Living within Your Means; Keys to Financial Freedom
Ask the person making $18,000 a year what it would take for them to live more comfortably and they would probably say making $25,000. Ask the person making $25,000 they would probably say $35,000. Many people seem to think that making more money is the key to financial freedom. They couldn’t be more wrong.
Making more money won’t necessarily make our lives better. The key to financial freedom is learning to live within our means and properly managing the money we already have.
Too often, especially where it concerns young Black men, we buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t even like. We buy into the ideas of popular culture, which states that who we are is tied to what we have. Translation: Name brand jeans equal self-esteem.
Many of us personally know of families who have significant incomes but are still financially stressed simply because they are always trying to keep up with the Joneses. So getting a raise or a bonus check means getting a new car or bigger house, not saving and investing.
Making more money is clearly not the answer to financial freedom, because when spending is out of control, the same person that mismanages 10 dollars will almost certainly mismanage $100,000.
So what are some good indicators that we are not living within our means? Within the last 12 months, if you have not saved any money, used one credit card to pay on another, not paid all your credit card bills in full, taken money out of a retirement account for reasons other than retirement, or in any way spent more money than you and your spouse are bringing in, then it is safe to say that you are not living within your means.
But developing the habits that will lead to financial freedom is not impossible. All it takes is a little self-discipline and the willingness to make the necessary changes in our lives.
The key to living within your means is first learning to say no to yourself. There are many things we buy on a daily basis that we simply do not need. However, we live in a culture of consumption, where we are bombarded by a barrage of advertising messages telling us that we need a certain product.
How can we ever reach financial freedom letting advertisers convince us that the only way we can be happier, prettier, funnier, sexier, or cooler is by buying their product? Do we really need the latest and most expensive name brand clothes, shoes and accessories, or will a less expensive, but still fashionable alternative do? Can a generic household item—like toothpaste—work just as well as the top name brands in the same category?
I challenge you to monitor your spending for a month and begin separating needs from wants. I challenge you to learn to be content with what you already have. I challenge you to not focus on what others have. Most importantly, I challenge you to know your true self-worth and not be defined by what you have. For these are the bad habits that separate us from our money, causing us to live beyond our means, which impedes our financial freedom.
Davis is a contributing writer for Regal Black Men’s Magazine.