This article is not for beginners. It’s not for those just thinking about purchasing their first property in pursuit of financial independence. It’s for those who are ready, willing, and able to take responsibility for their financial future. It’s for those ready to seriously start making major strides in saving around $20,000 to get that down payment for a first property.
If you aren’t one of the lollygaggers—if there is absolutely nothing that is going to stand in between you and freedom—this article is for you.
In this post, I am going to describe some extreme budgeting techniques that some of my friends and I have used to save a significant amount of money, allowing us to quickly jump into this real estate game!
Full disclosure: Some of these are extremely effective, while others may seem completely outlandish. I suggest giving them a shot before shutting them down.
Here it goes.
Living: The Rent Hack
The rent hack is house hacking before you have the means to house hack. What you do here is you find a two- to five-bedroom apartment or house that you can rent. You rent the entire thing from the landlord and turn around and rent it by the room (or Airbnb it) to other people, such that they are covering your full rent payment.
For example, you find a three-bedroom house for $1,200 on Craigslist. You rent out the entire place from the landlord for $1,200 and then turn around and rent out each of the other two bedrooms for $600 each. That way, you are collecting a total of $1,200 from your roommates, paying your landlord $1,200, and effectively living for free. The more bedrooms you rent out, the higher likelihood that you will bring in money from your living situation.
Note: You need to let your landlord know that you are doing this! This is a new idea, so most will likely say no. But it only takes one yes to get started. I would hope that a couple of rejections are worth $600+ per month.
Related: The Stupid-Simple Budgeting Trick I’m Using to Stop Blowing 5 Figures a Month
Transportation: Bike to Work & Turo
Ideally, the house or apartment that you find is within walking or biking distance to work. That way, you eliminate your need for a car. If you don’t have a car, that’s great! Let’s keep it that way.
If you do have a car and don’t want to get rid of it, then you can rent it out on this site called Turo. People visiting town will borrow your car for a few days and will pay you to use it while you go about your day normally.
This is a very good way to transition your car from a “liability” that takes money out of your pocket to an “asset” that puts money in your pocket.
Food: Grocery Shop & Grocery Shop Cheap
Food is another large expense for many Americans. One of the reasons this is the case is because we so frequently go out to eat where the meals are three times as much. No thanks!
If you want to save in the food department, you need to start making the grocery store a place you frequent. However, grocery stores can be dangerous, too! There are a lot of things that are tempting that you don’t need. Stay strong!
A BiggerPockets user recommended the Mealime app to me. I started using it and it’s great! You can pick what you want to eat, and the app automatically populates the ingredients for you. When you go into the grocery store, ONLY get what is on the list. Once you start to stray from your list, money will stray from your bank account.
I know, I know. That’s really not all that extreme, but I really like it so I wanted to give it a shoutout. Here are some of the extreme tips I was referencing.
Buy in bulk.
Costco is one of the greatest places in the world to buy in bulk. You don’t need to buy your meat or produce at Costco if you don’t like eating the same thing for a week (though I do it). I’m talking about all non-perishable items: toilet paper, toothpaste, oatmeal, canned goods, etc. Buy these items in bulk, and you’ll save hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars over the course of the year.
Go meatless for lunch.
If you’re vegetarian, this won’t be too hard for you. However, if meat is the staple of your every meal, there is likely some slimming down you can do (pun intended). Meat is 30 to 40 percent of the average person’s grocery bill. Only eat meat for one meal each day, and you’ll be saving 15 to 20 percent of your total grocery bill AND you won’t get that mid-afternoon groggy feeling. Win-win!
Frequent the “dented can” aisle.
This is something I hadn’t heard of until recently. Apparently, in almost every grocery store, there is an aisle where all of the damaged cans and boxes go. Here you can pick up cans and boxes for a fraction of the price of the ones that are in “new” condition. The contents on the inside are exactly the same—they just may not look as nice in your cabinets. Unless you’re going to be on “MTV Cribs” (is that show still on?), I would suggest making a habit of perusing this aisle. I know I’m going to!
Gym Memberships: Convict Conditioning
Hopefully, you have taken my advice and are (or will be) biking to work. There is a good portion of your exercise right there. If that’s not enough (it’s not for me), I would suggest Convict Conditioning.
Convict Conditioning is a program designed by an ex-convict named Paul Wade. While he was in jail, he would help his inmates get into the best shape of their lives through this bodyweight exercise program, which involves minimal equipment and minimal space. They needed to be able to do this in their jail cells.
Related: 4 Stark Differences Between Being Frugal and Cheap
Look up the program. I believe there is a PDF version for free online. If not, there are a bunch of YouTube videos about it.
Fun Extreme Budgeting Tips
This is the area that might get the most pushback. These are extreme, fun—albeit less impactful—ways to save money. But they do work!
Let’s talk about saving on utilities.
Take military showers.
This is when you only use the water in your shower for functional purposes, to get yourself wet before you lather up and right after to rinse yourself off. For 90 percent of the time, your water is off and you are just washing yourself.
In this same category is making sure you shut your water off while you are brushing your teeth, shaving, and performing all other idle sink-side activities.
Put a two-liter bottle in the toilet tank.
Get a two-liter bottle, put a few rocks in it, fill it with water, and place it in the back of your toilet tank. By doing this, your toilet will need less water to fill the tank, and therefore less water will be flushed. If a two-liter bottle is too big, try a one-liter bottle.
Hang clothes to dry.
This is self-explanatory. It’s no secret that your dryer uses a whole lot of energy. I’d recommend getting a clothes rack, and if it’s a nice day, hang dry your clothes outside. Depending on where you live, it may only take two or three hours to complete.
Unplug electronics when not in use.
When your electronics are plugged in, they are using electricity. If you aren’t using your TV, appliances, and other electronic devices, unplug them! You’ll save quite a bit of electricity this way.
Cut sponges in half.
Look at the size of most of the things that you wash. I would bet that in most cases you do not need the ENTIRE sponge. Why not cut them in half or even thirds to make them last two or three times as long?
Put a soap bowl next to the sink.
Now that your sponges are cut in half, I would bet that they can fit in a small bowl beside your sink. Fill that bowl with soap and water, and put the sponge in there. That way, you are saving water and saving soap all at the same time!
There it is—some extreme ways you can save to expedite the time it takes to save up for your next investment. Again, some of these are silly and some are effective, but I do, have done, or know people who do all of these ideas. If it works for us, it can certainly work for you.
Is there anything I missed?
Weigh in below!