Have you ever heard of Parkinson’s Law? It was first articulated by C. Northcote Parkinson in an article in The Economist in 1955. Parkinson’s Law is the adage that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Parkinson’s Law has many corollaries, including:
Expenses rise to meet income.
In other words, people spend as much as they earn, regardless of how much they earn. People upgrade their lifestyles to match increases in income. The key to saving is to violate Parkinson’s Law.
The key to saving is living below your means
Slow down. Take a breath and take stock. If your expenses are getting out of control, tone it down immediately. Before you do anything else, you can control whether or not you buy a new car, plane ticket, or even another cup of coffee. If you’re spending too much, stop spending for a minute and half and give yourself the time to figure things out.
Make a budget. You have better things to do. I get it. But if you set your monthly income and expenses down on paper, you might actually learn something about yourself and about your life. Carefully examine every expense. Do it even if you don’t want to. Making a budget is a lot easier than sticking to it, by the way. You might learn more about yourself than you actually care to know. You’re welcome.
Get some discipline. Learn what pushes your buttons, then think about how to neutralize those triggers. Slow down. Stick to your budget. Don’t punish yourself too harshly for your shortcomings. Likewise, however, don’t reward yourself too lavishly for every minor victory. Slow down. Stick to your budget. You must develop the willpower sufficient to save instead of spend. Slow down. Stick to your budget.
Commit to saving. Unless you commit to a certain amount or percentage each month, you just won’t do it. As part of your budget, you must allocate some portion of your monthly income to a savings account. You can’t tell yourself, “I’ll just save what I can.” Parkinson’s Law tells you that’s impossible. You have to commit.
Living below your means is hard
No one ever said that saving would be easy. You’re doing yourself a favor, and no one else. No one is going to give you a pat on the back. No one is going to encourage you to spend less.
Yet if you want to save, the key is living below your means. You must spend less than you make and put the rest aside. You can do it, even if you don’t want to.