It’s Your fault! Living Within Your Means is Easy.

Long post warning! I often aim to keep my posts no more than 500 words. This breaks all my rules.

debt

I’ve come across a few  articles that address living below your means. Usually the message is if you try a bit harder, stop spending on unnecessary things and stop being lazy you can get out of debt. The author’s message is generally that living well on a budget is not as hard as some think and those who can’t are lacking discipline.

I have a slight problem with this line of reasoning. My problem is that we all have different stories, different levels of acceptable behaviour. My solutions may not work for you and that doesn’t reflect a moral failing on your part.

I really hope that when reading this blog you never feel judged.

Here’s my story, and why this view rubs me the wrong way:

Less than 10 years ago I was in a job that didn’t pay well and I worked 60 hours per week. I was only able to save because I lived at home and in lieu of rent my parents asked me to pay for groceries. Unlike many of my colleagues, I managed to remain debt free at this time only because I had a strong support network and almost no expenses.  Could my colleagues have expanded energy finding good deals, eating well and not spend money on gadgets? Sure but I remember the exhaustion I felt on those weekends. I could barely function.

That company’s values didn’t align with mine and frankly the job was making me and everyone around me miserable. Since I did have a sizable savings I quit the job and began looking for work. Within a month I found another job that seemed to pay me a tonne of money and I worked an average of 45 hours a week. To put my new found wealth into perspective, it was less than half of what I’m making now.

I experienced a lot of big life changes while  in that job. I purchased a car, got married, rented an apartment with ML, furnished the apartment, bought a house, began furnishing the house. During that entire period I struggled with my budget. I was always a bit over and by a bit I mean $100-200 over budget. Every month!

Could we have done better? Oh yes! My excuse is that it was our first time living on our own so we had a lot of one time set up costs. We didn’t want to feel poor, we were happy to not purchase too many extras but sleeping on the floor was not something we were willing to do.

I recently found a budget from the tail end of that period and to be honest my spending wasn’t completely out of control. When I look back at that time I often have allowed myself to believe that I was irresponsible, that I didn’t care enough or search enough for good deals. All those things that the writers I have a bone to pick believe.

Arguably, I could have done better using the knowledge I now have but I suspect my overspending would have continued. I was always one emergency away from having to start over.  One of my lessons is that as you get more ‘settled’ you tend to spend less. I no longer purchase items for the home often because we have everything we need. I rarely purchase clothing now as I have all I need and the space to store items so I can refresh my wardrobe on an almost monthly basis without spending a dime.

The other bit that has a huge impact on my quality of life is I now work 35 hours a week and make significantly more. This means I have resources that were missing previously. I have the time to seek and acquire good deals, I’m not battling exhaustion, I have the funds to indulge in worthy sales and to save for multiple goals concurrently.

This isn’t to say that I couldn’t have done a better job and that I don’t have a responsibility for some of the debt I accrued. When I got my current job my excuses, for the most part, went out the window. With my new found riches I indulged in the life of those around me: eating out too often, drinking, purchasing wardrobe items for a change rather than because of need.  Then we decided we wanted to start our family. I began saving but in a desire to save my future self money I purchased loads of fun kiddie things. Once kids were no longer on the life agenda I went a bit spend crazy.

Currently the view that if I tightened my belt I would be out of debt and could probably stay out is accurate. Six years ago it was insulting because I didn’t have the financial or emotional resources to do so.

I don’t know why you’re in debt (if you are). I don’t know what tools will work for you.

I do know that my climb out of debt has had a lot to do with securing a better paying job that gives me more time to focus on getting out of debt. I’m also in a space emotionally and mentally to tackle my debt and pursue my financial dreams.

I want you to feel safe and comfortable when you visit this blog. If my words ever hurt you please tell me.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

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17 thoughts on “It’s Your fault! Living Within Your Means is Easy.

  1. tenleygwen

    Every bit of this post struck a chord. My debt is part from thoughtless choices, but it’s also part from making barely above the poverty line for two years while trying to start my life over from scratch. I don’t beat myself up, because my choices then and now we’re very rooted in just getting by without losing my peace, if that makes sense.

    I love hearing inventive ways people budget! I love hearing about people achieving their goals! But ain’t nobody got time for budget-shaming.

    Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I know what you are talking about! It’s like there should be a constant disclaimer before anybody accesses the internet; the moment your computer loads up and wifi connects there should be a big flashy sign “DO NOT JUDGE UNTIL YOU HAVE WALKED IN THEIR SHOES”. I was reading an article just yesterday about a girl who saved X money in X time and travelled around the world. She explained how she saved the money, and she noted that she did move back home for 7 weeks (out of 7 MONTHS) because it wouldn’t make sense to continue her lease if she was travelling around the world. Yet people would instantly go “oh she lived at home well of course she could save money”. All of us have different stories. I was able to save for my year off because of all my frugal tendencies, but most importantly also because I earned a decent wage and could bank $1000/fortnight. If I earned less, no matter how little I lived on, I simply wouldn’t have extra. And then you could argue what I could have scrimped further on (quality food? supplements? chemical free natural products?). I think you’ve done a great job of creating a welcoming space and talking about finances without being condescending. This post also points out a really obvious point that there’s only so much we can scrimp, how much you actually earn is also a huge factor.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for your comment and kind words about the blog!
      I agree we have different life stories and we can learn so much from each other if we love sten rather than judge.
      I’m still so inspired by your year! Through your posts you’ve encouraged me to be more mindful and take self care more seriously.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Grest post, and compassionately written. When you are living paycheck to paycheck, as you say, you aren’t thinking about saving, you are surviving. And the older we ‘ve gotten, with better jobs, being settled in our house, allows us to save, and i am thankful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!
      I’ve been really fortunate in my career so far in that I’ve moved to better situations each time. In this job I get at least 10 sick days and 2 weeks vacation. My first full time job was 7 days off total.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes! When we first started out things looked so promising, but DH was out of work, I ended up on bedrest with our first baby, then out of work, he was a student. 2 years where we had almost no income and huge expenses. Our debt is not a reflection of our moral bearings!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is good! I think that’s why I veer away from advice columns/writings because there is always a hint of judgment from the adviser, as if every situation is cookie-cutter. And if you’ve lived over 20 years, then you’re bound to know that every individual is different. Thanks for this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for reading and commenting! It’s hard to live it and it’s hard to not be judgmental… I find myself really grappling with not judging myself and making sure that I’m not having unkind thoughts about others.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Mrs. Steward

    A woman I admire a great deal always says, “When I knew better, I did better.” I try to remember that as a mantra. It’d be easy for me to get grumpy (and I have before) reflecting on my and my hubby’s past mistakes, but ultimately, we did the best we could with the knowledge, time, and abilities we had in that moment. Using the yardstick of the present does no good, really.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. SHaderlie

    Goodness! I read the first paragraph and thought…YES, that’s exactly how I feel! I have yet to read a “how to save money” article without already doing most if not all of the tips in the article. We have a budget, we don’t drink coffee, we cut the cable, we menu plan, we shop around for deals… We have tightened our belts and have made our choices. Truth is, now it’s a matter of battling it out in the trenches of time. Yes we will get out of debt, but it will take a while, just like it did to get into debt. So could we make the time shorter? Probably but the cost is too great for our family. Balance of resources is crucial for success. Thanks for this post, it expresses perfectly how I feel about many a financial article out there and why I keep coming back to read this blog instead. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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