Monday, November 17, 2008

Living Within Your Means

Living Within Your Means
Part 1

Having the Right Mindset

Welcome to the first day of living within your means. With the way the economy is right now, I am sure you are already cutting back within your budget. But are you really living within your means? Probably not.

Finding this blog with help out week by week to find new ways to save your hard earned money, earn more money and learn how to depend on yourself, not how others are going to help you. Lets face it, we are not going to get a part of the trillions of dollars the government is giving away to save companies with their debt. We have to do it ourselves, and it will be hard to readjust. But I know we all can do it.

The very first step is within yourself. Just like dieting, you have to want to cut back your spending. Remember back when Oprah was teaching her viewers about her debit diet. She was right on the mark with money being just like food. We all need it, we can't live without it, and you can never have enough of it. But if you go overboard with food, you will become obese. Go overboard with spending money, you will become bankrupt. But with moderation both are a wonderful tool.

So for step one, you must really think about your spending and wanting to change it. The way I see it, there are three stages to changing your spending habits:

Stage One: cutting back on your spending. Maybe not going out to dinner or lunch every day, but cutting back a few days. Not buying every new purse or pair of shoes, but buying every other new one. Going to the latest movie release every other Friday night. Maybe going on vacation to one of the coasts instead of going to Hawaii. These are simple ways to cut back your spending. It will make a small dent, but is only the jumping off point. If you have been reading this blog for awhile, I am sure you have already mastered this stage.

Stage two: going without or sacrificing. This is when you realize that you are not making the money that you used to, and you better cool it when it comes to shopping. You pretty much only go out to eat once a week now, you buy things mostly when they are on sale, and you are still buying things because you feel like you deserve them. Movies have turned into renting them rather than seeing them in a theatre. Vacations may have turned into camping or going to a close hotel for the weekend instead of a full blown vacation. I think that most of America is in this stage right now.

Stage three: stopping shopping except absolute necessities. This is the hardest stage, but the most necessary place to be. If you or your spouse lost their job, if you are a single parent or if you have lost your house already, you need to be in this stage now! The only new shoes you should be looking at are at the thrift store, and that is because your old pair has a hole in them. New purse, no way, use what you already have in your closet. Eating out has come to a screaming halt, unless you have a gift certificate or coupon for a free meal. You are bringing your lunch to work everyday. Vacations are now camping in your backyard, or driving to visit relatives where you can stay for free. Movies are now what you can find at the local library, or free movies with Red Box codes. And you should be making your own food, cleaning supplies, and other necessities to help save all the money you can. This is the stage that my family is in right now.

Just like any addiction, you can not do this alone. First of all you have to have your spouse on board with you, and you need to be in the same stage at the same time. This is hard to sync up sometimes. One spouse is doing all the sacrificing while the other is still eating out at lunch. It is not fair, and the spouse who is saving money will come to dislike the other. They will then feel that they deserve something nice, and bam they are back to stage two. You have to do it together! If one sacrifices so does the other.

But your spouse if only part of the battle. Children are going to have a hard time understanding why last year they could have any toy they asked for, and this year they can't. Why last year they could get ten pair of jeans at their favorite store, and this year they can get three pairs at the thrift store. No matter if your children are two or eighteen, they will fight it, and not understand it. It is important that they understand the new rules for spending the families money. You must stay strong and not give in even once, because even though they can't remember to bring their homework home every night, they will remember that one time you got them the expensive item after they begged long enough. So having your children on board will be hard, but it is imperative.

You must also have your friends and family on board with you too. Now they don't have to stop shopping, but they do have to stop asking you to go shopping every week with them. They need to understand that you will not be going out to eat every weekend, but maybe you could all eat in instead. You need to stop exchanging gift for birthdays and Christmas, let them know now. If they buy you a gift and you don't have one back for them, you will feel obligated to run out and buy something. Be up front and honest with them. Tell them I can't get you anything this year, please don't buy me any gifts this year either. Make you gift be just spending quality time with them. If you are honest, they will understand.

My family was forced into stage three due to my husband being a mortgage banker for the last eleven years. We were living pretty high on the hog for many years. I was a stay-at-home Mom, and money easily slipped through our fingers. We ate out every weekend with friends, my kids always had the newest and best clothes to wear. We always had new cars and the biggest toys too. When the housing market went into the toilet, we thought our lives did too. We just didn't realize that we needed to reprioritize our spending quickly. We stayed in stage two for a long time. We felt like we still deserved nice things because we are good people. We didn't want to punish our children by not having what every other child had. We were hoping the housing market would turn back around. Well, as you know, it hasn't, and doesn't look like it will be anytime soon. Stage three here we are. My kids are still fighting it, and with all these Christmas commercials for the newest toys, it is hard for them. We will make it through this mess, and so will you. We can do it together, step by step right here on this blog. I have learned so much from other Mom's blogs, that I feel that we all as mothers can turn this economy around by not giving in, by doing things for ourselves. Look at what happened to gas prices when people stopped driving as much...they came down. The same thing will happen in every area of our lives. If we take control back, we will have control of our lives and our spending.

As always please feel free to e-mail with any suggestions or comments. Or leave a comment below to share your thought ideas and especially your successes! Now go start living within your means.


Natalie said...

I look forward to reading more. Right now we are in the tage three and while my husband is lagging behind me a little, he has surprsingly caught on to the changes I am trying to make in our lives.

Green Bean said...

I came here from Leaving Excess and am more of an eco-blogger but there is so much overlap. Great post on how to slowly, step by step start living with less, spending less and enjoying more.

BTW: ironically the word verification is "pay me"

Michelle said...

I am glad you are still blogging - this is a great post. I know sharing the details is a bit tough, but it really helps others!

Heather said...

Thank you for your honesty. I think many of us (myself included) are in denial of the state of the economy right now. I live in the Midwest, so I don't think where we live it has hit quite as hard yet. I look forward to reading more!

jennwa said...

Thanks for that great post. We have had to make alot of adjustments to our way of living too. It really helps to hear we are not alone.

A blog about living within your means in todays world, while being married, raising three kids, working full-time, and trying not to go crazy in the process.