What does it mean to live below your means? It means spending less than you make. While that might not sound like fun, you can do this and still enjoy life!

Robert Kiyosaki, author of “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”, likes to tell people that “living below your means” is a scam. How so? Because most people use it as an excuse not to live the life they truly want. If they want something, their standard answer is, “I can’t afford that”. However, by telling yourself you can’t afford something, you stop asking yourself, “How can I afford that?”.

Do you feel a difference when you say, “How can I”, compared to when you say, “I can’t”? By asking yourself “How can I afford that”, you open up your mind to different possibilities. You’ll find ways to get what you want – even if it looks a little different. I’ll explain this below.

Here are a few tips on how to live below your means – and still enjoy life.

Create a “Fun” Budget

Make every dollar count and give every dollar a job. This means that every dollar is assigned to a category (expenses, savings, debt payments, having FUN etc.). Your budget will change over time, moving from paying off your debts to establishing your emergency fund to saving for bigger items like buying a house and retirement.

The benefit of creating a budget – and sticking to it – is that it helps you become intentional with how you spend your money. It will move you from living paycheck to paycheck. Budgets give you the power to control your money, instead of your money controlling you.

ACTION: Create a budget that includes a “FUN” or “DREAMS” budget. Once you know how much you can spend, then start looking for creative ways to have fun or accomplish your dreams.

Downsize Your Home

My husband and I purposely bought a “smaller” house because it was cheaper. It’s a townhouse, with 1,600 square feet and has three bedrooms – plenty of space for us! However, most of our friends, co-workers and family members have larger houses. I know they don’t understand our decision.

So, there’s pressure to upgrade our house. In all honesty, we have considered it. We have looked at other houses, but we always came to the same conclusion – we have enough space for our family. Plus, where we live in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area), an upgrade would be at least $300k-$400k more. Yikes! We would rather retire early than put all our money into a house.

For us, life happens both inside and outside of our house. We love our community – with stores and restaurants a short walk away, lots of amazing nature trails and fun community events. While a bigger house sounds great, we don’t need it. By saving money on housing costs, we can focus on doing things that we really love!

ACTION: Adopt the mantra “I have enough space”. Then focus on using your money to enjoy life, retire early or both!

Make Travel Affordable

Have you ever wanted to travel more, but thought that it was too expensive? Instead of just dreaming about travelling, start planning it!

I love to travel and I think it is something everyone should make a priority. Travel is important to help open your mind to new and different perspectives; reduce stress; it gives you something to talk about with other people and travel will create memories that will last a lifetime!

Here are some quick tips on how to travel more, while still staying within your budget:

* Travel on off days or off season. By being open to travelling on a different date, you can find cheaper flights, hotels or even vacation packages.

* Find an accommodation that offers the use of a kitchen or kitchenette. By doing your own cooking, you will save money on eating out at restaurants.

* Do day trips – somewhere close to home, that you can explore for a few hours. No expensive flights, car rentals or hotels necessary!

* Look for last-minute deals. You will have to be a little flexible in terms of the destination or room size, so stay focused on the experience.

ACTION: Turn the “I want to travel more” into “let’s travel!” by looking for cheaper alternatives.

Rethink Gifts and Social Events

Obligatory social events like exchanging gifts during the holidays, birthday parties, weddings and other events can be expensive. Often these events can feel like you’re always trying to go bigger and better than last time. Why? Is it really necessary to have fancy events or expensive gifts? The purpose of these events is to celebrate the other person and to build important social connections with friends and family.

An important part of living below your means is to save money. Where you can, plan ahead so you can take advantage of sales. Especially for things like birthday parties or weddings, when you plan ahead you can look for great deals. Again, like travel, look at holding these events at times of the year that are off peak season.

When it comes to exchanging gifts, start saying no. Yes, it can be fun and exciting to open a large pile of gifts. But do you always like or even use all the gifts you receive? When you start to view gifts this way, it will be easier to say no. It can be hard for other people to accept when you say no. They may have certain expectations of what holidays and gift giving look like. Be firm. Look for alternatives – like having a “Secret Santa” where you buy a bigger gift for one person from their wish list, instead of having to buy small gifts for everyone in your group or family.

ACTION: Rethink social events and turn the focus from expensive gifts to creating deeper connections with the people who are important to you.

Final Thoughts

Be intentional about how you spend your money. Don’t get caught up in the trap of having the biggest, the best or the latest. Look for different ways to have fun – while still living below your means.

Until my next blog post, here’s wishing you lots of joy and happiness!
With love,


Hi! I'm Joanne. I’m a Canadian Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA, CMA). Money management is a life skill that I passionately believe all people need to learn. As an accountant, I love helping people understand numbers and money. At BuildingJoyAndHappiness, I share my tips to money management and make understanding finances simple.

Leave a Reply