What Is “Living Within Your Means” and Could Normal People Do It?
Do you wonder if you are living within your means? How to check it? What does “living within your means” is all about?
Spending less than you earn is the shortest description of living within your means.
The logical conclusion is that if you spend more than you earn you are living below your means.
Here’s the Simple UK Statistic – UK People Live Below Their Means
The official statistic shows that for the financial year ending in March 2018 the UK people have more debt than assets for the first time in 30 years.
This is a vast change and shows an end of 30 years of steady “living within their means” era.
After spending a few hours researching what people in the UK spend their money on, here’s what I found out.
- We borrow more and save less
- In the 90s Brits were able to save an average of £120 on every £1000 while now this amount is £41
- The poorest 10% of the households spend 2.5 times their disposable income while the richest spend less than half of their available income.
Poor Get Poorer and Rich Get Richer
If you look at the facts I listed above you might be left with the same conclusion as I was – poor get poorer and rich get richer.
And you won’t be wrong.
Chances are if you got into debt for the last two years you would reach for another one this year too. By far, you are already living beyond your means, and if you want to get back on track, changes must be done.
What Should You Change To Start Living Within Your Means
If you want to change your haircut, you go and change your… haircut. It’s easy with the obvious things in life.
But what should you change in your household to start saving money and break the circle from above?
There are so many necessary expenses every month that it’s hard to choose which one to keep and which one to change. Moreover, there’s no one-way formula and what works for you might not work for your neighbor.
First Things First
Find out what you spend every month.
I mean everything.
You might be surprised and realize that actually, you do live within your means. Be honest and spend as much time as needed.
Break The Circle
Once you find out what you spend the most on, start looking for ways to reduce or eliminate the spending in the sector.
Here are some obvious ways to save money:
1. Cut out the takeaways
We spend 66% of our food budget on meals we prepare and eat at home, and 34% go for meals we eat out.
Knowing that takeaways are a more expensive and less healthy option than what we have in our fridge, it’s easy to make a choice.
The hard part is to stick with this choice.
Investing even half of the money we spend on eating out in the food we prepare at home and carry with us will leave us an extra £800.
2. Partner with a colleague for transportation
14% of the weekly spending goes on transportation – that’s petrol, fees, tolls, and car services.
While you cannot share your MOT expenses with anyone else, you could partner with a colleague of yours to travel together to work. This could reduce your petrol spending almost in half.
Wonder how much exactly?
People in the UK spend around £21.2 per week on petrol. That’s £84.80 per month or £1017.60 for 12 months. Let’s say that this is the regular amount of money that you usually pay for fuel when going to work and back for five days a week. Partnering with someone else could reduce those £1017.60 in half. What if you have space in the car for one more person?
Plus, all three of you will be saving on transportation. Do good for you and for others too. Find a travel buddy.
3. Reduce Alcohol
We spend around £868 on alcoholic drinks per year.
I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a lot of money.
Re-do your budget and see if you could reduce the amount of alcohol you usually buy.
This might sound like a no-fun-at-all situation, but £800 sound like an All-Inclusive holiday in Tenerife for a full week (drinks included). Does that sound like something you’d enjoy?
4. Grocery Shopping
We cut out the takeaways, but we didn’t touch the grocery shopping list.
We all see that food gets more and more expensive. At the same time, it’s a public secret that we overspend on food every single week. The average amount of goods in the grocery stores is over 39 000! Of course, you will overspend. It’s almost like you don’t have a choice.
But you do.
Smart home budgeting, proper grocery price list, meal planning, and sticking to your shopping list will save you hundreds if not even thousands of pounds every year.
In our house, we shop for £150 per month for two adults. That’s an average of £37.5 per week. I will try to share in another post how we do it. However, here are some key points to think about:
- Always, always plan your meals ahead
- Shop only after you know what you have left in the fridge, the freezer, and the pantry room.
- Buying in bulk matters only if you use what you buy.
- Cooking from scratch is the game-changer (and it’s healthier).
- Visit big grocery stores only once a week (if planning is done well – only twice a month).
5. Stay Away From New Debts
I think this is the most important part of saving.
Living within your means will start only after you stop borrowing money from people and banks.
Paying off debts is a long process no one likes. Most people love the idea of having instant access to whatever they like in the shops. In the long run, however, less than 10% of the goods they purchase are essential and more often than not – we can live without them.
Before you go for another loan or a credit card, ask yourself if the desired item is worth the monthly amount of money you will spend. Most people stick to the idea of buying only things that will make their life easier. However, that’s not always the case.
6. Things That Make Your Life Easier Cost You More Money
For example, having a tumble dryer at home is a great “making-my-life-easier” tool. At the same time, it almost doubles our daily electricity usage. If I leave all lamps in the house on, turn the TV on for the next 24 hours, use the computer constantly and hover twice the house it still won’t pile up as much a one hour of drying my clothes in the tumble dryer.
Therefore, I use it occasionally when I really need to make my life easier. The rest of the time I leave my clothes either outside or dry them on the drying rack inside. It takes a little bit of space, but it saves me money.
Think about the items in your house that usually make your life easier. Do they save you money while they make your life easier? What do you do with the time they save you? If you work on a side project while the dishwasher works or spend quality time with your loved ones, that’s great. If you watch TV and waste your time – maybe you have to rethink your priorities.
(No, watching TV with your family is not considered as quality time)
7. Learn To Budget
I know no one likes to budget.
But the ugly truth is: living within your means is all about budgeting.
The Scary Family Budgeting At Home Busted! Let’s Do This! It will give you valuable information on how to keep track of your outgoings and use the results to save money.
If you already live below your meanings and can’t make ends meet, change is inevitable. It’s hard, but it’s worth the effort.