Living frugal does not mean being cheap! It means being economical and avoiding waste.
When people first start living frugally, they look at the simplest moves. The low hanging fruit that can save them money with little effort.
Simple things like turning off the lights and using coupons at the store but these don’t provide a lasting effect on your finances.
Even bigger moves like selling unused stuff from your garage or closet can be useful, but they don’t make a lasting difference.
What really makes a difference are the changes that permanently and significantly reduce your monthly bills. Recurring costs that over the long-term, have a HUGE financial impact.
Will it be easy? No, it will not be and it will require sacrifice.
More money saved each month is the idea behind these living frugal financial moves. Even if living frugally isn’t your cup of tea, they will save you money.
Let’s get started!
Moving to a Smaller Home or Apartment
But I like my huge house or apartment!
I get it.
However, this move saves you money on housing expenses each and every month.
If you’re a renter, you’re going to reduce your monthly rent significantly. If you’re a homeowner, selling your current home and buying a less expensive one will chop away a significant amount of your mortgage in one action.
Let’s say for example that your rent is $1,250 a month. You shop around and find an apartment you can live with for $1,000 a month. Moving to that new apartment saves you $250 a month.
That’s a car payment.
Or, that’s your Utilities + phone bill + Netflix + Amazon Prime COMBINED!
Huge savings right?
Another benefit when living in a smaller home or apartment is smaller utility bills. Instead of paying to heat or cool a 1200 sq ft. apartment or home, reducing the square feet by 100-200 can have a significant impact on your utility bills long-term.
Moving Closer to Work
I am currently stationed at Camp Pendleton, I live on base but many of my co-workers live in San Diego, Temecula, or San Clemente. Their commute is 1 hour, sometimes 2 hours going one way.
Moving closer to work reduces the length of your commute, which saves on gas and wear/tear on your car.
Let’s do some public math.
Let’s say you drive a sedan for your commute. It gets 30 miles per gallon of gas and you’re going to replace it every 150,000 miles with a car that you put another $15,000 into after trade-in.
Outside of commuting, you drive it 5,000 miles per year.
Your normal commute is 15 miles each way and you drive that distance back and forth five days a week, 50 weeks a year. That adds up to 15,000 miles.
That means three scheduled maintenance visits just because of your commute (each visit averages $100, given that you’re following the maintenance schedule, so $300), plus 500 extra gallons of gas at $4 a pop ($2,000). You’re putting 20,000 miles a year total on the car, so you’ll replace it in 7.5 years, meaning you’re losing $2,000 a year in total depreciation and $1,500 due to your work commute.
That’s a total cost of $3,800 and we’re not even including things like tires and batteries.
Now if you moved 5 miles from work –that adds up to 5,000 miles of driving a year. You’re only doing one scheduled maintenance visit ($100) and 166 gallons of gas at $4 a pop ($664) due to work. You’re only putting 10,000 miles a year on the car, which means you’ll replace it in 15 years, which equates to losing only $1,000 a year in depreciation and $500 to your work commute.
That’s a total cost of $1,264, not including savings from less wear and tear on your car, tire punctures, and so on.
In that example, moving 10 miles closer saves you about $200 a month or $2,500 a year. Over the course of six years, that move alone pays for that $15,000 car replacement.
There are many variables to this but if you can move closer to work and cut 50% to 75% off of your commute, the savings will be in the thousands per year.
Plus, your commute is much shorter, so you have more time with family — which is the most important reason for me.
“Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.”
Eliminate Cable or Satellite TV
The average American cable or satellite bill is over $100 a month. Ughhh!
The reason people are willing to pay this is to watch those select channels or favorite shows.
Now that Game of Thrones has ended — HBO is projected to have a significant drop in subscriptions.
If you can cut out those channels or shows from your life and find something else to watch, you’re quickly saving $1,200 a year.
We cut the cord two years ago and kept Amazon Prime and Netflix. In all honesty, it was much less painful than we expected and I don’t miss it.
If we wanted to watch something that wasn’t on Netflix or Amazon, we found creative ways to do so.
Hint: you can stream mostly everything from Reddit.
Streaming is the new norm, however, it doesn’t mean it is always cheaper.
YoutubeTV just increased their price to $50 a month, up from $40. Netflix increased its subscription to $8.99 from $7.99.
Still cheaper than cable? Yes, but don’t go on a frenzy and subscribe to every streaming service.
Shopping Around for All Bills
For every recurring bill — monthly, quarterly, or annual — shop around for a better rate. If you find one, you either switch services or use that better rate to negotiate with your current service provider.
This strategy works for many things: credit cards, cell phones, internet service, insurance, and so on. You just pick a particular bill, identify what it’s actually providing for you, shop around for offers from other providers, see how much you’ll save, and then call your current provider and negotiate a lower rate.
If you get a reduction and you’re happy with your provider, stay put; otherwise, switch providers.
Does that really work?
Just last year we told our cell phone provider we were going to leave and “somehow” they found a deal that would grandfather us in at a MUCH lower cost — literally $30 cheaper!
You just need to ask! Or, threaten to leave 😛
A good way of doing this is to choose one bill a week. Don’t try to tackle all your recurring bills at once.
Make weekly goals: this week you’ll look into internet providers in your area. Next week, look at insurance packages.
When evaluating, look for competitors and get quotes. Take the quotes and negotiate with your provider. Be direct and tell them that you have offers from other providers at a much better rate, but prefer to stay if they will match. Often, they’ll match it or come close; if they won’t, then switch providers.
If you negotiate with five providers over the course of five weeks and each one saves you $20 on your monthly bill, that adds up to $1,200 a year in pure savings.
Pretty easy right?
Restructure Your Debt
Reduce the interest rates on your debt to reduce your monthly payments or even pay them off quicker — equating to HUGE savings!
For each of your debts, simply figure out if there’s a way to reduce the interest rate.
For example, shop around to refinance your home mortgage. Either to lower your current interest rate or a shorter term mortgage with a much lower rate. The former will reduce your monthly bill and will reduce the amount of interest you pay over 15-30 years; the latter might actually bump up your bill, but you’ll pay off the house years earlier.
If you have student loans that you haven’t refinanced — shop around. You would be surprised how many financial institutions are willing to take on your debt at lower interest rates.
Went on a shopping spree with your credit cards?
Look for balance transfer offers from credit card companies that represent a reduction in interest rates. Many credit card companies offer a zero interest balance transfer for 15-21 months.
Which is amazing!
This is good for people who can pay off the credit card within those 15-21 months.
If those aren’t available to you, you can often negotiate for a lower interest rate by calling the credit card company directly and speaking with a supervisor. However, there is a risk of them canceling your card if you have a poor history with them.
These moves can significantly reduce your monthly debt payments and reduce your total payments.
Living Frugal Conclusion
Living frugal, remember it’s not always about the low hanging fruit! These big changes require some effort but lead to massive savings.
It’s these big changes that bring about large financial changes in your life. These five strategies can save you thousands of dollars per year.
The best route is to apply these big changes to your life while still going after the smaller things. Together, they can transform your financial picture.