Learning to Live Beneath Your Means

Your financial flow doesn’t always unfold in a straight line; peaks and valleys are a natural feature on the personal finance landscape. While plenty of peaks are an encouraging trend, too many valleys can be a sign of fundamental money mismanagement.

The steadfast formula for effective personal financial management is consistently spending less money than you bring in. Ups and downs aside, your outgoings should ultimately balance with your income, ideally leaving a surplus to invest and put by for the future. As long as the scales settle in your favour, there’s no cause for alarm, but if negative imbalance consistently drags down your finances, you must be living outside your means.

Financial shortfalls result from various monetary demands. Household expense and day-to-day spending obligations may alone be enough to speak for most of your paycheck, not to mention unanticipated costs and discretionary buys. Though you may not be able to reduce your core monthly expenses, such as your mortgage and car payment, it may be possible to change your spending patterns, in order to cut impulse buying.

You Can Rely on a Budget

Occasional financial shortfalls are easily accounted for, using short-term online loans and other resources to address spending demands, while waiting for your next payday to arrive. It’s not until your cash flow cycle turns totally negative that you can be sure you’re living above your means. The unsustainable condition requires immediate attention; you can’t carry on for long, spending more than you earn.

Personal budgeting is a relatively simple strategy – one of the most effective steps toward living beneath your means. After all, you can’t balance household cash flow, without first accounting for how your income is spent. Follow these straightforward steps for adopting a personal budget:

Put Household Cash Flow to the Test

The more effort you put into creating a precise budget, the more potential there is to save money and improve your financial health. For reliable results, start by observing and documenting your spending habits. The process of noting each purchase may be enough to open your eyes to unnecessary spending – imagine how much you’ll learn about your finances, just by creating a one-month log, tracking your spending.

In order to highlight various areas of expense, keep records in categories, splitting your overall outflow into smaller bits, such as household bills, transport costs, entertainment, and other lifestyle categories you can track at a glance.

Interpret the Data

Equipped with one or more months’ worth of data, it’s time to start working out what the figures mean. Do you spend too much in a particular category? Are impulse buys your weakness? Is there room for savings in any of your budget categories? (the answer is almost always, yes)

Take Appropriate Action

The best moves to make depend upon the results of your spending analysis. If your expense record points to glaring overspending, cutting the excess is probably a good place to start. You may also find room to improve insurance rates, mortgage costs, and other major financial obligations. In most cases, however, discretionary spending provides the greatest amount of room for improvement.

Until you limit impulse buys, your budget may not come into balance. Live beneath your means by savings money on budget basics:

  • Entertainment – Do you pay too much for home entertainment? If so, you might be paying for overlapping services. How many screens can you watch at once? For family savings, collectively commit to your favorite entertainment access. Whether you’re streaming, surfing, or watching TV, other paid services languish unused, whilst your away. Why not cut the extra expense out of the picture?
  • Meals Outs – Grabbing takeaway or dining out may be convenient, but the habit costs considerably more than producing healthy, affordable meals at home. For budget relief, reserve meals out for special occasions and holidays.
  • Connections – The mobile industry is competitive, so providers continually court new business. Their aggressive promotions may work to your advantage, saving money on family communication costs. It’s up to you to do the maths for each offer, but the savings may prove well worth your time.
  • Memberships and Subscriptions – Making poor impulse buying decisions is bad enough, but memberships and subscriptions may be having an even worse effect on your finances. Recurring subscription billing amounts to passive spending, which you can’t afford. If you’re stretched beyond your means, put your gym membership and other repeat spending under review.

Living beneath your means ensures there’s always enough money coming in to cover household expense. If you’re having a hard time finding financial balance, holding to a personal budget can turn things around, helping you maintain a financial surplus.

Paul graduated in 2001 with a degree in Finance. Since then he has gone on to work for several of the UK's most well-known financial institutions.

An avid blogger and a huge football fan, Paul is here to guide you through the ins and outs of personal finance and perhaps save you some money in the process!

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