In last week’s blog we discussed how to live within your means and generate positive cash flow by conservatively estimating your INCOME. But that’s only half of the equation. You must also carefully manage and control what you spend.
When it comes to the EXPENSE side of the equation, your goal is to spend less than you earn on a regular basis. This is how you generate positive cash flow and have money available to invest. However, for many people, this is the most difficult part of managing their finances, for several reasons:
- They don’t keep track of it and develop a budget. Those small items can add up!
- They fail to consider seasonal expenditures (e.g., gifts, vacations, and property taxes).
- They have no idea how expensive children and pets are!
- They don’t appreciate how much more expensive it is to own a home than rent an apartment.
- They forget about finance charges on credit card balances.
- They live a more lavish lifestyle than they can afford:
- They’re lured into spending on impulse items.
- They purchase big-ticket items such as homes and cars that are far too expensive for their budget.
- They assume that if they purchase it on credit, they’ll figure out a way to pay for it later.
- They place too much value on possessions and expensive brands in order to impress others.
- They’re too impatient—wanting it now rather than saving up for it.
It’s essential to discipline yourself to spend less than you make (thereby generating positive cash flow) and regularly measure your progress. Remember that if your cash flow is negative, your options are to: 1) increase your income (not always possible!) and/or 2) reduce or postpone your expenses.
One of the best ways to generate positive cash flow is to set up an automatic savings plan where a set percentage of your income is placed in an investment program each month. It will force you to save and help you resist the temptation to overspend.
Do you monitor your spending versus your income to ensure you’re living within your means? This is true whether you’re a college student on a modest income or an executive earning seven figures. Share your comments and questions: we’d love to hear your experiences and ideas!