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Lifestyle Changes That Will Save You Money

Updated on February 19, 2014
shawna.wilson profile image

Shawna is a working wife and mom with a passion for achieving financial freedom. Her family is on track to be completely debt free by 2018!

Take charge and change your financial destiny.
Take charge and change your financial destiny.

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.

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.

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.

Quit Smoking

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.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

American Heart Association

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 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.

Don't let debt hold you prisoner.
Don't let debt hold you prisoner.

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.

Cancel Subscriptions

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.

For more money saving tips, click here.


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    • profile image

      Magic Jack 

      8 years ago

      Ya i would like to add to the post that you do get free calling unlimited when you go on vacation guys n gals, its awesome because my wife and i were in Cancun and my friends were calling my local magic jack number in Arizona and my phone rang in Cancun cause it was plugged into my laptop .. yeaaa baby :)

    • writingmom profile image


      8 years ago from USA

      great advice. I follow some of it now and I still need to cut out some things.

    • nikitha p profile image

      nikitha p 

      8 years ago from India

      nice hub, I liked it.

    • shawna.wilson profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Arizona

      Thanks Amy. Good luck cutting your grocery bill! There are many websites that can help, such as,,, and

    • amy jane profile image

      amy jane 

      9 years ago from Connecticut

      This is an incredibly helpful hub! I really have to focus on cutting down the grocery bills, so those tips were especially helpful. :)

    • shawna.wilson profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Arizona

      Hi izettl! There are so many little things we can do to save money. Eating (and drinking) out can get so expensive. I don't think people realize it. Thanks for reading!

    • izettl profile image

      Laura Izett 

      9 years ago from The Great Northwest

      Great tips- Brewing coffee at home is great for us Starbucks addicts like myself. I now "treat" myself to Starbucks only once or twice a week, instead of daily. Since I became a stay at home mom, I eat all my lunches at home or pack on the go and save a ton of money, instead of eating out for lunch when I was working.

    • shawna.wilson profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Arizona

      RGraf-I don't know much at all about homesteading, but it sounds like something I'd be interesed in. I'll have to look into it. I agree- I think most of us have and use more than we need.

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 

      10 years ago from Wisconsin

      So true!

      We are already do so many of those things! We've also begun a version of homesteading to help cut costs. We've begun to do the once a month cooking to help cut back on eating out because of no time to cook and focusing on turning off more of the lights throughout the day to cut back on electricity.

      We use more than we really need.

    • shawna.wilson profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Arizona

      Lissie-If you're going to use a credit card, I agree that you might as well get something out of it! We earn hotel stays with ours, so we get a nice weekend away every so often. We also pay our balance off every month. You have some great money saving ideas. Thanks for sharing!

      Pam-I'm sure you save a lot on dry cleaning by doing your own washing and ironing. I can't imagine spending hundreds on dry cleaning each month, but people do it. Thankfully, I wear scrubs at work!

    • shawna.wilson profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Arizona

      You're exactly right, Nick. In fact, I wrote a hub recently about how much a full time job really costs, and daycare and transportation are the top two expenses! Check it out!

      Thanks for your supportive feedback!

    • Nick Logan TV profile image

      Nick Logan TV 

      10 years ago from Florence AZ

      Great article. I know several families that could benefit from reading this. Everyone has their own reasons, but I can't understand why people would work 40-60 hours per week, just to pay for day care. I guess it is just a matter of not doing the math. Day care and Gas seem to be the two biggest expenses. It is so easy to work online these days.

    • Pam Pounds profile image

      Pam Pounds 

      10 years ago from So Cal Girl in the Midwest!

      Hi Shawna - great hub, thanks for the good tips! I take my lunch everyday. Not only do I save a lot of money, but it's generally a lot healthier. I clip coupons and plan my menus.

      Another thing I just recently started doing, is looking twice at the tags in my clothing, and hand washing and ironing them, instead of taking them to the cleaners. More work, a little more time...but saves more money.

    • Lissie profile image

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      10 years ago from New Zealand

      I get a credit card with points or other rewards Iwant and then charge everything to it and pay it off on the due date: so basically an $80 / year card earns us a $400 flight / year for buying our groceries! Buying ingrediants and making deserts, cookies whatever is always cheaper than buying the readymade item - I use the freezer a lot to cook in bulk and then freeze when Ican't be bothered cooking.

      Clothing in general: I can't believe that people pay serious money for things like Tshirts- good shoes I can understand but things likes tshirts and track pants I buy the cheapest on special.

      Probably the most important thing is to remember you have a choice not to just work to live !

    • spooon profile image


      10 years ago from Texas

      Cut Cable/Satellite TV

      Other ways to save on cable is to actually call them. I call them every 6 months. why? They have these 6 month promo plans that reduce my bill about $20-$30 because I complain that it's too expensive and I'm thinking about switching to dsl + sat. They then give me the new customer plans and it saves me a good amount.

    • allshookup profile image


      10 years ago from The South, United States

      Thanks so much for the encouragement. I really appreciate it! :)

    • shawna.wilson profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Arizona

      allshookup-Like you said, I think most of the online money making ideas out there are scams. There probably are some legitimate income possibilities online, but I don't know of any. Hubpages can potentially earn you a little money, but definitely not enough to supplement full time income. I will let you know if I learn of anything that sounds promising. Good luck to you and your family. I hope that the storm you're going through passes soon.

    • allshookup profile image


      10 years ago from The South, United States

      Thanks for the advice. I am going to read your hubs that you recommend. I am disabled with a 2 foot bloodclot and I can't be on my legs for more than 20 minutes. I have had a huge problem finding something to do at home. I can't lift over 8 pounds, doctors orders. I live out in the country and all the dogs out here run free and no one around here can pay for anyone to shop for them. However I search the computer daily for something I can do to make some money. It just seems there are so many scams out there. My husband has fibromyalgia and has passes 67 kidney stones this year so far. He gets up at 3:30am and goes in to work and works until 5:30pm-6:00pm, comes home, takes his bath and goes to bed because he is so tired and in so much pain. My son and I never get to spend time with him because he is trying to work every hour he can. He even works through lunch and on Saturdays. He only eats here at home. I just feel so down and frustrated over the whole situation. If you know of any legitimate jobs I could do online, please let me know. Thanks so much for your time.

    • shawna.wilson profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Arizona

      Hi allshookup- If you feel like you can't cut any more expenses, look into increasing your income, even if it's just a little. I don't know your situation, but working a few more hours per week might help. Is there anything you can do from home to earn money? Babysitting someone else's child, becoming a personal shopper, walking dogs, tutoring, etc. I've written a couple other hubs that might be helpful to you. Check these out:

      Hope this helps!

    • allshookup profile image


      10 years ago from The South, United States

      Great hub. I have a question. We are doing all of the advice you said. Well, we never smoked. But besides that, we are doing what you recommended and we still are barely scraping by. Any more advice?

    • shawna.wilson profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Arizona

      Barry, esocial, and junjie- I appreciate your feedback!

      Esocial-Good job saving on your newspaper! I used to just buy a paper at the store on Sunday to get the coupons, which was about $2 per paper. Then I looked into getting a subscription. I signed up for a plan that gives me two sunday papers (for more coupons) plus all the other days. It costs less than the $2 per week I was spending on just one Sunday paper. And of course it's much nicer having it delivered right to my door!

    • Junjie profile image


      10 years ago from Singapore

      Practical wisdom! :)

    • esocial profile image


      10 years ago from California

      Excellent tips, thanks for sharing them! Here's another one: with fairs going on all over, head there for deals, too. We signed up for an annual aubscription to our newspaper for LESS than we pay now, and we only get it once a week, not daily. Plus we got $50 in gas cards as a gift :)

    • barryrutherford profile image

      Barry Rutherford 

      10 years ago from Queensland Australia

      good stuff ! all the effort is worthwhile

    • shawna.wilson profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Arizona

      Desert Blondie- I completely agree that staying at home is an effective way to save money because it keeps you out of the stores. I live in the desert too, so in the summer we spend a lot of time at home inside just because it's so hot outside.

      Wannabewestern-Food coops are great. I have participated in one before called bountiful baskets. The fun part was that I never knew what would be in my produce basket each time, so it was a surprise! We usually got great food, and we tried a lot of things we probably woulnd't have tried on our own. Some food banks also offer food alliances that allow consumers to get a large amount of food for their dollar, including meats. This might be worth checking into for someone on a tight grocery budget.

      Thanks to everyone for the great comments!

    • shawna.wilson profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Arizona

      Rochelle-I agree that a lot of manufacturer coupons are for highly processed foods. However, even using coupons for toiletries can save money. I routinely get free toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, handsoap, shampoo, conditioner, and more. I have a stockpile of these items now and only "buy" them when I can get them for free. Couponing is not for everyone, but if it's something you enjoy, it can save a lot of money. Thanks for the comment.

    • Karen N profile image

      Karen N 

      10 years ago from United States

      Excellent advice, Thanks.

    • morrisonspeaks profile image


      10 years ago

      Making a grocery list works for me. It makes me buy the most important ones. thanks for the advice!

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 

      10 years ago from California Gold Country

      Great suggestions!

      I used to be an active couponer-- and sometimes it still makes sense. However, items that are heavily advertised and couponed are usuallly ones that are also highly processed and low in quality ingredients. (They are still making a profit even with coupons.)

      I agree heartily with your ideas for "making your own" whenever possible.

    • desert blondie profile image

      desert blondie 

      10 years ago from Palm trees, swimming pools, lots of sand, lots of sunscreen

      These all good. The best thing I've learned is STAY AT HOME...movies, restaurants, beauty shops, activities...they cost money....get out the scrabble game, a deck of cards, a good book or a movie on your "reduced" cable Tv plan. Grow a vegetable, write a "thinking of you" note instead of using cell phone minutes...we all need, or will need with our nation's troubles, to learn to shave lots of dollars off our budgets! Good hub!

    • wannabwestern profile image

      Carolyn Augustine 

      10 years ago from Iowa

      Shawna, great ideas on trimming the fat from your budget. We've done a lot of these things but I always find myself needing to work on the grocery budget. We've found a low-cost natural-foods kind of place that sells produce much cheaper than anywhere else. When we lived in Dallas I belonged to a co-op of people who bought produce by the case and distributed it. It was a lot of work for the co-op manager, but a fabulous deal. My daughter takes her lunch to school. They charge $2 per meal, which I can easily beat at home with home-packed lunch box items. Looking forward to more great hubs!

    • 02SmithA profile image


      10 years ago from Ohio


      Nice post. I started taking my lunch a few months ago and was shocked at how much of a difference it really makes. Besides being cheaper food, I save gas money instead of driving to get fast food which isn't healthy.

    • shawna.wilson profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Arizona

      Jim-my husband and I also take our lunches. There was a day recently that I accidently left my lunch at home when I went to work. So, I had to buy something in the cafeteria. When I got there, I found out they only take cash, and I didn't have any. So I had to go to the ATM, which charged me $4 to take $20 out! Plus the cost of the I ended up paying about $8 for a piece of hospital cafeteria pizza. That's exactly why I take my lunch!

      Thanks for your comments!

    • jim10 profile image


      10 years ago from ma

      Great suggestions. I have always brought my lunch to work and I am sure it has saved me a ton. I always see others buying sandwiches, pizza and typical chain fast food, etc... I find my lunches to be healthier and I save like $35 a week.

    • shawna.wilson profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Arizona

      Yes, Jerilee, I think we can all benefit by making small changes right now.

    • Jerilee Wei profile image

      Jerilee Wei 

      10 years ago from United States

      Well written and timely information for all of us to be thinking about.

    • shawna.wilson profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Arizona

      Thanks for the positive feedback!

    • guidebaba profile image


      10 years ago from India

      Nice job indeed.

    • Dottie1 profile image


      10 years ago from MA, USA

      Shawna, this is an excellent, informative and well written article. Thanks for sharing.


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