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Strategies to Live Cheaply and Thrive Fewer than half of all Americans are “very satisfied” with how life is going in their personal lives, for just the third time in two decades, according to Gallup. Here’s...

By Deanna Ritchie

This story originally appeared on Due

Fewer than half of all Americans are “very satisfied” with how life is going in their personal lives, for just the third time in two decades, according to Gallup.

Here’s the thing, though. You don’t need a substantial bank account to live a fulfilling life. This is especially true since the cost of living is rising, and many people are switching to a frugal lifestyle. However, living cheaply does not mean you have to sacrifice happiness. In reality, it’s about prioritizing what matters most and determining what’s truly important.

To that end, this blog post explores various ways to maximize your dollar, leaving you feeling empowered, thriving, and not depleted.

Developing a Money Mindset

Living cheaply starts with a mental shift.

To start, get in touch with your minimalist side and challenge the pressure to “keep up with the Joneses.” You may also want to ask yourself: “What truly brings me joy?” Is it fancy gadgets or spending quality time with loved ones?

In addition, the following techniques can help you cultivate a healthy financial mindset:

  • Practice gratitude. Don’t forget to appreciate what you already have. Whether you find joy in small or big things, take time each day to appreciate them. By shifting your perspective, you can overcome feelings of lack and dissatisfaction.
  • Keep track of your spending. The key to success is awareness. You can keep track of your income and expenses with budgeting apps or a simple notebook. You can then cut back in areas where you can.
  • Identify your financial goals. A clear vision for your financial future will motivate you to save and make smart spending decisions.

Mastering the Art of Budgeting

Thriving financially is all about planning. After all, with a budget, you can track your income and expenses, identify areas for improvement, and allocate funds toward your goals. You can find a variety of budgeting apps and templates online, such as YNAB or Goodbudget.

For those new to budgeting, though, here’s a breakdown:

  • Track your income. List all your income sources, including your salary, side hustles, and investments.
  • Track your expenses. Organize your spending into categories such as housing, food, and transportation. Don’t forget to include everything, whether it is a daily coffee run or a monthly subscription.
  • Analyze. Look for ways to save money or find cheaper alternatives.
  • Set realistic goals. Decide how you want to allocate your funds. Are you saving for a vacation, paying off debt, or investing?
  • Needs vs. Wants. Smart spending revolves around this principle. Differentiate your essential needs from fleeting wants like housing, food, and healthcare. Frugal thinking will help you to fulfill your wants while prioritizing needs first.
  • Curb impulse spending. Be careful not to buy things that you don’t need. If you make a large purchase, you should implement a “cooling off” period. Consider it, research alternatives, and ask yourself whether it aligns with your long-term goals. As a result, you can reduce unnecessary spending and prioritize the truly valuable things to you.

You should also assess your budget regularly and adjust it as necessary. Since expenses fluctuate, it’s important to be flexible.

Conquering Housing Costs

With $2,025 monthly, housing is the largest average expense for American households, accounting for 33% of typical spending. The good news? The following strategies will help you make the most of your money:

  • Consider alternative living arrangements. Consider living with roommates, exploring co-living spaces, or downsizing.
  • Negotiate rent. If you’re a good tenant, don’t be afraid to negotiate politely with your landlord.
  • House hacking (if allowed). In order to offset the cost of your housing, you can rent out a room in your house or apartment.

Becoming a Grocery Guru

Food is another major expense. Every month, Americans spend $779 on food, with almost two-thirds going toward groceries ($475) and the rest for eating out ($303).

Fortunately, eating healthy and delicious meals doesn’t have to cost a fortune if you follow these tips:

  • Embrace meal planning. Plan your weekly meals and create a grocery list to avoid impulse purchases.
  • Shop smart. Consider buying staples in bulk, using coupons and loyalty programs, and buying seasonal produce, which is often cheaper.
  • Cook more at home. Dining out at a restaurant is a luxury. In the long run, cooking allows you to save money by controlling ingredients and portion sizes.
  • Explore discount grocery stores. Many stores, like Aldi or Lidl, offer cheaper alternatives to national brands.

Transportation Transformation

Transportation ranks second among monthly expenses at $1,025. However, you do have options for reducing this significant expense.

  • Embrace alternative modes. Use public transportation, walk, or bike whenever possible.
  • Carpooling. For work or errands, share rides with colleagues or friends.
  • Maintain your vehicle. Regular maintenance makes your car run more efficiently, reducing fuel consumption. You can also use gas-saving apps to find the cheapest filling stations.

Entertainment on a Budget

It shouldn’t be all work and no play in life. The good news is that entertainment doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg.

  • Seek free or low-cost activities. Enjoy museum-free admission days, explore local parks and trails, or attend community events. You can also check your library’s offerings for books, movies, and lectures.
  • Embrace the outdoors. There are endless activities to enjoy in nature, such as hiking, picnicking, and stargazing.
  • Host potlucks or game nights. Organize a party with friends, and everyone contributes to the fun.
  • Discover the power of the internet. Online resources range from educational courses to documentaries and virtual tours of famous locations.

Embrace Frugal Fashion

Americans spend an average of $162 per month on apparel and related services. Thankfully, you don’t have to spend a fortune on designer labels to look stylish.

  • Shop secondhand. Hidden gems can be found at a fraction of the retail price at thrift stores, consignment shops, and online marketplaces.
  • Learn basic sewing skills. You can extend the life of your clothes by repairing or altering them.
  • Invest in quality basics. You can create multiple outfits with a wardrobe full of timeless pieces.
  • Embrace minimalism. When choosing clothing, keep versatility in mind. Often, less is more.

Thriving Beyond Money

While saving money is important, being mindful of your spending and making intelligent choices allows you to pursue your passions and goals more freely. You might want to travel the world, start a business, or simply have more time to do what you love. When you live a thrifty lifestyle, you can design your life on your own terms, not dictated by your paycheck.

  • Think quality over quantity. Buy a few well-made items instead of constantly replacing cheap ones.
  • Embrace experiences over possessions. The most fulfilling memories come from spending time with loved ones, not from accumulating things.
  • Be a part of the community. It is essential to have strong relationships to feel well. And, as a bonus, they are often free. You can volunteer in your community, join a local club, or connect with friends and family. Remember, a positive environment can make a huge difference in your life.

The key to living thriftily is not to deprive yourself; the key is to be intentional, conscious of your choices, and align them with your values. Living an experience-rich and meaningful life is about finding joy in being resourceful and appreciating what you have.

FAQs

How can I create a budget that works for me?

Budgeting can be done in many ways. Make a budget by dividing expenses by 50% needs, 30% wants, and 20% savings/debt repayment.

How much should I save?

Experts recommend saving 10-20% of your income. Your financial goals will determine the savings rate that works for you, but this can be a good place to start.

What are some easy ways to save money?

Make your own coffee, cook at home more, and reduce impulse purchases. Libraries, parks, and museums offer free or low-cost entertainment options.

How can I resist impulse purchases?

Don’t bring your credit cards with you when you go shopping. If you are unsure whether you want to buy something non-essential, wait a day before buying it.

What about debt? How can I manage it effectively?

Prioritize high-interest debts in your debt repayment plan. If you have multiple debts at the same interest rate, consider consolidating them into one. Consider options like debt snowball or debt avalanche to pay them off strategically.

Featured Image Credit: Maitree Rimthong; Pexels

The post Strategies to Live Cheaply and Thrive appeared first on Due.

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