First Person: Live Large on a Small Budget

Yahoo Contributor Network

I must admit, some of the objections I hear as a self-proclaimed 'frugalista' make me giggle. People often accuse me of "not living life to the fullest" because of my cheapskate ways. However, living on a budget doesn't mean that I'm not living large.

Living On Less

I earn about $80,000 a year. Because I am self-employed, my income is variable and many months my monetary situation is feast or famine. However, I don't live on $80,000 a year. I live on $30,000 a year, and (with experience) I have learned to stretch this quite far, using a few simple saving (and practical living) strategies.

No. 1: I cut cable

I ditched cable and got a Roku box for $49.95. With that, I added a Netflix streaming membership to the tune of $9.95 per month. Now, instead of paying $1,800 a year for entertainment, I pay $169.35, saving me $1,630.65.

No. 2: I coupon to the extreme

I was paying at least $800 a month for groceries to feed my brood of five. Now, thanks to couponing lessons from the pros, I was able to cut that in half, saving me $4,800 a year.

No. 3: I ditched the second car

I ditched our second car and saved a $509 a month payment, $60 on the insurance and over $3,000 a year in gas and maintenance fees. What are my transportation expenses now with a completely paid for 2011 Sonata? A measly $3,400 a year; a savings of $9,900.

No. 4: I dine responsibly

I download cheap gift cards from Restaurant.com, allowing me to eat at my favorite spots for half off (or more). And while we still go out to eat, cutting a $60 bill for my family of five down to $30, saves us $1,440 a year.

No. 5: I get my kicks for less

Our family of movie buffs loves to see the latest blockbusters. However, paying retail prices at the cinema isn't really my thing. I joined a theater rewards program, earning free tickets and snacks, and pay for our family fun with my cash back debit card (matinees only), earning as much as two percent back on each purchase. These simple cuts slashed our entertainment costs in half (down to $40 a month). Annual bill? $480, compared to $960.

No. 6: I cut my clothing bills

I don't care much about brand names, and I won't allow my kids to get swept up in that mania, either. Thanks to this, my frugal shopping at discount stores like Ross and TJ Maxx have saved us loads of cash. To top it off, we often sell our gently used gear to consignment, reducing our once $2,400 a year clothing and shoe expenses (again for a family of five) to around $1,000 -- give or take.

No. 7: I slashed my workout fees

By replacing the $60 a month gym membership for the five of us and opting to work out at home with Beach Body products, we slashed out workout fees to $0 from $720 a year -- not to mention the money we save trekking back and forth to the gym.

No. 8: I downsized my life

I cut the home phone, saving us $600 a year. I downsized the cell phone plan. I insulated our house a bit better to save on heating and cooling costs. I downsized everything.

In addition, we bought a house beneath our means (and mortgage approval), and we only pay $1,000 a month for our mortgage, taxes and homeowner's insurance expenses ($12,000 a year). I don't buy things I don't need. I live practically and don't waste money.

Sure, I still go out, I still have fun and I still live life to the fullest. I just do it all for less than $30,000 a year (yes, even counting my utility bills). Meaning that I get to keep $50,000 a year to spend (and save) however I see fit. And, if you ask me, that's living pretty large on a small budget.

*Note: This was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Do you have a personal finance story that you'd like to share? Sign up with the Yahoo! Contributor Network to start publishing your own finance articles.

More from this contributor:

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