If it seems like the world is getting more expensive, that’s because it is.
The cost of consumer goods is rising, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But there are still ways to live well and have inexpensive fun in a higher-priced world. By using these strategies, you can keep more of your paycheck for yourself.
Upgrade Your Savings Account
If you’re not taking advantage of a savings account that gives back to you then you are missing out on free money. Whatever you’re saving for, you should do it in an account with a competitive Annual Percentage Yield (APY).
Milli Bank, a mobile bank that is a division of FNBO (First National Bank of Omaha) and is Member FDIC insured, offers a APY as of December 5, 2023. Milli Bank also offers useful tools like Jars that allow you to separate your funds towards personalized savings goals. It also has real-time tracking of how your spending affects your savings goals. Not only does the money you deposit keep growing while you’re not looking, you will also learn where you can adjust your spending habits to save more.
Whether you value a competitive Annual Percentage Yield or savings tools that help you reach your goals faster, you should make the most of your savings account.
Just because something is really expensive right now, that doesn’t mean it will be in three months.
“Timing is everything when it comes to shopping,” said Jon Lal, founder and CEO of online coupon and cash-back website BeFrugal. “Time your purchases with the seasonality and popularity of items, and get it in the off-season or when stores have too much inventory.”
That might look like buying next winter’s snow boots from the clearance rack in the spring, for example — it involves planning ahead.
Listen To More Music
Listening to music can actually make you happier, according to research from the University of Missouri. Fortunately, you don’t need to buy a bunch of new tunes. Instead, check out affordable music services like Spotify, where you can listen to tons of amazing music for free. Look up free concerts in your area as well — cities and community organizations often have free concerts in the parks during spring and summer!
Maintain Your Stuff
A bike with rusted gears and a flat tire is not a bike — it’s a space-waster. And a car that never gets its oil changed is a major credit card expense waiting to happen. Remember, a little prevention can save you a major headache — and potentially reduce big expenses down the road.
Learn To Say ‘No’
Your time is valuable, so learn to say “no” to time-wasters. That’s advice Bill Gates said he got from Warren Buffett, who has the great habit of not letting his calendar fill up with useless meetings. If work meetings are mandatory, try other ways to feel more energized at work. In your personal life, it’s okay to decline social invitations that don’t add value to your life — just be polite about your boundaries!
Find a Hobby
Whether it’s collecting stamps, taking photos or flying model planes, a hobby could make you happier. Although the science isn’t definitive, there are studies that show hobbies can improve cognitive ability. Better yet, there are plenty of hobbies that don’t require a lot of money, like running or learning a new language.
Get Enough Sleep
Studies show that regularly sleeping less than seven hours per night correlates with higher blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and depression. None of these are synonymous with living well, and all sound like issues that could cost you in the form of healthcare bills.
Buy Refurbished or Open-Box Electronics
The price cut on refurbished or open-box items can be substantial. Returned electronic products were often not even defective in the first place, so you have a pretty good shot at scoring a virtually new laptop, TV or smartphone for a great price.
Play Social Director
Instead of letting your (sometimes richer, sometimes less responsible) friends choose the spots for Friday night, be proactive and choose them first.
Find inexpensive places to grab that meal, drink or coffee — it’ll taste the same whether you pay $4 or $12. You can also coordinate a potluck dinner party or barbecue at home!
Wait 24 Hours
For purchases over $50, or a limit you determine based on your budget, wait 24 hours to make sure you really want it and you’re getting a good deal.
“You should also use that time to sleep on the decision,” Lal said. “If it’s something you’re still thinking about after 24 hours, and you did your research, then it’s a decision you’re less likely to regret.”
For e-commerce purchases, some companies will send coupons or incentive offers to complete the purchase if you put the item in your cart, then leave the site. This can be a great strategy to save money on an item that you actually need to buy!
A daily brisk walk can do everything from lift your mood and improve your coordination to help prevent heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, according to the Mayo Clinic. And if you can keep yourself happier and healthier, you can avoid some costly health issues.
To get the most out of your walk, use a free health tracking app on your smartphone, like Apple Fitness or Google Fit. Track your steps, distance, pace, and if you have a wearable health device, your heart rate.
Bring Your Lunch to Work
Ask yourself if you’d rather have those meals out with co-workers or if you’d rather have money in your pocket for your future. Then, buy a lunchbox. To make it easy on yourself, meal prep recipes you can prepare in bulk, like salads, chili, or pasta.
Eat More Veggies
Animal protein is generally more expensive than plant-based foods, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, so going without it for a few dinners a week can help you save money for something more fun than chicken or pork. Try tofu, chickpeas, or chia seeds for plant protein!
Veggies are also healthy, so you might just feel better, too. There’s even a diet that advocates this: the Flexitarian diet. It could be your ticket to a healthier budget and self.
Stretch Every Morning
Don’t just simply reach for the sky as you yawn. Practicing yoga regularly provides a myriad of benefits, a Harvard Medical School review found, from improving body image and flexibility to lowering blood pressure. Avoiding health issues with proactive movement can save you money in the long run.
Live Below Your Means
Living within your means is a good first step, but ideally you should live below your means. Spending less than what you make each month and focusing on savings allows you more chances to take advantage of opportunities when they come up.
Spending less isn’t possible for everyone in every situation, but if you’re able to, this list has tons of ways to help you cut costs.
Floss Every Day
There’s strong evidence that good oral health can help your overall health. Bacteria and inflammation due to gum disease can even lead to other diseases, according to the Mayo Clinic. Grab some floss and you may be able to avoid other costly dental work.
Dress Up With Secondhand Goods
You don’t have to spend top dollar to look like a million bucks. There are many ways to get designer clothes at a discount.
“If you love designer brands, but can’t afford the price tag, search for that designer’s name on Craigslist,” Lal said. “You’ll be surprised at what you can find in new or very good condition.”
Thrift stores or online marketplaces are a great place to find high quality clothing, shoes, and bags at a reasonably price.
Get a Massage
Sure, a massage might sound like an indulgence, but many massage schools offer massages at drastically reduced prices. By offering up your tired and knotted flesh for students to practice on, you can score a near hourlong massage for as little as $35. Start by finding a school near you through the American Massage Therapy Association.
Studies have shown that laughing has a wide range of health benefits. For instance, a Vanderbilt University study estimated you can burn up to 40 calories by laughing for 10 to 15 minutes a day, and a University of Maryland study found that having a sense of humor might help ward off heart disease, which will surely help you out financially in the long run. Turn on that comedy series and destress!
Meditate Every Day
Just a few minutes a day of meditation could improve your life — and it’s one of the cheapest ways to invest in your health.
Meditation reduces anxiety and depression levels, according to a Johns Hopkins study. It also improves overall psychological well-being, according to a Harvard study.
Not sure how? There are apps and videos with guided meditations for all sorts of topics.
Eat More Slowly
It takes about 20 minutes from the time you start eating for the brain to signal fullness. When you eat too fast, you often eat too much, according to research presented at a meeting of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity. Take smaller bites, chew longer, and put your fork down between bites. Take sips of a beverage during your meal. Eat more slowly and you might reduce stomach upset and reduce expenses on food from eating smaller portions. That’s a win-win-win.
Wake Up Earlier
Early risers feel healthier and happier than night owls, according to a study published by the American Psychological Association. With more time in your morning, you may not feel rushed trying to get ready before work, school, or social plans. Want to start waking up earlier? Start by setting your alarm 10 to 15 minutes earlier and once you adjust, set the alarm earlier again until you’ve found your ideal sleep schedule.
Travel for Less
Everyone loves vacations, but they can be pricey. So, check out discount travel sites for good deals. Sites such as Skiplagged, Travelocity or Kayak can help you track prices and find cheaper rates on flights, hotels and car rentals. Consider alternative trip styles like camping or cruises which can be cost-effective.
Use Your Credit Card Less
Credit cards have notoriously high interest rates and are difficult to pay down. Billionaires from Warren Buffett to Mark Cuban say to cut the plastic. If one of your goals is to build wealth, avoid going into debt with them.
Drive a More Fuel-Efficient Car
Ask yourself if you really need that 6,000-pound gas-guzzling SUV. When you’re in the market for your next car, look for a more fuel efficient car with things like racks that can help you haul your stuff. That’s money you can spend on living better — or a new bike.
Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
Writing on how to live a better life, psychologist Thomas A. Richards pointed out that when you compare yourself to others, “you always tend to see yourself on the ‘short end’ and everyone else seems better.” That’s no way to live well. It might also lead to spending on things you don’t need or actually care about in an effort to overcompensate. Don’t compare yourself to others, and you might just keep more money in your wallet.
Positive thinking builds your skill set, enhances your health and improves your work, according to positive professor and psychology researcher Barbara L. Fredrickson. That can lead to living better. Also: Positive thinking is free.
Plant a Garden
Gardens provide bigger benefits than just fresh veggies. Studies have found that gardening can reduce stress, improve mental health — including reducing the risk of dementia — and provide low-impact exercise. Plus, those veggies are really cheap and fresh. If you grow flowers, they can make for a great gift for others that costs you nothing!
Be a Good Samaritan
When a challenging situation arises, practice compassion. Practicing compassion helps you “enjoy better mental and physical health and speeds up recovery from disease,” and might even lengthen your lifespan, according to a University of California, Berkeley publication.
Cherish Your Friendships
Friendship doesn’t cost a penny, but it has many benefits that can enrich your life. Friendship boosts happiness while reducing stress and increases your sense of belonging, self-confidence and self-worth, according to the Mayo Clinic. Make time for a phone call or video chat to catch up with a friend that lives far away, or invite a local friend to a free park or to your home!
Spend On Experiences
You’ll get more happiness from going on vacation than buying a new couch, reports The New York Times. Research has found that, in general, spending money on experiences can bring more happiness than spending on more stuff. So take a vacation… from that new couch of yours.
Giving your time to a cause can help more than the cause. Studies have shown that volunteering not only fends off loneliness and depression, but it can also offer better health, including lower blood pressure and a longer lifespan. So donate a little time, and you could get a lot back.
Spend Less on Haircuts
Just as with massages, barber and beauty schools often give great rates on haircuts and styling – with services often as low as $20 – so their students can gain the required experience for their cosmetology license.
Look up a national school like the Aveda Institute or local cosmetology school in your area!
Make It Yourself
From toys and gifts to cosmetics and cleaning products, there are many costly items you could make yourself with materials you already have on hand. It’s often not only less expensive, but it can even provide a great family project. And it’s all just a Google search away.
Make a Life Goals List
One way to enrich your life is to have a list of life to-dos: Anything from climbing Mount Everest to writing a book to getting a dog is fair game. Experts suggest making your goals specific and attainable, or failing might do more harm than good. Bucket-list items don’t have to be expensive, either.
Read a Good Novel
First of all, reading a book is one of the cheapest ways to entertain yourself. Get them secondhand at a thrift store or borrow from the library. Second, research from Emory University has shown that reading a gripping novel actually creates new connections in the brain. That can only make your life richer.
Don’t Pay Full Price
There is a way to avoid paying full price for just about anything. For serious discounts, check out services like Groupon and Living Social, as well as sites like RetailMeNot, Offers.com, Coupon Sherpa, Coupons.com, Slickdeals and others. Honey is a browser extension that looks for you whenever you check out online!
Budget Your Happiness
Make a prioritized list of things you buy with discretionary spending each month, then cut the bottom three. You’ll have more to spend on the goodies and experiences you really love — or take that money and put it toward your saving goals.
Cancel Unused Gym Memberships
With the average monthly cost of a gym membership above $50, according to Statistic Brain Research Institute, it can be a costly expensive if you aren’t using it. If you have a gym membership, consider if you’re really maximizing it.
If it’s not going to good use, cancel the membership and work out by walking, running, hiking, or following exercise videos at home. Or, sign up for a less expensive gym if you like some of the equipment for workouts you can’t recreate at home.
Whether you smoke cigarettes or vape, smoking is expensive. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System reports it costs an average of over $1,000 per year to vape. Quitting could be beneficial to both your lifestyle and your life expectancy. Get serious about cutting this bad habit — and any other habits that are making you poor — and watch the savings roll in.
Spend Less for Cell Service
Finding ways to cut your cost of living can help you live well. One thing you might not think to negotiate are your monthly bills, but there are ways to save even on those recurring costs. Take your cell phone bill. You may be able to lower it by seeking out discounts you’re not taking advantage of, like for putting your bill on autopay, or by reducing the amount of data you pay for if you find you’re not regularly using your full limit. You can even call your service provider and see if they have any additional ways to help you save– after all, they have an incentive to keep you as a customer. Or, look into discount carriers that charge less for using the same towers as the major telecom companies.
Going out can cost you serious money. An entire bottle of wine from Trader Joe’s is much cheaper than your first drink at even a chain restaurant, much less a swanky club.
Dinner and a movie, on the other hand, is much less expensive on your big screen at home. Entertaining just twice a month rather than going out could save you hundreds by the end of the year.
Spend Time With Your Kids
If you’re a parent, it may feel like the way to their hearts is with toys. But, children who talk to their parents regularly are happier than those who don’t, according to a study by the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics. Make time for family bonding over free activities like visiting a park, going on a hike, or attending free events in your community, and you’ll strengthen your family relationships!
Trade Your Books
Most books are a one-time read. After that, they become bookcase dust collectors. So, trade them for other used books, either with your friends, at a local bookstore or online at sites like PaperBack Swap.
Use Your Library
Libraries are a great resource not only for books but for digital books, audio books, magazines, DVDs and CDs, too. It’s one of the few places where you can get some of these items for free, so take advantage.
Most informed consumers buy generic, according to a study by economists from Tilburg University in the Netherlands and the University of Chicago. For example, nine out of 10 pharmacists and doctors buy the generic version of aspirin, which can be as much as 80% less expensive. And, professional chefs prefer store-brand sugar, salt and baking powder to name brands.
Ask About Company Benefits
You might think you’re taking advantage of all your work benefits, but people are often surprised to find they aren’t.
Some examples of work benefits you might be missing out on are prepaid legal, long-term care, paid time off for volunteering, or tuition-reimbursement benefits. Ask your human resources manager to find out what else your employer offers.
Find Free Entertainment
From parades and music festivals in the park to lectures at the library and fireworks shows after dark, chances are your city or county offers a lot of free entertainment. And, some of it is actually good. Many museums also have “free to the public” days or discounted days. It can be a low-cost way to get some high culture.
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