Live for Now, or Plan for the Future? Financial Advice for Finding a Balance

Published on November 21st, 2017 by Saeed Baeshen

You won’t find the word asceticism in most online financial advice articles. Asceticism is the practice of living with as few earthly indulgences as possible. It has been practiced for thousands of years, mainly by religious and spiritual figures such as Jesus of Nazareth and Siddhartha Gautama.

Although we don’t commonly use the word asceticism, much of today’s personal financial advice seems to be suggesting just that. Don’t go out to dinner or buy organic food, they warn: buy something cheap and put those extra few dollars away to invest later. Want to take a vacation? Put that money into your retirement account and take a vacation several decades from now instead!

But you don’t have to be an ascetic to plan for the future. A more reasonable approach would be to strike a balance between enjoying life in the now and setting aside what you’ll need to be comfortable in the future. Despite what the financial bloggers advocating a spartan lifestyle might think, doing so is possible. Here are four tips to get you started.

Financial advice - don't be an ascetic

  1. Make A Budget

It’s the most obvious and self-explanatory financial advice anyone could give, but it always bears repeating because polls consistently show that a majority of Americans do not budget their finances.

Your budget should include both income and expenses for each week, month, pay period, or however you decide to split it up. Estimate income conservatively and costs liberally; you don’t want to be caught off-guard and coming in under-budget is infinitely better than going over-budget.

Make sure you factor money for saving and investing into the budget, even if you have to start small. Even $100 adds up fast it if you keep at it long enough, and if you re-invest any returns you receive (AHP, for example, allows you to automate this process) you’ll be surprised at how much you can earn in a year (or two, or three…)

Your budget should also include how much you intend to spend on yourself – lunch, coffee, new shoes, a trip to a museum, etc. Remember, we’re not giving up on the concept of fun, merely planning out exactly how much fun we can afford to spend money on each month.

Finally, stick to your budget. Draw it up each month (or week, or pay period…) in case anything changes. And if you slip up and go over, don’t beat yourself up. Resolve to do better, and learn from your mistakes.


  1. Reduce Expenses Over Time

We know, we said not to be an ascetic – but hear us out.

There is a difference between gradually reducing monthly expenses and quitting all of your habits and social life cold turkey. The former is a good practice for achieving and maintaining financial security, while the latter is nearly impossible and only a good strategy for becoming frustrated and giving up.

Try this – say you’re a big coffee drinker and you go through an average of around two cups a day during the week. Each month has between 20 and 23 working days, but you’re estimating costs liberally, so you’re assuming 23. An average cup costs $2.70, but you’ll round up to $3 even just in case. That gives you a coffee budget of $138 per month.

We’re not telling you to give up coffee completely – although an extra $138 a month is nothing to sneeze at – just a little bit at a time. Try dropping $10 or $20 from your coffee budget one month, and add that money to your saving/investing budget instead. All you have to do is survive on one cup for a few days a month instead of two (and to be fair, we know how hard that can be!)

You can apply this tactic on many other types of expenses as well. Maybe you’re still debating that Amazon Prime membership you rarely use – take a month to watch everything on there that you can’t see anywhere else, then cut it. Weaning yourself off is much easier than pulling the plug, and the prospect of putting more money away for the future can be a powerful motivator. It can even be addicting – try it and you’ll see!


  1. Up Your Income

We know, we know, easier said than done. But remember: we’re not talking about giving up all worldly pleasures to amass as large a fortune as possible. All we’re doing is getting in the habit of planning for the future while still living in the now.

In today’s world of constantly-evolving tech, there is a side-hustle for everyone. The idea isn’t to pick up a whole second job and all of the stresses that come with it, but something simple that you can do for even a couple hours a week, just to bolster your future earnings potential.

Depending on the skills and resources you have, you can help companies out with coding, rent out a spare bedroom, blog, become a rideshare driver, or work as a handyman (or woman). The best thing about a side hustle is you do it on your own time, when you have time. Put your earnings from it into the “save/invest” column of your budget, and your wealth will grow even faster.

Finally – why not take that shot and ask your boss for that raise or promotion that you probably deserve? If you can be assertive without being demanding or pretentious, then the worst thing that can happen is nothing.


  1. Invest

This is important. It’s all well and good to put your money in a savings account (or stuff your mattress with cash if you want to be old-school about it…just stay away from fires), but in the long term you may end up losing money this way. Savings accounts earn less than 1% interest on average, which isn’t even enough to cover inflation. To really grow your money, you have to enter the big, scary world of investing.

Which really isn’t that scary. Pop culture may have instilled pictures of blustery men in suits shouting over each other on a trade floor, or mega-wealthy tycoons closing deals worth billions of dollars, but since the advent of investment crowdfunding, doors have opened for millions of average Americans to become investors.

American Homeowner Preservation, for example, is proud to accept investments as low as $100 from anyone, as long as they are over 18. We have been offering returns of up to 12% to investors, and the option (mentioned above) to re-invest those returns makes earning potential exponential.

Building a safety net for emergencies, for retirement, or to fund a future endeavor usually means sacrifice, but it doesn’t have to mean sacrificing everything. Nothing is certain, and it’s important to enjoy the present while you plan for the future. Don’t let anyone tell you the two are mutually exclusive. You don’t have to be an ascetic to be financially secure.

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