Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Is It Better To Live Within Your Means or Try To Earn More To Afford More?


This is the fairly simple question. The answer is much more complicated. 

Is it better to learn to live within your means? The answer should be yes for many reasons. Many people struggle with this though. 

We think we are entitled to things. We think we deserve certain things because we work hard. We think we should have a fancy house, a new car, expensive vacations every year (sometimes multiple times a year), name brand clothes, the newest gadgets, expensive cell phone plans, satellite/cable television, and more.

Saving money and working towards things like homes and cars was a concept that was extremely common until the late 1940's and the 1950's. To be in debt to someone was considered to be a temporary thing, not a lifestyle. Debts were paid off quickly if debt was even accrued. Cash and bartering was the common practice. Producing your own goods was considered the best thing for families. It was a matter of pride to have money in the bank.

Attitudes have changed. Drastically. Marketing targeted the newly created middle class and baby boomers. Buying on credit became the thing to do in order to have nice things. You work hard so you deserve to play hard. You kids needed the newest toys. If your friends have it, so should you! Why have old things like hand-me-down furniture when you can have new furniture? 

Young adults then wanted what their parents had. They didn't realize or didn't care that their parents had worked hard for what they had. They didn't understand how their parents had scrimped and saved for their home, nice car, and relaxed middle years. They just wanted what their parents had and they wanted it now. Whether or not they made enough money to afford it.

Who cares if they could afford it? They could just buy it on credit!

The lesson that was forgotten in just a few generations was to learn to live within their own means. To budget their income. To save for what they wanted instead of using a credit card or borrowing the money. 

I have no room to talk, by the way. Most of us do not have room to talk.

We learned from those around us. I was fortunate to have extremely frugal parents, but they struggled too. I have had some extremely hard money lessons. I thought I could handle all the debt I accrued and my daily expenses and bills too. I was pretty stupid. 

I still struggle with living within my means. Every two weeks, my budget is planned out. However, a major unplanned expense can throw my budget off for months. A small miscalculation can have me overdrawn for a week or more. Even though I make extra money from my Ebay sales, this blog, and selling things online, sometimes it doesn't seem like enough. 

Unfortunately, most of us are this way or have been this way. Being in debt is stressful. Many people cannot afford to miss work or use very limited personal time off. Many cannot afford to miss a paycheck or to lose their jobs. Many struggle just to live within their means. So they try to earn more.

Adding to your income can sometimes be the solution to getting out of debt or getting some necessary home/car repairs done. Whether it is a series of small independent jobs, a part-time job, working a side hustle, working from home, or selling off unnecessary things, making extra money can always help. However, these can come at a cost too.

You can become dependent on the extra income and pretty soon that will not be enough either. You will spend even more time away from loved ones if you work outside of the home. Temporary sacrifice can be a good thing to help pay off debt or to get your savings built up, but long-term sacrifice can have an effect on your life, your relationships with loved ones, and your health. Is it worth it?

Even if you work from home to make extra money, there is a cost involved. You have to spend time away from the family in a quiet space to work. If you work after everyone goes to sleep, you get less sleep which impacts your health. Income is not always consistent. Depending on the week or season of life, you might not be able to work as much as you would like or need to. Sometimes, working at home also involves spending more to make more which can not always be a good thing. 

Don't get me wrong - I think working at home to make extra money is the way to go if you can do it. It takes a lot of discipline to work consistently and get as much done as you can with the distractions around you. You have to make your life just as much of a priority as your work, but it can be done. 

If you are single and alone, these costs may not bother you. If you are in debt or need extra money for a new car, by all means, try to earn more. It is better to live life, go into a relationship, or even a marriage debt free and with a comfortable cushion of savings. 

However, if you are working more to afford more, is it worth the cost? Is spending time away from your family so they can have more worth the cost? If you are working all the overtime you can get to be able to live in a five bedroom home when a three bedroom home would do just fine, is it worth it? If you are driving a gas guzzling status symbol to work when a small compact would cost so much less, is it worth it? Is killing yourself to be able to afford more worth it?

I think it is better to live within your means. I say this knowing that I work a few jobs from home, but I am trying to build a cushion in my budget and be able to afford repairs, birthdays, and holidays. I try to work when my kids will be the least impacted like over my lunch hour or at night after they go to bed. Sometimes I include them in my work if I can. I tried the part-time work outside of the home and the sacrifice wasn't worth it. I missed too much time with them and, as a single mom, I couldn't afford to do that. So I learned to live within my means and make sacrifices at home of things we did not need.

Learning to live within your means makes you more content and happier. You don't feel the pressure to keep up with the neighbors or your friends because you made the commitment to make the most of what you earn and that's it. If you need to earn more, you know it is because you need to get something you need or to make repairs that are in your budget. 

What do you think? Is it better to live within your means or try to earn more to afford more?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


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