How to Stop Living Beyond Your Means

How to stop living beyond your means

Many times we don’t even realize that we’re living beyond our means. We’re making our car and credit card payments on time each month, so we’re doing great. (Or so we think.)

It’s only when something unexpected or drastic happens that the reality hits. We lose our jobs, and it takes longer than we’d ever imagined to find a new one. Or we’re hit with medical bills. Suddenly we can’t seem to make ends meet any longer, and we wish we didn’t have those bills.

If you want to stop living beyond your means, the obvious answer is to stop spending more than you make. But in order to do that effectively, you need to examine why you’ve been living beyond your means. Go beyond the superficial when doing so.

Suppose you got laid off. Don’t just say, “Well the economy’s bad and I got laid off and had to borrow to pay my bills.”

Dig deeper

Why did you have to borrow to pay your bills? Were you missing an emergency fund? Was it inadequate? Had you bought a car, figuring you could afford it because you could make the payments? Were you assuming that you would always be able to make them? Did you ignore the possibility of multiple things going wrong at once, or a worse-case scenario happening?

Or suppose that you just woke up one day and realized that you’ve been living beyond your means. If you can’t think of a particular even that was the trigger, it might just be a matter of your not having paid attention to your income and expenses.

Either way, look for factors that were within your control, and see what you could have done differently. Then see what you can do to change things, both now and in the future. Once you focus on things that are within your control (as opposed to focusing on outside factors like the economy), you become empowered to make changes in those areas.

Make changes

In order to stop spending more than you earn, you’ll have to take things like emergencies and irregular events into account. There isn’t a single person in the world that will get through life without experiencing at least one emergency. Most of us will experience more than one, and many unplanned or irregular events. Since these things are going to happen, plan for them.

If you look at your bills and don’t have any wiggle room, start brainstorming ways to make extra money and seeking out areas to cut. Wiggle room won’t just appear — it has to be created.

Be patient and persistent. Take things one day at a time. Every day that you change your behavior brings you one day closer to making a permanent change.


  • Good advice, I keep telling people that they need to build up an emergency fund so that when things happen they have a little room to manoeuvre.

  • Jackie, I think that you made the most important point with the subtitle ”make changes”. That is the most important aspect of getting out of debt and living within your means, yet is the most difficult aspect of both.

  • Such wonderful post. Sometimes, we tend to live lavishly and it is too late when we realize we could have lived a simpler life and prepare for our future rather than living too much comfort temporarily.

  • Anastasia

    Just recently I have been throwing in my largest coins into a money pot. Getting change back from the store or recycled bottles is a pick me up, because it goes in my jar. I have been surprised how much I have been able to save in a week or so. Out of sight out of mind, from my wallet to the pot, and then to the bank. It’s working well.