How does one live within their financial means? I mean in todays economy it is difficult enough to just keep food on the table. When an unexpected accident or illness occurs, it can and does knock a hole in any budget. Today one must not just live within their financial means but under their means. One must have a back up plan, a plan that has money for these emergencies. But what happens when the back up plan or emergency money is gone?
Society today wants, what I call the â€œnowâ€ purchases. People don't want to save for purchases. They want it now so they go into debt to borrow the money to get what they want. There are of course, necessities such as a home, vehicle, food, water and clothing but where do we draw the line on even the basic purchases? How do we determine what is a necessity and what is just a strong want?
It is easy to talk ourselves into thinking we need something. For example, we need to purchase a home because it is no longer economical to rent. So we go house hunting. We find a nice house with a garage, two baths and so forth. We need this house because we are always fighting to get into the bathroom. We need two bathrooms. We need four bedrooms because both kids need their own rooms, husband and wife needs a room and we need one room for company. Now that we have talked ourselves into this large home, we have to furnish it. Since we were renting, we have no furniture. We now need four beds for each bedroom, We need more towels because we now have two baths. Do you see where this story is going?
The truth is that we don't need many of the things we tell ourselves we need. For centuries, kids have been sharing bedrooms. It is how they learn to share and survive in the world. Is one bathroom really not enough? Why is it so wrong for someone to have to wait to use the bathroom? After all, isn't patience a virtue that is admirable?
I have been thinking a lot about how to downsize lately. If we lose our home, we will have to move. That means packing up everything. So I am downsizing beginning to the basics. We have donated our unwanted items to charity for years but I think I am going to have a yard sale and use the money to pay off some bills.
We have not had TV service since December. We waited until after our family went home after Christmas to have it disconnected. I can honestly say, I don't miss it. We had our land-line phone disconnected about two years ago. I can honestly say I am glad it is gone. We have not received the local newspaper for over three years now. We use coupons to help with prices of health and beauty aids. Adding coupons with sales can often get products for free. We raise our own food in summer. We cook and heat with coal in winter. We have cut back to the bare basics or so I thought. Now I can see where more cuts can be made.
The problem is that we have hit hard with unexpected medical bills and it has taken all our life savings. My husband even borrowed his 401K to pay medical bills. These bills are huge. In a year and a half, I had 5 surgeries. There is no longer any way to save money.
Following are a few tips I have learned and would like to share with you:
Local newspapers can be read at the local library for free.
Deaths in the community can usually be read online at the funeral home site
Audio books can be borrowed from libraries for listening too when reading is not possible.
Cook larger meals and make homemade TV dinners for the freezer from the left overs. It is cheaper to purchase a container with dividers and a lid than to purchase a TV dinner.
Take advantage of free classes online. Many colleges and universities offer free courses.
Purchase online by going through a site such as Ebates, Bond Rewards,Â SwagBucks Â and other sites that will give you back a percentage of your purchase. We even purchase our paper towels and toilet paper online. Watch for codes to use for free shipping and discounts. Saves gas, time and money.
Send faxes, use computer and borrow books from the library. You would be amazed what your local library has to offer for no cost. They have summer reading programs for children to earn free certificates for pizza as well.
Join sites to companies that you purchase from. They will send coupons for free products, discounts and other perks. Sign up for text coupons, email coupons and mail coupons.
Many libraries offer DVDs to sign out so you can have a free movie night.
If you must go to the movies, check to see if your friends are wanting to go. Theaters offer discounts to groups.
When ordering take out from restaurants, they will often give you free plates, napkins, silverware as well but you must ask for it. I know Kentucky Fried Chicken does this. I always ask for more than we need. For example if the meal is advertised to feed 10 people, you can get 10 plates and 10 packets of silverware if you ask. Now you have everything you need for a picnic.
Shop at thrift stores for clothing instead of brand name stores. Thrift stores are also great places to find sleeping bags for really cheap. Sleeping bags are great to carry in car for emergencies in winter, comforters for beds or if you quilt, they make great batting for cheap.
Be creative. Think outside the box and use products for purposes other than they were made for. Cups from thrift stores make great pen holders for your desk or vase for fresh cut flowers.
Don't buy magazines at the store or pay for a subscription. You can get most magazines for free online.
Make kits as gifts instead of purchasing them. For example, purchase a bucket and fill it with the items to clean the car with. Add a bow and you have a nice gift for a man who has everything. Purchase a plastic dishpan and fill it with lotions, scrubs, and such for skin care. The pan is great for soaking feet in. Purchase a small basket and fill it with a few envelopes, cards, sticky note pads, pens and pencils. Then add a few postage stamps. You have a great gift for anyone.
Look through catalogs for the newest styles then shop your closet. Combine the clothing you have in the newest way to wear it. For example add a scarf to an outfit to get an updated look.
Pay off credit card debt. We have not used a credit card for over 15 years. It is tempting to accept a credit card from a store when they tell you at the register they will give you an additional 20% off your purchase if you apply now. The key to being strong enough to say â€œNoâ€ is to make the decision before hand to not accept credit cards.
What tips do you have for saving money or living below your financial means?
If you had to live below your financial means, what would you cut out first?
Some Resources to help get you started with financial budgets: