Quit spending (Part 4)

Plug the holes

If you were in a boat in the middle of the ocean and you noticed that water was coming in through a hole, would you spend your time scooping the water out over the side of the boat, or would you plug the hole?

Getting out of debt works with the same principle. Our spending is like the water coming into the boat, and the way to fix it is to QUIT SPENDING!


Yes, it is obvious, but it needs to be repeated because for some reason our brains can realize that it is true, but not do anything about it. So our goal in this lesson is to plug the hole, stop the bleeding, whatever you want to call it: quit spending.

Spend less money than you make

Getting out of debt, creating wealth, living financially free, retiring with cash in hand can all be achieved by following one simple rule:

Spend less than you earn.

If you do everything else wrong, but get this correct you will still be okay. But, the scary truth is that if you do everything else right, but get this wrong you will be in bad shape.
It is very simple, but it is not easy. But it is the only way to stay debt free. It is the only way to have any lasting wealth. It doesn’t matter if get $10 million from lottery winnings, if you can’t follow this simple rule you will be back to where you started in no time (and often even worse.)

It doesn’t matter how much you make. Everyone (I used to do this too) thinks that when they make more money they will be able to spend less than they earn. This just is very rarely true.

We all know someone who no matter what time something starts you can count on them being 15 minutes late. It doesn’t matter if they have the entire day free, they will still be late. It isn’t a matter of the time available as much as it is a matter of discipline. So it is with our spending.

If you can’t spend less than you earn with what you have now, you will not be able to when you get more. Parkinson’s law states that “expenses rise to meet income.” So without a deliberate and intentional effort each increase in income that you get will quickly be used up by new expenses.
This is frustrating part about getting a raise. As much as I loved getting them, they never seemed to make bill paying any easier. Have you ever felt this way?

So I know I need to spend less than I earn, but how?

Make a budget

A budget is absolutely one of the best tools that you will find to help you spend less than you make. I have written extensively about how to budget, but I suggest you start with this post – how to make a budget. It will walk you through all the steps you need to get started on an effective budget. If you are really serious about getting out of debt, don’t skip this step.
Everyone who does not budget spends more money than those who do. It is as simple as that. It doesn’t have to be painful and can even be fun.

Eliminate the temptation to spend.

It is not a bad idea at all to cut up the credit cards. Romans 13:14 says to,”make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” I did this by not going to the mall and not going out to eat. These were my two problem areas where I spent way too much money. Find out what your temptations are and run from them and set yourself up to succeed. Alcoholics shouldn’t hang out in bars and over-spenders shouldn’t go to the mall!

<< Creating a balance sheet (Part 3)    |    15 Ways to cut expenses (Part 5) >>

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  1. broke

    If I stopped spending, my landlord would kick me out and I would be homeless. That can’t be a good solution.

  2. bob

    I hope you realize that I am not talking about not paying rent or bills for that matter – I am talking about all the wants and other unnecessary things that push most people over the limit

  3. little

    I agree with you. Thanks a lot

  4. crisalyn

    Actually my problem now is how to get out of debt.Do you have a website wherein I can ask help and advise for that matter? I really am.

  5. Steffen

    Hey there,
    Helpful info. One of the biggest challenges to budgeting for me is setting a monthly grocery budget — and figuring out the ratio of buying groceries to buying relatively cheap “restaurant” food like a $5 Subway sandwich. Sometimes a $5 sandwich seems like a good deal compared to spending more making a healthy dinner at home. Do you have any advice for how much a monthly grocery budget should be? Or what percentage of your income it should comprise? Or how much you should be spending per meal (groceries and eating out combined)? All of these would be great topics for a blog post. If you have a post about this already, I’d love to see it.


  6. Andrew

    I think this is all good advice. But normally this kind of thing is aimed at a single guy with a reasonable wage living in his parents home and giving into purchasing temptations.

    The spend less than you earn for a couple with four chidren isn’t quite the same, especially if on a low income. Also we don’t live in an age of paid in cash X every week. Go out with cash and spend on rent, food and.. All done, put rest in tin. Life is more complex than that, we sign up auto pay contracts where the goal posts are moved, there are a miriad of complex welfare benefits which are often paid in disproportionate sums with little clear explanation of what covers what period for when. We have to communicate with our wives and children, we have to live in society that has expectations (and I don’t mean keeoing up with the jones’s) I mean critical hospital visits, buying wedding gifts, birthdays, christmas, putting your children in school uniform even if you don’t have the money, commitments you made when you had more money (eg a car you had to have for work you cannot sell or need for a less well paid job, children’d travel to a distant school)…

    I seriously think life is way too complex for a simple spend less than you have coming in. You can aim to, but if you make it absolutely fixed thing then it becomes legalistic and getting out of debt becomes an idol that you pedantically put before everything and everyone else. On the other hand if you don’t make it a fixed thing then there will be some through circumstance who will probably always be in debt. Some people simply don’t have the skill or support to handle money.

    I think if in hardship type debt it may be better to…
    1) Learn to trust in God
    2) Keep your heart and focus right IRO possessions

    If you get this right but are still spending more than you have coming in, then I think God will come through for you…

  7. Polly

    Hello, I would just like to say that my husband are in debt. We don’t have enough money to buy food for our family. No matter how we cut back, we never have enough money to make ends meet. The only thing I can do us trust God for a super natural finacial Miracle. I believe the word of God: seek first the kingdom of God and all these other things shall be added to you. Very good tips for getting debt free.

  8. Andrew

    Polly – God Bless you loads and loads. He ‘will’ come through for you.

    I made the previous post and I think that if are not greedy and you are just trying to live, then feeling under a legalistic strict teaching of budgeting can be very burdomsome. Not that this is necessarily what this site preaches, I just think grace and mercy and loving others through their difficulties come first.

    Just to share a blessing. We are still struggling, but the other week some firends phoned to say they had had a blessing to them and wanted to pass some on to us and they insisted and put a good bit of money straight into our bank. The next morning we came down stairs and foud an anonimous envelope of money in the porch.

    This is not a substitute for trying to work and trying to be sinsible, but when things go wrong, I think the kind of teaching should be of that easy yoke that God fits around us just perfectly not a yoke that is all our OWN work and responsibility.

    I am not all that articulate to put things over right, but I hope this has been a blessing in some small way.

  9. Andrew

    Just to clarify that I am not against general financial advice. Often we can be helped by experts to get any debts on a lower rate or written off.