Living Within Your Means: A Roadmap to Sustainable Finances

Many struggle to reconcile desires with their actual financial capacity. Picture: Independent Newspapers.

Many struggle to reconcile desires with their actual financial capacity. Picture: Independent Newspapers.

Published Feb 26, 2024


By: Duann Cronje

Feeling the pinch financially? You're not alone. Many struggle to reconcile desires with their actual financial capacity. But fear not! Taking control of your finances starts with understanding your financial means and learning to live within them. This article equips you with the tools to assess your situation, and create a sustainable lifestyle roadmap.

Step 1: Know Your Worth - Assessing Your Assets

Start by taking stock of your assets:

  • Cash and cash equivalents: Savings accounts, checking accounts, emergency funds.
  • Investments: Stocks, bonds, discretionary investments, retirement accounts.
  • Real estate: Primary residence, investment properties.

Other valuables: Vehicles, jewelry, collectibles.

  • Calculate the total value of these assets. This represents your net worth, a snapshot of your financial standing. Be sure to include your debt too as this negatively affects your net worth.

Step 2: Track Your Flow - Cash Inflows and Outflows

Next, monitor your cash flow:

  • Income: Salary, wages, side hustles, rental income.
  • Essential expenses: Housing, food, utilities, transportation, healthcare.
  • Discretionary expenses: Entertainment, dining, subscriptions, travel.
  • Debt payments: Loan repayments, credit card payments.

Track your income and expenses for a few months (or longer) to gain a clear picture of your spending habits.

Step 3: Factor in the Unexpected - Unplanned Capital Expenses

Life throws curveballs. Prepare for:

  • Major repairs: Home/car repairs, medical emergencies.
  • Unexpected bills: Appliance replacements, car breakdowns.
  • Taxes: Property taxes, income taxes.
  • Create a buffer fund (ideally 3-6 months' worth of expenses) to absorb these shocks.

Step 4: Secure Your Future - Savings and Investments

Don't forget the long term! Factor in:

  • Retirement savings: Contribute to retirement funds and Tax-Free Savings accounts
  • Financial goals: Saving for a down payment, child's education, dream vacation.
  • Prioritize allocating income towards savings and investments for future security.

Step 5: The Balancing Act - Aligning Lifestyle with Means

Now, compare your assets, cash flow, and future goals to your current lifestyle. Be honest:

  • Can you afford your current spending habits?
  • Are your expenses aligned with your income and goals?

If not, adjustments are necessary:

  • Reduce unnecessary expenses: Cut back on dining out, subscriptions, or impulse purchases.
  • Increase income: Explore side hustles, negotiate a raise, or sell unused items.
  • Optimise debt: Refinance high-interest loans and prioritise debt repayment.

Remember, living within your means isn't about deprivation; it's about conscious choices that align your spending with your long-term goals.


  • This is a continuous process, revisit and adjust your plan as needed.
  • Seek professional guidance from a financial planner for personalised advice.
  • Small, consistent changes can yield significant results over time.

By understanding your financial means and making informed choices, you can create a sustainable and fulfilling financial future, free from the stress of living beyond your means. Take control, empower yourself, and enjoy the journey!

Cronje is a financial planner at Fiscal Private Client Services.