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How to Live Within Your Means

Stashed in: Awesome, Mark Twain, How It's Made, Real Talk

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wikihow says it's about not comparing ourselves with others.

Living within your means means more than just balancing your budget. It means being aware of the difference between what you need and what you want. As Mark Twain once said, "Comparison is the death of joy," and if anything, you need to learn to find a way of spending that works for you -- not for your neighbors or best friends. Living within your means requires you to be mindful of how you spend your money, but if you do it correctly, you won't actually be depriving yourself of the things you really need to be happy.


1. Maintain a balanced budget.

2. Adjust your perspective on spending.

3. Save money.

OK this article is a perfect example of why financial advice sucks. Everything it recommends is probably good advice, but as written it is next to impossible to implement because it's TOO GENERAL. And honestly if you're so clueless you need advice this basic... son, you have some bigger issues.

If there's one thing I've learned from years of reading PandaWhale, it is: people suck BALLS at breaking down general precepts into actionable tasks. Pretty sure our buddy Bakadesuyo has made a career out of just this one rule of thumb in its endless variations. The few people who are actually good at breaking down abstract to concrete are probably not even very cognizant that they're different from the norm, so their advice is extra useless to the ordinary slob!

To me, everything comes down to WHY YOU WANT TO SAVE MONEY. I've known people who put themselves on a budget of less than half their annual income for a year -- still a substantial amount, needless to say -- because they wanted to more accurately plan for their retirement needs. Then I've known people who genuinely struggled to put food on the table for themselves and their kids despite working 3 jobs. I've known students in shared housing who could not cook more than they could eat at one sitting, because their food would promptly be stolen by their roommates. And yes I've known shopaholics who grossly overspent on consumer goods or experiences to a truly unhealthy, out of control level. Those are all different situations, and the kinds of help each person needs is very different.

If Halibutboy were writing a finance column, I would start with this because it won't ever hurt: commit to learning how to cook five foods well. The classics are chili, tacos, tuna salad, spaghetti with meat sauce, and roast chicken -- but you do you, no need to overoptimize. The main point is that you want five dishes you can make in your sleep or in a panic, in any kitchen, with any even halfway-decent grocery store. I guarantee you that no matter who you are or why you want to save money, once you have five core dishes you will be in much better shape financially. How's that for actionable advice?

That's great advice about learning to cook, Halibutboy.

I would read a finance column written by you.

I think you're right that general financial advice is not as useful.

Personalized is better.

Actionable is better.

Are there 100 tips like the learn to cook one?