Personal Finance

3 Simple Ways to Cut Back & Save Money Without Feeling Deprived

Expertise: Landlording & Rental Properties, Personal Finance, Personal Development
31 Articles Written
The young guy in casual clothes is cycling on the road in the evening city

Plenty of people say, “I just can’t go without!” But you don’t need to stop what you’re doing to save money. If you’re one of those people, but still want to find ways to save, consider the tips in this article.

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We can learn to go without, but sometimes going from 0 to 100 is a little too much. The system I’m about to talk about eventually led our family to go down to one car. This move isn’t for everyone, but it is very possible with a “Mustachian” point of view and a few minor accommodations.

Let’s talk about how we got here.

3 Simple Ways to Cut Back & Save Money Without Feeling Deprived

1. Realize that cutting back saves more than just money.

We all know savings rate is a big driver behind financial freedom, but what else does our self control impact? Particularly, I want to explore what self control impacts with regard to frivolous spending.

We can cut back on silly expenses that don’t actually make us feel better or improve quality of life, like a cup of designer coffee. For instance, my husband bought an electric kettle that warms water to the ideal temperature to brew coffee, then uses a french press. His coffee is must tastier than a pricey cup of coffee shop coffee, and the small fee to buy these items has saved us hundreds of dollars a year. We also enjoy fewer car trips and fewer cups in the trash/recycling.

I stopped buying random clothing I don’t need, which damages the environment and the economy anyway. In fact, now I buy clothing from Craigslist or even local social media buy and sell pages. Almost all the clothing I wear on a regular basis (including professional outfits) average to about $2 per item. Yes, this includes pants. I got six pairs of professional slacks at a garage sale for free. A quick sew job later, and they fit my short legs perfectly.

My point is you don’t need to stop what you’re doing to save money. Enjoy that cup of tasty coffee. Get a few shirts if you need/want them, but buy used and cheap! It’s very beneficial not to waste in general, obviously, but if you struggle with self control, you can easily help yourself out by at least spending much less.


2. Monitor your usage.

How much do you actually use the things sitting around your house? The Minimalists said there wasn’t a single thing they’ve thrown away (and later found they needed again) that they couldn’t replace for $20. How refreshing is that? All that stuff sitting in your house can be sold—and can even prevent you from spending money on other items.

For example, we’ve all had that one piece of clothing (or 10) that sticks around because we “might want to wear it someday.” What are the chances that nothing else in our closets will fill the requirements of that particular piece of clothing we never/hardly wear in the first place? Probably slim. Monitor your usage, downsize as necessary, and be aware of what you actually need and don’t need. This will help make you aware of your needs with regard to your spending habits.

Related: 12 Sneaky Habits That Kill Your Budget in the Night

We talked about items like clothing—but what about your furniture? Recently, we started monitoring the usage of some of the furniture we owned. These aren't things like guest beds, but rather furniture in the rooms we use the most. In our case, our living room had two couches, a coffee table, and a storage ottoman. This ottoman held all our gaming systems because we're cool like that. Well, we first decided we no longer needed these older gaming systems and sold them off (except our N64). Next, we got rid of the ottoman because all it did was take up space in the corner and acted as an extra seat when we hosted.

Still, we love hosting! So, why would we get rid of furniture? Because 99 percent of the time, we don’t use it. In our case, we assessed our furniture usage and realized of the two sofas in that room, we really only used one. We took some accent chairs from our other room and experimented with a new setup by removing the love seat and replacing it with these chairs. At first I thought I would hate it, but it’s actually really nice. Worst case hosting scenario? We grab some chairs and move them when we’re hosting.

Problem solved, and we’re not holding onto furniture we don’t need. This love seat is getting the boot along with the ottoman, and we gain a less cluttered house as well as some nice, green cash in our pockets.

3. Think bigger—or smaller.

Now here’s the ultimate “think big” idea. In the past, I blogged about making the plunge out of traditional full-time employment. For a few months, I took a mini-vacation/retirement. Since then, I’ve accepted a fantastic job that allows me to work remotely a few days a week and make my own schedule. Also, since May of this year, my husband and I have been tracking just how much we use both our cars—and how many times we’ve needed to use both the cars at the same time. In six months, that has happened twice. And those two times could have been avoided, as they were appointments that we didn’t think to ask about.

This week, we put our Toyota Corolla up for sale (with insanely low miles due to the remote nature of his work). And because it was a Toyota with insanely low miles, it sold almost immediately. We are now a one-car household! The amount it will cost us to take an Uber or Lyft somewhere when these situations can’t be avoided will likely not even compare to a depreciating asset we hardly use and pay registration and insurance fees on. If in the next six months our situation changes, we can simply get a cheaper car.

I don't suspect we'll find that the $1,000+ in combined expenses/lost depreciation is exceeded in alternate transportation fees. For now, we're using a small portion of that money to spruce up our bikes for the one-mile jaunt to the grocery store as needed.


Related: 12 Reasons You’re Poor

Remember: It Can Be Temporary

But what if you have kids in five years? In five years, buy a used car after you’ve demonstrated a clear need. Buy more furniture as needed. Go get those jeans you really liked but got rid of.

If you’re like me, it’s easy to put things away in a bin for donation, then go back to them and have a hard time letting go. Assign that task to your housemate or significant other if needed. Give them the bin and tell them if you haven’t asked for it in X days/months to secretly donate it. The thing is we don’t need all this stuff. We want it. And if you want to downsize, let it be a “temporary” solution that becomes a permanent one. Move that extra piece of furniture elsewhere for a while and see how much you miss it.

So there they are—simple ways to still enjoy the things you love and save money. Hopefully at least one of these things is helpful.  Sometimes all we need is a step down in spending mentality before we go cold turkey.

Is there anything you do that helps you enjoy simple luxuries while still saving money?

Leave your tips below!

A longtime writer and consumer of all things related to the FIRE (financial independence retire early) movement, Chris Prit went from working 50+ hours a week to less than 20 thanks to her real est...
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    Andrew Syrios Residential Real Estate Investor from Kansas City, MO
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Very good list. I would add that cutting back on eating out and avoiding convenience stores like the plague is a great way to help.
    Chris P. Rental Property Investor from East Coast
    Replied 9 months ago
    Absolutely! I find meal prepping greatly reduces my urge to eat out as I have some tasty food right in my fridge ready to go.
    Wes Woodhouse from BOISE, ID
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Great article. It all comes down to your mindset. Simply having a plan can reduce unnecessary spending. Meal planning, transportation planning, Christmas shopping planning. As Ramit Sethi says, have a conscious spending plan, where have a set amount of money to use on pre-planned things that actually matter.
    Kina Hill-Francis from Allentown, Pennsylvania
    Replied over 2 years ago
    What’s a good basic resource to start with? I need to familiarize my self with terminology and types of REI.
    Michael Baum from Olympia, Washington
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Technically it is a federal crime to share Netflix/Hulu/HBO passwords now. Most of those pay streaming services have pretty much looked the other way when families share, but there has been a push from shareholders recently to start to focus on curbing that kind of activity. So, you can expect to see a less lenient attitude moving forward, especially if you begin to see a drop in company growth.
    Replied over 2 years ago
    This is great information! Lets dig deeper….try harder! What more can be done to “minimalize?” In my city, many families take in room mates &/or family members to share costs of living. I’ve done this myself & it makes things so much easier to manage. I cook at home, stay away from takeout coffee & price match to save on grocery bills. This all minimalizes my expenses & garbage day trips to the curb! I have Netflix to save from going to the show & cozy blankets to help us stay warm instead of cranking the thermostat. For Christmas gifts this year, I’ve bought mostly online to avoid overspending in the actual store when things are yelling my name as I walk through! I buy used when possible through a local buy & sell site. I make home made cleaners for the home that are not only better for my skin, but for the environment as well. Super easy & less waste! And finally I bank with Tangerine & Simplii to minimalize my bank fees (both 0!), investing fees & mortgage rates for my 3 REI properties. I’ve yet to give up my car but that’s a small luxury to not have to stand in the rain waiting for a bus! Sometimes it’s ok to have a vice 🙂 I’m my case it’s my car. So, with all my savings avenues & minimizing I feel I’m at a plateau still looking for new & innovative ways to save & minimalize from those ahead of me….Please, post away!!
    Jerry W. Investor from Thermopolis, Wyoming
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Sarah, nice article. Thank you for sharing. Now I just need to find a way to get my wife to read this article. Wish me luck.
    John Williamson from Lake Oswego, Oregon
    Replied over 2 years ago
    @Jerry W. Yes! I completely agree… ? we are a new (less than a year) marriage and budget/financial talks are still a tense subject
    Gregory Clark
    Replied 9 months ago
    Do I need to have a good credit score to get started investing in real estate and do I need a good credit score to get funding for my real estate investing projects
    Julian Gonda Rental Property Investor from San Francisco, CA
    Replied 9 months ago
    Love this read. Definitely teaches discipline and living more purposefully!