Friday, April 5, 2013

Frugal Friday: Living Within Your Means

We all know that we have to "live within our means". I mean, this is basic economics, as well as common sense. But, it can be easier said than done. We live in an expensive world, especially when you're in debt. It's hard to dig yourself out of the pit, when your old debt and new expenses collide. It can feel like a landslide when you take one step forward and the mailman delivers new bills to your door. But the truth is, this is life. Any of us that haven't won the lottery or live rent-free, has to learn the rules of living within your means. I truly believe that having a class in basic life skills, such as writing checks, balancing the checkbook, creating a home budget and learning frugal spending habits, would be much more beneficial in high school besides advanced algebra!

Unfortunately, I have been in debt since I graduated high school. I worked at a store that required you to get their credit card and charge it in order to get your store discount. The biggest purchase was a couch that I bought for me and two roommates, but, I didn't get it in writing and I was left with the bill when they both moved out a month later. I was going to college, which accrued my student loan debt and was barely making ends meet with my part-time job. I learned a lot during those early years of struggling. I can't say I would do things differently. We all have to go through struggle to learn from it. Unfortunately, my debt has followed me into adulthood. I'm not really a big shopper, I mean I think I own maybe 4 shoes! I don't care about clothes and don't have an expensive hobby, I just don't always have enough income to cover my fixed expenses.

It's important to look at your bills to see what you can decrease. Since I am home most of the time due to disability, there are things that I enjoy that I would hate to lose, such as my cable and internet. But, you can still keep cable, just decrease the movie channels and get basic, until you can afford a higher package. I've also taken up to coupon cutting, which some months are better than others, but looking for an item on sale and using a coupon with it, is how you really save money. I recently read an article on "Apartment Therapy" that said you should not spend more than 30% of your income on your rent, including utilities. I am well over that amount, I think it's really difficult to live within that range. By reading the comments on that article, I can see that most people are unable to live within that range. It's really hard to do so when you live in a city, where rent is astronomical. Not all of us can afford to own, which I've seen mortgages that are half of what I spend in rent. However, there are a lot of expenses with owning that you don't have with renting.

The best advice is to do your best living within your means. If you're over, look at your expenses and see what you can cut back on. Take up couponing; you don't have to be an extreme couponer, but if you can save even $10 on each grocery trip, that's money that can go towards your bills/debt. I love anything that has to do with organization. I especially love budgeting and bill paying. There's something very cathartic about paying your bills and balancing the checkbook. Well, it's cathartic when there's money left over! But do your best. The more you save today, the less debt you'll have tomorrow!

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