When I was in Australia over Christmas, I was reading a popular local “family” magazine and one of the articles caught my eye.
The article was an interview with 3 experienced mothers in Melbourne, who gave their advice about what they would have told their younger selves in order to lead a less stressful and more joyful life.
One of the mother’s advice was “live within your means”.
A little spark went off in my mind and I realized this concept of “live within your means” is what forms one of the key foundations for a successful Minimalist Business.
The success of a Minimalist Business is measured by how much freedom you have to live the life that you want.
It is not measured by how much money you make.
If making more money requires you to be more “busy” and have less time for your family or to do the things that you want to do, such as travel, play sports, go hiking, relax at the beach, then it may be best to make less money or at least just enough money to cover your expenses and savings if it means you will have more time to do the things that you want.
So the concept of “live within your means” supports this notion, as it empowers you to not overspend or to live a life that you can’t afford.
If you live above your means, what would happen if you lost your income one day? Do you have a backup plan?
Even if you do have a backup plan, if you could no longer afford your lifestyle, this would cause immense stress for you and your whole family as you would have to make changes to your life, such as sell your house, move your kids to a more affordable school, or even move to a different location.
So my advice to achieve a successful Minimalist Business, where you have the freedom to enjoy your life with the least stress and the most fun, is to live within your means!
Here are my tips for how to live within your means!
1. Calculate your stable income – calculate exactly how much you make per month that you can rely on. Remember that with online businesses there are often fluctuations with the season or even on a monthly basis, so try to take an average or estimate the minimum income you are able to bring in each month. Note that it is better to underestimate than overestimate! If you overestimate, this may cause you to think you can spend more money, which is exactly what you want to avoid.
2. Calculate your expenses – I personally find the best way to do this is to list up my expenses such as:
- mobile phone
- school fees
- eating out (as I love the enjoyment of eating out at cafes and restaurants with my kids)
- and including annual costs such as flights to Australia and kids clothing
If my expenses are more than my income, I have to reduce my expenses, but probably the most important thing I have to keep reminding myself is that if my income goes up in a month, I should resist spending it! Which leads to the next point about saving.
3. Save for emergencies – saving for emergencies is important if your Minimalist Business is an online business, or for any business for that matter! As you never know if something will happen the next month that may suddenly stop customers buying.
4. Stop using credit cards – to be honest, I still use a credit card as:
- I buy my groceries online
- I buy flight tickets online
- I pay for utilities, mobile phone and internet with my credit card
- I have an online business so I also need a credit card to pay for my websites and hosting
So I need a credit card!
But I have stopped using it for daily items such as buying snacks or small things while out and about. Instead I use my Suica card, which is a pre-paid train pass in Tokyo that can also be used to buy things at the supermarket and convenience stores. This is basically like using cash, but with the convenience of having it pre-paid in a card, so it does help.
5. Distinguish between wants and needs – I see my basic needs as:
- Having a place to live
- Having food to feed my children
- Paying utilities so that my children can have water to drink, they can take a bath every day, and I can cook meals over the gas stove
- Paying for nursery school for my children so that I can work and my children are well cared for
Anything else I try to see as a “want” rather than a “need”.
I am not always perfect! I often feel the temptation to buy that jacket on sale or those shoes on sale, but I do try to think if I really need them or if they will make my life easier.
To be honest, I bought $150 gumboots the other day as it snowed in Tokyo and I didn’t have anything to keep myself dry. They were expensive, but I can’t fit into ladies shoe sizes in Japan as they are too small, so I usually have to buy proper brands in mens sizes. So when I found mens “Aigle” gumboots at the shops I bought them! And I didn’t regret it as they honestly helped me to trudge through the deep snow, get my kids to nursery school without slipping over, and provided comfort for my feet and back as I have a bad back! >< Haha
6. Avoid “Retail Therapy” – This is related to #5, but it is even more important as it involves your emotions! Growing up with 2 sisters, we would often laugh about doing “Retail Therapy”, which basically means buying something to appease your emotions. So if I ever felt down, I would find myself buying clothing or accessories to make myself “feel better”. This is something I have had to completely stop. I am not sure if this is a result of getting older and wiser! But I definitely feel more in control of this now that I am older. BUT I am not perfect! I think it is easy to resist when you don’t have the money, but when you DO have the money to burn it is much harder to stop this impulse.
7. Rent, don’t buy – this is a big lesson that I have learned. I LOVE this article as it really spells out all the risks and pitfalls of buying your own home. When you buy a home, it is common to buy something above your budget. And what this means is that it is a HUGE risk and extremely stressful if it doesn’t go as you planned. For example, if you suddenly lose your income and unable to pay your mortgage, it is not easy to suddenly sell your house. But if you rent, it makes it much easier to get out of the contract and to downsize if you need to.
8. Small is better – I have really learned this after living in Japan for 15 years. As you can imagine, it is very common to live in a tiny apartment in Tokyo. Even for families! In Australia it is the opposite – it is so common in Australia to want a bigger house with a big backyard and garage. When I first came to Japan, I was shocked at how different the lifestyle was. But now I have grown to love it! The benefits of living in a tiny apartment to help you “live within your means” are:
- Lower rent – this is a huge bonus to help you live within your means
- Less cleaning – this is another huge bonus! I never realized how much time you can save cleaning by having a smaller place. Time is money, so having less space to clean definitely helps you to focus your time on more important things
- Save money on petrol – in Tokyo and many cities, usually apartment buildings are located close to the shopping centers and train stations. My current apartment is just 3min walk from the station! This means I don’t need a car, so I can save ALOT on car costs. I don’t need to pay for petrol, repairs, car insurance, or car registration. Instead, I walk alot and catch trains everywhere. I also have a bicycle with 2 child seats which is fantastic for getting around the town and taking my kids to school. I did consider getting a car, but I knew it would just be a luxury that I can do without.
9. Reduce website expenses – Here are some tips for reducing your expenses on your online business:
- Get your hosting and domain name from the same company such as Dreamhost or Bluehost. It can save you money and time to pay the one company, and often you can receive discounts.
- Avoid paying for “teleconference” services – it is quite common for online businesses to pay for teleconference services so they can hold group calls or webinars for their customers. This is great if you already have a big online business, but it is not necessary when your business is still small. There are alot of free options such as Facebook live (you can hold it exclusively on a Facebook closed group) or Skype for 1on1 calls.
- Cancel any software that you are not using – it is common to sign up for annual or monthly subscriptions for special software that you think will help your business, but to have a true Minimalist Business it is recommended to cancel any softwares or services that you don’t really need. Check all your accounts, delete or cancel anything that you are not using anymore, and reduce your expenses to the minimum 🙂
10. Write about it! – if you have an online business, and you aspire to live within your means, then writing about it can help you to not only share your know-how with others, but it can also help you to reflect on your achievements and to consider how you can further improve yourself for the future. Above all, it is important to be kind to yourself and don’t put too much pressure to live super frugally straight away. Living within your means should be fun! It shouldn’t be a burden. If you feel like you are pressuring yourself too much, it will become stressful and most likely won’t be sustainable. So make sure you have fun, take it step by step, be proud of your achievements, and share your success!
I hope these tips help!
Remember nobody is perfect, but if you really want a long-term sustainable business that allows you to live the life that you want, then living within your means is a good way to start!
Let me know if you have more tips to share! I would love to hear from you!
*Definition of “live within your means”: the money that you spend each month is less than or at least equal to the amount of money you bring in each month.