“How to Live Large and Have Fun”, “How to Spend Millions on Credit and Never Pay a Dime”, “Live Large and On Charge…Cards”, “Living High on the Hog: The Art of Budget Busting”…these are all titles of fictitious books, but they might as well be bestsellers. Why? Because so many people are living on incomes that cannot support their spending habits; living on borrowed money, moving money from account to account, buying, spending, hiding the bills, and eventually the ‘dog of debt’ will catch up to you and bite you right in your credit report.
Appearances and pride are at stake; you have to keep up the Joneses, right? That neighbor down the street just bought a new truck to pull his new boat down to his private dock at the marina. You can’t allow him to think that he is better than you, has more money than you, and is living larger than you. What does that mean? Spend, spend, spend, even when you don’t have the money.
So, what can you do to rein in excessive spending without having to live like a pauper in a back alley?
Uh oh, the dreaded ‘D’ word! When people hear the word, “downsize,” they are automatically racked with pains of withdrawal. Companies downsize. Empty-nesters downsize. People who lose a lot of weight downsize. You don’t downsize spending! You supersize it! Right?
Wrong. If you don’t have the money on hand to spend, you don’t spend it. When you are spending more than you actually make a month, you need to downsize your appetite, your desire for flashy clothes, your shoe collection, your car collection, and your attitude.
You have to understand that downsizing doesn’t mean going without. It doesn’t mean that you have to wear sack cloth and douse yourself in ashes every morning. What it does mean is that you take some of the things you have and sell them, pay off some of the debt you owe, and find ways to live within your means that won’t leave you feeling like you’ve stepped off the cruise ship right onto a dingy.
Buy Store Brands
Believe it or not, those name brand foods, household goods, clothing, and accessories you buy can be found in the same aisles with the name of the store stamped on them. Megamarts like Wal-Mart, Target, K-Mart, Aldi’s, Walgreens, Rite-Aid, and even franchised grocery stores carry the same quality of goods that you’re used to buying, but they don’t carry the overhead costs that come with the big names.
Here’s something you should try: grab a box of something you typically buy name brand, grab a box of the same item in the store brand, compare the ingredients…they’re the same, aren’t they? The only difference is the trademarked name on the brand name box–and the cost. Most of the time, the store brand is a $.20 to $.50 cheaper, and it can actually be several dollars cheaper. See, you aren’t going without your favorite things; they just come in a different package.
Used Doesn’t Mean Abused
One of the fastest growing types of business is the consignment store. The consignment store is where people who need to make a few extra bucks bring their gently used clothing, household goods, baby gear, and furniture. The store owner sells the items, takes a percentage, and gives the owner of the items the remaining amount of money. You can either choose to consign your own items, or you can buy consigned items from other sellers.
Many consignment stores have high standards for the goods they sell. You can buy an entire wardrobe for less than $200. You can buy a ‘like new’ set of dinnerware for $20. You can get a living room set (these are typically steam cleaned before selling) for $300. You can buy practically new baby gear for way less than what you would pay at Babies-R-Us.
Consignment stores are growing in popularity because more and more people see them as a way to live within their means and still have nice things.
Embrace the Food Network
Another very practical and easy way to downsize your spending without having to live like a hermit in a hovel down by the river is to eat at home.
GASP! Yes, that means that you cannot stop at the drive through on your way home from work. No, you cannot have dinner and drinks with the girls twice a week. No, you cannot mail order expensive candies and treats from European boutiques.
Stop hyperventilating and think about the math (even you less than math savvy people will get this). If you spend $100 per week on eating out, that is $100 worth of money you can be putting towards your credit card debt. That is $100 a week you can be saving in order to book that trip to Scotland. That is $100 a week you can be using to BUY GROCERIES!
$100 a week will buy you 2 to 3 meals at a restaurant, but that same amount of money will buy you two weeks’ worth of groceries. Don’t know how to cook? Learn. It will save you money, and you may discover a love of the culinary arts.
Living large isn’t sustainable, but that doesn’t mean you have to change your life drastically. You can put your budget on a diet, learn to live without the SUPER fine things, and you can still be happy, healthy, and outpacing the ‘dog of debt’ that seems to have lost your scent at the consignment store.
What have you done to downsize your spending?