How to Live Big on a Small Budget


Say the word “budget” and words that come to most peoples’ minds are “restrictive”, “cheap”, “frustrating”, and “rigid”. However, I’m a strong believer that a properly structured budget should allow you to get more out of life, not less. Here are some simple tips for how to make your budget work for you and your lifestyle and why it’s essential to factor fun into your budget.

Leave Room for Fun

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, you must remember to include some room for fun into your budget. If you allocate every single dollar to things like saving, bills, and debt, you are setting yourself up for failure. Even if money is really tight, there are ways to include incorporate some semblance of a social life or “treats” into your budget. Remember, budgeting isn’t intended to restrict you from all things you enjoy! Successful budgeting is about evaluating your spending habits so you can afford to spend more on the things you enjoy, and less on wasteful things.

Spend Where It Counts

Here’s a little piece of advice: No matter how much money you make, it will always feel like it’s not enough and there will always be things you want that you can’t afford. This is why it is important to determine what really matters to you and what will bring you the most fulfillment. If dining out with friends is your thing, that’s ok. But set a monthly spending limit for yourself and know that there may be other things you have to sacrifice in order to allow this to fit in your budget. Evaluating your spending habits to distinguish between what brings you enjoyment and what you can do without can help you make the most of the money you have.

Take Advantage of Your City

Cities big and small all have a lot to offer in terms of free or very low cost activities. Keep your eyes peeled for farmers’ markets, outdoor movies, free music events, free admission to museums and galleries, and the like. Also remember to take advantage of your nearby parks, hiking trails, and beaches. You’d be surprised at how busy (and cultured!) you can keep yourself without spending a lot of money.

Don’t Give in to Fads

Avoid spending your money on the latest technology or fashion trends. Retailers know most people can’t resist and charge a premium for the “latest” products. Before giving in, consider whether this is really something you should be spending your money on and whether you need it right away. Instead, consider waiting for mid-season sales or for the initial hype over a new phone to fade away and buy once prices have dropped.

Live with Less

Many people – especially millennials and Generation Yers – are embracing a simpler, more minimalistic lifestyle. They feel that by spending less on materialistic things, they can get more enjoyment out of experiencing life. You don’t need to go as far as embracing the “tiny house trend”, but consider whether you can live with less. Not only can this be good for your state-of-mind, but it will free up money to spend on things like travel and your social life.

Budgeting and responsibly managing your finances is not about giving up everything you enjoy. The key to successful budgeting is balance. Distinguish between needs and wants so you can find a balance between saving, living expenses, paying off debt, and having a little left over to treat yourself. Smart budgeting can allow you the freedom to “live big” on any income.

3 Min Read

Five Essential Lessons to Keep in Mind When You're Starting Your Own Business

"How did you ever get into a business like that?" people ask me. They're confounded to hear that my product is industrial baler wire—a very unfeminine pursuit, especially in 1975 when I founded my company in the midst of a machismo man's world. It's a long story, but I'll try to shorten it.

I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up—even if it involved a non-glamorous product. I'd been fired from my previous job working to become a ladies' clothing buyer and was told at my dismissal, "You just aren't management or corporate material." My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.

Over the years, I've learned quite a few tough lessons about how to successfully run a business. Below are five essential elements to keep in mind, as well as my story on how I learned them.

Find A Need And Fill It

I gradually became successful at selling various products, which unfortunately weren't profitable enough to get me off the ground, so I asked people what they needed that they couldn't seem to get. One man said, "Honey, I need baler wire. Even the farmers can't get it." I saw happy dollar signs as he talked on and dedicated myself to figuring out the baler wire industry.

I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up.

Now forty-five years later, I'm proud to be the founder of Vulcan Wire, Inc., an industrial baler wire company with $10 million of annual sales.

Have Working Capital And Credit

There were many pitfalls along the way to my eventual success. My daughters and I were subsisting from my unemployment checks, erratic alimony and child-support payments, and food stamps. I had no money stashed up to start up a business.

I paid for the first wire with a check for which I had no funds, an illegal act, but I thought it wouldn't matter as long as I made a deposit to cover the deficit before the bank received the check. My expectation was that I'd receive payment immediately upon delivery, for which I used a rented truck.

Little did I know that this Fortune 500 company's modus operandi was to pay all bills thirty or more days after receipts. My customer initially refused to pay on the spot. I told him I would consequently have to return the wire, so he reluctantly decided to call corporate headquarters for this unusual request.

My stomach was in knots the whole time he was gone, because he said it was iffy that corporate would come through. Fifty minutes later, however, he emerged with a check in hand, resentful of the time away from his busy schedule. Stressed, he told me to never again expect another C.O.D. and that any future sale must be on credit. Luckily, I made it to the bank with a few minutes to spare.

Know Your Product Thoroughly

I received a disheartening phone call shortly thereafter: my wire was breaking. This horrible news fueled the fire of my fears. Would I have to reimburse my customer? Would my vendor refuse to reimburse me?

My customer told me to come over and take samples of his good wire to see if I might duplicate it. I did that and educated myself on the necessary qualities.

My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.

Voila! I found another wire supplier that had the right specifications. By then, I was savvy enough to act as though they would naturally give me thirty-day terms. They did!

More good news: My customer merely threw away all the bad wire I'd sold him, and the new wire worked perfectly; he then gave me leads and a good endorsement. I rapidly gained more wire customers.

Anticipate The Dangers Of Exponential Growth

I had made a depressing discovery. My working capital was inadequate. After I purchased the wire, I had to wait ten to thirty days for a fabricator to get it reconfigured, which became a looming problem. It meant that to maintain a good credit standing, I had to pay for the wire ten to thirty days before my customers paid me.

I was successful on paper but was incredibly cash deprived. In other words, my exponentially growing business was about to implode due to too many sales. Eventually, my increasing sales grew at a slower rate, solving my cash flow problem.

Delegate From The Bottom Up

I learned how to delegate and eventually delegated myself out of the top jobs of CEO, President, CFO, and Vice President of Finance. Now, at seventy-eight years old, I've sold all but a third of Vulcan's stock and am semi-retired with my only job currently serving as Vice President of Stock and Consultant.

In the interim, I survived many obstacles and learned many other lessons, but hopefully these five will get you started and help prevent some of you from having the same struggles that I did. And in the end, I figured it all out, just like you will.