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Overspending is never a good idea, but it’s even worse now with the global economic downturn. More than ever, you cannot afford not to live within your means.

However, it’s easier said than done, especially if this isn’t a habit you’ve imbibed over time. But the good news is it’s doable; you just need a little commitment and discipline.

If you are in a situation where you have no money left over and fall into debt every month, you should definitely read these tips to live within your means.


10 Smart Ways to Live Within Your Means

1. Have a Financial Goal

I realised it’s difficult for humans to commit to a venture when there’s no goal. Being prudent is a wise decision whether you have an actual goal or not, but some people might need a goal to keep up with it.

If this is you, write down where you’d like to be financially in 5 or 10 years. For instance, if you have debts, would you still want to be in the process of repaying them after 10 years? How would you want to retire? What kind of life do you want for your kids?

Answering these questions will give you a good idea of where to start setting a goal. With a goal in mind, you can be motivated to live below your means.

2. Have a Budget

You need to create a budget based on your income and circumstances. This way, you can track your spending and find where to cut down.

Although you don’t necessarily have to write down your budget, especially if you don’t have extensive spending channels, it’s more advisable. Writing things down makes them clearer.

In your budget, make room first for necessities, such as food, rent, tuition, utilities, savings, debt repayment, and other important expenses.

Then, you can make room – if you can afford it – for fun. Create a budget for something you enjoy doing. For instance, you can make room for a family dinner once or twice a month, a movie date with your partner or, of course, solo dates if you’re single.

This is important to prevent overspending on fun. When there’s room for it in the budget, the likelihood of going overboard is lesser because you won’t feel the need to overcompensate.

3. Save Before Spending

Saving is very important for a safe financial future. Saving can come in handy for heavy expenses like rent and unforeseen circumstances like a job loss. Therefore, there are different kinds of savings.

You can save for a project like buying a car or house. You can also save for retirement and your emergency fund.

Usually, they are not exclusive. But if your income cannot cover all, at the very least, you must build an emergency fund. The best way to do this is to save before spending.

One reason many people don’t end up saving is because they plan to save after spending, which is not often feasible. By the time you’ve run through bills and other expenses, you find that there’s nothing left to save.

That’s why saving before spending is advisable. If you are not disciplined enough to handle this, you can set up an automated savings plan that deducts a certain amount of money from your account once your paycheck comes in.   

Luckily, many financial institutions have provisions for this that you should leverage. If you’re in West Africa, PiggyVest is a fin-tech company that helps you manage your savings and investments. You can save manually or automatically and earn interest on your savings. I use PiggyVest to save and invest, and I must say I feel a lot more secure about my finances.  

Also ReadCommon Financial Mistakes to Avoid for a Wholesome Life

4. Get Insurance

Insurance will save you from spending an unbudgeted amount if certain situations happen. For instance, health insurance will protect you from bad debt in case of any health issue that may spring up.  

So, include insurance in your budget, especially health insurance.

How to Live Within Your Means - Pin

5. Avoid Credit Cards

The credit card has its use, but it is a slippery slope, especially if you lack financial discipline. If you ask me, I’d advise avoiding credit cards in general. One reason is that it gives you a false sense of security and plunges you into debt if you’re not careful.

So, rather than get a credit card, get a debit card so you can purchase only what you need and can afford. With a debit card, you’re likely to take a second check to determine whether you actually need that thing or not. But a credit card doesn’t afford you that opportunity.

Train yourself only to buy what you can afford instead of taking a loan and then end up paying even more for that item.

Also ReadMoney Mistakes to Avoid in Your 20s

6. Reduce Debts

Similarly, don’t get into the habit of taking loans because they are available. Personally, I disagree with taking loans for luxuries, and that’s why I’m against credit cards.

For instance, you shouldn’t buy a vehicle with a loan, except if you want to use it for business, and it’d make you a profit. Anything that’s a liability should not be bought with a loan.

Instead, save money to get it if you want it. If it means not eating out for all the months you’d need to save up for a car, it’s better than getting a loan.

7. Pay Down Debts

If you have debts or carry a credit card balance, don’t let them pile up before paying them off. Again, if it means no fun until you can be free of debt, I believe it’s worth it in the long run.

That will prevent you from paying more on interest and late fees.

8. Buy in Bulk

Instead of buying groceries in bits and pieces, buy in bulk. Bulk buying usually results in reduced prices. Although it might be a small percentage, when you consider all the items you need, it adds up to a sizeable amount.

Also, buy quality products instead of cheaper, substandard ones. At first, it might seem like a heavy purchase, but you’d have saved more in the long run. This is because you may spend more repairing or replacing a substandard product in the end.

9. Seek Out Sales and Discounts

You don’t have to buy an item in the first store or with the first vendor. Look out for sales and discounts that’d save you more money. You can also wait to buy some things at a discount when they go on sale.

For instance, you can wait until the holidays to change your wardrobe because many retailers will be running sales then.

10. Find Extra Sources of Income

Although this is not exactly a tip to live within your means, it is important for your overall financial health. Sometimes, there’s really no way to save and budget properly because you’re living from hand to mouth.

In such a situation, you need to think of another source of income. There are many work-from-home business ideas that you can add to your day job and attend to after work.

Of course, consider your job, home circumstances, skills and interests when determining what’s suitable for you. But you can always learn skills if that’s the problem, and you can start for free on YouTube – there’s hardly anything you can’t learn on YouTube – and then get a certification if necessary.

You can also seek another job that is better compensated. If you need more skills to negotiate better pay, do it.


It’s possible to live within your means; you just need to be dedicated and disciplined. Like all habits, it might not come easy at first, but keep at it, and you’ll soon be used to it.