Learning to Live Within Your Means

“The best things carried to excess are wrong.”
-Charles Churchill

We should all know exactly what the phrase “living within our means” truly is, but unfortunately, in a society such as
ours-we must re-educate ourselves regarding this term. The intention of this saying is to teach those who have a yearnin’ to spend and have to save and wait instead.

There is nothing wrong with buying something that we want, if we can afford to do so and if the consequences of that purchase will not affect others such as if you are not able to tithe or give to your church because of your spending habits; if you are unable to quit your job to be with your kids because you continue racking up the charge accounts.

It is extremely difficult to live in our culture and not be tempted to live beyond our means. Most of the people you and I know are indulging themselves in every buying whim when given the opportunity. The concept of delayed gratification is one that has not caught on as a widely accepted way of life in America. Credit has been used as the lazy man’s way of acquiring material possessions. With only seventeen years of easy payments, you can own virtually anything you desire-why would we opt for saving our money to purchase items with cash when it’s just as simple as driving to the store with plastic in hand?

An exaggerated sense of entitlement in America is a rampant problem facing many today. If we look back only two generations, we see that the material wealth our grandparents possessed took them a lifetime to acquire. Most married folk would not buy a home until they were in their thirties or forties, and some never did. The generations of today practically come out of the womb expecting to have everything their parents have without putting in the hard work. That’s exactly where using credit comes in-to replace the discipline of hard work and financial self-control.

Below are a few tips to help you begin the process of living within your means:

âÂ?¢ Use discernment. Always keep in mind the distinction between the terms “want” and “need”. I have found that some people have an extremely difficult time discerning these two ideas. Remember that a need is defined as necessary food (nutritious), water, basic shelter, necessary clothing (functional, non-duplicate) and oxygen.

âÂ?¢ Stick to your list. Always use a list when going into a store, and more importantly-discipline yourself to stay on the list. Sometimes, I like to fill up my cart with impulse buys along the way, and give them to the clerk at the checkout line. I explain with a smile that I don’t really need the items, and that they were impulse buys. The exhilarating rush of the purchase is still there-and so is the extra money in my checking account!

âÂ?¢ Bring a wad of cash. Use cash when shopping for groceries and essentials and bring a calculator to make sure you have enough to pay for what’s in your cart. Using cash can help you to stay on the list- avoiding frivolous impulse buying.

âÂ?¢ Try not to buy new. When considering an item for purchase, always stretch yourself to imagine if you could possibly buy the same item used for a considerable discount on eBay, at a garage sale, thrift or consignment store, or if you could borrow the item from someone you know. If you are planning on buying a new item at $100.00, but could wait a week or a month to save $50.00 or $75.00 by just shopping around or buying used-isn’t it worth it? Why spend more than you have to? There have been many items I have wanted to purchase, but then borrowed them from a friend instead. Let me tell you that most of those
items ended up only being used once anyway, with no desire to ever use them again, like the ice cream maker, and the books I never opened . . . and the . . .

âÂ?¢ Keep your buttocks out of the stores. Limit store visits to once a week, once every two weeks or even once a month. The retail store is not designed to be a place to help you keep your money in your pocket. There are tons of gimmicks and mental persuasions planted along every aisle with the purpose of distracting you from your list. It wouldn’t surprise me if Eve wasn’t
really tempted in the “Garden of Eden”, but in the “Target of Eden.” Retailers count on each consumer to buy at least six percent of their purchases on impulse! This means that they plan for you to come into the store with a list of ten items, and to leave
their store toting sixteen items out to the car. Why do you think these retail stores spend millions of dollars researching consumer buying habits and performing customer census? Maybe it’s because they’ve been planning to throw a huge birthday party for all of their customers and want to give them all exactly what they want! Let’s face it, they want your Benjamins, and they know that we love to buy pretty, fluffy, colorful things that they place right at eye level.

� Use the money = time spent theory. When looking at a potential purchase, discover how many hours it takes you or your husband to work to earn the amount of money needed for the item. Example: If your husband earns $20.00 per hour, and you are considering buying a $300.00 dress and shoes that you may only wear once-your husband will have had to put in fifteen hours of work to buy you that dress. That is almost two full days of labor! If the store told you that they would be happy to let you have the dress and shoes if you worked in their store for fifteen hours, would this still sound like a good deal? Decide if the purchase is a good trade-off using this method.

âÂ?¢ Keep a running list of WANTED items. Keep an ongoing list posted in your home of the items you wish to buy and the date you decided you wanted to have it. This may include an item you spotted at the store during one of your mature “I always stay on the list” shopping trips! Make a commitment with your spouse- agreeing that you will discuss even the smallest purchase plans with each other. The rule is that items must be on the list for thirty days before being purchased. If you really want the item that badly, you can use the next thirty days to save up for it by setting aside Ã?¼ of the purchase price each week for the next
month. The funny thing is most of the things you have on the list will probably no longer interest you by the end of the month. How does that classify it? Impulse buy! Naughty!

âÂ?¢ Don’t use retail advertisements as entertainment. Search newspaper retail advertisements and catalogs only when in need of a specific item. That kind of entertainment will merely entertain your thoughts long enough to plant a seed of greed. started noticing that every time I received one of those awesome clothing catalogs in the mail, I was completely dissatisfied with my wardrobe for weeks afterward, with my new wardrobe shopping list all filled out. It dawned on me that the day before the catalog arrived in the mail, I was happy with my clothing collection. I now have a standard catalog-throwing-away-ritual that usually begins with me yearning to browse its pages-but ends with the repetitious chanting, “My life was just fine before you
came to my house, and it will be just fine after you’re in the garbage!” This mantra is then followed by the swift descent of the catalog into the depths of the trash bin. Adios!

âÂ?¢ Don’t fall for the sneaky trap of justification. “Oh, it won’t hurt-It’s just one little shopping spree on credit . . . you’ll be able to pay that off in no time- and it’s on clearance-you have to get it!” Please be aware that no one gets into $50,000 of debt by going out and charging an S.U.V. Big credit card balances happen one charge at a time. What harm could come from the innocent, single little drop of a leaky faucet? But if the faucet drips into a plugged sink, and drips . . . and drips . . . soon you find a flooded house. These small sprees add up, and soon enough-you’ll be working your buns off to pay all that debt you’ve racked up.

Use financial good-sense and delayed gratification to build a secure future for yourself and your family. Not having something now means having something worthwhile later on…whether that something is a comfortable retirement, a cushy savings account or a dream vacation. Spend wisely…and tightly!

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