"Simple Living, High Thinking" is a motto I strongly believe in and stand by. We are practically living in times of crisis, both socially and economically. While the pandemic is creating havoc by infecting us with COVID-19 disease, the economic slowdown is hurting us like a slow poison by eroding our savings and sources of income. Entire industries like tourism and hotels have been torn asunder due to low demand, households in many countries have lost their source of income entirely and pushed into poverty and homelessness.
Even if you aren't affected by the pandemic, in times like these, it becomes the duty of every citizen to get accustomed to a lifestyle of simple and frugal living, and give the excess to those in need of it. Below are some ways to adopt a less expensive lifestyle. But do remember that frugal living ain't going to be easy and some of these measures will require your utmost will power, willingness to perform drastic lifestyle changes and even shredding your ego!
- Sell things you don't need. This one is a no brainer and most obvious of all.
There are many things in your home like a creaky old cupboard, old books which you have never read (and pretty sure never will!), old clothes and blankets, old newspapers, etc. Make a habit of occasionally getting rid of these items by either selling them through websites like OLX/Quickr or donating them to a needy. Its a double-whammy because not only will you get rid of excess baggage, you'll get that much needed cash too.
- Use Double-Edge Razors instead of Cartridges. Another no brainer if you're a gent. Double-Edge razors cost a fraction of what cartridges from shiny brands like Mach-3 or Gillette Fusion do.
If you're using any of these branded cartridge razors, you can make a great saving on your monthly shaving expenditure by transitioning to double-edge razors instead. In the long run, not only will you save money but you'll find that you are getting a better shaving experience too!
- Buy a normal laptop instead of MacBook Pro. This is another area where you can make great savings. If you're looking for a brand new laptop, then please stay away from the Mac Propaganda! This is no longer 2010, Apple competitors like Dell, Lenovo, Asus, Xiaomi, etc. produce such beautiful gadgets these days that you'll hardly be able to spot any difference between them and Apple! Granted that Mac's OSX does take care of your noobish tendency but you can easily tackle that by learning Linux and/or Windows. Both these operating systems aren't any bigger nut to crack than Apple's OSX in today's day and age, you just need to learn new ways of doing things and the Internet is stuffed with all the information you need for that!
- Buy an Android Phone instead of iPhone. This is yet another no brainer! Android smart-phone makers like Samsung, Lenovo and Xiaomi have not only matched but even surpassed Apple's gizmos at this point in time. Google's Play Store is one of the finest and vetted app markets out there and its as good as Apple's Store. Finally, Android OS is also open source, so what more can you ask for!
- Use open source apps instead of proprietary ones. Coming to the topic of open source, this is another important area. If you're running a small firm or startup, get rid of highly expensive proprietary ERPs like SAP, Oracle Financials, PeopleSoft, etc. Instead, adopt open source and build your own technology using FOSS tools like Python, Java, MySQL, Flask, Django, Nginx/Apache, etc. Vetted and professional engineers can be hired literally for pennies these days through job sites like Upwork and Fiverr. It only makes sense to take control of your computing and avoid heavy cash outflows.
- Cancel expensive hosting subscriptions, use free static hosting services like Github Pages and Netlify. If you self-host your Wordpress blog using a service like Bluehost or GoDaddy or Digital Ocean, you can make a decent curb on your hosting expense by switching to a free static hosting provider like Github Pages or Netfliy. The downside of static hosting is that you can't have dynamic content like comments and polls right out of the box. However, you can user other free services like Disqus for comment hosting. All in all, if you happen to maintain a simple blog with only posts and comments occupying most of the relevant content, it only makes sense to adopt static hosting today.
- Start reading novels and books instead of watching TV. TV is the bane of all miseries is what I believe! People mostly watch TV for only two reasons: News and Entertainment. As for News channels, not only do they mostly spout propaganda and lies these days, the pity is that they also make you pay heavily for it! Cancel all expensive TV subscriptions today whether its Tata Sky, Videocon D2H or Sun TV. As for Entertainment, start reading novels and story books. Unlike entertainment shows, they nurture and harness your imagination instead of spoon feeding it and making it dumb. There are some great ones by John Grisham, Jeffery Archer, JRR Tolkien, etc., choose one of them or any other author of your choice. You can easily buy about twelve novels (a year's worth of entertainment!) at a fraction of the monthly bills footed for these expensive cable services.
- Use public transport instead of cars (but with social distancing ;-). Petrol (Gasoline) and Diesel are only going to be costlier in future as authoritarian states will find it much easier to tax them (and its one of the major revenue streams for them). Petrol is already approaching ₹100 per liter in India, a preposterous price for a country with so much poverty. But even if that weren't the case, you'll always end up saving huge by switching to public transport like buses, metros or taxies.
- Avoid needless travels, plan them in advance. In fact, travelling isn't ideal at all during the pandemic unless its an emergency. But if you do travel then plan them in advance so you can get flight or train tickets much cheaper. It ain't wise to spend a fortune on flight tickets by waiting until the last moment to book them.
- Check out online coupons. There are many coupon sites like Groupon which provide you free coupons that work on sites like Swiggy, Dominos, Amazon, Flipkart, etc. I don't know how it works and why exactly do you get discounts when you purchase using these coupons but the fact remains that these coupons do work and it only makes sense to use them. Next time, just scavenge the internet for such coupons before you place an order online.
- Do side gigs when you have free time. You can use marketplaces like Fiverr, Upwork or even Craigslist to find gig opportunities or small and quick projects in your work area which you can perform to supplement your salary or primary income.
- Stop drinking and smoking. Now, I know its easier said than done! But please try and understand that not only are they addictions which leech your health and life force, they incur a huge toll on your financial resources too. And there is no need to join fancy rehabs and clubs to quit these addictions, it can be done through sheer will power alone if you can muster that, I personally know many who have done it.
- Cut your own hair. A trip to saloon easily costs you several hundred bucks these days, multiply that amount by the number of family members at your home, and you have a great monthly savings potential here! It ain't going to be easy for the first time but believe it or not, cutting your own hair is no different than any other skill like shaving, cutting nails, massaging or embalming, etc. after a bit of practice. All you need is a scissor and a mirror (an extra one behind you if you don't have a partner). There are many introductory shows on Youtube on how to go about doing this, watch them, lean and implement. The best thing is that nobody cares these days if you goof up a few times initially (because pandemic)
- Stop using credit cards. My personal opinion is that credit cards are vicious debt traps which are craftily designed to deprive you of your money.
But that aside, its basic common sense that credit cards often lure you into buying things which are out of your reach today based on "hopes" that you'll be able to repay them by tomorrow's income. But you know that those hopes are often unfounded, especially during times like these. In any case, its ideal financial hygiene to spend only what you have today. There is an ancient Indian saying which goes as, "you should only spread your legs as wide as your blanket is". I think that proverb is still relevant today.
- Research and filter products thoroughly before buying them online. Check the ratings and reviews of both the product and seller, it often happens that a product with great reviews reached you in bad condition only because the seller was new and wasn't vetted on Amazon/Flipkart. Also check out and compare multiple ecommerce stores like Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal, etc. before settling on one.
- Stop dining out too often. Dining out often should be strongly discouraged irrespective of whether there is a pandemic or not. Its a toll on your financial resources. The taste buds crave for pleasures but its all temporary; after a while, you stop enjoying and start binge eating after getting addicted to fast and junk food.
- Avoid binge eating, acquaint yourself with the elegance of small helpings. This one is quite related to the earlier point. To stop the habit of binge eating (binge == any act of immoderate indulgence), you must cultivate a habit of appreciating small helpings or dozes. Remember the first paragraph, this is not about your ego, its all in your mind - realize that binge eating doesn't help you in any manner, its just a wastage of food and financial resources.
- Stop indulging in pizzas and burgers. Dominos, Pizza Hut and Burger King are some of the biggest leeches of your hard earned money. In India, a medium size pizza easily costs about ₹1,000 (with GST, delivery and convenience charges, etc.). Consider that you can easily buy a whole week's stock of rice and daal (lentil soup) for that amount!
- Replace Ice-Creams/Desserts with Bournvita/Horlicks. Some might laugh at this and others might feel offended but remember: this ain't about your ego, its about getting through tough times. Maybe a time will come in future when we will get an opportunity to nurse our indulges but now ain't that time buddy. The brands will obviously want that you indulge in those temptations and be rid of your hard earned money but the choice is yours. A box of even the cheapest vanilla ice-cream costs upward of ₹200 per litre in India, at that price you can easily get several litres of milk, or a kilo of Bournvita/Horlicks which are less expensive but decent desserts consumed with milk.
- Instead of buying lunch at workplace, take lunchbox to office. Start appreciating the value of simple food items like rice, wheat, daal, noodles, bread, biscuits, etc. in life. Consider for a moment that these foods not only give your nourishment and vitamins but are friendly on your pockets too. Also consider that junk food palaces like Dominos are both pocket and health unfriendly, and the only things they cater to are your ego and taste buds.
- Try becoming a vegetarian. Again, this is one of those "easier said than done" items, so I only ask you to try.
Unless you're living in the Tundras or Greenland, non-vegetarian food is much costlier compared to vegetarian and vegan options. And if you're living in a tropical region like India, you don't even have the excuse of an extremely cold climate for eating non-vegetarian food. Consider for a moment if its the right thing to eat non-veg just for pampering your ego.
- Compact your wardrobe. Buy only as much as you can and need to wear, sell off the rest or give it to the needy. Buy new clothes only if you have to, and you don't necessarily have to buy a Raymond or Tommy Hilfiger just to impress everyone at your workplace. Again, consider whether your ego is more important to you or a frugal lifestyle. Nobody judges you for having simple artifacts these days. Au contraire, the world is leaning more towards judging "that rich a**hole" for indulgence! And believe me, if crony-capitalism and income inequality continue to grow on the trajectory they are currently on, this situation is only going to get worse in future!
- Don't indulge in impulse buying. In general, cultivate a habit of not buying things just because you like them momentarily. Think about how long will you possibly and practically use an item if you buy it. If you set this filter before buying anything, you'll end up buying a lot less, trust me.
- Stop indulging in Cosmetics. Cosmetics is another leech on your monthly expense. Many a women are known to force their husbands to accept bribes in India just to cover their cosmetics or jewelry expense. Consider how serene, beautiful and livable this world will be if only more and more people start cutting down on their luxurious expenses instead of ethics and morality?
- Stop indulging in Gold. This mostly applies to Indians and people of other developing countries. There is a tendency of panic buying of gold during times of crisis like this. Rest assured, the global financial system isn't going to crumble any time soon. Buying gold in a panic situation only depletes your valuable cash which you may have spent wisely somewhere else.