I admit it. Sometimes I can be a real cheapskate. Spending less money than I make is important to me.
Frugal sounds better but the truth is sometimes cheapskate is closer to reality.
I try to stick to being frugal, which is about doing more with what you have, but sometimes, I don’t spend money when I really need to.
The perfect example is my Dr Martens. They’ve just celebrated their 10th birthday, and… There’s no tread left, the leather has worn through between the upper and the sole, in three spots, and it’s hard to tell their original colour. There’s no argument; I need new ones. I just figure I can squeeze another six months out of them.
While I might not recommend the same approach to shoes to others, I do highly recommend adopting a frugal lifestyle in less extreme ways. That way, you’ll have everything you need as well as the things that are important to you.
Why live frugally?
When you live frugally, you have a much better chance or spending less than you earn. You can then use the difference to pay off debt, save, or invest. Or, all three!
Plus, when you need less money to live, your earning needs reduce, too. You can work less, retire early, take time to travel. In short, you have more lifestyle choices open to you. Being frugal can be the first step to living your best life.
50 Ways to Live Better on Less Money
Go with one car
Many families have two or more cars. Besides your house, your car is probably the most expensive item you own. If you can do with one, you should. My daughter and I share the one car. While she’s still living at home and I work from home, it makes sense.
Go with a smaller car
Buy only enough car for your needs. Too many people buy huge cars that cost a fortune to run. You can save thousands by going with a smaller car. Be comfortable, but don’t overdo it. Apart from the savings on purchase price and insurance. You’ll save a tonne on fuel this way too.
Go with a smaller house
Just because you can afford a larger house, doesn’t mean you should live in one. Live in as small a house as you can and still be comfortable. You can save thousands a year with a smaller house. Many times, if you get rid of a lot of clutter, you don’t need a large house.
Rent rather than own
Depending on where you live, you might be better off renting rather than owning your own home. There’s more to this debate than the numbers though. Part of owning your own home is the security of knowing you have a roof over your head and you’re not at the mercy of a greedy landlord.
However, where I live it is often more expensive to rent than to own.
It might work out best for you though so calculate the interest you pay on a mortgage, the cost of insurance and maintenance, and you might find renting is the cheaper option.
Only buy bargain clothing (when you need clothes)
The cheapskate in my wants to wait until two things happen; my clothing falls apart or I can buy what I want for much less money because it’s on sale. It’s usually a bit of both. Sometimes I’ll check out the local thrift stores or I’ll check out the end of season sales but, I always try to buy the best quality for the lowest price. That way, I spend less money and my clothing lasts a lot longer.
Wash clothes less
We tend to wash our clothing far more often than necessary. So, if that shirt you wore to work passes the sniff test, you can get another wear out of it. Also, washing your clothing incorrectly can impact how long it lasts so always check the instruction tag on the garment. Check out more info here.
Everyone used to dry clothes on a clothesline. Now dryers are in every laundry. They’re fast. Easy to use. And, cheap to buy. Unfortunately, they chew through a lot of power to get that job done. If the weather is conducive, take that load outside, enjoy some sunshine and bonus, your clothes last longer.
Look for used first
If you need something — I mean really need it, not just want it — see if someone you know has one that they don’t use or need anymore. Send out an email to family or friends, or just ask around. You might be surprised. If no one you know owns one, try freecycle.org or craigslist.org. Then look to buy used, at garage sales or thrift shops. You can find a bargain if you look around.
Eat out less
One of the biggest expenses in our daily lives is eating out — the average person spends well over $2,000 a year on eating out. Restaurants are expensive, including fast-food. It’s much cheaper to cook your own food.
If it’s all a bit scary, try menu planning for one week at a time and stick to meals you feel comfortable cooking.
Eat out frugally
If you do eat out, do it mindfully. Pack your lunch for work – left-overs are good. Pack a picnic for the park. You get the idea. Never be a captive audience for expensive takeaway food.
Adopt a minimalist wardrobe
This won’t suit everybody, but try for a minimalist wardrobe. My usual style (if you can call it that) is jeans and a T-shirt, and my well love Dr Martens. I stick to plain, solid colours. Everything goes with everything else, and I don’t burn through too many brain cells figuring out what to wear each day.
Stop online impulse buys
Plan your purchases. Figure out what you need before you go shopping. Not the other way around. Retail therapy is a very popular pastime. It’s very easy to slip into the habit of picking up something ‘little’ every time you go out.
If you need some tips, find out more here.
The number one way to stop impulse buying is to stay out of the shops. And, yes, that means the online ones, too. You’d be surprised how much more money you’ll have in your wallet and how little you’ll miss shopping.
Use a 30-day challenge
If you really think you need an item, try the 30 day challenge to see if you really need it. When you want to buy something, other than a true necessity (medicine or food, for example), put it on the list, plus the date you added it to the list.
Chances are, by the end of 30 days, you no longer need or want it. That means less money being spent on items that’ll just end up being clutter.
Cut out cable
Cutting cable really is a no-brainer. If you’re seriously attached to your viewing habits, you can probably get access to all the shows you love via a streaming service like Netflix – for a lot less money.
Use the library
Instead of buying books, check them out. Most libraries have a great selection of DVDs, audio books and magazines saving you even more.
Find free entertainment
There are two ways to look at this one. The first is that there are lots of options for cheap entertainment: from free like the library or the park; to cheap(er) like buying cinema tickets in bulk or not going as often.
But, the real issue is, why do you need to be entertained? Think about that one for a while…
Exercise is important, but it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Here are some tips for getting fit on a budget.
Easier said than done, I know, but staying healthy can save you tons of money on doctor’s visits, hospital bills, and medicine over the long run. An ounce of prevention, and all that. Eat healthily, and exercise. Simple and effective. And, you’ll enjoy life more, too!
Commute by bike
Even if you own a car, commuting by bike will save you money on fuel, and keep you fit at the same time. I highly recommend if you can do it safely.
Carpool or use public transport
Commuting by bike not possible? Try carpooling or catching the train.
Find a friend or neighbour who works near you, and arrange a carpool. Both carpooling and catching public transport reduce the traffic on the roads and air pollution. Plus, you spend less money on your daily commute. Everybody wins!
Walking is an excellent way to get from point A to point B. Humans have been doing it forever. So, the next time you need to run an errand (and it’s not too far away) leave the car at home and walk.
Yep, easy to say, harder to do. But if you take the time to schedule a regular planning session, you’re less likely to be caught by nasty (and expensive) surprises. And, that can save you a lot of money.
Short term planning involves thinking about whether you need to pack a drink and some snacks before heading out to run errands.
Longer term planning means looking ahead to see what bills are due over the next few months and figuring out how you’ll pay them ahead of time. You’ll find some great tips here.
Sell your clutter
This might sound like it’s more about making rather than spending less money but the truth is clutter costs you money.
What do you do when you can’t find a tool or utensil or matching socks? You go out and buy new ones. Deal with your clutter, remove what you don’t need so you can make good use of the rest. Selling it all will help put some dollars back in your wallet and that’s always a good thing. Get your decluttering started with these tips.
If you smoke you’re burning money. Not only on the cigarettes but also on the more subtle costs like those associated with your health.
Quitting them is a serious challenge though. I know, I’ve been there. It’s now over a decade since I last had a cigarette and I can count the number of colds I’ve had since then on one hand. Previously I used to get that many colds every single year. Less sick days. Less medication. Less money leaving your possession.
Want to quit? Read this book: Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking. After many, many unsuccessful attempts to quit, this book did the trick. My dad used it to quit, too. Highly Recommended.
Batch your errands
Instead of running an errand or two here and there, batch them into one errand day. Plan your most efficient route to save time and fuel. Plus, consider doing as much bill-paying online as possible and eliminate some errands completely.
Being a homebody has such negative connotations but it really can be a lot of fun. I love staying home. It’s quiet and peaceful, I can read or watch a good movie or respond to comments on my blog or write.
Staying home is also good for kids. They can help with chores or play or, just sit and stare out the window for a while and decompress from what, for most kids, is a very hectic lifestyle.
Spending time hanging out at home can save tons, too. No eating out expenses, shopping expenses, fuel, and incidentals. Try it next weekend!
Stop using credit cards
Credit cards are not evil. And before you flame me, once again, I realize that they can be used to good purpose. If that’s how you use them, then that’s good, skip this tip. For others, credit cards make buying too easy, and end up making them buy too much.Not only that, but if you don’t pay your bill in full each month, they will cost you a lot in interest. The average American with at least 1 credit card has more than $8,500 in credit card debt. Don’t make that mistake. Here’s my story.
With the wealth of information and entertainment online, do you really need magazine subscriptions? With all the news online, do you really need a newspaper subscription? If you can get DVDs for free or cheap, do you really need a Netflix subscription? Don’t flame me if you think you do need any of these — I’m just asking you to consider whether they’re really essential — the answer might be yes. Also consider other subscriptions you might be paying for — I’m not saying you should cancel everything, but seriously consider whether they can be cancelled without much loss of value. Read more.
Make your own
I won’t go into all the possibilities here, but many times we buy things when really, we could make them ourselves for much cheaper if we get a little creative. Now, this might take a little more time and effort, but it can be fun, especially if you make it a family project. We recently made our own (very simple) bookshelves with only a couple of pieces of lumber, instead of buying them. If you don’t know how to make something, search for it online. You’ll most likely find some instructions.
Do it yourself
Instead of hiring someone to do something, try doing it yourself. Sure, it takes some time and effort, but it’s satisfying, and of course cheaper. It’s also educational, if you don’t know how to do it — again, do an online search, read up on it, and give it a go. Frugality freaks are DIYers.
Stop paying interest
I mentioned the interest of credit cards, and auto loans, and mortgages. I consider them a waste of money. I’ve talked about how to live without credit before, and I recommend it for a frugal lifestyle. Consider any other accounts or loans where you pay interest, and see if you can eventually eliminate as much of these as possible.
I actually don’t travel (or haven’t for years), but if you do have to travel, some advance planning can save you money. Airfare is most expensive, usually, so look to buy your ticket in advance, and look for deals. Also consider train travel. Shop around for car rental rates, as they can vary greatly (or use public transportation). Look for cheaper accommodations, or stay with a friend or relative. Just a note: I do plan to travel, but not until I finally eliminate all of my debt.
Cut the cell phone
This will not be a popular suggestion either. If you don’t like it, move on to the next one. It’s not for everybody. But think about this: 20 years ago, most people didn’t have cell phones. And miraculously, they survived. A cell phone is not a necessity. It’s a convenience. When people needed to make a call, 20 years ago, they either waited until they got to a destination (wait to make a phone call?! omg!), or pulled over and used a pay phone or a phone in a business establishment.
Cut your own hair
Again, this one isn’t for everybody. Personally, I use electric clippers to shave my head. It’s easy, it’s cheap, it’s minimalist, it’s care-free. I don’t worry about my hair getting messed up, or having to fix it in the morning. However, I’m not saying you should shave your head. Many people cut their own hair, in many simple but nice hairstyles, long or short. Saves money, and time.
This is a no-brainer, but we don’t often think about it: if you take care of what you have, it will last longer. You’ll then spend less on buying new stuff. When you buy something worth maintaining, take a few minutes to read the maintenance manual, and create a maintenance checklist that you can attach to the item. For important things like your car’s oil changes or tune-ups, put them in your calendar.
There are little things we can do to lower our power bill. I don’t use a dryer or hot water heater, although those are a little extreme. Try these tips.
With the rising price of gas (and no end in sight), fuel has become a major monthly expense for many people. Small things can add up to big savings. Try these tips.
Telecommuting doesn’t necessarily give you your dream job, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction. But in addition to allowing you to work in your underwear (and who doesn’t have that dream?), telecommuting saves money on gas, on eating out (if you eat lunch at a restaurant), and on buying expensive work clothes (all you need to buy is underwear, right? And no, don’t buy used underwear).
If you have one free day a week (or even a month), cook food in big batches and freeze in dinner-sized portions. I don’t do this all the time, but I have done it and it saves money (buying big can often save) as well as time. You have to plan it out a bit, coming up with a menu and shopping, cooking enough meals for a week or a month. But once you’re done, your meals each night (and for lunch if you like) are quick and easy. This saves you from eating out or eating convenience food when you’re hungry but too tired to cook.
Eat less meat
I’m not saying you have to become a vegetarian (although you could always give it a try), but once in awhile, eat meatless dishes. Pasta, vegetarian chili (see my recipe halfway down this article), vegetarian Indian or Thai dishes, falafels with hummus and pitas and tomatoes and lettuce … there are plenty of tasty dishes without meat. And as meat is expensive (well, the fresh kind is … Spam is cheap), you’ll save money on meatless dishes. Again, I’m assuming you cook with fresh meat, not canned.
Alcohol in moderation
If you drink one beer or a few beers a day, that adds up to big money each month. Some drink even more than that. It’s expensive. If you can cut your drinking to the occasional party, and once in awhile with friends (not all the time), you’ll save tons.
Sweets in moderation
Desserts and sweet snacks give us lots of calories with no nutrition. And we pay a premium price for that, in dollars and in our deteriorating health. Cut back on sweets (don’t eliminate them entirely of course) to save money and cut calories.
Often we drink lots of calories through sodas, coffee, alcohol, juices, tea, etc. And that costs a lot too. Drink water, save money, save calories. Here are some tips for forming the water habit.
Reduce convenience foods
Frozen foods, microwaveable stuff, junk food … anything that’s packaged and prepared for our convenience is not only more expensive than something you cook yourself, but also most likely less healthy. I’m not saying to eliminate these completely, but reduce consumption.
Save on groceries
For my family of eight, groceries is a major expense. With some simple habits, we’ve been able to save a lot of money. See more here.
Eat a cheap breakfast
Here are some great ones.
Gifts can cost a lot of money over the course of a year. Look for ways to do it cheaply. Make a gift, or give a consummable. My family enjoys getting and giving cookies, for example. Here are some ideas.
Christmas is expensive, especially in America (if you live in an area that doesn’t celebrate Christmas with a huge amount of buying, or doesn’t celebrate it at all, skip this tip). People go on crazy shopping gorges. It’s insane. While it makes the retailers and manufacturers happy, it doesn’t make our bank accounts happy. Break out of the cycle and find cheaper ways to celebrate Christmas. Here are some great ways to do that, and here are some more.
Share your tips and strategies for living better while spending less money in the comments. You never know if your seemingly simple trick might change someone’s world!
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