12 Ways to Live More Cheaply

Unemployed? Feeling the financial crunch? Or maybe just wanting to live more frugally? Here are a dozen ways you can save during times both lean and fat. Feel free to add your ideas in the Comments section below.

1. Get rid of your landline and keep your cell contract. Also, resist the urge to upgrade your phone and get a more expensive plan with more minutes. Just be diligent about watching your minutes.
2. If you’re keeping your landline to keep your DSL, don’t. Most providers now offer standalone DSL at decent rates, but you’ll have to do a bit of looking; they don’t push this service.
3. Shop at Aldi. Granted, there are some things you can’t get at Aldi, but you should be able to do at least 75% of your grocery shopping there and save TONS. There are some things, such as Smart Balance spread and good salmon for which you may need to look elsewhere. Produce is better than expected, though quality and selection will vary. If you’re currently a Whole Foods loyalist and can’t imagine shopping at Aldi, stepping down to Trader Joe’s will cut your bill substantially without totally offending your “foodie” sensibilities.
4. Toss the Mach 3/4/5 razor and switch to double-sided safety razors. I bought a two-year supply of blades (100) for $8.50. That would buy me roughly 3-4 of the latest “high-tech” blades. I tried to go all the way and use shaving soap and a brush but wasn’t satisfied. So, I use the super cheap blades and whatever generic sensitive skin foam’s available and get a very smooth shave for pennies, literally.
5. Be a “late adopter.” OK, full-disclosure here. I’m a Consumer Reports guy. I don’t subscribe anymore, but I have in the past and still research big purchases thoroughly. OK, small purchases, too. There’s just too much easily-accessible product information out there not to. If you want to save money and buy things that last, be patient and thorough—be a late adopter.
6. If you don’t have health insurance, be sure to look into the many generic prescription plans available at pharmacies these days. Check the list of covered prescriptions first, but if they include even one or two of yours, it would likely save you a good deal of money. I save around $80 on one prescription every three months through the CVS program.
7. If you own a car, find a good mechanic. Unless your car is under warranty, it really doesn’t make sense to take your car to the dealership for repairs. Though they may have some unique familiarity with your particular make and model, unless you’re driving a DeLorean or Trabant, any competent mechanic should be able to make most repairs and do it much more cheaply than the dealership. Ask friends for recommendations.
8. Sell stuff on eBay. The fees have gone up for selling things on eBay, so it’s not as lucrative as it once was, but you surely have some things lying around which could be sold. If you haven’t used it in the past year, consider it fair game.
9. Stop eating out. Or, if you do it, be intentional. Instead of going out for a big dinner for a date, eat dinner at home then go out for coffee and dessert. Eat frozen pizzas. They’re nearly as good as freshly-baked these days and cost much, much less. Keep one in the freezer to avoid breaking down and getting one delivered.
10. Shop online. Let’s face it, for many items, shipping costs are going to be cheaper than the outrageous Chicago sales tax (10.25%). Plus, you can comparison shop more easily, read reviews and save on gas.
11. Instead of going to movies or even renting them, check out Hulu.com for a good number of free, streaming movies and TV shows. Or sign up for Netflix’s cheapest package for around $9 which allows you to have one DVD out at a time but also allows you access to a lot of instant online movies and shows. If you have an urge to watch a new release that you can’t find elsewhere, try out the $1 rentals at the Red Box kiosks located at many area grocery stores. Just remember not to keep it too long or the fees add up. Public libraries have a surprisingly decent selection of movies, as well, and most are free to check out.
12. Bake a cake instead of buying one for special occasions. A decent cake’s going to run you $15 or more these days as the cost of many basics has gone up. Save at least half by grabbing whatever brands of mix and frosting are on sale at the grocery store or save even more by making it from scratch.


Anonymous said...

Great ideas, Nate. We've nixed the cable and landline phone since moving to CA and -- while it took a while to adjust -- don't miss them. Great ways to save money!

Anonymous said...

I also found a website called cheapfamilymeals.info which has a great section on $5 dinners. Some of them actually look yummy!

Nate C. said...


Suzanne said...

Thanks for the good tips. I'll share some more. When the mechanic writes your estimate for the additional repairs that have to be done, you can go to the auto store (Murray's supplies many of the local mechanics anyway), give them the part number on the estimate, then give your mechanic the parts to install. No, they're not crazy about losing the mark up they'd get selling you the parts, but mechanics are happy to get any business these days, even if it's just labor.

As for eating out, traditional Mexican restaurants are very inexpensive! For example, a taco is about $1.60 and chips and salsa come with every meal! Do the math; you can get stuffed for little money!

I think I've been slow to discover this, but for those who still don't know it, some of those little grocery stores throughout Chicago are much cheaper than the big chains like Jewel. My checking account and my stomach award thumbs up to the Family Fruit Market in Portage Park and A & G Fresh Market on Belmont.