Working to make life better on a limited income can be a frustrating and a seemingly hopeless task, especially when you’ve done everything possible to reduce household expenses. Perhaps you’ve reached a point where you’re following a bare bones budget and have limited your lifestyle to the absolute essentials. Living this way may lower your debt and help you save, but it will be a time filled with drudgery and very little fun. Before you lose hope and think that this is all that life has to offer, try more creative ways to reduce your expenses.
Our Throw Away Society
There’s no denying that we live in a throw-away culture. Cheap goods and one-time-use merchandise is the standard in today’s society. The message works to sell volumes of stuff that can then be tossed in the trash and results in a vicious cycle of consumerism. We’ve all bought into the gimmick and continue to spend precious resources on things that could easily be used multiple times; we’ve gotten into the habit of just trashing and replacing old, gently-used items that are still useful.
The strategy of reducing waste to lower your debt is not only economical, but it’s life-changing for many people. By living in a more simple and frugal way, you will experience a full life on less. You’ll learn to use products to their full potential, re-purpose previously disposed items, reduce waste and find fulfillment in simple pleasures.
1 – Cancel Services You Don’t Need
The opportunities to reduce waste and save money are endless. Begin by examining the biggest discretionary spending in your budget to see if you can cut or reduce items or services without compromising the things you enjoy. The goal is to live on less – not to live less. Services that may be painless to eliminate or modify include:
- Cable TV: Ditch the cable completely or at the very least cut the movie channels and stop using pay-per-view or on-demand.
- Gym Membership: Cancel your expensive gym membership. Try a local community center or try working out outside or at home.
- Newspaper / Magazines: Some people still prefer reading a newspaper or magazine, but you can get the same information online for FREE.
- Phone Service: Drop excessive cell phone services and / or landlines; reduce your minutes and sign up for a family plan.
2- RecycLE & Reuse
When most people think about recycling they think about curbside pick-up or a nearby recycling center where recyclable goods can be dropped off and forgotten. While this type of recycling is helpful to the environment and the ecology of the planet, the type of recycling we’re referring to is better known as “re-purposing.“ It’s simply about finding new ways to use items you would have normally thrown away.
Re-purposing will be a benefit in several ways. Less trash will end up in landfills and you’ll need to replace fewer items since you’ve fulfilled these needs with re-purposed ones. Some things to consider re-purposing:
- Flip side of printer paper for notes and drawing paper
- Plastic grocery bags as small trash can liners
- Paper grocery bags for packaging or storage
- Old clothing as rags for cleaning and dusting
- Toothbrushes as grout cleaners
- Glass jars for drinking glasses or vases
3- Buy in BULK
Buying in bulk can mean substantial savings. Non-perishable goods are easy to handle when you have sufficient storage space to accommodate the larger sizes. Perishable food products that require refrigeration may not be an economical advantage bought in bulk unless you can effectively store or divide and share with a family member or friend.
4 – Avoid Disposable Products
Many of us assume that a product marketed as ‘convenient’ will make life easier, but once you begin eliminating disposable ‘convenience’ products from your home, you’ll see big savings and the changes required to incorporate non-disposable versions of these products into your life aren’t any less convenient. Even changes that don’t save time or aren’t any more convenient will be worth it when you see how much money you save, i.e., ditching disposable for cloth diapers. Cut waste by eliminating disposable products by replacing paper napkins and towels with cloth versions, tissue for handkerchiefs and prepackaged or canned items for products in glass jars.
5 – Homemade Instead of Bought
Books and Internet blogs are cropping up that provide free, easy instructions on making your own products – household cleaning, personal care, baking mixes and other conveniences. Not only will you lower the cost of these items but you’ll be improving the quality of your life by using products in purer forms than the chemical laden ones sold in stores. In addition, homemade products will be fresher, more natural and healthier for your family and the environment than commercially packaged items.
Cutting waste to reduce debt begins with how you shop. Perhaps the biggest waste of resources is the money spent on frivolous purchases. Where you choose to spend your money will also affect your success rate. Whether you shop online or enjoy window shopping at the mall, never buy on impulse but take the time to comparison shop to find the lowest price. For the truly savvy consumer, resale shops are a new trend in conservation and a big advantage to anyone looking to spend less on essentials while optimizing their options to repay and reduce their debt.