live below your means
Spending more than you can afford doesn’t sound like a smart idea, but the reality is that most people in our country fall into this trap. According to a recent survey by CareerBuilder, 78 percent of U.S. workers live paycheck to paycheck and more than 1 in every 4 workers do not set aside any savings each month. That’s a really scary statistic, considering most Americans aren’t saving for retirement.

The easy answer to fixing this situation for most people is living below your means. It’s, of course, much easier said than done though. How do you live below your means when it already feels like you’re barely scraping by? The answer isn’t easy, but here are 4 things you can do to ACTUALLY live below your means:

1. Dissect Your Discretionary Spending

We know how important it is to have a budget and stick to the numbers. Most of us have some kind of category in our budget for discretionary spending, whether it’s on gizmos and gadgets or entertainment, but many of us don’t really know what exactly goes into your discretionary spending category though. Look at every transaction and try to understand exactly what you’re spending your extra money on.

You might be surprised to find that many of those transactions are totally unnecessary and some might even make you mad. Remember that feeling because it’s time to start making cuts. Keep a few things you spend on monthly that makes you tick but double check that this category doesn’t represent a significant part of your budget.
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budgeting rules
There are dozens of choices when it comes to budget plans. If you’re still looking, or are completely new to the concept of budgeting, let me re-introduce you to an age-old budgeting guideline: the 50/20/30 rule. Even though it’s a classic, it bears a fresh look, especially through the lens of the modern American’s financial outlook.

Three Categories and What They Contain

The 50/20/30 rule splits up take-home pay into three large spending categories — fixed costs, financial goals, and flexible spending. Here’s a list of what each contains.

  • Fixed Costs (50%) – These are the expenses most vital to your survival, which don’t vary from month to month: mortgage, rent, vehicle payment and utilities. Some versions also include non-essential monthly subscriptions, since they require a monthly commitment and the amount doesn’t vary unless you choose to discontinue them.
  • Financial Goals (20%) – This category includes any monthly payments and contributions toward improved financial health: 401K and other retirement accounts (from post-taxed income), extra payments on credit card debt or student loans, building an emergency fund, and savings goals such as a down payment for a home or funding an education.
  • Flexible Spending (30%) – This category includes expenses that vary from month to month: groceries, gas, eating out, shopping, hobbies and entertainment.

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salary inflation
Getting an annual raise or a promotion that comes with a higher salary is a great feeling. It makes you feel appreciated for what you do, and, if your finances were tight, it brings a sigh of relief.

What’s the first thing people tend to think of immediately after a raise? What to do with the extra income, of course, and usually, where to spend that sum. It’s not the immediate reward that’s the biggest problem though. Going out to a nice restaurant, taking the weekend away, or even purchasing an item you’ve had your eyes on for a while (assuming it isn’t a Lamborghini) is nothing to feel guilty about.

It’s when a little extra monthly income turns into an excuse for lifestyle creep (also called lifestyle inflation) that you need to really guard against.
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overspending money

When we see a great deal, we are inclined to think that we are “saving money.” Some store receipts even help with this illusion by giving you a total of your “savings” at the bottom, so you can see what a savvy shopper you are.

However, in many cases, you might just be overspending when you think you are getting a good deal. Here are 3 ways you could be spending more than you should — even while thinking that great “deal” is “saving” you money:
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wait to have kids

I read an article recently that centered around statistics that indicate Millennials (the generation born between roughly 1980 and 2000) are waiting longer to have children.

One of the main reasons they give for waiting is their financial situation. Or more specifically, how much debt they’re in or how much money they want to save.

More than any previous generation, Millennials are ladened with thousands of dollars in student loan debt and less initial wealth when they become independent.

The plan to wait at least a few years after graduating college to pay off loans, and settle into a career before having children. makes sense financially. But does it really make a difference?

Before making the decision to wait to have kids until you can afford them, make sure you understand the entire situation. Here are a few pros and cons.

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eating out
Probably the most common piece of personal finance advice out there is to save money by avoiding restaurants. It sounds so simple: just don’t eat out and cook at home or brown bag it. Lots of people do it and have no problem with it.

But, for some people, it can be tough.  I touched on this last week on my post about spending frenzies; we all have our own weak spots when it comes to personal finance and what can be no sweat for one person can be a real test of willpower for another.

Here are some suggestions that can help you if you find it difficult to avoid the temptation to eat out. My approach to personal finance is holistic; I believe that other areas of our lives can affect our personal finances and becoming as healthy, balanced and happy as possible as people can empower us to take charge of our money. So bear with me if some of my ideas seem a bit out there.
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