Besides eating healthy, a large challenge facing everyday Americans is living within his or her means. With advertising in every aspect of our virtual lives, it may be very tempting to purchase that shiny new Movado or that extravagant Louis Vuitton handbag that all of your coworkers are flaunting around the office.

 However, not everyone can afford such luxuries. Experiencing the rush  from spending money on an impulse buy is certainly a powerful motivator. Unfortunately, the feeling is wrecked by reality when you receive the dreaded bill for all of your impulse purchases.  It may seem like common sense to spend what you can afford or have allocated, but common sense isn’t always common. Many ignore this basic rule and don’t realize that with every impulse buy beyond their means is another foot they are digging themselves into the hole of debt.

Let’s face it, it’s hard not being able to buy exactly what you want. However it’s even harder when you can’t pay your electric bill, your mortgage, or even worse, your taxes.

My first suggestion is that every family and/or individual should have a budget. If you open up Microsoft Excel or Microsoft Word, there are plenty of templates for budgeting graphs that can be used to help you and your family. By allocating a certain amount of money for each expense, you will know how much you can spend on a certain thing or category. There’s no guessing about how much to spend, and you face the realization of how much you can really spend before you have the burden of mounting debt. With this budget, you also be able to see if you need more sources of income to cover certain expenses. A budget, you will also help you see if you need to cut back on other luxuries such as cable, vacation homes, dining, car payments, etc. In the end, everything depends on how much income you bring to the table and this knowledge power.

This leads me to my next piece of information which is staying competitive with each market. Cars, cable, and even food services are all very competitive nowadays. Look in your local flyer or even turn on the local news channel, and you will see the hundreds of commercials played or printed every day, incentivizing you to use their company because there is a chance of saving money. For example, if you are not making a six-figure salary and you do not have a source of income to pay for a Mercedes,  then you should look into more affordable options. It seems simple, however many people do not follow the simple rule. In the end, they’re only making the credit card companies richer, not themselves. The bottom line is live within your means and always negotiate for a better rate!

Another excellent way of saving money is using coupons. You’d be amazed to learn how many people do not use the coupons that are sent to them in the mail with hundreds of dollars of savings within each packet, or even doing a quick Google search for an online retailer’s coupon code. It takes seconds and can save you hundreds. By using coupons, you are getting the most for each dollar you spend on something. The wrong mind frame to have is for you to say,”Oh I’m only saving a dollar on this product.”  My response to that is to shop in bundles and see how quickly those dollars add up!  Most people don’t go to the supermarket to get one thing and then leave. If you use that coupon along with many other coupons you will be shocked by how much you can actually save. Coupons save money and help you live with more money in your pocket, not the supermarket’s pocket. Think of coupons as free money, are you willing to let that slip through your fingertips? You wouldn’t leave food money on the floor, why are you doing that with coupons?

Although there are hundreds of ways you can find to save money, perhaps one of my favorite ways is actually, saving not spending. That’s right; do not spend every dime you make on your paycheck. After the essential bills are paid, don’t go out to Bloomingdale’s or some other overpriced retail store and swipe that credit card like there’s no tomorrow. You’re not doing yourself a favor. The smart option would be to save as much as you can in a savings account, just in case there is an unforeseen event in the future in which cash is needed immediately.

By saving money, you’re setting yourself up for success. Pick an amount that you are comfortable with and create an automatic transfer into your savings account so the money is out of sight and out of mind. Although it might be rather depressing after making your budget and having to see that you don’t have enough income to go out and buy that fancy watch or that fancy handbag, at least you know you can sleep well at night because you’re not burdened with debt. You will be pleasantly surprised at how fast that savings account grows when you aren’t looking and stressing about how much to save each week.

The world is a competitive place. Make sure you tap into your competitive side and do everything in your power to make sure that you are not spending more than you have to. At the end of the day, you and your family reap the benefits.

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