The morning cup of coffee is something many people cannot give up. I understand. Office coffee can be nasty so stopping at Starbucks along the way has become a routine. At 5 bucks a cup (price depends on geographic location) that adds up over a year. You can have coffee equal in quality or better with the right coffee machine and coffee beans. Many years ago I wrote a series of short articles on getting a really good cup (or pot) of coffee for a fraction of the price at a coffee house. Fill your coffee mug before you head out the door and you keep $1,825 in your pocket each year, assuming you only imbibe with one cup per day. Here is the list of articles I published on coffee: Gourmet Coffee for Less Kona Coffee: The Drink of Heaven The Best Coffee Machines Choosing the Best Brew Coffee Machine
I never saw the movie, but the title is catchy. This tip is a biggie. So big that it can single handedly make you rich! I know, I know. There are bloggers that say you should never drive. Bike and walk everywhere. Awesome idea, but not for everyone. Your car can drain your finances more than any other purchase! It is a depreciating asset. The speed at which it travels to zero is determined by make, model and condition. But make no mistake; it will end up in the scrapyard like every other vehicle ever made. People all too often focus on the depreciation of an automobile. There is another vehicle cost that digs nearly as deep: transaction costs. I have only owned 3 cars in my life and I’m on the wrong side of 50. I tend to buy used vehicles and keep them for 20 years. (Most vehicles come to their natural life expectancy around 20 years.) Depreciation still hurts. Fortunately, I don’t have that accelerated depreciation newer vehicles suffer. The best news is that I have few transaction costs because I don’t do a lot of transacting. Every time you buy a car the state wants a piece of the action. With the exception of 5 states (Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon) you will also pay a sales tax. Used car prices are out of line as I write this. I probably would buy a new car if I was in the market at this time. Regardless, I buy a vehicle when my current vehicle is close to the grave and then keep it for a really long time. This one tip can save you enough to fund your retirement account if you funneled all those payments you didn’t have to make. And you would trade title, transfer and sales taxes for a tax deduction! Easy choice, I think.
I’m lucky in that I live in the backwoods of NE Wisconsin. Gardening is easy for me. If you have the ability (space) to grow a garden I would encourage you to do so. It doesn’t have to be big. A few tomato plants, carrots, beans and anything else that pleases your palate can make a difference. Living in an apartment limits your ability to do this. You can still grow a few plants by windows that get sun. There is nothing like enjoying your own fresh tomatoes. It isn’t the food you grow that saves a lot of money. There are savings, but the real advantage is spending a few more meals at home with your family enjoying a home grown and cooked meal. And that is priceless compared to the $500 or so in savings over the course of a year from avoided dining out. Might I also suggest planting a fruit tree if you have the room. There is nothing like picking your own fresh apples/peaches/pears/plums . . . The flavor from tree ripened fruit is nothing like you find in a grocery store.
I know I’m a bit more extreme on this than most. Living in a northern climate (in the Northern Hemisphere) allows me the luxury of rarely using air conditioning. The winters are another story. I have found that my entire family can enjoy a cooler house in the winter comfortably (low 60s F). Yes, we wear clothing in the winter, as in a flannel shirt or other such comfy warm garment. The wife and kiddos cover with a blanker when watching TV (me when I read). The cooler house means we sleep better at night, too. During the summer we adjust to the warmer temperatures. When it gets hot in July we draw cool basement air into the house. Rare is the year when we kick on the AC. (I actually have a geothermal heat pump for space heating, water heating and AC.)
It is well known that I sin when it comes to buying books. I love owning books. It is my one non-frugal habit. However, several local libraries still know me on a first name basis. Some books I borrow from the library. But the library is so much more than books, books on tape, music and so forth. I encourage you to read this post on all the surprising things you can get for free from the library. (Did you know your library might offer free college courses, tutoring and more? Some libraries have fishing equipment and one I interviewed even had a sewing machine they borrowed out.)
One of the most frugal things you can do is give yourself down time. Bill Gates has a “think week” several times per year. Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs both scheduled “no time” where they had no duties or interruptions so they could focus on just thinking creatively. While it might be hard to understand how down time is a frugal activity, it is time where you are not spending money and instead are focused on making good decisions in your life, finances and business. Creativity happens during down time. When I write I close the door. This is “me time”. I’m actually talking to myself and letting you listen in. Time spent with the door closed and the internet and email off is vital to mental wellbeing and financial wealth. Your best ideas will come from the quiet time where distractions are not demanding your attention.
Along the same line as down time, writing notes, a journal, a blog, a to-do list and any other things you want to think about later during down time is important to a frugal lifestyle. Frugality is not only about money. You can always make more money, but you can’t make up for lost time! Slowing down and writing notes is the best way to reduce expenses! You are not buying the best goods and services when you are fighting the clock. Notes allow you to slow down and make better decisions. I can give you a million ways to reduce costs, but only you know what things you can reasonably cuts costs on. The goal of this post is to provide ideas and spark ideas in your mind. Don’t just do it because some crazy accountant from the backwoods of NE Wisconsin told you to do so. Write it down. Record your thoughts in a journal and review those thoughts later. Use a grocery list. You will be amazed at how your thoughts change and the money you save. And always be willing to revise. Editing your notes and lists is required. The first draft is always junk. That is why you need to review and edit, preferably with the door closed.
This tip only applies to my American readers. Virtually every country on the planet has a single payer healthcare system. In the U.S. getting sick is a major crisis that requires work on your part at your lowest moment of health. Serious savings can be had by comparing your options. If your employer offers health insurance be sure to review what is and is not covered. Be sure to review the health reimbursement features if your employer offers one. For everyone else, you need to review the Affordable Care Act options, private insurance and medical health sharing. I personally settled on the Christian health sharing options. It was the best value. My worry was it would not deliver if claims were made. A serious illness in my family has put those concerns to rest. You can start your health sharing research here. And here is a medical health sharing option.
Read voraciously! Reading is the acquisition of knowledge. Knowledge is power! Don’t read only one source. Not even this blog! (Please, continue reading my blog as a starting point. Thank you.) Dig deep into a topic from multiple sources and come to your own conclusions. It’s important. Learn to think. Reading builds your thinking muscle. Read good books. Even a pleasurable novel now and again. Read blogs. Read. Very few have built serious wealth without serious reading.
Are you the last person on the planet to cut the cord? Cable is so 1990s. And expensive! You do know that the local networks broadcast over the airwaves 30 or so channels now? You can watch about as much for free from broadcasts as you can with cable and at no cost. Then you have YouTube and Netflix and Hulu and Amazon Prime and many more. YouTube is mostly free. Netflix is still pretty cheap. If you have Amazon Prime you already have a streaming service at no additional cost. You can also check out the library tip above for even more free programming, including the expensive stuff on HBO, etc. Yes, your library has many of these programs, available at no cost to you. Check it out.