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

Is it better to learn to live with your means? I think the answer is yes for many reasons. Many people struggle with this though for many reasons.

We think we are entitled to things. We deserve things because we work hard. We should have a fancy new house, a new car, expensive vacations every year (or multiple times a year), name brand clothes, newest gadgets, expensive cell phone plans, satellite/cable television, etc. We work hard and deserve the best in life. Even if we cannot afford it.

Saving money and working towards wanted things was a concept that was extremely common until the late 1940s and early 1950s. To be in debt to someone was considered to be a temporary thing, not a lifestyle. Debts were paid off quickly so not to have a bad reputation. People rarely bought anything on credit because it was rarely an option. Paying cash and bartering for goods was the common practice of acquiring goods. Producing your own goods and using what you have was considered the best practice.

Attitudes changed. Marketing targeted young adults and the middle class. "Buy on credit!" "You work hard, you should play just as hard!" "Your kids need this!" "If your friends have it, so should you!" "Why make it when you can buy it!" "Why have that old thing when you can have this shiny new thing!"

Young adults want what their parents have without realizing that their parents have worked all their lives for what they have. They do not understand how their parents had scrimped and saved for their house, car, and now relaxing retirement. They just want those things and they want them now whether they have the money to afford it.

The lesson they have not learned is to learn to live within their own means, to budget their income, and learn to save money.

I have no room to talk. I didn't learn those things well enough and I certainly didn't understand how to. I don't blame my parents for that. I didn't want to take the time to learn. I thought I knew it all. I thought I could handle car payments, student loans, and credit card payments. Nevermind that I also had regular bills and daily living expenses.

I was stupid and naive.

I had some extremely hard lessons. Even now I still struggle. A major unplanned expense can throw me off for months. A small miscalculation can have me overdrawn for a few weeks.

I am learning. Always make payments. Pay cash for everything. Don't need it, don't buy it. Make do with what I have. Reuse or makeover what I have. Grow my own food and make meals from scratch. Save, save, save!

I am learning to live within my own means and income. It is a struggle some days, but the freedom is so very sweet. I know my income. I know that I only have so much to spend. I know I need to save money for unexpected expenses. I know I need to say no to myself and my kids and prioritize our needs and wants. Paying cash for things is so very satisfying though.

Being in debt is extremely stressful for me. Buying things on credit or loaning money puts me on the edge. Add to the complication of not having another complete income in the home (I do get some child support), I can just about have an anxiety attack over missing work, not getting paid, or losing my job. I don't need that! My kids don't need a mom who is constantly on the edge. I have learned that a parent's stress can and will affect the whole household. Not worth it!

So what do you do if you are up to your eyeballs in debt? Or if you want more, but don't want to go into debt? Do you get a second job? Sell everything? Find new ways to make more money?

Not necessarily. You need to consider the cost of doing those things. Not just monetary cost, but the cost of time, family, and life. Sacrifice can be a good thing in the short term, but long term costs may be worse than you realize.

For the longest time, I was always trying to figure out how to add to my income. Selling things, direct sales, odd jobs, small part-time jobs and other things were second nature to me. I was always doing it in some form. Even after it was pointed out to me how much damage this might be causing my kids, I continued. My new way to deal with this problem of making more money was to do it from home. I was home so that meant everything was okay. Not exactly.

The cost was too high. I found myself hoping and depending way too much on the income that might come in. I was not present with my kids nor was I really available. I would stress out about those "little" jobs and stayed up at all times of the night to work them.

If I was single and alone, the cost would not have bothered me. The cost might even be a factor. But as a parent and in a relationship, the cost was too high. My kids deserve a mom available to them when she is home and a mom who is home more often than gone.

In the end, learning to live within your means is the best way. Budgeting, negotiating payments if you owe money, saving and not spending money is the best way. Being in debt to have nicer things does not help you when your family and relationships suffer as a result. Being under stress and unhappy will affect you long term and then those things you had to have will not matter any more.

Thanks for reading!
Erica

Comments

  1. Very good stuff. Those of us who grew up in materialism trekked this path and many like myself are now seeking a way out of the earn/spend cycle. I actually like the way it was done in the old days! Perhaps people turned to others for enjoyment rather than to things.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you! I do find it hard to escape from the earn/spend cycle, but I believe it is possible and I have been seeing positive results. I remember my parents and grandparents getting together for card parties and having backyard picnics. I would love to get back to those kind of things.

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