Living Your Best Life on a Budget
Many can attest that life’s blessings are a result of discipline. Learning to hold ourselves accountable and making wise choices is definitely a process, sometimes easier for some more than others. This is why teaching and sharing tips with one another is a beautiful thing. So, if you’re ready to practice budgeting (and save a lot of money while doing so), continue reading.
Change your Vocabulary
The key is to identify priorities, understanding the difference between a “want” and a “need.” These two words are not synonyms. Before you can change lifestyle habits, you must have a renewed mindset. It’s important to learn your weaknesses and limits.
Let’s not worry about someone else’s opinions. Possessions are not our validation for approval. Even Bill Gates, Microsoft founder and billionaire, wears t-shirts, jeans, and old sneakers.
Accept “No” for an Answer
No, you don’t need it.
No, you’re not dying without it.
Yes, you can wait.
It’s okay to tell yourself “no” sometimes. You’ve got bills and student loans to pay back (this is what I remind myself, daily). If you can’t afford it (meaning if your income does not support extra spending after all of your bills and necessities are taken care of) then don’t go shopping. Avoid Amazon, Ebay, and anything else that entices you to buy something fast.
If you’re unfamiliar with thrifting, it’s time to get on board. You’ll be amazed at how much great stuff you can find in a thrift store (for cheap!). Seriously, there are people in this world who donate expensive clothing they’ve worn only once or were just too busy to return and exchange. If there aren’t thrift shops in your city (or if you have difficulty searching through them), the next best option is to shop during major sales. The best time is off season, when department stores are trying to transition from cold to warm seasons and vice versa (also, right after major holidays). You can find stores that mark down clothes and shoes below half its original price just to get it off the rack.
My store options: Goodwill, Hope Thrift, Target, Ross, Kohl’s, Marshall’s, TJ-Maxx, and Forever 21 (and sometimes Macy’s, but only clothing on clearance racks and after major holidays). To help save, create rules for yourself as to when you can purchase a new outfit, such as only for special occasions like a wedding or job interview.
Eating out every day can be the death of your wallet. We live in a society where food is a convenience, especially quick, cheap food.
Pull out your mental calculators, and multiply three meals a day (at about $5 each), by five times a week. That’s $75 spent each week on food (not including weekends or groceries).
The best thing to do is grocery shop first, and make a list of everything you need prior to going. This avoids subconsciously throwing things into the shopping basket. Also, eat before you grocery shop.The average shopper buys more food when they’re hungry. Make a budget for your grocery spending. Whatever is left, use only that to eat out (occasionally). Better for your wallet, and healthier for your wellbeing.
As women, I know we tend to put a lot of money into our appearance. Opt to only spending money on what you can’t do (or learn to do) on your own. For example, washing and styling your own hair to eliminates hair salon costs, and self-manicures at home to cut down on trips to the nail salon. We have great resources like YouTube and Pinterest to learn and draw creative ideas from, so take full advantage!
Let’s revisit ‘discipline’ for this topic. The only way you’re going to save money, is if you convince yourself not to spend a portion of what you earn (I know, extremely hard). Some banks allow you to set up a savings account where a few dollars are automatically transferred from your direct account to it weekly. Another good method is the “$5 rule.” Whenever you have a $5 bill, immediately stash it away. After about a month or two, the average person may have saved at least $50 dollars.
Aside from the above mentioned, here’s another great method: selling items. When you own things you no longer use nor need, selling them is best option to make some money back (and declutter your home). Yard sales, Craigslist, Letgo.com, flea markets, the lists goes on. All of those unused items are but a second away from becoming extra money in your pocket.
Expense vs. Investment
It’s important to learn the difference between the two. An expense is money spent and gone; an investment is money spent now that is expected to return profit later or benefits in the long run. For example, taking a taxi or bus vs. buying a car. Purchasing a car is obviously more money spent than public transportation every day, but considering the benefits of having a car (immediate and reliable transportation, no wait time, avoiding weather conditions, etc.) the worth outweighs the cost. Before buying anything, such as a new outfit or phone, it’s good to weigh your options (basically the “want vs. need” concept I mentioned earlier). You don’t want to spend money on something you’ll probably never wear or use for a long period of time.
When used wisely, credit cards are beneficial. They’re good to have in case of financial emergencies. Running away from credit cards doesn’t keep you out of debt; paying your bills on time keeps you out of debt. To be trusted with loans (for a car, house, furniture, etc.), it’s beneficial to have a good credit score. Yes, it takes patience but will be well worth it. You can start small, like only using your credit card for groceries or gas (anything you can easily pay off within the month). This will help build your score over time. Also, paying your rent and other bills on time improves your score.
Yes, it’s okay to have fun, go out with friends, and treat yourself. But, once again, only occasionally if you cannot afford to. It’s very easy to fall into debt, and very hard to get out of it. Only do and buy what you can afford.
For anyone trying to watch their spending habits, consider an accountability partner (someone who knows you well, cares about your wellbeing, and isn’t afraid to be honest with you). Learning how to save and budget takes time, but is definitely well worth it.
Scriptures to Study:
- [Romans 13:8] “Owe no man anything, except to love one another.”
- [Luke 19:17] “and he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.”
- [Matthew 22:21] “Give to Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
- [Matthew 25:14-30] Parable of the servants given the talents (2 invested, 1 didn’t)
Passive Income ideas:
- Sell what you own (yard/garage sales, Craigslist, etc.)
- Side gig hustles (Uber, babysitting, barber/stylist, freelancing, etc.)
- Leasing out spare bedroom, guesthouse, pool house, etc.
- Write a book/blog/Vlog (YouTube videos)
With a B.A in English, Ashley Cottrell has written blogs for Virginia Bride Magazine, Bronze Mag, and has been a contributing writer for numerous other digital entities. Although a Virginia-native, Ashley resides in Puerto Rico fulfilling her passion as a freelance writer. She aims to use her gift of writing to inspire others and share the gospel of Christ. When she's not writing, you can find her nose-deep in a game of chess, Salsa dancing, or making homemade skin care products.