Lifestyle Changes That Will Save You Money
Total Money Makeover
If you are seriously strapped for cash, making drastic lifestyle changes will help you overcome your current financial situation. Many of us are facing job loss, illness, or just hard economic times. All of the following ideas will require some level of sacrifice on your part, but sometimes that's what it takes to overcome financial adversity. As Dave Ramsey once said, "Live like no one else so you can live like no one else." In other words, make sacrifices and live simply now so that later on in life you can enjoy the pleasures of complete financial freedom. So, if you're serious about changing your gloomy financial state, consider one or more of these tips.
Car-Free Living Resources
Sell a Vehicle
According to AAA, the complete cost of operating a vehicle in 2004 was 56 cents per mile. The Average commute in the United States is about 15 miles each way, so at 56 cents per mile, that's almost $17 per round trip. Selling a car will save you money on gas, insurance, parking expenses, registration and licensing fees, and maintenance costs. In addition, you'll make money on the sale of the car.
If you're not sure you could survive without your car, plan a trial run. Keep your car parked in the garage for a week and see how it goes. If your family currently has two cars, try getting by with just one for a while. If you currently only have one car, try using mass transit, carpooling, or walking and biking. Depending on where you live, this change may be easier than you'd think.
Planning is the key to successfully living car-free or car-lite. Find out what kind of mass transit is available in your community. Most cities have some form of public transportation, including buses, trains, subways, light rails, carpool programs, and more. There are many helpful books available about living car-free, my favorite being "How to Live Well Without Owning a Car" by Chris Balish. Check it out from your local library.
If your trial run goes well, and you decide to sell your car, try free advertising options before paying to market your vehicle. Use Craigslist or Ebay Motors to post your ad online. Email everyone you know and ask them to spread the word to anyone who might be interested in buying a vehicle like yours. Place a sign in your car's window that lists the basics about the vehicle along with contact information. Use these free advertising methods for a few weeks, and if a buyer does not turn up, consider paying for an ad in the newspaper or Auto Trader.
Save with a Prepaid Phone
Consolidate Phone Plans
Find a cheaper cell phone plan or get rid of your cell phone all together. We have one cell phone in our family, and it is primarily for emergency use. Ours is a pay-as-you-go phone, so when the minutes run out, we just add some more money to the account. This has worked out great for us. Before making this change four years ago, we paid aout $40 per month for our regular monthly cell phone plan, and now with the pay as you go, we average around $20 per month for cell phone use.
If you're not sure whether or not you could live without your cell, give it a one week trial run. Make sure to tell your friends and family you are turning off your phone for a week so they don't worry and wonder what happened to you. Turn your phone off, put it in a drawer, and don't use it. Like any change, ditching your cell phone would take some getting used to, but not having a cell phone attached to your ear can actually make your life simpler.
I realize that most people use their cell phone as their life line, so here's an alternative idea. If everyone in your household has a cell phone, consider dropping the home phone service. This can save at least $25 per month, depending on where you live. If you really want to keep your home phone line, consider dropping the extra services attached to it. Do you really need voicemail, call waiting, caller ID, and long distance? Don't pay for services you don't need and don't use.
If you make a lot of long distance or international calls, sign up for Skype, a program that allows you to make free video calls from your computer. It's a great way to save money on your long distance phone bill. Other options for low priced telephone services include Magic Jack and Vonage. Magic Jack is a USB device that allows you to make phone calls by connecting your home telephone to your personal computer. You can sign up for a 30 day free trial on their website. Similarly, Vonage uses your high speed internet connection to deliver telephone service. Both of these options are generally much less expensive than traditional landline service through the local phone company.
Natural Smoking Alternative
Everyone knows smoking causes cancer. That fate alone should be a good enough reason to quit the habit. But in addition to causing premature death, smoking takes a huge bite out of your pocketbook. According to MSN, the cost of a pack of cigarettes averages $4.49, including taxes. Using this number, smoking a pack-a-day burns through about $31.43 per week, or $1,635 per year. That's enough for a house payment or a family vacation. A 40-year-old who quits smoking and puts the savings into a retirement account earning 9% a year would have almost $250,000 by age 70.
Insurance premiums for life, health, and homeowner's policies are generally more expensive for smokers, and smokers spend more on dental bills and dry cleaning. Smoking devalues your home and your car, and it makes them harder and more costly to sell. Finding and keeping a job can also be affected by the smoking habit. Some employers like Union Pacific and Alaska Airlines refuse to hire smokers and perform regular nicotine breath tests. To sum it up, the costs of smoking go far beyond the $4.49 handed to the gas station cashier.
If you would like to quit smoking but don't know where to start, check out the resources below. Quitting will be a challenging gradual change, but it will have immediate and long term benefits, most importantly for your health, but also for your wallet as an added bonus.
Coffee at Home Saves Money
Brew Your Own Coffee
US coffee drinkers consume approximately 3.1 cups per day on average, with the cup size being nine ounces. A one pound bag of quality coffee costs about $10. Stopping at Starbucks every day for a latte on your way to work will cost at least $5 per day. That's more than $100 per month for just your morning coffee! Brewing your coffee at home will save you money and time because you'll be able to leave fifteen minutes later for work. On average, coffee drinkers that get a cup to go from a local coffeehouse before work will wait in line nearly forty-five hours each year.
Trim Your Grocery Bill
Food prices are soaring these days, but there are still ways to lower your monthly grocery bill. Start with baby steps. Use some or all of these tips to slash your food bill.
- Plan a menu each week. Look at the grocery store flyers and create your menu using items that are currently on sale. If chicken is $1.67 per pound, plan to use chicken in two or three meals this week.
- Make a detailed grocery list before going to the store. Making a list and planning ahead will save you money by reducing the number of impulse purchases you make. So stick to your list and get in and out of the store as quickly as you can.
- Only buy sale items, and stock up when items are a great price. If cereal is $1.50 per box this week, buy enough to last at least a few weeks. That way you won't run out and have to pay $4.69 for a box of cereal. When the next good cereal sale comes around, stock up again.
- Use coupons on sale items, and shop at stores that double your coupons. It is possible to get many items for free when you combine a great sale price with a coupon. Use as many coupons as you can to stock up on these freebies and other fantastic grocery deals.
- Don't be a brand snob. Most generics are just as good as the brand name products, but they are much cheaper. Sometimes brand name products can be cheaper than generics if you use a coupon, so buy whichever brand stretches your dollar the furthest.
- Shop by yourself. Taking kids or a spouse along will lead to some impulse buys that are not on your list.
- Don't shop hungry. You've heard this one before. If you're hungry, you'll want to buy all sorts of items that look yummy at the time.
- Avoid buying prepackaged convenience items. Instead, make them yourself at home. You'll spend less, and the snacks will be healthier for you and your family.
- Use the food you buy. Throwing away food is like throwing away hard earned cash. Try your best to use perishables quickly. Weekly meal planning will really help with this. Also, use the internet to look up recipes that call for foods in your refrigerator that are going to expire soon.
I use all of these methods and more to keep my grocery bill low. I have a family of four, and I budget $160 per month for groceries. I always shop sales, I am a coupon fanatic, and I stock up on grocery items when prices hit rock bottom. It will take time to learn how the grocery game is played, but with determination you can easily reduce your grocery bill and enjoy incredible savings.
Find a Roommate
If you have an extra bedroom and don't mind welcoming another person into your home, this is a great option and will reduce your housing costs. Renting out a room can add hundreds of dollars to your monthly income. Use caution when finding a roommate. Consider what traits you would like in a housemate before starting your search. Make sure the person you choose is someone you are compatible with. If you like peace and quiet, don't choose someone who's the lead drummer in a rock band. If you are a non-smoker, decide whether or not you want a smoker to live in your house. Make an educated decision. Use websites such as Roommates.com to start your search. You can also post ads on community bulletin boards and in local newspapers. Word of mouth is also an effective tool. Let your friends and family know you are looking for a roommate, and they might help you find the perfect match.
Switch to a Streaming Device
Cut Cable/Satellite TV
The average monthly cost of cable television in the United States was $40.11 in 2002. Cancel your cable or satellite TV plan. You will save money and have a lot more free time. Read, play games with your family, or participate in outdoor activities instead. In one year, the average school age child spends more hours in front of the TV than in the classroom. Children who watch too much TV are more likely to experience sleep problems, aggressive behavior, and obesity.
If you can't bear to part with all of your channels, then at least downgrade. Save yourself $20 per month or more by choosing a basic plan over a premium plan. Who needs 500 channels? You probably only watch the same 15 channels on a regular basis anyway. Some people justify "bundling" their cable, phone, and internet services because it saves money. If you save $5 per month on the home phone line for adding a $60 cable TV plan, that's really not the greatest deal, is it? Don't spend $60 to save $5. Skip the cable TV altogether and save the $60 per month.
Bring Your Lunch
Spending $10 per day on lunch at the office adds up to over $200 per month. Save that $200 by bringing your lunch to work instead. Prepare your lunch the night before to save time in the morning before leaving for work. Pack your lunch in a reusable lunch bag that will keep food cold. Bringing your lunch to work will save money and probably a lot of calories. Restaurant food is often unhealthy, so use this new opportunity to improve your diet. Pack tasty healthy foods that will fill you up during the day.
Paying for newspapers, magazines, and DVD rental programs can really add up. Canceling these subscriptions can lower your monthly bills by $40 or more. Newspapers and magazines can be read at the local library or online. DVDs can be checked out free of charge at the library as well, even new release movies. Before canceling any subscriptions, make sure you are not being charged a large cancellation fee. If there is a fee, make sure the fee is less than the savings you will reap by canceling.
If you're really serious about cutting expenses, finding a new place to live may be an option. Moving does cost money, so consider that before making a change. If the rent for your apartment is skyrocketing, look into other complexes with lower prices. Often times, moving five or ten minutes further from the center of town will save you hundreds of dollars per month. If you can sell your home to get out of an overwhelming mortgage, do it. Find something smaller and more affordable. It might be difficult in the short term to live with less space, but later, when your financial situation is spotless, you'll be glad you made the sacrifice.
Change Your Financial Destiny
Implementing some of these lifestyle changes will ease your current financial burden. Making sacrifices is difficult at first, but soon you realize that it's actually pretty easy to live without certain things. If you're hesitant to let go of the luxuries you enjoy, remember that these changes do not have to be permanent. Use these ideas to get you through the current financial situation you are struggling through. Once your finances are stable again, reward yourself. Continue rewarding yourself after each of your financial goals is reached. Make a commitment to follow the less traveled path that leads to financial freedom.
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