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How to Live on Less

Are you being forced to live on less financially because an economic crisis has threatened your livelihood? Pandemics, natural disasters, political turmoil, and armed conflicts can quickly disrupt the economy. While a sudden loss of income can be stressful, practical steps based on the wisdom found in the Bible can help you live on less money.

1. Accept your changed situation.

Bible principle: “I have learned . . . how to have an abundance and how to do without.”—Philippians 4:12.

Even though you will have less money than before, you can learn to adapt to your new financial circumstances. The sooner you accept the reality of your situation and begin adjusting, the better you and your family will be able to cope.

Learn about government or humanitarian assistance that may now be available to you. Act quickly, since such programs often give candidates a limited time to apply for aid.

2. Work together as a family.

Bible principle: “Plans fail when there is no consultation, but there is accomplishment through many advisers.”—Proverbs 15:22.

Discuss the situation with your spouse and children. With good communication, you can help everyone in the family understand and support changes that might be needed. And when everyone works together to be frugal and avoid wastefulness, your funds will go further.

3. Create a budget.

Bible principle: “Sit down and calculate the expense.”—Luke 14:28.

When you are forced to live on less, it is more important than ever to know where all your money goes. Create a budget by first listing your expected monthly income based on your new situation. Next, itemize your current monthly expenses and spending habits, even though you know these must change. Try to include in your monthly expenses a set amount of money that you want to save for unexpected expenses or emergencies.

Tip: When tracking your expenses, do not forget to include smaller purchases. You may be surprised at how much these add up over time. For example, after tracking his expenses, one man realized that every year he was spending several hundred dollars on chewing gum!

4. Prioritize your expenses and make changes.

Bible principle: “Make sure of the more important things.”—Philippians 1:10.

Compare your income with your expenses, and identify what you can eliminate or reduce so that you can keep within your reduced income. Examine the following areas:

  • Transportation. If you own more than one vehicle, could you sell one? If you own a luxury model, could you switch to a more economical one? Could you use public transportation or a bicycle and do without a vehicle altogether?

  • Entertainment. Can you cancel, at least for a time, paid subscriptions to streaming, satellite, or cable TV services? Can you find lower-cost alternatives? For example, your local library may lend movies, e-books, and audiobooks without charge.

  • Utilities. Discuss as a family how to reduce on water, electricity, and fuel costs. Turning off lights and taking shorter showers may seem insignificant, but such habits can help save money.

  • Food. Avoid eating out at restaurants. Instead, cook meals at home. Plan your meals, buy and cook in bulk when possible, and reuse leftovers. Make a list before you go shopping to avoid making impulse purchases. Shop for fresh foods that are in season, which are usually less expensive. Avoid purchasing junk food. Consider planting a vegetable garden.

  • Clothing. Purchase items only when you need to replace those that are worn out, not to stay in fashion. Look for end-of-season sales or items in good condition in thrift or secondhand stores. Line-dry clothing if the weather and your circumstances permit; this will save the utility costs of using the clothes dryer.

  • Future Purchases. Before you buy something, ask yourself: ‘Can I afford it? Do I really need it?’ Can you delay upgrading or replacing appliances, electronic devices, or vehicles? On the other hand, can you sell items that you no longer use or need? Doing so can help you simplify and add to your income.

Tip: When your income is abruptly reduced, you may find added incentive to quit habits that are harmful and expensive, such as tobacco use, gambling, or alcohol abuse. Making such adjustments will not only help your finances but also improve the quality of your life.

5. Give attention to spiritual matters.

Bible principle: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need.”—Matthew 5:3.

The Bible offers this balanced approach: “Wisdom is a protection just as money is a protection, but the advantage of knowledge is this: Wisdom preserves the life of its owner.” (Ecclesiastes 7:12) Such wisdom is found in the Bible, and many people have found that applying its guidance helps them to avoid excessive anxiety about financial matters. —Matthew 6:31, 32.