I've read about living below your means for many years and want to share my story. At age 24, I had finished school, had a fair amount of debt, no savings, no house and a nice big new car payment. Faced with the decision to participate in a retirement account at my new job, I met with one of the investment company representatives. This person advised me to start saving, even if it wasn't with his company. Just start. I did start, but ironically not with his company.
A few days later, I read an article about living below your means. If you could afford to pay $1000 per month in rent or mortgage, find something for $700 or get a roommate to split payments. If you could afford $100 per month in entertainment, skip a month or so or only spend $25 and put the rest towards debt. Well, I "just started" to pay down my debt and live below my means. I got a second job to increase my means and still live well below. I started to save for retirement, and all the while, I had as much fun as I could, so I never feel like I'm missing out on anything. I just work hard and try to make decisions on what is important to me.
I found that after a few years, things start to snowball in a good way. Debt starts to get paid off. You learn more about finance. Your savings starts to give you a smile of contentment. All this motivated me to keep it up.
Now I'm 36 years old and married with two young kids. I work one job, working three long days, which gives me four days per week to spend with my kids and husband. We still live below our means, but the more we do it the easier it becomes. Since we live below our means, we have paid off both of our cars, pay our credit card balance in full each month, and are planning to pay off our five-bedroom house within the next six years. We take nice vacations several times per year, go to the movies and go out to eat. We could probably go out two to three times per week and still be able to afford it, but we choose to do it every couple weeks. The longer we've been doing this, the less we have to think about it. That's where the real freedom comes in! And that first retirement account that I started when I was 24, well, I still contribute to it. It's had its ups and downs, but I'm sure glad that I "just started" when I did. It's a pretty good lump of money that I've never missed.
So my tip is to "just start." I can't say it's easy, especially the first few years, but the years are going to go by regardless, and for your sacrifices now, the returns are by far well worth every sacrifice!
"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it by mailto:MyStory@stretcher.com
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