Today’s Tip: Spend Less than You Make

– by Wendy Morley, Publisher –

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It’s fun to write about motivation, about stepping into the life you want to have and doing the things you want to do. It’s fun to inspire people to make time to travel and lie in fields looking at clouds and traveling to far-flung parts of the world with people they love, or meeting new people.

Even better than writing about those things is doing them!

But if you don’t take care of the most important thing (which I’m about to tell you about), you’ll never get the chance to do any of them, because your entire life will be about working nonstop and playing catch-up, but you’ll never catch up.

The most important thing that you can control in your lifetime is: to live within your means.

I know, that’s not too sexy and exciting, is it? But it is this: real and true.

It’s so easy to get credit. One of the first things you do after you graduate from high school is get a student loan. Once you are a college student, the credit card companies open their loving arms to you. After you’ve graduated and got your first job (assuming you haven’t screwed up your credit by this point), you can get car loads, more credit cards … heck, you can buy a house.

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Don’t let yourself get bogged down with debt

Credit is not bad in itself. If you need to pay for something today but you don’t get paid until next week it can be quite handy. The problem is that credit makes it too easy to spend money you don’t actually have.

Next thing you know, you can’t pay off what you purchased each month and you’re carrying a balance from one month to the next. When that’s the case, believe me, you’re paying far more than you think you are for the purchases you make. If you carry that balance over the long term, you might end up paying $400 for that $80 pair of shoes you got on sale.

And, yes, paying five times more than you think you’re paying for something is a problem. Sure it is. But an even bigger problem is not being able to make your payments. Because if that happens, then this is how your life will be:

Freaking out because you realize that when you get your paycheck it’s not enough to cover your bills.

Lying in bed at night worrying.

Borrowing money from one credit fund to pay another (aka robbing Peter to save Paul).

Trying to pick up extra part-time work just to stay on top of your minimum payments.

Not going out with your friends or doing other things you enjoy because you can’t afford to.

Avoiding opening the mail or answering the phone because you know it’s going to be someone asking for money that you owe.

You can see how this might get in the way of your enjoyment of life. Being in debt is hugely detrimental. It’s a major cause of marital breakups and even suicide. And it’s very easy to prevent! Do one simple thing: live within your means. Spend less than you take home. Here’s how to accomplish that.

Create a budget.

Know exactly how much money you make. If this is inconsistent, take a lower estimate. (Remember to use the money that goes in your bank account, not your pre-tax earnings)

Having a happy and healthy life can be as simple as sticking to a budget

Having a happy and healthy life can be as simple as sticking to a budget

From that amount, subtract everything you must pay – rent, gas, hydro, car payments, for example

Figure out how much you need for all arbitrary expenses: food, transportation, clothing, gifts, pets, entertainment, etc. Think of everything.

You should have money left over. (If you don’t there’s a problem and you’ll have to juggle your finances to reduce your expenses.) This money goes in your savings. Use for emergencies, to save for a down payment on a house or to spend on your dream trip to Asia.

If you’re already mired in debt and living this nightmare, it’s not too late! The time to make the change is now. Talk to a (nonprofit) debt councillor. He/she will help you get your financial house back in order, and in a few short years you’ll be back to dreaming about the things you want to do again.

 

Wendy has spent much of her life writing about things that improve readers’ health and well being. She has no patience for negativity, shaming or dictating how others “should” be, but rather aims to help people become both true to themselves and happy to be alive.