It’s possible to save money and live better, at the same time. You can have it both ways, as the best frugal living tips don’t require that you lower your quality of life or make terrible sacrifices. I’m proof.
Although, to get there may mean that some of the advice to follow could violate some safe spaces. The government doesn’t give a shit about you, and small actions can really add up.
In this comprehensive guide you’ll find 20 ways we creatively save money, built for disaster scenarios like the one many of us are currently in.
Just the straight up honest truth about saving money and living better. Business owners and entrepreneurs will find valuable suggestions here as well.
Times are hard, and the advice is solid.
Global Food Crisis Blossoming
Right now, there’s a massive global food shortage materializing –you do not shut down the global economy for a full year, or two, or more, without serious repercussions. And perhaps that’s really my end game with this article; to prepare you for what’s coming next.
You can’t eat money, but you can convert creative ways to save money into full bellies long after food prices sky rocket and empty shelves begin to collect dust. That is, unless you like fake meat.
Filling the pantry today will help you save money, live better in the years to follow. The doomsday preppers had the right idea all along.
Over 60% of all US money in existence, ever, in history, up until 2020 was printed in 2020. That’s going to dilute the value of every buck you’ve got already. Throw on top of that all those food production closures, it’s a powder keg about to blow. Figuring out how to save money on a tight budget has never been more important.
The creative ways to save and earn money below are all about survival during long-term, extraordinary circumstances.
Let’s get going.
This article will focus on creative ways to save money for North Americans, Europeans, and other Western countries. Some suggestions (and satirical commentary) are US-only.
First Things First
Every article on the internet will tell you to start small, beef up your income, download couponing apps, automate your savings with periodic online transfers come payday, sell all the possessions you don’t use at least once a week, and ffs –learn to cook already!
They’ll tell you to collect up your loose change daily, and save it for a rainy day.
And of course, they’ll suggest you eliminate “grey charges” like starting to use Transferwise to save money on international bank transfers, swapping banks and accounts for those that offer no ATM fees, or reducing your mobile data usage.
You could also consider consolidating your debts to lower your interest payments with a service like Zippyloan or Total Personal Loan. These services can connect you with a loan within minutes or hours, and they’re ideal in a pinch.
How Much Should I Save?
Many friends have asked us how much we save, on a regular basis. The advice I dispense in those situations is to start by working towards your first $1,000 in safe keeping.
After that, you’re going to want to keep going –focus on 1, then 2, then 3 months worth of cold hard cash you can live off if your income completely dries up.
Ideally, you’d have 1 year’s worth of living expenses kept aside. But being realistic, few people have that kind of scratch laying around after the events of 2020 and beyond.
How to Save Money Fast
Of all the ways to save money on a tight budget, the following are our top suggestions. We eliminated most of the fluff and common sense recommendations to distill our most creative ways to save money and live better.
1. Student and Employer Discounts
Everyone in your circle is looking for one kind of job or another. When they zig, you should probably zag. If they took social psychology in uni, you might want to learn to be an electrician.
If you’re unemployed today, look for jobs that nobody wants, and those that can offer discounts for employees on things you use on a daily basis. It needn’t be glamorous.
Working at a warehouse can be a great way to get discounts on whatever might be in it, like food, building supplies, electronics, toiletries, et al. That’s just one example.
If you’re a student, dust off that student ID card. You likely already know it’s good for some potent discounts –do your research, and look for new ways to leverage it on everything you put on your weekly shopping list.
On top of that, you can switch to generic products –swap Coca Cola for RC Cola.
2. Start a Blog
As a blogger who teaches blogging, I’m aware of how cliche I am. But I only do it because it has served us well. Really, really well. Like, wow, holy shit that’s crazy levels of amazing.
Before the the shit hit the fan, a single blog was able to pay for a decade of unlimited travel. During the pandemic our blogging income tripled.
I’m talking six figure potential after your first year. Start a blog —I’ve got a guide for that, too.
If you know a thing 10% better than other people know that thing, you can make money with a blog if you choose the right niche.
I recommend WordPress, but if you want the easiest/fastest route to blogging, check out WIX.
You could also build blogs for other people.
If you’re a web design keener, you could start a web design company using DIVI –it’s a website builder tool and it’s fricking amazing. As a former web designer myself, it’s highly recommended you pick it up and learn as you go –easy to do so.
You can sell a single website for at least $2k, and push out 3 – 5 of them every month if you immerse yourself into the practice. Only bare bones experience with the internet is necessary.
I built my own blog, but I know plenty of mommy bloggers who saved time and hired a designer to construct their money-making blogs.
I used to make at least $10k/month cash money selling web design services, before my own blogging income surpassed it. DIVI gave me a huge jumpoff point, and I’m grateful for it.
3. Raise Insurance Deductibles (or Get Insurance)
A deductible is the amount you pay for something before your insurance picks up the rest of the tab.
If you’re not in a forest fire prone area, or hurricanes, etc –raise the amount you might have to pay if something goes wrong. By doing this your monthly insurance rates drop to a more manageable level.
You can always adjust them later. This goes for health insurance if you’re healthy, home insurance if you live in a boring city or town where nothing good or bad happens (and wasn’t destroyed by “revolutionary” protester types), and car insurance if you’re a keenly defensive driver.
Speaking of health insurance –if you’re worried about all the big bads, like cancer treatment, a weak heart, an injured liver caused by lock down loneliness (killer band name), getting COVID treatment, or whatever, check this out.
Even if you work from home, you can save a lot of money on hospital bills with that recommendation because this company focuses on anyone who’s self employed, works from home, or is a member of the gig economy. For example, Uber drivers are covered.
That goes for employers, too. When new minimum wage specifications roll in, you’re going to want to keep your best staff (and likely lay off your dead wood). Offering good health insurance is how you could protect your business.
4. Get a Remote Job Before Everyone Else Does
Looking at our site metrics, our remote job articles aren’t as popular as they used to be, and that’s just f**cking weird. And it also means there’s plenty of room in the market for you, too.
The job market didn’t shrink during the pandemic, it exploded. In the remote work market, anyway. A remote job may just be the best way to save money for kids.
In this article you can learn all about the going salaries for a range of jobs, and in this one you can learn why Flexjobs is our most recommended remote job site.
There’s still room for you in the remote jobs market, don’t tell yourself otherwise. You’d be lying.
5. Adjust Your Thermostat
Wear more sweaters on cold days, and get skimpy tres sexe underwear for the hot days. Or hell, work from home butt nekked. It’s liberating. Just keep a button up shirt close to your desk for those impromptu Zoom calls.
If you’ve got a little money to spend on insulating your home, its windows, ducts, and otherwise –consider doing so. It’s an investment that matures over time. You can save a lot of money maintaining a comfortable temperature when the elements are uncomfortable.
6. Evaluate Your Diet
Oh, lawdy. May the trolling commence –but the “body/fat positivity” movement is pushing a very expensive lifestyle proposition. Who has money to eat “because it makes me happy” 9 times per day when they’ve been unemployed for a full year or more?
People who aren’t in your social class or economic situation, that’s who. Lean times make lean people, and if that ain’t so, they’ve got finances you do not have. Girth is expensive.
More consequentially than that, who has money to afford the hospital bills that result from over nine years of over-consumption and killer diabetes? No wonder “free” taxpayer funded healthcare is such a hot button topic in the United States. And “free” healthcare like the kind I had in Canada? They factor in age when they triage you, so if you’re too old you’re out of luck (young people get more options).
A little goes a long way. Fasting for the first 8 hours of each day, or more, is a great way to chip some pounds off the waist line, Andrew Jacksons off the grocery bill, and all the baddies that come with over-eating, like depression or worse.
You could come out of lock down a whole new person, and have more cash in your pocket, if you have some fight left in you. The anger many of us feel right now could be applied to fitness instead of torching a neighboring small business.
While you’re at it, resistance bands and a kettle bell or two are all you need to keep in shape in terms of at-home exercise. Even if you can hit the gym, exercise at home will help you save money on a tight budget.
7. Home and Vehicle Maintenance
Maintaining your health isn’t the only thing that will save you money in the short and long run. A $200 car repair bill today could mean saving $2,000 next month.
Think about it.
8. Trade In Your Smartphone
A phone is a tool that could replace a laptop in a pinch. They’re versatile, so buying a new or new-ish refurbished phone while the world seems to be burning isn’t totally a bad idea.
Android 10 and 11 even make it easy to plug in a monitor and use your mobile device as a full-fledged PC.
Living abroad, I’ve been through 5 laptops in 9 years and counting. Water and humidity damage, mostly. And there were times when I’d take on copywriting work using nothing more than an iPhone 3GS and a Bluetooth keyboard (if I had one).
A good phone could be a life saver. And you may be considering “de-Googling” your life too. I know from emails and community message boards that many of you are looking for a phone that can run a Google-free OS like LineageOS.
If that sounds like you, consider Amazon’s phone trade-in program to upgrade your phone, new or refurbished. A phone a year or two older is cheaper, and easier to de-Google.
9. Monetize Your Social Media
If you aren’t blogging yet, you can still monetize your existing social media accounts with “Buy Me a Coffee“, affiliate marketing, or SubscribeStar, a less censorship-happy Patreon alternative.
Look into it. It’s a great way to make money online with no skills, even if you’re lazy, and without having to turn to OnlyFans or the Pornhub creators program.
10. Sell Free Stuff You Found on Craigslist
There are plenty of websites out there that offer free items. Craigslist is just one of them.
You could easily pick up something for free or cheap, and flip it at a profitable margin. I used to do it all the time. Vintage computers are hot sellers.
So is whatever reparations you may have liberated from a Walmart during last summer’s protests. Especially if you didn’t open the box yet. Kudos for your restraint!
11. Teach English Online
For those frustrated with the “Wu flu”, there may be no better revenge than teaching the citizens of China terrible English.
In all seriousness, many of my digital nomad pals earn money online by teaching English with VIPKID –a website that links fluent English speakers with Chinese students, and the pay is better than most lower end US jobs.
Your hourly wage for teaching English online floats around the $25 mark. Thus making it a wonderfully creative way to save money. And it’s rewarding, too. Chinese kids are cute as hell.
12. Rent Out a Room, Your Car, or Yourself
And no, not suggesting prostitution. I think things will improve before that becomes a thing for the average person.
However, you can rent out a spare room in your home on Airbnb because shared accommodation is popular, as is renting out your car, and Fiverr is always looking for new victims, err, “gigpreneurs”.
Although as mentioned earlier, Flexjobs is all you need. Trust me. In my experience, Flexjobs is the only remote job company that doesn’t exploit you. You can find out why I think so here.
And finally, you could become a house sitter and kill your apartment lease altogether to live for free in other people’s digs. Again, I know many people who do this –beach front properties, Instagram-worthy lifestyle hoaxes. Good times, all around.
13. Sell Photos or Merch
The print on demand (POD) market is yuuuuge. As is iStock for selling photos. Even a cell phone photographer can make a mint selling their photos online. We do, it’s a nice little lump some from time to time.
On our website we also use Printful to manage our POD orders –they do it all; print, ship, and handle the payments. We just collect a paycheck from our classy t-shirts. It automates Etsy shops, too –so you don’t need a website.
I wrote a guide about how to get started selling merch you may be interested in.
14. Does the IRS Owe You Money? Find Out
We’re in the end game of lock downs, I’m sure. We gotta’ be. And weird times make for strange bed fellows. Dogs and cats being nice to eachother, and hell, pigs flying.
The IRS and filing your taxes online could be a solid bet on getting even more free money from the government. The IRS could be a friend, not a foe, under our current circumstances.
You can always do your taxes, and then opt to not file if you discover you aren’t eligible for a refund. Tax specialists aren’t free, but this one is cheap. And it’s online, so you can do it painlessly in your skimpy underwear.
15. Sell Unused Internet Data
If you’ve got an unlimited data package you can sell your unused data to research projects around the globe. They’ll use your unused bandwidth to crunch numbers, and pay you for the privilege.
You can learn more about that here. And you get a free $5 to start, courtesy of my referral link.
16. Online Surveys and More
Swagbucks is a rewards program that gives you free gift cards that don’t suck, or they give you cash.
They’ve got an 8.3/10 rating on TrustPilot, they give out over 7,000 free gift cards daily, and they’re great if you’ve got some nervous time to burn.
This offer is for those “I need to save money live better” situations, and only available for US and Canadian citizens.
Some activities that Swagbucks will pay you for;
- Playing games
- Watching videos
- Online Search
- Taking surveys
17. Cancelled Flight Compensation
When this silly lock down thing began, we took a hit on cancelled flights. And in these situations, even if it happened 6+ months ago –you can still fight your airline for compensation if you lawyer up.
This company will most likely be able to get you a refund, amazing track record, the best track record ever, yuge –and if they don’t, they won’t bill you for their services. It’s a zero-risk proposal.
If you do get a refund, they take a small cut. If you don’t, you pay nothing. That’s not so bad, considering it’s practically free money.
If you try to battle an airline yourself, it’s almost impossible. Airlines’ main competency is giving customers the runaround. I’m sure we agree on that.
18. “Jobs Near Me”
There’s a million jobs apps out there, and AppJobs aggregates them all together in a tidy little app, right on your smart phone.
Get paid to do in-person jobs, or remote jobs. Some jobs could be as simple as “go to XYZ and a take a photo of the business”. No sh*t bruv.
It’s like the app from Westworld Season 3, but without the contract killing part.
Fun times, fast money quick and easy.
19. Get a Library Card
Most public libraries have an online component that rivals Netflix. Seriously. I use my library card from my home town in Canada to borrow movies and watch them at home here in Asia.
And then there’s the audio books, ebooks, et al.
If you consume a lot of content, you may also want to check out Audible for a free trial. Don’t like it, cancel before they bill you the first time. Free as in beer. I’ve had an Amazon Prime promo more than once in my lifetime. Bezos can afford it.
20. Become a Digital Nomad
Look around at the blog you’re on –I’m a big silly dink living abroad enjoying $300 rent for the whole main floor of a building, dollar beers, rare fruits and clothes for pennies, pristine beaches for free, paid $200 cash to a medical facility when my son was born, all in, and I earn more than I did back home in the West. Being a digital nomad with kids is an extremely under-explored yet possible arena.
It’s not what you earn, it’s what you save. And the kiddo loves it.
Earn USD, spend pesos is the motto. It’s called geo-arbitrage and I’d be remiss to not mention it.
When this hellscape of a lock down COVID “passport” thing dissipates, consider living abroad to live in nicer surroundings at a fraction of the cost of living where you are now.
Your journey could start here.
That’s It, That’s All
I’ll add to this article over time, but this is what I’ve compiled for now.
Be sure to bookmark this article with Pocket to return to it later, or share it to be a wise-ass.
Not sure if you’ve heard about The Great Reset yet, but this could be the time for a little reset of your own. Now may be the time to re-evaluate how you spend, how you save, and where you live.
Perhaps the best thing you could do to save money right now is to tell your local government representative you’ve had it with these lock downs.
Find this useful, or have anything to add? Leave a comment below.
It’s your life, can’t live it twice!