- Personal Finance
Frugal Living: How to Cut Costs in a Hurry and Save Money
Perhaps circumstances in your life have changed and you need to cut costs. Maybe you just got laid off or simply are tired of running out of money before running out of days in a month. For me I was very much out of balance with my professional life overtaking my personal life and I needed to restore some balance. In order to do so I faced taking an unpaid leave of absence from my job this also meant losing health care benefits. Despite the challenges, taking the leave was what needed to be done but I needed to cut costs in a hurry in order to sustain the leave.
First Place to Look
If you need to cut costs in a hurry you need to be brutally honest with yourself. You need to assess what you have and what you spend. This means you need to sit down with your bills and if you don’t already have a clue as to what you spend it’s time to face the music and figure out just where you spend your money.
Look at all of your monthly bills. Include:
Housing: Mortgage or rent
Transportation: Car payment(s), fuel expense and insurance
Utilities: Gas, electric, water
Cable or Satellite
Credit card debt
Child Care (if any)
The next step can be a difficult one because you need to reflect and again be honest with yourself. If you are married or have a significant other you will need to complete the next step together in order to be on the same page regarding cost cutting measures.
It’s time to figure out your needs versus your wants. This is often the toughest part about cost cutting because many of us have convinced ourselves that we actually need more than we really do. It’s the age old conflict of needs versus wants. Society today has done a great job at convincing many of us that we need things that we really don’t. Some of the items that you spend money on are truly needs. The trick is to determine what you really need and what you can do without.
Cost Cutting Ideas
After you determine what you actually need you can begin to scale back on your wants and even trim down on the cost of your needs. This is why it is important to determine exactly what you pay for things so that you can determine what you can reduce or eliminate.
Evaluate your housing- Ask yourself do you really need to be living in the location that you are? Can you save money by changing your living arrangements? Perhaps downsizing to a smaller place or investigate refinancing your mortgage in order to save some money. If you are renting perhaps you can ask your landlord for a rent reduction as it can’t hurt to ask. You may even consider moving in with relatives or friends in order to cut costs in a more dramatic way. In my situation after some number crunching we determined that we are actually in good shape due to the size of our mortgage and location of our home so this is one area that we could not find a cost savings.
Transportation- Depending on your individual situation you may be able to reduce or eliminate transportation costs. Perhaps you will determine that you don’t actually need two cars in your household or that you could carpool with others and eliminate or reduce your transportation costs. Not only will you save on fuel for the vehicles but you may see a reduction in insurance costs if you don’t travel as far or perhaps by eliminating a vehicle you will see significant savings. You may even add to your bottom line by selling a vehicle, not to mention that you will help save the planet by reducing your carbon footprint! You may also want to investigate the possibility of telecommuting if at all possible because you will see big savings if you work from home. We saw a savings in our transportation costs due to the fact that I was no longer driving many miles to and from my job daily. This was a quick way to reduce costs.
Utilities: If you are paying for utilities you can see a quick cost savings by dialing down the thermostat (or dialing up during warmer weather) and turning off lights. You will also see a savings by unplugging small appliances and other items requiring electricity when not in use. This is often a hidden cost and can be reduced.
Technology: This is one area that you can quickly see some cost savings if you are honest with yourself when determining the difference between your needs and wants. Do you really need the fastest Internet connection? Can you live without a data plan on your smart phone? Do you really need a smart phone? Do you need a home land line phone? Many people are reducing their costs by eliminating a land line and only carrying a cell phone. Check out what this would do for your bottom line.
Think Hard About Technology
Alternatives to land lines: If you have an Internet connection you can check into using your computer to provide phone service at a greatly reduced cost. Check into Google Talk which is a downloadable chat application by Google. Also there are products such as Ooma Telo which for a low monthly rate (approximately $6.00 for applicable taxes and fees) will provide you with high quality telephone service via your high-speed Internet connection and offer free calls to anywhere in the United States and low international rates as well. After you purchase the product you will realize savings by not having to pay high monthly phone bills. Even your cable company cannot provide essentially the same service for that rate.
Satellite or Cable Television: This is an area that can yield tremendous savings by switching service or eliminating it all together. Bundling products together with one company such as cable, internet and phone service can also prove to be a cost cutting measure. If you are like me you receive a slew of offers for low rates from competing cable and satellite companies. It behooves you to check out the rates and compare the services and determine what company can provide you with what you want at the best price.
Eliminate Cable or Satellite Service: If after reflecting on your needs and wants you may just figure that you can gain as much as $90.00 or $100.00 savings per month by eliminating cable/satellite all together. How? You can watch network television (what!?) and not carry cable. You can also catch many favorite television shows by using Hulu which is a web based product which streams television shows to your computer or T.V. for free. You can also enhance your viewing by subscribing to Netflix. This service provides you with the ability to instantly stream movies and television shows to your P.C., Mac or television. You can receive D.V.D.’s by mail (free shipping) to view and return when it fits into your schedule. Netflix service begins at $7.99 per month and can be cancelled at anytime. Talk about a savings!
Fastest Way to Cut Costs
Food: This is by far the fastest way to cut costs. No, this does not mean that you will starve; rather this is a great category for creating savings. Many Americans turn to fast food and dining out on a routine basis. Not only can this be posing a health risk, but it can drain you of hard earned cash. Check out some easy ways to reduce food costs:
Plan weekly menus- yes, a little planning will pay off big time when you already know what you are having for dinner and don’t need to turn to fast food because you don’t know what to make for dinner.
Pantry Principle/Stockpiling- Watch for products that you use and buy them when they are on sale. Stock up on the items and when you need to use them you won’t have to pay full price for them. This takes a few months to create but you will realize quite a bit of savings. Items typically go on sale every 4-7 weeks so once you “get the hang” of when the sales are you can plan ahead and replenish your stockpile. This technique also allows you to plan your meals around what you already have on hand. This method has yielded my family the greatest savings. We have dramatically cut our food expenses and an unexpected bonus is that stockpiling fulfills my need for “retail therapy” as I am having fun shopping and seeing how much I can save each week!
Homemade food: For many years I have called myself “kitchen impaired” as it has always been easier for me to stay away from the kitchen or use whatever products are the most convenient. By adopting a frugal lifestyle I have been pleasantly surprised at not only how easy it is to prepare many homemade items but how much money I save as a result. I stumbled upon a bread machine and figured out how to use it and have been making homemade bread ever since. I also learned how to make jam and I am really getting the hang of a crock pot. Not only is my family eating better, but we are savings big bucks and I am feeling pretty proud of my progress in shedding the “kitchen impaired” label!
Single Servings: Did you know you can save quite a bit by cutting up vegetables and putting them in your own travel size container? I was tickled to realize savings by not getting lured into “single serving” sizes and found out that if I buy a typical size package and then rationing them out in my own containers, I could save money and the earth by using reusable containers. It might seem like a small thing but every little bit helps right?
Coupons: Look for coupons both online and in print. Manufactures publish many great deals and you can save quite a bit of money if you look for and use coupons. Be sure to look for coupons for products that you know you will use as it can be pretty overwhelming if you begin couponing and clip more than you can use.
Weekly Ad’s: Once you get to know the prices of the products that you tend to use, get familiar with what is a bargain. Store’s produce weekly advertisements offering great savings so looking at the store flyers and or subscribing to an email alert will yield big savings, especially when stockpiling.
How to Stockpile
Frugal living doesn’t have to be an unpleasant thing. It’s all about your attitude! If you think that it’s the end of the world that you have to cut back on things then indeed it will feel that way to you. You may wish to reframe your thoughts and instead of looking at how much you spend, you may want to look for how much you saved.
Many stores have figured out that consumers like to feel like we are getting real deals and so they will often put at the bottom of their receipts something like: “Look how much you saved today” and then give a dollar figure and/or a percentage rate. I must tell you that I am a sucker for this one. It’s a little (cheap) thrill to see that I saved 25 percent as it reminds me that I haven’t compromised on my lifestyle, rather I have enhanced it by saving and having more money.
“Get Rich Quick vs. Get Frugal Fast”
It has been amazing for me to see how much I have been able to save in such a short amount of time (approximately 12 weeks) by reflecting on my needs versus my wants and then acting on reducing my wants and focusing on my needs. It sure has simplified my life and in a way has allowed me to “get rich quick” by putting more money in my pocket simply by “getting frugal fast”. Best wishes in your own quest to life a frugal lifestyle!