26 Sep Reduce Costs of Living – Go Frugal
How to Reduce Costs of Living
The start of this post was a conversation with a friend. What can we all do to combat the costs of living? Well, a lot actually.
We can reduce rising living costs while still living a healthy lifestyle. You can make your electricity bill smaller and your wallet thicker with savings. The tips here are practical and you can implement them where ever you are.
We all are struggling with the costs of living, food prices and petrol prices. If we can implement even imperfect actions we can reduce costs of living and actually have a happier and healthier life.
Budget How to Manage Your Living Costs
Incoming and outgoings. Yes, you need to sit down and review what you are using your money for. What you are buying, weekly monthly basis. Just track all your expenditure for a month or two and you will be amazed at what you spending your money for.
For example, I used to have a hot chocolate one a week from this coffee shop around the corner. I was telling myself that it was a treat and I was drinking it only once a week. When I knew I was doing it all the time. In the end, I was having takeaway hot chocolate (sometimes with croissant) on average 5 times a week. Total costs of $35.
I was shocked. Was I really spending that much on hot chocolates? It got worse. We have this agreement with my kids that once a week on a Tuesday morning before school they get a treat from the coffee shop after their swimming.
Well, it turned out that we are having “treats” more often than that. More like three times a week. Total of $30. So you might be reading and thinking that is not that much end of the day. Yes, it does not look like that per month. But if you put all this together and calculate $65 x52 = $3380 a year.
After that, I stopped my hot chocolate fix. And I only have it occasionally. Only when I know that I have not had one for a long time or it is with a friend.
Secondly, I had a look at my takeaways for the month. So instead home a cooked meal we had to takeaways. A lot of them. Again I had lulled myself to think that it was only once a month. Well, it was more like 2-3 times a month. And when you have two growing boys it is not enough to have two Thai takeaway meals it was 4 takeaway meals with sides. That was $90 per takeaway x 3 per month =$270. And annually it was $270 x 12= $3240.
So you get the picture that these “small habits” are just adding up on your monthly budget. I am not saying to enjoy life, hey we work and we should celebrate and be able to enjoy occasional treats. But that is exactly what it should be. A treat. Needless to say that we stopped the takeaways and it is only once a month now.
So have a look at where your money goes every month. How you can reduce expenditure and divert that money to savings or towards paying off your debt or mortgage? You see why you need to know where your money is going to. This example does not even cover insurance, mortgage, rent. But I just want you to promise yourself that you will review your income and outgoings. And review all your insurances and get better deals on your monthly bills like broadband, phone etc.
Use an excel sheet, google a doc that you adapt and edit for your own use. Every family should have one, to be honest. Saves lots of hassle and money in the end.
Reducing Food Expenditure
Once you have done the budget then is your time to review what you use the money in the kitchen. So do you have ready-set meals from the freezer, do you cook at home, eat out in a restaurant or just have takeaways? Humans are the habit of creatures. You will notice that you do the same things all over. Breaking a habit of how you use your cash is hard and difficult. But we can do better and we should as in times like these every penny counts.
As my example in the budget, section told you I was using lots of money on not-so-necessary things. When I looked at food expenditure we were using $2600 a month for food excluding the hot chocolate and takeaways. That is $650 a week. For me, that was a shock. How can we use so much money? But when I started looking at the actual receipts. I could understand.
Not that it was food but we spent it on crackers, chips, chocolate, and candies. Unhealthy junk food basically. And a lot of it. We were cooking homemade meals but we were also using lots of things that were not good for your body and health. Meat and protein are expensive. We are flexitarians so we have meat a few times a week. I tend to eat less but my boys would have it every day if they could.
But fruits and vegetables are expensive as well. I see why many families are substituting their food with canned options, nothing wrong there. Or they use something less healthy options like oven chips instead of wholesome carbohydrates like potatoes. The point here is that look at what you put in your mouth and what you feed to your family. You can make changes if you want to but get clear on where you want to get quick financial wins on saving money and cooking from scratch.
Cook from Scratch
Yes the easiest way to get healthy food on you and your tummy is by cooking the food from scratch. If you are able to have veggies and herbs etc from your garden it helps. But planning your menu for the week saves money and time. Time to pull those cookbooks from the bookshelf and put them to good use.
So plan the menu accordingly. Make sure that you think about what is in season. Buy bulk and cook bulk I you can. Freeze for later. You might want to plan all your meals or just dinner depending on what works for your family situation.
Once you have planned the menu look at where you are buying your food. Is the closest grocery store the cheapest? Are the specials on some other stores outside your area or other grocery stores?
Or vegetable and fruit shops where you can get savings by buying bulk. Can you freeze vegetables, for example, did you know that avocados can be frozen and defrosted for 20 minutes in warm water? When barriers are on season buy more and freeze for later.
Another tip you can freeze herbs with olive oil in ice cube trays to use later. Never waste vegetables and fruit. If you cannot use it on time, chop or grate it and freeze it. Ideal for soups and stews or vegetable broth. What about fish when you have boned a whole fish, rather than throw away all the fish bones and skin etc. Just boil then and make fish stock. Freeze on ice cube trays to use later.
Reduce Living Costs Tips
- Bake your own bread etc. Sourdough, buns, muffins you name it and you can certainly save money making it yourself and it is tastier as well.
- You can also freeze old pieces of bread you know the end of the bread but you never use. Freeze them in a zip lock bag and just make some croûtons when we need a salad. (With oil and herbs and put them in the oven at low temperature once dried up and).
- Why throw away old magazines? You can re-read them, give them to friends, or recycle them with neighbors.
- Books are the same. You do not need to throw them away, give them to friends, swap them with neighbors and recycle them on.
- Sowing is a good skill to learn if you do not know how. Mending things rather than throwing them to waste. Money saved just there.
- Buy clothes from a second-hand store or factory outlets, or end-of-season/line shops where you can get great bargains.
Reducing Electricity Bill
So how can make sure that the biggest things electricity bill is not running sky high? Yes, we need to heat our houses or coll them down. But what can you do the manage it better?
One of the first things would be looking at the insulation of the house. Do you have a draft that you can insulate? Around the windows and door frames, just put no more gaps and make sure all cracks are covered. And ceiling insulation is there insulation as in many old houses there are none. Make sure insulation pads that are appropriate for use are installed. Might need a professional to install them but this is money is well spent in long run.
What about solar panels? Or wind turbine? Are these options on where you live? As they could make your own energy to cut down your energy bill.
Quick tips on switching the plugs off when not in use. Turning off the light when not in the room. Taking the computer, and TV off from the stand by turning them off when not used. Use heaters that are most economical, and check their ratings before investing in one. Turn off the heating and air-con when not at home. Only have them on when required. You would not know how much some of these electric appliances take power and energy to run. If you have a fire-burning oven or fire place use it to warm up the house. Wood is cheaper than electricity, at least is when writing this.
Here are just a few things that have come to my mind on how to save money. Hope you find this useful. You can learn more about Nordics in my book Nordic Lifestyle: Embrace Slow Living, Cultivate Happiness and Know When to Take Off Your Shoes