I think we can all agree there are some serious benefits of living below your means. Everything from greater peace of mind to reaching your financial goals faster… Sounds great right? So why don't more people do it? I think it's because we have this false belief that when we cut back and spend less than we earn, or live on a low income, it must feel miserable.
The idea of cutting back on expenses seems to have become synonymous with depriving oneself… but I wholeheartedly disagree. Today we'll look at how to reduce your spending so you don't hate your life or feel deprived! Yes, it's possible. When we live below our means, but within our needs, that's the secret sweet spot, in my opinion.
Table of Contents
How To Live Below Your Means So You Don't Feel Miserable
How to live below your means without feeling deprived:
- Let go of shame
- Money Mindset Shift
- Money saving hacks
- Find replacements
- Treat yourself
- Rely on community
- Practice financial discipline
- Reduce the stigma
Benefits of living below your means
- Say bye-bye to debt
- Plan for the future
- Roll with emergencies
- Reduce stress
- Improve your credit score
- Feel better
- More time for things you enjoy
How to tell if you’re living below your means
7 More Tips To Live Below Your Means
- Have a clear picture of your money
- Create a budget for living below your means
- Check in with accounts weekly
- Use credit cards wisely
- Set yourself up to live off one income
This post is sponsored by Lexington Law, a trusted leader in credit repair.
When we live below our means we can make great strides on our financial health and towards our money goals. That includes saving for retirement, your first home, and repairing your credit.
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What does it mean to live below your means?
Living below your means happens when you're spending less than you earn.
How to live below your means without feeling deprived:
Let go of shame
Somewhere along the way in our history, the idea of having less or cutting back became associated with “not good enough” which led to a lot of internalized unspoken shame (i.e. keeping up with the Joneses).
So let me be very clear: you have nothing to be ashamed of if you cut back on spending to live below your means.
Cutting back does not mean living like a pauper. Heck, the idea of “affordability” is subjective when you really think about it.
Growing up I often heard, “we can't afford that,” but the reality was, we could afford it, we just chose not to spend money on it.
However, our brains as children didn't connect those dots. Instead, kids hear “can't afford” and associate the phrase with feelings of disappointment they're experiencing… and that's one way that shame and limiting beliefs around money develop.
ALTERNATIVE: Instead of saying I can't afford that. Say, I'm choosing to allocate my money elsewhere right now. Shifts the mindsets from scarcity to abundance; from not good enough, to empowered.
Money Mindset Shift
Speaking of mindset, there are probably a slew of money mindset shifts you'll want to make.
Start by writing out a list of the money beliefs you hold. Keeping a note section on your phone where you can add to it as you go throughout your day is helpful in my experience as well.
From there, get to questioning!
Where in your life are you associating spending money with fun or not spending money with a lack of fun/deprivation?
It could be catching your thoughts, the conversations you're in, or even the TV shows you're watching.
For instance, how many times have we seen this scene playout on sitcoms:
Friend 1 wants to go out but friend 2 says, “No, I'm trying to save money,” and then friend 1 says something like, “ugh you're no fun anymore!”
…that's where those messages are getting reinforced and it's important to start going from passively taking in these messages to actively shifting them.
Money saving hacks
Living below your means does not mean living without.
Look at what you're cutting out then look to see if there are more budget friendly replacements.
For instance, maybe you cut ties with cable and opt for a cheaper TV subscription, or maybe you cancel your tv subscription service and just watch Youtube videos.
There's usually a way to keep drilling down for new, budget friendly options.
Similar to the “find a replacement” idea above, but a bit deeper…
So it's important to look at what you're cutting from your expenses, but then look at what role they filled in your life and come up with a replacement accordingly from there.
For instance, I LOVE going to spas. There are few things I enjoy more than visiting a 5 star hotel, lounging in their jacuzzi, sauna, and steam before a massage.
I can spend HOURS at a nice spa… sipping cucumber water, putting conditioner in my hair before hitting up the sauna, or even snacking on some fruit, cupcakes, or vegan treats (the best spas always have snacks out).
I had to ask myself, “what need was this filling in my life?”
Upon doing so I realized a few things:
- I love the moment of self care
- I love feeling a little bougie.
- I love the serenity and peace I feel afterwards
Here's how I remedied each of those things:
I get my fancy fix by putting on an outfit I love and visiting a place (whether it's a park, shopping center or neighborhood) that has tons of pretty things to look at and puts a little pep in my step.
Then I set up a little self care/serenity moment in my own home.
I'll clean the bathroom really well, put out fresh white towels, set out a few masks and scrubs. Chill a few face towels in a bowl with ice water, spritzing them with a eucalyptus or lavender spray, and steam out the whole room while spa music plays in the background. Works like a charm every time.
The idea for me is to build a life I don't feel like I need to escape from.
A life where I am getting my needs met, and then some, so I never feel deprived even when I am cutting back.
Rely on community
I know this may sound cheesy, but in my experience, when our lives are full of love and support all of our needs are met.
Rely on the relationships in your life. Build each other up. Celebrate and encourage one another. Hold each other accountable. And of course, maintain respectful boundaries around money with friends.
Practice financial discipline
Financial discipline gets a bad rep because we so often associate “discipline” with punishment… but it's really about having your own set of money rules. When you create the rules, there's no reason to feel like you're lacking things.
Reduce the stigma
On a personal scale, this could look like normalizing the fact that checking your accounts regularly is healthy and not something to be feared.
On a larger level, recognize that when you live below your means AND CELEBRATE it, you are reducing the stigma for not only yourself, but others too! Living with less is actually a good thing!
Benefits of living below your means
Wondering why should you live below your means? There's a slew of benefits including…
Say bye-bye to debt
Living below your means allows you to have the financial resources to pay off debts. Discover the right way to pay off debt suggested by Lexington Law here!
Plan for the future
With less money going out, you have additional means to plan for your future. This could be focusing on the big picture like retirement, or things like buying a home, a really nice vacation, or even financially planning for a baby!
Lexington Law put together this helpful guide to getting started with retirement planning here!
Roll with emergencies
When you aren't living beyond your means, you'll have money set aside to make handling unexpected emergencies far easier.
No need to stress about paying for a flat tire repair or what your future will look like.
In fact, they say anxiety lives in the future. So living below your means gives you an opportunity to live in the present since you know the future is taken care of.
Improve your credit score
Living below your means allows you to pay off debt, which in turn improves your credit score. Discover 9 steps to improve your credit from Lexington Law here!
And remember, if you believe you have unfair, inaccurate, or unsubstantiated negative items on your credit profile, Lexington Law is offering a FREE credit report consultation here!
Without stress or worries bogging you down, you can start to feel better. It's an opportunity to feel confident about your money and spending.
More time for things you enjoy
Less time spent on ________________ (insert money time sucking tasks there) means more time for things you enjoy.
Seriously, money ends up being a bigger time suck than people realize.
Whether it's the obvious, like spending time shopping — or the not so obvious, like the time you spend zoning out on your phone after you get another bill that sends your anxiety through the roof — or somewhere more in the middle, like the time spent avoiding debt collectors. Think about all of that time you could enjoy with friends, family, or on hobbies.
Plus with the money you're setting aside living below your means, like when you make big impactful moves to reduce your rent or mortgage, you have more fun money.
3 Questions to tell if you need to start living below your means:
- Do you have at least 6 months of cash in an emergency fund?
- Do you pay off your credit card in full each month?
- Are you regularly putting some money towards future financial goals?
If you answered “no” to even one of the questions above, it could be a sign you are living beyond your means. Don't stress, here are some ways to adjust so you can start living below your means:
7 Actionable Tips To Live Below Your Means:
Have a clear picture of your money
Know how much money you make, how much your bills are, when they are due, what's in your various accounts, etc.
Check out these 4 personal finance tools Lexington Law recommends people have to help you get a clearer picture of your finances.
Create a budget for living below your means
Even if you've been living off a budget in the past, now we want to reduce or restructure that. Determine how far below your means you want to live and come up with a new budget based on numbers.
For instance, if historically you used the 50/20/30 guideline, maybe you adjust that to 30% on housing/needs, 50% towards goals, and 20% towards lifestyle.
Check in with accounts weekly
This ensures you are tracking your spending and catching any irregularities.
Accounts to regularly check: bank accounts, investments, debts, and even your credit report. If you believe your credit report has any inaccuracies, click here to receive your FREE credit report consultation today.
Use credit cards wisely
I'm a full believer in the benefits of credit cards when we use them wisely. Aside from some cards offering rewards, they also offer more protection on purchases.
Earlier this year I ran into a bad situation with a service provider I hired. Fortunately, I paid via credit card and was able to get about $2,000 of what I paid back thanks to my credit card company. Had I paid with cash, check, or debit, I never would've seen that money again.
Set yourself up to live off one income
I was talking to my friend the other week about everything going on in the world right now, and asked if she was nervous about her finances, considering how volatile being a blogger/content creator is.
She calmly said “No, I was making a full time income for over a year before going full time into this and we set ourselves up that if either me or my husband lose our job, we can still live on just one income.”
And just like that, living on less allows you to weather a personal financial crisis with greater ease. One of the biggest traps I see people fall into, is lifestyle inflation with inflating paychecks. Now there is nothing wrong with some inflation, but we want to be wary of full on inflation.
Remember how I said to rework your budget? Now let's automate that new budget as much as possible. Start by putting money you don't plan to touch directly into savings or investment accounts.
Stop living beyond your means and start cutting back! Lexington Law shared 5 painless ways to cut expenses in this helpful article.
Live below your means, but within your needs…
When we focus on living within our needs, and not beyond our means, we have an opportunity to cut back on spending without feeling deprived. It's also a chance to find more gratitude for all that we do have. This process is meant to help us move forward, feel better, and enjoy life. Isn't that all any of us can ask for?
Choose 1 or 2 of these things to begin incorporating in your life. And click here to learn more about repairing your credit and receiving a free credit report consultation from Lexington Law.