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Top Budgeting Tips to Help You Afford the Lifestyle You Want



You may be one of those people who has a champagne taste, but a beer budget. It would be great to have enough money to afford the lifestyle you want. You work hard, so you deserve it, right?

However, unless you’re wealthy, the lifestyle you want is probably just a dream. When your alarm goes off in the morning, you quickly snap back to reality. You’ll be off to the office to earn the paycheck that never seems to last until the next one comes.

You may need to ratchet down some of your lifestyle wishes, but don’t give up the dream. With diligence, patience, smart choices, and determination, there are ways to get some of what you yearn for. Here are four budgeting tips to help you afford the lifestyle you want.

1. Spend Your Own Money

Credit cards can be incredibly useful in a pinch. They allow you to buy things you need when you don’t have enough money to buy them. Used wisely, they have their advantages. Most come with perks like earning travel rewards, retail discounts, even cash back. Repay the balance in full monthly, and you benefit from those perks while avoiding interest.

There is a cost, of course, when you’re using someone else’s money. If you’re relying on credit too much and carrying hefty account balances, beware. You’re moving away from that lifestyle you want, not toward it.

To avoid the temptation to overspend, use a debit card routinely instead. Because it’s linked to a spending account, you’ll only be able to spend what you have. Save your credit limit for special or emergency expenses.

Develop a habit of spending the money you have — not the money you don’t. Think hard before purchasing something that you’ll be paying interest on for months or even years. That will keep you on the right path toward realizing your lifestyle dreams.

2. Set Ambitious Financial Goals

The scope of your idea of the perfect lifestyle will dictate how much money you will need to live it. The more lavish the lifestyle, the more ambitious your financial goals need to be.

Setting financial goals is only the first step. You then need to develop and stick to a budget that will help you achieve them. It will take the right approach for you to get where you want to go.

Socking away a certain amount of every paycheck into a savings account is an obvious goal. Seeing your nest egg grow might be motivation enough for you to keep up the habit. Lack motivation, though, and you might spend that money on a new pair of shoes instead.

Some studies have shown that the secret to finding the motivation to achieve ambitious goals lies in using “goal-inconsistent” framing. For example, instead of saying, “I’ll deposit $100 from every paycheck into savings,” say, “I won’t buy new shoes for six months.” That inconsistent goal might motivate you to put even more money into savings every payday.

Worthy goals must be realistic and attainable. Find the right motivation, though, and you might find yours aren’t ambitious enough. As the saying goes, “Ambition is enthusiasm with a purpose,” so get excited.

3. Make Some Sacrifices

Getting what you want down the road will require you to make some sacrifices in the near term. Your budget needs to include not only what you’ll spend money on, but what you’re willing to forgo. Giving things up is rarely easy.

What will help is to shift your mindset from focusing on what you’re giving up to what choices you’re making. For example, you aren’t giving up those expensive season tickets. You have decided to invest that money and watch the games on television instead.

Making sacrifices doesn’t mean you have to take a vow of poverty. You can spend money from time to time on fun extras like a weekend getaway or a movie night. Just make sure that choice is included in your budget.

When you start feeling depressed about choosing to not upgrade your phone to the latest model, shift your perspective. Focus instead on how much that $1,000 will be worth in your retirement account in 10 or 20 years. Or how much closer that money brings you to buying the home of your dreams.

Shifting the focus from what you’re giving up to what you’re gaining will help you stick to your budget. By definition, sacrifice is never easy. Just keep your eye on the prize and the ones you make will be much easier to swallow.

4. Visualize the Journey, Not the Goal

Some people use vision boards to keep themselves motivated to achieve their goals. They cut out glossy magazine photos of the house they want and the vacation spots they want to visit. If you have a vision board, however, you might want to throw it out.

Studies indicate that those who focus on outcomes perform more poorly than those who focus on the effort it takes. One study, for example, measured performance by test scores. Students who focused on solid study habits outperformed those who focused on the grade they wanted.

Your budget should reflect a financial journey, not a destination. That means setting short-, medium-, and long-term budgetary goals consistent with stages of your life.

Your initial goals should be about eliminating debt and building an emergency fund. Medium goals should involve protecting your growing wealth, such as having a solid life insurance policy. Long-term goals focus on living the lifestyle you want in retirement.

Your budget should evolve over time and reflect these stages and shifting life circumstances. The budgets for newly minted single professionals are going to look quite different once they have kids. Make sure your budget can flex with your journey toward those lifestyle goals.

Your vision of the lifestyle you want is unique, so there’s no one-size-fits-all budget template to follow. Budgeting may in fact be more of an art than a science. The process will definitely involve trial and error.

Anticipate that your vision is going to change over time as life experiences alter priorities and expose realities. The dream of owning a Tuscan villa may turn into a dream of not being tied down to one location. That leaves you free to travel the rest of the world instead.

Whatever your concept of the ideal lifestyle is, you need to start somewhere. Dream big, plan the journey, roll up your sleeves, and budget accordingly. Maybe someday, when that alarm rings, you’ll wake up living the life you dreamed.

I'm Nikos Alepidis, blogger at motivirus. I'm passioned for all things related to motivation & personal development. My goal is to help and inspire people to become better.

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