Families’ wages can’t keep up with inflation

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It’s commonly believed that high inflation means higher wages. But today, that just isn’t the case.

 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently released a report that says wages went up by 4 percent in one year, one of the fastest increases in about two decades. Inflation, however, rose by 7 percent in that time. So, despite the rapid rise in income, Americans actually got a pay cut.

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And the Ludwig Institute for Shared Economic Prosperity (LISEP), a nonprofit, says that the true rate of unemployment and cost of living are both underreported by the BLS.

 

With pandemic-era financial aid programs coming to an end, many households have been left to sink under the poverty line. Since many people already struggle with their retirement savings, the financial impact of all this will likely be visible for years to come.

Working hard and making less

Inflation is the highest it’s been in decades, and most Americans’ wages aren’t keeping up.

 

LISEP found that from just December 2021 to April 2022, average weekly earnings dropped from $881 to $873. Demographically, women saw the largest drop: $771 to $760.

 

“Families across America are struggling to make ends meet in the current economy, with rising costs forcing hard decisions that could have generational implications,” LISEP Chair Gene Ludwig said in a press release. “Being forced to make decisions between food and shelter versus healthcare and education is not a sustainable long-term situation for a healthy society.”

 

No one wants to see their income shrink, especially when costs continue to rise. The BLS reported that the cost of living went up by 46 percent between 2001 and 2020. LISEP disagrees. They reported that the cost of living actually went up by about 64 percent.

 

So, how are families supposed to make up the difference? Debt. LISEP’s research says that single parents with one child have to take on over $6,000 in debt to keep up with their expenses every year.

 

And the cost of living isn’t the only thing they think the government is underreporting.

 

LISEP defines the true rate of unemployment as “the jobless, plus those seeking but unable to secure full-time employment paying above the poverty line.” The BLS reported that unemployment was at 3.6 percent, but LISEP puts the true rate of unemployment at 23.5 percent.

 

“This may be a harbinger of tougher times ahead for middle- and lower-income families,” Ludwig said. “And a clear signal that policymakers must take immediate proactive steps.”

 

Find out: 5 Ways to Fight Back Against Inflation

Leaving families behind

The Child Tax Credit is usually given as a lump sum with tax returns. During the pandemic, however, families got CTC payments on a monthly basis. But these consistent payments were only temporary, and now that they’re gone, advocates are worried.

 

Those who got the credit were given a leg up. According to Humanity Forward, a nonprofit advocating against poverty, monthly CTC payments increased job and food security. Of those receiving it, 7 in 10 said the payments helped them budget and keep up with inflationary prices.

 

Reflecting LISEP’s findings, households that received the CTC also accumulated less debt. Instead of putting expenses on their credit card, people used the credit to cover:

  • Utilities
  • Rent or mortgage
  • Clothing or essential items for children
  • Food
  • Emergency saving

This helped to reduce hunger in eligible households by 24 percent.

 

“Unfortunately, many of these gains are expected to be lost without a return of the monthly Child Tax Credit,” Humanity Forward wrote in their press release.

 

That loss quickly became apparent. Columbia University researchers found that after just one month without the CTC, child poverty rose by 41 percent. This has put 3.7 million kids below the poverty just between December 2021 and January 2022.

 

They concluded that unless either the monthly payments recontinue, there are other policy interventions, or the labor market improves, “it is likely that monthly child poverty rates could be persistently high through the rest of 2022.”

 

Find out: Both the Broke and Wealthy are Getting Clobbered by Inflation

Leaving the workforce while prices rise

Financial struggles don’t just impact next month, next year or even the next five years. Debt and low wages can have a lasting effect and delay retirement for thousands of workers. When your income doesn’t change, inflation can chomp away at your nest egg.

 

Retirees have already felt stunned by the change of prices.

 

Global Atlantic, an insurance group, conducted a study and found that nearly 9 in 10 retirement age investors (ages 55 to 70) said they’ve recently experienced “sticker shock” when buying groceries or making other purchases.

 

The change is so dramatic that more than two-thirds question if they’ll “have enough to live comfortably in retirement.” It’s a shared sentiment with the next generation in line. Despite having more time to save for retirement, Gen X respondents (ages 42 to 57) don’t feel much more secure. Investopedia’s research says that a quarter of Gen Xers aren’t sure if they’ll ever be able to retire.

 

With today’s inflation rates, living on a fixed retirement income or working without an inflation-adjusted salary can make saving feel next to impossible. And sadly, buying power will probably continue shrinking.

 

When the economy is rough, it’s best to budgetpay off debt and plan for the future.

 

This article originally appeared on Debt.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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Why a frugal lifestyle is powerful, painless & fun

 

For some of us, frugality comes naturally. But for others, frugal living conjures up images of a miserly, meager existence. No wonder so many tune out when the topic of frugality comes up!

 

But what if I told you living frugally doesn’t have to be painful or boring? And what if I also told you it could bring financial peace, security and even freedom? It’s true. A frugal lifestyle can provide all this and more.

 

In this article, I’ll share the whys and hows of frugal living. Then, I’ll get you inspired and motivated by sharing my 53 favorite frugal living tips. Ready to start saving? Let’s go!

 

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As someone who’s always been frugal, I can vouch for the benefits of living a frugal life. There are so many! For those who need a little more convincing, here are my top reasons to embrace frugality.

 

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Frugality is the simplest, quickest way to improve your finances. When compared with increasing your income, living frugally is far easier. You don’t need special training, knowledge, or tools to save money. Simply pick a tip and get started today!

 

I think of frugality and saving as low-hanging fruit. Take those easy wins and use them to propel your finances forward.

 

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Underneath the simplicity of frugal living is its incredible power. With a few frugal choices, you could save thousands of dollars every year. Those thousands of dollars could become tens or even hundreds of thousands when saved and invested over time.

 

Imagine the options and freedom that kind of money could bring to your life. Frugality can help you get there.

 

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Being frugal can play a huge role in helping you reach financial freedom. How? It increases the gap between your income and expenses. This gap is your savings. When invested wisely, your savings are what will get you to financial freedom.

 

While a decent income also plays a part, you won’t get far if you spend it all. Frugality is the other half of the financial freedom equation. Embracing it can help you reach your goals sooner.

 

 

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Some people think frugality is difficult and takes the fun out of life. They’re just doing it wrong! The truth is that living a frugal life can be completely painless.

 

The key is to focus on your values. Cut back hard on things you don’t value. Then, enjoy spending on things you do. That’s the secret to frugality without deprivation.

 

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Maybe I’m a money geek, but I find frugality and saving to be incredibly rewarding. Seriously though— how can you not feel good about slashing an expense in half or cutting a no-longer-needed expense?

 

Frugal changes like these are undeniably rewarding both emotionally and financially. If you’re having a hard time embracing frugal living, try focusing on the rewards. That may be what you need to get started.

 

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I honestly find frugal living to be lots of fun. That’s because it’s not all about cutting back and saving money. In fact, much of it is about getting creative and learning new skills and ideas.

 

Also, it often requires connecting with and learning from others. This, too, can bring more fun and enjoyment into your life. All of this just makes frugality even more rewarding!

 

 

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So, now you know the whys of frugal living. It’s time to learn how you can start embracing this way of life. It isn’t hard, especially if you break it into manageable steps.

 

That’s what I’ve done for you in this section. Have a read and get ready to start your frugal living journey.

 

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Get started by learning about the many ways to save money through frugality. To give you some ideas, I’ve listed my 53 best frugal tips in the next section. If that’s not enough, there are plenty of websites, podcasts and books on the topic.

 

 

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Try to be thoughtful when choosing your initial money-saving tasks. Don’t start with overly difficult or drawn-out ones. This could sap you of motivation and derail the whole process. Instead, select tasks that are relatively easy to accomplish and give you a boost.

 

 

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When considering frugal ideas, always keep your values in mind. As mentioned, this is the best way to prevent feelings of deprivation. You’ll also gain a greater sense of satisfaction when your frugal decisions are true to your values. In turn, this will motivate you to keep going.

 

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Once you tick off some of the easy tasks, it’s time to take on some of the harder ones. They may require more time and effort to complete, but they’ll usually make up for it with bigger savings. Make the leap and go for it — it’ll be worth it!

 

 

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Keep a running tally of the money you’ve saved. (It might be fun to display your progress using a coloring sheet or wall chart.) This will increase your motivation to continue working through your money-saving tasks.

 

 

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Start making plans to put your savings to work (or enjoy a portion of it)! This can also help to keep your motivation high and feed the virtuous cycle of frugality.

 

 

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Finally, it’s time to put your newly-gained savings to work. You could pay off debt, deposit it in a high-interest savings account or invest it. As you watch your net worth increase, you’ll further fuel your desire to find even more ways to save money.

 

 

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OK, now we’ve got the whys and the hows of frugal living covered. Are you pumped up and ready to start saving? In no particular order, here are my 53 favorite frugal living tips to help you save money and spend less. (And maybe even reach FIRE (financial independence, retire early!)

 

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Revisit your recurring expenses to see if you can reduce, cut or optimize them. For example, do you still read that magazine? Could you get away with less mobile data? Revisit your expenses annually (at minimum) plus anytime your needs or life situation changes.

 

 

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Every year or so, shop around and get two to three new quotes on your recurring expenses. Switching to a competitor or taking advantage of promotions could save you hundreds.

 

 

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Instead of leaving for a competitor, try negotiating with your biller. Call and ask to speak to the retention department. Mention how long you’ve been a customer, then negotiate for a discount or get them to meet (or beat) a competitor’s rate.

 

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Some billers offer a discount to customers who pay their bill once a year or all upfront versus monthly. Insurance, online services and some medical services often offer this payment option.

 

 

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Maximize your spending by paying with a rewards credit card. Even better, use a card that offers higher-earning categories (for example, groceries, gas, restaurants).

 

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Often, smaller businesses will offer a discount if you pay in cash or with your debit card. (This tip goes against my previous tip. But in some cases, the savings are greater than any credit card rewards you might earn.)

 

 

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Many billers and banks offer refer-a-friend programs where you and/or your referred friend receive a bonus. Sometimes, the referral bonuses can be quite lucrative, so always check to see if your biller or bank offers them!

 

 

Resist the alluring sales pitches to buy extended warranties. They’re rarely worth it. Since you’re now a frugality expert, you should be saving enough to cover any issues that arise.

 

 

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This is an easy way to potentially save hundreds on your insurance. Raise your deductibles as high as you can afford. Your coverage will remain the same, but your policy premiums won’t — they’ll be much cheaper!

 

 

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Thoroughly read the details of your insurance policies. Are you paying for coverage you don’t need (for example, jewelry and fine collectibles on your home insurance; rental car coverage on your car insurance)? Remove unnecessary coverage and enjoy the savings!

 

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Most insurance companies offer senior, group, corporate, alumni or profession-specific discounts. These discounts are sometimes not publicly shared, so you may need to ask to access them.

 

 

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When purchasing insurance or applying for a mortgage, you’ll often do better by working with a broker. Brokers can access quotes from multiple companies. That means they can often find you a better rate than you’d be able to find yourself.

 

 

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So many banks now offer fee-free accounts. There’s no longer any reason to use accounts with fees or minimum balance requirements. You can also do even better than that! Try to find a no-fee account that pays you high interest and functions as a checking account.

 

 

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Keep in mind that fee-free bank or investment accounts may still have hidden charges. You could incur them if you’re not aware. Be sure to understand any potential fees and how to avoid them.

 

 

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Even the best of us make mistakes! Call your bank or brokerage to plead your case if you slip up and are charged an account or transaction fee. Often, they’ll offer a one-time fee waiver. It’ll cost you a mild scolding and a promise not to do it again, but it’s worth it!

 

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Consider investing your money in index funds or ETFs when you’re ready to put your savings to work. They’re effective, easy to use and the fees are ultra-low. (Tip: I highly recommend The Stock Series by JL Collins to learn more about this style of investing.)

 

 

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Want to live in your house for free (or close to it)? Try house hacking! Some ideas include: renting out your basement, taking in roommates, or Airbnbing your guest bedrooms. You may also want to consider my family’s house hack of choice: hosting international homestay students.

 

 

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Save big on transportation costs by living in an area that’s walkable and/or bikeable. By avoiding the need for a car, you’ll save money, get healthier and help the environment! (Tip: Visit walkscore.com to find walk, transit and bike scores for most cities in the world.)

 

 

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Plan your meals one to two weeks at a time, basing your meals on what’s on sale (see the next tip below). This frugal living skill not only saves you money but time and stress as well. (No more coming home and wondering what’s for dinner!)

 

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One of the best ways to save money on groceries is to check flyers and shop sales. Doing so could easily save you thousands every year.

 

(Tip: Use flyer apps like Flipp and Reebee to quickly and conveniently find the best deals in your area.)

 

 

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This is one of my favorite frugal hacks! Look for services like Flashfood or Imperfect Foods. They sell close-to-expiry, ugly or overstocked food at heavily discounted prices. We use Flashfood regularly, and it saves us 50% or more on quality, still-tasty groceries.

 

 

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Make the best of sales by stocking up and buying in bulk, then store the excess in your freezer for future use. By doing this, you won’t need to buy groceries at regular prices or wait for sales. You can simply ‘shop’ from your freezer!

 

SPONSORED: Find a Qualified Financial Advisor

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Combat food waste and boredom by getting creative and reimagining your leftovers. For example, turn a roast chicken into chicken noodle soup, chicken salad sandwiches, or fried rice. (Tip: Look online to find recipes for your leftovers. Often, you’ll discover new dishes that may be even yummier than the original dish!)

 

 

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If you notice your food’s spoiling sooner than expected, try this simple fix: Clean your fridge. You’ll likely find this fixes the problem. You will save your food from an untimely early demise, and you’ll save money!

 

 

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Instead of keeping your cooktop on the entire time, try this energy-efficient technique:

  1. Bring the water to a boil.
  2. Drop in the pasta.
  3. Stir the pasta to prevent clumping.
  4. Bring the water back to a boil, then turn off the heat.
  5. Put the lid on the pot.
  6. Let the pasta soak for 10 minutes.
  7. Try it for doneness.
  8. If it’s not done, try it every 2–3 minutes until fully cooked.

Note: I learned this cooking technique from “The Complete Tightwad Gazette.” It’s the bible of frugal living!

 

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Did you know that most dishes don’t require a preheated oven to start cooking? Save energy and time by putting your dish into the oven when it’s still cold.

 

During preheating, your food will slowly come up to the right temperature. This, in turn, reduces the overall cooking time and energy use.

 

 

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If a smaller appliance will get the job done, use that instead of a larger one. For example, use the toaster oven instead of the wall oven, the Instant Pot instead of a pot on the stove, the hand mixer instead of the stand mixer. This saves you energy and, in turn, money!

 

 

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If you enjoy eating out, you could save big by avoiding the dinnertime timeslot. Many restaurants offer happy hour specials or the same meals at a discount for lunch. As a bonus, you’ll also avoid dinnertime crowds!

 

 

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My family can usually fill up on three restaurant dishes between the four of us. A typical restaurant dish costs $20 or more (plus tax and tip). Sharing dishes can add up to significant savings and helps to avoid overeating!

 

 

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If you can’t finish your meal, ask to have your leftovers wrapped to take home. Don’t forget to also pack uneaten dipping sauces, side dishes and bread. They’ll get tossed anyway, so why waste delicious food that you spent your hard-earned money on?

 

 

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Don’t be shy about finding and using coupons and group deals when eating out. They’re a fun and frugal way to try new restaurants (and you could discover a new favorite spot). But don’t forget: being frugal is the goal. Being cheap is not—so make sure you tip on the undiscounted amount!

 

 

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Drinks (alcoholic or not) are often the most marked-up items on restaurant menus. Desserts have a lower markup but are nonetheless costly for what you get. By enjoying your drinks and dessert at home, you’ll not only save on the menu price but also taxes and tips.

 

 

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This may seem weird or gross to some, but it could become the norm if discussed more often! Unless you live in a hot, humid climate, you could very likely shower every other day (or less) without issue. Your skin, wallet and the planet will thank you for it!

 

 

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Not only can you wash your body less often, but the same goes for your laundry! Clothing, towels and bedding do not need to be washed after every use. If the item still smells and looks clean, keep wearing or using it until it truly needs a wash. It’s a time, energy and money-saving win-win all around!

 

 

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Save money, energy and wear and tear on your laundry by hang drying and avoiding the dryer. I realize it can be a pain to hang up many small items. So, reserve your dryer for socks and other tiny items. (Don’t forget to throw your hang-dried towels in the load — see the next tip!)

 

 

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To soften your ‘crunchy’ hang-dried towels, pop them in the dryer with your damp laundry. The moisture from the wet laundry will soften the towels. And the towels and dryer balls will speed up drying time and fluff up the rest of your laundry. (It really works!)

 

 

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Did you know that ‘free’ or discounted cell phones from cellular providers are financed via your phone plan? It’s rarely a good deal, so opt instead to buy your phone elsewhere (preferably used), then BYOD to your carrier. You could easily save hundreds this way.

 

 

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So many of us have fallen into the ‘normal’ routine of upgrading our devices every two to three years. It’s time to stop the madness! For the sake of your wallet (and our planet), resist this cultural norm and hang onto your devices for as long as you can. Four to five years is a more reasonable lifespan for phones (and five or more years for tablets).

 

 

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Always shop the used market first! Even like-new items sell for a fraction of their original purchase price. Buying used does require patience and effort, but it usually pays off. This is especially true when you’re done with the item and resell it for the same price or more! It’s essentially like renting items for free (or close to it).

 

SPONSORED: Find a Qualified Financial Advisor

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2. Each advisor has been vetted by SmartAsset and is held to a fiduciary standard to act in your best interests. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

 

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If you do a lot of shopping at Amazon, you’ll love Camel Camel Camel. It’s a website that helps you monitor Amazon for price drops on items you’re interested in. When an item you’re watching drops in price, Camel Camel Camel will send you an alert. (Tip: Prices can change quickly on Amazon, so jump on it when you get an alert!)

 

 

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Sign up for rebate sites like Rakuten, Mr. Rebates, and Great Canadian Rebates. These sites allow you to earn cash back on your online purchases. Watch for bonus events when you can earn 2x, 4x or even 10x the normal rebate on your purchases! (Tip: Check multiple rebate sites before making purchases. Often, the cashback amount is significantly higher on one site.)

 

 

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Discounted gift cards are a great way to save even more at your favorite stores! (You can purchase them in both physical and electronic formats.) Shop for them at websites such as Raise, CardCash and Cardswap. Typically, you’ll get bigger discounts on gift cards in larger denominations and for less-popular stores.

 

 

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For maximum savings, stack every money-saving shopping strategy that’s available to you. Here’s how:

  1. Pay for your discounted gift cards with a rewards credit card.
  2. Use a rebate site to earn cash back on your purchase.
  3. Use a discounted gift card to pay for the purchase.

 

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Train yourself to ignore regular-priced items. Instead, head to the sale/clearance section of your favorite store or website. You’ll typically save 25% to 50% on these items, but the discounts can be even higher. (This blows the typical 5% to 10% off offers on regular-priced merchandise out of the water!)

 

 

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These are getting harder to find, but it’s always worth a try. Search online for promo, discount, or coupon codes for the stores you shop at. Typically, these coupons will get you free shipping or 10% off your purchase. (Tip: If you’re also using a rebate site, check the terms and conditions. Sometimes, using a coupon will void the cashback offer from your rebate site.)

 

 

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One of the best ways to save a lot of money is to DIY everything that you can. Here are some ideas to get you started: cooking, baking, home, car maintenance and repair, renovations, haircuts, pet grooming, vegetable growing. The possibilities are endless! (Tip: YouTube is one of the best, free ways to learn how to DIY just about anything.)

 

 

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Mending and repairing things is, sadly, becoming a relic of the past. This is terrible for our wallets and the environment. Thankfully, the right to repair movement is gaining steam. Fight back against disposable culture. Turn mending and repairing into a normal part of your frugal living routine!

 

 

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Maintaining your stuff goes hand-in-hand with the previous tip. Take care of your belongings and regularly maintain them. It will save you money and prevent the need to mend or repair them in the first place. (Tip: Set recurring reminders on your phone so you don’t forget to take care of routine maintenance tasks.)

 

 

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Travel can be very costly. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to save on vacations and trips. Traveling as a group is one of them. Group travel can net you valuable discounts through bulk purchases and shared accommodations and transportation.

 

 

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This is my family’s favorite form of travel accommodation! Airbnbs are typically more affordable than hotels. Also, there’s usually a kitchen to cook or reheat meals (which saves money on eating out). We also love that Airbnbs are actual homes. This gives us a more authentic travel experience.

 

 

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Slow travel is one of the best ways to make travel more affordable. How? When you slow travel, you can spread out the cost of transportation (e.g., flights, trains, etc.) across many more days. This brings your per-day cost way down. Slow travel also gives you time and flexibility to select slower, more affordable modes of transport.

 

 

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Travel hacking is the process of earning credit card points to pay for your travel expenses. You could end up paying little or nothing for flights, hotels and other expenses. It’s a fantastic way to turn your regular spending into free or discounted travel!

 

 

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This final tip will help you go beyond the tips in this post. Anytime you’re faced with a spending decision, get creative. Ask yourself how you might be able to do it more frugally. Over time, you’ll get better and better at it. (It’s like exercising a muscle, so practice often for best results!)

 

 

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I hope this post inspired you to embrace frugal living. When you live frugally, you’ll save money and time and lighten your footprint on the Earth. What’s not to love? Take action now by picking one (or a few) tips from this article and get started!

 

When you’re ready to learn even more ways to save money, visit my How Much Does it Cost to Live the FIRE Life interview series. Through the interviews, my interviewees and I share our actual expenses along with a plethora of frugal tips from all over the world!

 

 

This article
originally appeared on 
YourMoneyGeek.comand was
syndicated by
MediaFeed.org.

 

 

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