Being Cheap + Living on Less (Tips & Observations)

There are those for whom cutting back on spending money comes easy. They set their mind to minimal living and nothing gets past their watchful budgeting eye.

But for those of us who have a harder time sticking to our money-saving or environment-helping guns, there’s help.

• Cut out daily coffee and fast food runs.

FB: I agree with the fast food runs because it isn’t healthy for you (regardless of cost), but the daily coffee run ONCE a week seems OK to me, especially if it’s only $2 a cup of coffee and it’s a treat.

You don’t have to give these luxuries up completely. Hooked on coffee shop java? Remember, Starbucks, Second Cup, Tim Hortons, Timothy’s and other coffee houses all sell coffee you can make at home, either in-store or often in the grocery store. Pack your coffee in a thermos and bring your own lunch every two or three days instead of grabbing fast food every day. Bonus: On top of saving money you’ll also cut back on take-out waste and help the environment in the process.

• Skip pricey salons that can set you back upward of $50 per haircut. Instead, look for a local beauty school that offers cuts (or highlights, facials or manicures/pedicures) by students or professionals demonstrating techniques. Prices for services here are often half (or less) of what you’d expect to pay in a salon.

FB: I’ve never tried local beauty schools but I do know that “pricey” salons cost up to $200 a cut, not $50. But I digress. I normally go to First Choice Haircutters and get my hair cut for $20…

• Try secondhand goods for kids. Whether it’s toys, clothes or furniture, kids six and under are the perfect candidates for gently used goods. Try looking up reputable consignment stores in your area for best results.

FB: Agreed… or even for yourself. 🙂 I saw the most fabulous winter coats there for only $50 but stupid me, didn’t buy it 🙁

• Pay attention to the calendar when purchasing big-ticket items. Certain times of the year mean bigger sales for specific pieces. For example, furniture tends to have the biggest sales in February and August, while jewelry sees the biggest discounts in January. Mark your calendars and do your best to hold off on buying until sale season rolls around.

FB: Summer clothing is sold on sale in the late Summer/Autumn months, and Autumn/Winter clothing is sold on sale in December/January. Just keep an eye out for the end of season.

• Reacquaint yourself with the library. With big book chains now in many larger cities around the country, North American families are opting to buy their literature new. To save yourself some coin, pass on straight-from-the-shelves reads and visit your library. You may even be able to rent some great new or older, harder-to-find movies.

FB: I do like the library, but I travel too often for this to be a viable option..

• Recruit some friends for a biannual clothing swap. Rather than spending hundreds on new pants, dresses or shoes every season, invite a handful of similar-sized friends over and ask them to bring pieces they like but don’t wear anymore. Do a swap and enjoy the feeling new-to-you clothes can bring.

FB: I really like this one but I have yet to do it.

• Get expert advice from a professional planner – preferably one that doesn’t earn commissions by promoting certain products or stocks. They’ll be able to help make sure you’re setting aside enough for retirement, your kids’ education costs, and to ensure that any current investments are working for you.

FB: Your local bank (if you invest with them) should offer you FREE services from their professional staff, so you may not have to even pay for the service. Or, just do some learning/reading.

• Think outside the box when it comes to grocery shopping. Unlike your average grocery store, warehouse clubs like Sam’s Club and Costco offer discounts of 20 to 50 per cent on everyday goods like canned foods, condiments and more, and are a great place to shop for bigger-ticket items like appliances, over-the-counter medications and books.

FB: But sometimes when you buy in bulk it’s false economy. Like buying a huge tub of mayonnaise, and then realizing it went bad before you go through a quarter of it. Ugh. Just be mindful that big box stores like Sam’s Club or Costco aren’t always the best deal.

Read the entire article here.

And they also had 40 simple ways to cut back on your expenses (basically living frugally), and I picked out a couple I liked:

Pay off the plastic.
Are you making only the minimum payment on your credit card every month? If so, you could still be paying for that silk blouse long after it’s faded and frayed. The average Canadian owes $1,269 to credit card companies. At 18 per cent interest, that’s about $230 a year you could save if you paid your balance off each month.

Get money for nothing (and your cheques for free).
Drive right on by any ATM machine that’s not hooked up to your bank. You’ll save $1.50 every time. And run from those generic cash machines you see at convenience stores. They charge an additional $1.50 or more on top of regular transaction fees, which means you could pay $3 just to take out $20. If you avoid ATM fees eight times a month all year long, you’ll have an extra $144 in your pocket.

Don’t ring up phone charges.
Stick to basic service and ditch extra services you don’t really need, such as call waiting ($6 a month), call display ($8) busy call return ($5) and inside wire-care maintenance insurance ($5). You’ll save $288 a year.

Launder with care.
Use cold water in the wash — it works just as well and causes less shrinking and fading. If you run your dryer for 30 minutes, 20 times a month, it’ll cost you $23 in energy alone. Instead, install a clothesline or set up a few drying racks. Switching two loads a week to cold water saves you $36 a year; add in the $276 for the dryer and you’ll clean up with $312.

Cook at home.
Eating out gobbles up money faster than the taxman. Brown-bag it to work and cook at home. Three lunches (at $7 each) and one family meal out a week ($50) comes to $284 a month, or $3,408 a year. Cut that back to one lunch a week and one family dinner a month and you’ll pocket $2,472 a year.

Go veggie.
Pile on the beans, lentils, pasta or rice and have vegetarian dinners twice a week. You’ll shave about $15 a week, or $780 a year off your grocery bill.

Opt for potluck.
Inviting friends for dinner? Share the load and lessen the expense by making it potluck. Make the main dish yourself and have others bring the rest. You could easily save yourself $25 on food and have more energy to be a great host. If you host six dinners a year, that’s a savings of $150.

Get thrifty.
Cruise the aisles at Value Village or your local secondhand shop. You’re apt to find name-brand buys for yourself and your kids. If you normally spend $600 a year to outfit your child, you could do it for $250 instead. Annual saving (per person): $350.

Shop with a strategy.
Plan your trips to the mall so you go with a purpose and avoid the impulse spending. If you normally make 10 trips to the mall a year and spend $50 on impulse buys each time, you could be saving $500.

Give up your gym membership.
Hike the local trails or bike or jog around your hood. At $30 a month or more, you’ll lighten your financial load by at least $360.

Read the entire list of 40 tips here.

But you can also go too far. I recently read this article called “When cheap is a way of life” and a couple of choice paragraphs jumped out at me:

No cost is too small to cut. One of the readers on Hunt’s Web site suggests picking up bent nails at construction sites to reuse. Another admits to buying two-ply toilet paper to separate into two rolls. One woman even decided to ditch a subscription to her favorite magazine, waiting a year until her local library discarded the copies.

FB: Two-ply toilet paper to separate into two rolls is a bit much. Just use less TP if you’re THAT concerned, is my opinion…

Her stockpile of food and toiletries bought for mere pennies is overflowing the cabinets in her laundry room. A second shelving unit in the dining room is overflowing with bottles of shampoo and other toiletries. “It’s like a drug,” she said. “I like to see how much I can get for how little, without sacrificing the quality of my life.”

FB: But … if her dining room is housing a pantry of shampoo and toiletries, I don’t see how she could possibly use up all that stuff in a year or two. Why not just wait, use up everything you’ve got, and if you see a great deal after you’re down to your last 10% of stock, then go and buy it. Why continually buy shampoo and other items in huge quantities to last you more than a lifetime? It just takes up space, and brings to mind this phrase: “Penny Wise, Pound Foolish”…

I am of the opinion that cutting expenses is a great idea, but this sounds a bit extreme for me. I understand if you’re living on literally pennies a year, it would make more sense, but for me, it seems a bit too much. I’ve already cut down quite a bit (and am damn proud of it!) but that is going way too far.

About the Author

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver. I cleared $60,000 in 18 months earning $65,000 gross/year. Now I am self-employed, and you can read more about my story here, or visit my other blog: The Everyday Minimalist.