I've lived with less than a thousand a month for many years. Mostly it's all I had, sometimes it's out of choice. Now it's a way of life.
Address Emotions First
It may seem counter-intuitive, but once you have addressed your emotions you will find your finances easier to deal with. For a long time, I would find myself grieving the loss of finances from when I had not just a better job, but two incomes. It made life so much easier. When I looked at my emotions, I found it wasn't the loss of financial stability. It was a loss of the one who had said he wanted to be with me.
By addressing this issue, I was able to separate out my emotions on the subject. Finances became a little easier to deal with afterward. I talked with a man who never wanted to talk about emotions or 'stupid' things like that. When I tried to talk finances with him, he was resistant. He was so convinced he didn't need help, he began to take on a lot of debt. Soon after, he agreed he needed help. We looked and found he didn't have a problem with finances. His wife was always spending them under the table. Once he was able to see where the emotions were, he was able to separate them. He fixed the expenditures without feeling like he needed a drink afterward.
This is how it is for many people. Finances aren't difficult. The emotion placed on them is difficult. When we give up the feeling of embarrassment for not having 'as much' or not being able to keep up with the Jones'. Usually, it seems like it's a feeling of inadequacy if one isn't able to. I encourage you to look at why you feel like you have to 'keep up' or have some abstract amount of money.
After you have addressed the emotions attached to finances, you will find it more comfortable to deal with any problems or issues that may arise. Keep in mind any emotions arising from the thoughts of giving up certain luxuries.
If you're contemplating not doing so, it is your choice. The emotions might get in the way making choices less rational and more abstract. It might make the 'audit' on your finances less beneficial or effective. Just something to keep in mind, but even so onward.
Listing Everything Out
With this step, I encourage you to actually write things out. Pen or pencil and an actual notebook. The brain is a remarkable machine. Writing out everything engages your brain, not just for focus, but tells your brain this is important. Writing out helps your brain to see what it is. It takes finances out of the world of the abstract and into the realm of the concrete.
The first step is to write everything down into categories. This tends to be more difficult for people. Sometimes they can't discern between what is a luxury and what is actually needed. All the outgoings in the finances need to be written down. Even, or maybe especially, the little things. All things that absolutely must be paid every month goes into one box or category as Essentials. Or whatever you want to call it. These are things, if you were not to pay them, would get you in tremendous trouble. Not the trouble of "Oh, I get cranky." sort of trouble, but as in the car will get repossessed or the bank will take my house sort of terrible. Most things in this category are loans, payments (credit cards, mortgage, etc), electricity, water, gas or propane. Whatever it is you have no choice but to pay.
The next category will be Recurring or whatever is paid every month. This is usually subscription services, or such that comes out automatically each month. Another category is Groceries, which is any foods coming from a grocery store of any type. Another is Miscellaneous. These are household needs such as soaps, paper, ink, pencils, clothes, etc. Everything else needs to be categorized according to your needs. It all needs to be put into category or boxes.
You should have at least 4 categories.
Analyzing Your Categories
Everything put into the Essentials category, or whatever you called it, will have to be kept by absolute necessity only. If you don't have whatever is in this box, you could be for a major change. Coffee doesn't count. Nor does alcohol or cigarettes. List this out and write the absolute bare minimum to be paid each month regardless of what you like to pay. It's important to get a baseline of the finances. Most everything else will be negotiable. Even groceries.
Most subscriptions can be turned off. There are free audiobooks, cheaper clothes, cheaper foods, and all-around a lot of free or cheaper options than what a subscription service offers. This is in most cases. A little math is required to figure out what is the better option. Your subscription gives you lettuce for a dollar? How much is the lettuce in the store? 1.50? The Subscription service seems the better option, but what other things are in there? Squash for 5 dollars? In the store is it 3? Then even though you saved 50 cents on lettuce it's not worth it. The difference between the other vegetables leaves more savings in the store compared to what was saved by having the service. If your service gives you pet food for twenty dollars and its thirty in the store, can you switch to a good but cheaper brand? No? Then the service should be kept because it is saving you money. If you look at each subscription to see if it's worth it or if there is a free or cheaper option that's still good, you will find you save a little more money.
Groceries are a tricky category. Most people are willing to stab you with a fork if you touch their food. Still, it must be dealt with. Most families spend way too much money on groceries. Look at the statistics. I'll wait. When you get back and realize that's right, we can address how much you can get away with lowering it to. What I like to do for groceries is to see how much I can make myself. There are a lot of recipes for easy food that takes very little prep work. Consider doing these things instead of buying premade foods. It's estimated you could reduce groceries to a hundred dollars per person. I've personally reduced it to 75 dollars per person. I've also read some families who reduced their weekly budget to 70 when they have 5 or so people. Ridiculously awesome to me. I'm sure with practice and frugality I could get to that point as well. In my area, food is expensive though. There are few markdowns for me. Look to see what your options are. Ask yourself after you added all your items in your cart, can you make that item? Do you really need it? Can you go without or can you replace with something cheaper? If push comes to shove, we may have to choose something we'd much less prefer. It means saving five dollars which adds up quickly.
Instead of eating out, can you make the food at home? It may take some time to get used to, but if you eat at home, you save a significant amount of money. For example, a pizza at the local place here is about 15 dollars give or take a few dollars depending. If I were to make that same pizza at home, I could make it for about a dollar to two dollars depending on toppings. That's a significant amount of savings, plus if you learn to love it. It will never be a chore.
Consider making it your hobby if you currently don't like cooking, or address why you don't like cooking. If you feel you are no good at it, maybe look up videos on how it's done and watch then read recipes or such until you feel more confident. Maybe, work with someone you trust to help you learn how. Or maybe take a class. There are often free cooking classes, or cheap classes available that will pay for itself when you make the food instead of eating out.
Miscellaneous is also tricky because so many things can fall into this category. A good rule of thumb is to ask if you need it. Will you die or be significantly affected, not just emotionally, if you didn't buy it? Instead of designer jeans, or products, consider the alternative. Unless you absolutely need it for work or such, we can buy the off-brand or the alternative that's cheaper. Off-brand shampoos still work. Plenty of people even swear by the cheaper brand. Look at each item within this category to see if it can be cut or replaced. Instead of buying lots of things, look at what you are 'throwing away'. I've kept old holey shirts and pants instead of throwing them away or donating them and turned them into rugs, decor, or other needed items. Keep old glass jars to spruce up for really cute cups or such.
Most items can be repurposed to save you a great deal of money. For furniture, I've made my own or gotten used items quite easily. Our most recent adventure was when we replaced our old breaking apart table with a brand new beautiful dining table for about 85 dollars. Because we purchased some wood, reclaimed some old wood, and put it all together ourselves. I looked up the price for a table of the same quality. 750 dollars. Now that is significant if I may say so myself. If you approach the things you 'need' with the same mindset of make it or make do, you will save yourself money.
When I look at my finances, and the things I need, how I deal with it is to look at each item to see what would be best. If I can't safely make the item, can I go without? Can I find a way to make do? Will it impact my life in a truly negative way if I go without these items if I stop going out to eat? What if I stopped shopping so much, and found other things to do to occupy my time?
What I found was I could live on a whole lot less than I thought. I made more items with my son. I turned items I didn't think about before into new and beautiful pieces for our home. I've reclaimed items, used coupons and I've had to go without before.
Living on less doesn't have to be hard or terrible. It can be an adventure that draws people together. If we let it, we can find more hobbies and fun things to do rather than spend money. Hobbies that save us money rather than cost us. Look at your finances and see what you can change. Maybe there's a subscription you've been meaning to turn off or something you were hoping to fix. Now is the best time to change these things. Not to replace them with more spending, but to set the money aside for savings or a greater purpose.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2018 AlexiaFox