How to Live Below Your Means Even When Living Paycheck to Paycheck

Shireen Fitzgerald
by Shireen Fitzgerald

Today I want to talk about how to live below your means. If you're already living paycheck to paycheck, you might be thinking there’s no way to spend any less than what you’re currently spending. However, there is always something you can do.

I'm going to go through some ideas and tell you how effective they may or may not be.

I like applying frugal principles to my spending so that I have more control over my money and what I'm doing with it. How do we survive when we feel like we don't have any spare money whatsoever? Here are some of the things that have worked for me.

1. Reorganize

The first thing that I like to do is reorganize what I already have. For instance, I just moved, and often when we move we think we need to buy more things. Instead of just buying more furniture, or more containers to put more stuff in, I'm reorganizing what I have.

Clearly, there’s no sense in spending money on things you already have, so make sure you’re organized and aware of all of your belongings.

Reorganizing also helps you appreciate what you already have. I always say, ‘shop your closet.’ Don't go out looking for more solutions, look for the solutions you already have. I stand by that philosophy.

2. Downsize

Downsizing is a great way to live below your means. Moving to my new home was a way for me to downsize. I save $50 a week living here instead of in my former home. Of course, moving costs money, but if I can stay here for a while that will even itself out and I'll still be saving more money, even with the expense of moving.

When downsizing a home you have to think about how much space you really need. If you were living in a house but now your kids are grown and you don’t need much space, you can downsize to an apartment.

How to live under your means

Living in an apartment instead of a house will save you a significant amount of money. Maintaining an apartment is much more affordable than all the upkeep required for a house.

Lately, it seems that people are moving to the country because they can work remotely. If you have the flexibility, downsize to a less expensive area. You might end up being able to live in a nicer home for less money.

3. Gratitude

When living under your means it is important to be grateful for what you already have. Pay attention to what you’re feeling when you want to go out and spend money. Say to yourself, ‘do I really want that? And If I do, why do I want it? Is this going to bring me happiness? Where would I put it? Will I really use it?’

The excitement of buying new things wears off. I hate when I buy something and then I get home and the feeling is gone within days or weeks. Sometimes I regret it as soon as I get home. I think to myself, ‘I didn't actually need that?’

I recommend leaving the scene of the crime, so to speak, to take some time and think about it. I've done that with clothing. I would often buy something and then get home and see all the clothes I already have and I regret the purchase right away.

Resist the urge to buy something on impulse. If you take time to think it allows you to make a more clear-headed decision.

Ways to live below your means

4. Why do you spend?

Think about what is driving your spending in the first place. Sometimes we buy things because we are unhappy. Maybe you’re discontent in your home and that makes you want to go out and spend money. If you’re buying something because you’re unhappy, try to get to the root of the problem instead of shopping.

Maybe you don't feel good about your body, so you’re constantly trying to find a nicer dress to help you feel better about yourself. Perhaps instead of a new dress, you need to focus on your health. Really think about what is driving your spending.

5. Reflect

Reflect on how far you've come. All the experience that you've gained so far is going to help you. There have been times when I’ve had much less money than I have now, and I always found a way to manage.

For example, I’ve learned that automating my bills is useful. This helps me avoid late fees and frees up my mind from having to remember what’s due each week.

At this stage in my life, I have a better idea of how to make the money back and how to hold on to it. Because of my experiences over the years, I know how to live within my means and significantly below my means. That has been a valuable lesson.

How to live below your means

6. Challenge yourself

You don't have to live under your means all the time. Think of it as a fun challenge to live frugally and see how far you can go. That way when suddenly inflation is on the rise or there’s a terrible recession, you have done things to prepare yourself. You know how much you can do without it because you’ve lived that way before.

7. Community

Surrounding yourself with the right people is also important. I live in a like-minded community where people are always talking about different ideas for saving money. Sometimes a neighbor will tell me something she does and it will give me ideas.

Conversely, sometimes I’ll think, ‘I couldn't do that.’ It's still nice to hear how other people save, even if their methods won’t work for you. Just being around people with the same mindset makes frugal living easier.

How to live below your means

If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, tell me in the comments if you think these ideas might help you.

When you find yourself spending as a way to seek happiness, think about how to address your unhappiness directly. Stay positive by remembering what you already have rather than worrying about what you don't have.

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2 of 9 comments
  • Susy Susy on Nov 17, 2022

    Even though I agree that we should be saving as much money as possible especially with the current economical climate, but I don't agree with moving to save 50.00 a month I truly believe in home ownership that is what gives you the benefits of home equity, so if you stay in a small place and strive to purchase a place as small as it might be that will give you a much better result in the long run.