10 Ways To Lower Your Cost Of Living

During tough economic times, it’s easy to feel the pinch when you’re short on cash.  Prices seem higher than ever and the paycheck doesn’t seem to cover as much as it once did.  It’s during these times that you need to tighten the belt and lower your cost of living.  However, tightening the old belt doesn’t necessarily have to mean that you can’t enjoy life.  Here are ten easy ways to cut down on your cost of living:

1. Thrift Stores and Garage Sales

Looking for bargains is really easy.  Thrift stores have come a long way from the small mom and pop joints that maybe only carried a few items back in the day.  Gone are the days of ripped clothing or broken items.  Today’s thrift stores are cashing in on the fact that a lot of us like to buy things for an inexpensive price.  The best part is that the quality of the merchandise has continually gone up and the prices have stayed relatively cheap.  Check out your local Goodwill or Salvation Army and be sure to peruse the Garage Sale section in your local paper on Friday evening.

2. Earn Money from your Debit Card

Recently there are more and more cashback debit card rewards programs popping up.  PerkStreet Financial is one of the more popular ones offering up to 2% back on all purchases.  At this rate many households can earn/save $50 or more each month.

3. Clip Coupons or Find Coupons Online

Coupons can make a world of difference when you’re shopping for food.  Check your local newspapers and magazines for coupon inserts.  Another great resource is the Internet.  Many companies offer great coupons on their Web sites.  Most of the time it only requires your e-mail address in order to be able to print these babies off.

4. Wait for Items to Go on sale

The key to this option is to be patient.  Almost all retailers and manufacturers offer sales during key times of the year.  Most of the time this will occur when new versions of products are released or when stock needs to be rotated.

5. Carpool

You certainly don’t need me to tell you that gas is expensive.  It just makes sense to ask your friends, neighbors or co-workers to set up a carpool schedule with you.

6. Raise the Deductibles on your Car Insurance

A higher car insurance deductible will mean lower payments.  Of course, if you have an accident, it will take a lot more of the expense directly out of your pocket at the time of repair.  You need to weigh your options when doing this and decide how much of a deductible you can actually afford.  Another possibility for long term savings is to shop around for a different insurance company.  Check out some of the top rated insurance companies to find a winner.

7. Borrow Movies (DVDs and Video Tapes) from the Library Rather than Paying to Rent Them

I’m a huge movie buff.  I love almost all genres.  What I don’t love is the high rent on new releases.  This is where your local library comes in really handy.  In most cases they’ll have a wide variety of DVD or Video Cassette movies on their shelves.  You can check these movies out for free!  Another great thing to do is to use the library Web site to reserve copies of the movie you’re interested in.  This saves time and effort and it doesn’t cost a thing.

8. Use Generic Items

In general, almost all name brand items are priced higher than their generic counterparts.  Most people already know this.  What you may not know, is that many times, the generics are manufactured and packaged in the same factories that the name brands are manufactured and packaged in.  You’re getting the same quality, just different names.

9. Reduce Your Debt

Pay off small debts as quickly as possible.  After you’ve paid them off, roll those payments into larger debts until all your debts are all paid off.  Another key to this step: Don’t get into more debt.

10. Adjust the Temperatures in your Home

Set your water heater temperature three or four degrees lower than it currently is.  You won’t notice a huge amount of difference in your shower, but you’ll definitely notice a difference in the electrical or gas bill.  During cold months, lower your furnace thermostat by two degrees and during warm months raise your air conditioner thermostat by two or more degrees.  The savings will surprise you.

Many of these tips are just plain common sense, but many times we don’t think about them. We forget that we can adjust the temperature on the air conditioner or we don’t realize that raising our deductible on insurance might give us a substantial monthly savings.  When you begin changing your habits in the little things, they can add up to a lot of savings in the long run.

This article was by Bob who writes for Christian Finance – a blog that looks at personal finance using Biblical principles.

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Published or updated May 11, 2013.


  1. Drive safely. There are the obvious insurance savings benefits, not to mention the dings and scratches that can be avoided in parking lots. Drive at consistent speeds while on freeways, use your turn signals, and stay off the cell phone. Accidents cost more than an insurance payout.

  2. Matt, I couldn’t agree more – we spend so much of our income on our cars – and that is before considering the costs of accidents, etc. – good point!

  3. And also, do some comparison shopping for your monthly telecom bills or bundle them (cell phone plan, regular phone, cable TV, and Internet)

    I like to do this one every year or two to make sure I’ve go the lowest rates.

  4. Peter Dunin says:

    Some really useful tips here,how about checking out the reduced sections in supermarkets when buying your groceries.

  5. Awesome tips. I love all of them. Cars are really expensive to maintain!

    • Care are expensive! Often we forget about the maintenance costs when we look to see if we can afford a car. Registration and inspections kill me.

  6. I love using generic items like the Target brand (Up & Up). It’s really the same thing, and a lot of times, you get more of the product for less. Also, my debit card rounds up purchases and puts the difference in my savings, slowly building it up

  7. I’m all for increasing insurance deductibles and keeping the savings in a high-yield account. That way you’ll always have the high deductible in your savings account waiting for you!

    Also, I’ve found that by shopping at drug stores (mainly CVS) and using coupons, I come out much better purchasing brand name items over generics (of course not for every product).

  8. conservative nonhippy naturelover says:

    wow this is very useful… to 4th graders who happen to be in charge of household finances. read MY list below for some REAL tips.

    1. Turn your lawn into a garden. Plant food instead of stupid grass on your property. You’ll reduce your grocery bill, save time and oil products taken up by mowing, and your neighbors will appreciate the reduced noise level! This also gives kids something to do besides watch tv, you can end up with them doing all your gardening!
    2. Have ducks, or chickens if you like their sound or antics. Ducks make sweet pets and their eggs are delish! Organic eggs are expensive, but a duck will lay an egg a day! 3 ducks and veggies from your garden, and you have free omelettes for the family every day, plus the fun of doing it. In most places you can have 3 chickens inside city limits. Plus chickens feed on bugs in the dirt which is free, and helps your lawn by turning the soil. This is also a great thing for the kids.
    3. Keep a goat or two, if you have room. Besides being hilarious and adorable, untreated goat milk and goat cheese are DELICIOUS! And way healthier. You will also reduce our reliance on oil to transport food. Plus goats will mow down your blackberries and other weeds for you, saving you money on lawn mowing and saving you from killing your equipment of tough blackberries and other invasive species. You can also loan out your goats for their mowing services! Here again, kids love goats. Just make sure to keep an eye on them and consider ages.
    4. Compost your kitchen scraps. There’s an amazing amount of energy and nutrients that could be going into building your soil and garden. Everything but cooked meat can go into the compost pile. you don’t have to get fancy. just dump it in a pile in the yard, out of the way, if you don’t want to buy or maintain a bin. coffee grinds can go straight to your garden, they don’t need to compost first. add a bit of ash from your fireplace or campfires to increase alkalinity and balance the acidity of coffee grounds.
    5. Barter. Don’t be timid about it, everyone’s doing it now! Even medical professionals, especially independent ones you use most often such as family doctors and dentists, are bartering services in exchange for everything from goat milk & duck eggs to a service that you can provide (housecleaning? landscaping? gardening their yard so they can save money too? seeds from your garden?) They save money on taxes and paperwork and are often happy to be helpful to the community and to be part of something bigger than their pocketbook.
    6. Get a haircut that accommodates helmet head and learn the bike routes in your city! Spend a little extra to make your bike extra comfy and able to carry groceries. I recommend bicycling, because you’ll save money on diet fads and health costs, but motorcycles and scooters are great too. Plus, now they’re very hip.
    7. Alcohol consumes a lot of money. I recommend quitting (most people lose 10 lbs the first month!) but if you refuse to quit, then buy your wine at Rite Aid – absolutely killer prices there. Buy your liquor at stores. Going out is just way to expensive for what you get out of it… which is often little more than an empty pocket with no phone numbers or a DUI, or both. Do the math how many drinks you can make with supplies at home vs how much you’ll spend in bars & clubs. Look at your credit card or debit card statement and see how much you’ve spent going out. It gets ridiculous.
    8. A taxi is far cheaper than a DUI. Always have a plan. Do not drive to where you’ll be drinking unless you are staying the night there, or within short walking distance. Get careful. Counties and States are getting VERY desperate for $$ and are looking to their police & deputies to do their fundraising!! Don’t think that just because you’re extra careful when you drink, that you’ll be ok. Cops are trumping up BS excuses to pull people over. Plus it’s not always possible to obey all the rules of the road. Or you could have a tail light go out and not know it. Don’t risk it.
    9. Make sure you get your long term Rx’s on the cheaper 90 day plan, if your insurance allows, and use a pharmacy with the best price: Costco, BiMart, Rite Aid, Walgreens.
    10. Learn simple stitches and sew up your clothes, get stains out with Dr Bronner’s Peppermint Soap from Fred Meyer “nutrition center” (health food section), or Grandma’s Stain Remover from Bed Bath & Beyond, $4) for whatever Bronner’s won’t remove.
    11. Identify and eliminate your “gingus pins.” Those are the things that you always buy a million of. It’s different for each of us. Mine is bath goops. Others are certain types of clothing, writing pens, books you never get around to reading, CD’s when you should just download the songs you want, etc. I got the idea of “gingus pin” from the book mentioned below.
    12. Identify the cheapest place to buy each kind of thing you buy regularly, and don’t deviate. It’s our habits that make us or break us. For example, always check BOOKFINDER.COM before purchasing a book retail, and always check HALF.COM for DVD’s. I always find the best deals there.
    13. Speaking of habits, quit smoking. or buy one of those electronic cigarette kits. If you refuse to quit, at least buy loose tobacco and a good roller (Zigzag is best). You’ll save money not only on the smokes, but on your health costs as well.
    14. Splurge on a gym membership and get to it. Understand there is a ramp-up period, but after a couple weeks or so you will quit getting sore and tired, you will feel fresh and energized. Be patient, and always push yourself, but just a little. Push a little more than before, every day, and you’ll be amazed how fast the results change not only your weight, but your strength, how easily you move through the world, your ability to keep your cool, the softness and glow of your skin, the reduction in hair loss, the elimination of all those aches & pains that have haunted you…
    15. BUY and read, AT LEAST TWICE, the book “YOUR MONEY OR YOUR LIFE” by Joe Dominguez & Vicki Robin. You can find it on half.com for 75 cents plus shipping, the best $3 you will have ever spent. It’s a fun read, don’t delay.
    16. Quit procrastinating! Get going on your do list, you’ll be amazed how much $ you’ll save by getting all those little things done that are somehow causing you expenses. You know what they are. Get on it.

    • Tell me how you REALLY feel about the article tips…. Haha.

      You provide some great, solid additions. Though some of the lawn and animal stuff doesn’t apply to many people (I think my neighbors would get real upset if I turned my whole lawn into a garden or set up goats and chickens).

      • lisa lombardo says:

        I thought I would save money by raising my own chickens and ducks for eggs and meat, and goats for milk. I have found that it costs a lot more to raise my own than to buy at the store. I could buy organic milk and eggs and still save $ compared to the cost of (non-organic) feed, bedding, etc that I spend on my livestock. So do your homework and find out how much feed and supplies cost to raise chickens, etc before you dive in.

        Gardening can definitely save you some money on food bills, especially if you can and freeze the extra. But be careful about spending on the supplies for the garden too. The cost of seeds, fertilizers, mulch, etc can really add up and negate the savings that you anticipated.

        Not trying to be a downer or say that you can’t save money on the suggestions above, but you really need to pay attention to the costs involved. Especially if you have no idea how to care for chickens and a garden…you could just end up feeding the raccoons.

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