10 Life Hacks for Lowering Your Living Expenses

by Becky BlantonJanuary 23, 2018

Are you house rich, but cash poor? The phrase is often used to describe people who have a house payment so large they can’t afford anything else – like food, gas, utility bills and things they need day-to-day. If this describes you, don’t worry. You’re not alone, and you can get through it with these ten life hacks for lowering your living expenses.
Saving money concept - coins in old jars on reflective surface against blue background.

One: Develop a spending plan

The old-school term for a spending plan is a budget. As much as most of us hate the idea of budgets, they are lifesavers when it comes to helping you save money. If you’ve tried budgets and they just don’t work, consider Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, or BudgetsAreSexy.com if you want a different, more fun, less painful approach to budgets.

Two: Learn about money, starting with your mortgage

Homeowners should understand what it means to buy or own a house, including what a mortgage means, what equity is, and what liquidity is, as well as how to leverage your home’s value when emergencies arise.

Three: Get a second job.

No, you don’t have to deliver pizza after you get home from work (although some homeowners do that). You can indulge your need for fun, outings, dinner out, etc. by getting a second, part-time job, or by signing up to be a mystery shopper. You can become an Uber or Lyft driver too. If you don’t have much time for a second job, try using any of these apps for making money doing things you’d normally do anyway:

Closeup of driver holding smartphone while logging into Uber app.

Four: Take in a boarder

More and more homeowners are either taking in boarders or creating Accessible Dwelling Units (ADUs), often called “mother-in-law apartments,” to help them cover their mortgage. By converting a garage, basement or spare room into an efficiency apartment, you can add $300 to $800 or more to your income. If you can’t afford a remodel, look for a renter willing to trade his/her construction skills in exchange for rent.

Phil Elmore, an author and working writer living in New York, recently made the transition to living with relatives after years of renting rooms. It’s saving both Elmore and his brother money. “Moving in with family, assuming you get along, is a win-win situation. Not only do I get to spend more time with extended relatives, but having an ‘extra’ functioning adult on hand – somebody to mind the store, play chauffeur, or just take care of the usual ‘grown-up stuff’ that comes along – can really reduce stress for everyone in the household. Shared living expenses bring down individual costs for everyone involved, too.”

Five: Get rid of cable; sign up for Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime offers unlimited free movies, television shows and video games and free shipping on most items for $99 a year, or $10 a month. There’s also a $49 option for students. Instead of renting DVDs, check out your local library for DVDs and video games. Libraries also provide internet access if you don’t want or need 24/7 internet service in your home.

If you don’t want to go to the library every time you want to get online, consider using a hotspot (only $10 a month if you have an iPhone and a Virgin Mobile Inner Circle membership (Free). With a Virgin Mobile Inner Circle membership, you get six months of unlimited text, data, and phone service for $1 a month, ($50 for unlimited service each month after that), and a $10 a month hotspot.

Six: Learn to fix your own stuff

Be it plumbing, a clogged toilet, or frozen pipes. There are YouTube videos for everything you’d ever need to know to become an accomplished DIYer. If you’re still not convinced you should be let loose around anything resembling a power tool, take a class. Woodcraft.com offers affordable (think $75 and up) classes for beginning and advanced woodworkers. Stores like Lowes, Home Depot, and others also offer free to low cost classes in laying tile, installing sheetrock, and making home repairs for the DIY’er.
A carpenter works on woodworking the machine tool.

Seven: Subscribe to money-saving blogs

You can learn hundreds of ways to save money in all areas of your work and life. Look for blogs like:

Eight: Use the internet

Websites like Freecycle, Craigslist, RetailMeNot, and FreeFlys to find free or extremely cheap furniture, food, beauty and food samples, tools, building supplies, and services.

Nine: Airbnb

Rent out one of your spare (if you have one) rooms on Airbnb. If you have a sailboat, houseboat, RV or camping trailer, you can also list those on Airbnb. Just make sure they’re clean and liveable.

Ten: Lower your food and grocery costs

You can save thousands of dollars a year by learning how to reduce your food costs. For starters, never go to the grocery store hungry and cut back on eating out. According to the Food Institute’s analysis of the United States Department of Agriculture’s food expenditure data, millennials spend 44% of their food dollars – or $2,921 annually, and Baby Boomers spend 40% of their income, about $2,629 annually, eating out. Other ways to save money on food:

  • Buy in bulk. From toilet paper to food, clothes, office supplies and pet food, you can save thousands of dollars a year with a Costco or Sam’s Club membership.
  • Pick up your take-out food. You’ll save by not paying the $2.50 to $5.00 delivery fee and the tip.
  • Cook less meat. Make meat a condiment, not a meal.
  • Buy dry beans, not canned.
  • Invest in a vacuum sealer and freezer and buy meat in bulk and separate and freeze it.
  • Buy lots of produce in season and can or freeze it for the future.
  • Use a grocery list and plan your week’s meals before you shop.
  • Give up sodas or learn to love the generic brands. Buy liters, not separate bottles or cans.
  • Sign up for store memberships or discount cards and coupon clip.
  • Shop for items on sale and plan accordingly.

A young man buying vegetables at a grocery store.

There’s no shortage of ways to cut your living expenses in half, just by taking to the Internet to find ways to do so. From food buying to DIY repairs, car buying tips, how-to videos, and giveaways, the information is out there. Start looking and start saving today.

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About The Author
Becky Blanton
Becky Blanton is a full-time ghostwriter and writing coach for Fortune 500 companies, CEOs, and business speakers. In 2009 she spoke at TED Global at Oxford University, her first ever public speaking gig. When she's not writing, she's kayaking in the Chesapeake Bay. Her dream home is to live aboard a sailing or houseboat.