Today we live in a society driven by the dollar. Forget keeping up with the Joneses…they have skyrocketed to success and are now living uptown with a country club membership, and their children are in private schools.
We see the stress for success placed on us by society, and it seems to always increase. Just when we feel we have met the expectations and are on par with the rest of society, someone goes and raises the bar.
If you are one of those people who has fallen into the well-meaning trap of living better, and have run yourself deep into debt trying to keep up, maybe it is time to stop trying to live richer and instead live smarter.
One basic rule that will almost certainly guarantee your financial success, thereby leading you to greater personal happiness, is the 90% rule. Simply put, you live on 90% of your income, and save the other ten percent.
Unfortunately in our society, we have become accustomed to living on 100%, 110%, or even 130% of our incomes. We put ourselves into financial hock to make up the difference, telling ourselves we will catch up the next time we receive a raise, or we will just work overtime to cover the difference.
Regrettably, this widely accepted line of thinking is leading people to greater and greater stress. Working overtime increases your level of fatigue and decreases time spent with your family, making happiness and work family balance difficult to maintain. Rising debt brings on its own form of stress, which over time can have a detrimental effect on your health as well as on your happiness.
Try to make a few changes in your life that will allow you to live by the 90% rule, and see how much of a difference this positive change can make. Here are a few suggestions:
- Unclutter Your Life: Clutter in and of itself is a major source of stress for most people. Luckily, you can not only rid yourself of unwanted clutter, but take a bite out of your debt at the same time.
Organize a garage sale or list your unwanted items on a sales site such as E-bay or Craig’s List. Not only can you get unwanted items out of your way, you can use the money you make to pay down some of those credit card bills. If you earn $400 over a weekend at a garage sale, you can make a substantial payment towards one of your bills.
- Mind Your Utilities: Basic home utilities add up so much faster than we realize. Take stock of your cable bill, your Internet bill, and your phone bill. See if you can bundle services for greater savings, or get rid of services you are not using.
Watch your electricity usage as well. Especially with energy costs on the rise, turning off those extra lights or adjusting your thermostat can add up to hefty savings.
Any money you can save by doing away with unnecessary utility bills can be used towards paying off your debts.
- Buy Used, Not New: For major purchases such as a car, consider finding a quality used car. Statistics repeatedly tell us that a new car loses 20% of its value the minute it is driven off of the lot. Why not opt for a car that is one or two years old? Most will still be under factory warranty, and your car payment will be greatly reduced.
By making a few small changes in your life, you can reduce your monthly expenses and get back to enjoying time with your family – rather than spending your extra time working, trying to make ends meet to support your lifestyle.
Not only will you find you have eliminated all or most of your debts in a short period of time, but as you continue the process of saving money and living on less than what you earn, you can take your newfound money and invest it. Interest-earning bank accounts, mutual funds, and IRA’s are all ways you can put your 10% to good use, secure in the knowledge you have something saved for a rainy day.
In the overall goal of achieving work-family balance and in the pursuit of greater happiness, giving up some of the little luxuries is very well worth it.