A little while ago, Business Insider published an article about a Google employee who was living out of the back of a truck parked in the company’s corporate parking lot. Brandon, the employee in question, stated that his goal was to save 90% of his post-tax income by living in the truck and eschewing electricity, heating, air-conditioning, a kitchen, toilet or a personal shower. While definitely effective, Brandon’s plan is a little ambitious, and his lifestyle is probably not everyone’s cup of tea. But it did get me thinking about some simple ways one could cut out extraneous spending without having to move into the backseat of a car. Here are 3 not-so-crazy money-saving ideas of mine:
Eat Out Less, Cook More
I definitely enjoy eating out. There’s a lot to like about it. It’s a good way to hang out with friends or to get out of the house and relax. Sometimes, I just don’t feel like putting in the time or effort to cook a nice meal for myself. Which reminds me. I’m not a great cook to begin with. Eating out is a way for me to try new foods which are often things that I probably couldn’t cook myself. With that said, eating out anywhere more upscale than The Golden Arches is going to cost a lot more than making the same meal at home. Here’s a study The Boston Globe conducted which revealed that preparing a meal at home – compared to one you could order at Outback Steakhouse – costs about half as much as the restaurant price, not including the tip.
Fast food is a bit different because these restaurants utilize economies of scale. It’s also hard to beat the convenience of a drive-through. Still, most home-cooked meals are going to be healthier and more satisfying than any value menu offering from one of the big chains. Cooking at home, rather than dining out at mid to high-priced restaurants, will save you quite a bit of money, especially if you’re cooking for more than one. If you want to maximize savings, you could eat french fries for every meal, but you may be paying it back down the road in medical bills!
Drive Less, Bike More
It’s reported that the average household spends close to $2,000 a year on gas. Gas is only one side of the coin though. Cars themselves are also expensive. A brand new high-end bicycle can be had for a fraction of the cost of a new car. In addition, cars tend to depreciate in value more severely than a good bike, according to Elly Blue, the author of Bikenomics. Bicycle repairs are much cheaper too. Initial buy-in price aside, the cost of maintaining and repairing a car can add up extremely quickly, which is why their values depreciate so rapidly.
While it would be difficult for most people to cut driving completely out of their lives, cutting down is definitely within reach. Biking, which has been a popular mode of transportation in many parts of the world, is starting to become far more popular in The States. I live in the Pittsburgh area and in the last year, bike lanes have been added to neighborhoods all over the city in an attempt to make it a more bicycle-friendly place for the growing community of bicyclists. If you drive less, your car will undergo less wear and tear, and you will probably not have to spend as much time and money keeping it in good working condition. Chances are you will get a few more years out of your car that way too.
Many people also enjoy tweaking and repairing their own bikes, which is much cheaper and easier to learn and do at home than car repair. That illustrates another great thing about biking. It’s an enjoyable hobby for many of those who do it. It’s a great way to stay fit, and from what I understand, there are some great biking communities with which to get involved. For people with long commutes, biking might not be a viable option, but if you have the ability to ditch your car in favor of a good bicycle, don’t hesitate to take it for a spin. It might save you a few bucks and more than a few headaches.
Get Rid of Unnecessary Subscriptions
Subscriptions to things like internet, phone and TV services are things that may not seem to eat up a lot of money. But they can really add up over time, especially when you have quite a few of these. It’s becoming less and less common to have a home phone, so if you still have a landline and also use a cellphone, getting rid of your landline might make sense and save some money. There’s really not much point in having two phones, especially when one of them is going to be kept in your back pocket 24/7.
Another subscription that more and more people are foregoing is television. It used to be that virtually every home had a satellite or cable TV subscription. Nowadays, it’s not a surprise to learn that someone has given up their TV subscription and replaced it with an online streaming subscription from a site like Hulu or Netflix. Today, many people do most, if not all, of their media viewing on laptops, tablets or phones. You can always hook up your favorite device to your television and stream that way if bigger screens are your style or you’re watching with friends. Online streaming is a more cost-effective alternative to television, and it consolidates all of the data traffic entering your home into one line. This makes setup and maintenance easier to deal with as well. Streaming services may not have absolutely everything that you can find on TV, but the market seems to be trending in favor of internet-based services.
These are just a few ways of saving money that I was able to come up with; things that wouldn’t involve massive lifestyle changes. You might be able to come up with some others on your own. There are certainly many other things you can do to cut down your spending and save even more if you are willing to make some bigger changes, but those might involve becoming an unwashed ascetic who lives in the back of a truck.