It's a terrifying thought: reaching the middle of the month and realizing you don't have enough money to feed your children. Unfortunately, this very situation is an ongoing reality for millions of people every day. How can you keep this from happening to you? Whether you're already a super-saver or a personal finance newcomer, consider these tips to live well without losing it all.
Keep money in its proper place
It's all too easy to let money take over our thoughts. Many of us worry about money, obsess about money and make ourselves physically sick thinking about money. We must put money back in proper perspective.
Money cannot buy happiness, nor can it bring lasting joy. It cannot prevent death, build relationships or save us in the end. Money is a tool, nothing more and nothing less.
The next time you need to gain a new perspective on money, remember the immortal words of Will Rogers, who said, "Too many people spend money they earned to buy things they don't want to impress people they don't like."
Much of our unhappiness surrounding money comes from living beyond our means. A 2013 study reported in the Washington Post found that 64% of Americans are accumulating debt faster than they are saving for retirement. It's a scary reality that our desire to accumulate things has supplanted our common sense.
No one likes to do without, but what if we could find ways to require less? How would your life change if you were happier living on less? You can develop this attitude gradually. Before every purchase ask yourself, "Will buying this make me happier one month from now?"
End the comparisons
Theodore Roosevelt once said, "Comparison is the thief of joy." If we want to live well without losing everything, we have to make financial choices that bring us security in the long run, in spite of what the neighbors might think.
Want to know a secret about the neighbors with the new kitchen, fancy car and monthly vacations? They probably can't afford it, and there's a good chance they're drowning in debt. Stop comparing yourself to financially flabby outsiders.
Living frugally can be a bummer. It's not fun to say no to a night on the town or drastically cut back on Christmas presents. If you feel deprived, remember your long-term financial goals. Ask yourself: How do I want to live in 10 years or 20 years or 50 years?
Another good question is: How do I want my children to view money when they're adults? Our children need mature financial examples. It takes will power to put money aside each month and sacrifice the things we temporarily want for things we need long-term.
Make no mistake, we all need financial security. We need savings, retirement funds and stable home equity. We all need the peace that comes from financial security.
Where to start
If you're looking for ways to get on the right path, start by building a monthly budget. Be realistic and take an honest look at your current monthly income and spending.
Next, gather all documents related to savings, retirement accounts, home equity and debt. Compare your net worth with all your debt. If you feel uncomfortable by the disparity, make a plan to cut back your monthly budget and start paying off debt.
A financial advisor can help you develop a plan to gain control over your finances if you're struggling. Check out the National Foundation for Credit Counseling to find a professional in your area.
There is hope for a stable financial future. If you're already on a good path, congratulations and keep up the good work! If you feel buried now, keep your head held high and seek out good advice. The destination is worth the journey.