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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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        Joseph Hindy

        A writer, editor, and YouTuber who likes to share about technology and lifestyle tips.

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        Published on May 7, 2019

        How to Invest for Retirement (The Smart and Stress-Free Way)

        How to Invest for Retirement (The Smart and Stress-Free Way)

        When it comes to stocks, I bet you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing.

        Everyone who’s not a financial expert has been there. I’ve been there. But, time is passing and you need to be crystal clear with how you’re investing for your retirement.

        Otherwise, it’s back to work until you can afford not to. So, how can you invest for retirement when you’re not a financial expert?

        You take the time to learn the fundamentals well. If you do, you can grow your wealth and retire happy. The best part is that you don’t need to be a financial expert to make smart investment decisions.

        Here’s how to invest for retirement the smart and stress-free way:

        1. Know Clearly Why You Invest

        Odds are you already know why should invest for retirement.

        But, maybe you know the wrong reasons. It’s time you get clear on why you’d like to retire. Here are some questions to help you get started:

        • Will you spend more time with your family?
        • What does retirement mean to you?
        • Are you looking to launch that business you’ve been holding off for years?

        Everyone wants to retire but not for the same reasons. Once you’re clear for why retirement is important for you, you’ll focus on making it happen.

        Investing in the stock market allows you to take advantage of compound interest.[1] All this means is that your money earns money on top of its interest. A reason why investment in the stock market is one of the best ways to plan for retirement.

        2. Figure out When to Invest

        “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”– Chinese Proverb

        It’s true if you’d had started investing when you were 10 years old, you’d have a lot more money than you do today.

        The reality is that most people don’t start investing until it’s too late. So, if you’re currently waiting for the perfect time to start an investment, it would be today. Open your calendar and block out 2 to 3 hours to choose how you’ll invest for retirement.

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        A quick way to get a snapshot of where you stand is to use Personal Capital. Input all your personal information and spend some time setting your retirement goals. Once completed, you’ll know where you stand with your retirement.

        Having a savings account for retirement isn’t planning for retirement. Why? Your money loses value when you factor in US inflation.[2]

        3. Evaluate Your Risk Tolerance to Create the Perfect Portfolio

        Investing your money well depends on your emotions.

        Why?

        Because when the market drops most people panic and withdraw their money. On average, the US stock market yields an annual 6% to 7% ROI (return on your investment.) But, this won’t happen if you’re worried about short-term loses.

        Before you invest your next dollar, know your risk tolerance.[3] Your risk tolerance determines the number of risky and safe investments you’d have.

        Regardless of your investing style, you need to view investing for retirement as a long term game. Know that some years you’ll lose money but recoup this in the long-term.

        Avoid watching market-related new. Also, create a double authentication to log in your investment account. This way you’re less likely to withdraw your money.

        4. Open a Reliable Retirement Account

        Depending on your circumstance, you may need to open a new brokerage account. This is the account is where you’ll invest your money.

        If you’re currently working for a company, odds are that they offer a 410K investing account. If so, here’s where you’ll invest most of your money. The only problem with this is that you’re limited to the stock options that are available.

        You do have the option to open a separate IRA (individual retirement account.) Here are some of the best brokers:

        1. Vanguard
        2. TD Ameritrade
        3. Charles Schwab

        5. Challenge Yourself to Invest Consistently

        Committing to invest for retirement is hard, but continuing to do so is harder.

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        Once you’ve started investment for your retirement, you run at risk from stopping. Often you’ll want to contribute less, so you’d have more money in your pocket.

        That’s why it’s important that you create a budget that allows you to invest each month. If you’re working for a company, you can set a percentage for the amount you’d like to contribute each month. Most people by default contribute 1% but aim to contribute 10% to 15%.

        Be the judge for how much you can afford to contribute after covering important expenses. To stay motivated, use Personal Capital to view your net worth.

        A benefit to contributing money to your retirement account is not taxed. For example, if you earn $100 and invest 10%, you’d contribute $10, then get taxed on the remaining $90. As of 2019, the most you’re able to contribute towards your 401K is 19K but this can change.

        6. Consider Where to Invest Your Money

        The most common way to invest your money is in stocks, but it’s not the only way. Here are other ways to invest:

        Robo Advisors

        Robo-advisors[4] are fancy algorithms that’ll choose the best investments for you. Sites like Wealthfront make it easy for first-time investors to invest their money. You’d input information about yourself and set your risk tolerance.

        Then, set your monthly contribution amount and your robo-advisor would do the rest. Robo-advisors charge a fee to manage your money, but less than regular advisors.

        Bonds

        Think of bonds as “IOUs” to whomever you buy them from.

        Essentially, you’re lending money and charging interest. Like stocks, not all bonds are equal. Some will be riskier than others depending on their rating.

        Here are the different types of bond categories:[5]

        1. Treasury bonds
        2. Government bonds
        3. Corporate bonds
        4. Foreign bonds
        5. Mortgage-backed bonds
        6. Municipal bonds

        Mutual Funds

        Picture a group of people dumping all their money in a jar that’s managed by a professional. This is how mutual funds work. The fund manager manages the money looking to earn capital gains (interest.)

        One of the best types of mutual funds is index funds. Since these funds don’t try to beat the market and instead follow it, they need less research. Because of this they often charge the lowest fees and yield the best long-term results.

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        Real Estate

        Yes, buying a home is an investment when done correctly.

        Imagine buying a home and using it as a rental property. After repairing it, you receive a monthly surplus check of $100 to $200.

        This may not sound like a lot, but repeat this process enough times and you’d earn a large amount of passive income. That’s why real estate is one of the best investments to not only retire but become wealthy.

        But, it requires a lot of money to start and you should expect losing money along the way as you learn the process.

        Savings Accounts

        Your money can still grow in a savings account. Nowadays most online banks offer a 2% annual return. Although the average inflation is higher your money will be available when you need it.

        7. Master Disincline to Dodge Short Success

        Investing for retirement is a long-term strategy. That’s why you need to master delayed gratification. All this means is delaying short-term pleasure for something bigger in the future. Research shows that those who have delayed gratification are more successful.[6]

        So how can you master delayed gratification?

        By building your discipline.

        Think back to what retirement means to you. A clear purpose will help you avoid withdrawing your money during a market downturn. It’ll help you contribute more towards retirement when you’d want to waste it instead.

        Your journey towards retirement will be long, so reward yourself along the way. Choose a reward that’s relevant and meaningful, so that you reinforce positive behavior. For example, after contributing more towards retirement, treat yourself to dinner.

        8. Aggressively Invest on This One Investment

        I’ve mentioned several types of investments but haven’t covered the most important one.

        It sounds cliche but here’s why you’re your best investment towards retirement. The more you know, the more money you’ll be able to make. The more good habits you adopt, the more secure your retirement will be.

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        More importantly, investing in yourself is an investment that no one can take away. There’s no market downturn nor tragic circumstance that’ll wipe your knowledge and experience.

        But, how can you invest yourself?

        Reading books, blogs, and anything that’ll help you learn new topics daily. Listen to podcasts and audiobooks on your commute to/from work.

        Save money to buy courses and hire coaches. I used to believe hiring coaches was a waste of money when I could learn the subject alone.

        But, coaches see your blind spots and hold you accountable. Hiring the right coach will help you achieve your goals faster than you would’ve alone.

        Retire Happy with Excess Money

        The key to a secure financial future doesn’t only belong to financial experts.

        It’s possible for you and I. What if you were able to retire earlier than most people and weren’t a financial planner? What if you were able to focus on what you enjoy doing the most while your money was working hard for you?

        I know this sounds impossible now, but the truth is you’re capable of taking charge of your retirement. I’m not a financial expert but I’ve learned how to invest my money by reading books and learning from others.

        Investing your money is scary. So start small and invest a small amount of your money with a robo-advisor. Feel your money drop and rise for a month or two. Then, invest more and keep this up until you’re aggressively saving for retirement.

        One day, you’ll wake up with a net worth you’re proud of – confident about your retirement. You now know a few strategies you can use to invest in your retirement. Will you take action to retire happy?

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        Featured photo credit: Matthew Bennett via unsplash.com

        Reference

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