Living within your means isn’t just about cutting costs and saving money. It’s about taking control of your money, so it doesn’t control you. When you live below your means, you have the power to calmly handle an unexpected car repair or medical bill, save for retirement and fund your dreams.
A good rule of thumb is to live on at least 15% less than the amount you earn. Here are my best tips for how to live below your means without feeling like you’re missing out.
Create a plan for your money
The act of assigning a job for every pound can be empowering. The popular 50/30/20 budget divides money into the categories of needs, wants, savings and debt repayment.
Find Ways to Save on Spending
When spending money, it’s worth considering ways to save on your purchases. A few of my favourites include:
- Avoid Impulse Buys: If you want to know how to live on less money, one of the keys is avoiding impulse buys. Often, impulse buys result in needless spending. One way to avoid impulse buys is to implement the 30-day rule. Avoid purchasing until you’ve waited 30 days. If you still want something after 30 days and can afford it, great! But chances are, after 30 days, you will have long forgotten the purchase you intended to make.
- Use a Cash Back Credit Card: If you’re diligent in paying your bills in full each month, consider using a cashback credit card for all your purchases. If you get, say, 1.5% back on every purchase, it’s like getting a discount on everything you buy.
- Round-Up Spending: If you’re spending money anyway, you might as well invest a little extra to start building wealth.
- Use Honey for Online Shopping: I do almost all my shopping online these days. While Amazon is my go-to, I occasionally make purchases from other places. And when I do, I’ve found that using browser extensions like Honey can save me money. These browser extensions provide coupons for the items you’re purchasing. It takes almost no effort to save using these tools!
When you finish paying off something, whether a smartphone, car or college education, continue making the same monthly payments you’re accustomed to – but direct them to yourself. Stash the money in an interest-bearing savings account, and let it accumulate. The next time you want to buy something, you can pay cash – and feel the opposite of deprived.
Cut meaningless expenses
Are you eating out too frequently, subscribing to boring cable channels or paying for unused memberships? Eliminating costs you don’t care about frees up money for things you truly enjoy.
Try this: Write down what you value in life. Then look closely at your last few financial statements. Do your purchases match your values? You might find that small changes can help you stop spending money on unnecessary things.
Cut Your Housing Costs
If you want to learn how to live on less money, I always recommend starting with the areas that will have the most significant impact. In general, these tend to be your fixed expenses – those for which you pay the same amount every month. Some examples are housing, transportation, and loan payments.
Housing is the biggest expense category in most people’s budgets. If you are serious about living on less, consider paying back this expense.
Some of the best ways to do so include:
- Downsizing: Downsizing your home will result in lower mortgage payments, property taxes, and maintenance costs.
- Rent vs. Buy: Consider whether it makes more sense to rent vs. own your residence – after all the “extras,” renting sometimes makes more sense.
- Identify Income Opportunities: Find ways to turn your housing into an income generator; ideas include renting out a room, buying a duplex and renting out the other unit, or even turning your place into an Airbnb when you’re on vacation!
Spend Less on Food & Drink
Continuing down the list, people tend to spend a fortune on food and drink. I’m as guilty as anyone in this category. I like to shop at Whole Foods and M&S. Doing so isn’t cheap. But as a tradeoff + it’s just me, I rarely eat out (once or twice a month).
It’s not about sacrificing with your money (especially when it comes to food), but it is about prioritising. Want to reduce what you spend on food? Here are some ideas to get you started!
- Eat Out Less: It may seem obvious but eating out less will save you a lot. And when you do eat out, consider drinking water. It’s a lot cheaper than alcohol or soda and a lot better for you.
- Shop Mindfully for Groceries: Go to the store with a list. By planning your meals, you’ll be less likely to buy things you don’t need vs. if you just wing them. Also, look at what things at the grocery store cost. Consider eating more vegetable-based foods to save money. Lastly, buy what’s in season. When fruits and vegetables are out of season, they cost more.
DO CHECK OUT:
- THE SECRET TO HEALTHY COOKING MADE EASY
- PANTRY 101
- MEAL PLANNING 101
- GROCERY SHOPPING 101
- MEAL PREPPING 101
- SOULFULLY NOURISHED
- BENEFITS OF EATING SEASONAL PRODUCE
Reduce Your Energy Bills
While maybe not the biggest line item in your budget, utility bills can be painful. And they’re one of the areas of your budget you have a lot of control over. If you want to save money on utility bills, use energy-efficient products. Some ideas to consider are:
- Get a Smart Thermostat: A smart thermostat learns when you’re home and is highly programmable to help you save money.
- Replace Your Lightbulbs with LEDs: Not only do LEDs use much less energy, but they last a very, very long time. While they cost a little more upfront, they’re an excellent long-term investment, particularly for lights you use often.
- Use Smart Power Strips: A smart power strip can shut off your electronics when you’re not using them, helping you save money. I have yet to implement these in my home, but it’s on my “to-do” list, as I know I could save some money.
If you’re already using energy-efficient devices like those mentioned above, make sure you’re doing the little things like turning off lights, unplugging items from the outlets, hanging up clothes instead of using a dryer etc.
Do you really need that brand-new car that loses 20% of its value as you drive it off the lot and comes with a £500 monthly payment? Purchasing a second-hand car, and paying cash, means you skip the stress of an auto loan on top of other expenses of car ownership. Remember, your car is only transportation. Used cars from rental agencies are good to buy – low mileage and under warranty.
Other Tips & Tricks to Live on Less
- Spend Mindfully Around the Holidays: It’s easy to over-indulge in gifts for others during the holidays. I am as guilty as anyone in this regard, as I like to spoil friends and family. Instead, plan for this spending throughout the year and stick to that budget! Check out this post on how to do Christmas on a budget to learn more.
- Sell Clutter: Want to bring in some extra cash? Consider selling your old items that are collecting dust around the house on platforms like Facebook Marketplace, eBay, Ziffit etc.
- Avoid Bank Fees: Bank charges like overdraft fees are terrible. While they’re avoidable by planning your spending, sometimes mistakes happen. When they do, give your bank a call to see if you can get the charge reversed.
Rules to Live By
- Avoid Lifestyle Creep: Lifestyle creep is one of the surest ways to secure a position in the rat race. Living on less means not inflating your lifestyle when your income rises. Identify what is enough for you and live your life accordingily.
- Save from Your Top Line: Rather than seeing what’s leftover after your spending, save before doing anything else (i.e., pay yourself first). When money hits your account, put it in an interest-bearing savings account, or invest it in an ISA account or something. By paying yourself first, you’ll increase your odds of saving more money.
- Track Your Spending: Cliché? Yes. Necessary? Yes. You will not succeed with money unless you track your spending. It’s as simple as that. I bank with NatWest and they have their own budgeting feature in their banking app.