The commercial world greatly encourages everyone to spend and spend. Don’t get caught in that. In order to spend, save and give, you should first have the money. Don’t try to live up to some expected or presumed standard of living. The real standard is your joy of life. And that comes from a peaceful, happy mind, with self-dignity.

Don’t earn ten dollars and spend fifteen, which is often the way people live, thinking Oh, I have to have this and that. The agony of trying to pay such bills certainly outweighs the joy of buying. Comfort is not in the house, the bed, the clothes, or the food; it’s in the mind. When you spend too much and then worry how to pay the bills, there’s no comfort at all.

If you find it difficult to pay all the bills, that means you have spent more than you earned. In such a situation you can’t even enjoy your family, because of constant grumbling, “Oh, how can I pay these bills?” It will be very easy to pay all the bills if you spend according to your income. So let’s learn to live the simple life. We can do it; everything is possible.

In the Ramayana epic, when the villain was wounded and bleeding, the author Valmiki writes: Ravana’s mind was “shaking like that of a debtor.” It’s okay to make money. It doesn’t matter what the job is. No job is more menial than to be a debtor. We shouldn’t hesitate to take any job available. A poor person need never lose their dignity, but a debtor loses their dignity.

Until you pay back your debts, cut back on all your expenses. Live with what you have now or, even if you have to, sell some things.

The sage Thiruvalluvar, in the Tirukkural, said that “God is giving you a lot; always save a little.” If you earn ten dollars, make sure you put one dollar in savings. In your budget, consider savings as one part of your expenses because anything might happen. You may lose your job or fall sick. By saving money, you save yourself.

Even the poorest person can save a little. Try to keep a few dollars to save. If you make $1,000, don’t let your spending exceed $900. It’s always better to save a little from what we earn. Even ants save a little food for a rainy day. Don’t even depend on insurance companies. Remember there may be a rainy day. If you get more money than you need, through your salary or a bonus, don’t go spend it all immediately and come back empty-handed. Put it in savings.

Some Yoga scriptures say we’ve been sent here with just a certain number of breaths. You have to budget your life according to that amount of breaths. Budget your life—and not only your money, but in everything: your hours, your days, your entire life could be budgeted.

An intelligent person simply asks and looks: How much am I making and how much can I afford to spend? If necessary, cut down drastically. Budget your life.

Sage Thiruvalluvar says householders should divide their money into five parts: some to honor departed souls; some for God; some for guests; some for relatives; and some for one’s self. Then still, some also for a rainy day.

By Sri Swami Satchidananda