We chose to downsize our lives, though in many ways we are living better than we did before. By turning our backs on consumerism, choosing to live more simply, being more frugal, we are able to live on so much less. This has done a couple of things for us, by giving up most things that create monthly bills, we don’t have to worry about falling behind and losing things or going into bankruptcy. We don’t do anything that generates bills, ie no credit cards, no loans, no car payments and such. Of course we have bills, I’d say that everyone does, but we have actively worked to pare them down to the bare minimum.
The other thing this has done for us, we don’t have to worry about how losing income (cut backs, losing a job…). I can remember living on the edge, being one or two missed paychecks from being homeless, and that was with 3 paychecks coming in! Depending on how you live, having more money coming in doesn’t necessarily translate into living better, especially if most (or all) of it is going out on bills each month.
If you are trapped in the money cycle and are barely making ends meet, and you really REALLY wish to change things, you will have to make some decisions, perhaps some hard decisions. Before downsizing your job (voluntarily or not), sit down and write out a budget, figure out what are NEEDS and what are WANTS. Then go over your NEEDS section and look really hard, how many of those NEEDS really belong in the WANTS column.
Of course things like food, shelter and transportation are tops on the needs list, but even those things can be pared down, OWNING your car instead of making payments (also means lower insurance premiums), downsizing your home (especially if you are renting), with food, are you spending most frugally on food? Are you eating out more than you eat at home? When you do eat at home, are you making (from scratch) more or are you eating more convenience foods? Something as simple as taking your lunch to work instead of eating out will save you hundreds of dollars each year.
The more you can pare off of what is going out financially, the more you can sock back to go toward making yourself more self sufficient. Here are some tips and tricks to help.
1. Eat more frugally, don’t eat out, stay away from fast food, take your lunch to work, learn to cook from scratch instead of relying on convenience food (ie the more it’s processed, the more you are paying for it).
2. Downsize your digital bill, do you really need that top of the line package for TV? Do you really need the top of the line package for your phones? Perhaps you can even give up your land line and go strictly with your cell phone. How about your internet, with this wifi saturated world, it’s easy to find a wifi signal to check your email and such.
3. Downsize your wardrobe, never pay full price for your clothes, thrift shops are everywhere, the more you can buy second hand means more $$$s in your pocket. Buy only what you need, stop the shopping sprees!
4. Use buying clubs, like Sam’s, Costco and such… I know that sounds counter intuitive, but the money you save by buying in bulk will more than compensate the yearly costs of belonging to one of these clubs. Go in with a friend, family member or neighbor to split the costs. I can’t speak for the other clubs but Sam’s now allows another person to buy on your card, you have to be with them (you can’t just hand over your card to them) but they can use their own form of payment (check or card) while you are there.
5. Cut out as many of the extras that are sucking money out of your pocket, ladies do you REALLY need to get your nails done every week (bi-weekly, monthly)? Do you REALLY need to buy cups of coffee from those big coffee houses? Quit putting money into those vending machines for snacks, that’s where the buying clubs will really come in handy, they sell multi-packs of snacks that go into vending machines, if you MUST eat snacks like that, then buy it more frugally, better yet, improve your snacking habits, save money and save your health at the same time.
6. Stop paying for something you are even using, how about that gym membership? If you aren’t going very often, then you don’t need to pay for it at all. If you do use it, how about shopping around for something less expensive, or better yet, free?
7. Fuel, every time you start your vehicle and go somewhere, you are spending money, how many trips can you combine? Stop taking pointless joy rides, try to carpool if possible…
8. Credit cards, get rid of those as soon as possible! Use the methods above to create more money coming in for you and pay off those credit cards, double or triple your payment, paying the minimum payment will not get you out of the hole. Work on one at a time, get one paid, then put that money into paying another off, do that until you have no more credit card debt. Once they are paid off, I’d say to get rid of them, they are too much of a temptation for most, keep only one or two (with the lowest interest rate) for emergencies, and make sure it’s an emergency, of course if you are living more frugally then hopefully you will have an emergency stash of cash to get you by these sorts of things.
9. If you have a card that gives you cash back, AND if you are able to control yourself to not use it more than you can pay FULLY each month, then do it. Or you can look into ways that earn your cash back without having a monthly bill, I use PayPal, I have a debit card through them, the money comes out of my checking account, PayPal pays me 1% back on all transactions where I use my debit card as a credit card, the money comes out of my checking account, I still have to be careful and not spend more than I have, it’s called self control!
10. Christmas, with the holidays coming up, it’s not necessary to spent yourself into the poor house buying gifts for everyone, in my family we only buy for the kids, and even that is pared down to a minimum. I try my best to make my own Christmas cards (those can be expensive!), a package of card stock and a few pens & markers and you can have a fantastic time making your own cards.
These are just a FEW ways you can cut down on your expenses now, without having to really change much about your life. Take the money you would have spent on all of these things and put it toward something really worthwhile, it’s amazing how much things add up, even a few dollars here and there. What is worthwhile you ask? Well, if you are here reading this site, then obviously you are interested in living off grid, it does take money to do that, to get started, you will need some land, a home on that land and all the goodies needed to get started. By spending less money now, you can start saving toward that goal, or any other goal you may have. One thing is for sure, if you do nothing to change about how you live now, then nothing will change about how you live, now or in the future.
These ebooks will help, some are free (as of the time this is posted), all are inexpensive.
Buy our book - OFF THE GRID - a tour of American off-grid places and people written by Nick Rosen, editor of the off-grid.net web site
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