I Just Can’t Live Within My Means!

The other day I heard someone make the argument that most financial advice was of no use to them because it assumes that you have some extra money, you just need to “find it.”

“I literally have no extra money,” this person said. “Every dime I have goes to the mortgage, food, or the utilities. These financial people assume that if I just cut out the lattes and the frivolous shopping that I could save money. I don’t do any of those things and I still have no extra money. I can’t pay down my debts and, in fact, have to keep incurring more debt in order to live because I make such a small income. I have no choice.”

It’s not uncommon to feel a


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14 Responses to I Just Can’t Live Within My Means!

  1. Cookie says:

    I don’t think it is harsh at all. I think it may offer HOPE to someone who hasn’t considered some of the strategies you mentioned yet. I know folks who think they are at bare bones, but still have cable and internet, get dinner for the family at drive-thrus, buy without shopping around and would never consider going door-to-door with flyers for handy-man jobs or baby-sitting services or even renting out a room.
    Many years ago, when I moved to my new job in a new city just after my college graduation, my take home pay was under $800 a month (this was in the 1990’s). My relatives said I could not survive. It took planning and prayer, but I rented a room within walking distance from my work, gave up my car, used rabbit ears on my tv, outfitted my kitchen at garage sales, lived on sandwiches or homemade soup, took the city bus to the grocery store, bank – any appointments, etc. In evenings, I cleaned offices and babysat. If there was a frugal idea out there – I tried it!
    Eventually got raises, some bonuses and later, found a better paying job, but I still think of that time as one of the most rewarding and creative periods of my life because I met the challenge my relatives thought I couldn’t.
    I hate to hear anyone discouraged, but sometimes they have to get to that place before they are willing to try some of the ideas you pointed out in your article.
    Great article!

  2. knsfinancial says:

    You were not being harsh at all. This is an excellent article. As you stated, once every possible cost is cut the only option is to increase income. But I rarely come across people who actually have cut every unnecessary cost from their life.

  3. rob62521 says:

    I think this article is realistic. So many people feel entitled to the big fancy house, shiny new car, and the expensive clothes. Then they complain when the bills come in.

    I think that many people in our parents’ and grandparents generation realized that sometimes you do without. Life isn’t fair and you can’t always have it all.

    However, in the past couple of decades society has made it an embarrassment to admit you can’t afford something or that you live below your means. I’m ridiculed for taking a Thermos of coffee to work. I don’t need the fancy latte — I brew coffee at home in a cheapie coffee maker — I buy the coffee on sale and stock up — then I create my own creamer by using cheap non-dairy creamer and a chocolate mix for milk. It’s cheap and it tastes the way I like it. My husband laughs and calls it “Thermos envy” when my coworkers make fun of me, but are living fairly comfortably and enjoy what we have.

  4. Ms Independent says:

    GREAT article! got me thinking it was time to re-evaluate my spending and household expenses!

  5. Bobbi says:

    Yes, this IS a wonderful refresher course. I am actually getting ready to go part time at my job, (voluntarily for several reasons), and will need to implement many of these suggestions. The time spent with my mom will definitely out weigh the income missed. Thanks!

  6. Gail says:

    I think you are right on. I think it is ridiculous to hear people complaining of not being able to make ends meet when they are standing there puffing on a cigarette or drinking name brand take out coffee. I’ve known families that always complained of not having enough but on Easter their kids would have on new Sunday outfits while my kids were wearing their usual stuff as we literally didn’t have the money to by new. For some reason in the last 30 years our society has gotten so addicted to TV (while the shows have gotten worse) and can’t imagine giving it up because of course now you can’t watch TV unless you are on cable with extra channels that you just have to have.

    To make ends meet you have to literally decide that you will or won’t spend money on something depending on whether or not you have the cash on hand. It is doable but it involves discipline and most people don’t want to live a disciplined life. They want to live however they want and seem to think that magically the money will appear.

  7. CindyM says:

    Good article and no, you’re not too harsh. You aren’t harsh enough, ha-ha. We now have several generations of people in this country who can’t seem to do anything but run around in their unpaid-for cars twittering and facebooking and chasing Lord knows what, trying to “get ahead.” I say stay home in your spare time, get off the phone, turn off that stupid TV and have a real plan you can work with. Ignore your peer group and all the rest, they’re too focused on themselves to care much about you anyway, ha-ha, so be not afraid of what they think. You don’t have to be like that; you can whittle down debt and never get into it again if you really want to. Most just don’t really want to.

  8. Rebecca says:

    I give this article a standing ovation! 100% in agreement.

  9. KimC says:

    Yes, excellent article – but where are the angry comments from readers who insist that they can’t and shouldn’t have to drive “unsafe” vehicles or move their families into “unsafe” neighborhoods?
    Sometimes the difficult choices come down to these, or at least they force one to examine one’s perception of safety. Most people don’t like that.

  10. CalifGal says:

    Great article. It is not harsh; it is the advice that has been too long forgotten in our culture. This month I am challenging myself to stay on a grocery budget that is about half what I normally spend. I am shopping for real bargains, and getting much more open minded about using the food that I already have. But as you say, sometimes this just isn’t enough, and lifestyles need to be seriously cut back. Thanks for the reality check.

  11. teresa says:

    I enjoyed this article, our family doesn’t have a problem making choices that are in line with the choices we make, now only if other people would worry about their own lives and not ours!

  12. Elizabeth says:

    I was in this person’s shoes. I finally came to my senses and did a short sale of a home I could no longer afford (ouch!). I also moved into a much cheaper apartment. And I got rid of my paid-for luxury car that required a lot of expensive maintenance. Instead, I got a “free” beater car from a family friend and only paid to have it repaired.

    It was a HUGE lifestyle shift. But I realized that my income wasn’t like to rise to pay off my debts, so I had to take drastic actions to cut my expenses.

    18 months later, I have $25K saved in a money market account–more money than I ever have ever saved before–even when I was making much more money. I am happy and proud of my newfound frugality.

    I sleep much better at night!

  13. athenabyron75 says:

    This is a great article. I think that people need to be responsible for their own lives. I know that I’ve routinely spent above my means and now I am taking steps to correct that and to make sure that as I go forward I don’t spend more than I earn. Which is hard with a son and an electronics loving husband.

  14. rosemary_sanders says:

    When will we realize that all the advertising on TV is designed to get us to live above our means and we can live on less!!!

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