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With the current global economic climate, many people are considering how to cut their costs and reduce living expenses significantly.
Fortunately, there are lots of cheap living tips that can help you to reduce your expenses without compromising your quality of life.
1. Use Ibotta for Easy Cash Back
Ibotta is a great cashback app that allows you to earn cash for buying everyday items, including groceries (see our list of the best cashback apps here). This free rewards and payments app will enable you to accumulate cashback whenever you shop or pay using the app.
There are literally thousands of ways that you can earn cashback on your purchases since Ibotta is partnered with over 1,500 retailers and brands. So, whether you’re buying clothing, electronics or groceries, you can start accumulating cashback.
2. Use Rakuten to Save Money on Online Purchases
Another online and app-based platform that gives cashback on your purchases is Rakuten. Formerly called Ebates, the main objective of Rakuten is to help you to save money on the items you’re already purchasing.
There is a full list of stores that offer special deals for Rakuten users, and there is also a $10 sign up bonus. Rakuten has a browser extension that makes it extremely easy to save. With the browser extension installed, you’ll be notified whenever you’re visiting a site that offers cashback through Rakuten. All you need to do is click the notification so Rakuten can track your shopping and credit you with the cashback. Rakuten also offers a refer-a-friend program, where you can earn $25 for every friend who signs up and starts using Rakuten.
3. Maximize Credit Card Rewards
For many of us, credit cards are a way of life, but they can also be used to live a little more cheaply. There are many excellent cashback credit cards that make it simple for you to earn rewards for all of your purchases.
You can select a card that offers rewards that are best suited to your spending habits and preferences. So, if you like to travel, look for a travel rewards credit card that gives points/miles and additional rewards when you put travel-related spending on your card.
However, if you don’t tend to travel, look for a card that will reward you the most in areas where you spend the most. For example, a tiered rewards card can offer a higher cashback rate in grocery stores, while still offering some cashback on your other spending. Other cards like the Chase Freedom allow you to earn 5% cashback on purchases in categories that rotate each quarter.
4. Let Trim Negotiate Your Bills For You
If you’re trying to live a little more cheaply, you need to be aware of what exactly is going out of your accounts every month. Unfortunately, many of us don’t have the time to track whether our rates are as low as they could be, or if we are paying for subscriptions that may not be needed.
Fortunately, the Trim app can assist you with this. Trim acts as a virtual financial assistant; you link your accounts to the app, and it will constantly monitor your financial activity, looking for savings. This means that you don’t need to comb through your statements and search the internet for the best deals. The app will automatically track and notify you of subscriptions you’ve forgotten to cancel.
Possibly the most important aspect of Trim is the bill negotiation service. They will negotiate on your behalf to lower bills like cable TV, internet, and wireless phone service.
5. Switch to A Discount Wireless & Cell Phone Provider
In the modern world, internet access and cell phone service are considered essential. A wireless connection is crucial for online socializing, banking, shopping, and much more. However, this doesn’t mean that you need to pay a premium price for these services.
Switching to a discount wireless and cell phone provider could easily save you hundreds of dollars each year, while still offering a high level of service. There are some great companies around, such as Cricket Wireless and Mint Mobile that not only have attractive rates and deals, but also provide excellent coverage.
6. Cancel Your Cable TV Package
Okay, we’re not suggesting that you go without your TV entertainment, but you may be able to get a far better deal than your current cable TV package. Alternatives such as Hulu, Netflix, Sling, or Amazon Prime Video can provide access to your favorite shows without paying for shows and channels that you have no interest in. Many of these platforms offer free trials or limited time offers, so why not try them out to work out if you can still watch all your must-see TV.
And an even cheaper option is to purchase an HD antenna and do without any of the subscription services.
7. Use a Mobile Hotspot or Tethering for Your Internet Access at Home
If you have a cell phone plan with more data than you can ever use in a month, you can cut your costs even further by using mobile hotspots for your home internet access. In the same way that you check your email, watch a video, or share a document when you’re out and about, your cell phone can be used for internet access at home.
You’ll find a mobile hotspot set up in your settings menu, and this acts as an access point for your laptop, gaming console, tablet, or other devices to connect to the internet without using traditional WiFi. You’ll need a phone and a plan that supports this, but these plans are becoming increasingly common.
8. Buy Used Items Whenever Possible
While there are some items that you should always buy new for health and hygiene reasons, you can save a lot of money by buying used items where possible.
If you’re a parent, you’ll appreciate how quickly children can grow out of their clothes, so consider buying gently used items. These can be in like-new condition, but without the brand new price tag. You can also save a lot of money by buying used cars, furniture, books, hand tools, and many more items.
Before you buy anything, consider whether you can save money by buying used.
9. Shop at Discount Grocery Stores
Research shows that Americans spend approximately 10 percent of their disposable income on food. So, if you can cut your grocery bills, you can take a significant chunk off your expenses.
Discount Grocery stores such as Aldi can allow you to buy many of your typical grocery store items for less. It’s an easy change, and the quality of food is still excellent even though the prices are low.
10. Buy Generic Brands
If you don’t have a discount grocery store within a reasonable distance of your home, then aim to buy generic brands. Many people look down on the grocery store’s own brands, but in many cases, they are produced by the same companies who make the expensive brands, and even in the same factories. Generic brands simply don’t need to cover the vast marketing and packaging costs of the named brands. This means that you can save up to 30 percent or more on the cost of buying your groceries.
If you’re still not convinced, try buying a few generic items next time you’re grocery shopping. You’ll probably be surprised that your family doesn’t notice the difference at all.
See more ways to save money on groceries here.
11. Plan Your Meals
Another way to cut down your grocery bills is to plan your meals before you shop. Most of us know not to grocery shop when you’re feeling hungry, but if you don’t have a clear idea of what meals you’re going to prepare, you could still end up with impulse buys.
Before you head out to the grocery store, sit down, and work out what meals you’ll make for the coming week. Check what items you have in your store cupboard or pantry, freezer, and refrigerator. You may find that you have everything you need to make entire meals and just need to buy a couple of items. This will not only help to cut down on your grocery bills, but also reduce the risk of food going to waste.
12. Stop Eating at Restaurants
While many of us enjoy eating out, it can really take a toll on your budget. If you’re trying to live more cheaply, you need to stop eating at restaurants. Preparing meals at home will be a fraction of the cost of eating out, helping you to get your spending under control.
If you’re used to going out to restaurants for dates, see this list of stay-at-home date ideas for some alternatives.
13. Drink More Water
Most of us are aware that drinking more water is a great way to boost your sense of health and well being, but it can also help your wallet. By swapping out your soda, juice, coffee, or other beverages for water, you can see some great savings.
This is particularly important if you’re the type of person who has an expensive coffee or fancy juice on your way to work each day, as you could be spending hundreds of dollars each month. Instead, fill up a reusable bottle with water from home, and you can still feel refreshed without spending lots of cash.
14. Make Use of the Local Library
If you’re a keen bookworm, you’ll be aware that buying books can cost a small fortune. Fortunately, you don’t need to stop your favorite pastime, as you can make use of your local library. Membership to local libraries is free, and you can borrow several books each month. However, many libraries also have DVD rental and other great facilities.
Joining your local library is usually a very straightforward process. You’ll need to bring some ID and proof of your address with you to the library reception desk. You’ll likely be asked to complete a form and confirm that you agree to abide by the conditions of use. This will also detail the list of any current fees, such as overdue fees or DVD and game rental costs. You can then start to borrow items straightaway.
And if you like audiobooks, be sure to read our Scribd vs. Audible comparison, which are both low-cost ways to access to a huge library.
15. Track Your Expenses
One of the best ways to reduce your expenses is to be fully aware of what you’re spending. So, if you want to start living cheaply, it is crucial that you start to track your expenses. While many people take the time to set up a budget, this is ineffective if you’re not following what you’re spending. After all, it may look good on paper to say you will only spend $400 on groceries this month, but if you don’t take note of how much you spend each week, it will not help your spending.
Fortunately, there are lots of budgeting apps and tools that make it easier to track your expenses and spending. These allow you to link your accounts, so that every purchase is logged and categorized, making it easy to see what you’re spending every week or month. Or you could use our free spending log and monthly bill pay checklist printables.
16. Take a No Spend Challenge
Another great way to curb your spending is to take a no spend challenge. This involves choosing a set period, such as a weekend, week, or month where you will not spend any money. You can set rules for your challenge, so you may choose to have an allowance for groceries or gas, but this will help you to develop your spending discipline. There are even social media personalities who encourage you to join them in a no spend challenge, so you can feel part of a team and save money.
17. Reduce Your Housing Costs
Your housing costs are likely to be your largest fixed expense, but this doesn’t mean that you’re stuck paying these costs indefinitely. There are a number of ways that you can reduce your housing costs, such as moving to a smaller home or one in a cheaper neighborhood. However, if you’re attached to your home, why not consider renting out a room to offset your costs?
If you don’t like the idea of a full-time roommate, you could rent your room out through Airbnb or other temporary accommodation sites. This will allow you to earn extra money and meet new people.
18. Be a One-Car Family
Running two cars in a household can really take a toll on your finances, but you can cut these expenses in half by becoming a one-car family. This may take a little bit of arranging if both you and your partner are used to having your own vehicles, but with public transportation, bicycles or even Uber or Lyft, you can eliminate the finance costs, insurance, fuel and other expenses associated with your second vehicle. You may even find that becoming a one-car family makes you a little healthier as you may walk, cycle, or run more often rather than just jumping straight into a car.
19. Ride a Bike
As we’ve touched on above, riding a bike is not only good exercise, but it is free. So, if you need to head to the grocery store or get to work, instead of spending money on gas, you can ride a bike, and it won’t cost you a dime.
Of course, you may need to invest in a bike, but if you’re no longer paying finance for a second vehicle, this will be far cheaper than running a car.
20. Declutter and Sell Things You Don’t Need
If you want to live more cheaply, it is an ideal time to have a declutter session and sell off any things that you no longer need. Many of us have areas of our home that are full of bags, boxes, and cartons of items that are too good to throw in the trash, but we no longer use. However, there are lots of people out there who will appreciate these things and not having to pay the cost of a new item.
It is well worth spending a weekend tidying out your garage, basement, or attic and organizing a yard sale or online auction listings. This will help you to free up space in your home and earn some extra cash. For ideas, see What Can I Sell?
21. Opt for Free Entertainment
Entertainment activities can start to really add up, so if you want to live a little more cheaply, look for free entertainment activities. You can go out hiking with friends, ride a bike, or even set up a borrowing circle for games or movies with your friends, so you don’t need to spend any money.
If you enjoy eating out with friends, why not set up a dinner party? You can take turns hosting, so you only need to bear the cost of the food one week in a month, or have friends bring different dishes or drinks, so the cost is shared. This will be far cheaper than going to a restaurant, but you’ll still get that opportunity to socialize.
Another way to cut your costs is to barter your skills or exchange services rather than buying something. So, if you could swap babysitting services for help gardening or decorating, rather than hiring a professional. Think about where your strengths lie and if there are ways that these skills could be bartered for the things you need.
23. Travel During Off-Peak Seasons
We all like getting away, but vacations can be quite expensive. So, cut the costs by planning to travel during off-peak seasons. Instead of a weekend away, take a mid-week break, plan your summer vacation before or after the school break or even take an earlier or later train for your day out. While this may require making some compromises, it could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars.
24. Eliminate Unnecessary Subscriptions and Memberships
We’ve already touched on this with the Trim app, but the cost of unnecessary subscriptions and memberships can really add up. Whether you’ve got a gym membership and you struggle to find the time to work out, or that special offer magazine subscription has expired and you’re now paying full price, these are unnecessary expenses, so you need to eliminate them.
Take some time out to examine your bank statements to see what charges are on your account without you realizing it. Highlight any of this spending, and then be sure to go through the cancellation process to stop the charges from reoccurring. If you have a limited time offer, set a reminder on your calendar, so you cancel it before you’re charged full price, or set an alarm for a month before your annual subscriptions are due to renew, so you can cancel it in plenty of time.
25. Stop Unhealthy Habits
There are many vices. However, those unhealthy habits are not only bad for you, but they are also bad for your bank account balance. Eating junk food, drinking excessive alcohol, or smoking can cost a small fortune each month, so aim to eliminate these habits. You’ll not only feel healthier but enjoy a more frugal lifestyle.
26. Embrace DIY Approaches
In the world of the internet, there are tutorials for practically anything, and embracing a DIY approach can not only save money, but also help you to discover an interesting new hobby. There are free YouTube videos that can walk you through almost anything from home DIY to cake decorating. This can help you to avoid paying for professional services and still enjoy nice things.
Whether you need a cake for a family birthday celebration or want to install shelves in your living area, doing it for yourself will cost far less than buying products or services. While it may take some practice to get it completely right, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you made something yourself.
27. Start a Side Hustle to Make Extra Money
If you want to improve your quality of life or get some savings, but you can’t cut your expenses any further, then consider starting a side hustle to make some extra money. There are lots of side hustles around that allow you to use your current skillset around your other commitments. Whether you use your vehicle to make extra money as a DoorDash driver or can develop a side gig writing articles, or taking surveys, making an extra $50 or $100 a week can make all the difference to your financial health.
Living cheaply doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to enjoy the things that you like to do. As we’ve discussed, there are many ways to cut your costs without compromising your lifestyle. You can start small with assessing your expenses and cutting unnecessary costs, building up to more budget-friendly activities, so you can fully embrace a frugal lifestyle.