Living on less can simplify life once you realize just how much you can do without and still survive. Of course, how much you’re able to cut expenses to live more cheaply depends on the region of the country where you live and the life choices you make. Frugal living takes commitment and planning, which means not buying things you don’t need. It is possible for a person to live on less than $1,000 a month, but you have to be willing to give up convenience.
Make a list of the essentials you absolutely need to survive. Include rent, utilities, food and health insurance. The cost of living tends to be lower in the nation’s rural areas. If you live in a region where there is a warm climate, you can save money on heating costs. If you need heat, keep it down in all rooms but the one where you spend the most time.
Split your rent with one or more roommates or look for an inexpensive apartment within walking distance of work, food markets and recreation. If you’re single, renting a small apartment will do.
Work from home. That way you won’t really need a car, which saves you the money you would spend on gas, a car payment, auto insurance and maintenance expenses. For times when you need to go more than a few blocks from home and can’t walk or bike the distance, take a bus or other public transportation. If you have a car, you won't have to drive it much.
Find ways to save on your electric bill. Turn off lights when you don’t need them. Trade in your standard incandescent bulbs for compact fluorescent light bulbs and use up to 75 percent less energy. Unplug all electric appliances when you aren’t using them. Use a laptop computer that uses less energy than a desktop.
Cut down on your food bill. Meat and processed foods cost you the most money when you go to the supermarket. Eat vegetarian and save money by selecting fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season. Another way to save money on food is to prepare all your meals at home from scratch. The cost of eating out adds up fast.
Pay with cash or don’t buy. This keeps you out of credit card debt and saves money you would pay in interest. Paying with cash can get you discounts at the gas pump, in stores, at hospitals and in doctor and dentist offices.
Buy secondhand. Whether it’s clothing or furniture, high-quality secondhand merchandise is available at a fraction of the cost you would pay for new. You can often find clothing that is new or almost new in secondhand shops so you still can be well dressed.
Purchase an individual health insurance plan. If you’re young, healthy and willing to accept a higher deductible, you can usually find coverage for less than $100 a month. There are lots of different health plans out there so take the time to find a plan that meets your needs at a premium you can afford. Healthy people who are low risk are offered the lowest premiums.
Cut entertainment costs from your budget and take advantage of free community events for recreation. Most museum and galleries offer free admission to the public on certain days throughout the year. Check their websites for more information. Many communities also schedule a free music in the park concert series during the summer months.
- Burke/Triolo Productions/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images