How to Live With Very Little Money
Months before writing this, I chanced upon the blog of Daniel Suelo whose personal advocacy is to limit to zero the use of money in the world. He’s started doing this by becoming a positive role model of his own advocacy, and the image I see on him is startlingly interesting. Imagine living in a cave with so few possessions somewhere in Moab, Utah, for nine years now, and making do with whatever comes his way by deliberately spending “zero” dollars. He even has a blog, which he writes in public libraries, and has been interviewed about his peculiar (but becoming very relevant) lifestyle.
Being frugal myself, I’ve pondered if I can even do something like that. But I’ve certainly learned a thing or two about living with very little money, ever since I came here in the USA (which is ironic, considering that this country remains to be among the most wealthiest countries on earth, even during these economic downturn times,) and have since then lived here in New York City (NYC). Consider these tips, and work out something according to your personal circumstances.
1) “Budget, budget, budget.” Come up with your monthly budget. Tally down the items in your daily spending versus the money that you earn. As our mothers have been telling us, “live within your budget,” which, of course, is easier said than done. Just come up with something that works for you, so that you will know how much money you spend monthly, and how much money you earn to afford yourself your expenses.
2) Join support groups (it’s difficult to do it by yourself; it’s pretty stressful.) Befriend and go out with people who are known for their thrifty habits. You can always learn a thing or two from their habits, and subsequently design something that can work for you.
3) With the little money that you have now, you better start doing only those things that you personally want to do. Spend your time only on activities that answer the deep desires of your heart. Time is the biggest measure of money, and to misspend your own time on activities that you don’t really deeply care about, is just like throwing away your money (or whatever little money you got in your pocket.)
4) If you will have to buy something for your own personal use, or your family’s use, buy “quality” and not quantity. For example, if you will buy a pair of shoes, buy the pair known to be of best quality. Or if you still don’t have the budget, wait for the sale period, or just save until you have enough money to spare. At least, you’re getting what you personally want, plus you’re saving in the long run from using quality goods.
5) Learn to de-clutter yourself from all other extra stuff you have in your home. Give away the goods that eat precious space in your living space, both literally and figuratively speaking. Do a garage sale. Exchange them for something more useful for you.
6) Learn to cook, and learn to do marketing of the ingredients at the best prices of the food that you love to eat. Host your own parties or events, and invite friends and acquaintances, plus ask them to bring new friends as well.
7) Give up personal services that you can do yourself. Some examples: if you like massages, then trade massages with others who know the art. Do your own manicure and pedicure if you’re able to do so. Trim your own hair. Do your own housecleaning. Trade nanny services with others.
8) Continue building and expanding your network by making sure you attend and show up in events just as to meet new people, or join those you’ve known in order to reconnect with them in different social settings. It’s still very important to build relationships being the “social animals” that we are, even if we have little money. We learn to improve ourselves better by just exposing ourselves to others. Just keep away from spending needlessly during these events (or going beyond your budget). One favorite tip I do myself: “Have your meals first in your home before going to these events, or bring your own food if that works out. If you will need to buy yourself a drink, get basic drinks, or just plain water, or whatever you can afford or within your budget.”
9) Give up your credit card (or just keep one for emergency purposes, which you won’t bring with you whenever you go out of your home.) I’ve known a good friend who never had a credit card in her life. She’s not stingy at all (she loved to spend on good food, and fabulous clothes – the lady that she was,) she would just spend in cash, and would be “spending” part of her money on her saving accounts. When she unexpectedly died from a terrible car accident, all of us her friends were just so surprised at the amount of money she had saved. And I’ve since given her credit for my decision to give up all my credit cards, learning from her memory as I saw her shuddered when I proudly told her I got at 12 credit cards – she didn’t tell me then to give up my cards, I figured out soon that one of her secrets in spending contently with what she had, was that she never had to use a credit card in order to spend.
10) “start learning to be hungry” – yes, as in learn to be hungry, even if there’s actually food around. This can be considered outrageously crazy, but I’d say, this is an effective tip in order to keep a lid on the part of your budget being spent on food. It’s also a good way to go on a diet, which is “just to limit down your food intake by just going hungry.”
11) Maximize what you can get from shopping in thrift stores, or discount stores. Or preferably go shopping as much as possible in thrift stores – try to gradually change your wardrobe by using second-hand clothes, or even making do with those clothes that have been hand-me-downs from some friends or relatives. You can actually buy a lot of other stuff from thrift stores, other than clothes or shoes. You can buy gifts, furniture, fixtures, appliances, many kinds of equipment, electronics, books, and some other valuable items that are worth being sold to any willing buyer at the best discounted prices. Pay a visit to the closest thrift store in your area, and check what they’ve got.
12) Barter your services or goods you have in excess for other services or goods you need. There is a variety of ways to do this depending on your circumstances. I have been exchanging my services for board and lodging – I’ve done this, and this has worked so far for me. I sought out a part-time job with a homeowner who’s willing to let me live in his house, as well as feed me, together with his ailing son and our other roommates.
13) Learn to love walking, or take other modes of transportation other than having and driving your own car to go to your daily destinations – when you live in big cities like NYC, transportation systems are very much in place. I’ve learned to walk most times, as long as I’m able to do so, unless when I get so tired. I just buy the monthly $89 ticket for the bus and subway, which I use to go to places so that I’ll make it on the time. As soon as I realize that I have spare time, I just walk part of the distance in going home or going to my destination.
14) If you can help yourself from having no pets, start it now. Or you may just prefer to do work as a pet-caregiver if you love being with animals, or if you like to have pets. Pets cost money to maintain, and to reduce using your money on them, consider not getting one.
15) Give up communication gadgets that you have in excess. Or downgrade the plan you have. Or consider just using the public phone system to communicate with others. Or just use the internet if that works for you.
16) Go only to free events that are happening in the place where you live. Or even organize one with your friends and everyone else in your network. If you will have to be going to events to help you network and build your contact, show up only in parties where there’s free food or drinks (or given at prices you can afford). This will help you greatly minimize spending the little money that you still have.
17) Keep on reading about other people who’ve lived with very little money. Some of them have even written and published books about their experiences and lifestyle. Some even have made money from spending any or little money at all. Some of the titles include: the series of “The Cheap Bastard,” Barbara O’Neill’s “Saving on a Shoestring,” among others. Do a Google on the subject, and you’d be given a list of pages which you may want to read and consider implementing in your life.
Try the tips now. Or better yet, come up with your own list, and then share them here (we need all the help we can get!)