Living with less can give your family a better quality of life
|Image: Explore gardens, thrift shop to save money or go for walks|
instead of spending money at the mall
Downsizing your life and spending less than you earn is not a guarantee that you will not end up in debt. However, when you spend less than you earn you can pay back the debt you accumulated when an emergency came up. You also don't have to touch your savings: when you spend less than you earn you will not be tempted to use your credit cards and instead of taking out a loan to cover an emergency, you can use your “emergency fund” that you have set aside by living more conservatively. As you are already used to living below your means, in the months after the emergency you can pay back your credit instead of putting your 10% (or whichever percentage you keep) to your savings account.
Credit cards can be good for emergencies – however – they must be used with great caution and monitoring the balance on your credit card and making sure you pay off the monthly balance is adviseable in order to avoid sky high interest rates and penalties. Abuse of credit cards is one of the big reasons people get into debt, so be careful.
But how do we live below our means and ensure this peace of mind? It takes some sacrifices and a new mind set. You will have to focus on spending less and earning more. However, the benefits are countless. Also, you can reward yourself for your efforts with something you really want and it will be much more enjoyable than having everything you want but you are in danger of becoming over indebted by NCR standards.
The Digerati Life gives some tips on earning more and spending less. This might seem very time-consuming, but you have to be smart about it. Once you get used to saving money and you find ways to earn more, you will have to spend less time running around and more time living a more care free life. Their first tip to saving money is avoiding temptation and focussing your attention away from advertisements and situations where you know you will be tempted to spend on things you don’t need. When you’ve made the decision to rather be defined by who you are than what you own, it will be easier to avoid TV advertisements, shopping trips with friends, expensive restaurants or any other situation that triggers you to spend. Don’t let instant gratification affect your saving resolutions.
Another smart tip is to pay yourself first every month. Draw up a budget, allow yourself a little extra (you’re not trying to live like a pauper, after all), and put the rest in a savings account at the beginning of the month so you’re not tempted to spend any of it when the end of the month gets closer. Living below your budget by shopping at discount stores and buying second hand will also mean you have more money to do something fun you really want to do, and not because there is pressure on you from friends or advertisers to spend.
There’s no way around this, however: you will have to cut out your vices. Luckily, most of these are bad habits that you can only be better off without, such as smoking, drinking, convenience foods and junk foods. Gambling, designer clothes and expensive hobbies might not be bad for your health, but you can certainly do without them.
When you have a family, looking for new ways to entertain yourselves can be a challenge in the beginning as everyone needs to adapt, but it can also be very rewarding. Getting off Facebook and seeing friends can only do you good.
While it is fun to watch satellite television or go to family restaurants, it is much more valuable for a family to do other, more constructive and cost-effective activities that they enjoy. Look for activities that create stronger bonds, allow your family to get some exercise, develop new skills or see new places. Exploring the outdoors is a low cost way to entertain a family. Pack a picnic, set out for the day and you will be entertained and invigorated by the experience. Doesn’t that sound better than going to the mall?
Another big way to save is downsizing your house and car. And it’s not just your mortgage that will decrease when you downsize: the bigger your house, the more maintenance costs will be involved. A garden can be valuable - you and your family can grow your own produce as a hobby. Re-evaluate your transport: a new car can get you around in style and comfort, but you can still travel without it: minimalists will rather opt for cycling, using public transport or if these aren’t options, owning second-hand cars that are the most economical to drive. Look for a car that has low fuel consumption and get it serviced every time it is due. This will save maintenance and travel costs in the long run.
You will notice that a life with less is not only good for your pocket, but also for our planet and your health. Not only do you have to be more active to adapt to a more minimal lifestyle, but unhealthy convenience foods cost more than eating your own fresh produce or shopping for whole foods and cooking up a storm. You and your family will be happier, healthier and more positive for making the change to living with less.
Image courtesy of bvalium