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Spend Less Than YOU Make: Taking Responsibility

12 June 2009

This post is the third of a series on “spend less than you make”. See also the articles on spending, less, and make.

“Spend less than you make.” Such a simple yet complex phrase. But what does it really mean? This series of posts will take an in-depth look at just what it means to spend less than you make.

What is to spend less than you make? For some, it is the core of their essence, what drives them when they wake up, what they think about when they go to bed. It is what stops them in the store, and what keeps them going to work. For others, it is a catch-phrase, a cliche, a cop-out. It is a mere formality, an obvious understatement, a meaningless phrase.

At face value, the phrase is self explanatory. Spend (as in purchase) less (as in, not more) than you make (your income). What more could be said?

You are Necessary

In order to spend less than you make, you need to be involved. You need to take action. You need to embrace less.

If you’re reading personal finance blogs, then chances are good that you’re headed in the right direction. You’ve started informing yourself, the first step towards getting your finances in order. You need to embrace knowledge, banish ignorance, accept that you need to start to learn about your personal finances.

Personal finances are just that – personal. This isn’t something that your mother can take care of for you. It isn’t something that your grandfather can just bail you out of (again). Personal finances are not the responsibility of your husband, your wife, or your accountant. Your bank does not care about you or your financial situation. Your investment broker doesn’t care about the best options for you. Your friends are not keeping your best interests in mind.

Only you know what is best for you, what your dreams and goals and desires are. Only you are able to change your lifestyle to match your financial needs. Only you can say no to wasting, yes to budgeting, and wait to spending.

Only you.

You are Responsible

What does your financial situation look like right now? Regardless of what it looks like, or how you got there, you are responsible for the state it is in today. It doesn’t matter if it was your business partner’s fault, a crazy ex-girlfriend, or just plain bad luck. Its still your responsibility. In fact, if you walk around blaming others for your financial situation, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Why? Because those people aren’t going to come back and fix your situation for you. It may not be your fault, but it is your responsibility, so you’re going to have to fix it.

You are going to have to figure out where you stand. You are going to have to track where you’ve spent your money. You are going to have to think about where you want to be in 5 years, what you want to save for, what’s worth your time. And then you are going to have to take action on those things, because nobody else is going to do it for you.

You are Alone

You are, and are not, alone. You are not alone because you have a spouse, family, or friends that you can share your financial struggles with. Your finances are intrinsically tied to your bank, your accountant, your lenders. You are alone because your financial situation is unique.

Nobody else has the same income, expenses, dreams, goals, and desires that you do. Nobody else lives in the same house, drives the same car, eats the same food as you do. Nobody’s needs are identical to yours. This means two things. One, don’t judge others based on their needs and wants. Two, don’t get caught copying someone else’s lifestyle.

Who cares if your neighbor has a better car than you do? Why does it bother you what someone else thinks about your favorite restaurant? So what if you can’t afford the newest PS3 game, a new shirt, or a night on the town? Everyone’s situation is different. Some people don’t care if they’re in debt – you might. Some people might not be bothered by making their own laundry detergent – you might. Some might feel the need to spend more on housing, or clothing, or gifts, than you do. That’s okay. You don’t need to match them and their lifestyle if you don’t want to, or can’t afford it.

What Does This Mean?

  • Stop Waiting

If you’ve been hesitant to take control of your finances beacuse you’re waiting for something – stop waiting. You aren’t going to win the lottery, your raise will not fix the problem, the bad luck won’t end. The time to take control of your finances are now – stop putting it off, and stop waiting for something else to save you. Its your money, its your life, its your time. Take control now.

  • Stop Feeling Sorry For Yourself

Yes, your situation sucks, and yes, you’re situation is unique – just like everyone else’s. You may feel as though you deserve pity, or help, or a bailout. You won’t be getting that from me. Yes, some of us have to work harder than others to get financially secure. Some people have never had to work hard, and never will. Some of us are going to struggle each and every day, fighting just to keep our heads above the water. The best thing you can do is stop feeling sorry for yourself, find out where you’re at, and how you’re going to get out of the mess you’re in. Feeling sorry for yourself will only delay and extend the pain you’re in.

  • Learn Everything You Can

The only way you’re going to feel comfortable and confident in your finances is if you know what you’re doing. Luckily, you’ve stumbled across one of many fantastic personal finance blogs that are custom made to help you out. Go ahead and subscribe to get free updates to Saving For Serenity, so I can help you establish financial freedom.

About the Author

Bank Guru

My real name is Banking “Guru” Smith, yes my parents were bankers and believed that I one day would become a famous banker just like them. I enjoy a double-double coffee, super long lines at the grocery store and annoying CSR’s (Customer Service Representatives or more commonly known as ‘Tellers’). You will usually find me working behind the scenes, I let Sensei generate all the attention. I also forgot to mention that I invested in Madoff, think I will ever get my money back?

Comments (12 )

hustler Wrote:

Good advice. So true that everyone’s situation is unique. And yes, knowledge is power! I’ve learned so much about my finances this past year and I’m so glad that I’ve put forth the effort to do so. I’ve come a long way and I know I wouldn’t be where I am now if I hadn’t decided I needed to make a change.

Matt Goulart Wrote:

That’s great news! Congratulations. Once you put in the effort to take control of your finances you find out that it really is worth the effort. Congrats again!

ctreit Wrote:

I could not agree more with you. We are all unique, but there are a few things that we all need to follow. Spend less than you make is one of them. This is a very appropriate and well-written post.

oneadvice Wrote:

Hiya, I found this article via Tip’d and really enjoyed it – very informative with some basic but sensible tips!Makes a refreshing read – so going to add you to my google reader :)

Matt Goulart Wrote:

@ ctreit Thanks for the encouragement!

@ oneadvice Thanks for stopping by! Glad that you enjoyed the read, hope to see you around!

Kiwi Chick Wrote:

This is a good reminder post for me. We’ve been working hard to reduce our outgoings, get rid of debt etc and posts like this one provide reinforcement for the steps we have taken so far. I have certainly got over comparing our "stuff" with the "stuff" that others have. I am not interested in keeping up appearances any more and am proud to be frugal with an ever-decreasing debt hanging over our heads. Thanks for the post!

Gwen Jones Wrote:

Absolutely brilliant. The point on responsibility is so key. You say it so well.Gwen

beth Wrote:

my granddaughter’s name (born Feb 2009) is Serenity and I really appreciate the blog because I sent the article to my son.I am a public school teacher, and now my husband and I are also working and licensed with for a couple of years.We are always "preachin" and teachin’ about saving and planning. check out our website; we are nationwide and include Canada and Spain.

Matt Goulart Wrote:

@ Kiwi Chick – Congratulations! You are taking real positive steps towards your financial freedom, towards Serenity. I am glad that my post was able to remind, and encourage, you in your journey. Thanks for stopping by!

@ Gwen Jones – Thanks Gwen. When it comes down to it, if you don’t take responsibility, then who will? It all revolves around the individual.

@ Beth – I would love to pretend that you named your daughter after the site, but I started in March of 09, so perhaps I named my site after your granddaughter? The name "Saving For Serenity" really takes on a new and special meaning when "Serenity" is your (grand)daughter!

Johny Wrote:

Saving helps save ourselves and loved ones, No saving, No earning

Emmie Wrote:

Appealing post..I feel that another modern reality that makes all that appeals work and challenges people’s efforts at financial self control is the credit card..If we are one of them then we are surely gong to fall in the trap of the credit card company.

Greg Wrote:

A key reason for many people not being able to buy into the philosphy of "spending less that they make" is because it not easy to do. Many americans today live paycheck to paycheck and would view any drop of consumption or services as a hit in their lifestyle. In order to get ahead and become financially independent one must suffer a or sacrifice at some point in their earning years……….

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