A large number of debtors find themselves in above their heads because they live beyond their means, whether that’s because they struggle to refuse credit and can’t rein in their purchases, or because they’re used to being able to fund a lavish lifestyle that they can no longer afford. In such cases escaping debt can be as easy as making some serious sacrifices and living frugally, as outlined in these top tips for living frugally.
Of course, it’s worth noting that many debtors get that way because of unexpected medical bills, job losses and more. In such cases, debt settlement or consolidation may be the only way to avoid bankruptcy, so checkout our many guides to the best debt relief companies (like DebtWave and Pacific Debt) if this is where you find yourself.
1. Stop Driving Everywhere
Humans can be ridiculously impractical. If you visit the most congested cities in the world, including London and New York, you’ll see more people driving supercars and 4x4s than you will Smart cars. 4×4 drivers convince themselves that safety is key and that they are doing it to protect their kids, even though they spend their days in a procession of traffic going 10mph and are just as safe as everyone else.
Cars are one of the biggest expenses in any modern home, and they are also one of the easiest to change. Buy a car that is economical and suited to your environment and your needs, and then try to use it as little as possible. Walk, cycle, take public transport. You can save yourself thousands of dollars a year and avoid the stress and chaos of daily traffic jams at the same time.
2. Take Care of Yourself
In trying to live frugally one of the biggest mistakes Americans make is to buy low-quality, highly-processed food. Yes it’s cheap, but at what cost? If you eat poorly for years and years then you’ll start to suffer the consequences, and all those years of saving will disappear as soon as the first bill for a hospital stay, a doctor’s visit, or a prescription lands in your mailbox.
Medical bills are one of the biggest contributors to personal debt in the United States and they account for more personal bankruptcy filings than anything else. It’s not worth taking the risk, no matter how young you are or how healthy you think you are. Looking after yourself by eating well and exercising regularly is one of the best things you can do for your bank balance.
3. Forage for your Own
There is a world of great food on your doorstep, and you don’t need to purchase any of it. Mushrooms, herbs, vegetables, fruits—they can all be picked wild, providing you know what you’re doing. You’d be amazed at how much you can find in the great outdoors, from wild berries to edible weeds, fresh herbs, and more.
If you don’t know what you’re looking for then you should give this one a miss (there are poisonous varieties of everything lurking out there) and instead look for “pick your own” farms. These can be found across the United States. They are active farms that cut out the middleman, letting you pick your own food and then charging you by the basket or the pound.
You’d be amazed at how much money you can save this way, stocking up on tons of fruit and vegetables in the process.
4. Calculate Everything
There are some “money saving” tips out there that actually do more harm than good. On the surface they make sense, but once you dig underneath the surface you discover that you’re actually paying a lot more. Keeping chickens is a good example of this. It’s often touted as being a great way to save money as you no longer need to pay for eggs, but you need to pay for a coup and for the chickens themselves, and then you need to feed them and care for them.
Unless they are super chickens producing dozens of eggs every single day, and you happen to have an egg-loving family, this is never going to save you money. It’s a similar story with some premium pure water systems, and a bunch of other so-called “money saving” ideas.
Always calculate and never assume.
5. Never Pay Full Price
Everything is cheaper in the United States and everything is available for even less if you’re prepared to do the legwork. You can get coupons to save on the things you buy from the store, you can barter with shop keepers and contractors to save money elsewhere, and you can also negotiate bills in order to save yourself some cash. Never pay full price and make it your goal to save money every time you get your cash or card out, even if it’s just a few bucks or a few cents.
6. Buy a Deep Freezer and Some Containers
This is one money saving tip that can seem expensive but really does work out over the long haul. A deep freeze will allow you to buy in bulk and to store what you don’t eat. The average American family throws away more food than it consumes, wasting hundreds of dollars a year. If that food was put in the freeze instead, that money wouldn’t be wasted.
Meat, fruit, vegetables and even fully prepared meals can be transferred to containers and then left in the deep freeze.
It’s also important to make sure you don’t spend too much on a deep freezer. You can usually find one going cheap on the used market, as it’s an appliance that many families are rejecting.
7. Make Dinner Special
The average American family spends over $3,000 a year on eating out, which is more than they spend on household food. This is ridiculous, and it’s not something you can afford to budget for if you want to live frugally.
But that doesn’t mean you can sacrifice on the joys of eating out as a family, and on the togetherness it brings. Instead, try making room for a special dinner once or twice a week. Get the kids involved, make it fun. There are many ways to do this, including letting a different family member choose the theme/cuisine every week.
8. Make Your Own
You can make a whole heap of household essentials yourself, saving tens of dollars a week. Laundry detergent is one of the easiest and can save you the most, but you can also make candles, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, and more yourself. It’s quicker and easier than you might think.
You’d be amazed at what you can do with some old furniture or even some electronics. Don’t be so quick to throw things away. You can swap them using social media communities; you can up-cycle them into something new and essential; you can even sell them for scrap.
10. Buy Used
Sticking with the idea of refurbing and reusing, when it comes time to buy something new, always look for used items before you look for new. You can save yourself a lot of money and in most cases there is no difference.
This is especially true of refurbished electronics. You can knock up to 50% off the RRP and in most cases the only difference is that it won’t come in its original box.
11. Think About Big Purchases
It’s no coincidence that people who spend impulsively struggle with larger amounts of debt than those who do not. You should always give yourself 2 to 4 weeks to think about a major purchase. Not only will this give you time to find a cheaper option or secure a big deal, but it will bring any hidden doubts to the surface and allow you to approach the purchase sensibly.
You’ll also appreciate it more when you eventually get it, which means there’s less chance it will end up gathering dust at the back of a cupboard.