You hear it all the time, but do you know what it means to live below your means? Have you figured out how to do that?
To live below your means is to choose a lifestyle you can pay for with the money you have and still have some left over.
Living below your means that in this high-pressure, credit-based, gotta-have-it-all-right-now culture is not exactly easy.
It takes skill and determination to go against the tide and buck a system that encourages spending all we have now plus what we hope we'll get in the future.
It takes the strength of character to protest the message that you can have it all now and pay for it later.
Here's the secret to living below your means: Buy what you need. Want what you have. That's it — eight words that could change your life forever, eight words that point the way to contentment.
So how can we practice contentment, embrace those eight words and live well in a culture where everywhere we turn, we're tempted to live beyond our income?
Choosing to be grateful for what you have is the way to build a layer of insulation around your life that will protect you from focusing on what you don't have.
Reading the fine print and taking the time to analyze the real cost is a good way to increase that protective insulation.
Taking the time to add up the real cost of that new car you have your eye on can make your older, albeit paid for, vehicle look a lot better.
If you are easily dissatisfied or prone to impulsive behaviors, identify your weak spots, and then remove yourself from them.
Turn off the television. Skip past the magazine ads and Pinterest. Isolate yourself from mindless shopping. Toss mail-order catalogs in the trash unopened.
Put distance between you and temptation. Avoid places where you are most likely to slip back into your old ways of spending beyond your means.
Confronting yourself is a great way to build your strength against the strong current of temptation to spend beyond your ability to pay. Ask yourself these questions, and then expect honest answers:
Do I need this?
Don't I have something already that will do just as well?
Am I sure this is a good value?
Do I have the cash to pay for it?
Could I delay the purchase for a few weeks?
Am I willing to sit on my decision for 24 hours before acting?
Never feel you must apologize for choosing the high road when it comes to managing well the money that flows into your life. If you're embarrassed to say, "I can't afford it," say instead, "I just don't choose to spend my money that way."
Living below your means creates margin between you and the financial edge.
Living below your means is the way to build wealth, reduce stress and increase options.
Living below your means increases peace of mind.
Living below your means is an honorable way to conduct your life.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at [email protected], or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of "Debt-Proof Living," released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.