Before you can pay back debt, start saving or investing, you'll need to learn to live below your means. There are two ways you can look at this type of lifestyle, abundance or scarcity. Abundance is adopting the mindset that you already have more than enough and more will continue to come your way, no matter how little you spend. Scarcity, on the other hand, is the idea that you are deprived, constantly focused on the things you can't and don't have.
If you want to make real change to your financial situation, it's time to realize that you have more than enough and that you have the power to live happily with less than you already make do with. There's no ultimatum here. You can have happiness and still save for your goals.
Pay attention to unnecessary fees
We've all been there. You’re in a hurry and you need to get cash fast, so you agree to the extra $1.50 or $3.00 at the ATM down the street. You lose track of time, miss a bill payment and get hit with late fees. $1.50 here, $5.00 there add up quick, especially if they happen month after month. With a little organization and mindfulness, you can avoid unnecessary fees altogether.
Consider setting payment reminders in your phone so you don't miss the due date. Know where your banks ATM's are to avoid out of network charges, or consider getting a card that doesn't charge those fees.
Use a credit card, but don’t live on credit
Credit cards can be helpful, so we’re not saying to only carry cash. However you should only use credit cards as a convenience, not a supplementary income source. If you cannot afford to pay off everything you bought during the month then you are living beyond your means.
That being said, if you can get by on an all cash diet... we highly recommend you do it. Even if it's just for a week. Handing away your hard-earned money is much more painful and conscious than swiping your plastic card. You'll be surprised how much you save each month.
Maintain your standard of living
If you're like most people, and you get a raise, you automatically think it's time for you to upgrade your lifestyle. Rather than raising your standard of living to match the increased pay, save that money. Put it toward your goal. You were already living comfortably without that money, why not continue to do so and stash the extra cash away? Once everything is paid off and you've set aside ample savings, then consider making some upgrades.
Enjoy what you have
Companies spend inordinate amounts of money on advertising, specifically to make all of us think we need more. Designer clothes won't make you more beautiful and the newest phone won't make your life any better.
The only person you need to worry about impressing is yourself, not your neighbor or a stranger on the subway. Take time to appreciate what you have and the value it brings to your life, regardless of it's label or age. Likely the most important tip for living happily under your means is to be content with what you already have.
The timeless advice, don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry because you’ll buy more, is still very applicable today. Temptation, especially when you're not in a balanced mindset, is hard to resist. A great example of this is therapy shopping, which essentially is trying to buy away your discontent. Many of us do this without even realizing it. Shout out late night Amazon browsing.
Don't expose yourself to temptation in times of mental weakness (hungry, sad, angry, etc.). Instead of trying to spend the sadness away (which never works long term), spend time working inward. Go on a walk in the sunshine, admire the hidden beauty of nature in your neighborhood, grab a great novel, or just enjoy the company of your loved ones.
To keep yourself on track when you do go shopping, make a list of exactly what you need. Only buy what is on that list. Ignore the sale signs. Bypass the line-up for a latte. Challenge yourself to stay on track. Make a game of it. Instead of thinking of the things you can’t have. Think of yourself as a savings superhero! Give yourself a pat on the back when you make it out of the store with no extra items.
As you focus on the alternative choices of the living below your means lifestyle, focus on the end-game benefits. Debts paid off. Solid savings to take you (or your children) into the future. Check out these ways to cultivate the habit of saving money from Psychology Today.
Remember, whatever sacrifices you made today will pale in comparison to the future benefits.