“Live Within Your Means” is an old adage that expresses the simple concept that you spend less than you make. It is much easier said than done and it is the foundational element to accomplish all financial goals. How might you do this? Saturday Night Live has this humorous advice. Here are several strategies I suggest to my clients…
Pay Yourself First
This is a common idiom in personal finance. Pay yourself first means you save money before you do anything else. Savings is your number one priority and it happens before any money is spent. One way to make this happen is automatic savings. You can set up automatic transfers from a checking account to a savings account (or retirement or brokerage account) so that the money from your paycheck doesn’t stay in your checking account where you are tempted to spend it.
Take Credit Cards Out of Your Wallet
Put credit cards in a safe place (but not in your wallet) and pay with a debit card or cash instead. This way you must have the money in the account (or on hand) in order to make the purchase. If you have a smartphone most banking institutions have apps that allow you to check the balance in your account. Also, setting aside a certain amount of cash each week for discretionary expenditures (aka “fun money”) can help you stick to a limit when it comes to meals out and other purchases that aren’t necessities.
Keeping track of what you spend can help you become mindful of where your money is going. It might surprise you how little expenditures add up over the course of a month or year. This new found awareness makes spending decisions clearer and helps you naturally reduce and prioritize expenses. There are many tools to help you do this. You could keep a spreadsheet with spending categories (that is what I do), use apps (such as Toshl and Expenditure) or the old fashioned way of keeping a small pencil and spiral note book in your pocket and writing down each and every expense.
Create More Income
Another way to live within your means is to focus on the top line and make more money. This might mean asking for a raise, throwing a garage sale, taking on a second job or becoming a Task Rabbit. It could also be a longer term strategy, like changing careers.
Playing SaveUp regularly can also keep you mindful of your savings and spending as well as provide daily motivation to help you live within your means. I hope these tips will help you be a diligent saver so that you can accomplish your financial (and life) goals and continue to SaveUp!
This post was written by SaveUp’s personal finance contributing writer, Catherine Hawley, CFP®.