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How To Reduce Your Expenses And Debt

So many people are overwhelmed with debt because they purchased too many ‘wants’ instead of recognizing the difference between ‘wants’ versus ‘needs’. That statement can be used to fill-in-the-blank for almost every mistake made by people – which got them into too much debt.

  • Purchased a new car instead of used
  • Bought ‘too much’ of a vehicle instead of one not quite so expensive
  • Cost of a ‘giant’ flat screen TV versus a ‘normal’ size
  • Cumulative cost of eating out versus eating in (do it yourself)
  • Cumulative cost of groceries when buying too much ‘junk’ versus other foods
  • Paying a monthly rental fee on a storage locker, full of stuff they never use and only occasionally visit
  • Using a credit card to buy stuff (too easy), instead of cash on hand
  • (you get the idea)

There are some bad decisions that impact your expenses more than others. One example is purchasing a vehicle with payments that could have been substantially less if you had not succumbed to your desire to buy the ‘fancy’ model (or whatever). Those payments will stick with you for many years.

Paycheck to paycheck. That’s how the majority of people live. It doesn’t have to be that way. There are ways to reduce your expenses so that you don’t have to live that way.

But first, it quite simply comes down to this…

Don’t Spend More Money Than You Take Home

It’s so ridiculously simple. That is, don’t spend more than your ‘take home’ pay.

You must be able to not only live within your means, but live BELOW your means. What does that mean? Don’t spend more money than you take home. In fact, spend much less than you take home, so you can pay down your debt, and/or save some money.

Reduce Expenses By Identifying Wants versus Needs

If you are going to be able to decrease or get rid of your debt completely, you must have a good grasp of this…  You have to be able to distinguish between a ‘want’ and a ‘need’.

This means that you must be honest with yourself.

The first thing you must do is… Take a step back and really take an objective look at your spending habits.  You need to be completely honest with yourself.

EVERY purchase that you contemplate, MUST be viewed through a strong lens.

EVERY time, you must ask yourself the following questions…

Why do I need this?

…to help you realize if this is really a want or a need.

What will I do with this?

…will reinforce the answer to ‘why’.

Are there alternatives to this?

…force you to think of other ways or solutions, perhaps less expensive.

What would happen to me if I did not buy this?

…will you suffer without it? How badly? Could you do without or find another way?

The truth is, lots of what we buy is not really necessary. When you have set yourself a goal to eliminate your debt, you can accomplish it much quicker by reducing your expenses to the bone, so to speak. Do without, for awhile. Adapt. Find other ways. Buy used. Purchase less costly foods for awhile. Motivate yourself to change your spending habits so that you can use this extra cash to more quickly pay down your debt. Downsize.

Being debt free from credit cards, car loans, etc., should be a high priority for those who wish to escape the system – the parasitic system that wants you in debt and wants you as a host that they can feed on. Once you are free from this, you will be stunned with the sense of freedom that will go along with it.

The road to becoming debt-free does not have to be miserable. Learn to enjoy the process of being frugal. Learn to enjoy seeing that debt balance going down…

39 Comments

    1. The Pharos took it with them. Of course, it was of no use to them. But they did live large!

      Probably the wrong message for the article.

  1. Watch your hobbies. Select only those activities that you can afford. Ask yourself: “Why am I doing this? If you are not having fun, Why are you doing it in the first place?” Years ago, competition shooting became like this for me. The epitome of this was when I was shooting Palma Match Rifle in California’s Central Valley in the Summer. Climbing into a shooting jacket in order to shoot at a target 1000 yards away on a hot summer day was not fun. Given a choice, I would rather be fishing for bass and catfish at a local lake using inexpensive spin-casting gear and a SOT kayak. The highest I placed was 3rd at Palma Match Rifle before I stopped attending matches. These days, in times of shortage, I do not compete in anything anymore. Fortunately, I still have the purchasing habits of a match shooter. (PHD- Pile it Higher and Deeper). Lately, I have had to reign in those habits as well. Long ago I talked of purchasing and using a Dillon 550 RLB. I sold it when I stopped competing in PPC matches. When the machine went away, several people that came to reload stopped coming over as well. This cut down on the money I spent on food and beer as well. (The machine is not here fella’s, You gotta go somewhere else. I am out of the game now)
    I still like checking out new products on the market. You will not see me at the SHOT show in Vegas. I am another old guy at my local range handing out 22 long rifle to parents/grandparents shooting with their children.

  2. Followup questions:
    Does this support an additional income stream?

    Is this part of this year’s prepping or infrastructure goals?

    Is this on the buy “x” quantity when price is at or below “y” list? (we set aside funds to take advantage of excellent pricing on preidentified items like PM’s, plywood, fencing, a food items that periodically go on deep sale, clothing, work boots).

    1. My parents tought us 6 kids how to spot deals like that, especially on needed items. She would’ve loved Grocery Outlet. We often got the day olds from the local bakery for treats.

  3. Differing situations will require differing evaluations of want/need. For example, do I need or want that ham radio? Is it for maintaining comms with VIPs or is it just a fun thing? Maybe you have a ham neighbor and can barter with him to utilize his equipment? Nothing wrong with being able to contact your neighbor with cheaper comms gear (vhf), then having him “relay” your messages with something more expensive (hf). It does make you dependent upon your neighbor, so ……?

    There are less expensive ways to deal with comms. Almost every ham out there has some form of 2m fm. Relatively inexpensive and easy to use. Very easy license to get. Then again, buy once and cry once. My opinion is comms are a necessity. It is likely a barterable thing. If comms go down, well, ya don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone. I’d encourage everyone to figure something out.

  4. Make do with what you got and you won’t miss what you don’t got. My dad always said that.

  5. The best thing I ever did was start tracking how every penny was spent. It was the thing that made my DH realize what I had been telling him – we needed to have a budget. We started to have a discussion the 1st of every year to set a budget. What home project or projects would we tackle. What vacation would we take. Now we’re debt free, sort of retired and living in fishing and hunting heaven. So also keep your LT goals in mind.

  6. DW and I were up to our eyeballs in debt several years ago and were barely paying our bills before the cut off notice. We worked our tails off to get out of debt and didn’t buy anything if we did not have the cash on hand for several years. Today all we have is a payment on a used truck for her and we pay more than the minimum payment each month. We don’t have much money now but we can pay our bills on time and buy groceries by the case when they are on sale. And a box of ammo on occasion. I have been breaking down pallets for lumber for a project at home. We save scrap metal to make some extra money. We put our change in a box and save it for a rainy day.

    1. Car guy ,
      Yes! change adds up quickly. adding all of any one denomination to that stash will multiply it as well.
      I know someone who collects every 1$ bill and stashes those…at a certain point exchanges for bigger bills or one of those shiney coins.

  7. Today I’m debt free, but it wasn’t easy.

    All those yrs of commercial farming, I carried millions in debt, land, machinery, fertilizer taxes livestock, fuel and on and on.

    I made a lot of money using debt to get WAY ahead. Debt allowed me to make moves that made a lot of money. Debt is a tool if used correctly.

    I started to payout in 2008. It took 10yrs, was a very real struggle. It was a lot of money. My ranch is leased out until 2030, for quite enough to live comfortable on plus add more to savings.

    I retired in 2018, debt free. No CC cards, real estate, all charge accts paid, plus I helped both my kids buy a house.

    2023, I don’t owe even $.10. Don’t have any of my money in any financial institute. Have spent some on PM, and other prepping stuff.

    Getting rid of that stress of owing that much has made a huge difference in my Positive Mental Attitude

  8. To those just starting the process of getting out of debt:The very first thing one must do is assess their personal situation. Commit to a plan,and Set goals.
    other ideas: Attacking debt by sections, gives quicker rewards.(one goal could be to pay off all small loans.)another could be to pay certain$ amount on major bill every month for 6 months…reducing principal and interest.
    Start with strict, rigid program, after a major goal is accomplished,Grant a reward for each section of progress.( add a low cost reward for entire family-like.. local outing a day @ state park, take meals as picnic.)
    Cut out all the “Add On’s” to routine expenses.
    Pay off highest interest debts first.
    Late charges is also a big expense, fees stack up quickly. By avoiding paying them, over a few months a reserve can enable all to be paid on time.
    SLASH magazine and subscription of non essentials.Learn to differentiate.
    Reduce your cell phone,tv and internet to basic service or cut it completely…to each his own, one size does not fit all ppl or situations.
    Keep all entertainment at home! This cuts travel expenses and impulse buying.
    Find something you can do daily to nourish yourself..a special home brewed coffee, devotional time.. Take time to reward yourself daily.
    For family rewards:Have a popcorn and movie/dvd OR choose/rotate game night, homemade pizza,date nights.Purchase cannister drink mix for splurge drinks once weekly.Drink water!
    Before any major purchase, evaluate and wait 24-48 hours.
    No take out food: Cook and serve Basic food.learn and practice scratch cooking.,..ie,Hamburger skillet dinners-make your own using your preferred seasonings. substitute sausage to these to make variations with different meat/seasoning and fillers. study recipes of your favorites and mimic those with home cooking. recipe books and on line searches are your friend.
    Your diligence will pay off.You are worth the effort.

  9. What would happen to me if I did not buy this?

    that’s the best question up there.

    I’m gonna give that to the grandkids !!!

  10. The biggest destroyers of family finance that I have observed in other families are:
    1) Divorce
    2) Child support
    3) Pay day loans
    4) Online gambling
    5) Medical care
    6) Drug use addiction
    7) Co-signing college loans
    8) Credit cards

  11. Recently it has been better to buy a new car. Interest rates were lower, 1-2 percent new, and you are buying a vehicle with no miles vs. one with 20k. All ass backward, but used vehicles wer more expensive than a comparative new model. Fjb

  12. I find that I break things down into how many hours do I have to work to buy an item. Figure out how much you take home per hour after you pay tax’s savings ( pay yourself first ) Ect then just use simple math. I have to work X amount of hours to buy that. If you are willing to work those hours buy it. I found by doing that it put things into a different light. Now I have no debt. Homes,cars, everything else is paid. It’s a good feeling

  13. Reply to IMOW: Save that brass for 35 Whelan! It can be reloaded. Start by obtaining dies and a shell holder. With 40 pieces of brass that was once-fired and dies and shell holder, any competent reloader can get those rounds reloaded. (the only piece of equipment I would need is a pilot for the case trimmer as I do not yet have one in 35 caliber). From my time living on the coast near the ocean: “a boat is a hole in the water in which you pour money”. This pertains to any boat that has motor, engine or sails. I limit myself to kayaks and canoes these days though I will consider the 12 volt trolling motor on the back of a canoe. (saves a lot of time and effort to get to where the fish are). No waterskiing for this old coot. My brother is a tech bro in that he is a software engineer. He has been doing it a long time and he told me of a saying in the Silicon Valley decades ago: The 2 signs that you are making too much money: A mistress and a cocaine habit. I was a park ranger at the time so I could not relate. His friends were fascinated to meet a guy living and working off grid. Pretty funny at the time.

  14. Recently I had someone ask me why I going to put a new engine in my Jeep Comanche truck. Instead of buying a new truck?
    Well a new truck would be more than I paid for the house I own. And a new engine is less than a month of payment and insurance on the new one.
    And the 1988 truck has been maintained properly. At 300000 miles, it still does what it was meant to do. Actually many people have wanted to buy it.
    But the fact it has been so reliable, is one reason I own my house, and other property.
    I owe nothing, and have plenty of cash to take advantage of opportunity.
    I have lived within my mean’s, and now enjoy being debt free.

    1. Nice, sounds like a good opportunity to do some clean up on the -plumbing too, those older comanches are pretty nice little trucks if not rusted
      😎🤙🏻

  15. Like so many others have said,” living within your mean’s”. Not trying to keep up with the Jonses. Start Life with a plan, we bought our first house with a 30 year lone. We bought our second house with a 15 year lone. Having our house paid off at the age of 50 maid life real good and the rest of our bills were gone shortly after. We were able to retire at 60 and enjoy life now. Make things work like your marriage don’t just give up and start over, work together. It will pay off in the long run.

  16. I used to buy whatever was cheapest. After more experience than i care to acknowledge, I believe most of the time its about best for the money. Spending a little more for better quality has paid off long term for us. A lot of good thoughts on this from all.

    1. Yep, the all american is an example that we use a lot. Another was me buying cheep tires from china-mart (long ago).

  17. We are completely debt free, but as a homemaker, I am always looking for ways to reduce our household expenses. We try to do most services ourselves, such as haircuts, oil changes, appliance repairs. We don’t have cable, satellite, or any streaming services, just rabbit ears. I very rarely use the clothes dryer; laundry is either hung outside, or inside with the woodstove. Eating out is rare. One thing I do splurge on is quality clothing. We tried the cheaper clothing, such as the Wal-Mart, but found it just didn’t hold up. I invest in LL Bean, Duluth, and Carhartt for good quality clothing that will last more than three wearings. 90% of our meals are made from scratch, using what we grow, or what has been grown/raised by local farmers. My 2011 Silverado will need to be replaced in the near future. We are looking for a used one.

    1. In the Mitten – Carhartt forced their employees to get vaxecuted. FYI. And in my experience their quality has tanked since ten years ago, change management, lots of MBA’s (mediocre but arrogant) running the show now.

      1. Tmac,

        I started noticing a lot of young folks wearing Carhart clothing awhile back, then noticed a few online articles saying that it is a new fashion fad. I personally never particularly liked Carhart clothing…not because of lack of quality, but because for me, it was just too stiff and took too long to break in to where it was comfortable to wear.

  18. You load 16 tons, what do you get?
    Another day older and deeper in debt
    St. Peter, don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
    I owe my soul to the company store.

    Someone said, ‘before you purchase, think about how many hours you work to pay for it’….before it becomes a necessity.
    Good advice.

    Been working at a good paying job now, quarterly bonuses, for over a year….
    …I’m still a cheep spender, as ever.
    My bonus checks all get cashed and buried.
    No new(er) vehicle, the 05 I have, gets me to work.
    No new(er) tractor, the ’54 does its job, as well as I can expect.

    Roof, fat animals, provisions, hard work, still cussing items/days….

    if you can get by with what you have, and not to expect, want/wish for the better, more costly item.

    just getting by & livin’ the dream

  19. No restaurant meals/coffee shop items, no dry cleaning (home washer works fine), coffee and tea at home, meals from grocery store or cook at home, I don’t run a vehicle so taxis and local transit when required, student type clothing as I am almost retired, buy stuff on sale. I own 2 pairs of walking shoes and replace them as required, plus two pairs of winter boots plus one pair of pool flip flops. Gifts and charity are zero as I de-clutter and give sale able items to the thrift store to sell as my de-cluttering strategy. Thankfully I have no kids to support or pay for college, set up their first apartment and thus no grand kids will require me to fund their schooling. Medical expenses will increase as I age due to my health issues. I spend zero on hair cuts as I have a simple style and do it myself and spend no money on hair dye as silver is nice and natural. With the travel and airline disasters my travel budget is zero and I have no desire to go anywhere until this gets sorted out. My condo fees are high but we have an indoor pool and gym which I use thus no additional gym membership. Groceries are about $800 per month.

  20. Very well said. There’s also the “peace” factor knowing that if a pandemic hit and you were without a job it will be ok. Debt free isn’t easy, but it sure beats worrying how you will pay the bills and dealing with creditors calling when you can’t.

  21. I’ve been debt free since 2007. I ran into some big money problems in the late 90’s and it took until 2007 to pay it all out. I had no idea of how to manage money so my debt load was very high. Once I came through it (without a bankruptcy I might add), I finally understood money and how to manage it. I have since followed the sage advice as above. Is it a want or a need? Hardest lesson I had to learn was to be honest with myself and don’t fall for the taunting of others about not “keeping up with the Jones'”. I think that debt spending is no less an addiction any drug. “Just 5 easy payments of XXX per month” that’s a hell of a garden path to go down!!

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