New cars, loft apartments, and sleek phones aren’t my thing. Don’t get me wrong, I own some nice bicycles, but every penny I used to build them was in my budget. So when it comes to living below my means, I find it easy.
If you give it a try — or already do it — you’ll find it to be rewarding. You’ll be able to avoid debt, save for emergencies and retirement, and still have fun. I promise. Take a look at how I’ve stayed below my means under 30.
For six months, I lived in a sunroom.
With three roommates, I paid no more than $134 a month for rent, utilities, and internet. Think about that. If you could limit your housing expense to less than $150 a month, imagine how much you could save or how quickly you could pay off debt.
In the hot summer months, I opened the windows and turned on a fan. In the cold, I slept under a $30 heated blanket. Plus the space wasn’t that bad. It had a vintage feel to it that I embellished with tapestries and posters.
Big city living can wait.
Even though I graduated college, I decided to stay put. It’s part of the reason my living expenses remain low, despite moving from the sunroom to a real bedroom. I know people who get by and stay out of debt on $15,000 a year. Eventually I’ll move to a bigger city, but I don’t need to rush.
Credit cards do not pay for everything.
Yes, I’ve read success stories about people who charge everything to a credit card to capitalize on reward points and just pay off the balance each month from their checking account. It’s a slippery slope though, especially for young people. For now, I have only two credit cards and limit their use to emergencies or big-ticket purchases. I use them when I know I have the money to immediately pay them off.
My car is ugly.
The champagne paint is chipping. The interior is a sun-faded beige. But for a 2001 sedan, it runs like a dream with above average gas mileage. I could improve in this area and live without it. In fact, it’s currently listed on Craigslist. My town is small enough that I could get around on my bike, and I’d love to stop paying for gas, car insurance, and maintenance.
I don’t own a smart phone.
I’ve had it since 2008 and it does what I want a phone to do: make phone calls. Texting works, too. I don’t pay for a data plan or phone insurance. The savings is worth getting teased from time to time.
Upscale grocery stores aren’t in my budget.
Trust me, I wish I could shop at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. For one thing, they’re not even in my town. Even if they were, I’d still shop at Aldi to buy food in bulk. I certainly plan to earn more in my future and by then I’d like to be somewhere with a Trader Joe’s.
Take a look at your spending and see where you can trim it. Are you overpaying for an apartment? How does your income compare to the cost of living in your city? What options are there for transportation? Do you need a car, or can you get around on public transportation, a bike or by foot? Is that cell phone bill draining you every month?
Living below your means now can mean living comfortably once you’re out of your 20s. Then, nice things will really excite me.
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Category: Money Basics