It’s a benchmark, a goal, a mindset—a kind of game I play with myself. Whatever the price tag—real or perceived—I challenge myself to find a way to get it down to “half the price.” Here’s an example.
Harold and I make a business trip to California about every month to take care of a business we have there and to stay connected with friends and family. We’ve done this so often that by now, I know about how much those plane tickets will be. And every month, I take the challenge to cut the cost in half.
Sometimes I make it; other times, I must concede to something not even close to half the price. But now and then I hit it just right, and it feels like I won the jackpot.
Not long ago, by agreeing to take a later flight, applying a special discount code, not checking any bags, and not being picky about our seats, we flew for less than $100 each, round trip. These days, that’s nearly unheard of.
Then there are the times that I get the price of something down to nothing by deciding not to buy at all—doing without or deciding to wait. It amazes me just how often, if I’m just willing to wait a day or two, that “urgent need” kind of fades away.
Living your life for half the price is not easy. It takes skill and determination to go against the tide and buck a system that says it’s OK to spend all we have now, plus what we hope we'll get in the future. It takes the strength of character to protest against the message that it’s OK to have what you want now and pay for it later.
Here’s the secret for living below your means in just eight little words: Buy what you need; want what you have. That’s it. Simple, profound, and life-changing. It’s a message I preach to myself continuously—like every day. That’s how often I’m tempted to veer off into my old, impulsive ways. If you think we’re anything alike, you might benefit from some of the things I do proactively to stay on track.
Choosing to be grateful for what you have is the way to build a layer of insulation around your life that will protect you from focusing on what you don’t have. Taking the time to add up the real cost of that new car you have your eye on, for example, can make your older, albeit paid-for, vehicle look much better.
If you are easily dissatisfied or prone to impulsive behaviors, identify your weak spots and then remove yourself from them. Turn off the television. Skip past the magazine ads. Limit your exposure to websites that make you yearn for what you don’t have. Isolate yourself from mindless shopping.
Never feel you must apologize for choosing the high road when it comes to managing well the money that flows into your life. If you’re embarrassed to say, “I can’t afford it,” don’t say it. Instead, respond, “I just don’t choose to spend my money that way.”
Living below your means creates a margin between you and the financial edge. It is the way to build wealth, reduce stress, and improve your options, and that leads to peace of mind. It’s an honorable way to conduct your life.
Here’s the principle, the thing I hope you will take away from this: It’s the money you don’t spend that gives you the freedom to live the life you love!
Think about it, embrace it, live it. I promise it can change your life.