I am cheap. I have been for a very long time, mostly because when I was in high school and college I had to have a job and make my own money to be able to fun stuff. I loved the lessons I learned out of necessity about saving and not spending, and it has helped me in my life now to get to do more than I ever imagined.
As a practice, I cut corners in any way that I can. Whether I am saving up to go on a trip, or trying to pay off an unexpected bill, I always have my income and a budget in mind. How much am I making and how much can I spend? How much should I save? It all depends on what kind of life experiences you want to have, and if those are like mine, to travel as much as possible, then there are easy ways to keep your costs down.
Keep in mind, these tips don’t just apply to traveling. Being frugal with money has allowed me to buy a home, purchase a car, and enjoy time with family and friends as well all while living off of a modest income that I have earned on my own. The key is to always keep in mind what you want and let that that determine your spending decisions. Here are some of the ways I have found that I can save money:
1. Treat eating at restaurant or getting coffee as a special occasion.
My husband and I make breakfast and lunch at home every day. We eat eggs and avocado and fruit in the morning, and then I pack our lunches of tuna salad or tacos. For dinner, I make stir fry vegetables or pasta. The amount of money we save by not eating out is incredible, and it will put you well on your way to saving for a big trip.
If we ever do feel the need to go out to a restaurant to celebrate or break up our routine, we try to share meals or order cheaper items on the menu. The same goes for expensive coffee drinks. I can spend $10 and make a pot of coffee at home for three weeks. That same $10 would only buy a friend and me one iced mocha in a coffee shop. I love both my portable hot coffee mug and my iced coffee cup with reusable metal straws when I am on the go – both that I spent less than $15 on total and use over and over again with coffee right from my own kitchen.
2. Buy generic products when at all possible.
The options for shopping these days are amazing. We have dozens of different options of places to buy inexpensive groceries and household items, which means lots of different generic products to chose from. You don’t have to give up quality either when buying these products over pricier name brands – both Whole Foods 365 and places like Aldi and Target have organic and eco-friendly options, which will save you money as well as support your personal health and the environment.
3. Never smoke cigarettes.
Seriously, gross. It is 2018. I shouldn’t even have to say this! What an unbelievable waste of money. Not to mention it is so bad for you and everyone around you. Don’t support the tobacco industry. Don’t hurt yourself or others. To live a longer life and get to travel more, never, ever smoke cigarettes.
4. Drink alcohol in modesty and at home as often as possible.
I love wine, so I won’t go as far to say that anyone should give up having a glass or two in the evening, or enjoying a beer or a cocktail on occasion, but warming a barstool as a habit is a fast way to see your money fly out of your hands. In Los Angeles where I live, a cocktail can run you $14 and a glass of house wine can be upwards of $12. I stick with a nice $10 bottle of organic wine from the grocery store and leave drinking at bars to really special occasions, like a birthday party. Better yet, I wait to drink at art shows or weddings when there is usually an open bar!
5. Overall, watch your entertainment budget.
I like to be entertained, so this is tough, but it is really important to consider when trying to save. Instead of deciding what to cut out first, I initially started by determining a budget I was willing to spend a month on entertainment – say $100 - such as movies, online streaming subscriptions, and concert tickets. Then I looked at how I spent my free time and determined that I could get rid of - on the top of my list were premium channels and my music subscriptions because I wasn’t really using them. Bottom line: if you are not using it, cancel it now. You can always change your mind later. Plus, there are so many great activities that are free that we don’t need to pay for it (think game night!).
6. Consider your transportation.
This isn’t an option for everyone depending on your job or where you live, but I find it helpful to try alternate means of transportation to save on gas and wear and tear on your car that makes for costly repairs. I try to walk as often as possible, as well as ride my bike. I also try to carpool instead of taking my own car when I can. This alternative will save you money, as well as cut down on CO2 emissions that are harming our planet.
7. Make gifts or offer friendship instead of buying presents.
Honestly, I just don’t like buying people presents its too much pressure to get them something that they will love but probably don’t need. Instead of stressing over whether perfect gift giving, I instead try to offer to help people year round – when someone is moving, when they need company after having a baby, when they are sick. All of us have too many material possessions anyway – we should focus more on supporting on another and less on buying things that we don’t need. Or, try some free gift options that you can make yourself!
8. Reduce any unnecessary spending, like upgrading technology or buying new shoes.
Do you really need the newest iPhone? How about those new shoes you have been looking at online? When I moved to Los Angels, I only brought with me what I could pack in my car, which was not much. But after I settled into the small room I was sharing with my husband in our new home, I realized I didn’t miss anything I had left behind or gotten rid of. It is liberating and empowering to minimalize your belongs. And, maybe you can make some money selling your stuff!
9. Share the bills
Again, this is maybe not an option for everyone if you live alone or our supporting a family or relatives. But if you do have the option, sharing a portion of your bills with a roommate will go a long way- and when you are away on your travels, you know that your home is safe because someone else lives there!
10. Don’t wait to start putting money away.
Whenever I get paid, I immediately put money away for whatever it is that needs to be taken care of outside of my usual bills and rent. Owe for a doctors visit – set it aside now. Want to take a day trip up the coast or to visit a friend living in Italy? Put those funds in your savings account and treat them as they do not exist and that way, you won’t be tempted to spend it!