Only 41% of Americans would be able to handle a $1,000 emergency payment, according to a poll of 1,000 people conducted by Bankrate. Are you one of the 59% who would need to access credit, family support or might even struggle to pay the bill at all? If so, follow these 10 frugal living tips with a big impact to cut back on your outgoing expenses and allow you to grow an emergency savings fund.
Follow a 50-30-20 budget
If you want to focus on frugal living tips with the biggest impact, you’ll need a detailed understanding of how and where you’re spending your money.
Before your next payday, gather your financial paperwork to track your typical spending vs your income so you can decide where to cut back and commit to a year of frugal living.
How much of your pay packet will go towards rent, travel, groceries, utilities and other bills?
From here, the remainder can be used towards entertainment, treats and of course savings.
If you have more income than expenses, then it can be useful to follow a 50-30-20 rule, where 50% of your income goes towards bills, 30% towards things you ‘want’ rather than ‘need’ and 20% into a rainy-day fund.
This model can be adapted depending on your income.
Borrowing is really affordable right now in the US, with the Federal Funds Rate being held at near-zero levels, meaning interest rates are incredibly low across lenders.
But does this mean it’s a good idea to get into debt? The answer is a firm no.
Credit cards, loans and other forms of consumer debt still cost money and reduce the progress made by your savings.
Also, the promise of a credit line can be a distraction from living a frugal way of life if you’re tempted to splash out on a purchase and pay for it later.
If you have current outstanding debt, then you can consolidate this into a single loan product to reduce the amount of interest you owe.
From here, you can pay down the debt until you’ve reached zero.
It’s best to get rid of your debt before saving unless the interest on your savings product is higher than the interest on your loan or credit card, or in case your savings are matched by your employer.
Don’t buy more home than you need
Renting may be a necessity rather than a choice in early adulthood, but in the interest of living frugally, it makes more financial sense to save up to purchase your own property as soon as possible.
One common mistake is to buy a larger property than you actually need.
Not only will the cost of your borrowing increase, along with your Closing Costs, but you can also expect to spend more on the daily running of the property.
From energy bills to exterior maintenance, the larger the home, the more expensive it will be.
If parts of your property are unoccupied, then this is costing you money.
Unless you intend to grow into the property, a more frugal decision would be to downsize or else rent out one or more of your spare rooms to earn additional income.
Become a DIY expert
US homeowners spent an average of $7560 on renovations in 2018, which isn’t a small amount of money.
If this sounds like something you would struggle to afford, then one of the best frugal living ideas you can commit to is learning some DIY skills.
This knowledge will stand you in good stead for any home refurbishments you wish to complete on future properties too.
By following YouTube tutorials and renovation blogs online, you can build your experience so you can perform handy jobs around the home.
From putting up shelves to installing a new kitchen, the frugal living community can save thousands on the cost of home improvements.
If you become particularly adept at DIY, you might even consider offering your services as a side gig to earn additional income.
Work from home
If your role has changed during the pandemic, and you’ve adapted to homeworking already, then you may notice how much money you’ve been able to save.
From the cost of commuting to being tempted to eat out during working hours, it’s easy to spend money at work without realising it.
With 42% of the US labor force already working remotely, now may be the right time to have a discussion with your boss about making this a permanent arrangement post-pandemic.
By doing so, you might consider relocating to a more affordable neighborhood which doesn’t need to be within commutable distance from your workplace.
If you are still required to attend the workplace periodically, there are heaps of frugal tips you can adopt including walking or cycling into work, as well as bringing a pre-packed lunch to save money.
Get rid of your telephone line
96% of Americans own a cellphone of some sort, and if you’re reading this, you’re probably one of them and for good reason too.
There’s much less need to also have a landline telephone number if you’re trying to save money.
If you rarely use a home phone, but are paying for it each month, then it may be time to look into disconnecting this service.
There are numerous options available if you require broadband without a landline, including fibre, cable and mobile broadband.
There’s perhaps no generation which has been better at exploring frugal living ideas than the baby boomers.
With widespread rationing following the Second World War, this generation learned plenty of ways to maximize their food supply.
We can follow their example in 2021 with some simple meal planning tips to ensure you only buy the groceries you need for the coming week.
Schedule a time to plan, and gather your recipe books, watch your online tutorials and start to create a list of your ingredients.
Don’t forget to do a stocktake, so you know what gems you already have lurking at the back of your kitchen cupboards.
Pick easy recipes and for extra frugal points, try to make your ingredients and/or leftovers stretch across more than one meal.
Remember that many dishes can be cooked in batches and frozen to make use of your supplies.
Grow Your Own Food
One example of how to live super frugally is to cut back on your weekly grocery bill by growing your own produce at home.
This also has plenty of health benefits, as you can take control of the pesticides and fertilizer that your produce comes into contact with.
Being green-fingered is also excellent for mental and physical health, as the act of gardening allows you to take in some fresh air whilst focusing on the development of your organic fruit and veg.
You don’t need a huge garden to grow your own affordable and nutritious food.
A couple of pots, a balcony or even a window box should be enough space for a selection of herbs, fruit and veg to thrive in.
Shop Around For Discounts
For those items which you can’t grow or make at home, it pays to do your research before you commit to a purchase.
The internet is a valuable source of price information, as you can compare how much your preferred retailers are selling your product or service for.
If you buy online, then you might be able to secure a further discount by opening up the live chat window with the brand’s customer service team.
Placing items in your shopping basket and then abandoning the cart can also result in you receiving a discount code via email which is worthwhile if you’re completing a large order.
If you find that leisure activities eat into your monthly budget, then why not challenge yourself to a no-spend week? This doesn’t mean you need to be confined to the house, but instead, you can look for free activities to enjoy instead.
From walks in the park or countryside to attending free gigs, book signings, poetry evenings and pop-up gallery events, you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to enjoy your local area without spending a fortune.
If you’re isolating, then your free entertainment might be organizing a Zoom quiz or cook along with your friends and family.
Frugal living tips with a big impact on your finances
Ultimately, how much you can improve the balance of your incomings vs your outgoings will be individual from one person to the next.
To determine where you could trim down your own expenses to make savings, take the time to go through your budget and identify the main areas where you could improve.
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