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LIVING WITHIN, OR BELOW, YOUR MEANS

Who are the Joneses, and why do we try so hard to keep up with them?

Rampant commercialism is threatening our quality of life and causing more and more people to get further into debt. Living within, or even below, your means can be a real eye-opener and will help you determine what is really important to you. Here are some easy things to try:

Make it a game

For just one month, see just how little you can live on. Can you skip the daily trip to the coffee shop and drink the free coffee at work? Can you make a lunch rather than go out? If there's a birthday, is a hand-made present just as special as one that you bought? Once your perspective switches about spending, it really can be a fun challenge, and you'll get valuable insight on just which items are really worth your money.

Stop shopping for fun

Do you find yourself going to the mall for no purpose, and end up buying things you don't really need? Why not try walking around the park, or inviting friends over for breakfast to catch up instead? You're likely to spend less and have a greater connection with the people you care about and your surroundings.

Think before you buy

Before you make a non-essential purchase, try one or all of these techniques:

  • Quick — do you absolutely love it? If there is any question in your mind, put it down and walk away.
  • Imagine how you'd feel if you left the store without it. Sad because you didn't get it? Relieved that you didn't waste your money?
  • Ask yourself this question: Is this item going to enrich my life?

You'll most likely find you arrive home with less purchase mistakes and more money in your pocket.

Pay for things with cash

Remember when you were a kid with an allowance and had to save up for the things you wanted? Try it now. The next time you want to buy something but don't have the money, instead of charging it, try saving up the cash. You'll end up only buying the items you really want and will stop cluttering your life with things that beg the question: "Why did I waste my money on that?" Plus in the time it takes to save the money, you might discover that you actually don't want or need the item.

Stop watching ads

You might try this little experiment: stop watching TV (or at least stop watching the commercials) — that means sound off and look away from the screen and stop reading magazines for one week. In most cases you'll find that the urge to spend has greatly subsided. Madison Avenue has some very compelling tricks and techniques to get people thinking that they need things. Don't be brainwashed!

The beauty of these easy tricks is you'll find you spend less time thinking about and shopping for things that, in many cases, just clutter our homes and lives and get us into debt. As a result, you'll have more time to relax, spend time with your family, and really focus on enjoying your life.