Speaking with high earners about the paycheck not being enough always turns into an satisfying chat. Even though the reasons are usually common (you just don’t know my situation being the most popular), we always end up with a good resolution. Why? Because no excuse passes the “the average income per household in 2007 was $50,233” test (source: US Census Bureau).
Why can so many families live below $50,000 a year while others earning 4 times in the same country still feel poor? If you are wondering the answer to this question yourself, or if you feel like the paycheck is never enough, here are 5 suggestions for you:
1. Comparing Yourself to Others
A lady who got a windfall of $10 million (after taxes) in an interview with CNBC admitted that she felt poor. The reason was simple – she was comparing herself to the super rich. While she had $10 million dollars, she was wondering why she couldn’t buy that $45 million dollar loft overlooking Central Park in Manhattan. She wanted everything, so it made sense that she was disappointed.
As soon as you reach the top of a mountain, you will see that there are other mountains that are higher. In fact, some mountains will seem higher even if they are not. Stop comparing yourself to others.
2. Jumping Your Lifestyle Ahead of Schedule
Affordability is different for people earning $10k, $50k, $100k, $250k, $1 million, $50 million and so on a year. If your salary is $50k annually but you try to live the $100k lifestyle, your paycheck will never be enough. If you want to get ahead, the opposite (living the $50k lifestyle even if you are earning $100k) is more appropriate.
3. Measure What You Have and not What is Missing
I have a espresso machine that pours a set amount of water into the cup. One day, I used a huge mug and it seemed like there was no coffee in there. The coffee obviously didn’t change, but the container (our expectation) did. It seems obvious that the only way to measure how much we have is by looking at the actual volume of coffee but like many, I looked at how empty the mug was. Counter-intuitive and counterproductive.
Learn to appreciate what you have accomplished and what you possess, not what you want to get because it’s never enough.
4. Periodically Cut Off Your Expenses
I’m not talking about cutting off your unnecessary expenses like you’ve read before but actually anything that is not strictly for survival purposes. Periodically cut off your cell phone or your TV bill for a few weeks and see if you miss it. Coffee habits? Movie Thursdays? Stop them and see what happens. Not only will this force you to relearn what’s really “necessary”, it will help you inject variety into your life.
Obviously, common sense is required here when determining what’s necessary for survival. Taping up the air conditioning panel is so you can’t turn it on might be worth it but cutting the utility bill is not. Carpooling to work with your spouse is good to try but selling your car when you have no means to get to work is not. Use your judgment but stretch the bare minimum and you might be surprise.
5. Search for Alternatives
You know what? There is always a less expensive option for everything that we do. With the ease of information gathering brought on by the Internet, there is really no excuses not to spend some time researching to see if you can find a better alternative. Like pasta? Try the store brand spaghetti. Watch movies? Try Redbox. Can’t live without TV? Try HDTV antennas or watching them on the Internet.
Why can’t people live below their means even if they are earning 6 figure salaries? Because they just choose not to.
Start thinking that you can, and begin putting it in action.