How to Successfully Live Within Your Means

A woman budgeting to live within her means

A woman budgeting to live within her means

Have you ever wondered why some people seem to effortlessly manage their money despite earning a modest income? The answer probably lies in a financial strategy called “living within your means.” An essential part of personal finance, when mastered, can lead to long-term financial stability. This strategy essentially involves understanding your income, creating a budget and implementing strategic financial practices to spend less than you make. If you’re struggling to save for retirement or invest in the right assets, consider working with a financial advisor.

What It Means to Live Within Your Means

Living within your means is a basic financial principle that involves creating a balance between your income and expenses so that you meet your financial responsibilities without resorting to taking on debt. Essentially your “means” is your income and living within that income puts you in the best financial position to handle the unexpected.

An individual’s ability to live within his or her means can be influenced by various factors, including income level, family size, cost of living and personal spending habits. For example, a high-income individual with no dependents living in a low-cost area may find it more comfortable to balance his or her budget than a low-income individual with a large family living in an expensive city.

Reasons You Should Live Within Your Means

Living within your means offers several compelling benefits. First, it can help reduce stress and anxiety. Numerous studies show that the majority of Americans feel stressed about money for at least some of the time. By living within your means, you can alleviate this anxiety, fostering better mental health and overall well-being.

Additionally, such a lifestyle ensures financial security. Many people struggle to deal with even the slightest emergency expense. Living within our means allows savings for emergencies and ultimately leads to freedom from fiscal worries. Having robust financial safeguards in place, like an emergency fund, are vital for unpredictable times.

Overall, living within your means gives the peace of mind and wherewithal to be protected no matter what may come your way.

Signs You Are Living Beyond Your Means

A couple talking about their inability to live within their means

A couple talking about their inability to live within their means

If you’re worried that you might not be living within your means, even if you’re able to make all of your payments each month, you’re not alone. There are some signs that can alert you about your predicament in the event that something negative happens to your finances. Here are some of the most common:

  • High credit card balances: If you’re frequently landing in high credit card balances and personal debt, it may indicate that you’re living beyond your means. You never want to depend on credit to get through the month. They should either be paid off each month or used for emergencies.

  • No savings: If you don’t have regular contributions to your savings each month then that’s a pretty good sign that you’re living beyond what you should.

  • Not investing: In order to put yourself in the best financial position, you need to be investing for your long-term goals.

  • Not having a financial plan: If you aren’t trying to achieve something with your finances then the chances are you aren’t active about finding ways to save money or live within your income restrictions.

  • Living without a budget: If you either don’t have a budget or aren’t living by your budget then it’s a good sign you may not be living within your means.

There can be other signs, but the basic principle is that if you can’t have your money work for you then you might be living at an expense level that is beyond your income.

Tips for Living Within Your Means

To live within your means requires strategic planning and disciplined execution. Incorporating the following practical tips can guide you toward achieving this:

  • Understand Your Income: Know precisely how much money you’re earning from all sources. This will give you a clear picture of your financial capabilities.

  • Create a Budget: A budget is a roadmap for your spending, ensuring you don’t outspend your earnings. There are reputable online resources, like Mint or YNAB, to help with budget creation.

  • Use Credit Cards Sparingly: Use credit cards for emergencies or planned purchases you can pay off promptly, thereby minimizing your reliance on credit for everyday expenses.

  • Save for Large Purchases: Save for substantial expenses rather than reverting to credit. For instance, putting aside $100 a month could allow you to purchase a $1,200 appliance in a year.

  • Build an Emergency Fund: Keep aside enough to cover 3-6 months of living expenses. An emergency fund serves as your fiscal safety net during unanticipated financial crises.

  • Find Ways to Boost Your Income: After exploring strategies to manage your current income, consider supplementing it through part-time work, freelance gigs or by selling unwanted items.

Bottom Line

A couple talking about buying something on credit instead of living within their means

A couple talking about buying something on credit instead of living within their means

Living within your means is a cornerstone for financial well-being. It can not only ensure financial security but also alleviate some stress and prepare you for the unexpected. By understanding your income, creating a budget and implementing strategic financial tactics, you can achieve financial freedom and stability.

Tips for Budgeting

  • One of the most important pieces of your financial puzzle is making sure that you live within your means. You may need a financial plan to help you with your long-term savings and planning to reach your goals. This is where a professional financial advisor can come in to help. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can have a free introductory call with your advisor matches to decide which one you feel is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

  • If one of the issues you’re having is living within your means in your current location then perhaps a move is in order. You can use a cost of living calculator to help you see how much you could save by making the move.

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