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How To Live Your Best Life on a Budget

There is no time like the present to do everything you have always dreamed of, whilst feeling like a superstar. Here are some tips for how you can live your best life without going broke.

By Shanice HarrisonPublished 6 years ago 10 min read

Budgeting. The worst word in the English language. As a recent graduate starting a Masters course shortly, budgeting has become even more essential than before. Over the past five years, I have spent ridiculous amounts of money on rent, bills, clothes, food, holidays, everything really. Had I started saving earlier, I would be in a much better position. Luckily, my dad’s nagging and desire to splash the cash on the summer of a lifetime encouraged me to start saving from last year. Now I have something called savings!

Money goes as fast as time, and trust me when I say it is not fun having your bank card rejected in front of a queue of people. It's sad, really sad. I learnt the hard way that I have to control my spending and build my savings, so I am sharing this lesson with you. Be smart with your money but have fun. Live your best life and if money helps you do that (it definitely helps me), splash the cash occasionally. In other words, you can do whatever will make you happy, regardless of your bank balance.

So, what is happiness? It means something different to everyone. To me, it is spending time with my friends and family and having the freedom to do what I want, when I want. It is the real meaning of life; a miserable life is arguably pointless. The way I see it, you only have one life so grab it by the horns and LIVE it! I have a list of everything I want to do in my life and I have already done a good percentage of it. All I need is more time and money to do the rest.

Here are my top tips for living the life of your dreams in reality:

1 – Say yes.

Life presents you with so many opportunities, many of which you face the dilemmas of, "Can I afford it?" "What if...," "Have I got the time?" etc. You subconsciously create so many excuses and reasons to say no, when sometimes you should take a chance and just say yes. Who knows what could come out of saying one simple word or clicking one simple button? You might have the experience of a lifetime! There are obviously exceptions (do not put yourself in danger of course) but you are your own worst enemy at times. You hold yourself back because you are scared to take a risk.

For example, many people say they want to go on holiday but they cannot afford it. Honestly, holidays are not that expensive depending on where you go. There are always deals and travel hacks to save you money. You can go on a 4-star 3 night holiday to Spain for under £300pp, including insurance. On the flip side, you could go to Barbados for 7 nights for the grand price of £1000pp, but you will likely have a beautiful week of uninterrupted paradise. See, it's not so bad!

So, instead of holding yourself back by assuming you cannot afford it, book a holiday six months in advance then make changes to your budget; spend less money or earn more money. Be realistic with what you can afford with your budget and make the necessary compromises. For inspiration, I went to Barcelona, New York, Miami, Nice, and Cannes this summer. I had around £1000 in my savings account and worked extra hours to make up the difference because I wanted to have the summer of a lifetime. I also sold a lot of clothes on eBay for spending money. The summer was amazing and I'm glad I ignored the voice in my head saying "you're crazy, you can't afford this! Don't sell your clothes for the impossible!"

Like Nike says, "Just do it."

2 - Turn stress and sadness into productivity.

Stress is a killer. Other than the fact it can make you ill and gain weight, it holds you back from living your best life. It worries you, occupies your mind, and distracts you from other things going on. One way to overcome stress is by making a change that produces a happy result. Think about the root of what is stressing or upsetting you and possible solutions. Is it money? Brainstorm ways to earn more or cut back on what you are spending. Is it a person? Talk to them and tell them how you feel or cut them out of your life. Is it yourself? Adapt a new habit or change something you currently do.

However, I understand it is not always as easy at that. There are some things that are much harder to stop stressing about because it feels like you have no control over it, such as struggling to get a job or finding "the one." Instead of focusing on what you don't have, focus on what you can do to get what you want and what you do have. Learn a new skill or develop those you already have. Meet new people at networking events or parties, or in the park. Do something new, maybe something you've always wanted to do. Sometimes it's as simple as asking for help or confiding in someone; they can be the comfort or revelation you need. You can also distract yourself by doing the things that make you happy that you have control over, such as hanging out with friends or playing games.

The number one rule is do not feel sorry for yourself! Everything will get better in time if you let it. Life is undoubtedly hard, there will always be something testing you but be open to change and stay patient. It's hard but optimism will get you through the dark days.

3 - Forget fear.

Fear is a threat, something designed to hold you back. If the threat is real (and you will know), avoid it and stay safe, but if fear is holding you back from doing something you want to do, do it. Skydive if your heart desires, ask your neighbour on a date, dye your hair rainbow colours. Don't overthink it because that adds to the fear and will stop you from doing it. It does not matter what anyone else thinks, you can bounce back from almost anything, so don't let fear hold you back from living. Facing your fears is one of the best things to make you feel great about yourself. There is nothing you can't do if you put your mind to it (except cheat death). As Kelly Clarkson says, what does not kill you makes you stronger.

4 - Earn more money to increase your income.

This is one of the obvious tips. A lack of money is the main thing that holds people back from doing what they want to do, so earn more money in order to spend more money, simple *doing the money dance*. You can get a part-time or casual job, but that is not always convenient, especially if you already work or study full-time. There are many ways you can earn money from the comfort of your home, but some are riskier than others. I tried Forex Trading (foreign exchange currency) but I found it too confusing and unpredictable so I lost my initial £100 investment. A lot of money can be made but you also risk losing a lot of money. It is important to do your research before diving into anything that is not risk-free.

Some of the easier and less risky methods of making money online are:

  • Matched betting (you are guaranteed to win as you place an initial bet and a counter-bet to back yourself)
  • Selling your unwanted stuff on eBay or a similar website
  • Selling handmade or vintage products on Etsy
  • Online surveys and reviews
  • Get cashback from your online shopping
  • Blogging (arguable as this is rarely profitable from the beginning)

One of the best ways to get wealthier is by creating a passive income. A passive income is a regular income which is earned with minimum to no effort after the initial launch. It can take years to start but once it has been launched you won't be actively working on it anymore. Think of it as a second income. Money will be frequently going into your bank account as if by magic! You can create a passive income by publishing a book, selling downloadable online courses on websites like Skillshare and Udemy or by affiliate marketing.

5 – Spend less money to reduce your expenditure.

The next simple tip is to spend like you are poor sometimes (do you really need to buy another pair of shoes even though they would go with that green dress you wore once?).

If the purchase is not urgent, wait for a discount or a sale. There are always sales on bank holiday weekends, special occasions and often pay days at the end of the months. Students get discounts in many stores and schemes such as a Tastecard and NUS offer many exciting discounts all year round. Also, taking lunch and drinks with you to work as oppose to buying it will save a considerable amount of money. Similarly, pre-drink before you go to a bar or a club. Your wallet will thank you the next day.

Use your reward points, take advantage of freebies and spot fun cheap and free opportunities. For example, you can be a seat filler and go to the theatre for free, go to free events around your city or plan days out that will cost almost nothing. You are not poor, you are just saving money but still enjoying yourself in the process.

Last tip to save money: visit family or friends with a shopping bag and "borrow" some of their things (do NOT return them). This is free shopping at its best!

6 – Make a budget with contingencies and stick to it.

This is the tip I hate but I think it is important. Always use realistic predictions for your budget and be honest. Record how much you are spending and earning each month/week or use a budgeting app to stay in control. Make sure you include contingencies for those extra splurge days. You won’t feel bad about buying a bag in the sales or dining out if it’s included in your budget. If your budget does not allow for the odd splurge, have a look at my tips on making money online.

7 - Open a savings account and regularly transfer money into it.

Last budgeting tip, I promise! One major tip I can give you is to open a savings account and do not touch it unless you really HAVE to. Savings accounts are useful because you get monthly interest as long as you don't withdraw any money from it. They are essentially growing safety nets. You have money stored elsewhere for emergencies or until you are ready to use it. I transfer money into my savings account every month for not only the future, but also for piece of mind. If I need it, it's there.

You can use it for anything you want, it's your money. If you want to spend it all on a holiday, do it. If you want to get your house renovated, do it. Savings are not meant to be there forever, but do think about what you need before you want. Always make sure your expenses are covered before you splash the cash.

8 – Dress to impress/confidence.

Do not ever underestimate the power of clothing and confidence. How you present yourself builds other peoples’ perception of you and, most importantly, your own perception of yourself. Dressing like you’re worth a million pounds will make you feel like you are. I don't mean you have to wear expensive clothes, by any means. It is about how you wear them. Choose the styles that make you feel comfortable and confident in your own skin. When you find something that makes you feel amazing, make sure people see you in it because you probably light up the room.

I have clothes that I wear around the house because I don't feel particularly glam or cool in them, then I have my massive selection of clothing that makes me feel great about myself. For example, when I power dress, I usually choose heels and a fitted blazer because that makes me feel the most confident. I like clothes with unusual features or shapes, it represents my desire to be different. How you feel inside often becomes a reflection of how you look on the outside; if you feel sad but you wear something fun, you will likely feel happier throughout the day. Also, wear makeup if you want, or grow a ginormous beard, whatever makes you feel ready to take control. No one else's opinion matters about your style.

As for confidence, fake it ‘til you make it. Head held high, eye contact and tall posture. You’re fabulous, show the world you know it. Having more confidence is likely to change your mindset and approach to life. You are likely to be less inclined to follow the crowd and you will get more of the things you want by showing you can't be bulldozed over. Life will not be enjoyable if someone else controls it.

9 - Treat yourself. You deserve it.

Last tip, live every day like it's your last and don't be afraid to spend money every now and then if it will make you happy; you'll more than likely earn it back. Dine out, buy designer shoes, study. Don't let money hold you back too much. Living your best life is all about doing what you want to do, when you want to do it.

As mentioned previously, sales and discounts are a great way to buy what you want but at a fraction of the cost:

  • University students and some college students get student discounts in a range of stores with their student ID and NUS cards
  • Tastecard offer deals such as 2-4-1 meals and discounted theatre tickets
  • Compare the Meerkat give 2-4-1 deals if you purchase insurance through them

Many businesses also give new customers an offer to entice them to sign up and make a purchase, such as JustFab who often offer 75% off one product. This shows it is good to shop around, even if you have your favourite stores. There are loads of discounts available, you just need to know where to look.

Follow these tips (or dare I say life lessons) and your bank balance and quality of life will thank you vastly. In my opinion, money can buy happiness but it isn't everything. It comes and goes faster than the rain in London! Doing what makes you happy ensures you are living your life at its best and that's the meaning of life right?


Shanice x

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About the Creator

Shanice Harrison

Hello and welcome to my page!

I love a list, it's one of my favourite things to write and read, so if you're like me, I might be the author for you. The main topics I like to write about are travel and money, but I like to be random...

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