My wife and I use paper towels for napkins, and tear them in half to make them go further. It’s a habit we maintained even when we made six figures.
Dinner out is often an appetizer at a bar with happy hour specials, and we sometimes pay with discounted gift cards. We buy cheap new furniture or high-quality used furniture to keep costs down.
What do we lose because of our frugality? Not much.
Paper towels work fine as napkins, it’s more interesting to sit at the bar in a restaurant, cheap couches are comfortable and a new table or bookcase is technically “used” furniture once you’ve had it for a day anyway.
But what do we gain by being “cheap?”
We live without debt. Even our home is paid off.
Our savings accounts and low cost of living let us comfortably survive the loss of any job or business we have, which makes life less stressful.
Most importantly, being frugal with things of less importance frees up money for more important goals — like travel, movies and simply enjoying more time together.
In other words, “being cheap” is a way to live with more freedom.
How Little Can You Live On?
Our expenditures aren’t anywhere near as low as they could be, because spending less is not a goal in itself.
We spend much of our income, but thanks to our frugal strategies and tactics, we have the freedom to spend more of it how we want.
For an idea of how well you can live on less, consider the Wagasky family in Henderson, Nevada.
They live on an annual income of $14,000, far below the poverty level of $23,550 a year for their family of four.
They have everything they need, including a 1,400-square-foot house they bought for $28,000 as a foreclosure. Danielle Wagasky details how they live on so little at BlissfulAndDomestic.com.
But why take the Wagasky family’s story as a lesson in being satisfied with a small income?
Instead, consider the freedom you’d have if you made the U.S. median household income of $52,250, while covering all of your basic needs with the first $14,000.
What could you do with all that extra money? Your options would be wide open.
With that in mind, here are some ways to get there…
Frugal Freedom: Strategies and Tactics
It makes sense to find ways to save money on everything you buy, but the large expenses matter most. These include housing, cars and food, so we’ll start with those…
If you own, consider downsizing your home to save thousands of dollars each year.
Otherwise, check out our list of ways to save on rent. Also see our list of home improvements to save you hundreds of dollars per year.
Even better, do what I did and pay off your mortgage by renting out rooms in your house.
With the right recipes, your affordable meals can be both healthy and convenient.
Don’t automatically accept the recommended treatment for a health problem — a second opinion saved me $6,000.
Look at all of the options.
We routinely take under $500 vacations using the best travel credit cards to get free hotel rooms and other benefits.
You might even make money traveling, beachcombing for fun and profit.
Here are a ton of posts to help you save big on most of the things you buy:
Once you’ve used a few of these money-saving strategies, you’ll have freed up some cash to spend on…
Well, that’s where the freedom part comes in. The choice is yours!
Your Turn: Are you willing to be more frugal in order to gain more freedom?
Steve Gillman is the author of “101 Weird Ways to Make Money” and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He’s been a repo-man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror and roulette croupier, but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).