I recently had a conversation with an acquaintance about his family’s finances. He shared with me that it costs him somewhere in the $10k per month range to support the lifestyle of his family of four. I almost passed out! I started imagining all the things that I could do if I had $10k per month — I struggle to fathom it!
Conversely, one of my close friends gave up “the rat race” several years ago and now lives on a Catamaran with her family of four and she confided in me that when they first set sail they were supporting their family on only $400 a month! Also shocking! (She admits that she cooked a lot of rice and beans.)
With student loans (still) in repayment, my meager lifestyle is somewhere in between the two examples above and I guess that I have been gone from the states long enough to forget how unexpectedly the American lifestyle adds up and how expensive it can be.
Maybe some look at me with pity wondering why I don’t have the latest such and such? I don’t know. I don’t really care because freedom is worth way more to me than almost any material possession in the world. And with that said, let’s take a look at how you might trim some fat and squirrel away dinero to help you uncover more freedom that might be applied to achieving your goals and dreams!
ENTERTAINMENT & MEDIA
Cut the cable! Seriously, just go cold turkey. Save yourself tons of money AND time!
Check out books at your local library instead of buying them. Many libraries are now offering digital downloads (which has become a God send to this ex-pat!) so if you are on the road you can still access your library via your e-reader or computer.
Amazon Prime is a neat alternative for media and books – after paying the annual $79 membership fee you can access the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library and free streaming TV & movies. Interested in a 30 day free trial? Join Amazon Prime – Watch Over 40,000 Movies
Check out CDs & DVDs at your library too! At the risk of promoting piracy — bring those puppies home and burn copies!
Reconsider your land line. How much would going exclusively to your cell save you?
Review your cell plan. Lots of contract free phones with neat benefits are becoming available in the marketplace with competitive pricing. Additionally, many cell companies can and will lower your monthly payment if you just call them and tell them you want a discount and that you are considering switching to a competitor. It might be time for your phone company to “show you the money”!
Reduce your cell plan. With a WiFi connection Skype, Facetime, iChat, and instant messages can go a long way to save you some money on minutes.
Cut the kids’ cell plans. I can hear them screaming already… If you’ve already given your kids this privilege it might be difficult to take it back, but stand your ground and watch the savings pile up! Seriously, if they need to make a call they can borrow their best friend’s phone because “everyone else has one, Mom!”
Reconsider your tablet’s data plan. You can go almost anywhere these days and get connected with free WiFi. Do you really need to be paying extra just so that you can creep Facebook in the car?
Cut satellite radio. Get rid of expensive satellite radio memberships and log into internet radio providers.
STUFF YOU PUT IN YOUR MOUTH
Meal Plan. Double the recipe and freeze leftovers: saves time, money, and gas!
Paleo on a Budget. Cheap groceries shouldn’t compromise your health, stick to the outside aisles of the grocery store. Here are some budget Paleo resources worth a read: Once a Month Mom, Paleo Plan, and Paleo on a Budget.
Pack your lunch. Check out this lunch savings calculator to find out how much you can save!
Don’t grocery shop when you’re hungry. Everyone knows that this will result in a significantly higher bill.
Make a grocery list. Stick to it and have enough self discipline to say no to impulse purchases on your way through the check out.
Host potlucks with friends, neighbors, and family members instead of dining out. If everyone shares the cost of the food and lends a helping hand for clean up this will be easy, fun, and likely healthier than restaurants or fast food. For an interesting twist, try themed potlucks like Mexican food, Meatless Monday etc.
Give up Soda & Coffee. Watch the savings pile up and opt for healthier alternatives like bulk teas, mineral water, or regular water with a citrus wedge. I love adding a dash of stevia to mineral water with a twist of lime as a soda substitute.
Reconsider your household services like insurance companies and credit cards. A simple phone call can usually result in a reduced rate and/or premium just for asking. Be sure to reference your good standing with the company and other reasons it would be beneficial for them to reduce your monthly outlay.
Consider raising your deductibles. If you have some short term savings stashed away you might be able to self insure and experience the benefit of a higher deductible and lower premiums.
Pay yourself first. Make a habit of adding savings to your savings accounts as soon and you are paid and before spending it on other expenses! Make sure that it is somewhere that you cannot access it too easily. Many banks will allow you to set up a monthly automatic draft from checking to savings. It is a quick and easy way to stash some cash!
Play laundry lottery! I love doing laundry because of all the loose change that I find in pockets. That stuff adds up and I take it to the Coinstar machine in my local grocery store to redeem it for cash (small fee) or coupons (no fee) to places like amazon.com, Applebees, iTunes, and more! You’re always a winner when you play laundry lottery!
Keep it cold. Use cold water to wash laundry instead of hot. Here’s another subject we could write a dissertation on, but we’ll keep it simple: Washing your laundry in hot water costs ~ $0.68 per load whereas washing it in cold water costs you ~ $0.04 per load. If you do laundry just twice per week, those cold-water washes will save you more than $60 each year! And for the extremely tight or adventurous consider Cold Shower Therapy!
Cloth Napkins. Ditch paper towels, napkins, and their expense by washing and re-using cloth napkins. On cold, of course. 😉
DIY. Money can be saved when you invest a little time and elbow grease. Can you patch the hole in those pants yourself or do you really need to pay extra for a seamstress?
Quit the gym and work out at home to save on expensive gym memberships. Check out this post here for specific details on creating a work out routine at home that doesn’t require fancy equipment or fancy skills!
Get rid of your storage locker. Do you know that America is one of the only countries in the world that pays a significant amount of money to store shit that we don’t use?! If you have a storage locker, get clear on why you are spending money to store stuff that you aren’t using.
Sell your shit. We accumulate a shocking amount of material possessions — believe it or not but you can live without most of it! Get rid of stuff you aren’t using on sites like eBay, Craigslist, consignment shops, have a garage sale, or donate to places like Goodwill. Be bold, be fierce, and have the courage to part ways with “things” that are holding you back and weighing you down. You’ll feel much better, I promise!
Utilize thrift stores. Speaking of Goodwill, it is a great place to pick up those items that you do actually need! Great deals abound for the savvy and patient shopper.
Conserve Energy/Utilities. Turn off lights, turn down heat/turn up AC, turn off the tap when brushing teeth, and conserve water by showering with a friend! 😉
Reduce expenses spent on household cleaners AND the amount of toxins in your home by utilizing some of these DIY cleaning solutions. 150 Household Uses For Vinegar, 101 More Uses for Vinegar, 19 Uses for Baking Soda, Dryer Sheets, & Beer.
Consider medical vacations. In countries like Mexico you can usually find doctors and dentists that can handle preventative health care for a fraction of the cost that you would experience stateside. Sometimes even enough to pay for the plane ticket that will allow you to get your teeth cleaned in paradise!
Review bad habits. How much are you spending on unhealthy habits like tobacco and/or alcohol? Consider ditching these bad habits and redistributing funds elsewhere.
Reduce personal care expenses and exposure to toxins by using these DIY recipes for things such as deodorant, homemade hand sanitizer, hand & body lotion, lip balm, shampoo and more!
Give up salon treatments. When money is tight, the first thing I eliminate is salon cuts, colors, and pedicures. I keep a low maintenance, classic hairstyle that can be trimmed almost anywhere by almost anyone and regularly schedule at home spa days for DIY pedis. What expensive salon treatments can you do at home to save chunks of change?
Barter. Do you have a skill or service that you can use to pay someone instead of using cash? Maybe you’re handy with removing viruses from computers and could get the computers on a local farm running in tip-top shape in exchange for organic meat, eggs, or produce? Be creative!
Practice delayed gratification. We should all hear “no” on occasion. Do you *really* need that shiny new widget that is in your shopping cart?
Stay away from advertising. Commercials on TV and ads in magazines are designed to make us want to buy whatever it is that is on their glossy page. Cutting back on TV and magazine consumption can help you curb those urges to buy the latest such and such.
Consider off brands and generics. Off brands and generics are often times made with the exact same ingredients/materials as their name brand counterparts and can save you money.
Now, let’s hear from YOU! What are your favorite ideas for saving money or living large on a tiny budget?