The Kenwood Press
: 03/01/2015

Changing your lifestyle

Donna Colfer

Sometimes, people wake up and realize they can no longer financially support their current lifestyles. Either they find themselves struggling to meet their monthly expenses, or panic sets in thinking about their future. They seem to suddenly wake up and discover how small their savings and investment balances are to support retirement. Either way, all they see in front of them is doomsday, a hopeless and helpless ending without a solution. Different scenarios that contribute to this worrisome perception might be a recent divorce later in life, the death of a spouse with no life insurance, inconsistent savings, unexpected and costly health issues, or job loss.

If one of these scenarios feels close to home, remember that feelings of anxiousness, hopelessness, and helplessness are old familiar mindsets at their worst, knocking at your door. Before you surrender to fear, ask yourself four questions about your financial situation:

  • What are you most afraid might happen? 
  • What is more probable? 
  • What other possibilities are there? 
  • What do you hope will happen? 
If you address fear proactively, you’ll automatically slow down the fear response. You can manage fear better when you consciously assess that there’s no immediate danger. And with the proper attention, you will feel safer and have a sense of trust, knowing that the situation can be remedied over time. That’s why we’re willing to ride roller coasters and watch scary movies! We know it will end.

You can choose to “end” your fear, or to look at the situation from the other side; you can visualize new beginnings by reprioritizing your lifestyle. Begin, as always, by looking at your numbers. How much are you spending each month and on what?

Calculate your average monthly income total, then subtract your average monthly expenses from that total. Finding your “average” means looking at three months’ worth of spending in any one category (three months of bank statements and three months of credit card statements), then calculate the grand total and divide by three. Do this for all categories. If after subtracting total expenses from total income you have a positive number, you’ll have more choices about what to do with the extra money; i.e., save it, invest it, or pay down debt. If you’re left with a negative number, then look at your expenses, category by category, and reprioritize between what you really need and what you desire. Desires usually fall into “things” you buy to help you feel better. Desires that you can control and monitor include groceries (this is a big one), meals out, Starbucks, entertainment, clothing, gifts, and travel.

Other expense categories to revisit to see if you’re receiving the best value are cell and landline phone plans, cable, and insurance deductibles. And don’t forget that supporting adult children and home remodeling are two categories that can drain your bank account faster than anything.

It’s no small task to discover how much you’re actually spending. It’s not difficult. It’s time consuming, but worth every minute. Without this information you won’t be able to answer crucial questions such as whether you’ll be able to stay in your home, or whether you’ll need to downsize. Can you afford to live in this county or should you relocate? Can you afford to keep supporting other family members or is it time to ask them to contribute more? When you remodel, can you add a room that may provide rental income? Do you need a roommate to share expenses?

When you consciously make an effort to look closely at your financial situation, no matter how dire you think it may be, I guarantee you will find other solutions you never previously considered. Opportunities naturally begin to present themselves. Doors begin to open. You see things differently. As you change, so does your situation and what you’re attracting. You’ll end up happier than you ever thought you could be.

Changing your lifestyle doesn’t have to be depressing, or complex, or out of the question. All it takes is your willingness to look at the truth of the details, and some time and patience. Ask for help or feedback so you don’t feel so alone and afraid, and then let go of the outcome. So often we close our minds to change and possibilities without even knowing it. There are so many opportunities waiting for you…all you have to do is say “yes.” Trust that there’s a bigger plan for you even if you can’t always see it in the moment.