Most people really struggle to save money, and there could be many reasons for this. Maybe you have high interest debt? Or maybe you just love spending your money? Whatever the reason, living frugally will improve your situation more than you could imagine, and you can start today.
What is frugal living?
Everyday we spend money, it's unavoidable. But the amount you spend is likely a lot more than it needs to be.
Living frugally basically means you're more careful in regard to your many monthly outgoings.
Too many people think that living frugally leads to a miserable, boring life, but this isn't the case. We're not refusing to spend money completely, we're simply making better decisions in order to accumulate more of it, and simply living below our means.
In actual fact, people who spend excessively are more miserable than those who live frugally. This is because they live paycheck to paycheck with constant money worries, and the only thing they have to look forward to is their next payday.
The benefits of living frugally
Besides from helping you to avoid the misery of living paycheck to paycheck, frugal living has many more attractive benefits.
- LESS STRESS
Having a shortage of money is extremely stressful. What would you do if you had an unexpected bill? Or more importantly, what would happen if you lost your job?
These things could happen at any time, and they're always in the back of your mind. When you know there isn't enough money in your bank to cover unexpected expenses, you'll be living in a constant state of stress and fear.
Living expenses are just as stressful, with the cost of living being the #1 cause of financial stress in the US.
A massive 85 percent of people say that they sometimes worry about money, and 30 percent of people say they worry about money constantly.
When you live frugally, money will quickly begin to accumulate in your account much easier, and you'll soon get to a point where money is no longer a cause of stress.
- EARLY RETIREMENT
It's quite obvious that the more you save, the sooner you'll be able to retire. People who live paycheck to paycheck may never retire. If you're not putting any money away then how can you?
When you start living frugally, you will be able to save money everyday. And if you invest that money into a high interest index fund for example, you could get a 7-10% return on your investment. Over the long term this will accumulate, and build the perfect retirement pot.
Let's say you started living frugally at the age of 30. If you invested just $18 per day, and received a 7% return over the next 35 years, you'd retire with a million dollars at the age of 65.
- GET OUT OF DEBT SOONER
Whether it's mortgages, credit cards, car loans, student loans, or personal loans, the average American has a massive $38,000 of debt!
If you have a shortage of money, the only option is to make the minimum payment each month. This way it takes a long time to clear each loan, and multiple sources of debt begin to accumulate.
Living frugally helps you save money, meaning you will be able to pay off your loans and credit cards much quicker. When these debt are paid off, you'll be able to accumulate money much faster.
How to live frugally
There are so many ways that we can cut our everyday expenses and live frugally. Here are the top ways that I personally use, and have had lots of success with.
1. Eat smarter
Take a look at the receipt from your last food shop, and you'll probably be surprised at how much some of the items actually cost.
Most people grab things from the shelf without paying much attention to the prices, and end up paying way more than they need to.
You'll usually find the exact same item at a far lower price, sat right next to the one you normally buy. The only reason you choose the other is because it's been marketed better.
Maybe the packaging looks better, or maybe you saw it advertised on TV? Whatever the reason, if you start paying more attention to the prices instead of the pretty packaging, you'll get a much cheaper item that tastes exactly the same.
- STOP EATING OUT
The average American household spends over $3,300 eating away from home, and this figure increases every year. This works out to over $63 per week on restaurant meals!
The average restaurant meal costs over 300% more than the exact same meal prepared at home. So by dropping the restaurant meals and eating at home, you could save over $2200 per year, or $42 per week!
- EAT WHOLE FOODS
Processed and packaged foods will always cost a lot more than buying whole foods. Price for price, whole foods will also last you a lot longer.
When you buy a microwave meal, you cook it and eat it, and your $4 is gone. When you spend the same amount on a bag of potatoes, it'll probably last you for a week.
Whole foods don't only last longer, but they are also much better for your body. The salt and saturated fat content of the average microwave meal takes you way over the recommended daily amounts in a single sitting. This puts you at a higher risk for all kinds of health problems.
So eating whole foods like vegetables, nuts, grains, and legumes is not only good for your wallet, but it could also have a positive affect on your health.
- DO YOU REALLY NEED IT?
I used to buy 2 packs of vegan slices every time I went shopping. They tasted great in a sandwich, but they were $2.50 per pack for about 6 slices!
I thought about it, and I was only really buying them to flavour my sandwich which already contained lots of other tasty ingredients. I really didn't need them, so I stopped buying them and saved $5 per shop.
Ask yourself whether you really need some of the things you're buying, or are you just buying them to add flavour. If you need to add flavour then go with cheap sauces like ketchup for example, it'll last much longer, and you could save a heck of a lot over the long term.
2. Cut your energy bills
Energy is one of the biggest annual costs for families, and most of us waste a ton of it. Before I give you some tips on how to save energy, the simplest way to cut the costs is to immediately switch your supplier to a company offering a better deal.
When you've found the cheapest energy company, you can start making some changes around the home to further reduce your bills.
- TURN THE HEATING DOWN
By turning your thermostat down 7 to 10 degrees from its normal setting for 8 hours per day, you could save a massive 10% on your energy bill.
If you turn it down while you're sleeping, or turn the heating off completely (depending on the outside temperature), you won't even notice the difference. By doing this you could save an average of $83 per year!
- WASH YOUR CLOTHES AT A LOWER TEMPERATURE
By simply setting your washing machine to 30 degrees instead of 40 degrees, you could save around a third of the price of the washing costs.
- LINE DRY YOUR CLOTHES
Save your washing until the weather is good, and then hang your clothes on the washing line to dry, rather than using an expensive to run tumble dryer.
- TURN APPLIANCES OFF STANDBY
So many appliances have a standby feature, and this will only usually save you a few seconds of waiting for them to power-up. You may save a few seconds, but it will cost you an average of $37 per year just for this convenience.
To save money, turn these appliances off at the socket, or if your sockets aren't switched, simply pull the plugs out.
- UPGRADE YOUR BOILER
If you're trying to live frugally, spending money on an expensive boiler may seem like the opposite of what you want to achieve. But old boilers are very inefficient, and if you have one you could be throwing money away.
By upgrading to a condensing boiler with a programmer, room thermostat and thermostatic radiator controls, you could save hundreds of dollars per year.
Get a gas engineer to take a look at your current boiler to see what better options you have.
- SAVE MONEY ON WATER
If you have a boiler, you can save money by turning down the water heating a few degrees.
If you have an immersion heater, use a timer to heat your water for an hour or so each day just before you need hot water for baths or showers. When it's not needed, turn it off.
You can also minimize the amount of water you use by washing up in a bowl, instead of using a running tap. Small changes like this will make a big difference in the long run.
- MORE IDEAS TO REDUCE YOUR ENERGY BILLS
Draught proof your home
Insulate the ceilings and roofs
Fit double glazed windows
Turn off lights when they're not needed
Invest in energy saving appliances
3. Stop buying lottery tickets
Americans spend over $70 billion on lottery tickets each year! With multi million dollar prizes on offer, it's so tempting to buy yourself a bunch of tickets every week, with the hope of winning big.
There's a small chance that you could win, but you may not realize just how minuscule this chance really is.
According to the lottery company, there's actually 1000 times more chance of getting struck by an asteroid, than there is of matching 6 numbers on the mega millions.
let's face it, with chances this low, you'll probably never win the lottery. So instead of wasting hundreds of dollars every year on this mug's game, put that money into a quality investment and let it work for you.
4. Re-evaluate your phone plan
When you get a new phone, the lure of 1000 free minutes sounds great. But if they're giving you something for free, you'll be paying for it elsewhere.
If you're in a contract then there's not much you can do. But when it comes time for a new phone, select your plan very carefully. Only buy what you need, and don't pay for things like unlimited data if you don't really need it.
If you wish to stay with the same provider, wait until your contract ends, and then call up for a better deal.
You can also haggle the prices down on their best plans. Try telling them it's too expensive and that you're thinking of leaving, tricks like this will usually get you a much better deal.
5. Cancel unwanted subscriptions
Whether it's a gym subscription you no longer use, or a TV package that's slowly crept up in price, it's super easy to cancel these subscriptions to save money.
Living frugally doesn't mean missing out on the things you enjoy, so if you still use your subscriptions then don't cancel them. But you may still be able to get a better price by calling the company, or searching through their alternative packages.
6. Buy simple clothing
Branded clothing doesn't only cost a lot more, but it goes out of fashion very fast. When you wear branded clothing, you'll also have to buy more of it so that it doesn't look like you're wearing the same clothes everyday.
Colourful branded clothing also fades fast, and logos can peel and crack, meaning they'll need replacing much sooner than something plain.
If you keep it simple, you can buy multiple pairs of plain clothing for the same price as one branded outfit. These clothes will last you many years before they wear out.
The same goes for footwear. If you buy the latest pair of Nike air's for $200, they won't last any longer than a pair of unbranded cheap shoes that cost $30. So keep it simple and buy cheap to save a lot of money in the long run.
7. Don't pay for things you can do yourself
Many things you pay people to do can actually be done very easily by yourself, and this could save you a lot of money throughout the year.
Common things people unnecessarily pay for
- HOUSEHOLD WORK AND REPAIRS
A general rule is to save one percent of the purchase price of your home each year for ongoing maintenance. So if your house cost $200,000, you'll probably need to spend $2000 per year on the upkeep.
People commonly pay people to fix things like leaking taps, or to do simple jobs like installing loft insulation. You may even get people to paint and decorate, or a handyman to cut your lawns and hedges, but these jobs can easily be done by anyone willing to try.
Before calling out a "professional" to do anything, always Google it, or watch YouTube tutorials to learn how to do it yourself.
- GYM MEMBERSHIP
Many people are fooled into thinking that you need a wide range of machines, treadmills, and super heavy weights to stay fit. In reality, you can get a better workout by hiking up a hill, or jogging around the block.
If you enjoy lifting weights, save yourself some money and use body weight exercises. You could even buy yourself a multi gym and some free weights, this will still save you money in the long run.
- VEHICLE MAINTENANCE
We need to service our vehicles to keep them running happily, but we don't need to pay a garage $500 to do it for us. Changing the oil and a few filters, and checking the fluids can be done for under $100, and it really is very simple.
If you're unsure how to service your vehicle, then watch some YouTube tutorials to save yourself hundreds of dollars. And if the service light annoys you, you can also find out how to reset it with a simple Google search.
This one may be difficult for some people, but for men who are paying for a simple buzz cut – you'll save a lot of money by buying yourself a trimmer and doing it yourself!
Even a quick trim is fairly simple to do yourself, but if you can't do it yourself, you can save money by getting a friend or partner to do it for you.
8. Don't buy things you can get for free (or much cheaper)
Everyday people make companies seriously rich buy paying for things that they can easily get for free.
Let's take bottled water for example – Consumer reports found that buying bottled water will cost you 700 times more than filling a bottle from the tap. And buying just one bottle per day would cost you $346 per year providing you took your bottle to the deposit return.
This is just crazy, but it doesn't stop at water. What else are we paying for that we can easily get for free, or a lot cheaper?
- Telephone calls when we could use Skype
- Gym membership when we can workout at home
- Satellite or Cable TV when local channels are free
- Cash, don't pay $2.50 at the ATM to withdraw our own money
- Car parking when you can park a short distance away for free
- Fruit and berries when you can pick them for free (see fallingfruit.org)
9. Quit unhealthy habits
Unhealthy habits like smoking, drinking alcohol, and recreational drugs are one of the easiest ways to make yourself poor. If you want to live frugally then kicking these habits is essential.
Let's take the most common habit of smoking as an example of how much money you could be wasting. The average cost of a pack of cigarettes is $6.28. This means that a pack-a-day habit will set you back a massive $2,292 every year.
Take a look at the chart below. You can see that if you quit smoking, and invested the money you saved into an index fund that offers a 7% rate of return, you could have $32,855.61 in just 10 years time!
Because of compounding interest, in 20 years this would almost triple to $97,487.56! This is much better than the alternative of a broken bank and ill health, or maybe even worse!
10. Buy used items
In THIS POST we discovered how much money you loose the moment you drive a new car off the lot. Buying a new car is a great example of how you could loose money by buying new compared to second hand, but everything looses value, not just cars.
With sites like ebay, and even selling pages on social media, you can get used items that are just as good as new, for a fraction of the original price.
There's not many items that need to be bought new, so the next time you need to buy something, ask yourself if it would be better to get it second hand.
Start living frugally today
So there you have it, my top ten ways to live frugally and save money. If you start using these tips today, you'll quickly begin to accumulate wealth, so that you can stop worrying about money, and start enjoying your life.
Living frugally will take some commitment, and you may find the changes hard to begin with. But this way of life has been truly life changing for many people, so stick with it, and you'll soon start to wonder why you never did it sooner.
Enjoy living frugally!