Practical ways to live better on less.
How do you survive on a small salary? Can you get by and even have some fun by following a few tricks and tips? When living on a limited budget, you really need to focus on cutting out major expenses. Just cutting out simple expenditures like coffee isn’t going to make that huge of a difference in your available funds.
While difficult, living on a small salary is not impossible. In fact, you can even live good if you find strategic, intelligent ways to stretch your income, such as: setting up a budget, cutting out unnecessary extras, and finding free things to do. Check out my top 15 tips for surviving on a limited income.
1. Cook at home – Dining out several times a week can quickly diminish your paycheck. Giving up going to restaurants several times a week is easily the fastest way to bump up your disposable income. Restaurants are pricey; if you treat them as special occasions you will enjoy the experience more and save yourself a lot of money!
Treat yourself to a nice restaurant on special occasions only and always look on Groupon and LivingSocial for discount vouchers! Cooking at home saves money and is much healthier for you. Finding unique recipes for free online will keep things interesting. I will be offering a healthy, budget friendly, quick & delicious new recipe each week. When heading out for the day, bring with snacks and/or pack a cooler with sandwiches to avoid those pricey restaurant visits.
2. Set up an entertainment budget – Next to dining out, entertainment is often the next priciest luxury that we spend our hard earned money on. Designate a certain % of your income each month towards entertainment and stick to the budget. Once you run out of entertainment funds, you are done for the month. Save money by visiting discount theaters, visiting local parks for free, and having potluck dinners instead of dining out at restaurants.
3. Cut out all bad habits – Get rid of bad, expensive habits like smoking, drinking alcohol, and buying coffee out. All of these habits are not only extremely unhealthy, but they are also very expensive. I don’t know about you, but I would rather not spend my money on vices that are damaging my health. Why pay to get sick!
If you can’t go without coffee, brew your own at home for a fraction of the cost! Try limiting coffee to one or two cups a day and replacing some cups with a mug of antioxidant packed green or white tea!
4. Find free things to do – Most of us forget how many free activities we really have access to everyday. Stop wasting all your money paying for movies, bars, and shopping! There are plenty of wonderful free things to do such as: going out for a walk, taking a bike ride, or just relaxing at the park. I would rather be out exploring nature any day over walking around a stuffy overcrowded mall.
5. Shop for deals – When living on a small budget, a thrift store can be your best friend. Thrift shops offer great prices on housewares, decor, appliances, and clothing. Not everything in these stores is junk like many people assume; most of it is actually pretty well maintained. Also, visit online shopping sites to compare prices before committing to a purchase.
6. Shop at your local dollar store – I don’t care what anyone else thinks, but I have made great use of my local dollar store over the years! Dollar Tree is my favorite as they carry a great selection of gift bags, cards, miscellaneous housewares, cleaning supplies, and other random items. If you need something quick, you can usually find it at your dollar store. Not everything in the store is junk. Check out my Top 10 Buys at Dollar Tree article.
7. Downsize your apartment – Find a cheaper apartment if your rent is taking up more than 30% of your income. You will have more disposable income available at your leisure if you stick to this figure. Finding an apartment below this figure might even help you put a little bit into savings or pay off some debt.
8. Use your bike – I try to get around most places in town by using my bike. I get exercise in while also saving money; what could be a better deal?! Gas (as the prices exist now) often takes up a sizable portion of anyone’s monthly expenses. You can really cut this figure down by biking as much as possible.
9. Take public transportation – Public transport is the next best way to get around besides a bike or your own 2 feet. You will save yourself a lot of money, hassle, and parking fees by taking a bus or train. Check around to see if anyone offers a monthly or weekly deal pass.
10. Live without cable – Save a bundle each month by only ordering the local channels. Do you really need 200+ TV channels? You can watch most programs for free on the network’s website. Another options is to sign up for a monthly subscription to Netflix. At only $8 per month, Netflix is much cheaper and offers a great selection of full TV series, movies, documentaries, and more!
11. Skip the fancy cell phone & packages – Do you really need internet on your phone and fancy text messaging plans? I hate trying to use the internet on a phone! I would rather just get on a computer and see a full size screen if I need to use the internet. You really don’t need to waste money on this extra fee. And who needs the fancy phones & accessories – who cares what your phone looks like!
12. Save money by DIY projects – You can learn to tackle many projects yourself and save money in the process. Car repair, electronic repair, furniture set up, and household design are all DIY projects which you can do yourself to save on major labor costs. If you search online, you will find plenty of how to tutorials. As an added bonus, if your learn enough, you may be able to set up your own side business to make a few extra bucks.
13. Save by using student services – No one wants to give up hair and beauty care when they are struggling. Luckily, student services such as salon and massage allow you to save over 50% on the traditional costs. This is a great way to keep up your monthly personal care without blowing your budget. Find a student massage near you.
14. Spend smart – Don’t use credit cards – always carry cash with you. You tend to spend less when you are holding the cash in hand. Don’t go crazy around the holidays as overzealous spending can easily cost you the rest of the year. Make your friends and families personal gifts to save money – get creative! Most importantly, always research and budget for big purchases. Ask yourself 3 questions: Do you really need the item/service? Can you find it cheaper? How will you budget/pay for the purchase?
15. Find extra sources of income – If all else fails and you still find yourself coming up short each month, you can always seek new ways to make money. Try finding a second job. Have a garage/yard sale. Sell stuff on eBay. Perform odd jobs on the weekends. Whatever you decide to do will likely provide you with more disposable income each month.
What other tactics have you used while living on a small budget? Share your best financial tips and tricks for those struggling on a limited income.