Common Misconceptions: I Don’t Make Enough Money

Years ago I was talking to a co-worker at a bar after work, and she was lamenting the “fact” that she didn’t make enough money. I looked at her in surprise. She always wore the nicest clothes, always went out to lunch, and often made extravagant weekend plans. I assumed she made a lot more money than me, judging only by how much she spent. But this was not the case: she was sinking in debt.

Her idea that she should make more money actually led to her financial crisis. Why? Well, let’s take a look at how thinking that you don’t make enough money **may** lead you to financial troubles

**I must clarify that a few people unfortunately have no possible places to cut back and do not make enough money. This does happen, but many people can find ways to live on what they make.

The Thought Trap

Here’s where people can blame society: our nation of spenders encourages us to spend beyond our means. There’s always gonna be a new iSomething available. Magazines will forever supply us with flashy ads about the newest must-have egg beater or other such amazing kitchen gadget. We will basically be inundated with calls from society to buy, buy, buy for the rest of our lives.

The problem comes when we answer these calls to spend our hard-earned cash on items we don’t really need. We can easily spend beyond our means. In my friend’s case, she was living the life she wanted, not the one she could afford.

But I Really Don’t Make Enough…

Of course, my co-worker argued that she really didn’t make enough money. And my response: what do you need to buy? Food, water, and shelter. Period. That’s all we need to survive.

If she wanted some extra perks in life, she had to choose wisely based on how much she made, not on how much she felt she deserved to make. I agreed that she was underpaid for her experience, but that should not have been a reason to excuse furthering her debt.

Living Within Her Means

So how did my friend trade her troubles for a few smiles? She began to live within her means. That two bedroom condo for one person: gone. The endless chain of clothing: no more new purchases. Lunches, dinners and nights out: only for special occasions.

Basically, she started over. How? Well, she figured out how much she could actually afford by working backwards. How much did she really need for groceries? How much did she need to pay out for necessities like water, electricity, and gas? Did she need that big condo all for her lonesome? How much did she need to pay per month to pay off all of her debts?

After she added the absolute necessities to her list, she added in others, as needed and as cheaply as possible. Transportation was necessary, but she wondered if she could save money by biking, walking, carpooling or taking the bus. Sure she needed to eat lunch, but could she brown bag it at least a few days per week? The key here was to find ways to live off the salary she made, not her ideal salary.

I am happy to report that my co-worker found ways to cut back. She found a roommate for that spare bedroom in her rental condo. She stopped buying new clothes until the old ones were absolutely past their prime, and she decided to ditch her expensive car in favor of public transit. Overall, she decided to live within her means, not within the salary she thought she should make.

What do you think about the phrase “I don’t make enough money”?

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Anonymous's picture

Melissa wrote:

Wed, 08/03/2011 - 12:12 Comment #: 1

Great post! I think you're so right, and it's one of the things people overlook when talking about finances. You've got to make your money work for YOU, not the other way around! It's funny, because I have a couple of friends who complain they don't make enough money, and wonder how I can afford to live on my own, or buy a new iPad, or this, or that. It's funny, because these friends make WAY more money than I do! I just have a plan for how mine gets spent, and they don't.

Anonymous's picture

Niki wrote:

Wed, 08/03/2011 - 12:37 Comment #: 2

I love this. I really think a lot of people need to change their thinking on this, because there are ways to cut back spending without giving up a comfortable lifestyle.

Anonymous's picture

MoneyCone wrote:

Wed, 08/03/2011 - 15:52 Comment #: 3

I think it is good to shoot higher, but learn to live within your means to begin with.

I'm glad your co-worker found the middle ground.

Anonymous's picture

jeff @ Sustainable life blog wrote:

Wed, 08/03/2011 - 16:07 Comment #: 4

I feel like I hear this a lot - "I dont make enough" sure you do (most likely) you just spend too much. People only need food, water and shelter (plus power/lights) and can do without most other things. Car? Want. Dinner out every other night? Want.
Some just refuse to look at the real picture and their actions, and instead blame it on their employer for "not paying them enough"

Anonymous's picture

Paula @ wrote:

Wed, 08/03/2011 - 16:19 Comment #: 5

I love this post! You're right, when people think "I deserve it!," they fool themselves into spending money they don't have. I often hear a variation of "I should earn more" that is stated in the form of, "Well, by my age, I should have ... XYZ." Many people think that, regardless of their income, they ought to buy a nicer car or rent a nicer apartment just because they're turning 30.

Anonymous's picture wrote:

Thu, 08/04/2011 - 10:32 Comment #: 6

It is rare that there are no solutions to a problem. It is often failure to see or admit to the solution that is the problem.

Anonymous's picture

Frugal Student wrote:

Thu, 08/04/2011 - 23:17 Comment #: 7

Well, I don't think I make enough money, to save for retirement and have a little fun but as time passes I will make more. But I am not going into debt, just paying off out student loans, and mortgage.

Christa Palm's picture

Christa Palm wrote:

Tue, 08/09/2011 - 14:26 Comment #: 8

Melissa, sounds like you do an awesome job of budgeting and making your money work for you!

Niki, very true: people can usually cut back without losing the things in life most important to them! When I left my corporate job, my husband and I were surprised at how much we were wasting on cable, cell phones and other unnecessary items. We cut them back and have never felt better about what we spend :-)

MoneyCone, great point! Shooting for increased salaries is excellent, but living within means and below means can help people reach goals!

Paula, I do think milestones can make us all feel inadequate, like we should be making more money or own more possessions. Great point!

Frugal Student, it sounds like you are on the right track! The college years and post-college years are really tough, but your planning and budgeting have you on a great track, especially when those student loans and mortgage are paid off!

Anonymous's picture

JNU wrote:

Mon, 08/15/2011 - 23:33 Comment #: 9

That's a real success story. I'm amazed that you were able to talk about money with a colleague. Most people don't like to talk about their finances, which is why PF blogs are so popular.

Christa Palm's picture

Christa Palm wrote:

Tue, 08/16/2011 - 15:58 Comment #: 10

True, JNU, money is such a sensitive subject! This co-worker and I were pretty good friends, and she was at the point where she really needed to talk it all out! I can't take much credit for how she turned her finances around; I just pointed out some places she could save or make money -- she was the one who did all the hard work!

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