These days, I get to wake up without an alarm clock. I get to work on things I care about every day. I get to spend as much time with my family and friends as I want to. I’m eating better than I ever have, exercising more often than ever and spending all kinds of time outside on the most beautiful days here in Minnesota this fall.
How is this all possible? Because I changed the way I live and my habits of spending money and consuming more than I need to. Am I less happier now than I used to be? No, I’m happier. Let’s take a look at the things I do on a daily basis to live cheap, which allow me to have all the perks I have these days:
I Keep My Living Situation Modest
I rent a one bedroom apartment. Even though I pay extra for an underground heated garage stall and a month-to-month lease, my rent is fixed and capped every month. I know exactly how much it will cost and there are no surprises or extra expenses. I don’t pay for heat, water, garbage, real estate taxes, landscaping, lawn mowing, snow plowing or maintenance. It’s just $745 per month, flat. And when I decide to move, I’ll give 60 days notice and pack my bags.
I Drive Carefully and as Little as Possible
I’ve got a car that’s nicer than I need, which I bought when I was young and dumb. This supercharged luxury machine gets me from Point A to Point B in comfort far beyond what I require, but hey, it’s paid for. Now that I’m not commuting to work anymore, 3-4 days out of each week go by without me even driving it. When I do drive it on rare occasions, I make sure to drive carefully with it, taking corners slowly, using my brakes sparingly and overall just taking good care of it. Car maintenance is costly and taking care of my car and driving it as little as possible helps me only need maintenance once or twice a year and lower my costs significantly.
Things I can do myself, like rotating the tires, I do myself, instead of hiring others to do it for me.
I Prepare My Own Meals
I eat better than I ever have these days. I do this by heading over to the grocery store, buying good food, and then preparing it myself. With full control of my time these days, I get to decide to make a good breakfast everyday. With the kitchen only 15 feet from my office, taking a quick break to throw eggs, hash-browns and sausage on the skillet is a piece of cake. My $2 breakfast also comes with optional patio seating and free coffee.
Eating this way instead of going out to eat all the time allows me to get by on less than $200 per month for food.
I Make My Own Free (or Low Cost) Entertainment
Most afternoons, if the weather is nice, I make a point to spend some time outside. Many days, this takes the form of a bike ride through the neighborhood, while listening to one of my favorite podcasts. For this, I utilize my 15 year old bike that works just fine, a water bottle full of refrigerator cooled tap water and my trusty iPhone and headphones. This free entertainment helps keep me in good physical health while providing a great time.
When my girlfriend and I are together, we take walks in beautiful areas, go to the park, play tennis, play cribbage, play golf (taking advantage of as many deals as we can) and watch Netflix. We don’t do many extravagant things, but the simple things we do are very enjoyable and leave us not needing to spend gobs of money just to have a good time.
I Keep Resourcefulness Top of Mind at all Times
Some would say I’m focused on resourcefulness (or saving money) too much, but I would say it’s just built in as a habit now. Instead of drinking pop or something processed and bottled from a factory, I now carry around a water bottle that I fill up with tap water. Instead of buying new clothes, I try to fully utilize the clothes I have. Instead of going shopping, I find free entertainment. Instead of going out to eat or for drinks with friends, I invite them over here. Instead of driving my 3,000 pound car back home for a family reunion, I asked my sister if I could squeeze in between my two nephews in their back seat and ride along with them, in return for my recent labor of helping them move.
I Measure My Progress, Tweak and Repeat
I don’t ever go through a month without tracking what I earned and what I spent. I’m constantly working on ways to optimize my spending so that I can live on as little as possible. Living on as little as possible enables me to escape money worries and focus my life on things that matter. The need for things dwindles as you start to reap the benefits of living on less. I have all I need today, while spending very little. I have relationships that I actually have time for. I have my health (although I’ve hurt myself a couple times this summer by thinking I’m still a kid). I have ambitions and projects that I care about to work on. I have all the luxuries I need (a roof over my head, a machine to transport me around, food in my refrigerator, money in my bank account and a sense of purpose in my life).
The extra perks that come with spending money (or lack there-of in my opinion), are not appealing to me anymore and because of that, I don’t have to play the game where I sell my soul in return for them.