Living Cheaply – How to Live Cheap to Save Money

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Is money tight?

If so, you might be wondering how you can live cheaply so you can stretch your dollar as far as it can possibly go – to get the most bang for your buck.

Good news: there are many things you can do to dramatically cut back on your spending without compromising your quality of life. That’s right – it’s possible to live very well on not a lot of money if you are careful with your spending and plan ahead.

Let’s review how to live cheap to save money. Living cheaply is an art form, and once you master it, you’ll be able to live well on very little money.

1. Stop Trying to Keep up with the Joneses

One of the first things you should do if you want to learn how to live on very little is to stop worrying about what others think of you. In other words, stop trying to keep up with the Joneses.

Who are these Joneses anyway, and why should anyone care about what they think?

The idea is to stop buying fancy and expensive things just to impress other people.

That fancy car you want to make yourself look rich?

Nobody cares. Most people are just concerned with reaching their destinations when they see you on the road.

That big house you dream about owning someday?

It probably won’t bring you as much happiness as you think. Big houses require more work to clean and maintain. They are also more expensive to own. The more house you have, the more you have to pay in property taxes – thus causing you to work more to afford it.

Sometimes less is more. Having fewer things and expenses can give you more freedom in life. You won’t have to work as hard to afford the things you own. This could lower your stress level and allow you to live a more carefree life.

If you aren’t concerned about always having the best of everything, you could eventually eliminate your debt and live completely debt-free. Talk about the ultimate in stress-free living!

2. Plan Your Meals

Planning your meals in advance is another way you can live cheap and save money. A great way to do this is by using $5 Meal Plan.

$5 Meal Plan is a monthly service that provides you with a pre-made weekly meal plan and shopping list. All of the meals are designed so they can be made for $2 per person or less. Talk about massive savings!

$5 Meal Plan isn’t just about saving money. It’s also about saving time and reducing stress. By knowing exactly what you need to buy at the store and exactly what you’ll be fixing for dinner, you’ll have more quality time to spend with your family or to do things you enjoy.

The great thing about $5 Meal Plan is that you can try it out for free for the first 14 days. If you try it and decide it’s not for you, you can cancel without any further obligation.

Check out $5 Meal Plan to see how it can save both money and time.

3. Buy Used Whenever Possible

New products cost a lot of money. One way you can live well on a tight budget is to buy used products whenever possible.

Instead of buying a new washing machine, for example, see if you can find a quality used one on Facebook Marketplace. Instead of buying a new desk, see if there’s one you like on Craigslist. And instead of buying a new car, see if you can find a low mileage car on OfferUp.

The savings can be substantial.

A benefit of buying used whenever possible is that many people don’t know what their things are worth when they list them for sale. Because of this, some people underprice things when they get rid of them. You can use this to your advantage to save a lot of money.

If you look through online listings for products regularly and learn some negotiation skills, you may be able to get some great deals on used items.

As an added bonus, some people buy used products and flip them for profit by reselling them on eBay. The best way to do this is to go after big-ticket items that you can resell for hundreds of dollars in profit instead of trying to flip a lot of low-cost items.

That’s what Rob and Melissa Stephenson do. Flipping used products for profit is their full-time occupation. They currently earn a six-figure income buying and reselling used items they source from their local community.

Rob and Melissa also teach others how to start profitable flipping businesses. They now offer an online course called Flipper University that teaches you everything you need to know to get started and become successful.

Check out Flipper University to see how you can make a living buying and reselling used items.

4. Rent Instead of Own

Ownership is great, but it comes at a cost.

You may be able to save money by renting something only when you need it instead of buying. Renting something for a day or two is typically just a fraction of the price of ownership.

Recreational vehicles are a good example of things you can rent. Many people like to own their recreational vehicles, but ownership may not be worth it if you only use a vehicle on occasion.

There are many marinas, for example, that rent boats and jet skis. Bicycles and other sports equipment can also be rented. If you’re a pilot, it’s even possible to rent an airplane for a weekend getaway. College students can also rent their textbooks to avoid those crazy textbook fees.

Many towns have rental stores where you can rent party supplies, power tools, wedding supplies, construction equipment, moving trucks, storage units, and many other things.

If there’s a big-ticket item that you would like to use for a while, why not check around to see if there’s a place that rents it? Yes, there are some cases where it’s actually cheaper to buy instead of rent – it depends on the item and how long you need to use it. Because of this, it does pay to do your homework to see which option is the better deal.

5. Barter

There are cheaper ways to live from years past that most of society has forgotten about. One of those is to barter as much as possible.

Bartering means to offer your services in exchange for something you need.

For example, if you need someone to watch your kids for a few hours while you run errands, why not offer to mow someone’s lawn in exchange for that person babysitting? The best way to do this is to find someone who needs your services who can provide you with something you need. It needs to be a win-win for both parties.

Different people have different skills. There are probably many things you can do in exchange for something of value from someone else. If you don’t think you have anything to offer, take some time to brainstorm everything you are good at. Write it all down. You probably have more to offer than you realize.

6. Earn More Money

If your current living situation is to tight that you don’t have enough money to pay your bills while living a minimalist life, you obviously need to earn more money.

But how do you do that?

There are three ways you can earn more money:

  1. Ask your current employer for more hours or a raise
  2. Work a second job
  3. Start a side hustle

A side hustle is a business you can do in your spare time. Many people start side hustles while working their jobs that they grow into lucrative full-time businesses.

A popular side hustle with growth potential is to be a virtual assistant.

A virtual assistant is someone who helps businesses with certain tasks. The “virtual” part means you work remotely from home instead of at an office somewhere. Just a few of the things you could do as a virtual assistant include:

  • Proofread and edit documents
  • Calendar management
  • Respond to customer service inquiries
  • Process online orders
  • Screen emails
  • Transcribe voicemails
  • Book flights and hotels
  • Research leads on LinkedIn
  • Compile reports
  • Create and send invoices
  • Maintain bookkeeping records
  • And many other things

If you’ve guessed by looking at this list that virtual assistants do a little of everything, you would be right!

How much money can virtual assistants make?

The sky is the limit. It really just depends on how well you market your services and how many clients you take on.

Would you believe it’s even possible to make $10k a month as a virtual assistant?

That’s how much Kayla Sloan makes.

Kayla started her freelance virtual assistant business just a few short years ago and has grown it into a thriving six-figure business. In addition to her virtual assistant work, Kayla also teaches others how to start and grow their own virtual assistant businesses in her online course, $10k VA.

Check out $10k VA to see how you can start and run your own virtual assistant business.

Also Read: The Best Paying Jobs That Don’t Require Degrees

7. Do It Yourself

There are many projects around the house that you may be able to do yourself instead of hiring someone to do it for you.

Hired help can be very expensive. This is especially true for home renovation projects. While it’s definitely a good idea to leave some things to professionals (like electrical and plumbing work), there are many other things around the house you can do yourself to save money.

Do you have a room that needs painting?

You could probably do that. Painting isn’t difficult – it’s just time-consuming. With a little practice, you could be the Rembrandt of painting walls.

Are you thinking about replacing your living room carpet with wood flooring?

You may be able to do that, too. It’s not a difficult process, but it does take some time and elbow grease.

Does your driveway need to be sealed?

This is another project you may be able to do yourself with some time and effort.

We live in an age of instant information, and you can look up instructions for just about any project you can think of online. There are also YouTube tutorials on how to do many things around your home.

And, if you ever get discouraged about a DIY home improvement project, consider the story of Cara Brookins, who built a home for her family by watching YouTube videos. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

8. Use Free Gift Cards

One of the more popular cheaper ways of living strategies is to spend less money on the things you buy. There are several ways to do this, like buying used items as much as possible. But buying used may not always be possible for everything you need.

What then?

Another way to live cheap is to earn free gift cards you can use when you buy things. These gift cards are surprisingly easy to earn. Two great sites for earning them are Swagbucks and Survey Junkie.

Swagbucks is a site that is totally free to join. Points earned on the site can either be redeemed for cash through PayPal, or you can redeem them for free gift cards that you can spend at many popular places like Walmart, Amazon, and others.

There are several ways you can earn points on Swagbucks including looking things up on the internet, watching videos, and responding to surveys.

Survey Junkie is another popular site you can use to earn free gift cards. Similar to Swagbucks, you can redeem points earned for cash through PayPal or exchange them for gift cards. Points are earned by responding to online surveys.

The great thing about both of these sites is that you can earn free gift cards in your spare time. You could do it of the evenings after you get home from work, during your breaks, or whenever you have some free time.

Get started with Swagbucks to earn free gift cards in your spare time.

Sign up with Survey Junkie to start earning free gift cards for taking online surveys.

9. Buy Products That Are Built to Last

Not all companies make products that are good quality. Some companies cut corners to save money, and they may also have problems with their manufacturing processes.

Other companies, however, make very high-quality products with strong reputations. The products they make last a long time and they need fewer repairs over their service lives.

For any product you buy – whether it’s a kitchen blender or a vehicle – you always want to purchase the best made product possible to make sure it will last a long time. Yes, there are some products where you will have to spend a little more to get the best brand, but those products may last a lot longer than cheaper products, thus saving you money over the long term.

If you are in the market for something, take the time to read online reviews of different brands to see what people like and dislike about the brand and the product. See which brands are receiving recognition and winning awards for their quality.

10. Avoid Eating out Whenever Possible

If you are wondering how to live cheaply, a very simple thing you can do to save money is to eat your meals at home as much as possible – and avoid eating out.

Restaurants are expensive. While it’s nice to have someone prepare a meal and take care of the cleanup for you on occasion, it’s a luxury that comes at a price – sometimes a steep price.

If you are on a tight budget, you can prepare your meals at home for just a fraction of what it would cost at many restaurants. And you can also save money by packing your lunches and other meals for work and for whenever you have to be away from home for an extended period.

You can even save money on your vacations by packing as much food as possible. For example, for your next road trip you could pack food for your breakfast, lunch, and snacks, and then eat at a restaurant for dinner.

In addition to saving money on food, you can also save money by drinking water as much as possible instead of fruit juices, soft drinks, and other sugary beverages. Also, don’t forget to drink tap water instead of expensive bottled water.

11. Negotiate Better Rates

Learning how to live cheaply involves mastering the art of frugality. It isn’t enough to cut back on a few things – you need to take it much farther than that. It needs to become second nature, like riding a bicycle.

One of the best cheaper ways to live strategies is to negotiate better deals and rates on your expenses.

Although many people don’t realize this is possible, there are many things you can negotiate. Your cable TV package (if you have one) and your cell phone plan are just two examples. Just call customer service and ask if they have any current deals or promotions. They may or they may not – but you’ll never know unless you ask.

Companies change their plans and rates all the time. If you have been with a company for a while, it’s possible they may have better rates you can take advantage of.

Another way to negotiate better rates is to use the Trim App. Trim works on your behalf to negotiate your bills – like your cable, internet, phone, medical bills, and others. It also cancels old subscriptions and takes care of other things. Trim will also negotiate with your bank or credit card provider to see if it can get you lower interest rates and waive interest charges.

Check out Trim to see how it can help you save money.

12. Choose Affordable Experiences

A vacation is a reward for working hard all year long at your job. But vacations can also be a major expense if you like to travel to far-away destinations.

In addition to expensive airfare, there are also hotel fees, resort fees, food, and other expenses to consider. Add it all up and a week-long vacation can easily cost thousands of dollars.

Instead of spending a lot of money on a fancy vacation, why not travel by car to someplace close to home instead? Why not go camping? Why not stay home and relax?

An idea for a simple but affordable vacation is to travel to someplace you can easily drive to that is just a few hours from home. It could be a national forest, historical site, or something else.

Choosing affordable experiences isn’t just about taking affordable vacations. You can also save money on your weekend outings. For example, instead of paying to see a movie or visit a club, why not visit a free museum or free event in your community instead?

Also Read: The Best Craigslist Alternatives for Buying and Selling

13. Vacation In the Off-Season

Another way to save on your vacations is to travel to destinations during the off-season. In other words, go when fewer people are there.

If you visit a popular tourist destination during the off-season, you may be able to save money on lodging and other things. The prices for hotels tend to go up during the peak season as demand rises, and it decreases during the off-season to entice people to visit.

In addition to saving money on lodging, vacationing during the off-season is a great way to avoid the crowds. There are fewer people at the tourist attractions, the lines for the rides at theme parks are shorter, and the overall experience may be better.

14. Save Money on Groceries

Groceries are a major expense for many – but everyone has to eat. That doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money to buy food though. There are several ways you can save on your groceries:

Buy Store Brands – Store brands are usually much more affordable than name brands. Also, many people are unable to tell the difference in quality or taste when they don’t know they are eating a store brand product.

Shop at Discount Grocery Stores – There’s nothing fancy about discount grocery stores. They are plain, and their products are often displayed in the boxes they came in. The prices, however, are usually less than the big chain stores.

Use Coupons – You may be surprised by how much you can save by clipping and using coupons. It may even be possible to double the value of your coupons at some stores.

Don’t Just Shop at Eye Level – Grocery stores use marketing psychology to get you to spend as much money as possible. One way they do this is to put the more expensive products at eye level. When shopping, be sure to check items that are both high and low to see a full range of options and prices.

Buy Aged Meats – Meats are kind of like fine wine, they tend to get better with age. Many grocery meat departments, however, sell their meats at a discount if they haven’t sold within a certain time. These meats are usually still fine to eat, otherwise the stores couldn’t sell them.

15. Only Use One Car

This is a tough one for many couples. After all, everyone likes to have some independence. But if you are currently a two-car family (or have more than two cars), think about whether it might be possible to sell one of your cars and be a one-car family.

There are ways you can make it happen.

If you and your spouse both work, for example, you might be able to make arrangements for one person to drop the other off at work and then pick that person up later. It may also be possible for one person to carpool with someone to save money.

Another option to consider for cheap living is to either walk or ride a bike to your destinations. This may not always be possible in cold weather, of course, but in the warm seasons, it’s a cheap way to get around. It’s also good exercise.

Car ownership is expensive, and if you can get by with only one vehicle, you may be able to reduce your expenses. Cars cost thousands of dollars – even quality used ones. There’s also the cost of insurance, fuel, and maintenance to consider.

16. Save on Utilities

Saving money on your electricity and other utilities is another way to live cheap. There are several ways you can do this:

Lower Your Thermostat – Lowering your thermostat a degree or two in the cold months can help to lower your heating bill. And on the other hand, raising your thermostat by a degree or two during the warm months can do the same.

Use a Smart Thermometer – Another way to save on your utilities is to install a smart thermometer. This is a thermometer that can be programmed so that it doesn’t heat or cool your home as much while you are away.

Insulate Your Hot Water Heater – Preserving as much heat as possible in your hot water heater is another way to lower your utilities expense. You can do this by wrapping your hot water heater with an insulating blanket. These blankets can be purchased at most home improvement stores.

17. Stop Paying for Cable

Cable TV bundles are very expensive. Depending on the features you sign up for, your monthly package could be $150 – $300 a month.

Ditching the bundle in favor of other options is another way you can live cheaply.

Instead of paying for a bunch of channels you don’t watch, you could get a streaming service instead and watch on-demand movies, shows, and other things. You may also be able to rent movies from your local library for free.

Don’t forget over-the-air transmissions. The days of having to adjust rabbit ears are long gone, and depending on where you live, you may be able to get several channels for free with an antenna.

18. Compare Insurance Rates

Shopping around for insurance is another way you may be able to save and live on very little money.

Many people obtain insurance for their vehicles, home, and other things and then never bother to shop around again after that. They sometimes go for years with the same company and rates.

The insurance industry is very competitive, and insurance companies often make changes to their coverage and prices. Because of this, it’s a good idea to periodically get some new insurance quotes to see if you can save some money.

Also Read: Should You Buy Pet Insurance?

19. Get a Roommate

A great strategy for cheap living is to share your living expenses with someone else. In other words, get a roommate.

If you rent an apartment, condo, or something else, the monthly check you write to your landlord can represent a large percentage of your monthly income. One way to significantly lower the cost is to share it with someone else.

If you have a roommate, you may be able to split your living expenses evenly with the person you are living with. In addition to splitting the rent, you may also be able to split your utilities, groceries, and other expenses.

20. Create a Budget

I saved one of the best ways to live well on very little for last – create a budget.

A budget is a written guideline you create where you allocate a certain amount of money each month towards your various expenses. The idea behind using a budget is to keep you from overspending or to keep you from spending money on things you don’t need.

The budget you create will have to make sense for your personal financial situation. A budget for a family of four, for example, will look very different from someone who lives alone.

When you create your budget, write down all of your monthly expenses. Don’t leave anything out, even the cost of entertainment. Then assign a certain amount to each expense that you can spend each month. Don’t forget to put some of your monthly income in a savings account.

Living Cheaply – Final Thoughts

Yes, it’s definitely possible to live on a very low budget, you just have to be willing to do whatever is necessary to cut back on your expenses. You have to embrace frugal living and learn to be content with what you have instead of constantly trying to keep up with the Joneses.

Living cheaply doesn’t have to mean that you can’t live well. Sometimes it just takes a little creativity to make it happen. You have to think outside of the box.

The cheap living lifestyle isn’t for everyone. Some will always desire more and better things. But this lifestyle can give you a type of freedom that many people will never know – financial freedom.

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Cyrus Vanover

Cyrus Vanover, MBA, is a financial copywriter who has written for companies of all sizes. He is also the author of the personal finance book, "Earn A Debt-Free College Degree." His goal is to help families save money, make more money, and achieve financial independence. Based in the mountains of Virginia, he enjoys hiking the local trails, listening to 80s music, and reading books on military history in his spare time. Read more.

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