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Living Below Your Means Increases Your Means
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I know many of my faithful readers could probably give us all lessons on frugality! Many of you are just so good at making a dollar stretch. I sometimes find it hard to talk about this issue because most of you know that my husband is a doctor. Money just isn't a concern for us like it is for many others, and everytime I write about how we should spend less I get nasty emails telling me that I don't know what I'm talking about and I should just shut up. So I often steer clear of the subject.

But I'd like to add my thoughts anyway today, and please don't send me nasty emails!

First, a little context. I grew up to a single mother in a lower-middle class home for most of my life. Her jobs got better as time went on, but we were never well off. So I learned the importance of working and saving as a teen, and I knew that if I wanted to go somewhere on a trip or if I wanted to buy something big I'd have to pay for it myself. And I did.

When we married, and started having children, Keith was still in residency and making hardly anything at all. The banks were willing to lend us tons of money based on future earnings, but we didn't take out loans. We lived in an apartment (many of his classmates bought houses with no money down), and we didn't have a car. I shopped at second hand stores. And during those years of his residency we managed to save a fair amount for a downpayment, so that when we bought our first house we didn't borrow the whole amount.

The banks would give us $450,000 for a house based on his projected earnings, but we bought one that was 1/4 of that in a regular middle class neighbourhood with lots of kids. It was marvelous! We lived there for nine years until we paid it off and bought a slightly larger home, still in a primarily middle class neighbourhood. Very few doctors live around here.

I'm not saying this to toot my own horn; I'm just saying this because I do believe we've practiced what we preach in this area, at least. The one area we spend too much on is travel, having taken the kids on a whole bunch of missions trips, but I think that has lasting impact.

Anyway, here's the other reason I'm saying this: because we have consistently lived below our means, we've managed to save a lot of money so that my husband can conceivably cut back on work in the near future and we could potentially go overseas for a few years for ministry. I still don't know if that's where God will lead us, but the main thing for us is that we have the option.

And that's what living below one's means does for you: it gives you options. You aren't tied to a job you hate in the same way because you have a buffer. You can pursue more dreams. You can take some time off. You can give more away.

And living below one's means has very little to do with income and a lot to do with attitude. You wouldn't believe the number of physicians in our social circle who are close to bankruptcy. They make a ton of money and they're not saving it or treating it responsibly. Just because one makes a good income does not mean that one spends it well.

I ran across a few statistics a while ago that I think are quite interesting about the difference between millionaires and non-millionaires. The long shot? Most millionaires don't buy really expensive things. They're millionaires because they buy regular stuff. The people who buy the expensive stuff are people who are trying to LOOK like millionaires, not people who actually are.

* Eighty-six percent of all prestige or luxury makes of motor vehicles are driven by people who are not millionaires.
* Typically, millionaires pay about $16 (including tip) for a haircut. (this must be for guys!)
* Nearly four in 10 millionaires buy wine that costs about $10.
* In the United States, there are nearly three times as many millionaires living in homes with a market value of less than $300,000 than there are living in homes valued at $1 million or more.

When we live below our means, we're able to save more and eventually be worth more, which gives you options. When you live beyond your means, then you're committing yourself to having to earn a whole lot of money to pay off that debt. You're limiting your options.

So wherever you find yourself today, with whatever income, remember to live below your means. If you do so, you'll be acting more like a millionaire than you think! And you'll be helping yourself immeasurably!

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At 11:14 AM , Blogger Lori Alexander said…

We have always lived below our means and are, right now, able to help our children buy homes of their own...Such a blessing!


At 1:12 PM , Blogger MamaMay said…

I hear what you are saying about being a doctor's wife. When in med school, my husband joined the US military to pay for it. They gave a stipend of 19,260 a year. The school would not allow you to borrow more than that to live on in student loans. We lived for 4 years on that, and I gave birth to 2 children. We didn't take government aid either so no food stamps or medicaid. You tell people that your husband is in medical school and they think "wow, you must be rich" not realizing that you are living off of student loans and if you were rich you would have no debt.


At 5:48 PM , Anonymous Kristen said…

Just in support of what you said about "millionaires" -- We were once invited to a social event where we knew on of the wealthiest businessmen in Canada would also be attending. My husband tried to pick him out in the crowd, and singled out a distinguished-looking well dressed man -- nope. He was the comfortable looking older man in the 20 year old jacket. He and his wife happened to be leaving the event about the same time as we were, and hubby waited anxiously to see what fancy car he would be driving... an older model SUV, nothing fancy.
Living below our means removes so much stress from life -- when a need arises there's money to meet it. And more stuff doesn't make you happier.


At 6:01 PM , Blogger The Wife said…

This reminds me of an old Ann Landers column -- "The new car in your neighbors driveway does not mean they HAVE money; it means they HAD money."

I'm moving back in with my parents so that I can afford Nursing school because I don't want to take out loans for housing and living expenses -- the tuition is $60,480 and doesn't include books, lab fees, uniform, parking permit, EZ Pass (45 minute commute each way) & basic school supplies. Thank G-d my parents offered to provide room & board while I complete my R.N. credentials.
I have managed to provide for myself in one the most expensive cities in the USA and not spend more than $23000/yr for the past 6 years. I want to start a family and that requires a better job and (for me) owning my home. The help offered by my parents allows me to save enough to buy a house within the next 5 years.


At 7:56 PM , Blogger Tessa said…

It's really hard when you're trying to live at or below your means and then, because you've scrimped and saved, you're able to buy something new. Then all of the sudden people start thinking "I told you they got paid to much!" when in reality you're just really good at sticking to a budget.
I used to work in finances and when people are driving the fancy new vehicles a boat and have a nice new home I almost feel sorry for them that they feel that those things are necessary to be happy. And moreso because I've seen the stress that those expenses can bring to a marriage. I'll just live my ordinary life. No need to keep up with the Jones's here!


At 7:59 PM , Blogger Herding Grasshoppers said…


Live poor, get rich.

Live rich, get poor.


At 11:29 PM , Blogger Wendy Eckwielen said…

What a great post! One of the happiest, most content ladys I knew was my maternial grandmother. She was far from financially wealthy, she had 10 children, 36 grandchildren, and even more great grandchildren. Everywhere we went, people would call her grandma. Every Christmas all my father, brothers, uncles, and cousins would get a pair of (plain) black dress socks, and my mother, sister, aunts and cousins would get a hand-made ornament froms my grandmother, and everyone was thrilled!!! On our birthdays we would get a card in the mail, no money, just a card from grandma, which would send us running to the mailbox. She was not rich financially, but in many other ways she was wealthy.


At 7:34 AM , Blogger Llama Momma said…

Great post, Sheila! God calls us all to be good stewards of everything He gives us -- whether that's a lot or a little.

I've been in both places, and can say that for me, it's almost harder when there's a lot. It's easy to want more...spend more...

Being content is a challenge, but one that I know God has called us to.

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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