“To many people spend money they earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people that they don’t like.” ~ Will Rogers
I’m a firm believer that money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy comfort. When basic needs are satisfied: food, shelter, warmth and clothing; that’s where our obsession with money should end. Having said that let me continue:
This year my personal life took a huge hit – my husband Alex lost his job. While some might point out life could have dealt a worse hand, believe me, I am aware of this and thank life everyday for our health.
Still, it was devastating, and this is why — from the outside we were like everyone else on the block; two nice cars, a decent house and all the latest gadgets, but like the other cookie cutter houses if you looked beyond the white picket fence and peeked inside you would discover a caving foundation.
Living beyond our means has become the norm. We don’t think much of financing our lifestyles and the days of living on cash only are long gone. My husband recently defended his impulse purchase of a random tool, “It’s fine Tina. I put it on don’t pay for a year.” Resisting the urge to smack him, I muddled over the notion that this has become our way of life; instant gratification, clean up the mess later.
Contributing to our financial crisis is also the enormous social pressure to meet certain living standards. The Smith’s just bought a 400 thousand dollar home, wouldn’t that be nice? Have a closer look at their foundation; chances are it’s cracked too.
You might be thinking my opening statement, “money can’t buy happiness” is slightly contradictory to my latest debt rant, if money doesn’t matter why not just spend it all? As tempting as this might sound, what I have learned through experience is this: Living beyond our means does not lead to happiness, it causes suffering.
When you live beyond your means, you are trying to find happiness in external objects.
I’ll admit one of my guilty pleasures: Clothes. I’m at the mall; I pass a beautiful shirt, knowing I don’t need it, with self control I walk away. But – then I start thinking about that shirt; envisioning the colours, the ensembles I could create – until I give in and go buy the shirt. It now hangs in my closet; maybe worn, maybe not.
I didn’t need that shirt, and it certainly didn’t make me happy the way my mind promised it would. The entire concept of living beyond our means plays out this way. We have an impulse or a notion (delusion) that something external will make us happy. The fixation is short-lived before we are on to the next object of desire. In turn the debt piles up, causing stress and anxiety.
When the initial shock wore off I anxiously looked through my bank statements. How were we going to pull this off? With out a back up savings and our income now cut in half the prognosis didn’t seem positive.
Red pen in hand I ripped apart our budget. My main goal: To save the house. It’s now been close to a year, thankfully my husband is back at work, but we did it. With our income cut in half, we managed to pay all our bills on time without incurring debt, even managing to save a small amount.
TIPS TO SAVE MONEY AND STOP DEBT FROM INCREASING
1. Cut up the Credit Cards
Immediately stop using credit cards. If you don’t have the cash right now, forget about it. Simple.
2. Walk and Bike
Chances are with a few phones calls you may get a better combined house and vehicle insurance rate. If you are a two car household, consider and I’ll use that word carefully, pulling one car off the road.
We parked our SUV and not only did we save enormously on gas, but on insurance as well. Monthly it amounted to hundred’s of dollars. If you’re a single car household it might not be realistic, but you can still: Consider biking and walking more. Save the environment, save gas, feel good.
3. No Vacations
Enjoy some ‘staycations,’ instead of thinking you need an exotic destination for excitement and relaxation, try to discover your hometown with new eyes. There are likely many activities of interest that you just haven’t considered.
4. Watch High Electricity & Water Times
This may sound petty but you can shave up to $50 from your utilities. Shorten your showers, hang your clothes to dry and don’t use energy in the high times. Every dollar counts right?
5. Cut Down your Rogers/Bell Services
The thought of my old monthly Rogers bill still causes slight hyperventilation, consistently over $300 per month! This needed to change and fast. I phoned Rogers and began chopping away at services. We said goodbye to HD boxes, premium cable and reduced our internet.
$6 movie rentals add up; we subscribe to HBO, at $15 dollars per month we can watch unlimited movies. Shave off more dollars still by purchasing a TV/movie online subscription such as Netflix and cancel your Rogers all together. HBO was the way to go for us; we just couldn’t part with Game of Thrones.
If you want to get really brave, cancel the cell phones. If you’re like me and not willing to part with your trusty sidekick then consider cancelling the home phone.
6. Pack a Lunch and a Thermos
Brown bagging lunch is a huge savings. Add up all the $7 dollar debits card transactions through out the month. Enough said.
I’m sorry Tim Horton’s coffee addicts, but bring a thermos. At $1.50 per day that adds up to $45 per month or $540 per year.
Take a list when grocery shopping to avoid impulse spending, and consider switching grocery stores.
7. Get a Library Card
This might not be a make it or break it for most people, but my Amazon bill was starting to add up. I now love the sophisticated feeling of browsing through the local library.
8. Don’t Eat Out.
Along with packing a lunch, avoid restaurants. When you do splurge and go out for dinner it will feel extra special and you’ll likely appreciate the experience much more.
9. Make Changes to Your Hobbies
If your hobby’s involve going shopping, golfing, or passions that require obscene amounts of money, consider hiking, picnicking, running or reading (with your new library card), these are all free. Get creative.
10. Create a Budget
Now that you’ve made all the positive changes above, write down your total monthly income followed by your new total fixed expenses. Next determine how much is left over for extra’s (spending and miscellaneous).
Create two jars – Spending (entertainment and hobbies) and miscellaneous. Fill your jars with the allotted monthly cash flow you designated per your budget. See till debt do us part to help create your budget. When the cash is gone, the spending spree is over till next month.
Of all the changes we made, this one was most significant. After using the jar system we reduced our miscellaneous spending from over $1,500 per month to $200. We now have complete control over all our non fixed expenses. I can breathe again.
Since being stripped of my previous lifestyle a refreshing realization has fallen on me. What a nice house I live in; why did I feel such an urgency to move into a nicer house? I began to feel a newfound sense of appreciation and gratitude that I had long forgotten. It was an A HA moment for me. This was a more valuable lesson than anything I could have ever bought.
Regardless of your circumstances, income, education or social status, you CAN get there. We all have the ability to put these simple practices in motion. Take control of your life your piggy bank will thank you.
“Money, if it does not bring you happiness, will at least help you be miserable in comfort.” ~ Helen Gurley Brown