March 29, 2020

How to Live Cheap: Lower Your Monthly Spending

When you’re having trouble making it from paycheck to paycheck, it can seem hard or even impossible to keep your head above water. You hear how others are saving money and living better but you just can’t understand how to do the same. It can feel so overwhelming when trying to figure out how to save money, but what if I told you that it’s not? Simple changes in your lifestyle, along with creating a budget, can end up saving you a lot of money every month. Even if you are already able to save money, there are ways to save even more. Just making your own lunch to bring to work can save around $100 a month. Read through these lists for tips and tricks on how to live cheap and save money today!

For motivation, here is my $2,500 per month budget (for two) in one of the most expensive cities: San Diego!

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Housing

  • Negotiate – Always try to negotiate your rent, you might get lucky. The place I currently live, I was able to negotiate it down $90 per month! If you’re a great tenant with on time payments, they might even lower it to keep you.
  • Downsize – Many people have more space in their homes than they actually need. Think how much you could save by getting somewhere smaller (especially on utilities!). Some people want their kids to have their own rooms, but I believe that having children share a room builds closer sibling bonds and promotes valuable skills like sharing and compromising.
  • Extend your commute – Living in the city can be so costly. If you can handle a longer drive to work, the savings are amazing for living further away, you get more of a bang for you buck.
  • Raise your deductible – If you have homeowner’s insurance, you can raise your deductible for significant savings. This means you’ll have a higher out of pocket cost if anything happens, which is why it’s good to have a savings account.

Automobile

  • Groupon – A great place to look for discount oil changes.
  • DIY Maintenance – The most expensive thing at the mechanics is the cost for the service. Search how to do simple things like changing the air filter and headlights yourself. I usually find an article with step by step directions or a video on Youtube. Instead of being charged $25 for the cabin air filter, I bought and changed it myself for $8 (and now I upgraded to a reusable $40 filter).
  • Regular Maintenance – Also make sure to get your oil changes, tire rotations, and everything else done on time. Slacking too much in this department can lead to bigger and more costly repairs.
  • Love your hooptie – Well.. maybe not a hooptie per say, but an older, used car that’s in good condition is better on the budget. Instead of paying $300/ month ($3,600/ year) on a car loan, you can buy a car outright with that amount of money. Plus, your insurance is also higher when you have a car loan.
  • Skip the detailing- Hand washing your car is cheaper as long as you don’t waste water and run up the water bill. I also find that the car is cleaner when I do it myself because I check every nook and cranny.
  • Deductible – Like home insurance, you can also raise your deductible on you car insurance to save money. I did this and saved $25/mo ($300 per year) with USAA. But also occasionally shop around for cheaper rates.

Utilities

  • Unplug it all! – Even when not in use, your electronics are slowly sucking up electricity. I unplug everything when I’m not using it. From the television down to the toaster.
  • Winter – Keep your thermostat at 68F and wear more clothes for warmth.
  • Summer – Use fans and open windows for the breeze. If it’s too hot, set your AC to 78-80F
  • Curtains – Better insulation and curtains will help keep the cold weather out. Blackout curtains also keep the sun from punching in during the summer, which gives your AC unit less work to do.
  • Water – Have a quick shower instead of baths. For more savings, have a navy shower. I.e. Turn on the water to get wet then turn it off. Soap up, then rinse off.

Internet & Television

  • Cut the Cable – You can have significant savings by not having a TV plan and instead using Netflix ($9), Hulu ($6), or other online streaming services.
  • Get a lower plan – A lot of people are enticed when they hear something is bigger, better, and faster. However, I have one of the cheapest internet plans (30 Mbps) with my provider and it still works great for my family’s needs. We’re able to run security cameras off of it, stream videos, and play games on our video-game console.
  • Skip the equipment rental – Some companies charge so much per month to rent their internet box. One I’ve used charged $13 per month ($156/year) to rent theirs. I bought my own and it ends up being cheaper in the long run. If I switch services, I can take it with me, and if it’s ever not compatible, I can try to resell it.

Cellphone

  • Add a line – Having a family plan with someone and splitting the bill can lower the amount you both pay.
  • Skip the upgrade – I can say that we probably all love having the latest technology out. But skipping the latest one can save you $20-$40 per month on equipment fees per line.
  • Sign up for autopay – Companies like T-mobile will knock off $5 per line.
  • Check for discounts – Some cellphone companies have discounts based on age, student discounts, and where you work.
  • Deals – Keep checking for the deals that companies have. They may offer to pay off your line to switch to them or offer free or discount lines and phones. Also, look for companies that have deals on the services you already pay for. For example, I get Netflix for a great deal with T-mobile; however, other companies off Amazon Prime memberships, Hulu, Spotify, etc.

Military Discounts:
T-Mobile: Save with the Magenta Military ($80 for 2 lines, $100 for 4) and Magenta Military Plus plans ($100 for 2 lines, $140 for 4).
AT&T: 25% off AT&T Unlimited &More ($94 for 2 lines, $120 for 4) and AT&T Unlimited &More Premium ($113 for 2, $143 for 4) plans
Sprint: Save 50% off family plans with the Unlimited Military Plan. $60 for the 1st line, $20 for the second, and $10 each for line 3-6. ($80 for 2 lines, $100 for 4)
Verizon: Save on the Start Unlimited, Play More Unlimited, Do More Unlimited, Get More Unlimited, Go Unlimited, Beyond Unlimited, Above Unlimited and/or Just Kids data plans ($10 discount for 1 phone on the account, $25 for 2-3 lines, $20 for 4+). Start Unlimited – ($95 for 2 lines, $120 for 4)

Groceries

  • Buy in bulk! – You’ll have to calculate if you’re really saving much, but buying in larger quantities can usually save you a lot of money. I mostly stick to non-perishables and foods with a long shelf life. For example, I can buy a 3lb bag of baby carrots at Sam’s Club for $4, but I go through them so slowly most of it would spoil. So a 1lb $1.50 bag (coming up to $4.50 for 3lb) at a store like Walmart would actually save me from wasting money. But for things like meats, it’s cheaper to buy in bulk, separate to smaller quantities, then freeze.
  • Have meat-less meals – I know, I know, it seems hard. But cutting down on the amount of meat you have to buy can significantly cut your food budget. Right now I spend about $40-ish dollars on meat per month (but that includes wild salmon).
  • Pay attention to serving sizes – Not only does this cut down on how fast you go through items and have to rebuy them, but it can also help you be healthier and lose weight (I lost 20lbs in 3 months).
  • Couponing – I’m a failure at couponing myself, but the people who do it the best are so great that they end up getting money back from the store. One lady gets so much money back on gift cards that she uses them for family trips to Disney.
  • Meal Planning and a Shopping List – Plan out what you need for your meals and stick to the list. Impulse buys add up a lot! Here are some Cheap Meals Under $10 for 6 People.
  • Never shop hungry – Seriously! I find myself picking up things I don’t need because the hunger monster is in control.

Military Benefits – Military members and their families get great deals on a Costco membership and other warehouse clubs!
Sam’s Club – Join or renew your membership and get a $10 gift card . Offer ends 1/31/20200 and is valid in-club only.
Costco – Join as a new member and get over $60 in savings in coupons and free items.
BJ’s Wholesale Club
– Join for 25% off your membership plus a $10 coupon.

Daily Living

  • Skip the coffee shop – When learning how to live cheap , you might have to give up a few things like daily coffee runs. But you can make your own coffee at home to drastically cut costs. I bought 2 reusable K-cup filters at the store and you just have to fill them with coffee and pop it in the machine. My bag of coffee is $10 for the month (could be less but I buy organic) and the creamer is $4. That’s $14 per month versus $10 for 5 days at Starbucks!
  • Cook More and in larger quantities – Take leftovers for lunch instead of buying lunch for $5 a day ($25/ week, $100/month) and they also make for quick meals instead of eating out.
  • Generic Meds – Don’t be afraid to buy the store brand that compares to the name brand medication. The FDA only allows for a small variation in generic medications to the effects will be very similar.
  • Limit eating out – Try to set a limit on how much you eat out per week. Just once less can save you a lot over time.
  • Buy used – Whether it’s clothes or furniture. You can save a lot by buying them used. I have a great wood table that I bought very cheap on OfferUp and I’ve had it for 4 years so far.
  • Children – Kids grow out of their clothes so fast! Save money by buying used clothes and shop at discount stores.

To learn how to live cheap and budget when you have (or are having) a baby, take the easy course, Baby on a Budget. Learn how to save money on medical costs, increase your income, and reduce expenses such as maternity and baby-related essentials; Especially for all the formula and diapers you’ll need! Get 10% of with code: STACKYOURDOLLARS10

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Be sure to check back on this list for any updates. As I discover new ways how to cut monthly expenses in my own life, I’ll be sure to keep adding them here.

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