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Living Below Your Means is the Only Way to Live

Being thought of as cheap was to me the ultimate insult. I equated frugality with digging through dumpsters in search of food and who-knows-what-else.

A person posing for the camera

To me cheap people skipped out without leaving a tip. They were slovenly in appearance, lacking dignity and self respect. Cheap people were just plain tacky. I couldn’t bear the thought of living that way and to make sure I would never be mistaken for someone who did, I charged my way through life, bent on proving to the world (and more likely to myself) that I was not cheap.

I accepted the offers of freedom that credit-card companies offered to me. It was so simple. I could have a $200 outfit and pay only $10 a month. I could fix up the house, treat the kids, have new clothes, drive nice cars—just about anything I could think of. And it worked for awhile.

I know you’re way ahead of me. You know what happened. By the time I came to my senses I wasn’t experiencing freedom at all. It was all a lie. I sold myself into bondage one dollar at a time. 

If you’re feeling a little squeamish about this word frugality I, more than anyone, understand your fears. I think I can help you to get over it.

Frugality doesn’t mean you have to become someone you aren’t. Frugality means doing whatever it takes to spend less than you earn. Frugality is about restraint, discipline, finding the best value and not being wasteful. It’s about making choices and understanding that if you say yes to one thing you may need to say no to something else. Frugality is about deciding what really matters and not living to impress others.

Because we live frugally doesn’t mean we don’t spend money. It means we spend money thoughtfully and with a sense of discipline and purpose. Frugality is about striking a balance between saving and investing for the future and having a fulfilling life now.

Why should you live frugally? Because you need to save money to cover what’s coming in the future; because you need to finance your retirement; because you don’t want to work until you’re 90. 

There are other reasons besides retirement for living below your means. Maybe you have kids heading for college soon. Perhaps you’re paying off credit-card debt and want to cut back in other places so that you have more money each month to put toward becoming debt-free. Any number of reasons can lead you to the conclusion that living frugally and saving and investing money is an intelligent way to live.

Take the time now to look at your life and your expenses. Come up with a plan and learn to live below your means. If you don’t start telling your money where to go, you’ll always wonder where it went.

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4 replies
  1. Gehugh says:

    One course in high school that needs to be mandatory for graduation is that ofconsumer science and money management. If your school district or home schooling group is not teaching this, they should. The parents should be ultimately responsible for seeing that their kids ‘gets this’ before turning them out into this fiscally irresponsible world.

    Reply
  2. Q111 says:

    I quit falling for the ‘rewards’ a while back. It was too hard to keep up with, I ended paying money to use the rewards and sometimes it didn’t apply when I tried to use it. If it’s not a percentage off something I already want/need or included w/ something I already use, I don’t bother.

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  3. Toast Points says:

    That designer top slashed to $20 isn’t cheap if you charge it and can’t pay it off at the end of the month. Seems obvious. But people get all tangled up in thinking about “cash-back dollars,” airline points, easy-pay on TLC, etc. Soon they are in quicksand and are paying way more than bottom dollar for just about everything they own — car, clothes, furniture, appliances and doodads galore. Pitiful. I don’t know how some people sleep at night.

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  4. MimiB52 says:

    Thank you Mary! You really struck a nerve with me on this article. My husband and I have learned the hard way how to live below our means. Two years ago we were eating out 3 or 4 nights per week, taking long weekend trips, buying things we wanted instead of what we needed. All that stopped when my husband lost his job and we had to live on 1 income. Thanks to you, we had an emergency fund with which we paid bills but after a few months that was gone. We shopped with coupons, at discount grocery stores, farmers markets and learned to stock up and freeze weekly grocery specials. I made laundry detergent and we made vanilla from your recipe from Christmas gifts. We bought a Roku and an antenna and cut out the $150 monthly cable bill. We cut out smart phones and our cell phone bill dropped to less than $50 monthly. We are still chipping away at a few credit card bills but we have paid off a few so we’re slowly getting out of debt.
    The past 2 years have been an eye opener for us and as our finances improve, I don’t see us returning to our wasteful spending from the past. Eating out will be for special occasions and we won’t go back to cable. We will continue making Christmas gifts because our homemade Christmas was the best one we’ve ever celebrated. Our grown children, family and friends loved their gifts.
    Thank you so very much for all the awesome advice you’ve shared with us over the years!

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