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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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        Last Updated on January 2, 2019

        How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

        How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

        Do you know what mental health experts point to as the biggest cause of stress in the United States today? If you said “money,” then ding, ding, we have a winner!

        Three out of four adults today report feeling stressed out about money at least part of the time. People are either worried about not having enough money or whether they’re putting the money they do have to use in the best possible way.

        Your money is either in charge of you or you’re in charge of it, there’s no middle ground. Using some type of personal finance software can help alleviate some of that money stress and better allow you to manage your money effectively. Without it, you may just be setting yourself up for constant financial worry. Life is already tough enough and there’s no need to make it more difficult by simply hoping your money issues will all work out in your favor. Hint: they won’t.

        This guide will help you to understand how personal finance software can better assist with both accomplishing long term financial goals and managing day-to-day aspects of life.

        Whether it’s tracking the savings plan for your child’s college fund or making sure you won’t be in the red with the month’s grocery budget, personal finance software keeps all this information in one convenient place.

        What Exactly is Personal Finance Software?

        Think of it like the dashboard in your car. You have a speedometer to tell you how fast you’re going, an odometer to tell you how far you’ve traveled, and then other gauges to tell you things like how much gas is in the tank and your engine temperature. Personal finance software is essentially the same thing for your money.

        When you install this software on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, it helps to track your money — how much is going in, how much is going out, and its growth. Most personal finance software programs will display your budget, spending, investments, bills, savings accounts, and even retirement plans, levels of debt, and credit score.

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        How It Leads to Financial Improvement

        It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but people who regularly monitor their finances end up wealthier than those who don’t. When you were a kid, keeping track of all of your money in a porcelain piggy bank was pretty easy. As we get older, though, our money becomes spread out across things like car payments, mortgages, retirement funds, taxes, and other investments and debts. All of these things make keeping track of our money a lot more complicated.

        Some types of personal finance software can help make things a little less complicated, setting you up to meet financial goals and taking away some of the stress associated with money.

        Even if you already have a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) some type of personal finance software can be of great benefit. Whereas CFPs focus on the big picture of your money, they don’t handle the day-to-day aspects that determine your overall financial health.

        It’s also not nearly as complicated as you might think and can take out a lot of the tedium that comes with doing everything on an Excel spreadsheet or with a pad and pencil.

        Types of Personal Finance Software

        When it comes to personal finance software, it generally fits into two categories: tax preparation and money management.

        Tax preparation software such as Turbo Tax and H&R Block’s software can help with everything from filing income taxes to IRS rules and regulations and even estate plans. Plus, there’s the benefit of filing online and getting your refund check a lot faster than if you were to mail off your forms after waiting in line at the post office.

        For the purpose of this article, however, will be focusing more on the personal finance software that aids with money management.

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        Money management personal finance software will help you to see the health of your cash flow, pay down debt, forecast for expenses and savings, track investments, pay bills, and do a host of other things that 30 years ago would have practically required a team of accountants.

        When to Use Personal Finance Software

        So far we’ve gone over what exactly personal finance software is and how it can be a benefit to your money. The next logical step in this whole equation is determining when it should be used and how is the best way to go about getting started using it.

        Below are four of the most common and practical ways to use personal finance software. If all or any of these apply to you and your money, then downloading some type of personal finance software is going to be a smart move.

        1. You Have Multiple Accounts

        There’s a good chance that when it comes to your money, it’s in more than one place. Sure, you probably have a checking account, but you may also have a savings account, money market account, and retirement accounts such as an IRA or 401k.

        If you’re like the average American, you probably have two to three credit cards as well. Fifty percent of Americans also don’t have loyalty to just one bank and spread their money across multiple banks.

        Rather than spending hours typing in every detail of every account you have into a spreadsheet, many programs allow you to easily import your account information. This will help to eliminate any mistakes and give you a bird’s eye view of everything at once.

        2. You Want to Automate Some or All of Your Payments

        Please don’t say that you’re still writing out paper checks and dropping each bill in the mailbox. While it’s noble that you’re doing your part to keep postal workers employed, we’re 18 years into the 21st century and you can literally pay every bill online now.

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        There’s no need to log into every account you have and type in your routing number either.

        With personal finance software you can schedule automatic payments and transfers between all of your imported accounts. Automatic transfers will help to make sure you have the necessary funds in the right account to ensure all bills are paid on the appropriate date. Late fees are annoying and do nothing but cost you money. It’s time that you said goodbye to them once and for all.

        3. You Need to Streamline Your Budget

        Perhaps the best feature of personal finance software is that it allows you track everything going in and out of your virtual wallet.

        Nearly every brand of personal finance software out there has easy-to-read graphs and charts that allow you track every cent you spend or earn, should you choose. You might be pretty amazed when you see just how much you spent on eating out last month or if you splurged a little more than you should have on Christmas gifts last year.

        Every successful business on the planet has a budget and using personal finance software can help you trim the fat on your spending in ways that affect your everyday life.

        4. You Have Specific Goals to Meet

        Maybe it’s paying off debt or saving for up something like a European vacation. Whatever your financial goal is, whether it’s long-term or short-term, personal finance software programs are one of the savviest ways to go about reaching those goals.

        You can do everything from set spending alerts to notify you when you’re over budget to automating what percentage of your paycheck goes to things like retirement investments. The personal finance software that you choose should show you exactly how close you are to hitting those goals at any given time.

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        How to Get Started

        From AceMoney to Mint and Quicken, there ’s no shortage of personal finance software apps out there. Many of these programs are free to download and will allow you to pay bills, invest, monitor your net worth and credit profile, and even get a loan with the swipe of a finger.

        Other programs may only offer you limited services and will require a one-time fee or subscription to unlock all that they offer. These fees can often vary from as little as two dollars to 50 bucks a month.

        It’s best to start off with the free version and then gauge whether you’re able to accomplish everything you’d like or if it’s worth exploring one of the paid options. Often times the subscription programs come with assistance from financial planning and investment experts — so that can be a real benefit.

        When deciding which personal finance software program to use, it’s also important to look at how many accounts you wish to monitor. Certain programs limit the number of accounts you can add. Be sure that if you have checking, credit card, and investment accounts to monitor, that you choose a service that can monitor them all.

        Finally, when looking around for the right personal finance software that meets your needs, make sure that you’re comfortable with the program’s interface. It shouldn’t be expected that you recognize every single feature instantly, but if the features don’t seem readable and manageable to you, then you’re not as likely to use it and get the full benefits.

        Final Thoughts

        Personal finance software can go a long way in helping you to take control of your money and meeting your financial goals. It’s important to note, however, that some focus more on budgeting and expense tracking while others prioritize investing portfolios and income taxes. Explore several different programs and read reviews to find the one that’s right for you.

        In this day and age, managing one’s personal finances in a secure manner that allows the user to have a real-time visual representation of their money is easier than ever before. With the numerous applications that are out there — both free and subscription-based — there’s no reason that every person can’t take control of their money and ensure they’re making smart money moves.

        Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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