Did you know that 78% of full-time workers said they live paycheck to paycheck? Overall, 71% of all U.S. workers say they’re in debt, 56% of whom say they’re in over their heads. This, combined with the fact that almost 6/10 Americans don’t have $500 saved means we have a problem.
Debt, a lack of saving, and financial anxiety all stem from the same problem: living above your means. Our society has made overspending the norm. We’ve propagated a “buy now, pay later” mentality and normalized student loans, emergency credit cards, and perpetual car loans. According to Scripture, debt was never supposed to be normal.
The solution is simple: live beneath your means. Putting that into action, however, is less simple. Here are 9 practical ways to ensure that your expenses are always less than your income. By living beneath your means, you’ll be able to experience freedom and live with financial margin, using your resources for God’s glory instead of your own.
Living below our means is a mindset totally contrary to what the world promotes. It doesn’t come naturally because our sinful selves want to keep up with everybody else around us. But, it is possible! It will take a faithful heart and disciplined hands to do this, but when your priorities are in order, it makes it much easier.
Paul said, …I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13)
Short- and long-term goals are the guardrails to keep you on the right track. If you haven’t assigned a purpose to every dollar coming into your bank account, I can guarantee there will be a laundry list of expenses pulling at you to spend all that you have. There will always be something you can spend money on.
So set goals. In order to keep your priorities in order, always put giving first. All you have belongs to God, so don’t have a greedy heart or resist giving. Jesus said that it is better “to give than to receive”. This should start with what you are able to do now and increase it to 10% or more as you are able. This will protect your heart from materialism and increase your joy in life.
The Proverbs tell us to “go to the ant, consider its ways and become wise”. This means that a creature with a tiny little brain has something so important for us to learn that it will actually make us wiser! The ant is a habitual saver and we should be too. So set a savings goals: first, put $1,000 away in an emergency savings account. Then save 3-6 months’ of living expenses.
Crown’s Money Map is a visual guide to setting goals like these. You can download it for free and also receive the Get Started Guide with practical steps to take as you work towards these goals.
Remember any goal should be “S.M.A.R.T.” – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-limited. Setting a goal to “be a better money manager” is none of those things. However, a goal to “save $1,000 by September 15” is all of those!
Living beneath your means will require you to say “no”…often. Don’t get distracted by what others are doing and focus on what God has asked you to do.
Even if you make the same amount of money as your friends, your house, car, clothing, and decor may look different because you have prioritized saving and giving overspending. Resist the temptation to “keep up” and the urge to have the biggest, newest, or best.
Putting your savings out of sight will keep it out of mind and out of your pocket!
Set up an automatic transfer from your paycheck to your savings account. You can essentially force yourself to live on less than you make by hiding your extra money in savings!
An important note here is that a savings strategy should be part of your overall financial plan. Living beneath your means should include giving, saving, and all your expenses. Don’t allow giving or saving to become “optional”.
Find ways to see your goals on a regular basis. Print off the Money Map and hang it in your kitchen. If you’re paying off debt, print your amortization table. Circle your debt-free day on the calendar or write it on a sticky note to keep at your desk.
Seeing your goals may help you accelerate your timetable as well. Make it a game to see if you can beat your own record!
It may sound cliche, but skipping your morning Starbucks run and making coffee at home will save you a lot of money. Small things can often be the biggest budget busters because you don’t immediately feel the impact they’re having on your spending.
Don’t go shopping without a list and don’t be tempted by ads on your Instagram or Facebook. You may need to stay off social media and resist the comparison trap altogether!
Proverbs 10:4 says, Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.
Keep yourself busy serving others, earning extra income, and taking care of the things you do own. It will keep you humble and from wanting to spend!
Thank God daily for all He’s done, and ask Him to teach you to be content with a little or a lot, so you can praise Him for all He has done for you. Living with a grateful heart brings glory to God as we reflect His peace to others even in the midst of our stressful circumstances. He has told us not to worry about our lives but to seek Him first, trusting that He will take care of our needs. We have much to be grateful for!
What tips do you have to live beneath our means? Share what you’ve done to keep expenses low and strategies that have worked for you!
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