bad.

      5. I have become an expert in coupons and sales

      When you’re living below your means, you try to stretch every dollar. Things like $0.20 off coupons become a lot more valuable than they used to. Catching coupons online or in the local newspaper becomes a sort of hobby. Also, I started reading the morning newspaper. I was buying them for the coupons anyway so I might as well get my money’s worth right? Not only have I saved some extra money with coupons, but I’ve also become a lot more intimate with my community happenings. Which brings me to…

      6. I’ve become more active in my community

      live below your means

        Living below your means can get boring. You’re not going out to the bar. You’re not seeing as many movies at the theater. And things like concerts and amusement parks are a no go. However, many communities have plenty of events that are either free or really cheap to get into. In my community there was a community potluck organized and a bunch of people showed up to eat food and clean up the local park. It fills an afternoon, you get to meet people who live nearby, and it costs however much it costs to make a dozen servings of your favorite side dish.

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        7. I quit smoking

        Cigarettes are expensive. And bad for you.

        8. My goals have become more clear

        When I was spending money on useless nonsense, my goals were clouded. I knew there were some things I wanted but it always felt like there were other things I had to do first. Yes, I wanted to buy a better car but first I had to take care of this other issue. It was a zigzag labyrinth of self sabotage. Since I’ve begun living below my means, things that aren’t important actually seem unimportant while the important stuff remains important. My focus is trained on what it needs to be trained on.

        9. My apartment has never looked this good

        I’ve been spending a lot more time at home since I started living below my means. What I had before was functional but it wasn’t really enjoyable. I have spent more time keeping my house clean. The furniture all over the house has been reorganized. I have begun having more guests over to hang out rather than going to their place. There’s more pride in what I have instead of feeling the need to constantly augment it with more things that I want.

        10. My friends and family mean more to me

        Living below your means changes how you view things. You stop coveting things so much and you start coveting people more. This may sound bad but friendship is free. Spending time with your friends and family doesn’t cost you anything. You also have the added benefit of strengthening relationships and forging new ones. Some readers may think I’m saying that I didn’t appreciate people before I started living below my means and that’s simply not true. You just become more acutely aware of how much they mean to you.

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        There are a lot of things that suck when you live below your means. You don’t get to do what you want to do all the time and you may not get to be a part of the latest trends in fashion, technology, or anything else. However, it is something many of us have to do when faced with financial challenges. If you have to do it, you might as well make the best of it. Here is a great article to help you get started.

        Featured photo credit: DIY Lol via treasure.diylol.com

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        Published on September 17, 2018

        How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

        How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

        Achieving financial success is not something that just happens. Maybe if you win the lottery or something, but for the average person like you or me, it comes from a series of small steps you take over a long period of time.

        With each step, you form a new smart money habit. And with each smart money habit, you build towards financial independence.

        So what sort of habits can you form to get on that path? Let’s take a look at smart money habits you can start today to get you closer to a financially independent future.

        1. Avoid being “penny wise but pound foolish”

        It’s tempting to try saving a couple cents here and there when buying small items. However, that’s not where the real money is saved. You’re putting in extra effort for something that doesn’t move the needle.

        You get the most bang when you’re able to cut down on your bigger bills. For example, finding a lower interest rate for your mortgage could save you $50+ per month. And cutting your transportation bill by purchasing a cheaper car or taking public transportation can provide large gains as well.

        So, look at your recurring expenses such as housing, transportation, and insurance, and see where there’s wiggle room. It’s a much better use of your time than trying to pinch pennies here and there on smaller purchases.

        2. When you want something big, wait

        Impulsivity can get you in trouble in most aspects of life. Finances are no different.

        It’s human nature to see something and want it right then and there. It starts as a kid in the checkout line at the grocery store, and it continues on through adulthood.

        We get an idea in our head of something we want, and it’s hard not to go out and get it right then.

        A good example is wanting a new car. Perhaps you’ve had your car for several years. It’s crossed the 100k mile mark. Maybe maintenance is due, and you’re annoyed that you need to replace the timing belt or purchase new tires.

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        So, you get the itch.

        You start digging around online, and you realize you could trade in your current car for something newer and more exciting… all for a few hundred bucks a month. Then you get obsessed.

        Here’s where you have to take a step back.

        Your newfound obsession is clouding your judgement. Rather than giving into the impulse, wait it out.

        Set a timeframe for yourself. Maybe you come back to the decision three months down the road. See if the obsession lasts.

        It might, but often, a funny thing happens. Often, you forget about it. And often, you find that the new car wasn’t a need at all.

        The impulse faded. And you just saved yourself a ton of money.

        3. Live smaller than you can afford

        You finally get that big raise. And you want to celebrate – and why not?

        You’ve been looking forward to this forever. And after all, it was all due to your hard work.

        That’s fine, splurge a little. However, make it a one-time deal and be done.

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        Don’t get caught in the trap that just because you’re now making more money, you should spend more.

        Too often, people get more money and feel like they that gives them the means to buy a bigger house, a bigger car… you know the drill. Resist.

        The fact is that living smaller than what you can afford is one of the fastest ways to build savings.

        But if you constantly upgrade as you begin to make more, then you’ll never get ahead. You’ll just build up more debt along the way and have just as little wiggle room as before.

        4. Practice smart grocery shopping

        Food… it’s one of the biggest portions of any budget. And if you’re not careful, it can be one of the biggest drains on your wallet.

        But luckily, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you stay smart with your money when buying groceries.

        Create a grocery budget

        Set a strict weekly grocery budget. When you know how much you can spend on groceries, you can then plan your weekly menu around it.

        Once you know what all you need, you can go shopping and keep a running tally as you shop to ensure you’re on track.

        I tend to do this in my head, rounding for each item. However, writing it down as you go would probably work best for most people.

        Make a list… and never deviate

        Never go to the grocery store without a list. If you go to the store with a ballpark idea in mind, you don’t have a true ide of what you need.

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        You’re not well-researched. You don’t know what the sales are. As a result, you’re going to make decisions on the fly.

        These impulse decisions will lead to overspending, which will derail your grocery budget.

        Eat before going grocery shopping

        It’s also important to eat prior to going to the grocery store. Hunger is a powerful force.

        If you’re shopping on an empty stomach, everything is going to look good. In particular, you may find a lot of ready-made, processed snacks will look enticing.

        After all, you’re hungry now and that food is easily available. So subconsciously, you may lean towards those items.

        Unfortunately, not only are those items typically less healthy, but they’re likely more expensive. You pay for convenience.

        However, when you eat prior to shopping, then you’ll shop with a clear mind. Your hunger won’t cloud your judgement, influencing you to make poor decisions like a cartoon devil resting on your shoulder whispering in your ear.

        This makes it much easier to stick to your grocery plan.

        5. Cancel your gym membership

        Now that you’re all set on your food, it’s time to get smart about managing your budget in terms of physical fitness. And let’s begin by avoiding the gym. The gym bill, that is.

        The average gym membership costs around $60 per month. That’s $720 a year.

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        Yet, two out of three gym memberships go unused. That means two-thirds of people who have a gym membership are literally giving away almost a thousand bucks a year. It’s crazy!

        I recommend seeking an alternative. One good alternative is to look into fitness streaming services.

        Streaming services allow you to stream hundreds of workouts like Insanity and p90x, right in your own home for around $10-20 a month. That’s $40-50 less a month than the average gym membership.

        Of course, then there’s the free option. The internet is full of free workouts that you can do on your own with minimal or no equipment.

        For example, there’s the Couch to 5K program, that I personally used a decade ago to ease myself from couch potato to running my first 5K race. If I could do it, anyone could.

        Then there are free resources like reddit that have limitless information on workouts. The Fitness subreddit has done all the research for you, populating workout tips and detailed workout routines for anyone to use in their wiki.

        There are several routines that require no equipment. And you can join in on the subreddit to become part of the community, making it easier for those seeking comraderie and encouragement in their fitness goals. All for free.

        It’s baby steps… And baby steps can start now!

        I’ve never met anyone that can’t stand to be a bit smarter with their money. And on the flip side, anyone can get smarter with their money. But remember, it doesn’t happen all at once.

        Begin by fighting your impulses. Prepare for the week and be smart at the store. And cut monthly expenses like gym memberships that are overpriced and you probably aren’t getting your money’s worth out of anyway.

        The devil is in the details. And the details can change your lifestyle and prep you for a financially independent future.

        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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