Living Within Your Means

DEC 22, 2011

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Who doesn’t want to be surrounded by nice things, step out every day in fashionable clothes, and vacation somewhere luxurious and lovely? Wanting the finer things in life is not uncommon – especially if your friends or neighbors already have those things.

“Keeping up with the Joneses” may make you feel good for a while. But if you have to rack up debt  in order to make those luxury purchases, keeping pace with the competition may do you more harm than good.

Excess debt is a major problem in this country. While smart use of credit can enhance your lifestyle, creating unmanageable debt can cause major financial hardship. How good is that new car going to make you feel if you have to worry about how you’ll make the next payment on it?

You don’t have to be a psychologist or financial guru to know that debt can cause stress, or that too much stress over a prolonged period can affect your physical and mental health. If you have to increase your debt – and your stress level – in order to keep up with the Joneses, then that competition may actually be unhealthy for you.

In fact, it could actually keep you poor.

Want to break the keeping-up-with-the-Joneses cycle?

Here are a few tips to help you stay in control whenever a neighbor’s latest toy or a new set of clothes makes you feel the urge to splurge:

* Think about what matters Jot down five things you have in your life: a great spouse, loving parents, adorable kids, a cool boss, etc. – that money didn’t buy. Now focus on those positives and realize that nothing you buy can make you as happy as those special things do.

* Stuff wont make you happy – Show the Joneses that you – and they – don’t need stuff to make them happy. Invite those friends who have it all over for a potluck dinner or movie night with the family. Quality time together can help everyone remember that it’s people, and not things, that make us happy.

* Treat Yourself Pull out your family budget and remind yourself how good it feels to be in control of your finances. Hopefully, your budget includes some monthly “mad money.” Treat yourself to a little something uplifting, but reasonably priced.