What NOT to Do: Live Above Your Means

February 13, 2012

What Not to Do is a series based on the numerous mistakes that I have made in my life. I am not a financial adviser, I can’t tell you want to do but I can tell you what NOT to do. I hope you will use this series of posts to help educate those you love about the dangers of debt and how they can affect your life. Use the trouble that I have gotten into as a springboard for your own discussions, please.


Lessons in What Not to Do with your Finances40 years ago my parents graduated high school and got married. They couldn’t afford a house early on in their marriage so they worked hard for a number of years, living in small apartments and with my grandparents for a short while.

When I was 5 years old, 7 years into their marriage, my parents purchased their first home. It wasn’t in the nicest neighborhood (in fact, it was in a rather poor neighborhood and directly across the street from the railroad tracks). Their goal had always been to move up into a nicer home when they could afford to.

Fast forward 30 years or so and the trend is to do the exact opposite. Couples are marrying and quickly buying houses. Television shows like House Hunters on HGtv glamorize this process by highlighting couples who 100% finance their homes.

Most parents want to give their children more than they had but something happened with parents in the past 20 or so years. They started giving their kids more than they had and buying it before they could afford it.

These children grew into adults who felt they deserved anything they wanted and they deserved to buy it immediately.

I think there are numerous reasons why a large portion of our society began to live above their means.

  • Predatory lending.
  • The decline of the economy.
  • The increase in technology.
  • Lack of financial education.
  • Less cash on hand.

I’m sure there are many other reasons that i can not even fathom. The point is that we, as a society have been thinking that debt is normal and living above our means is causing that debt.

The Alternative

There is another way to live and it’s really not difficult. The best way to avoid living above you means is simple.

  1. Budget your money.
  2. Save for items you want.
  3. Shop smart. Work your way to higher quality items.
  4. Understand the difference between wants and needs.
  5. Take the time to learn the psychology behind why you spend money the way you do.

I spent years living above my means. I shopped without thinking about the consequences. I convinced myself that I deserved everything I purchased. In the end, I lived an unhappy life and eventually lost everything.

Now, I take pride in the fact that my furniture is used and one day in the future I’ll be able to save up and buy the higher quality items.

Remember to speak to your children and about saving up for what you want. Make sure they know that it’s ok to buy something at a yard sale or thrift store. And most importantly, be sure you are practicing what you preach and set a good example.

Living above your means, it is what NOT to do.

I also blog at A Five Star Life. I write about anything that comes to mind but try to focus on finding the good in daily life.

19 Responses to What NOT to Do: Live Above Your Means

  1. John | Married (with Debt) on February 13, 2012 at 11:21 am

    I agree here. HGTV does everything they can to convince people to buy homes. They even have shows where people buy homes with their parents. We bought rather quickly after marriage and it delayed us getting out of debt. If I could do over, I wait a few years longer.
    John | Married (with Debt) recently posted..Thought Leader: What Makes One?


    • Jessica The DebtPrincess on February 13, 2012 at 1:10 pm

      I really like the stories where they have saved up for a few years, lived in their parent’s basement, are only buying a small starter home. What channel are those on?


  2. bax on February 13, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    Don’t underestimate the power of suggestive advertising! Remember that show “Friends”? Two waitresses sharing an apartment in New York the size of a freaking ranch! The more you watch that stuff, the more your brain thinks, if they can have it, I can have it!
    bax recently posted..Oh, crap!


  3. Andi @ MealPlanRescue
    on February 13, 2012 at 11:50 pm

    It’s always a bad idea and it becomes a downward spiral. I love the show Til Debt Do Us Part where Gail Vaz Oxlade sits people down and breaks down what they are spending vs. what they earn. It’s always a shock and I feel good watching them turn it around.
    Andi @ MealPlanRescue recently posted..Dah! You got me!


  4. Matt
    on February 14, 2012 at 6:16 am

    Sadly, one of the indicators that the news media uses to gauge how well the economy is doing is how much people are borrowing money. I’m not sure the news media is to blame, but that is where you see it. People are borrowing and spending. Must mean the economy is on the rebound.
    Matt recently posted..


    • Jessica The DebtPrincess on February 15, 2012 at 9:15 am

      OR they are borrowing and spending because they are so depressed by their negative situation that they are using their credit cards to feed their emotions.


  5. Laura Vanderkam on February 14, 2012 at 8:48 am

    I think one thing feeding all this is the assumption that spending a third of your income on housing is normal, no matter what you earn. $40,000 or $400,000 or $4,000,000 — doesn’t matter. So people who earn $400,000 will buy a $1.4 million house (thanks to low interest rates) rather than, say, a $700,000 house. Which would still be pretty nice! As people with even high incomes go into a lot of debt on their houses, this changes the expectation of what a nice house looks like.


    • Jessica The DebtPrincess on February 15, 2012 at 9:19 am

      I think Dave Ramsey suggests 25% of your net income. That is a true eye opener. I think a lot of people would be shocked to see how much less that buys.


  6. Dannielle @ Odd Cents
    on February 16, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    I don’t know, but I can not see myself living above my means. My thoughts would be centered on the fact that the money has to come from somewhere, and I will have to pay it back with interest! Whatever ever happened to being contented with and making the most of what you have???


  7. [email protected] on February 18, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    True that many people now think that they deserve to have brand new right away. Unfortunately, society encourages this; it takes strong young professionals to be proud that they are only buying what they can afford, not what society says they should have.
    [email protected] recently posted..


  8. Elizabeth @ Broke Professionals on February 20, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    Oh, you hit a nerve with HGTV’s glamorization of the 100% financing option – it drives me nuts when I see couples who aren’t even MARRIED yet buying a house together and buying a house with zero down and taking out a $300k mortgage. How many mistakes can you spot in that sentence?

    BTW, I love the “what not to do” series – genius, since we’ve all made mistakes and need to learn from them.
    Elizabeth @ Broke Professionals recently posted..I Want To Quit My Job: Leaving Work Without Burning Bridges


  9. Ella on February 21, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    I love you what not to do posts! They are very informative and motivating :-)


  10. Dow 13,000: To Be Fearful or Greedy? and Links on April 9, 2012 at 11:07 pm

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