I have had issues with adjusting to living within my means, and here are some steps I’ve taken to help:
No Credit Cards
During the first couple years of our marriage, we had credit cards. We had no kids, and at first, were poor missionaries who should have never been approved for those balances, but banks will find a sucker anywhere. Well, the missionary thing fell through (volunteer organization, no salary, first year of marriage—bad idea) and we entered the real world before our first anniversary. We got into the habit of using those credits to float checks, and to pay off other bills, but that balance kept rising. We kept paying only the minimums.
The interest rates on these cards are atrocious, and we paid heavily for it. A few years into our marriage, we had the epiphany of cutting those things up. Man, those balances quickly disappeared as we pressed on with the attitude of doing away with them. When one card was finished up and canceled, we directed the extra funds towards another high interest credit card. Within a couple years, we were completely debt free, with no credit cards in our name. Cancel them as soon as possible, but cut them up today!
A few years ago, I took up commuting to work on my bicycle. This was when gas was at about $4.00 a gallon. I wanted to ride for the fun, but the side benefit was less pain when visiting the pump. Basically, I rode my way through the peak gas prices, and picked up a healthy habit along the way. See my blog, Metal Commuter for more details.
The point is, I had the option of saving hundreds of dollars in gas by using my bicycle, which I bought years before, as my main source of transportation. If the commute is possible, why wouldn’t you? We still had the car for the family, but the savings were obvious, especially in 2008.
This is more my wife’s department, but the savings for fruits and veggies is clear, especially when we use heirloom seeds, so there’s never an additional hit in seeds each year. Besides, this is another great health benefit that cannot be discounted. If you don’t have enough money to purchase in season fruits and vegetables, why not grow some plants? Again, my wife has the green thumb, but I’m available for all digging and. heavy lifting. Once everything is planted, the rest is up to her.
Besides, the garden looks a lot nicer than a boring piece of grass.
Kill Unnecessary Monthly Expenses
We need the internet for work reasons, and have a VOIP phone, but have no reason for cable TV. We haven’t watched cable TV in years. Also, since my company provides a cell phone, I canceled mine. I don’t need to carry around two phones. Plus, you can find most of what you want to watch online for free, so why even spend the money for a thousand useless channels? Besides, get outside and do something interesting.
Home and Auto Maintenance
I’ve started to learn more about the car than I ever wanted to. I just changed a thermostat and brakes on my car. The savings in labor alone for those two jobs is probably about $500.00.
Become a handy man at home. Why pay a plumber a premium price to fix a faucet when you can find instructions online with videos to show how to make the repair?
I’m not a handy man, but I can’t afford those service guys each time something breaks, so I am learning to follow instructions closely, and ask friends to help out for a job that is too large or overwhelming for myself.
Live with Less
This is one area where we have had no choice. After two kids, and surprise bills (see my above about the car repairs), we can’t afford much right now. As a result, I’ve learned to deal with eating PBnJ for lunch each day. Since I don’t have a credit card, I don’t have the temptation to go out to lunch. The attitude to live with what you got is becoming a big part of my life. I don’t have an extra ten bucks each day for lunch, so I’m brown bagging it. Actually, I think that’s another reason why I’m losing weight, along with the bicycling, gardening, and no cable TV.
We enjoy going outdoors, so while we might not go on an expensive overnight trip to the shore, we do enjoy a trip to the lake nearby, and there are a ton of parks for the kids right around the block. Spending quality time with the family is far superior to spending $40.00 at the movies. Plus, we’re teaching our kids the right way of living, instead of the debt way.
Stop playing the game of trying to keep up with the Joneses. The Jones family are probably overwhelmed with a ton of debt, and their new cars won’t be paid for until Johnny is in college. Besides, because they are spending so much time driving their kids around from one expensive hobby to the other, they’ll never even know Johnny on a personal level.
Quality over quantity. This stuff is so simple, you just need to start applying it.