If you have a budget that just won’t work, something’s got to give. Many people change the budget in this situation. But I’m going to suggest the novel idea that instead of reworking the budget, you rework your life instead. This will be harder for some readers than others, as professional and family connections make big changes difficult. But for a certain kind of reader, this won’t be hard at all, and others will find that personal finance is important enough to warrant some drastic action. Here’s what I’m talking about.
Budget gurus tend to make budgeting all about lifestyle. They tell you to eat out less. They tell you to save more. They tell you to live on rice and beans for the next 10 years, thriving on the knowledge that you have so much self-control. This writer has never been able to live that way. Instead, it can work a lot better for many people to simply change the game. For some people, this starts with moving.
You can save thousands of dollars every year simply by moving to another city or region. Different areas have wildly different cost of living standards. If you live in an expensive area, it’s like a tax that you pay on everything you do. This “tax” is often many times higher than any money demanded by your state and federal governments, and people pay it simply because they’ve never thought about doing otherwise. But what if you just moved? There are cheap American cities that have a lot of room for new residents. Get in on the ground floor, and you could save tens of thousands on food, housing, and lifestyle expenses, just within a couple of years.
Most consumers are also paying for things they no longer use or remember. I’m talking here about things like online entertainment subscriptions, or those mail-order razorblades you forgot to cancel. These subscriptions are all the rage, and more and more online retailers are offering this as an option. It’s best to take a careful look at your online spending statements to figure out if you are making payments that you are not aware of. An hour’s work can save you hundreds of dollars in the next year.
Similar auto-drafted payments for unwanted services are a big news story in England. PPI is a kind of insurance that got sneaked into a bunch of standard financial contracts. So thousands of people signed up for it (and paid for it every month) without even knowing about it or wanting it. This has given rise to a lot of lawsuits, and several class actions options are available to people who have PPI and don’t want it.
As you can see, there are a variety of big (and detail-oriented) changes which and free up your budget in a way that simple self-control and fun-denial can’t. If you’re able to identify and commit to these changes, you’ll be on your way to a much better personal finance lifestyle, without having to change your behavior much at all.