For most of us who budget well already sticking to a low spending budget is no problem anymore, we have lost hindsight of how hard it actually was at first and often just give out tips like…. Save more, don’t buy that coffee (I say that as I sit here with an iced coffee from Cafe Greco). Tips on what to actually do are easy but we often forget about the mindset aspect and how to actually execute our advice.
Well the last few days have reminded me somewhat and I would like to try and write this post to help people who are genuinely finding it hard to live on a budget. I am sure you know the theory of “just spend less money” but there are many factores that get in the way of following that basic advice.
Two things happened to me actually and before I get onto the tips I want to tell you about them.
I went sailing this weekend and in the car on the way to the beach I was discussing spending, minimalism and money with a friend. He was talking about our home town of London, a very expensive place. He said something along the lines of “when I go back to London unless I spend money I will not be able to socialise with my friends, the restaurants and places they go require spending money”. I didn’t really register at the time but thinking about it I will be in that trap too if I return. Part of my own budget success has been the physical removal from a high spending lifestyle. Mentally removing yourself from such a situation is far far harder.
Secondly I jumped on the scales at the end of last week. A few weeks off exercise and some restaurant splurging meant a few pounds had creeped back on. No real big deal but enough to start me back on a ridgid healthy eating plan and back to daily exercise. The exercise is no problem, in fact I enjoy it, but I have not been so completely focused on my diet for a long time. I’m hungry even though I know I am eating enough and the urge for splurging is stronger because I know I should not be. This is the exact same pain that I went through when I first started to budget. I was hungry to spend that little bit extra and to be honest years of cheap living made me forget that.
Tips for living on a budget from a state of mind perspective
The key to living on a budget and minimalising is getting your head in the right place. It really is as simple as that. You can cut as many coupons as you like but activities like this may be a distraction that allows your brain to just feel like you are doing well. These activities of course have a place but they are just an accessory to the package not the solution.
Peer pressure and lifestyle
First off you will be going through a whole lifestyle change. You can’t just switch as you will lose friends and you will get depressed so it’s a case of a gradual change. Real friends always support so talk to every last one of them. Explain why you need to save money and ask them for help (not with money, mentally). Really involve them and do not ever feel embarrassed. Embarrassment is responsible for a lot of debt and don’t let your pride get you further in.
Once the world knows it’s already a weight off your shoulders, a small step towards minimalism and a readying process to help you deal with peer pressure and lifestyle change. Keeping positive and creatively (but remember gradually) swapping life events for more minimal frugal alternatives can be carried out with pleasure. Invite your friends over for a weekly dinner instead of grabbing drinks at the bar. Organise things like low money (say $5 each) poker nights and encourage day time activities like playing sports in the park or going on hikes. The last thing you want to do is cut yourself off from society because you want to save a few dollars.
You can’t blame it all on your friends though. I am sure a lot of your spending is due to small habits that cost. Like daily trips to the corner store, unread magazine subscriptions and erratic clothes shopping. Here it’s not a key to say I won’t do that anymore or I won’t do this as that just will not work. It may work for a few days but then you will crack and say, I deserve this. Minimalism is so much more than giving things up, it’s focusing the mind to the point. You have to teach yourself to focus on your needs and simplify what you do day to day. Make your meals simple, make your surrounding simple, work on your relationships and push towards your own personal level of zen. My post on how to simplify your life goes over the logistics of this much more.
Always ask why
So you just read a tip “kill your candy bar habit”. The tip showed you that you are spending 57cents 3 times a week and over a year you could save nearly $89. That is great an extra $89 in your savings could compound to a lot more in the future or save a lot of interest if it takes away from debt but seriously you need to know why you are stopping. That candy bar may be the one thing you enjoy 3 times a week. It may be your post workout treat or hold some other purpose in your life. Stopping it is not a financial exercise but a mental exercise. You don’t buy it because it costs money so you won’t stop buying it because it saves money. You need to get to the route. Ok, say you come to the conclusion “I buy the candy bar because I feel I deserve it!”. Now you can really start tackling the problem. Maybe you do deserve it, maybe you burn way more calories than it gives you, a little chocolate even from candy products is shown to be good for you. Once you have addressed the issue you can find a real reason to stop the habit, adjust the habit or do nothing to change it.
You need to approach every part of your life bit by bit and work out why and how to make changes, don’t go blindly into this whole thing.
Trust me sticking to a budget successfully is not a matter of numbers it’s a matter of being in the right frame of mind.
I normally emphasis on saving money when it comes to budgeting but of course one of the ways to make life a little easier is to make money too. You should always balance ways of making a little more if life really is finding it hard to stay above water with your current incomes.
Now, I need your input.