Definition from Google, Living Below Your Means is defined as:

Spending less than what you're making. Ideally you're spending less than your last month's pay checks so you're not living pay check to pay check

What would be a good word to describe this?

  • 2
    you're gonna have to get a little more specific. If I were to spend precisely one dollar less than I make from month-to-month then do I fall into the "living below your means" category?
    – MonkeyZeus
    Jul 5, 2016 at 21:36
  • @Mari-LouA - “Living Below Your Means” (the first hit) : 10 Ways to Live Within Your Means | The Frugal Shopper
    – Mazura
    Jul 6, 2016 at 5:21
  • 1
    @Mazura I don't find the definition cited by the OP on the website you've mentioned 10 Ways to Live Within Your Means Yes, I get that you're saying the term frugal is used, but I want to know where that definition is from.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 6, 2016 at 5:26
  • 1
    "spending less than what you're making" has five hits on Google and "Ideally you're spending less than your last month's pay checks so you're not living pay check to pay check" has one hit only. Where did you find this definition, please
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 6, 2016 at 5:33

5 Answers 5


I'd use frugal.

sparing or economical with regard to money or food.

The meaning is not exactly "below your means" but similar intent.


There are a few, but I like "thrifty" the most.



  1. (of a person or their behavior) using money and other resources carefully and not wastefully.

"Jack is thrifty with the money he makes."

(Source: Oxford Dictionaries)

It doesn't mean exactly the same thing as Google's definition of "living below your means," but a thrifty person certainly does, by definition, live below their means if at all possible.


The phrase I have always heard and used is, "Living within your means." This contrasts nicely with, "Living beyond your means."

  • 1
    I believe the OP is looking for a single word to convey the same meaning.
    – Octopus
    Jul 5, 2016 at 22:07
  • The Ant and the Grasshopper - To either live a frugal life, or one of debauchery.
    – Mazura
    Jul 6, 2016 at 5:28
  • Re Octopus' comment, the request was word or idiom. Finding a single word is a challenge. In the extreme case a single word might be "miser" but that has a specific connotation that the OP might not have intended.
    – John Cobb
    Jul 7, 2016 at 5:46

The word I would use is solvent, though this is perhaps a slight stretch of its dictionary definition.

Oxford dictionaries online defines solvent as:

Having assets in excess of liabilities; able to pay one’s debts.

By this definition one could be "solvent" if one is steadily losing money but still has a large amount of capital remaining.

Defining it as "Income greater than outgo" gives a more practical target to work for in personal finance or business finance. Also this is not out of line with the word's etymology as "loosening, paying out."

(Note that unlike "frugal" which carries connotations of sensible or intelligent and conservative use of money, "solvent" has no such connotation and merely reflects the numerical fact—whether that your liabilities are less than your assets, or that your income is greater than your outgo. You can spend money on wasteful whims and remain solvent if your income is sufficient, but the word "frugal" would no longer describe you.)

  • 2
    +1 good qualifications and solid word. It's interesting that there is no connotation good/bad with "solvent" as you describe. I have always considered it to be a good thing, because it's a key part of fiscal independence, but it's great that you illustrate that it can also be the beginning-of-the-end for the uninitiated wealthy (by creating poor spending habits that could lead to insolvency or bankruptcy). Jul 5, 2016 at 23:58
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    @ChristopherD., yes, I actually think the "good thing" connotation is a language change that hasn't made it into dictionaries yet. In common usage I have heard people steadily losing capital (but still not in debt) described as "insolvent"; that's why I said "by this definition" such people are technically solvent. I think "Income greater than outgo" is a more accurate definition for today's usage of the word—and a more useful term.
    – Wildcard
    Jul 6, 2016 at 0:05
  • Oh, I like that one!
    – Peter K.
    Jul 6, 2016 at 1:24

prudent, defined by The Free Dictionary as:

  1. Careful or wise in handling practical matters; exercising good judgment or common sense: a prudent manager of money. (emphasis added)

  2. Characterized by or resulting from care or wisdom in practical matters or in planning for the future: a prudent investment (emphasis added)

Someone who lives below their means is able to stash away money for emergencies, down payment on a house, savings for retirement, college expenses for their children. This is planning for the future. I would interpret "living below one's means" as one's total outgo, including charges on one's credit card, as being less than one's income. Hence this person does not incur credit card interest charges. This is exercising good judgment.

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