Your lifestyle is very closely tied to your finances, as it often indicates how much you spend. Living frugally or spending with abandon are two very different lifestyle experiences, and the results of each will clearly show in your bank balance.
Here are five signs that mean you are heading for a cliff edge in terms of your financial situation.
1. You’re not saving 5%
Advice from experts suggests that you should be putting aside at least 10% of your income each month, if not 15%. But if you aren’t even managing to put 5% in your savings, then you are definitely living beyond your means. It’s even worse if you haven’t been able to put any savings aside at all.
If you feel like you can’t save that much each month, then you may need to cut back on your spending. Maybe that means not going out to dinner, limiting yourself to non-luxury items when shopping for groceries, or cutting back on some of your subscriptions. If you’re already living as frugally as possible and still not making savings, then the truth of the matter is that you’re simply not earning enough. Downsizing your home and looking for another source of income could be the solution in this case.
2. You don’t have an emergency fund
Everyone should have an emergency fund – again, experts recommend that you have around nine months’ worth of living expenses set aside, the minimum amount of money you would need to live during that time if you didn’t have any income at all. Why? Because life happens. You might find yourself unable to work, or suddenly lose your job – even if you have been an exemplary employee so far. You could crash your car and have your insurance fail to pay out, or lose your home in an accident which is not covered by your policy.
Vet bills, medical bills, legal fees, a broken-down car or boiler – these are all expenses which can come up from time to time and really knock you for six. You need to be prepared for these situations. If you aren’t, then you could have a nasty surprise waiting around the corner which could leave you bankrupt or in heavy debt.
3. You’re paying overdraft fees (or credit card fees)
It came to the end of the month, and you didn’t have quite enough to get you through to the next payday. Now you’ve got overdraft charges on your account – or you might even have credit card fees to pay until you pay them off. This is a bad situation, as it is the beginning of a spiral into debt. In both situations, you are being charged extra money because of the fact that you didn’t have enough to begin with.
When this happens, you should see it as a huge red flag and stop spending right away. Don’t be tempted to put more things on a credit card.
An interesting technique you can use is to stop paying with your card at all, and instead use a cash envelope system. Withdraw your money for the week or the month, and divide it into envelopes for specific purposes: groceries, shopping, going out, and so on. When the envelope is empty, you just have to stop spending in that category – simple as that.
4. You don’t have a budget
Not having a budget in place might seem fine when you have enough money to make ends meet easily. However, it’s a problematic situation to be in when one of those emergency situations strikes. Suddenly, you are spending far more than you can afford, and you have to suddenly put on the brakes to try and learn how to budget for the first time.
Set a budget now, and learn how to stick to it, as well as what constitutes a realistic budget based on your spending habits. This will help you a lot when changes in your situation occur.
5. You spend out of fear
Fear of missing out, or FOMO, is something that can drive us to spend money on crazy things. Do you really need that new piece of Victorian furniture, or are you just scared that you’ll never get another chance like that again? Don’t let fear dictate your spending. Don’t overspend on going out just to keep up with your friends, or buy a house you can’t afford the payments on because you want people to be impressed. It’s a road to nowhere.
By recognizing these signs and making changes now, you might be able to turn things around. Don’t let the worst happen – get in control of your lifestyle now, and stop your finances from suffering.
About Alana: Alana Downer is a personal finance expert and an avid blogger, who often shares her money tips and tricks online. Alana is also a part of the team behind Learn to Trade – a useful resource for all those who wish to start trading and investing. Should you have comments or questions, feel free to contact Alana on her Twitter.