A moving story in The Atlantic, titled The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans, has sparked a discussion about the struggle that many of us are having covering basic living expenses and have no financial recourse for financial emergencies.
In the piece, author Neal Gabler shares his personal financial struggles—at one point borrowing money from an adult daughter to pay for heating oil—and shares that he’s part of the 47% of Americans that a recent Federal Reserve Board study found could not come up with $400 for an emergency.
Meanwhile, a study by Bankrate.com found that 76% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.
Jennifer Streaks, a nationally recognized expert on money and lifestyle, having been featured on ABC, MSNBC, and FOX Business, aims to help us live within our means and create financial security in her new book, Thrive…Affordably.
BE.com caught up with Streaks and discussed why she wrote the book and advice for people who are struggling to balance their budgets.
BE.com: Why did you write Thrive…Affordably?
Streaks: I wrote it because it is the little guy or as I call it “the middle guy” that is struggling with money. And “the middle guy” does not mean a certain amount of money either; I know people making six figures and more that have trouble with their finances.
BE.com: Tell us about your book.
It is full of tips on living within your means. The tagline is “Your month to month guide to living your BEST life without breaking the bank.” This is important because everyone wants to have a good life: travel, buy a home, enjoy entertainment, but you have to do it the right way.
It is set up almost like a workbook so you can write down your financial hopes, dreams, and yes, issues.
BE.com: What are some basic pieces of advice that can help people live within their means?
Streaks: Create a realistic budget. If you don’t have a budget you don’t know where your money is going and you have no control over your money. In addition, plan to spend. I say this all the time. If you plan to spend, you will not overspend. Whether it is a new washer/dryer or a new pair of shoes—plan for it, save for it.
It’s also important to understand how much money you truly make and what that can comfortably get you. Look at what you bring in after taxes; that is the amount of money you really have. So all decisions should be based on that number, mortgage, car note, credit cards, etc.
Always remember, respecting your money is respecting yourself. Living within your means ensures there are no financial headaches, money in the bank, and an enjoyable life.