How to Live Within Your Means

Gwen Garrison |

“If your outflow exceeds your income, then your upkeep becomes your downfall!”

Living within our means can be a challenge for all of us at some points in our lives, but for many people it is their most pressing issue.

It can feel both frustrating and depressing to look at our spending vs. our income. Sometimes the problem IS that we are trying to maintain a lifestyle that we cannot afford. How do we know? We can go through the exercise of separating our expenses into things that we NEED to have versus things that WANT to have. If you’ve never done that, here’s what it looks like:


  • Mortgage or rent, property taxes, renters or homeowners insurance
  • Gas Heating, Electricity, Water
  • Groceries, gasoline for car
  • Health Insurance or other medical care
  • Food, basic clothing, basic phone/internet
  • Childcare (if needed)
  • Debt


  • Designer clothing, handbags, shoes
  • New car(s), expensive gifts, jewlery
  • Large, expensive home(s)
  • Concerts, movies, travel, sporting events
  • Gourmet foods, eating out
  • High-end TVs, video games and electronics
  • Children’s sports/hobbies
  • Adult sports/hobbies
  • Gym memberships and personal trainer
  • Shopping for recreation

Next, write out what you spend on each of the items in each category. Total up the groups. How much of what you spend is in each group? If you’re spending a lot in the “Wants” area and need to reduce your spending, brainstorm less expensive ways to get what you want. For example, instead of spending $150 month on cable TV, can you get an Amazon stick and subscribe to Hulu for $40 per month? If you like Gourmet food, how about learning to cook instead of eating out?

If you are on a bare bones income that is not meeting your basic needs, perhaps it’s time to ask for help. Can you get Food stamps or Medicaid? Can you ask for help with food or other items from Bridging the Gap or The Real Life Center? Is it time to look for another job or ask for a raise? Or take a second job temporarily until you catch up on bills? Do you need to find a roommate?

All of these are important considerations because more and more people are single and living on one income. And more families are headed by single parents. And more families are closer than ever to financial disaster if someone gets seriously ill or loses a job.

As Americans, we have to get better at living on less than what we earn and saving money – for emergencies and for retirement. Gwen and Sibyl have both done this as single parents raising several children. We’ve also learned from our clients ways to be frugal. We can help you make your income do more for you. Let us know what steps you took to save money and we’ll share them! Call for a free consultation today. Gwen 678-364-9677. Sibyl 770-283-9574. Or schedule a visit at