Learning to live within your means | Surviving and thriving on a budget

Many years ago I wrote an e-book about living on a budget. I wrote this when I was a single mother to two young boys attempting to survive on very little income having left a well paid job in the months before. I remember I wrote it as a form of therapy, whilst also trying to let anyone else in my situation know there was a way to survive and thrive on a tight budget / low income. I didn't have my blog to share my writing and thoughts then, so I wrote e-books which I self published. I've since taken it down (it did actually sell really well but needed a refresh with new information) so I thought I might share portions of the book on my blog, editing them into articles which I'll share here on my blog as part of a series titled 'Surviving and thriving on a budget' 

Living within your means

To live a financially responsible lifestyle means that you are living within your means. This, put simply, means that you are not spending more money than you earn (or receive through benefits). It's very easy to get into the habit of spending more than you earn, especially with credit cards and loans regularly being promoted by companies hoping you will fall into their trap. There are so many ‘things’ out there you feel you need, but really you probably just want. Living within your means is a way to ensure you do not spiral into debt, this can be achieved by anyone, through planning, discipline and keeping to a budget. 

 Creating a budget can be done by examining your income and expenditures in order to determine how much money you have coming in and where you’re spending it. I know you're probably thinking ''OK, well I'm going to give up now as there is no way I can work this out because I spend in so many different ways; bank card, credit card, cash, paypal and more!'' But don’t give up, it can be done, it will just take a little more time. Begin your journey to budgeting on the 1st of the month; this is always a nice time to start. To get yourself started you firstly need to; 

- Record all of your regular income, don’t count any little extras you get from selling the odd second hand item as these are not guaranteed each month. (If you are self employed and your income varies each month you may struggle with this step, I'd recommend working out an average income amount and using that to get yourself started) 

- Next you need to document all your outgoings for the month. Get yourself a note book and every time you spend money document where, what on and how (via cash / card etc) It will also help to save your receipts. If you find you don’t get enough information on the first months try, don’t panic, just start again the following month. This process is about becoming more responsible and adapting to a new lifestyle it can take time. 

Once you have a complete months worth of documented information, grab a cuppa, sit down and have a read through of all the information. You’ll probably be shocked how many times you had a ‘cheeky coffee in town’ or grabbed a meal deal when out and about. 

Now you have all this information your challenge is to set yourself a clear spending allowance for each area of our spending; general bills, food clothing etc. Look at any areas you can spend less, in order to achieve your ideal financial goals. Then set an amount you want to be saving each month. 

 Once you have set yourself a budget, get started! Start to make the changes you can now see are needed to achieve a lifestyle where you are living to your means. If in the first month you don’t quite stick to your budget, don’t just give up, keep going. Keep documenting what you're spending and earning and assess at the end of each month where you are getting better at sticking to the budget and where you are not achieving your goals. If you find that actually you can’t deal with cutting out that morning coffee on the way to work keep it in the budget and find a way to earn more or cut back on something else that isn’t as important. 

As a human you are bound to find it difficult to stick completely to the budget on your first month of trying it but stick to it, practice makes perfect! You’ll be thankful once you realise how much you are saving towards all those special treats you’ve always wanted but thought you couldn’t have!