Living Below Your Means
by Tony Miller (TMF 2Aruba)

"There's too much month left at the end of the money!"
"Invest? How can I invest when bills eat up everything?"
"We gotta make some changes in our budget!"

Sound familiar? Well, you're not alone. We keep hearing how we've got to become more Foolish, how everyone around us is investing in the market. But how is that possible when there's just no extra money left over to invest? I can't work with money I don't have!

Ahh, but have you considered that you can work with money that you do have? The Living Below Your Means (LBYM) message board, now one of the most active boards in Fooldom, was conceived with this in mind. It's flourished into a place where Fools congregate to share the tips that have worked for them and ask questions on virtually any topic that concerns stretching that household dollar. From homemade remedies to old family recipes, the LBYM board might be compared more to sitting around a crackling fire and chewing the fat (okay, sipping tea and eating croissants is more appealing) than random postings on a message board.

With well over 3000 messages posted, the board is a place for Fools to share ideas they might never have otherwise considered.

One Fool, Emtwo, responded to the cries of what to do with leftover mashed potatoes: "Oh man.....Don...you just gotta try potato cakes...Next morning, take them, shape them like a hamburger, and either fry them (low fat shortening, of course), or do them up in the oven. I've tried them with cheese on top, margarine, salt and pepper, and they are to die for."

Fool Tom Gardner shared his joy of using change machines to find some extra spending money and clean up all those pesky coins hiding all over the house: "I found one of those electronic change machines -- which spins coins into their appropriate place and cardboard roll. Over the years, I'd gotten to hate change (I know, I know... how UnFoolish). But with this little machine, I enjoy finding the odd nickel under the car mat, the pennies under my computer monitor (how did they get there!), the occasional quarter under the sole of an old shoe (gee whiz, how did it GET there?!). Lately, it's become a bit of a game, digging change out the dark corners of my life. It helps me keep the place clean, clears out all the little trays of pennies, and puts a little fun into the process of saving (with the kooky pleasure of hearing the change machine whirl and click)."

Meowiz, a frequent poster, shares her Foolish thoughts on cooking with a crockpot: "The recipe book is good, and you can also get a cookbook about crockpot recipes at the library. They are supposed to use less energy than cooking on the stove, and the flavor is very good after simmering slowly all day. It is nice to come home to your house smelling so good & dinner is ready if you put it all together in the morning before you leave."

RecoveringFool, from whom the idea for this message board originated, shares her thoughts on saving by buying quality: "For many things paying more for something with a lifetime guarantee is definitely worthwhile. I have had items replaced by both Lands' End and LL Bean just because I didn't think they lasted as long as they should. Particularly if I'm buying stuff with the idea of handing it down, I look for value -- not price."

LLessuR teaches us that some brands in the grocery store just might be created equal: "Are you Fools familiar with private labeling? This is when a company labels their products as a generic brand, ie. that particular grocery store's brand. Here's an example, the company I worked for during high school would package their product in unlabeled containers, then right before the product was to be shipped out, a label would be applied. The point is this, the product that is labeled "Food Tiger" (9 times out of 10) was produced by the same name brand that is sitting on the shelf beside it (it probably came out of the same vat)... and the difference is that the price is incredibly NOT similar."

TMFCheeze points out that one can give from the heart while not causing heartache to the wallet: "There is one way to give copiously to charity while still living below your means, and that is to volunteer your time. Most charities are understaffed and overworked, and just offering a few hours a week can make a big difference. Plus, it doesn't bust your budget."

Puuwai, a Fool from Hawaii, reminisces about her family vacations that fit into the family budget: "A family vacation out West? Some of my best childhood memories are from Mom and Dad throwing their 4 daughters in the back of the stationwagon (with the simulated wood grain sides) and heading across the country. We didn't camp, but stayed in cheap but clean motels. We breakfasted in the room, usually fruit and cereal. Lunch was always my favorite: with all those beautiful national parks to explore, we would hike for a while, stop in a picturesque setting, and pull out a picnic of bologna or PB&J sandwiches. Dinner we ate out, IHOP, HoJos, Mexican etc. We always took backroads, never the highways, and Dad rarely turned on the a/c. (Saved on gas mileage.) Dad is 70 now and definitely taught me that great joys in life do not need to be bought."

Sam4d notes the benefits of dehydrating your own foods: "I just finished another batch of beef jerky in the dehydrator and it reminded me to mention it here. For those that garden or have good farmer's markets available, the dehydrator is a good option for storage. We make jerky, gorp (trail mix) and other tidbits. Some folks don't have freezers or a place for a big one -- they could benefit from a dehydrator. Buying fruit on sale and dehydrating a fruit mix makes an inexpensive snack for school or team buses."

TMFJenn shows us that even a wedding and honeymoon can be Foolish without straining the marriage: "One thing my husband and I did when it came to the honeymoon was to only go as far and for as long as we could pay cash for. We went to an all-inclusive resort in Jamaica for a week and it was really nice. We treated the wedding the same way -- pay cash and compromise just a little. We had over 250 people at our wedding, so obviously it took some saving to be able to pay cash for it all, but everything went well. For instance, we wanted a seated dinner (more expensive) but instead of having filet mignon, we had chicken breast. I wanted orchids in my bouquet, but decided on lilies instead. Little things like that if done throughout the planning can make a big difference."

TMFJeanie still relies on the staples that carried her through her lean and mean days: "'Must have staples from my early single-and-extremely-poverty-stricken-days:

Many cans of:
cream of chicken soup, or
cream of celery soup, or
cream of mushroom soup
stewed tomatoes or other spiced-up canned tomato sauce.

When the wolf is at the door, and it's still three days before payday you can make a solid meal out of pouring hot cream of chicken soup over cooked rice. (Don't dilute the soup too much... just a little milk, so it's thick like gravy.) After payday, add a chicken breast or a pork chop to this meal and feel rich again!"

Every day brings the Living Below Your Means board new thoughts, ideas, and Foolish tips to help Fools make their money go further and their lives a bit easier. Perhaps Stormfool says it best when she sums it all up: "This is a great board!!! I love all the suggestions and creative ideas. Having lived most of my adult years in credit card debt and living from paycheck to paycheck, I am very excited about this board!!"

Visit the Living Below Your Means Message Board