I had a young lady tell me today that she wants to make more money. When I say “young lady”, I mean a gal that’s about 10 years younger than me. I’m not old (31), but I’m not a young lady anymore, either.
So, our conversation went back and forth. I guess I’m really a mom now, because I told her that the more you make, the more you spend and so on, and so forth. It got me to thinking (while I was peeling apples for my last round of apple butter) about the lessons I’ve learned in my adult life about managing money. I’m not rich by any means, but I’ve learned to live with what I have.
When I changed jobs about a year ago, I took about an $8,000 pay cut. Ain’t that crazy? I was stressing wondering how I would ever make it on that much money, but I figured less gas (I cut my commute by about 60%) and brown bagging my lunch (I used to spend $10-$12 a day on lunch out!) would make up for most of that. And, I knew the good Lord would provide.
So, without further ado, here are my top 10 ways to live on what ya got, to matter how much money you make:
- Pay your tithes: If you are a God believing Christian, it’s your duty to pay your tithes (10% of what you make). If it weren’t for God, we wouldn’t have a single thing to our name and he expects us to give back. So, give back 10% of what you make to your Father. You will never have a need. Now, I’m not saying you will get all your WANTS, but your needs will be met. I have seen this happen time and time again. I’m glad my momma taught me this important life lesson.
- Create a budget: This one is a no brainer, but it’s dang hard! I really don’t have a full blown budget, but what I do is write down all my pay days and write what bills I have to pay with that check. I got in a bunch of financial stress years ago by NOT doing this, so this actually works. After I pay my bills, then I look at what I have left and know that’s my grocery and gas money, plus anything else I need/want.
- Put money in savings AUTOMATICALLY: Earlier this year, I set up an auto transfer from my checking to savings account, which occurs the Monday after each payday Friday. I really try not to touch that money in savings, but if times are tight or I have an unexpected expense, then I dip into that before adding to credit card debt. If you do it automatically, you don’t realize it’s missing.
- Save $1000 for a rainy day: I learned that from reading Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover” book. Thankfully, my cousin sent me that years ago and it was a lifesaver. I have managed to keep $1000 in savings for several years now. I may not be much more than that, but it’s there if I need it for some unknown emergency. And, it doesn’t take as long as you would think to save that much if you put your mind to it. AND, once you save it, it’s so darn hard to let it get below $1000…you feel so guilty!
- Buy clothes used: Up until this year, I thought I was too good for thrift stores, consignments, or Goodwill. But, when I bought a pair of new Levi jeans at Belk in the spring for $40, it made me sick! Since then, I have found Eddie Bauer and Ann Taylor jeans at second hand stores in wonderful shape for no more than $5 a pair. I feel SO much better about that and no one has to know I didn’t buy them new for 10 times as much.
- Make dining out a treat: We normally go out to eat about once a week as a family or couple and I will eat lunch out about once a week. Otherwise, we eat our meals at home and I pack my lunch. A can of soup and a peanut butter sandwich can be a satisfying lunch over a good book or magazine (or talking with a friend). I have grown to love cooking since I started working less hours. It’s actually fun and healthier (see #11) and you can eat well on a budget. One tip: eat less meat. Meat is so expensive and isn’t that fantastic for you. Invest some of your meat money into fruits and vegetables!
- Use coupons: I’m not one of those maniacs that have a binder full of 1,000 coupons (not to say I won’t be before my life ends), but I DO cut out coupons for things I buy like toothpaste, diapers, baby food, etc. I don’t cut out coupons for things I don’t need or that are too expensive. Just stick with the basics. And sign up for online coupon for dining out. I get Ruby Tuesday coupons all the time. The other night, my husband, son and I went out to eat there and we got out for like $25! I had a coupon for a free flat bread with any adult entree purchase, so I ate that while the husband had his customary ribs. That saved us probably $10 or more.
- Pay off your vehicle loan and keep it…and take care of it: I paid off my car last July after a SIX year auto loan (what the heck was I thinking?!) and I plan to keep it until it’s no longer driveable. Is it new and flashy like the 2014 models? No. Does it have scratches and dents? Yes. Do I care? NO! The seats are stained, but I keep the oil changed and all that jazz and it should last me (Lord willing) many more years. I really hope I can get 10 more years out of the thing if I play my cards right.
- Make money doing what you love…or at least LIKE: I loved the job I had for about 9 years, until my son came along. Then, I realized the stress of that job was going to interfere with my family. So, I made a change and I’m so glad I did. I really do enjoy work and helping people live healthy lives. I’ve liked most all the jobs I’ve had in the past. If I didn’t like them, I found something else. I’ve been a waitress, toe seamer at a sock factory, gas station attendant, cashier at a grocery store, website designer, technology sales person, and a Longaberber basket sales person. I really enjoyed selling those baskets and I made good money doing it. Do what you like! AND, if you find yourself in a job that you don’t like, work toward a job that you enjoy.
- Be happy with what you have: Like I mentioned to my friend, I really believe if you make more money, you will spend more money. You think you have to have the nicest things, and you end up working harder and needing more money to pay for it all. We have lived in this single wide, 1987 mobile home for 10 years and we’re finally getting ready to get a house. Am I scared? I not really. We’ve looked at the numbers and can see we can afford it, but we’ve lived mortgage/rent free for 10 years! It won’t be fun to have 360 payments looming over our heads, but it will be nice to have something new (and that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to heat during the winter!). I’m going to miss this little trailer we call home, but I know it won’t hold up forever. Our plan is to pay extra and get it paid off in 20 years.
- BONUS! Get/stay healthy: The most valuable thing you have in life is your health. If you’re not healthy, get that way right now. Or make steps to get as healthy as you can. The cost of health insurance isn’t going down and the more healthy you are, the less it costs to live. That gym membership may seem expensive, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to having high insurance rates, lots of prescriptions and doctor bills.