Spend Less, Live Better

On Saturday Night Live, Steve Martin did a funny skit about not buying things if we don’t have the money. What made it funny, was how perplexed he was at the suggestion. The suggestion of « Don’t buy it if you don’t have the money » seemed completely alien to him.

But, some of the nicest moments, that create lasting memories in life, are free.


Gentleman enjoying the outdoors on Old Town Plaza, Fort Collins. Photo by Author

With so much money spent on advertising, on all forms of media, most people have very little chance of resisting these pressures on their own. This is why it’s easier said than done to spend less than you earn. But here are five tips and tricks to help you spend less, while living much better and healthier.

  • Don’t: Compare yourself to others
  • Instead: Remember that others with « nice things » may be drowning in debt and stressed out

Find a quote that you like, and repeat it to yourself when looking at someone else’s car/home/vacation with envy. I like Bob Marley’s quote « Some people are so poor, all they have is money »

  • Don’t: Let your job determine your lifestyle
  • Instead: Let your lifestyle determine your job

What do we do as soon as we get a better job, or a raise? Well we start spending more, automatically. Instead of going on auto pilot, you should take control of your spending and invest the difference. Higher-paying jobs are harder to come by, and if you learn to live with less, you enjoy more options and less stress. So enjoy that higher-paying job or raise, but keep your spending as it was previously and bank the difference.

  • Don’t: Tell yourself « I work hard, I deserve this »
  • Instead: Tell yourself « I deserve to be free from work I don’t enjoy »

If you feel you need to buy yourself something to compensate for the work you’re doing (other than the paycheck) then you’re probably not enjoying it. Worse yet is signing a long-term lease on an expensive car, that’s going to make you feel good for a few months. Now you’ve locked yourself into a cycle of working harder and « deserving » more things.

  • Don’t: Live to work
  • Instead: Work to live

« If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. » – Marc Anthony

The above quote is idealistic, but true. If you’re not doing something you enjoy and is natural to you, something you might say you “love” doing, then it’s even more important to have a plan to move on to something else. But it’s certainly OK to work a job you don’t love for a while, if you have a very clear goal in mind.

  • Don’t: Come home from work and veg on social media or watching TV
  • Instead: Go outside

Being active increases your energy and creativity significantly. So go outside for walks, watching people on the town square, or long hikes if you can. You’ll be doing good for your mind and body, while possibly coming up with the next « big thing ».

So, don’t be like Steve Martin, and nearly everyone else. I challenge you to use these tips as part of your Four Habits for Lifelong Happiness. You’ll enjoy more freedom, time with friends and family, and happiness as a result.

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