Monday, November 17, 2008

I Want That! And That! And That!

Stuff. Things. Possessions.

We all like to buy stuff, right? As a self-admitted collector, there’s nothing I enjoy more than perusing a quaint used bookstore in search of a rare first edition to complete a collected set of one of my favorite authors.

We work hard all day, why not splurge a little and go for that extra-extra, big-big flat screen HDTV, right? Or take that expensive vacation to the Mediterranean. Or opt for an extra 500 square feet and the three-car garage for that stunning house in that gated community.

Why not?
You deserve it.
Or do you?

Merit. Deserve. Entitlement.
I want it all! Now!

Living ABOVE your means.

The recent credit crunch, housing market bubble burst, and subsequent Wall Street meltdown has made all of us more cognizant of our financial situations. But all these financial fireworks and government bailouts and foreclosures and job loses and political promises and 401K angst have one major connection, one common thread:


I like to compare those living above their means to someone who is grossly overweight, knows they need to change, but just keeps eating too much of the wrong foods until they eventually face dire health (and all too often catastrophic financial) consequences.

They need help.

They need to learn to “budget” their caloric intake. Need to understand why they THINK they NEED to eat the wrong foods and the wrong amounts. Same thing goes for those overspending, being financially careless.

They need to live within their means.

While practicing better fitness and nutrition is always a major focus of mine at, this particular post deals more with financial responsibility and personal accountability. By the way, if you are looking for ways to help you lose weight or would like to learn more about nutrition and fitness, these videos will help.

For more about my feelings on Living Within Your Means, please enjoy this video:

Now, for the hard part: Changing!

Just as the politicians, during the recently completed (it IS over, right?) presidential campaign, pounded the need for change into our heads, we, too, need to make changes in the way WE do things. But, guess what?

Change is good!

Is change easy?

That’s another story. Change can be painful, difficult, challenging, but no less painful or challenging as filing for bankruptcy. Or having your house foreclosed on. Or having to ignore a medical condition because you can’t afford to visit a doctor.

Here are some ways to help you try to live within your means:

* ADMIT you have a problem. Take personal accountability and understand that you CAN’T AFFORD everything that you WANT. Hey, I would love another 500 square feet and a nifty three-car garage, but will not put myself into unnecessary debt just to have it.

* BUDGET YOURSELF. Go on a financial diet. Just like when dieting to lose unwanted pounds, this is easier said than done. What can you do?

* EDUCATE YOURSELF. Reading this post, as well as visiting websites like, is a great start, but don’t stop there. Read, read, and read some more. Ask questions to qualified financial experts every chance you get. The more you know the better ability you have to understand your particular financial situation, what you can and cannot afford. You should know how much of a mortgage you can afford BEFORE you ever sit down across from a member of any lending institution. If you don’t, then you’re probably not ready to buy a house.

* THINK LAYAWAY. Before the human race became consumed with credit, they used to pay for things BEFORE they bought them. This not only gives you a wonderful sense of accomplishment and appreciation, but it also keeps you out of unwanted and sometimes devastating debt. It helps you…


In a way, living a layaway life is the antithesis of being under the misguided misconception of feeling compelled to have a life of entitlement.

Simply put: We need to change.

Change the way we think.
Change the way we spend.
Yes, change the way we eat (had to throw that one in).

Change the way we live.

There’s a lot of nice stuff out there, things and possessions that we all think we need and can’t live without. But unless you really, really need something, or at least can easily afford it, then the solution is simple:

Just say no.

And try to change your life…for the better.

Until next time…




Eric S. said...

Well said. I have been guilty of just that in the past, and have been suffering the consequences. Change IS required, and can be achieved if you put your mind to it. It takes will power and self education, but can be done. Thanks Mike, Glad your getting back into things, and hope your recovery is coming along well.

Cat in the Foxgloves said...

VERY well said! I'm attempting both a nutritional and a financial diet at the same time and I'm taking baby steps. Learning is the key for me, and I've made a budget, plus a list of what I NEED and a list of what I WANT.

Karen, author of "My Funny Dad, Harry" said...

We have so much. It's really foolish to buy things we don't really need, especially when we can't afford them. Now with the economy in a nose dive, it is wise to pull back and not spend money unnecessarily. Out of the blue, 11 secretaries were just laid off at my work and it could have been me! Very scary!

Anonymous said...

This is true, and like you wrote - it is like being obese.
A bad spiral, and hard to change. But I guess NOW is the time to change!

Anonymous said...

I like this post. I have been telling my husband since I got married that we should live within our means and even if our income raises , we still have to live as if our income is still the old income as we were living within before. Some people spend more when their income gets more. I have no problem in disciplining myself financially since I grew up so poor and have learned to be always in content.And I always remind myself and others that whatever you store and amass today, you won't get to bring it with you when you're dead.

Cascia Talbert said...

This post was really eye opening for me. Just like Eric I have made those same mistakes and we are paying for them now. Living within your means is challenging but after this whole economic meltdown it is something that every American should strive to achieve. I need to toss my credit cards and take a closer look at our budget. Thanks for sharing this!

MamaFlo said...

When we were young and first married and making our family, we lived often times on credit, paying it off only to be back in the hole a few months later. We kept moving forward though, never eating out and scrutinizing what we bought, any spending going on educating our two children. It paid off, both went to sub-ivy league schools on merit scholarships and are outstanding, productive members of our society. We made out also, we retired in our early 50's with 3 government pensions and the only debt we have is our house and that will be paid off in the next 2.5 years, we have plenty of money in savings (we were always frugal investors opting for the tortoise instead of the rabbit).
We actually have more money in retirement than we ever had while we were working!!

Living within your means is simply a way of life that will pay you back in the future much more than you give up presently.

Sandee said...

When I was very young my father taught me how to budget. It was always the same. You make this much and you can only spend this much. There was always a savings plan in the mix. I'm so glad he taught me this valuable tool. It has served me well.

Have a great day. :)

Paul Eilers said...

Not too long ago, I would be driving around town and see so many people driving an new SUV. I would ask myself, "How can so many people afford an SUV?"

I mean, there's the cost of the vehicle, insurance, taxes, and of course, gasoline. Throw in maintenance and you're talking about a good chunk of change every month, just to have something to get you from point A to point B.

If you can afford a SUV, Mercedes or some other expensive vehicle, fine. I have no problem with that.

However, if you stretch to make those payments, it is time to consider other options.

One of the best books I have ever read is, "The Millionaire Next Door." In his book, the author did a twenty year study to see how people became millionaires.

What he found out was professionals have a tendency to spend all they make, while business owners usually live below their means and save their money. A well off business owner may, in fact, live right next door to you.

Thus, the title of the book.

Mike Golch said...

we live with in our means as more frivous thing like a new Christmas orinments dated with each year,we watch every penny with the do we really need this?

Unknown said...

Great post! We have always tried to do just that, live within our means. Speaking about the economy I told DH just the other day, "well, at least we don't have much to lose." People might have thought we were a little lower than them a few years ago. Now we look rather smart! Now to just budget my workout time....

Preston said...

It's all so true. Now if I can only do it...

Anonymous said...

Sound advice there Mike! So simple and yet sometimes so hard to do. Hopefully with this economic shift we are going through people will start thinking this way. Great post.

Anna said...

Very good advice Mike! I am happy to say that the Christmas shopping I've done was paid for with cash. Even when I used a store card for an extra discount, I paid it off right then. (Felt great to do that, too!)

Yes, we are in debt, but we pay our bills and we're happy!

Anonymous said...
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Unknown said...

Eric: my recovery is coming along slowly but steady...thought I'd try to type a few comments, see how I feel...thanks for yours

cat in the foxgloves: great job, budgets are key, as are lists...count everything

karen: yes, scary times, all we can do is work hard and spend less...and pray

leo: self control works for all diets, physical and financial

bingkee: it's tough to do but well worth the effort and sacrifice

cascia: credit cards can work in your favor...if you pay off the balance each month

mamaflo: wow, everyone should learn from your can be done, congrats to you

sandee: dads are great that way...we should listen to them more (hear that, son?)

paul: great points, paul...I read that book too. Would you rather have an expensive car or thousands in the bank?

mike: counting pennies adds up

angie: budgeting time is just as challenging (and important) as budgeting finances...

preston: I'm pulling for ya

getsmartgal: we all need to do our share...thanks for the kind words

anna: happiness is a good thing...

ruth: thanks, glad you are enjoying your visit...spread the word

I would like to thank all who have continued to visit my sites and leave comments during my recovery from surgery. Slowly but surely I am able to type more and more...though right about now I am feeling it...



Anonymous said...

Well said, and this is something I need to work on.

I quite like your blog and your attitude, so I've nominated you for an award at my blog. Keep up the fantastic work!

Casdok said...

Some great thoughts there, thank you.

Anonymous said...

This is a great rule of thumb for typical Americans, who often live well above their means. If not for excessive spending attempting to accumulate massive amounts of material items, we would probably not even be in a recession right now. Thank you to all the greedy home buyers, real estate agents, mortgage lenders, and anyone else who enables regular Americans to live beyond their means.

Tom Thorne said...

You are exactly right! Although one way to live within our means is to take care of our health so that we are not constantly visiting the doctor.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

I have done it which is why I no longer have credit cards. I enjoyed living beyond my means until it bit me in the butt as you say. I had to learn the hard way. I felt like I was sitting on the other side of the couch talking with you.

Unknown said...

my autism insights: thanks, I like your attitude too

casdok: gracias

build muscle...: so true, I believe that we can control a lot more than some people think

tom: excellent point--medical costs are skyrocketing due to unhealthy habits that can be corrected

heidi: life is full of lessons learned...and you are welcome to site on the other side of my couch any time...



Anonymous said...

hey mike i had to smile when i first saw this post. i have been thumping this tune for a while, especially when we say we deserve things. we do, but our behavior has to reflect that responsibility as well. just because we work doesn't mean we are entitled if we are irresponsible with our money. we deserve to have a great life, free from slaving of things.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad I am able to pay for most everything I need to survive with cash. never credit...never never never unless it passes my test.

Do I really need it?
Are the benefits fleeting, or will they stick around for a while?
Can it pay for itself?
Will I be able to make it pay for itself?

Just some of the things my wee little brain goes through before I make any purchase outside what I REALLY need.

Good stuff!

Anonymous said...

The only constant in life is change. Admitting our limitations keeps us from getting in over our head. Paying off debts holds us back. Great post.

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Jackie said...

Oh boy this is a lesson in life that I wish I had learned earlier in life.

But at least I did learn it. However, I am very hard headed and an only child who always got whatever she ask for. So it took me going through a bankruptcy years and years ago to finally learn

But learn I did. We do our best now to live and save. We no longer live from paycheck to paycheck.

And our home now is very comfortable but very very modest.

This is a great post Mike!!

Thanks and happy weekend!:-)

Anonymous said...

I hate owing money to anybody or any place. Mortgages and car payments seem to be necessary evils, but even those I keep down to a low amount, by most people's standards. My credit card I treat as a debit card. In other words, I zero it out at the end of every month. I never carry forward a balance. If I can't afford it, I don't buy it. And you know what, I really don't miss owning a whole bunch of stuff.

Anonymous said...

Great post. So very true. I was raised to just get what you wanted, you can always pay for it later. We always had way too many Christmas gifts compared to everyone else I knew.

I learned over time, the hard way, as an adult that this is a bad idea. I cannot change my parents, but I try to show them the error of their ways.

When I have kids, I intend on teaching them limits with everything, and frankly, the way kids have everything they don't need today, they are being set up for a financial mess as adults.

If nothing, maybe this economic mess will teach our youth why it is important to be more cautious.


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Rohit Agarwal said...

Very thought provoking. Would definitely like to take this up in greater detail. Thanks.


Unknown said...

natural: so would be nice if we could all have whatever we want, but life just ain't that way

wayne john: you make excellent points...could have used them in my post

health nut: well said

shinade: thanks for you kind words and for sharing

urbann panther: that is the best tip for anyone using credit--pay it off in full each month

kelly: easy money is never really easy

health and fitness: will check out your blog...

aggi: provoking thoughts is my middle name...



Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Living within your means is a very hard thing for some people to learn. I don't know what happened in my life but for the first 8-9 years of my adult life, I spent as much or more than I made - always had to have new stuff, good food, etc. It's only the last couple of years that I have realized the benefits of cutting back, and man does it take willpower. Good post.