As virtually every financial book will tell you, the golden rule of personal finances is “Spend less than you earn.” In order to get out of debt or create wealth, there must be a gap between the money coming into your bank account and the money going out of your account. There are two ways widen the gap: 1) earn more and 2) spend less. Many, many wonderful resources are devoted to earning more and spending less, but I have found that the subject of “spending less” is often deglamorized. There is a tendency to view it as drudgery, as something that will significantly reduce your quality of life. But I beg to differ – I believe we can strategically spend fewer dollars while also crafting a joyful life infused with beauty.
fresh flowers from the garden
I use seven primary strategies to reduce my spending while living beautifully:
1) Look at the numbers every morning.
Yes, every morning. I know some people might argue that reviewing their personal finances every morning would significantly lower their quality of life, but a fresh cup of strong, hot coffee makes everything better 🙂 And if you actually do it every morning, it’s a habit — so you don’t really have to think about it — and it will take less than five minutes.
As part of your morning routine, log into the financial software of your choice and record or review your financial transactions from the previous day. I also like make a mental note of how much money is in our checking and savings account, and to look at a snapshot of our net worth. It sounds so simple, but staying on top of our household finances changes the way I spend our money throughout the day. It also makes staying a budget much easier, because I can catch bad spending patterns before they escalate into huge problems.
Note: if you’re married, it’s ideal for both of you to review the numbers every day! This will help you to stay on the same page financially and to work together as a team.
2) Get organized.
I’ve found that organization, planning, and a well-crafted routine dramatically reduce spending while actually increasing quality of life. Think about it: it is a delight to relax in clean and clutter-free environment, and if you actually know where all of your possessions are, it prevents unnecessary duplicate purchases. If you come home to an immaculate kitchen that is beautifully organized (easier said than done, I know!!), it can be a pleasure to cook dinner, whereas a chaotic kitchen increases the temptation to just go out for dinner so you don’t have to look at the mess.
3) Practice patience.
We often pay a premium for convenience. Having a bit of patience can really lower your spending without sacrificing quality. Take the time to read reviews to make sure that you’re buying a lasting product that perfectly suites your needs, instead of buying something that will break in four months and wasn’t really what you wanted anyway. Likewise, it only takes a few extra minutes to make an amazing cup of aero- or French- press coffee from freshly ground beans instead of popping a pod into your Keurig machine, and the price (not to mention the taste) is significantly better.
4) Use what you have.
I’m continually astounded by how much money I save when I intentionally use and enjoy what I have **before** I purchase something new. I often have the perception that I’m insanely low on a particular household item (be it a dried good, paper item, cleaner – whatever), but more often than not, I find that if I actually commit to completely using up what I already own, I usually eliminate the need to shop for that item altogether for several weeks or even several months.
5) Savor simple pleasures.
Spritz lavender essential oil on your pillow before you go to sleep. Surprise your spouse with a Saturday morning “date” by serving them breakfast in bed. Bust out the crystal goblets you received as a wedding present for an everyday dinner. There are so many simple ways to enrich your life that cost mere pennies, and by allowing yourself to luxuriate in inexpensive pleasures, it lowers the temptation to treat yourself in expensive ways.
6) Prioritize presentation.
Beautiful presentation can make inexpensive items and experiences seem like they cost a lot more that they actually do. Artistically arranging dinner on a pretty plate with a sprig of fresh herbs will instantly make it feel more like a restaurant experience. Bulk Epsom salts are ridiculously cheap at any store, but when you throw them in a pretty glass jar and add a beautiful ribbon, you suddenly have a luxurious and gift-worthy spa product.
7) Pray first.
I put this one last, but honestly, it probably belongs at the top of the list. If you have a personal relationship with God, one of the best things you can do to get your finances under control is to pray to before you make any financial decisions and to be open to God’s answer. Seriously. Pray when you first wake up in the morning. Pray before you go to the grocery store. Pray when you go do bed at night. Ask God to give you financial wisdom. Ask Him to teach you how to spend the money that He’s given you in a way that brings Him glory. Ask Him to show you how you can spend more efficiently. Ask Him to increase your desire for Him, and to decrease your desire for material possessions. If you’ve never done this, try it for a month and see what happens!
What strategies do you use to live beautifully while spending less?
Have you ever included God in your financial decisions?