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serenityNOW's avatar

How do I live within my means (more details inside...)?

Asked by serenityNOW (3631points) November 26th, 2011

Hi all. So, I have serious mounting credit card bills which are sucking the life-blood out of my paychecks. I had to move back home, but in a way that’s a plus: my food expenses have mostly gone way down, although I usually get some coffee in the morning and pizza or something cheap (like Subway) for lunch at work. Utilities are paid for and such. However, I’m a spending addict. (I do think one can get addicted to shopping, but that’s another topic, or is it?) So, how do you all live within your means? Is it as simple as don’t buy anything? Do I need to stop going out with friends (which is rarely, as it is.)? Do you have any specific ways to entertain yourselves without spending cash? (I’m into, usually, music, movies and books. Of course, there’s the library, but I like owning things.) Sometimes I’m so overwhelmed by the bills, that it’s hard to fall asleep! Finally, all I can find is part-time work right now; or should I say, I work full-time hours, but at a part-time job. Raises, sadly, are out of the question.

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22 Answers

marinelife's avatar

1. Start making your lunch not buying it.

2. Stop buying coffee and pizza.

3. Get yourself to a true non-profit credit counseling service. They will work with your creditors to lower your interest rate and stop or slow interest accumulation. They will work out a monthly payment plan and you will give them alump sum.

4. Make a deal with yourself. That you won’t buy anything you can’t afford with cash. Then make a list of what you want to save up toward.

JilltheTooth's avatar

You’ll have to do a serious shift of your perspective. Everybody likes “owning things” but if you don’t have to buy it, DON“T. And everything @marinelife said. Cut up the cards. And be grateful that you had a home to move back to. Not everyone does. Rethink your priorities.

serenityNOW's avatar

When you say, true non-profit credit counseling service, where do I begin? Is this done online these days, or do I look in my yellow pages? I’m rather naive when it comes to these things. Thanks for the other tips!
You’re right about the gratitude in moving home. Also, the cards are gone! It’s now just the matter of paying them off.

harple's avatar

Lets be generous and say that your coffee costs only $2, and the pizza a further $2, and the subway only $3… That’s $7 a day on stuff that you don’t get to keep (without being too graphic!)...

Assuming you work 5 days a week, for at least 48 weeks a year… That’s $1680 dollars a year just on something you could have made yourself…

Most definitely start with cutting that out, for goodness’ sake!

LuckyGuy's avatar

Hey @serenityNOW Congratulations! You just made the first step. Now you need to suck it up and really lay low so you can save enough to get out of debt. Why are you buying coffee? Make it. I know you have to eat. College kids in the area know that Taco Bell is nearly the lowest cost per calorie around. Make sure you buy everything on 2 for one specials. Don’t eat the second one. Save it for later.
Make it a challenge to see how much you can save. Paying off the cards will take you a long way.
I’ll be blunt here. Are you seriously telling me you pay for music?!?! You’re giving Lady Gaga your cash?!?! Wake up! You don’t need it !

Dude, Paid off bills will give you way more serenity than any music!

Coloma's avatar

Yes, find ways to have fun that don’t cost much. Just hang out with friends, go to the park and toss around a ball, frisbee, ( okay, that’s the old chick in me talking, does anyone even play frisbee anymore? lol )

Pool your resources for little friend parties, one friend brings some snacks, the others a few beers or whatever and you supply the space and movies, video games etc.

Learn to enjoy the simple things in life like simply going out for a walk or watching a movie.

But..I also think it’s important to treat yourself a bit too, just not with credit cards.

Maybe set a goal and lay low for 3 weeks then treat yourself to something fun, maybe a day trip with friends, split the gas, pack a lunch, go hiking or fishing or just hit the road for a little adventure.

Man does not live on bread alone, but he also will not thrive in debt. Find your balance.

john65pennington's avatar

Make a budget and stick to it. Simple.

jrpowell's avatar

Write every single penny you spend down in a moleskine. Carry it with you everywhere.

At the end of a week look back over it and kick yourself in the ass for all the money you wasted on stupid shit. You will eventually learn to stop wasting money on crap.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Pay with cash only. Don’t even use a debit card. Cash.
Also, if you go to the grocery store to buy something, take only as much cash as you need to buy that (or those) items. If you walk into the store with $10 to buy soap, shampoo and toothpaste, you’ll spend that much. If you walk into the store with $50 to buy soap, shampoo and toothpaste you’ll spend THAT much on soap, shampoo, toothpaste and a bunch of Other Stuff that you don’t really need.
Yeah…multiply by 10. $7 a day for pizza = $70 in just TEN days.

LuckyGuy's avatar

If you are paying 24% interest on those credit cards your original purchase price doubles every 3 years! That stupid ringtone for $2 now costs you $4 . If you don’t pay the bill in three more years it is $8.
Stop! You can do it. Don’t make me come over there!

Dutchess_III's avatar

Ya! You’ll have a HORDE of jelly fish at your door if you don’t stop! Wait…that’s a ‘fluther’ of jelly fish. Horde sounds better, though!

JilltheTooth's avatar

Crap, now I’m scared, and I’m a tightwad!

nikipedia's avatar

I don’t think you necessarily need to stop buying coffee and pizza if those things are important to you.

Have you made a budget for yourself? Do you know how much money you have available for discretionary items after your bills are paid?

chyna's avatar

First, put some money in a savings account each and every pay day. Even if it is only 10 or 20 dollars, it will add up. You will need that money to pay for a large bill that comes due every 6 months such as your car insurance or even to buy tires or some other unforeseen emergency.

Second, pay your bills first before spending any money on yourself. (This is after you have put money in savings. I can’t stress that enough.) Try to pay more than the minimum amont due. You will never get them paid that way. If you have one bill that has a higher interest rate than the others, concentrate on that one. Pay more than the minimum each month and get it paid off first. Do that with the others as you get them paid.

You need to spend a little on yourself so you aren’t working to just pay bills. Decide what is important to you and spend a little on that activity. Eating out everyday for lunch is unreal. Make yourself a sandwich, chips and take a pop or just drink water. You will be amazed at the amount you save just from not buying lunch.

XD's avatar

Follow this method (buy the book if you can) and learn about the debt snowball technique. The YMOYL method, if followed, will teach you how to spend mindfully, and the debt snowball technique will help you pay your debts down in a way that will save you the most money in the long run.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Better yet, don’t buy the book, check it out of the library… ;-)

serenityNOW's avatar


Thanks so much for the kind advice! There are so many morsels here that I can’t even try to thank everyone individually, but I’ll try!

@Coloma: good ideas – and yes, people still play frisbee. Not my bag, but I see where you’re going.

@marinelife – I defintely check that site – I have a bills “bookmark” folder for bills in Safari; I’ll add it to that! I check that folder often, especially when I want to cry

Hmm, my @‘s stopped working, why!?

Well, worriedguy, never really thought of it that way; ugh. Niki – I’ve never made a budget before – I’ll look into it. Chyna: Thanks for all the advice – I love being in the kitchen, so I’ll definitely try the lunch thing. And I have a savings account, albeit with a paltry sum in it, but I’ll certainly be paying more attention to it. XD, I’ll check out the book, or Jill, see if it’s in the library.

Thanks all! I’m gonna print out this thread and keep it nearby!

JilltheTooth's avatar

Good luck with your project, @serenityNOW !

mrrich724's avatar

The coffee is definitely a drain. $4.00 a coffee times 3x a week is 12 bucks a week is 48 bucks a month. That $48 can be used to snowball your credit card debt, and coffee is WAAAAAAY cheaper made at home.

THis is one example. Look at EVERYTHING you buy, be honest, and if you don’t need it, don’t buy it until you pay off your credit cards. B/C the coffee at this point isn’t just $4.00, it’s also the interest you are earning on your CC’s that you could have avoided by paying off $4.00 more on the cards…

Get my drift?

jerv's avatar


First off, I generally don’t buy things that I don’t have the cash for. With cash, you pay only what the sticker price and sales ta add up to; with plastic, you pay far more.

Second, I don’t get cash out of my account when doing so might endanger things like rent or other bills. Sure, I like having a nice cup of fancy hot chocolate at $4/pop, but it isn’t worth getting my phone service cut off for.

Third, I keep a dose of perspective. This is especially true when it comes to leaving the house. For instance, my old Toyota gets around 24 MPG in city driving; at $4/gallon, that means I get around 6 miles to the dollar. That place where I like to get hot chocolate is 6 miles from my house. That means $1 worth of gas to get there, and another $1 to get back, making that a $6 cuppa. Now, for two of those a week, I could pay my car insurance instead. Or I could go to the second-run theater half as far away from me, buy two tickets (yes, only $3 each!), and then drive home afterwards on that same $12. Or I could walk next door and hit up the Redbox for $1, rent a movie, and use the savings for other stuff. Or I could borrow one from the library a mile away for free. Seattle has an awesome library system! I just borrowed the entire Firefly series the other day.

I entertain myself a lot with the library of books I already own, free-to-play online games, and putzing around on the internet. Sure, I like to go out to eat with the wife when we have the extra money to afford it, but perspective and priorities keep my ass in line.

Judi's avatar

Here I go again. Sorry if some of you have seen it before, but this video changed the way I looked at stuff and totally revamped the way I buy. Watch

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