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  • Tony Gilbert

The Guide to Living Below Your Means

It is not uncommon for people to get to the end of the month, open their wallets and see nothing but an old condom and a moth fly out. While this situation is something that many people experience regularly, it can be easily fixed.

a man budgeting his finances

Many who want to become a millionaire often mistakenly associate building wealth with leading a more extravagant lifestyle. They'd rather spend a million dollars than save a million dollars, right? However, living below your means is the most effective way to build wealth. You can enjoy numerous financial and mental benefits by creating a budget that keeps your expenses lower than your income. Of course, people need to know their expenses and how to create a budget. With this guide, anyone can understand the importance of savings and a few tips to build and maintain a budget.

Why Living Below Your Means Helps Build Wealth

Many people understand the stress created when their expenses exceed their household income. They may not know how helpful it can be to improve the household budget, lower expenses, and help reach financial independence. Spending less is associated with many benefits for the household, such as:

  • Lower stress about bills to pay

  • Less worry about how to pay for emergency expenses

  • Fewer arguments about spending

  • Greater satisfaction from a long-anticipated purchase

Experts say that financial worries are one of household stress's most significant causes. Eliminating most financial problems can prevent that stress from happening.

Keeping costs below household income can yield monetary benefits, as well. People who spend less than they make have extra money to dedicate to different pursuits. They are less likely to be caught unexpectedly by a financial emergency that they cannot afford. With the extra money, they can invest in the following:

  • Savings toward short-term goals, like a new car or vacation

  • Certificates or bonds with a guaranteed rate of return

  • Investments that can grow wealth quickly

  • Property for residence or rental, such as townhomes or new-construction homes

Interest on this money compounds yearly as long as it remains in an interest-bearing arrangement. As such, the longer people can spend below their means, the more opportunities they have to build wealth over time.


Start by Tracking Your Spending

To build functional plans for saving money, people should begin tracking their spending. Most people have some idea of what they have to pay for certain expenses each month. For the rest, it may be a complete mystery. It is practical to start by tracking expenses during the past month. This process should include the following:

  • Rent or mortgage payment

  • Installment loans, like student loans or car payments

  • Credit card debts and other revolving loans

  • Utilities, like electricity or water

  • Insurance on the home or vehicle

  • Monthly services, like streaming or gym memberships

  • Transportation costs

  • Groceries

  • Incidental expenses

In some cases, expenses are not predictable. Hidden costs are common in home buying, service subscriptions, and even utilities. Creating an accurate budget requires you to be diligent about uncovering the actual costs of these items, not their average costs.

Some people have ways of making purchases that make it harder to track. For example, someone who spends most of their money in cash may have trouble building a long-term record. Similarly, someone who makes incidental purchases on various credit cards may need to aggregate those expenses.


Related: Is the 50/30/20 Method Really the Best Budget?


Then Create a Savings-First Budget

With detailed information about average monthly expenses, people can start to build a working budget. There are several options that consumers can use to track their spending, such as:

  • Pen and paper

  • Spreadsheets

  • Consumer budget apps

The best method is one that someone can use consistently and correctly. Spending a lot of money on an elaborate budgeting system may not be productive unless the person is going to use it every time.

To create the budget, people should write down a list of the most significant expenses that they cannot avoid paying. Housing and utilities will go on this list, but they should also consider adding savings. Setting aside a certain amount each month for savings can build a cushion to make unpredictable expenses easier to shoulder. To make room, people should list expenses they may be able to trim or eliminate. For example, someone who pays for an expensive gym membership that they do not use very frequently could save money by going to a public facility instead. Decreases in spending should be gradual and sustainable. If people try to cut back too much at once, they may give up instead of making progress.


Grow Your Savings Faster

The purpose of savings is to grow wealth, not just have money set aside for a rainy day. Investing is better than saving because you can earn interest on various savings, deposits, funds, or investments can create a passive income stream that grows over time. People adjusting to a new budget may want to make savings as easy as possible with automatic deposits into savings accounts. This makes the process subconscious so that people are growing their savings before they have an opportunity to notice.

There are several ways that people can increase the amount of income they make from savings. A standard short-term savings account may have a relatively low yield, with money that is easy to access at a moment's notice. Over time, people should consider adding funds to other types of savings accounts with a higher rate of average return, including:

  • High-yield savings accounts

  • Money market funds

  • Certificates of deposit

  • Treasury bills and notes

  • Bonds

These types of accounts are generally low-risk. In some cases, people cannot lose money they have deposited as long as they keep it in the account. Eventually, people can consider building a comprehensive investment portfolio, including a few stocks or other investments with a higher risk and a higher potential return.


Start Building Financial Security Today

For many people, the idea of financial security can feel like it is thousands of miles away. In reality, most people can make progress on their financial goals. Keeping expenses lower than income is an effective way to start. Maintaining a budget is an essential task that people must update on occasion and track regularly. Investment in the process can reduce stress and improve financial opportunities. By following these tips, consumers will know how to create a budget that will cover their expenses now and in the future.

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