Living within Your Means

Live within your means: it’s a statement we hear quite often in today’s world. Whether it’s a message you repeat to yourself to keep to a budget, or a constant reminder you hear from a loved one, living within your means is an important principle to live by. But, it’s a hard one to live by if you don’t understand what it actually means.

So what exactly does it mean? While it sounds like a simple concept, it’s becoming more and more clear that some people just don’t get it. Yes, this means you, Black Friday shoppers.

Wanting a $900 TV that you can’t afford is understandable. We all do it, and hell, who doesn’t want to watch their favorite football team on the latest and greatest 4k picture technology? I know I do, but buying that TV and convincing yourself that you’re still living within your means just because you got it on a “payment plan,” only makes you one thing: a moron.

You can tell yourself that it’s OK because you got a steal, a “low monthly payment with a low interest rate” until you’re blue in the face, but that doesn’t change the fact that you’ll end up paying four times the MSRP for what will inevitably be outdated technology in a few months. Doesn’t sound at all moronic, does it?

While many people today seek instant gratification, there are other ways to feel gratified without breaking the bank in the process. For starters, how about instead of purchasing the TV on a payment plan, you save up a set amount of money each month. As the money grows, so does your self-discipline, and eventually you’ll have enough money tucked away to walk into the store and buy it with cash. No payment plans with hidden interest charges: just a stack of your hard-earned cash and a new TV. Moreover, by then, you’ll likely be able to get a better model for less money, since that’s how technology works. Prices decrease as the hottest new gadgets become more commonplace. Now you’ve really gotten some mileage out of the money you’ve saved–how’s that for gratification?

Now I know sometimes it’s easier said than done; I’ve had my own struggles trying to live within my means. When my company finally moved into a larger office, I thought it would be nice to buy some new workstations for everyone. We all worked hard to get to that point, and we deserved it. But as much as it pained me, it just wasn’t something that we could afford to do at the time. So instead of acting on a whim to buy something I wanted, I waited until I found a good deal on Craigslist, and got used workstations at 10% of the cost of new furniture. Because I knew our means as a company and exercised patience, I was able to use the other 90% I had originally planned to spend on top-of-the-line chairs to ensure everyone remains comfortable throughout the work day.

Did I want to buy workstations for the office on Craigslist? Not really, but it wasn’t about what I wanted to do, it was about what I needed to do. It was about the bigger picture: about living within our means as a company. And now, because we’ve been smart with our spending over the years and always lived within our means, we just moved into a larger office with brand new furniture — paid for with all of our hard work. And I’ll tell you what, it feels pretty damn gratifying.

So next time you’re in this situation, stop and ask yourself, What is the ACTUAL cost of what I’m buying. How much exactly is this going to cost me (in both money and dignity)? Businesses don’t survive off giving customers great deals and freebies, they survive off the halfwits foolish enough to fall for their tricks and “payment plans.”

So if it isn’t something that you can realistically afford, create your own plan to make it something that you can afford. And with the proper self-discipline and patience, it will happen. If you want something bad enough, work to attain it: don’t be just another moron sitting on the curb for two days on Black Friday waiting to buy something. Be the hard worker: the one with self-discipline, the one with patience, the one that actually knows how to live within your means.