PhotoEveryone knows what it means to live above your means. You spend more than you make, accumulate debt, live paycheck-to-paycheck and never seem to be able to get ahead.

There's also the opposite of living above your means that doesn't get talked about all that much – living below your means. However, personal finance experts generally suggest it is the most important step to getting ahead – spending less than you make each month.

Easier said than done, right? Today's consumer economy almost demands that you spend everything you have and more.

Advertisements promote tempting consumer products and services and encourage you to indulge yourself. Leaving money on the table at the end of the month is almost considered unpatriotic.

How do they do it?

But then, millions of other consumers somehow manage to do it and as a result, have less debt and more savings. There's no shortage of advice on how to achieve that and we're going to pass along some of it.

U.S. News' Frugal Shopper says living below your means doesn't have to be all about sacrifice. You can still have some of the same things you've always had, just find ways to pay less for them. One example is the cable bill.

Instead of giving up cable TV, call your TV provider, and maybe a few competitors, and try to get a better rate. Call your auto insurance company and do the same thing. You could find wide variations in price for the same coverage just by shopping around.

Are you paying a monthly service charge to your bank for your checking account? It's an unnecessary expense. Independent community banks and credit unions usually offer free checking. Just by moving your bank account you could save $10 or more per month.

Frugal millionaires

Thomas Stanley, author of “The Millionaire Mind,” says most of us have the mistaken assumption that rich people live like they are rich. Most of them don't.

In an interview with, Stanley says the wealthy generally avoid ostentatious homes, for example. He says 1,138,070 millionaire households live in homes valued under $300,000, far more than the relatively few who live in mansions.

If you really want to live like you're rich, Stanley says, you'll eat fewer restaurant meals, drive a modestly-priced car and pay off your credit card bill each month.

How much is that doggy in the window?

If you are struggling to make ends meet, getting a dog you must take care of for the next 10 or 12 years might not be such a good idea. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) points out that purchase and adoption costs may vary based on species, breed, and location so you should be familiar with those numbers before making a specific pet choice.

Before you bring a pet into your home, NFCC suggests researching the behavioral, care, and health history of the particular breed to make sure it will be compatible in your household. It might also be worthwhile to find a veterinarian in advance who can offer additional advice about home and medical care.

Run your household like a business

Robert Kiyosaki, who writes the “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” financial advice books, is not a big believer in living below your means. Rather, he advises people who are financially stressed to find ways to increase their income.

There is something to be said for that. If you think of your household budget as a business balance sheet, there is the “top line” revenue figure representing income, and a bottom line number, which is what's left after expenses have been subtracted.

In a successful business, that bottom line figure should be a positive number, or else the business is in trouble. The same is true for a household.

A successful business, as well as a successful household, finds ways to grow the top line as well as the bottom line numbers, and then putting much of the bottom line “profit” into savings.

Ways to grow the top line? The most obvious way is to find a second job, perhaps a part-time or free-lance gig. Besides producing additional income, the second job will burn off spare time that would otherwise be filled with expensive entertainment. 

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