ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How to Live Within Your Means and Be Happy

Updated on July 23, 2020

If you earn a reasonable salary but still struggle to get to the end of the month, this article is for you. Here are some proven tips on how to plan your spending in a way that's easy, effective and creates a happier life.

When budgeting is a problem

If budgeting didn't seem like such a horrible chore, more people would probably live within their means.

But did you know that it's easy to learn money management – and make life more enjoyable in the process. Read on to find out how.

Don't budget, plan your spending instead

The word budget automatically means deprivation to most people. The thing about deprivation is that human beings are not very good at self-imposing it for any length of time.

Therefore, it's really important to talk in terms of planning spending. Working out what we can spend, rather than what we cannot, is much more positive.

Before you cut your spending, look at where your money goes

Before asking yourself where you can cut costs, first take a look at where your money is currently going.

This may seem like a no brainer, but you'd be surprised at how powerful tracking your expenditure and income is. It's way easier to come up with innovative money solutions, and save, when you know exactly what you're dealing with.

How to track your spending

How much do you spend on gasoline in one month? What do your kids' school lunches cost per year? Would it work out cheaper to buy the good dog food in bigger sacks, rather than the low-quality chow in smaller packages?

The only way to answer these kinds of questions is to keep track of your earnings and your spending.

What you need to do is simply note down everything you earn and spend during one month.

This will give you a fair idea of how much you'll need for next month.

And if you keep up the process for a total of three months, then your forecast for future spending will be even more accurate.

Tools for tracking

There are many free apps, like iSpend on Android or Toshl on iPhone, that allow you to track your spending on your smartphone.

(Many of these not only let you note your expenses and income, but also automatically collate your expenses under different categories, like housing, bills, healthcare, transport and so on, and contrast these with your earnings to give you a monthly balance.)

Alternatively, a spreadsheet – or simply a pen, a small notebook and a calculator – will do just fine.


Let's start with your spending over one month.

If you note down every single penny you earn and spend during 30 days, at the end, you'll have a whole bunch of small and large figures.

What to do with them? To make sense of your expenses, at the end of the month, you need to quickly group all the little expenses under larger headings, and then work out the total spend for each category.

To explain this another way, take a look at the categories below.

You'll probably find that your monthly costs fall under some of these basic headings:

INCOME (Wages, Grants, Benefits, Gifts)

SAVINGS (Pension Plans, Periodic Savings Plans, Investment Accounts)

HOME (Mortgage, Utility Bills, Maintenance or DYI, Council Tax, Furniture, Appliances)

TRANSPORT (Car Insurance, Car Maintenance, Gasoline, Parking, Public Transport)

GROCERIES (Food, Groceries, Household Items)

CLOTHING (Clothes, Shoes, Accessories, Jewellery)

SELF-CARE (Cosmetics, Hairdresser, Massages, Gym or Exercise Classes)

MEDICAL & HEALTH (Health or Dental Insurance, Prescriptions, Vitamins, Supplements, Optician, Dentist, Orthopedic Equipment)

ENTERTAINMENT (Eating Out, Cinema, Books, Magazines, Online or Cable TV, Subscriptions to services like Spotify, Audible)

CHILDREN (Clothing, Toys, Nappies, School Fees, School Bus, Classes and Clubs)

PETS (Vets, Food, Kennels, Taxes and Licenses)

DEBTS (Credit Cards, Loans, Unpaid Fines, Late Taxes or Social Security Payments, Money Borrowed from Friends or Family)

*TOP TIP*: On many smartphone apps and computer programs, you can just feed your figures in, assign categories and the work is done for you. At the end of the month, you'll see exactly where your money went. But it does not take that long to do by hand. Just us a pen, paper and a calculator – about 15 minutes per week, or about an hour each month.

What next?

So what do we do once we've grouped our expenses into categories?

Well, this is where we confront the reality of our spending in black and white, and begin to plan a better future.

How much did I spend on coffee?

Does my grocery bill really come to that much?

Would it be cheaper to swap my gas guzzling car for a smaller one, or take public transport?

Once you know what you are dealing with, it is so much easier to start crunching the numbers and looking for ways to move money around.

Take a look at the next example to see how this can be done.


Your goal should never be to simply cut money from a spending category (=deprivation) but to spend smarter (=planned spending).

Let's say you feel you're over spending on groceries and you're regularly throwing food away because it's gone bad in your fridge.

That might mean that you need to start carrying a shopping list to the supermarket, instead of relying on your memory and buying things willy-nilly.

Once you do this, you'll find that your food shopping bill grows smaller.

Well done! But don't stop there.

Now, it's time to reassig some of that excessive grocery spending. You could start a savings account. Or treat yourself to a much needed family night out at the cinema (=planned spending and enjoyment). It's up to you. But the point is, you're in control.

Enjoying your money

When we take control and actually see where the green stuff is going, then it is much easier to divert it elsewhere, as needed.

This kind of simple money management can be done with absolutely anything in your spending categories, including debt.

Watch out for the next article on credit card and payday loan debt cycles, and how to manage yourself out of them without too many tears.

Spending Plan to Get You Out of Debt


Are you happy with your current financial situation?

See results


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • John Holden profile image

      John Holden 

      8 years ago

      "It is an easy thing to triumph in the summer's sun

      And in the vintage and to sing on the waggon loaded with corn

      It is an easy thing to talk of patience to the afflicted

      To speak the laws of prudence to the homeless wanderer

      To listen to the hungry raven's cry in wintry season

      When the red blood is fill'd with wine and with the marrow of lambs "

      William Blake

    • sarahd profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks for the useful spreadsheet Johanna. The other good reason for living economically is that it tends to be more environmentally friendly. When I am feeling jealous of the fat cats I remind myself that by living more simply I have a smaller footprint on the earth. This can be spiritually satisfying.

    • Johanna Bergstrom profile imageAUTHOR

      Johanna Bergstrom 

      8 years ago from Fuengirola, Malaga, Spain

      Thank you very much! I also liked your hub about family values. Spot on, in my opinion.

    • Johanna Bergstrom profile imageAUTHOR

      Johanna Bergstrom 

      8 years ago from Fuengirola, Malaga, Spain

      Thank you! It's lovely to know you enjoyed the hub. And I LOVE your recipes! Wow! The sweetpotato recipe has gotta be tried ASAP...

    • Claudia Tello profile image

      Claudia Tello 

      8 years ago from Mexico

      I love your positive approach to budgeting. As you well say, sometimes stretching out our incomes is a matter of spending money in a smarter way.

    • stephanieb27 profile image


      8 years ago from United States

      Great hub! I totally agree about changing the mindset! :)

    • patchofearth profile image

      Rebecca Long 

      8 years ago from somewhere in the appalachian foothills

      Your preaching to the choir here. I'm a big fan of budgeting. I think it is good that somebody is out there spreading the word. Nice work.

    • Michael Tully profile image

      Michael Tully 

      8 years ago

      I admire your psychological approach to budgeting. Thinking of it as "planned spending" rather than "deprivation" makes it easier to stay on a budget. As the old saying goes, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Voted up, useful and interesting.

      Welcome to HubPages, Johanna, and thanks for following me! I look forward to reading more of your articles.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)