How to Live Cheap - picture of written budget, calculator, and glasses
Budgeting

How to Live Cheap: Tools of a Tightwad

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Hey kids! Uncle Greg here again to fulfill all your tightwad needs. Today, I want to talk to you about how to live cheap. You may think living the tightwad lifestyle is really restrictive. Not so! Actually, it has has allowed me to do things I thought I’d only dream about. I’ve been able to travel the world. My wife and I both quit our jobs and started our own business. We have the ability to retire by 50 if we choose. All good things, amiright?

Many of you wonder how we did it. You want the details. So, I’ve decided to give ya’ll a few pointers. Now, these tips aren’t for the faint of heart. Before we begin, you gotta ask yourself this: do you really want to know how to live cheap? Can you commit to living off of 50% of your income? If so, stick with me kiddo because I’m about to show you how it’s done.

Look for Bargains Where You Can

Every good tightwad who’s learned how to live cheap can find a bargain. Buy tickets to your favorite events or concerts on Craigslist. Look for used clothes at garage sales. The list of ways to save is endless.

But, bargain hunting doesn’t just come from sale items. Tightwads need to learn to be resourceful. By using the right credit cards, you can earn rewards or cash back to save even more! When you use a card like the Chase Freedom Flex Card, you can earn up to 5% cash back in certain categories. So, you basically just got an extra 5% off kiddo! Save even more when you stack it with an item that’s already on sale, and you’ll really be thinking like a tightwad.

That’s not even the best part! Just for signing up, you can earn a $200 bonus when you spend $500 in the first 3 months. That’s cold, hard cash my friend – which is the way straight to my heart. Learn how to apply here.

Earning Extra Income

First off, save me the “earning more money isn’t living on less” song and dance. Cry me a river. That is whiner talk and Uncle Greg doesn’t put up well with whiners, you copy?

Seriously kids, we all know it is much easier to live off of 50% of your income when you make $100K than it is when you make $30K. It’s not impossible to do at any income level, but the more money you make the easier it becomes. So, if you really want to look for ways to live on less, start by figuring out ways to make more. Then, you’ve gotta save the difference! Sell Legos on eBay. Become a tutor. Start a blog. Everybody has time to start a side hustle. Find one and get to it…TODAY, PRIVATE PYLE!

Track Your Expenses

You can’t live on half your income if you don’t decrease your expenses. The first step is to know what those expenses are. Start tracking them right away! A simple pen and paper will do the trick. If you are better with the technology, there are online tools – like Personal Capital – that can automate your tracking. Get to tracking, STAT! Just click on the link above to get started or read more about those free money tools here!

Now Cut’em

You’ve tracked your expenses, now you gotta cut’em. Uncle Greg wants to help, so here’s a list of pesky expenses you should consider exterminating:

  • Cable/Satellite Television – I don’t care if you “save” $50/month by bundling your television, phone, and internet. You’re still spending $200/month on crap you don’t need! Trust me, you can live without new episodes of the Kardashians. Cut the cord to cable, save $100’s a month, and use that free time to start your new side hustle.
  • Cell Phone – Speaking of phones, what kinda crazy cellular phone plan are you carrying? There’s gotta be a cheaper option for you. It’s time to try a discount carrier! My smartphone and data plan costs about $28/month with Ting. What’s yours cost? Click here to learn how you can save 40 – 60% on your mobile phone bill just by switching to Ting and mobile that makes sense.
  • Food – Hey Junior, try eating out once a month instead of twice a week. Look for ways to reduce your grocery bill by using coupons and buying generic. Buy stuff that is on-sale. Go meatless a few days a week. It adds up in a hurry.
  • Cars – Kids, I’m gonna say this one time and one time only: PAY CASH FOR CARS! If you have to borrow money for a car, you can’t afford it. If you have a car payment, pay it off…yesterday already! If you can’t pay it off, sell it and buy something you can afford. Who cares if it has a cracked bumper? Tape it up and drive it like a boss…as long as it is street legal.

Create a Budget

You’re doing well kiddo. Now you need to make your money mind its manners. Make it behave. I swear to God, if you learn nothin’ else from me learn this: you need to use a written budget.

Let me say it one more time, just to be clear: Use. A. Written. Budget. (Period.)

Don’t Lose to the Joneses

One of the most important things I learned in my 30’s is this: nobody cares. If you knew how little people actually thought about you and your image, you’d be sorely disappointed. Stop trying to outdo the Joneses. You can never, ever keep up with them. Somebody will always have more. You only win the rat race by not running.

Go Get’em Tiger

Awww….look at my little tightwads! You’ve made your Uncle Greg proud. Congratulations on sticking with it. Now get out there and start living like a tightwad. Uncle Greg knows you can do it!

Resources for You:

 

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53 Comments

  1. I always buy generic medicines, my doctor told me that it’s still the same effect between the generic and the branded one. And also, I stopped going to the gym, I decided to work out here at home.

    1. Gyms can certainly be a money sink. Speaking of which, I need to get rid of my membership. Ha!

  2. Aw, thanks for the daily dose of inspiration Uncle Greg! We’ve been spending the last few months re-evaluating every possible expense. We have cut cable, dropped our home fax line, got cheaper life insurance, a cheaper trash plan, and a cheaper cell phone plan. And I’m not done yet! Right now I’m looking hard at other cell phone providers because I think there’s more money we can save there…

  3. Greg, you’re so right about the costs of satellite, cell phone, food and cars.

    We wiped out the $70 monthly cable TV bill and replaced it with a $10-a-month Netflix subscription. Ditched the $120 a month cell plan for a $20-a-month Republic plan. Adopted generic buying and sale-item-targeting to rein in our grocery bill. And committed to keeping and maintaining our paid-for vehicles (1996 and 1998).

    Big, big savings my friend. And it’s all part of what helped us get earlier retired.

    1. Boom. Living the dream! We’ve basically done the same things, and we’re going to be retiring early as well.

    2. Republic rocks. I’m paying 12.00 a month.

  4. I keep it thrifty by focusing on the big three: housing, transportation, and food. Well, maybe just housing and transportation… That’s where the big savings are and everything else tends to fall into place.

    1. You certainly can save big money there. Keep it up.

  5. Could not agree more Uncle Greg! 🙂 The written budget is key, well the other ones are as well, but you’ve got to be able to see what it is you’re doing so you can keep track of where your money is going.

    1. Absolutely. Without it, you are flying blind.

  6. Is Uncle Greg your alter ego? 🙂 Track your spending for a 2-3 months saving every receipt, this way you can see where the leaks are, once you have a good handle start making those cuts backs and sacrifices to save some $.

  7. Awesome post! The key here is living on 50% of your income. I get the same response from others about how hard it is to live on 50% of $30K. When I tell them to make more money and they can live on more and still save 50%, it\’s like they just discovered the Holy Grail.

    1. Every extra dollar can help! It all adds up.

  8. Good tips Uncle Greg…I’m all for living a rich life but cheaply. It can be done. Too many people just refuse to do it and then complain about their circumstances. Often times the best things in life are free or don’t cost much. No need to pay big bucks to entertain yourself or for status symbols. The only issue for us is the high cost of living in NYC (mainly housing)…it’s hard to save 50% when housing takes up such a big chunk.

    1. One more reason I love living in the Midwest!

  9. Just commit to putting forth some effort… track expenses and create a budget. Most people would be astonished at the results. We all talk about those tasks. No one is going to dispute the benefits of it. But even more importantly in my opinion, your activity signals a sense of commitment to making a change. So, just make an effort!!

  10. Ah yes earning more! That’s the plan as I’m running out of things to cut out of the budget! And at a certain point, life becomes pretty unfun when all you’re doing is cutting.

    1. True, and when you reach a certain point like we have, you run out of things to cut. The steps are always super simple. Implementing those steps can be very difficult.

  11. Love this! We cut cable out of our lives a few months and have been loving the savings!

    1. Yes. Yes you do. BTW – If you want to travel cheaply, Holly can help. Click on the “Free Rewards Advice” button in the header for details.

  12. We were subsidizing the in-laws in the guest house for an extra $27 a month — meaning we were paying $100 (once the promotion was over) for the second smallest package! We cut the cord and went to Hulu.

    Now every month we bank the $92 we save to be sure it doesn’t disappear into general spending.

    1. Nice! Love me some Hulu Plus. We also go with Netflix, but $16/month for both is far superior to $100! Plus, we find ourselves watching only the things we want to watch instead of channel surfing…and of course less TV watching in general.

  13. A big cheap living move we made a few years ago was cooking more at home. It’s amazing how much money you waste eating out. Now we rarely eat out and we have figured out how to make many of our favorite foods at home that are not only cheaper but also healthier for us.

    1. Absolutely Shannon! That was the first thing that we did when we made our life change a few years back. Eating out is ridonkulously expensive.

  14. I love that your first point was to make more money- I subscribe to the theory that you can only save so much, but increasing your earning is effectively infinite.
    Really interesting article, thanks for sharing!
    Reece

    1. Thanks Reece! I agree. There comes a point where you have nothing left to cut. However, there are a gazillion ways to make extra money. It just takes a little thought and effort.

  15. Spot on – that nobody cares. It’s crazy how many things we do to impress others but here’s the problem – they are so concerned about what everyone thinks about them to really pay more than a fleeting glance at what you’re doing. Figure out what makes you happy, not others.

    1. I couldn’t agree more Shannon. Most people are so into themselves and worried about what others think about them, that they couldn’t care less about you.

      To put a cap on my original thought – Nobody cares….and if they do they aren’t the type of person that is worth worrying about anyway.

  16. My latest move was to cancel my gym membership. With the new addition to the family, I\’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I have no time for the gym anyway, so no point paying for something I\’m not using. Now I just do my p90x at home.

    1. Good work. I think I’m getting rid of the gym membership today. I think I’m gonna pick up a copy of Focus T25 and possibly a set of Olympic weights I can keep in the garage. Boom! Instant savings!

  17. I paid my car cash. This took me years to save up money, but it’s worth it. This is how I planned it and it happened as planned! Plan carefully and make it happen.

    1. Yep. It just takes planning and a true commitment, and you can make pretty much anything happen.

  18. We may be the last Freaks still using a flip cell phones. I pay $100 a year for a $0.25 a minute/ $0.20 per text plan w/Verizon and never bust the balance. I save my gabbing and internet for the home phone and laptop. My wife’s plan is a little more a year at $0.20 minute/text for $20 every three months through Virgin.
    You did list all the things folks should look at and decide if its really bringing any happiness value. I think too many people get used to what they have and pay. They spend years on autopilot without giving any thought to the financial waste in their budget. Nice wake-up post

    1. Oh absolutely! People just “set it and forget it!’ It works great for those subscription based companies…not so well for people who don’t pay close enough attention to their finances.

  19. LeRainDrop says:

    As always, I love Uncle Greg’s words of wisdom! I agree with the sentiment and all of the tips, except this part, “Everybody has time to start a side hustle.” Not true! Sometimes it’s better to invest your time on your primary career and not divide your efforts, not spread yourself too thin. The end result is the same, though — higher income!

    1. Thanks LeRainDrop! I agree with you. Sometimes it can be more beneficial to do that. However, you also get into the “putting all your eggs in one basket” dilemma. To me, the more streams of income you have, the better off you’ll be.

  20. You are dead on when you say that nobody cares. If more people realized this they wouldn’t go so much out of their way to impress their friends. I’m a work in progress for I have not found the courage to get rid of the cable that I hardly watch and know I don’t need. I know I need an intervention.

    1. Consider this your intervention Petrish! Cut that cable!!! With so many different streaming options, you can find oodles of things to watch for far less. The only reason you may not want to do it is if you are a giant sports fan. Finding sports is far more difficult, but you can always buy the MLB, NHL, or NBA network if you want. Then you get all the games for less…although not nearly as much.

  21. Good for you! Loans on cars are terrible. I don’t like loans anyway, but if you’re going to take a loan out, at least make it for something that is going to appreciate in value.

  22. Great list Uncle Greg! For me, my budget tip is to save money on transportation. Use mass transit or find someone to carpool with!

    1. Heck yeah! I love living in the Midwest where the housing is cheap. Finding mass transit is another issue. However, when I lived in Chicago, I took the bus or the train everywhere. Most of the time, I didn’t even have a car. I loved it!

  23. Fantastic guide and it\’s very reliable sources article. It\’s very helpful and useful on How to Live Cheap. Glad to read this. Thanks for sharing this article. Great post!

  24. Great tips from you, and comments from everyone else!

  25. I loved the line: “You only win the rat race by not running”. It’s so true! The system is designed to suck the money out of your pocket as fast as possible. Choose to buck the system and you’re in a much better position to actually win the race.

    Thanks for the reminder Uncle Greg!

  26. Buy your car used snd drive it until you start putting big money to fix it. I still drive my 2006 Saturn and dont plan to get rid of it anytime soon.I stopped full coverage insurance on it in 2013.

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