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Blog » Personal Finance » Stop Living Beyond Your Means: 14 Ways to Master Your Finances

Stop Living Beyond Your Means: 14 Ways to Master Your Finances

Stop Living Beyond Your Means

Are you living paycheck to paycheck, drowning in debt, and constantly stressed about money? You’re not the only one.

The number of consumers living paycheck to paycheck reached 62% in November 2023. Among consumers earning less than $50,000 per year, 77% lived paycheck to paycheck, followed by 67% earning $50,000 to $100,000, and 45% earning more than $100,000.

In short, living beyond your means does not only affect the poor. The problem affects even those with higher incomes.

The good news? The good news is that everyone can break free of their debt and control their finances, regardless of their income.

What Does it Mean to Live Beyond Your Means?

When you live beyond your means, you spend more than you make. There are a lot of reasons why this happens, including.

  • Spending more than your income. I think this is the clearest example. For example, a person who earns $3,000 a month but spends $4,000 is living beyond their means.
  • Not having enough saved for emergencies. People living beyond their means often struggle to cope financially when things go wrong, like car repairs or medical bills.
  • Prioritizing short-term pleasure over long-term goals. As a result, the person may spend more money on clothes, gadgets, or eating out, leaving little money for bigger goals such as retirement or a downpayment for a home.
  • Keeping up with the Joneses. To keep up with others’ lifestyles, we often compare ourselves to them, even if we can’t afford them.
  • Impulse buying. Whenever we see something we like, we buy it right away, regardless of whether or not we can afford it.
  • Poor budgeting. We can easily spend more than we earn because we don’t keep track of our income and expenses.
  • High-interest debt. Often, we carry high-interest credit card debt or other types of debt that spiral out of control quickly.

The Dangers of Living Beyond Your Means

It is possible to have serious consequences for your finances and well-being if you live beyond your means. Among the consequences are:

  • Stress and anxiety. The constant worry about money can have a detrimental effect on your mental and physical health. According to a study by Thriving Wallet, 90% of Americans say that financial concerns impact their stress level.
  • Debt. An overspending habit can lead to a downward debt spiral. The average household debt in 2023 is $103,358 per household, according to Experian.
  • Damaged credit. Credit scores can be damaged by high debt levels, making borrowing money more difficult in the future.
  • Financial insecurity. The risk of unexpected expenses increases when you live paycheck to paycheck. In the U.S., 49% of adults say they could not cover a $1,000 emergency with cash alone or with their bank accounts.

With that said, let’s explore how you can master your finances and live within your means.

1. Identify Your Current Financial Landscape

The first step to mastering your finances? Make sure you have a clear picture of your present financial situation. Specifically, this means gathering and analyzing:

  • Income statements. Be sure to keep track of all your earnings.
  • Expense statements. Organize your spending by category, such as housing, food, or entertainment.
  • Debts. List your loans, credit cards, and their interest rates.
  • Assets. Do an inventory of your savings accounts, investments, and other possessions.

You might be surprised at how much you’re spending if you track your spending for certain things, such as eating out or impulse purchases. In order to make changes, we need to become aware of this, such as slashing unnecessary expenses.

2. Set Financial Crystal Clear Goals

Set financial goals that matter to you, such as buying a home or increasing your retirement savings. Without specific goals to work towards, you may find it hard to keep saving or investing.

Make sure your goals are realistic when you set them. For instance, don’t set a goal to pay off $55,000 in debt in a year when your income is only $45,000. If you set unrealistic goals for the future, you may discourage yourself from making the right financial decisions.

In addition, you should keep track of your goals over time to see what you have accomplished. You can, for example, monitor your investment portfolio gains and losses over time using the tools available on most brokerage firms’ websites. If you’re working toward a long-term goal, these tools can help you stay on track

3. Craft Your Budget – Your Financial Roadmap

Your budget is your money’s roadmap. You can use it to determine how much money you have coming in and how much you can spend on certain categories, such as housing, food, transportation, and entertainment. However, almost 30% of Americans do not budget simply because they do not believe it is necessary.

To change this, consider these popular budgeting methods:

  • 50/30/20 Rule. You should allocate 50% of your income for needs, 30% for wants, and 20% for debt repayment and savings.
  • Zero-Based Budgeting. You should put every dollar earned into a specific category for expenses and savings.

Remember that once you have a budget that suits you, you should stick to it as much as possible. It may be necessary to make some adjustments along the way. Nevertheless, to achieve your financial goals, you need to be disciplined.

4. Slay the Debt Dragon – Tame Your Financial Beasts

Like a fire-breathing dragon, debt can devour your finances. Make a direct attack on debt by:

  • Prioritizing high-interest debts. Start by paying off the debts with the highest interest rates. You may get better rates if you consolidate or refinance your debt.
  • Avalanche vs. Snowball Method. Decide which strategy motivates you the most. In Avalanche, larger debts are prioritized, while in Snowball, smaller debts are prioritized.
  • Boost your income. You can accelerate debt repayment by working side gigs, negotiating raises, or finding additional income streams.

Over time, even small payments can add up. Visualize your debt-free future to keep motivated, celebrate milestones, and track your progress.

5. Put Your Credit Cards on Ice

Using your credit cards too much may be contributing to your financial problems. Ultimately, using your credit cards as a stopgap measure will lead to debt. In this case, you won’t have enough money to pay bills, save for retirement, or work towards another monthly financial goal.

In short, don’t use credit cards if you want to get control of your finances. To avoid more debt, set up a budget, switch to cash or debit cards, and save for large expenses in a short-term savings account.

If you’d rather not swipe your credit card, leave it at home. Some people even put their credit cards in the freezer to ice their impulse shopping.

6. Invest in Your Future – Plant Seeds of Financial Prosperity

Be sure to plant seeds for future growth while you are slaying debts. Options include:

  • Compounding interest is your friend. Don’t be afraid to invest, even if it’s just a small monthly amount. You and your family will enjoy a secure future as your money grows exponentially. Robo-advisors make this as painless as possible.
  • Take advantage of retirement accounts. You can build a nest egg for retirement by contributing to IRAs and 401(k)s. Be sure to use employer matching to maximize your earnings.
  • Diversify your investments. Make sure you don’t put all your eggs in one basket. If you want to minimize your risk, invest in a variety of asset classes, such as stocks, bonds, and real estate.
  • Seek professional help if needed. For personalized guidance and investment strategies, consult a financial advisor.

Keep in mind that diversification is key. You can mitigate risk by investing in a variety of asset classes.

7. Build Your Financial Fortress

Emergency situations can arise at any time. Make sure you are prepared by:

  • Building an emergency fund. Aim for 3-6 months of living expenses to cover unexpected expenses.
  • Having health insurance. Make sure you are adequately covered for medical expenses.
  • Being insured against disability. In case of illness or injury, this protects your income.

When financial hardship occurs, these safeguards prevent financial hardship.

8. Embrace Automation and Tools

Your financial future can be brightened by technology. The following suggestions may be helpful:

  • Budgeting apps can be used to keep track of expenses.
  • Pay your bills on time by setting reminders.
  • Save money by automating the transfer of funds from your paycheck to a savings account.
  • Avoid late fees and unnecessary stress by setting up automatic payments for essential bills.
  • Tools like Trim and RocketMoney can cancel unwanted subscriptions.

Additionally, you can use financial planning tools, such as MoneyGuidePro or the free Compound Interest Calculator and Savings Goal Calculator, to set savings goals, calculate retirement projections, and explore different investment options.

It’s important to remember, though, that technology is there to simplify your life, not complicate it.

9. Don’t Get Sucked into the New Car Smell

Do you really need that brand-new car? In addition to losing 20% of its value as soon as you drive it off the lot, new cars also have an average monthly payment of $726.

When you purchase a previously owned car and pay cash, you avoid the stress of an auto loan and other car ownership expenses. Also, if you are looking for a used car, you might want to consider used cars from rental agencies. Many of them are under warranty and have low mileage.

10. Buy the Right Size Home

Keep your eye out for an affordable house rather than the most expensive one your bank says you can afford. You are better off buying the small fixer-upper and making it your own instead.

As a result, you’ll be able to enjoy the nest you’ve created without feeling stressed by the costs of homeownership such as taxes, insurance, and maintenance.

11. Seek Wisdom – Continuously Learn and Adapt

The financial world is constantly changing. To continue learning and adapting, you need to:

  • Read books and articles. Doing this lets you stay on top of financial trends and strategies. For example, if you want to save money, check out these 10 books.
  • Seek professional advice. Advice from a financial advisor can be tailored to your needs. Most banks and credit unions offer free financial counseling. For financially vulnerable people, the Foundation for Financial Planning offers free financial planning services.
  • Join online communities. Get inspiration and support from others on the same financial journey as you.

Don’t forget that mastering your finances is a continuous process. As a result, embrace lifelong learning and adapt your strategies to your evolving needs and goals.

12. Shift Your Mindset

It is as much about mindset as it is about numbers regarding financial mastery. The following beliefs can empower you:

  • Abundance mindset. It’s okay to believe that wealth and opportunities are available to everyone, including you. As a result, you become more focused on possibilities rather than scarcity.
  • Delayed gratification. Rather than focusing on immediate gratification, learn to prioritize long-term goals. Remember that today’s sacrifice could lead to tomorrow’s freedom and security.
  • Financial responsibility. It is your responsibility to make financial decisions. Blaming external factors won’t help you achieve your financial goals.

13. Review Your Finances Regularly

Regularly reviewing your finances is important since your financial situation changes constantly. You could meet with your financial advisor once a year or simply review your budget and goals periodically.

Ultimately, you will be more likely to achieve your financial goals if you adjust as needed.

14. Make it a Lifestyle, Not a Chore

  • Financial management is a journey, not a destination. Be proud of your achievements, no matter how big or small. Keep your eyes on your long-term objectives while rewarding yourself for reaching milestones.
  • Discuss your goals with your family and friends. Your financial journey will be more successful if you surround yourself with supportive people. Maintaining open communication can help you stay motivated and accountable.
  • Remember, you are not alone. Financial freedom is a dream for millions of people. Forums and online communities are great places to share experiences and learn from others.

You must master your finances over time, not at one point. The road to financial independence and security will be bumpy, but if you stick to these tips, you can achieve it.

FAQs

What does it mean to live beyond your means?

A person who lives beyond their means spends more than they earn. As a result, you may end up in debt, face financial stress, and have difficulty achieving long-term goals.

How do I know if I’m living beyond my means?

Here are some red flags:

  • You’re constantly stressed about money. Do you feel burdened by your bills? Is it hard to make ends meet?
  • You rely on credit cards to cover monthly expenses. When you use credit to buy groceries or gas on a regular basis, you are spending more than you are earning.
  • You only make minimum debt payments. This puts you at risk of becoming indebted and prevents you from saving money.
  • You have no emergency fund. When you don’t have savings to cover unexpected expenses, you can face financial hardship and further debt.
  • Your income doesn’t keep up with your spending. An inflated lifestyle can lead to financial problems if it exceeds your income.

What are the benefits of living within my means?

  • Reduced stress. It will be easier for you to deal with finances and bills. In turn, financial anxiety and stress are eased.
  • Improved financial security: You can build a rainy day fund and reach long-term financial goals.
  • Greater freedom and flexibility. Rather than living paycheck-to-paycheck, you can make decisions based on financial stability.
  • Increased confidence. As a result, you will feel empowered and in control of your financial future.

How can I stay motivated to change my spending habits?

  • Set realistic goals. You should start small and gradually increase your savings or decrease your spending.
  • Track your progress. Whenever you achieve a milestone, reward yourself for staying the course.
  • Find a support system. Consider asking your friends, family, or a financial coach for encouragement and accountability.
  • Focus on the benefits. Maintaining financial security and peace of mind are long-term benefits of living within your means.

Is it possible to change my financial habits and start living below my means?

Absolutely!

Effort and the right tools and resources are necessary to meet the challenge, but the journey is one that can be accomplished with consistent effort. Don’t forget that small changes can add up over time and make a big difference in your finances.

What are some resources to help me master my finances?

If you’re still struggling financially, you can find a variety of resources online, including:

  • Financial planning apps, such as Mint, YNAB, Personal Capital
  • Budgeting templates and tools. You can find many free templates and tools on websites and blogs to create and manage your budget.
  • Financial literacy courses. Online platforms, community colleges, and libraries offer budgeting, debt management, and investing courses.
  • Financial advisors. A financial advisor can provide you with personalized advice.

Image Credit: Bich Tran; Pexels

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Albert Costill

Freelance Writer at Due
Albert Costill graduated from Rowan University with a History degree. He has been a senior finance writer for Due since 2015. His financial advice has been featured in Money Magazine, Fool, The Street, Forbes, CNBC and MarketWatch. He loves to give personal finance advice to millennials.

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