Are You Living Beyond Your Means?
Posted by Gail | Filed under Debt Traps
We’re in a pickle. We aren’t saving enough and we’re carrying record levels of debt. Not just mortgage debt, though many of us have more than we can manage in terms of mortgage payments. Noooo. We’re carrying record levels of debt on our lines of credit, our credit cards, and the plain-ol’-boring loans. Why? Simple. We’ve forgotten how to live within our means. We’re ricocheting out of control, spending money we’ve yet to earn. We’re buying STUFF we think we NEED, when all we’re doing, really, is scratching our consumer itch. I mean to say, do you really NEED a TV? Do you really NEED another pair of pants? Do you really NEED that better-than-ever cell phone, camera or power saw?
The fact that we can’t seem to get to the end of the month before we get to the end of the money should be our first clue. And the folks who have borrowed… well, they just can’t seem to figure out how to repay the money they have borrowed and have a life at the same time. Not surprising, really.
So what clues might there be that you’re living beyond your means?
Are you saving less than 10% of your net income? Yes. Then you’re living beyond your means. You see, if someone in your family were to have a medical emergency or a blip in their employment, if your roof were to leak or your car give up the ghost, if you should have to cope with a major move, the care of an aging relative, or educational expenses, you’d be up a creek without a paddle. Right GA? Ideally, you should save as much as you can, with 10% of your gross income being a guide.
Are the balances on your credit cards or lines of credit rising? Yes. Then you’re living beyond your means. Paying only the minimum on your credit cards or lines of credit while you continue to increase the balance you owe is a sure sign you’re a dope. When, exactly, are you going to have the money to finally get rid of the debt? Is some magical wand-waving fairy god mother going to pop into your world and woosh away your debt? Or do you figure that a windfall is in your future? Hey, WAKE UP! If you have a $5,000 credit card balance at 18.9% and make a minimum payment of just 2.5% per month, you’ll end up forking over almost $8,000 in interest over the 25 years it takes you to pay off the balance.
GA owes $95,000. Let’s say she’s averaging an interest rate of just 11%. And let’s say she makes a payment of $2850 a month (ouch!) It’ll cost her almost $19,000 in interest and take 40 months to pay off the debt. Over-extended? I guess so.
Are you missing payments on bills? This is a sure way to ruin your credit rating and increase your interest costs. And it’s a sure sign you’re living beyond your means. If you don’t have a handle on what your monthly bills are, and what it’ll take in income to keep current, then it’s time to get with the program. Get out all the bills that have to be paid every month and make a list. Rank the bills in order of priority. You HAVE to pay your electricity bill, but you don’t HAVE to have premium cable (or any cable for that matter.) Okay, now deduct your HAVE TO PAY amounts from your monthly income in order of importance. When you run out of money, cancel everything else.
Are you taking cash advances on your credit cards? Yes. Then you’re living beyond your means. Cash advances, putting your groceries on credit, applying for new cards so you can transfer balances so you can fool yourself into thinking you’re paying your debt are all signs that you’re in BIG TROUBLE.
I know it’s easy to get credit. I know it’s nice to have what you want when you want it. And I know everyone else is doing it. But just because they’re all walking off the edge of the precipice doesn’t mean you should follow them. And if you’ve been walking in lock-step with a bunch of fools who can’t control their spending to the point that they put themselves and their families at risk, then it’s time to change your pace.
You don’t have to be a follower. You don’t have to continue to do what all the other dopes are doing. You can stop the insanity, take control of your future, and commit to living within your means. I know you can. Do you know you can?