10 Signs You’re Living Beyond Your Means

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In a disturbing trend, I’ve come across more and more people who are terrible with their finances. It’s incredible how many people can’t make the connection that their spending habits is the reason they’re falling behind in savings. There’s actually quite a few signs that you’re living beyond your means.

Stop living beyond your means

Zero savings – Some of us aren’t saving because we have other debts paid, but if you find that you’re not saving because you just don’t care then you’ve got a serious problem. Many of us live in Generation Now but by not saving now, you’re simply taking money away from your future self.

Crippling debt – Do you have a ton of debt built up that just seems to keep growing? Are you not making any efforts to pay it down? This should be a pretty clear sign that you’re living beyond your means. As long as you have a huge amount of debt weighing on you, it’ll feel next to impossible to reach your next financial milestone.

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][icon name=”share” class=””] Related: How much debt is too much debt?

Cash advances are your friend – If you find yourself getting a payday loan then it should be obvious that you’re living beyond your means. Payday loans have higher interest rates than credit cards and despite what the advertisements say; a loan of $100 will cost you more than $1, much more.

living beyond your means

Low monthly payments are your only option – Are you choosing the lowest monthly payment simply because it’s the only way you can afford something? This is a ridiculous way of thinking, sure you’ll be paying a low price monthly but over the long run, you’ll end up spending more in interest payments. It doesn’t matter what you’re paying for, if you’re making only the lowest monthly payment possible, it probably means you can’t afford it.

What paycheque? – Did you just get paid yet feel like all your money is already gone? Well what do you expect when you’ve got crippling debt, monthly payments, and loans to repay? Let’s not forget about your standard living expenses and any other fixed expenses you might have. You’re basically spending more than you make and that’ll get you nowhere.


Everything gets charged to credit – I suppose it’s no surprise that many of us are opting to get instant gratification by putting our purchases on credit but what happened to the good old days of saving or the things we want? Oh wait, we already established that many of just don’t care about saving. Our monthly payments are low so that’s good right? Oh right, that just means our long term costs are higher. Maybe charging everything isn’t such a great idea.

[icon name=”share” class=””] Related: How much debt is too much debt?

You hate being home alone – Many people with a spending problem seem to have a phobia of being home alone and end up at the mall or the bar. They claim they need to socialize but it’s really just an excuse to go out and spend some money. Staying home is not nearly as exciting as going out but it’ll definitely keep your wallet a lot happier.

Don't head to the bar if you're living beyond your means

Buying crap you don’t need – Buying stuff is fun, who wouldn’t want the newest and coolest gadgets? Well if you’re having trouble with your finances then maybe it’s time to figure out the difference between wants and needs. It’s okay to treat yourself now and them, but stop living beyond your means and stop buying random crap.

[icon name=”share” class=””] Related: Crap I can’t afford anymore

Name brands only – Name brands are obviously a status symbol and many people wear them as a way of showing off, but in reality, rich people rarely flaunt their money. It’s called keeping up with the Joneses. Who cares what others are doing, you need to worry about your own situation and spending money on brands you can’t afford will not help.

Discount stores are beneath you – It drives me nuts when I hear people say that they only shop at Whole Foods or Loblaws because the quality is far superior compared to other supermarkets. Okay sure Whole Foods offers different products and naturally raised meats, but don’t tell me that the butter you buy at Loblaws is better than what you can get at No Frills. Similar to name brands, people tend to assume that because they shop at expensive grocery stores it makes them appear richer. This is just stupid thinking.

Final word
If you’ve fallen into any of the above traps, don’t worry there’s plenty of time to get back on track. Recognize that you have a problem and take the steps to get your finances out of the red.

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Photo By Chika Watanabe, martin.mutch / Stockpholio[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

About Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter:@barrychoi


  1. Gary Weiner on March 9, 2015 at 12:23 PM

    So very true. I think a lot of people get sucked into the “low monthly payments” deal without ever thinking about what that’s doing to their finances in the long term.

    • Barry Choi on March 9, 2015 at 12:37 PM


      Low monthly payments are the new big thing and it’s probably the reason why so many people are in debt. They assume they can afford it when it’s just costing a few dollars a month.

  2. Our Big Fat Wallet on March 9, 2015 at 2:01 PM

    I find people who buy things you can get for free tend to live beyond their means. Magazine subscriptions are a good example. I do subscribe to one (Money Sense) but thats only because the library doesn’t offer it. I know someone who spends $40/month just on magazines. What a waste of money

    • Barry Choi on March 9, 2015 at 2:09 PM

      Our Big Fat Wallet,

      Woah $40 a month is a ton! He must have a lot of money to burn or he’s living beyond his means.

  3. Brian on March 9, 2015 at 3:02 PM

    People are definitely getting suckered into the “low monthly payments” or “no payments until 2020” kind of advertising.

    • Barry Choi on March 9, 2015 at 3:25 PM


      No up front fee either!

  4. Tawcan on March 9, 2015 at 4:03 PM

    People get totally sucked in on the low monthly payments. Although the payments are low you end up paying quite a bit of interests in the long run.

    • Barry Choi on March 9, 2015 at 4:08 PM


      It’s amazing how people don’t understand that low payments = higher interest / more costs in the long run. They just don’t care.

  5. Sean O'Connor on March 9, 2015 at 7:04 PM


    Well said. Canadian consumer debt is growing at an alarming rate (nearly half of Canadians carrying credit card debt according to BMO), which is causing incredible stress on our daily lives.

    If more people like yourself speak up, then hopefully spending habits will start to improve and people will become more financially responsible.

    • Barry Choi on March 9, 2015 at 7:55 PM


      I think plenty of people are willing to speak up, its just that no one wants to save.

  6. Tonya@Budget and the Beach on March 10, 2015 at 9:34 AM

    Payday loans are the worst. I’ve seen a couple documentaries on them where people were caught in this vicious cycle of using them. It was awful.

    • Barry Choi on March 10, 2015 at 9:49 AM


      Yes and they have incredibly false advertising. $1 to borrow $100? It’s going to cost a whole lot more than that.

  7. Christine on March 10, 2015 at 9:59 AM

    The closest grocery store to me is an expensive boutique one (Fresh and Wild). Despite appearances, their produce is total garbage, a cake I bought there was dry and stale, and they’ve sold me items that were expired weeks ago. I’d sooner shop at No Frills or even a convenience store. +1 for discount stores.

    • Barry Choi on March 10, 2015 at 10:06 AM


      Yikes Fresh and Wild is pretty expensive. My favourite grocery store is No Frills, their prices are way below say Loblaws/Metro and their stuff is great. Although depending on the store their produce is hit and miss.

  8. Kayla on March 11, 2015 at 3:01 PM

    I think most people who are living beyond their means just arent paying attention. It takes maybe 20 minutes once a month to look at whats going in and what’s going out and adjust for the next month — but so many people don’t want to take the time. While some people truly are in dire straights and feel forced to live beyond their means, for many, some very simple adjustments and habit changes can make a world of difference.

    I myself use a credit card for all discretionary spending, but pay attention to what I’m paying for and pay it off in full every month. If you can do that, the cash back on many cards is free money. I had a friend though at age 24 who got his first card, and spent $400 extra dollars in one weekend that he couldn’t even remember spending. After he thought his card had been scammed, I told him to look at his statement…suddenly his memory was jogged! He had actually himself spent all that money in one weekend, and he only made about 1k a month in income!

    • Barry Choi on March 11, 2015 at 3:15 PM


      You’re right on the money there. So many people just aren’t acknowledging their problems or doing anything about it.

      I also track my credit card spending since I know how easy it is to go over budget.

  9. TheMoneySpot on March 17, 2015 at 4:26 AM

    I have seen a lot of people get sucked in on the low monthly payments. Being able to afford buying a truck, RV, and boat with financing over a 20 year period. Although the payments are low you can pretty much guarantee those purchases will end up costing them double purchase price when you consider the interest incurred over the life time of the loan.

    • Barry Choi on March 17, 2015 at 9:31 AM


      Low monthly payments are the worst since people don’t realize how much it’ll cost you in the long run, plus salespeople use it to sell them more than they need.

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