Living “simply,” “below your means” or “frugally” is great advice that makes it into a lot of “wisdom lists,” especially those directed at Millennials. Of course, telling someone to “be frugal” is like telling them to “be smart.” It’s a start, but many people may need a few action steps. Here are a few specific things you can do to start living more frugally today:
- Audit your gym membership. Those “unlimited memberships” to boutique fitness clubs aren’t a great value if you don’t go frequently, so you need to calculate the breakeven. Look at your online membership and see how many times you’ve been to that yoga studio in the last few months. Just 6x per month? It’s better for you to pay $15/class than $150/month for unlimited classes. That will save you $60/month and $720/year.
- Brew your own coffee. Three home-brewed cups a day will cost you around $0.25, whereas 3 K-cups will cost you around $1.65, for a savings of $511/year for one person, or $1,022 for a couple! Don’t even get me started if you are spending $4-$10/day at Starbucks!
- Use promo codes. Before you buy something from an online merchant, do a quick Google search for “(merchant name) promo codes.” It’s typical to find 5%-20% off offers or coupons for free shipping.
- Shower at the gym. I’ve read that the average cost of a 10-minute shower is about $2. If you are taking two showers a day, take one of them at the gym after your workout to save $730/year! And if they supply the towels, even better!
- Use coconut oil — a lot. It seems expensive at first, until you realize all the things you can replace with it, including suntan lotion, body products, etc. I haven’t used conditioner, facial moisturizer or hair gel in years! Just a little coconut oil after a shower both conditions and gives my hair a very light hold without being greasy. Replace $3/ounce hair gel and $10/ounce moisturizer with high quality coconut oil for $0.50/ounce. If you are going through an ounce of each every week, you can save $590/year per person!
- Cut your child’s hair. Do you really need to spend $15 every month to get a child’s haircut? Good clippers are cheap. Do it yourself and save $180/year on each child.
- Learn to cook and meal prep. Come on, it’s a basic human skill — it’s time to grow up. It costs an average of $11 to eat out for lunch, while I’ve found I can meal prep for easily less than half of that. If you can prep your own lunch just four times a week, you can save around $1,248 over a year.
- Skip the beverage. Food isn’t nearly the budget offender that beverages are. You can save on the days you do eat out by cutting the beverage. What’s the difference in spending $8.10 on a Chipotle burrito bowl and the same meal with a drink added for $2.15? About 25%! Cut a $2 drink for any meal just once a day to save around $730/year.
- Cut the cord on your TV. The average cost of a cable bill is now $103/month, or $1,236/year! Create your own bundle of Amazon Prime for Fire TV, Netflix, and Hulu for about $291 per year, for a savings of $945 per year! You can even add Sling TV and still save $705!
- Auto-save. If you take me up on these tips, you could save around $529 per month or $6,350 per year! Don’t let your savings slip away! Set up an automatic draft from your checking account to a savings account at your bank and/or investment accounts at a discount broker. How do you know how much to transfer? Start with anything — even if it’s just $5 every two weeks on your payday. Then record your balances for a few months to see if your total balance is growing every month. The amount by which it is growing each month is the amount you should redirect into another long-term account at regular intervals. If your checking account is growing by $500/month, then set up the auto-transfer for $250 every two weeks. Keep going back and trying to cut your costs and up your savings!
How long does it take to get to a million bucks if you are saving $529 per month with monthly compounding? Depends on your rate of return. If we use the accepted average return of the stock market of 7%, it would take 36 years. That means a 24-year-old can have a million bucks by age 60! Want to be aggressive and assume 10%? You’ll be worth over $2.25 million! If you can save more as you earn more, obviously your results will be much better. There are limits to this very basic calculation, but the point is, small changes matter.
What I did to live frugally in my 20s has become so much a way of life in my 30s that I barely think about it anymore. The money I save by using coconut oil no longer impacts my life in any meaningful way. Now, I just love my coconut oil and using anything else seems like a waste! Don’t despise the days of small beginnings — but do make sure you don’t wait to begin!
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