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I’ll Never Stop Telling People to Live within Their Means

By Alyssa Davies on April 6, 2016 No Comments

You live what you consider to be a normal life. You frequently spoil yourself with dinners out, you shop for new clothing before every special event and you consistently spend money grooming yourself because the thought of painting your own nails is (clearly) exhausting.

You were approved for a $400,000 mortgage last year, but you pulled some strings, called your parents, and stretched the budget until you could “afford” the $600,000 dream home in your perfect neighbourhood. You and your husband both have cushy jobs with above average incomes, and starting to think about growing your family.

You have student loans, consumer debt, and a new car. But, don’t worry, you’re not crazy – you make the minimum payments just like every other person you know. You have some savings set aside and you have your company retirement plan as well. You’re prepared.

Well… you thought you were prepared.

Until:

  • You lost your job
  • Your car broke down
  • You got sick

Most have heard this story, lived this story, or are currently hoping this reality doesn’t one day happen to them. Well, I’m here to tell you that reality is always right around the corner. All of those financial advisors, banks, and mortgage brokers that told you to live within your means, but then promised you more, are about to slap a great big “I told you so” bill right in your face.

As someone who spent the early years of her adulthood overspending every month, I am here to tell you the dangers of living life outside of your means. Being unaware of your spending to income ratio can become a great risk, not only to your home and your retirement, but also your well-being. It frightens me how many people are willing to risk everything to “fit in” today, remaining ignorant to what will affect their financial future tomorrow.

At just 23 years old I landed my first job as head of an entire department. Of course I took the first salary offer sent my way (because I was never educated on how to approach this type of situation) and I signed the contract without batting an eye. I was thrilled beyond belief.

But that thrill was short and sweet when my first day involved no training, no support, and no idea of what I had got myself into.

I was struggling to understand the ins and outs of the industry while blazing a trail in my own department, all the while being asked to make cuts to budget wherever possible. I began to feel overwhelmed. I was living in an apartment I knew I couldn’t afford, barely making minimum payments on my leftover debt from university, and was constantly fearful that I wouldn’t be able to buy groceries each month. I knew this job was the only thing keeping me from losing everything

Living a humble life is nothing to be ashamed of. Living an affordable lifestyle is something I now consider brave. Stop letting society tell you what is acceptable when it comes to your finances. Societal trends do not know your income, your job security, or your personal situation. Only you do, and even you cannot predict what the future holds on most days.

So, it’s true. I’ll never stop telling people to live within their means because living within your means is the only thing you actually can control. And to have financial control, is to have a safety net for yourself, your loved ones, and your future.

For those of you looking to change your spending habits, here are 5 quick tips:

  1. Create a budget to properly track your spending
  2. Cut back in areas that you are currently overspending
  3. Start putting away 10-20% of your monthly income towards an emergency fund
  4. When making a purchase, be honest with yourself about whether it is a want or a need
  5. Save up for big ticket items rather than putting them on credit

Image Credit: Ken Teegardin

Alyssa Davies


Alyssa is a freelance writer and founder of the personal finance blog, Mixed Up Money. She writes about overcoming personal debts, frugal habits, and has been working in communications at a not-for-profit organization for the past two years.

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