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Hardcore Budgeting: 8 Ways to Live on the Cheap

Updated on June 11, 2020
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Learning to Live Frugally

Does money seem to burn a hole in your pocket? Do you feel pangs of anxiety about needing to spend it? Are you the type of person who has spent it before it even arrives? If this sounds like you, then your financial situation could be in jeopardy. If you suddenly lose your job or become ill, how long would you be able to survive on your savings?

I have a very close friend who lost her house. The process took a long time and caused her untold stress and anxiety, and in the end she had to leave a house she loved. Could she have done things differently? Yes, in my opinion. She was offered lots of advice from friends and loved ones, but was so caught up in what was happening to her, she felt she couldn't change the snowball effect of problems and debt.

You may be going through a similar situation. This could be for many reasons, perhaps the break down of a relationship, someone passing away, too many bills, unemployment. The list is endless. The shame you may feel will be compounding to your problems.

Let's step back and take a look at it from the outside. Although you may think that the problems aren't that bad yet, it wouldn’t take much to reach a tipping point.

Keeping Track of Your Money

When you are trying to lose weight what is the first thing many diet programs have you do? Write down what you eat. This is the same for spending. You may feel like this is an unnecessary step but it isn't. If you don't know where your money is going, how are you going to control it? By doing this for a month you should have a clearer picture of where unnecessary expenditures are occurring . Don't con yourself into thinking, 'I needed that'. The truth is you probably wanted it but didn't need it. If you have never made a budget, now is a good time to start. Why this isn't emphasized in schools more, I have no idea, this is a life skill that needs to be mastered.

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Stop the Luxuries

Not so long ago people knew the difference between a necessity and a luxury. The line seems to have become cloudy now. A necessity is something you can't live without such as food, shelter, clothing and depending on where you live heating. We have since decided to add other things to this list and call them a necessity including, a car, the internet, a television, a better neighborhood etc.

It is a funny thing that people seem to think they are 'entitled' to luxuries. If you are in debt, wake up and smell the coffee, you can't afford them! What luxuries am I talking about here? Let's look at your expenditures. Cigarettes, alcohol, eating out, bottled water, entertainment these are just the tip of the iceberg. If you feel like you aren't willing to give these up, then start acquainting yourself with the smell of cardboard because you could be living in a box before too long.

Frugal Meal Planning

We all have to eat but I'll bet you, that with a little planning you could cut your food bill by half. I am not joking. Go back to your list you made on how much you spend. Add up food including, meals out, that mid morning snack from the bakery, and that mid afternoon trip to the chic coffee boutique. Don't forget that quick trip through the drive through on the way home. Wow, that is a lot of money you just spent. Now ask yourself, how healthy and nutritious was that 'fuel' for your body.

Begin every morning by having breakfast even if you aren't a breakfast person, you will soon derive the benefits from it. This will get you past that need of a snack mid morning. Take a packed lunch. Once you get into the routine of taking a lunch you will enjoy it. If you can't bear the thought of sandwiches every day, take a pasta salad, soup or last night's leftovers . Be creative! Include a note reminding yourself how much you will be saving over the course of a week, a month, a year!

If you can't bear the thought of cooking a meal after being at work all day, opt for a meal in a crock pot or slow cooker. These will often result in a meal lasting several days.

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Reduce Bank Charges

When was the last time you checked your bank and credit card statements?

Are you aware of what the charges are for? Go into your bank and ask. I had this happen to me, the bank sent me a credit card I hadn't requested and was charging me for this. When I ask why they had sent it, they said it was for their, 'special customers'. Not only did I return the unused card to them, I demanded all the charges be returned. Take the name of the person you were dealing with and ask when the money will be returned to your account. Do not take their word for it, check your account frequently to monitor activity.

Get a Roommate

Do you have a spare room? If so consider renting it out. This is an option I suggested to my friend. She had a huge 4 bedroom house and lived there alone. Renting three rooms out would have probably enabled her to stay in the home she loved. Unless you have lived in shared housing with strangers this may seem an uncomfortable idea to you. It needn't be a problem with a little forethought. You would meet the potential renter and interview them. There is no reason to make a snap decision, tell them you will telephone them with your answer. Often, but not always, they may be younger people who can't afford a house, or they may be at University and need to rent somewhere safe with a quiet place to study.

You set down the rules beforehand, such as no guests, pets, or smoking.

There are many places to advertise your room or rooms for rent such as newspapers, or various websites like Craigslist etc..

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Get Rid of Pets

For some of you, you may be thinking this is akin to putting your child up for adoption. Unfortunately some animals have been elevated to the level of a family member. Animals are only loyal to the home that feeds them.

Check how much your animal costs for their food, vet bills, toys, cleaning products etc. If you have to choose between feeding yourself or your pet, it is time to re-home the animal. If the animal gets ill, how will you afford this?

There are some people who feel that they are the only person who could correctly look after their pet. This is nonsense, there are plenty of very capable and loving people who would love to have a pet.

Avoid Shopping Areas

Don't buy anything that you don't need. There is a big difference between need and want. You don't need that magazine, lipstick or new pair of shoes you merely want them. Don't torture yourself by walking through a shopping area. Don't think that by going into a store where everything is cheap you are saving money. You are still spending, but now you are spending it on junk. Avoid buying anything that isn't absolutely necessary!

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Cancel Your Gym Membership

Do you go to the gym? How much does this cost you? Don't renew your membership. Go for a walk, cycle or pick up a jump rope. There were healthy people before the StairMasters was invented, you know.

Don't fall into the trap of thinking that good health has a price tag, it doesn't. Good healthy home cooked food and free exercise will not only help you, it will also help your pocket.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Mary Wickison

What is your top tip for frugal living?

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    • Ken Burgess profile image

      Ken Burgess 

      13 months ago from Florida

      Indeed Mary, that is one of the truths I have learned, people don't make changes in their lives even when they can clearly see the benefits of doing so, until they are forced.

      I have never been one to suffer from that, and my willingness to make even the most drastic life changes has put me at odds with family and friends often.

      I am envious of your Ex-Pat life, I hope I have the opportunity to make such a change myself some day. In a few years when the kids are 18 and over, that is going to become a priority of mine.

    • Blond Logic profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Wickison 

      13 months ago from Brazil

      That is exactly right. Keeping the overheads low is key.

      That is one of the reasons we live in Brazil. We live frugally but have a better quality of life.

      It's too easy to get caught up in consumerism. I think many people aren't willing to make those necessary cuts until they are forced to do so.

      Great to hear from you.

    • Ken Burgess profile image

      Ken Burgess 

      13 months ago from Florida


      Good article. Its amazing what you can spend when you aren't tracking it. We had to have our kitchen remodeled because the pipe in the wall rotted out and the water damage destroyed the cabinetry.

      During that 5 week process, our eating out cost us over $1,500.

      We usually eat out only once a week, but we know many people that eat out almost every day... that is why so many Americans can't pay their bills, they eat out every night, pay for Cable TV, have a $500 dollar a month car payment and wonder why when one thing goes wrong in their life they are bankrupt and have no money saved to fall back on.

    • Blond Logic profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Wickison 

      13 months ago from Brazil

      I couldn't agree more. You're paying twice plus reducing the quality of life for the user and those around them.

    • erinshelby profile image


      13 months ago from United States

      Cigarettes and excessive alcohol use don't just make a short-term dent in your budget, but can cause a long-term one.... in the form of doctor's visits, illness... things that can make your health go south. That itself is enough for me to say no thanks!

    • Happymommy2520 profile image


      4 years ago from East Coast

      I really enjoyed this article. I love the way you differentiated between things you need and things you want. I think that point is the main reason why people have money problems. Your article was beautifully written. It brightened my day.

    • Blond Logic profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Wickison 

      6 years ago from Brazil

      Hello Jocelyn,

      Good idea. When you see the profits of your labor, it encourages you to keep at it. It is amazing how much money can't get spent without even thinking about it.

      Thanks for highlighting even more ways to live frugally.

    • Jocelyn Durston profile image

      Jocelyn Durston 

      6 years ago from Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia

      Great suggestions! I started going through these steps myself a few years ago and the results (savings) have been so evident. A few others I try to include are clothes swaps/ sharing with girlfriends, and keeping an eye out for extra money-making opportunities (like dropping off good quality clothes I never wear anymore at consignment shops where you get a portion of the money if your items sell). I keep an employment income (regular, expected income) tab in my budget as well as an 'extra income' tab for income generated by things like consigned clothes. It's always rewarding to see that extra income tab fill up with numbers :)

    • Blond Logic profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Wickison 

      7 years ago from Brazil

      Hello Teaches,

      As the old adage says, 'A penny saved is a penny earned'.

      I know many people who are retirement age and are finding it a bit more difficult than was originally thought.

      Thanks for reading.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      We are learning to live on the cheap with my hubby's pre-retirement stage. Cutting back on these items will certainly help everyone.

    • Blond Logic profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Wickison 

      7 years ago from Brazil

      Hi Natasha,

      I know it can be a trying time for many people but like yourself we live frugally. It infuriates me when people spend money foolishly and then wonder where it goes. When you realize the 'fluff' you can do without, it lessen the burden both financially and mentally.

      I always try to add a bit of levity, even to a serious topic.

      Thanks for reading.

    • Natashalh profile image


      7 years ago from Hawaii

      Pets are pretty much my only luxury! I spend less to run my entire life than most people I know spend on rent alone. It gets pretty old sometimes, but it's really my only choice.

      I love where you say to acquaint yourself with the smell of cardboard to prepare for moving to a box. Very funny!

    • Blond Logic profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Wickison 

      7 years ago from Brazil

      Hi Joe,

      I too look for change and it has left me walking like Quasimodo! LOL

      I always think of the saying, "See a penny pick it up, all day long you'll have good luck."

      Thanks for stopping by.

    • hawaiianodysseus profile image

      Hawaiian Odysseus 

      7 years ago from Southeast Washington state

      Hi, BL!

      I know this sounds cheesy, but one of the things I do to save money is to pick up the change I sometimes find on the ground as I go for long walks. Usually, they're just pennies, but the point is that if I see them, I'm picking them up.

      Over a year's time, it's surprising how that little piggy (bank) puts on weight!

      Have a wonderful Thursday, and I'll see you at the next hub!



    • Blond Logic profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Wickison 

      7 years ago from Brazil

      Hello Sue,

      Yes, I think common sense is in short supply these days. Advertisers have told people they 'deserve their product' and people believe it! Thanks for sharing.

    • Sue Bailey profile image

      Susan Bailey 

      7 years ago from South Yorkshire, UK

      Absolute common sense but something a lot of people are lacking. Amazing what people think they can't do without isn't it? Voted up, shared and pinned.

    • Blond Logic profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Wickison 

      7 years ago from Brazil

      Hello MsDora,

      I'm pleased you think so. All too often I see people who don't realize what a precarious situation they are in. Perhaps some don't want to see it.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      7 years ago from The Caribbean

      Very helpful advice. Wise counsel even when things don't seem so bad. Thank you.

    • Blond Logic profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Wickison 

      7 years ago from Brazil

      Hi Carla,

      I think many people are in the same situation. I am pleased you have turned a corner and things are looking up. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Blond Logic profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Wickison 

      7 years ago from Brazil

      Hi MHatter,

      Yes, the best things in life are free. Sometimes it takes a crisis for us to realize this though.

      Thanks for reading.

    • carlajbehr profile image

      Carla J Swick 

      7 years ago from NW PA

      Hi, I had to go through this myself last fall -things are better now, but I did cancel my gym membership for awhile. I was able to negotiate a better price when I rejoined and I moved to an apartment with cheaper utilities. Helpful hub especially for those like me, who were/are in the thick of a $$ crunch.

    • Blond Logic profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Wickison 

      7 years ago from Brazil

      Hi Dr PennyPincher,

      You are exactly right. If someone can't change everything at once, concentrate on one area. Food is a perfect example, there are often ways to eat much more healthily for a lot less money.

      Thanks for stopping by and I love the name.

    • Blond Logic profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Wickison 

      7 years ago from Brazil

      Hi Bill,

      The same applies with us down here in Brazil. Frugal living doesn't mean you are missing out, it just means you can appreciate life with less 'fluff'.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, enjoy your day of rest.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for this. I learned to live beyond money.

    • drpennypincher profile image

      Dr Penny Pincher 

      7 years ago from Iowa, USA

      I think food spending is a good opportunity for most people to save money, as you mentioned. If taking on the entire budget is too much to handle, start by focusing on food spending. Buy all of your food at the grocery store- avoid fast food, restaurants, and vending machines. Plan meals ahead so you can have the right groceries on hand. Cut back on food consumption if you're overweight- you'll save money and be healthier as well.

    • Blond Logic profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Wickison 

      7 years ago from Brazil

      Hi Tricia,

      Often you can save a healthy sum by switching your suppliers of such things as phone, elec, gas, internet etc. That was going to be in Part II but you beat me to it.

      Thanks for tip, have a great night up in Bonny Scotland.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Living on the cheap is our regular lifestyle no matter what our's just the responsible way to live. :) Good suggestions my friend, and I hope you are having a wonderful weekend.

    • Tricia Ward profile image


      7 years ago from Scotland

      A good hub, with some useful of my first when doing one on one is to see if the utilities can be switched


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