Living Debt-Free Series - Part 2

In Part 1 of this series I shared with you how to stay debt free and steps you need to take to ensure that you are not reliant upon credit/debt.  In this part of the series, I will share ideas and tips on how you can live within and even below your means.

To live within or below your means follow these basic ideas:

                Within Your Means                                              Below Your Means
  1. Pay 10% Tithe and Give Offerings              Pay 10% Tithe, Give Offerings + Extra
  2. Housing at 35% or below income               Housing at 25% or below of income
  3. Save on Utilities as you can                        Cut costs drastically; Basics, cut out luxuries
  4. Keep car maintained & plan trips               Same but also stay home more
  5. Keep insurance costs low                            Same but consider high-deductible plans
  6. Buy discounted personal items                   Get creative and make your own
  7. Plan meals, Shop sales                               Cut down your meat, make more homemade
  8. Shop clothing sales                                     Buy used, shop yard sales, trade
  9. Eat out only a few times a month               Don't eat out, do free things for recreation

Some of you may be wondering why I had giving more under "Below Your Means" column - well that is simple - what you give comes back to you and it really is true!  The saying goes that if you never send a ship out, it can't come back to you.

For housing, it really is up to the family in what you want.  Do you want a larger house and then not save as much and spend less in other areas OR would you rather have a smaller or lower-priced home and be able to save more, do more and have other things?  With a larger home, comes higher utility costs of electric and gas, so you have to remember to factor those in as well.  Also, you need to think about property taxes and homeowner's insurance when counting the cost of your larger home.  You can usually save significantly with a smaller home and still be comfortable.

Other than the varying electric and gas utilities that I talked about, there is water, sewer, garbage, phone, internet and cable.  Water is based on usage, so it is easy to save there - just stop using so much and find ways to cut down.  I wash all my dishwasher loads on the lightest setting to save costs - it really doesn't matter as the lightest still gets everything just as clean as the highest but at a much lower cost in water and electricity.  Garbage can be saved by only using one can and you can do this with a large family by also having a recycling container.  You can cut phone expenses by just having a landline phone and a Tracfone for emergencies when out.  We only spend $120 a year for a cell phone and then my husband's employer provides him with a free cell phone for work that he can use to call me a few times a day.  These days you can go without cable because you can pretty much find cheaper ways to get your shows online.  We never did have cable but we think internet is a necessity in today's world and we like the highest speed, so we found a great deal by negotiating the costs.  I was able to negotiate the costs down and lock in the rate for a year.  Then every year, I have to call and negotiate again and it is a hassle but after it is over, we have the rate locked in for another year.

With transportation, you need to plan your trips that would give you the most cost-effective use of gas.  If you run an errand everyday, you will be wasting a lot of gas.  Why not plan your trips into one day a week?  Also keeping your vehicle maintained will help keep it running longer and thereby save you money on repairs.  Study Consumer Reports and learn which used cars have the best reliability so that you won't have it in the shop all the time.  Staying home more obviously saves you more in gas and wear on your vehicle.  We drive an almost 12-year old car and it only has 102,000 miles on it!

I've already discussed in detail on how to save on various medical plans in this post.  Basically, save as much as you can and costs will vary depending upon risk level.  The best is usually an HSA high-deductible plan.

With personal items in your budget you can save a lot by simply making your own or using generic products.  I used to buy a lot of things I didn't really need and since cutting them out - I don't even miss them, except for my Satsuma Body Shop body butter.  I tried cutting my husband's hair but I was never successful but I do cut my son's hair to save money.

Food is one area you can really save a lot of money in if you are willing to sacrifice.  You can eat meat everyday but you will spend more unless you stretch the meat or use the meat as a condiment rather than the main dish.  We prefer to save meat as a 2-3 times a week thing and save the extra money.  You can also save by buying in bulk things like flour, rice, spices/herbs, beans, etc.  You can also save by making a lot of homemade items and that also saves on health costs as you are healthier by eating no or less processed foods.  Read how we are feeding our family of 4 on $200 a month here:

With clothing you can shop for the best bargains or you can buy used and/or make your own.  I shopped yard sales last summer and got name-brand pants and tops for 50 cents to a dollar.  I wish I had gone this summer but I didn't get out to search for the next size up, so now I'm trying to find ways to get the most bang for my buck.  I had saved my "skinny" clothes and now my 10 year old daughter can fit into them - so guess who won't be buying much clothes for the next 8 years or so?

With recreation or fun money it really is up to you how much you want to spend.  You can limit eating out or not eat out at all.  You can only do things that are free for family recreation or do low-cost things.  You can buy used books or just use your library.  It really is up to each family how much they want to spend and then you go from there to find things that work with your budgeted amount.