60 WAYS TO SAVE MONEY
The best way to save money is to start simple, look over your current financial situation and figure out where you are overspending.
Sergio Marquina | published date : Feb 05 , 2021
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There is an infinite number of ways to save money, but here are the best ways to save money in all areas of your life.
These money-saving strategies originated in the first edition of my book Your Money or Your Life, but we removed from future editions.
They have been so powerful for so many people that I wanted to include them here. Even though some of them might not apply to you, try as many as you can.
The savings will really add up!
HOW TO SAVE MONEY EVERY MONTH
Before we get into the full list of 101 ways to save money, let’s start with the basics.
We all know that the best way to start saving money is to start simple, look over your current financial situation and figure out where you are overspending. Starting with these few simple tasks can give you the confidence and small successes that you need to start saving even more money. Here’s how to save money today:
Create a Budget
When you are trying to figure out how you can save money, you need to start by looking at how much money you bring in, and how much you spend each month. In essence, create a monthly budget for your household, yes that may seem like a daunting task, but its really quite simple nowadays to create a budget and stick to it if you are in the right mindset to start saving for financial freedom.
One issue that many of us have is actually putting money into a savings account. We just never take that time to do that transfer in our free time. Start having a percentage of your check automatically deposited into a savings account rather than your daily-use checking account.
The great part here is, there are many online savings accounts that allow you to earn pretty great interest rates on your money while it sits there.
Track Your Spending
Once you have your budget in place, the best to keep up with it is to actively track your spending. You will probably be shocked at how quickly your budget for eating out will be gone, or how big of a hit that gourmet cup of coffee takes on your budget every month. Tracking it and seeing every dollar spent towards what can really bring things into perspective.
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INTEREST PAYMENTS AND FINANCIAL CHARGES
Cutting down on how much you pay for the privilege of using borrowed money is a cardinal rule of saving money.
After all, you’ve already done your time at the office for the privilege of having the money in your pocket. Why pay again, and drag the ball and chain of debt around too, as you hobble down the road of life?
1. Pay off your credit cards
Credit card companies charge 16 to 20 percent interest on the unpaid balance of your bill. In 1989, the national average interest rate on credit cards was 18.66 percent. Every $100 of debt cost $18.66 a year in interest.
That means that someone in the 28 percent tax bracket had to earn $25.92 before taxes to pay for the privilege of having spent that $100. Clearly, credit cards may be a convenience, but they aren’t a bargain. As you begin to save money, you should look at paying off your most expensive debts first.
Even if it means taking out a personal loan to pay off the debt since the rates can be significantly lower than those which the credit card companies charge.
If you’re going to use a card make sure it’s one of the best credit cards.
2. Eliminate all but one credit card
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With rare exceptions, each credit card you have cost you annually anywhere from $20 to a whopping $550 for the privilege of using it -even if you do pay off your balance monthly.
Keep the credit card that is the most beneficial to you by earning rewards for using it and has the lowest annual fee to have in your pocket.
3. Pay cash for all purchases, even major ones
Follow this simple rule and you will eliminate debt from your life.
Not only that, but you will be forced to wait to make purchases until you have enough money saved up-and by then you may no longer want the latest “must-have” item.
4. Pay off your mortgage as quickly as possible
If you have been extending your payments over the typical 30 years, you may well be spending up to three times the purchase price of your house. That means that if you buy a house for $100,000 with a 30-year mortgage at 9.5 percent you will actually have shelled out over $300,000 by the time you make the last payment.
Paying off your mortgage early may be easier than you think. According to one newspaper article, an increase in payments of just 5 percent could cut almost 7 years off a 30-year mortgage. Paying an extra 10 percent would reduce the mortgage to just over 19 years.
5. Use a bank account that waives the service fee
If your bank account offers free checking or waives the service fee in exchange for maintaining a minimum balance, don’t draw the account below the minimum.
This requires the discipline of keeping your check register up-to-date, but it’s so simple to avoid these unnecessary charges.
And keeping your check register up-to-date isn’t such a bad practice anyway.
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6. Don’t bounce checks
(See number 5.) Furthermore, rubber checks waste the life energy of a whole string of other people who then must spend some of their precious time on earth trying to collect from you.
There is no better way to demonstrate to the world that you are not a person of integrity than to bounce a check.
When you really sit down and think about it, if you, your spouse, your teenager, all have a car, each have your own daily routines, and errands to run, the costs of car payments, gas, insurance, maintenance can add up to a boatload!
This is a huge area to think about when trying to save money.
7. Assess whether or not you really need that extra car
You might want to eliminate it and save on gas, oil, maintenance, repairs, parking, insurance, licensing and fines.
Lu Bauer and Steve Brandon had inherited a car from the classic “little old lady who only drove it to church on Sunday.” The body was in perfect condition (a wonder for an area that salts its roads for nearly half the year). The engine was a hummer. They didn’t need the car, but they had it and decided to keep it for a spare.
After a year of tracking their expenses, they recognized that just having this beauty up on blocks in their barn was costing hundreds in licensing and insurance. They realized that by selling the extra car now, they could save thousands of dollars by the time they would need a replacement for their current car. In addition, someone else in their rural community could have the pleasure of driving granny’s cream puff.
Steve West was in a similar position. As a home remodeler, he rationalized his two extra vehicles (an old pickup truck and another beater) as useful for hauling tools and materials to his jobs. Since they weren’t worth much on the open market, he’d assumed it was cheaper to keep them. Not true.
Doing his Monthly Tabulations showed him the high cost of the convenience of having-and maintaining-these backup vehicles. Between paying for the new transmission, the insurance and licensing and the gallons of gas they guzzled for even short hops, Steve found that for less money he could just rent an extra truck when he needed it. He sold off the two extras-and hasn’t needed to rent yet.
8. Walk to do local errands whenever possible
How far is too far to walk? Short hops in your car when the engine is cold are a major cause of automotive wear and tear and poor gas mileage.
Take a look at the reasons you use your car for errands less than a mile from your home. Convenience? Speed? Safety?
And look at what it’s costing you in terms of money and exercise. Try walking instead.
9. Use public transportation
This is usually very cost-effective, especially if parking is a problem. Remember, the cost of taking your car downtown isn’t just the cost of parking.
It also includes the cost of gas and wear and tear on the car. If the IRS computes mileage at 27 cents a mile, shouldn’t you? (53.5 cents in 2017)
10. Keep an auto log
Keeping a detailed automotive log is an excellent practice and provides a valuable diagnostic tool. This book is a record of everything done to the car along with the date and odometer reading when it was done. Be sure to include the amount of gas at each fill-up, how many miles per gallon you’re getting at each fill-up, the quantity of oil put in, tire replacement or rotation, tune-ups, repairs and replacements. (See Figure 6-1 for an example.) Such car records are used by all fleet operators and can save enormous repair bills.
Not only will your mechanics appreciate knowing what has been done to your car in the past, but you will have valuable information to keep you on top of your car’s health. For example, a drop off in miles per gallon can alert you to the need for a tune-up. Parts can be replaced at regular intervals-before they clog, rupture or fail (the same is true with plugs, points, condenser, air and gas filters, PCV valves, oil and oil filter).
Finally, people with cars that have run over 100,000 miles all agree on one simple maintenance procedure: frequent oil changes. Robert Sikorsky, author of Drive It Forever, recommends frequent oil changes as the best thing you can do to give your car a long life. Your minimum oil change interval should be the manufacturer’s “severe service” recommendation, and Sikorsky even encourages people to decrease that by 10 percent in the summer and 20 percent in the winter.
11. Learn basic automotive maintenance
Surely you’ve noticed the two unspoken assumptions about automotive maintenance. One is “If you are a man you naturally and intuitively know how to fix cars.” The other is “If you are a woman you do not and cannot fix your own car.” Both of these promote ignorance. If you think you already know something, there is no room to learn.
Many men still strand themselves with an automotive problem they can’t fathom, a tool kit they can’t use (which probably cost them too much) and an impatient mate they can’t confess their ignorance to. Likewise, if you think you don’t-and furthermore, can’t-know something, there is no room to discover the answer.
Many women still stand around with a flat tire, waiting for a tow truck or a good Samaritan, when everything they need to do the job is right in the trunk. So find yourself a teacher-and learn. This teacher may be your brother-in-law, who does his own automotive maintenance and can teach you how to change your oil, do a tune-up and change a tire.
Or you may enroll in an adult education class on automotive maintenance. Here you will learn to perform simple, safe procedures under the supervision of a professional in a shop, where mistakes can be both averted and corrected. Here’s some impressive arithmetic for the budding do-it-yourself mechanic to ponder.
If a muffler job is going to cost you $65 at a repair shop, you may be able to earn yourself $32.64 per hour by doing it yourself. How? If the muffler and clamps cost $18 at a discount auto parts store, and the job takes you two hours, you are ahead by $47, or the $23.50 per hour the shop would charge you to do the work.
But if you are in the 28 percent tax bracket, you would have to earn $65.28 in order to pay the 28 percent income tax and have $47 left after taxes to pay for the muffler installation. That’s another $18.28 down the drain, which increases your “hourly wage” by $9.14 per hour.
All told, you’d be earning $32.64 per hour by replacing your own muffler. That’s pretty good money for what some of us might consider an enjoyable, educational and empowering experience. (By the way, at those wages you’d be earning $67,891 a year!)
(Translate this for your current possessions and what you can do to fix them. The deeper truth behind all these examples is that DIY is both empowering and a great way to save money)
12. Shop around for a reliable and reasonable mechanic-before you need one
Sometimes adult education courses on auto maintenance are offered by local mechanics who are eager to empower their clients to become knowledgeable about their own cars, so this may also handle the challenge of finding a mechanic you can trust. Just as it is wise to select a good doctor before a medical crisis occurs, it is important to select a mechanic before a breakdown.
Ask your friends where they take their cars for repairs. When evaluating candidates for the important position of Your Mechanic, there are a number of questions to ask: Is the shop clean? Do you feel you can trust him or her?
What is the hourly rate? Is the mechanic certified? Is the work guaranteed? Most mechanics are undoubtedly honest, but there are some who prescribe expensive, unnecessary work that does nothing to fix or improve your car. Overcoming your own ignorance, learning to do your own basic maintenance yourself and selecting a trustworthy mechanic can make a difference of thousands of dollars.
13. Acquire needed auto parts yourself after comparing prices by phone
Official factory parts for your car may cost hundreds of dollars more than “after-market” parts that are equally reliable. Often you can get rebuilt parts instead of new ones, and they come with a guarantee that they will last just as long as a new part. Furthermore, padding the price of parts is one place where service stations make a little extra on each job.
So do your phone-shopping at auto supply stores with the make, model and year of your car, the part name and, if possible, the part number handy. Don’t forget to bargain-ask if it’s on sale or if they will give you a discount. If you can’t install the part yourself, see if your mechanic would be willing to install it for you and charge you only the cost of his shop time. Some will, some won’t.
14. Do regular maintenance so that breakdowns are less likely
Regular tune-ups and oil changes add years to your car’s life. Not only will you be replacing parts before they break down, but you’ll have the chance to observe the condition of the whole engine and chassis.
Are the belts cracked? Are the hoses getting brittle? Are there obvious leaks anywhere? Is the muffler hanger rusting out? Are the tires wearing unevenly?
Cars (like all machines) respond well to this kind of tender loving care, just as you do.
15. Carpool to work
Some cities have a rideshare program that matches commuters from the same area. Put a notice up on your bulletin board at work or at your local grocery store. Ask your neighbors.
A car with five riders costs as much to drive as a car with one rider, but at one-fifth the cost to each person. And congested cities are putting in high occupancy vehicle lanes so that carpoolers can zip by the single occupancy vehicles.
(You get bonus points on this one for reducing pollution while reducing your expenses.)
16. Telecommute to work
Telecommute to work-that is, work at home, hooked to the office via computer, modem, fax, telephone, and paycheck.
Formally or informally, many corporations are instituting telecommuting to accommodate working parents who want to be home with their children, people who want to keep their jobs when their mate is transferred and people who want their jobs structured around their lives instead of vice versa. Los Angeles County now has 700 county office staff members working at home, with measurable improvements in productivity.
Not only will you save money (and time) on commuting, dry cleaning and eating lunch, but your company may gain a competitive edge by using on-line workers. Inquire at your office. They may even buy you the home-office equipment.
(This idea, novel in 1990, has blossomed to digital nomads and a great deal of outsourcing to lower wage countries – a benefit or a problem depending on whether you are the one hired.)
17. Select your home and job so that they are within walking distance of each other
Many people have recognized that automobiles are destructive to the environment and are striving to relocate close enough to their jobs to walk to work.
18. Go to a four-day, ten-hour-per-day workweek
This eliminates at least one day a week of commuting. It could also put you on the road before or after rush hour.
19. Bicycle when and where you can
How far is too far to bicycle? Our hometown, rainy and hilly Seattle, has a dedicated and growing cadre of bicyclists who, with rain-suits and ten-speeds, will tackle any terrain in any weather.
There is a nationwide movement to turn “rails to trail,” to convert old railroad rights-of-way into bicycle trails. If your town isn’t bike-friendly, perhaps you’ll be the one to change that. The only fuel cost you’ll have is breakfast.
20. Check out insurance rates
Check out insurance rates for the new car(s) you’re considering buying-some models and makes have higher rates than others and give no better service or mileage.
You’d be surprised at what is considered a sports car by insurance companies (for which they charge a higher premium).
Make sure you compare the best car insurance rates.
21. Repair and keep an older car rather than buying new
This saves on insurance too. Back in the fifties and sixties it made sense to trade in your car every three years or 50,000 miles. Now it doesn’t.
Manufacturers can afford to give seven-year warranties because they know their fuel-injected, electronic-ignition cars will perform superbly for at least that long.
The older your car, the lower your insurance rates.
22. Consolidate your errands to reduce the amount you drive
One trip to the shopping center to buy ten items uses a lot less gas than ten trips for one item each.
A shopping list is a great asset in reducing transportation costs. Selecting just one day a week for errands helps focus you on assessing and projecting your needs for the whole week.
Consolidating your errands also preserves another vital part of your life energy-your time.
Medical costs are skyrocketing, so staying well is good for your pocketbook as well as your body.
Maintaining wellness, rather than waiting to treat illness, can be a major way of eliminating expenses.
Healthcare begins at home, and there’s a great deal you can do to avoid getting sick in the first place.
23. Get major medical insurance with a $1,000 or more deductible
Norman Cousins said that 85 percent of all illness is self-limiting. Your body, if given rest and good nutrition, is designed to heal itself of most illnesses. Nature, time and patience are the three great physicians. Even when you do need expert attention and must pay those expenses yourself because they are under the deductible, the overall cost is still less than if you were paying the higher premiums for full coverage.
Because of consumer resistance to the high price of medical insurance, more and more companies are offering these stripped-down major medical policies. Make sure your provider has an A rating or better with A. M. Best, an organization that rates insurance companies.
This was of course written long before Obamacare, AKA the ACA. Now with Trumpcare, however that turns out, assuring access to the healthcare system in the United States is even more confusing and even less sane. All the more reason to take care of our bodies.
Comparison-shop for prescription drugs, blood tests, x-rays and other procedures. Prices vary for all of these. We are often so cowed by the medical institution that we just do as we are told and never question the price.
Some clinics and labs even have annual loss leaders, offering low-cost blood tests to attract new patients. Also, keep an eye out for health fairs, where you can get basic blood work and tests done free or at a minimal fee.
25. Find out what hospitals your doctor can see you at
Many doctors have privileges (can see patients) at several different hospitals-find out which ones your doctor can use and comparison shop for the lowest cost.
You’ll be surprised at how much the daily rates and operating-room costs vary from one hospital to the next. One of the downsides of third-party payments (payments made by your insurance company) for health care is that the consumers themselves are not demanding affordable prices from hospitals.
26. Eat a proper diet
Preventive maintenance, on the physical level, means listening to and taking good care of your body. Pay attention to your diet and be sure you are getting all the necessary nutrients.
The essence of this is listening to what your body runs best on, not rigidly adhering to the latest nutritional theory.
27. Get proper exercise
You need three kinds of exercise: aerobic, strength-building and stretching. Yoga, jogging, bicycling, swimming and fast walking provide one or more of these types of exercise. There are many books on the market to help you. A word of caution: you don’t have to join a health club or buy expensive equipment to stay healthy-you may end up physically fit but fiscally depleted.
Besides, isn’t it ultimately more rewarding to stack your winter firewood and walk to the store than it is to ride a stationary bicycle to nowhere? A recent book, Fitness Without Exercise (Bryant A. Stamford 1990), gives many more examples of the exercise value of everyday activity.
One FIer reported that he sold his riding lawn mower and returned to the old push kind, thereby eliminating his costly health club membership and improving his health. Another friend claims that vacuuming is good aerobic exercise, if done with a lot of energy and fancy footwork.
Who needs Nautilus equipment when there’s garbage to take out, leaves to rake and windows to wash? Don’t think of a clogged toilet as a tragedy; think of it as an opportunity to work your pectoral muscles. Picking up children’s toys provides just the kind of bending and stretching you need for warm-ups before you move into an invigorating jog from room to room preventing your preschooler from wreaking havoc with all your knickknacks.
If you’re spending life energy (money) on a fitness club, perhaps that’s a signal to look at spending more of your natural life energy (time) on your active chores. Cleaning your own house instead of hiring a house cleaner trims fat from more than just your expenses.
28. Maintain a proper attitude
The physical side isn’t all of it; the emotional and psychological components of good health are at least as (and possibly more) important. What is your mental diet like? We are learning that unhealthy attitudes, beliefs, thoughts and feelings produce stresses that play a role in causing disease. Ask yourself what benefits you get from being ill.
What is your body trying to tell you by being sick? A physician friend recently told us that 75 percent of his patients had no desire to be well, while another doctor considers that a low estimate. Are you willing to be well? Wellness looks at the whole person and at the “dis-ease” in his or her life that is manifested as disease in the body.
29. Reduce stress
Life isn’t unduly stressful; you may, however, be unduly stressed by life. We are fortunate to live in a land with abundant instructions on how to handle stress so that it doesn’t deplete our bodies. Most stress reduction techniques teach us how to unhook stimulus from automatic response and to reinterpret “stressful” events as “opportunities for growth,” “interesting adventures,” or just “someone else’s problem.”
Counting to ten is one such technique, and it often allows a lightning bolt of anger to pass through you without doing any damage. Observe how fear, anxiety, panic, apprehension and excitement course through your body. That’s the mind-body connection in action. So reducing stress might mean taking it a little easier, but it also could mean reframing the events in your life so that they don’t trigger those avalanches of feelings.
30. Stop smoking cigarettes
(Smoking has lost favor in the last 25 years, but this advice can be applied to any persistent habit – from frappuccinos to Big Macs).
Not only do nonsmokers have fewer health problems, but insurance companies honor that fact with lower rates. In addition, someone who starts working at age twenty with a pack-a-day habit could retire very early on what he or she spends on smoking. Consider this, from a Canadian newspaper:
Higgins started to smoke when she was 15, paying about 50 cents a pack (gone are those days! Quitting smoking is far more lucrative now. Average price in 2017 was just under $6/pack.). She now (age 28) goes through a pack and a half a day at $1.85 Canadian a pack. She has spent about $6,800 so far…[Assuming that the price of a pack of cigarettes continues to increase at the same rate, by age 70, Higgins could be paying $75 for a pack of cigarettes.] If she keeps smoking, she will spend $186,708 by then. If she quits at age 30 and puts the money into a tax shelter…earning 9 percent, she’ll have $1,851,313.
This kind of arithmetic, by the way, can be applied to any unnecessary habit, from alcohol consumption to an addiction to candy bars. Consider this arithmetic of smoking: one man commented one day to a friend that 60 percent of the people he saw on food lines were smoking. “For the price of a package of cigarettes a day,” he boasted, “I could eat very well, at least as far as nutrition is concerned. It’s all a matter of making wise choices.”
To which his friend replied, “Show me.” So he did. He decided to eat for a month on a daily budget of $1.45, the cost of a pack of cigarettes at that time. At the end of a month he was healthy, and he had $9.73 in cash plus assorted potatoes, noodles, margarine, eggs, bread and other leftovers.
31. Get proper rest
Did you calculate lost sleep in the tally of your real hourly wage? Busy Americans may be robbing themselves of up to three hours of needed sleep a night. According to a Reader’s Digest article, people slept nine and a half hours a night before the advent of the electric light bulb; now, if you sleep more than six and a half people think you lack drive or ambition.
Sleep deprivation leads to short-term memory loss and reduced ability to make decisions and to concentrate. One in ten traffic accidents is sleep-related, and up to 20 percent of drivers fall asleep at the wheel. Depriving yourself of needed rest is hazardous to your health. And money can’t buy a good night’s sleep. You have to choose it for yourself.
32. Lose those extra pounds
If you are over the medically established a healthy level for your body type, lose weight.
This also saves money on food, both the costly treats and expensive diet programs. Now the size of your paycheck has no direct relation to the size of your waist, but it might be useful to have a column in your Monthly Tabulation labeled “Food I eat that my body doesn’t need.”
Most doctors agree that being substantially over your medically ideal weight increases your chances of getting sick.
Housing is usually one of the costliest items on your Monthly Tabulation. The rule of thumb for housing used to be that 25 percent of your paycheck should go for rent.
Now it’s closer to 33 percent. People complain about mortgage bondage-being tied to a job in order to keep up payments on the house.
The “more is better” mentality has us in thrall when it comes to trading up to ever-larger houses. Here are some ways to rethink your housing costs.
33. Rent out your vacation home
In our ten years of traveling to present our seminars and work on service projects, there were a number of occasions when we needed a home base for several months. We gained firsthand experience of the fact that there are between 1.1 and 1.6 (estimates vary) dwelling units for every family unit in the United States. These are second homes, abandoned homes, summer homes, homes for sale that aren’t selling, homes caught up in divorce and probate battles, etc. Empty, beautiful homes.
We’d find owners of the houses we were interested in through the tax assessor’s office or neighbors and ask them if they would consider renting for a few months. We’d offer a large security deposit plus references from prior landlords.
Without fail, the owners appreciated the extra income, the protection from vandalism and the spotless condition of their home when we left. Some even invited us back year after year-and reduced the rent to boot. (of course online services like AirBnB, VRBO and a host of others now facilitate such rentals of second homes that sit empty.)
34. Rent houses that aren’t for rent
This strategy can work for long-term rentals as well. Drive around the neighborhood where you want to live, looking for telltale signs of an empty house: uncut grass, shades drawn or no curtains on the windows, untrimmed bushes, uncollected mail, and leaflets.
Find the owner through the tax office and inquire. Very often what’s behind the empty house is a death, a divorce or a difficult experience with previous tenants. Your willingness to take good care of the property (as evidenced by an ample security deposit) can actually unburden the owner.
35. Try house-sitting
Jason Weston and his girlfriend became champion house-sitters on their way to FI. In the process of putting a down arrow on their rent category month after month, they opened their ears and eyes to other solutions.
Soon they saw an ad asking for a couple to take care of a man who had cancer in exchange for room (their own cottage) and board. It sounded good, but the reality was even better. The man lived on a beautiful estate with a pool, a hot tub and gardens.
Their only tasks were shopping, cooking the evening meal, discussing sports over dinner and cleaning up. Not only did they get the guest cottage and all their food, but he paid them $600 a month as well.
They did their job so well that when the man’s cancer disappeared, he invited them to stay on for the next two years. Since then, they’ve been in demand as house-sitters for a whole network of well-to-do people.
There are agencies (and online sites like trustedhousesitters and mindmyhouse) that handle house-sitting positions, but you can also find opportunities yourself through your friends, bulletin boards and the newspaper. Once you prove yourself, people will clamor for your services.
36. Rent out unused space in your home
How many square feet does your house have? How many square feet do you actually use? Is any of that extra space private and livable?
Penny Yunuba had a new, lucrative job that disagreed with many of her values-and lots of good ideas about what she’d do if she didn’t have to report to work every day. She found herself constantly thinking through alternatives, devising escape routes from the job that was beginning to feel like a prison.
The FI course gave her a tunnel out, but it was her own ingenuity that turned on the light at the end of it. She realized that she could move into the basement of her house and rent out her own bedroom, using that rental income to handle her monthly mortgage payments. She did just that and, by implementing a few other creative strategies, managed to leave her job with enough money to live on.
37. Explore living in an intentional community
Share your life with people who share your values, either all under the same roof or as part of a cohousing cooperative, intentional community, land trust or planned community. While costs vary, the economy of numbers tends to lower everyone’s expenses. (The Fellowship for Intentional Community, https://www.ic.org/, is a great place to start).
38. Move to a less expensive area
Roger Ringer has a dream. He wants us to re-inhabit the heartland of this country. When he and his wife wanted to move to the country, they found that there was no place like home-the town they’d grown up in.
Population: 1,000. Three-bedroom house with a basement: $30,000. Crime: none. Fun: build your own energy-efficient house, grow a garden, play with your kids, enjoy your mate, listen to great music on the stereo, rent an occasional video-just what Roger does.
Roger has a vision of young men and women going to the city for five years or so, achieving Financial Independence and then returning to their rural homes with a secure cash flow and a high quality of life.
If your job didn’t keep you locked in the city, you could move somewhere where your dollars go a lot further. Here’s another example, from the Home Price Comparison Index published in 1990 by The Seattle Times: a 2,200-square-foot home with four bedrooms, two and a half baths, family room and two-car garage would cost $9 16,666 in Beverly Hills, California, but only $8 1,666 in Corpus Christi, Texas-and, all things considered, Corpus Christi might be a nicer place to live.
Flexibility also pays for renters. A one-bedroom, one-bath unit (house or apartment) could cost as much as $980 a month in Honolulu or as little as $305 a month in Oklahoma City. Other places to avoid: New York; Boston; San Jose, California; Washington, D.C.; and San Francisco. Try instead Colorado Springs, Colorado; Austin or San Antonio, Texas; Wichita, Kansas; or even Tucson, Arizona.
39. Sell your house and live in a camper
Have you ever heard of “snowbirds?” They are retired people who live full-time in their motorhomes. And they are having a ball. After selling a modest home, they can buy a luxury liner on wheels that has all the comforts of home-and then some.
They travel with the weather, so heating and cooling issues are never a problem. In cities, they just snuggle up to the house of a friend or family member, plug in their electricity and enjoy all the advantages of a townhouse. With a bit more daring, you can camp off the beaten track on Bureau of Land Management or National Forest land for next to nothing. Strap some photovoltaic panels on the roof and you even have your own electricity.
If you’re interested in exploring such a lifestyle, start by reading back issues of Trailer Life magazine. If there are campgrounds near your city, get out your glad hand and go strike up conversations with some “full-timers” (people who live in their motorhomes fulltime). They will be only too glad to show you around their rigs.
40. Buy a piece of land and put a used mobile home on it
During one of our interviews on a radio call-in talk show a woman called to say that she and her husband had paid cash for a piece of land just forty minutes from Seattle and a used mobile home- $10,000 for both.
She couldn’t understand why all the other callers were complaining about paying $1,000 or more a month on their mortgage-didn’t they realize there are cheaper ways to live?
41. Do your own home repairs
If you own your home, maintenance can put a strain on your savings. With workers costing upwards of $50 an hour, a simple leaky faucet can run up quite a tab. Learning to do it yourself is not as formidable as you might think. Excellent home-repair guides are available (at the library, of course), but there’s another source of education that’s often overlooked: videos.
Check your local building supply or hardware store, as well as the library. These videos can be borrowed free of charge, and actually watching another person tackle the job can give you lots of information that even the best-written and -illustrated book can’t convey. (of course, all this information is now available for free online via YouTube.)
Sharing was one of our primary strategies for a simpler and less expensive life. Roommates, chores, possessions – we needed much less because each item filled many people’s needs.
Of course, life is more complicated with the protocols of sharing – signing out tools or making sure someone else doesn’t need the car. Sharing was so normal at one time that it didn’t even need explaining, but by the 1990s many people didn’t want to be bothered with cooperative solutions. Since then, “collaborative consumption” and the “sharing economy” have skyrocketed, thanks in part to Facebook Groups like Freecycle or Apps like NextDoor or the home-sharing ones mentioned earlier.
How much do you imagine you could save by working our sharing arrangements with friends, family, and neighbors? You will appear smart, not deprived. Note: if you can believe it, the Internet was an arcane tool of Universities and some advanced populist thinkers when we were writing Your Money or Your Life.
Are all of your possessions in use all of the time? Of course not!
So what’s wrong with letting others use one of them when you aren’t using it, as long as you get it back in as good shape as when you lent it?
If you loosen up just a little on the mentality of “mine,” life can be both cheaper and more fun.
You can also barter goods and services with your neighbors instead of paying cash. The following examples are but a fraction of what’s possible.
42. Start a neighborhood tool and skill swap
Make a list of the tools and skills you have to offer. Add all the other tools and skills that you imagine others in your apartment building or on your block might have. Photocopy the list and give one to each household. (We photocopied. You will probably create an online spreadsheet and share it!)
Provide a space after each item where neighbors can indicate whether they have an item and what assurances they might need to be willing to loan it. No block needs more than a few pruners, one extension ladder, several lawn mowers, a couple of power saws, etc.
Yet, through lack of communication, most households have one of every item sitting unused 95 percent of the time. And what about skills, or time? Is your neighbor spending her last dollars for round-the-clock aides to care for her bedridden husband while you spend three hours an afternoon watching soap operas?
Might it be that the help you need is right next door? You may reap more benefits from such trading and sharing than just a little cash saving.
43. Trade clothes with friends who wear the same size
What’s old hat (literally) to you may provide a friend with all the newness he or she needs.
Unless the two of you work at the same office, who’s going to know where your new outfit really came from?
44. Trade clothes with yourself in the future
Instead of rolling over your wardrobe annually and taking the castoffs to the Salvation Army, box everything that you haven’t worn in the last year and put it in storage.
Next time you crave something new go to that box instead of the store. You’ll be delighted at the old friends you find there.
45. Swap services-“haircuts for health care.”
Within the boundaries of family we trade services all the time-cooking, cleaning, yard work, washing, dusting, vacuuming, etc. We don’t charge one another for doing our chores. Try broadening your definition of “family” and swapping services with your friends. More formal barter networks are springing up around the country.
The Local Economic Trading System (LETS), a computer-mediated barter system created in a community in Canada, has spread across the United States. By providing a service for another LETS member you earn a credit that you can use to pay for a service later. (Other systems like Time Dollars flourish in some communities, and many other local trading systems have sprung up.)
46. Join a babysitting cooperative
Many parents have banded together with others in their neighborhood to form a babysitting cooperative.
This will, in turn, give each of you free time and flexibility while saving both money and the eternal hassle of finding a reliable sitter who is available when needed.
47. Borrow books and magazines
The bonus is that, through interlibrary loan programs, your city or county library can get almost any book you request-even if they have to order it from a library halfway across the country.
You can a lot of money and space in your home by borrowing books and magazines rather than purchasing them and stowing them away on that dusty bookshelf!
48. Share magazine subscriptions with a friend
Double your pleasure and halve the price. Halve the amount of paper in your local landfill as well.
Let your friends and family know what you need. Chances are that someone you know has just what you need gathering dust and rust in the garage or basement. That someone might be happy to loan or even give it to you. So don’t be afraid of asking around.
Frugality is making good use of material things, whether they’re yours or someone else’s. For all you know the donor could be relieved to have it out of sight; it might relieve his or her guilt over having bought yet one more trinket.
Ivy Underwood brought her need for a simple sewing machine to her FI support group. It just so happened that Ellen had one she never used. “What do you want for it?” Ivy asked.
As it turned out, what Ellen wanted most was to build a friendship with Ivy. She had just gone from an administrative job to self-employment, primarily so that she could have more time to spend with friends.
So Ellen asked for four home-cooked meals at Ivy’s-and they’ve become good friends. In the old way of doing things, Ivy would have spent $300 on a sewing machine and Ellen would have missed out on a good friendship. In the new way, everyone wins.
Shopping-Marilynn, the “Urban Tightwad”
Marilynn Bradley, who reached FI after six years as a cook and caterer, gave us her strategies for making every penny count on her groceries. She does the buying for her household of six and keeps the cost per person down to $2 a day. While you may be shopping for only one or two, many of Marilynn’s ideas are adaptable to smaller households. She claims that such careful shopping saves not only money but time. Five minutes per person per day is what her organized trips cost her household.
50. Know your prices
Take a day to check out all the stores in your neighborhood and record the prices for all the standard items on your grocery list.
You can’t recognize a bargain if you don’t compare prices.
51. Make a list and stick to it
Luckily, Marilynn isn’t an impulse buyer, which is why she does the shopping and not the housemate who doesn’t know what she wants until she sees it.
Marilynn has a standard list of household staples that she uses to check supplies and determine what’s needed.
52. Clip coupons
Coupons save Marilynn up to $40 per month.
Just buy your local Sunday newspaper and start clipping away, there are even apps you can use for stores that help you store your coupons on your phone!
53. Get Capital One Shopping
Comparison shopping saves money because you’re more likely to find a better deal. Capital One Shopping makes comparing prices online more seamless when you use the Capital One Shopping browser extension.
As you’re shopping on your favorite online retailer, Capital One Shopping will silently search the web in the background, looking for a better deal on the product you’re thinking about buying.
A pop-up window will appear, and you can decide whether to follow the links Capital One Shopping suggests. Capital One Shopping will also show you coupon codes you could redeem to save money.
Capital One Shopping compensates us when you sign up for Capital One Shopping using the links we provide.
54. Do one big shopping trip
Do just one big planned out shopping trip every 7 to 10 days rather than having to go out those extra miles every day to pick up one or two items.
Even if you have an iron will with regard to impulse shopping, the less exposure to temptation the better.
This strategy saves time and gas as well as money.
55. Make menus ahead of time
Create your menu ahead of time for the next seven to 10 days that you are shopping for. You can also base this menu off of what is on sale.
This saves money not only because you buy what is cheap, but also because you avoid overbuying something that doesn’t get used or under buying something so that you absolutely must do a midweek run to the store.
56. Comparison-shop, using newspaper ads and weekly grocery-store flyers
Marilynn shops at three or four different grocery stores to get the best price on every item.
Since they are all within a couple of miles of her home, it doesn’t take much extra time to stop at all of them in one morning.
57. Buy in bulk
Buy your staple items for your household in bulk, such as flour, grains, sugar, and spices.
Some stores have regular bins for bulk items, but these are not always less expensive. A good special on five-pound bags of store-brand flour could be a better buy.
On some items, Marilynn buys fifty-pound bags wholesale and stores the excess in sealed plastic buckets.
58. Buy foods that are in season and therefore cheaper
If you don’t insist on having grapefruit in the summer and peaches in the winter, you can lower your grocery bill significantly by purchasing foods that are in season, thus less expensive.
Remember the law of supply and demand. What is plentiful will be cheaper. What is scarce will be more expensive. Don’t break that law and you won’t end up broke.
59. Stock up on sale items
Buy canned goods that are on sale in large quantity, and meats as well if you have a freezer for storage.
By now Marilynn knows how many cans of tuna her household wolfs down in the summer and can take advantage of good sales by buying cartons.
There is no law that says you can’t clear out your grocer’s shelves of an item that’s on super-special and roll out with two cases of peanut butter.
60. Look for reduced for quick sale items
Be aware of where each grocery store that you shop at puts out their items that are “reduced for quick sale”.
Many foods that are still wholesome are reduced because they are a day or two past their prime.
With an educated eye you can gauge which items are still fresh enough for your purposes.