Getting rich isn’t reserved for individuals with a unique set of skills, specialized subject matter expertise, or monetarily generous parents; it’s open to anybody who is willing to save a bunch more than they spend. The ten practices in this article can be implemented in your life today and will accelerate your journey to financial independence. By ruthlessly cutting costs in stupid, yet insanely common expense categories you’re going to win in areas where everyone else is losing. Welcome to the land of winners.
- If you pay for parking again, we’re no longer friends.
If you’re in an area that requires you to pay to park, you’re in an area where you shouldn’t have a car. Needing a car for your commute to work isn’t an excuse. Move closer to where you work. Or find free parking and walk or bike to it. If you’re going out in an area that charges for parking, same deal – walk, bike, or take public transportation. You’re not better than the bus.
- Cook for yourself. At least 90% of the time.
Eating out regularly is a sure-fire way to stay poor. Paying for someone to cook food for you and shuttle it directly under your nose should be reserved for special occasions. Assuming you eat three meals a day, there are twenty-seven meals that need to be accounted for every week. Preparing 90% of those means you’re responsible for twenty-five meals per week. Get to it, Chef Boyardee!
- Trips less than five miles need to be FREE!
Stop abusing your car. That machine should only be used for transporting multiple people long distances or hauling heavy loads. I recommend implementing a five mile rule: if your trip is less than five miles, you need to find some free way to complete it. That means no gas, no one-time charge, no monthly subscription or ridership fee – I’m talking 100% fo’ free. My preferred mode of transportation is bicycle but I know that’s not for everyone. But it should be.
- If you even think about paying for storage, punch yourself in the nose.
Paid storage – gives me the chills just thinking about it. There is no reason you should come close to filling your home with stuff. There is no way in hell you should fill your home with stuff and need additional space for more stuff. If you’re okay with putting something in storage, you’re admitting that this thing serves no immediate purpose for you. The idea of paying to keep something that serves no purpose is just silly. Be better than public storage. Use Craigslist. Craigslist is storage that doesn’t take up any space.
- Making your own coffee is like the hippest thing you can do.
I don’t want to be that personal finance blogger who shits on people for spending $5/day on lattes. But that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Listen, I appreciate coffee shop vibes as much as the next guy, but those vibes alone don’t justify $2000 in yearly coffee expenses. Buy yourself a decent French press and grinder – this will run you about $40 total. You can buy a great 12-ounce bag of whole beans for less than $15 and one of those bad boys should last you a month. Going this route will bring your annual coffee expenses to about 1/20th of what it was when you went to a shop every day. And I guarantee that the quality of the coffee and the joy that it brings you isn’t 1/20th of what it was. If necessary, treat yourself to a fancy-ass espresso bevy of choice at your favorite shop once a month and get your good-vibe fix in.
- Buying water is for clowns.
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I see people walking around with bottles of Smart Water or Dasani or Fiji. Buy yourself a re-usable water bottle – hell, buy one of those sleek Nalgene bottles so people don’t call out your frugality – and bring it everywhere you go. Oh, and tap water isn’t going to hurt you*.
- All the cool kids get 30+ MPG.
What’s that, you need a pick-up with a V8 because you haul a boat once a year? What’s that, you need a Range Rover because it makes you feel safer on the road? What’s that, you own a Chevy Suburban yet your family runs three people deep? Don’t underestimate the detriment that poor fuel economy can have on your journey to financial independence. There are so many affordable cars out there that have kick-ass fuel efficiency its hard to justify not driving one (if you insist on driving at all). To the person who needs to a haul a boat on his annual family vacation – you’re better off renting a truck for the vacation and driving an appropriate car the rest of the year. To the person who feels safer in a massive SUV – there is absolutely zero data that suggests driving an SUV is safer than driving a compact car. To the person that uses a Suburban to transport his wife and toddler to the grocery store – trade in your truck for a new brain or I’m calling Child Services on your ass.
- Limit the boozing to two nights a week.
Drinking is such a horrible indulgence. It’s expensive, it’s unhealthy, and it kills our productivity. Buts it’s fun, dammit! Instead of cutting it out cold turkey, I’m suggesting you enjoy your cocktails in moderation – limit your alcohol consumption to two nights a week. Your wallet, liver, and future business partners will thank me.
- The cable has got to go.
Cable shares the same pitfalls as drinking – it’s expensive, it’s unhealthy, and it kills our productivity. But unlike drinking, I am going to insist that you cut cable out cold turkey. You’re investing enough of your cash and brain cells into beer; if you keep cable, you’ll be fresh out of both before you know it.
- Grocery shop at non-specialty stores.
Your grocery shopping should occur in three places: a normal chain-type grocery store (think Jewel, Hy-Vee, Target, etc.), Amazon.com, and a local farmers’ market. This trifecta provides the epitome of grocery shopping efficiency. Local farmers’ market typically provide fresh produce at excellent prices – I always hunt out “priced for quick sale” items that are discounted because they need to be consumed in the next few days (as all good produce should). Take advantage of Amazon for bulk purchases – I recently placed an order for three pounds of almonds and three pounds of cashews because I’m the fucking man. Chain grocery stores are for your non-produce, non-bulk consumables: meat, milk, eggs, peanut butter, cigarettes, etc. Stop tricking yourself into thinking that you must go to natural/organic stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe. Your local run-of-the-mill grocery store has plenty of extremely nutritious food for you to devour. Sure, these stores are also packed with garbage food, but you’re not a sucker, you know what to avoid.
One of the expense categories that I didn’t touch on is housing. Housing is one of three major spending areas (along with transportation and food/drink) yet I chose to stay away from it because I wanted this list to be comprised of quick wins – things you can adopt today if you wanted to. Making a change to your housing situation can come across as overwhelming due to the time and effort required to do so.
I hope this list reinforces the idea that financial independence is not to be achieved only by the supremely smart, talented, or beautiful – it’s available to any of us dumb, skill-less, ugos who are willing to hack away unnecessary spending and live below our means.
*Doesn’t apply to residents of Flint, Michigan.