Let’s be honest, saving money and living cheaply isn’t glamorous. You will never see your friend include a post on Instagram showing how much they’ve reduced their possessions and how much smaller their closet has become. In our materialistic society, saving money and reducing expenses isn’t sexy.
But you know what? Neither is debt. Living under debt essentially robs you of freedom. You don’t actually own your possessions. And accumulating interest means you will need to work longer, and forced to take on jobs that may pay higher, but are undesirable for other reasons.
Whether you are in debt or not, living simply is an understated virtue in our society. It promotes contentment with what we have, not with what we don’t have. It frees up more time to do with as you wish – travel, take up a hobby, spend time with friends or family. In other words, living simply allows you to have more freedom.
Below is a list of 11 easy hacks and tips to help you cut expenses, save money, and live simply. Some can be implemented immediately, whereas others (such as downsizing your home) require more advance planning.
1. Avoid Starbucks
This tip is so easy to implement, you will miss out on nothing, and is also quite possibly the most egregious way to spend more money than you have to. A coffee at Starbucks costs about $3.50 or more. Punch that figure up to 5-6$ if you want a ‘triple, half-caff, soy, no foam latte with blah-blah-blah’.
If you were to buy a coffee at Starbucks every weekday, at the end of one year, that will amount to a total expenditure of roughly $1,000.00. There’s a lot you can do with a thousand bucks.
Brewing your coffee from home, before you leave the house, will run you about 20 cents, will only take an extra minute of preparation (either the morning of or the night before), and will save you a sizable chunk of change.
2. Buy in Bulk
Costco is amazing. Even as a single guy, I view Costco as essential. Especially for items which don’t expire, such as laundry detergent, paper towels and batteries. Costco is known to sell their items virtually at cost. They only make money on their memberships. And the amount you will save each year will reimburse you that initial investment many times over.
Meats such as chicken, beef or fish can also be bought in bulk, and stored in your freezer until needed. Even if you only bought meat from Costco, it would be well worth the cost of the membership. Additionally, Costco and other wholesale clubs offer additional services like pharmacy, optical, and automotive departments that will save you money over buying them retail.
3. Brown bag it an extra once or twice a week
This is another easy way to save money. I like to make some extra food for dinner with enough left over for the next day’s lunch. It’s so convenient and tempting to buy lunch out, but bringing your own lunch even 2-3 times a week will save you hundreds of dollars per year, and even more if you’re following tip number 2 above.
4. Sell stuff you don’t need
All of us accumulate things we don’t need in our lives. Whether its clothes we never wear or that bike that’s collecting dust in our garage, Just put it up on Kijiji to make someone’s day and make you some extra spending money.
5. Reduce your Hydro rates
Advancements in technology have made once new technologies more affordable. LED lights are now just as affordable as incandescent bulbs, and they use 90% less energy. Another great option is to purchase a programmable thermostat. This allows you to automatically reduce your electricity usage during times you know you will be away from home. Check with your local hydro company or municipality before spending money on either of these items, as many cities will offer rebates and incentives to switch to LED’s and install programmable thermostats.
6. Ditch the Cable
Cord-cutting has become the new normal. Many millennials don’t see the need to pay 50$ a month for cable when Netflix is less than 10$ a month. Some are even forgoing Netflix and opting instead for Youtube and Android-based boxes with apps like Showbox, which allow you to stream channels for free.
Additionally, depending on where you live, you can get many local channels for free, in high definition, by using a digital antenna, such as Mohu Leaf. These devices cost around 35$ and are typically mounted near a window.
7. Use No-Fee banking services and credit cards
I personally don’t agree with having to pay money in order to use my money. Hence, my personal bank is Simplii Financial, which offers no-fee daily banking, free cheques, and unlimited, free E-Transfers. It is perfectly adequate for the needs of most people, but if you run your own business or have specific banking needs, you may want to consider opening an account with one of the bigger banks.
Try to find credit cards that offer good perks and benefits, but without the annual fee. Oftentimes that extra fee isn’t worth it, and you can find cards that offer similar services for free.
8. Use ETF’s rather than Mutual Funds
Mutual Funds have long been regarded as the easiest way for average folks to invest in the stock market, without having to follow individual stocks. But there are two downsides to these funds. One, they rarely outperform the market, and second, they aren’t cheap. Most mutual funds will charge around 2% commission. That’s a sizable chunk of your investment.
Enter ETF’s, or Exchange Traded Funds. They can be bought and sold like a stock, and only cost a fraction of the price of Mutual Funds. An average commission rate for an ETF is around .2%.
Due to the increased demand for these products, there are currently ETF’s for virtually every sector and subsector. There are ETF’s for the technology sector, natural resources, financial, real estate, consumer discretionary, and even ETF’s that mirror the entire market. So essentially these products will allow you to diversify your portfolio without having to pay a professional fund manager to do it.
If you want an even easier experience, there are many ‘Robo-Advisers’ which invest in various market ETF’s as well as fixed-income sources, and all you need to do is open an account and they handle the rest. Check out Wealthsimple as an example.
9. Use the Library
Libraries not only have tons of books for free, but they also commonly have a large collection of audiobooks, music, and movies which you can rent, for free.
10. Avoid browsing Catalogs or going Shopping
It’s hard to cultivate contentment with what we already have when we browse through Best Buy catalogs featuring the latest new gadgets. If you receive such catalogs or flyers in your mail, ask them to stop sending them to you. It will eliminate the temptation. Similarly, avoid going to the mall unless you absolutely need something.
11. Avoid Debt
This often gets people into trouble. Once you are indebted to your credit card company, the high-interest rates mean you will be paying off those bills for a while to come. Make it your goal to never spend money you don’t have. View your credit card as your debit card, and only spend what you know you can pay off by the next bill cycle. Always pay it off in full, as soon as you receive the bill. If this is too hard for you, consider using your debit card for everyday purchases, and only use your credit card for traveling. If you are conscious about saving money, you will want to avoid debt as much as possible.
12. When traveling, try Couchsurfing or Hostels
After airfare, accommodations will be your biggest expense when traveling. To reduce this, travel with a friend, stay at hostels, or try Couchsurfing. Although I haven’t personally tried it, many reviewers have said that the friendships they made staying at hostels, or with a friendly host while Couchsurfing, was well worth the experience. Booking.com is a great resource which allows you to filter search results to show hostels or B & B’s.
13. Cultivate Contentment
Cultivating contentment with what we have is hard to do in our materialistic society. This is no accident; corporations spend millions on advertising in order to convince us that we need what they’re selling.
Differentiating between our wants and needs will prevent us from going into debt to buy what we don’t really need, and ultimately, lead to happier lives. This is not new information.
Studies have found that once our basic physical needs are cared for, an increase in material prosperity does not correlate to an increase in happiness. In fact, research suggests that increased wealth is instead associated with anxiety, depression, and broken relationships.
There’s an excellent article on how consumerism affects our happiness which you can read here: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/09/materialism-system-eats-us-from-inside-out
Most of these eleven money-saving hacks can be implemented right away to help you in your goal of saving money and living simply.
Let me know your feedback, and any tips you have personally found successful in saving money, in the comments below!
P.S. If you’re a blogger and new to WordPress, check out my post entitled ‘7 Essential Free WordPress Plugins’. Because nothing helps you save money like free stuff 🙂