Anyone with student loans has likely done extensive Googling:
How to pay student loans off faster
How to save more money
How to make ends meet
So by now, you’re probably well familiar with the basic tenets of how to scale back: couponing, limiting your nights out, skipping the latte.
While all of that is good advice, what if you’d like to make more of an impact? What if instead of making small changes that add up over time, you’d like to make big changes in the short-term to truly impact your debt payoff goals?
There are a few ultra-frugal living tips you can follow to significantly lower your bottom line. And since it’s only for the short-term, they’re pretty easy, too.
Frugal tip #1: Kick your soda habit
You don’t smoke, you don’t overdo it with nights out at bars, and you eat a pretty balanced diet. Who is going to fault you for a soda every now and again, especially when sodas are one of the more economically priced items at the store?
The average American household spends $850 dollars each year on soft drinks. Even more health-conscious adults can end up shelling out close to $20 per month in cans of sparkling water (La Croix anyone?). Fruit juice is even more expensive.
Try only drinking water, tea, or coffee for a year and to see how much you can save. Remember, it’s not forever.
Frugal tip #2: Bulk cook
Meal planning is often what penny pinchers turn to first when looking for ways to free up money for debt repayment. We’re suggesting you take this one step further and bulk cook all your meals for the month during one weekend.
This allows you to plan a menu around what’s on sale, save more money in the long run by buying in bulk and avoid the temptation of eating out because you have “nothing” at home for dinner.
Frugal tip #3: Go vegetarian
Speaking of modifying your eating habits, going meatless can have a large impact on your waistline, your budget, and your debt payoff success. Americans love their meat, but it’s expensive and only going up in price. Research suggests vegetarians can save $750 a year more than meat eaters.
Even if you can’t commit to completely going vegetarian for a year, try planning at least 70 percent of your weekly meals around meatless options. If you save $3.50 a day by eating vegetarian and go meatless five days of the week, that’s around $70 per month, or $840 a year. Add this money to your student loan payments, too, and you’ll be done with repayment in record time.
Frugal tip #4: Downsize
If we’re talking about truly impactful changes in small amounts of time, you have to look at what you’re spending on your housing and utility bills.
Downsizing might not be feasible for everyone (such as homeowners or people with families) but if you can feasibly reduce your living expenses to pay off debt faster in the short-term, you should consider it.
Say you move from a $1,100 a month apartment to one with monthly rent of $700. That’s $400 extra dollars a month — or $4,800 over the year — to put toward extra student loan payments. Say you have $25,000 in student loan debt; you’d pay back roughly 20 percent of the principal you borrowed back in just one year!
Frugal tip #5: No-spend Christmas
“No! Not Christmas!”
If you’re trying to be ultra-frugal for just one year, Christmas can be a large source of savings for many adults. The average person spends a whopping $882 on the holiday gifts each year — double this amount if you travel to be with family.
However, few consider cutting Christmas expenses because it’s both a family tradition and a cultural norm.
You don’t have to be an Ebenezer Scrooge for all eternity; consider a no- (or low-) spend holiday for just one year.
Be up front and honest with your friends and family about how it’s for your debt payoff goals, and try to talk to them early so as not to blindside them after they’ve already purchased gifts for you. There are many ways to have a no-spend Christmas while still gifting your loved ones with something special.
Take that money from your “no-spend” Christmas and apply it to your student loan debt and you’ve just given yourself the gift of thousands saved in interest.
Frugal tip #6: No shopping challenge
Of all the crazy-frugal things to do for one year to have a major impact, this one is decidedly the least fun (although having a “no-spend Christmas” may come close).
Try not shopping at all for 365 days. One pair of roommates were able to save over $55,000 in one year by making their own household items, growing their own food, and thriftily entertaining.
Many of the above suggestions may not fit into your preferred lifestyle, but in order to truly affect change in any area of life, you’ll have to seriously shake things up in order to see big results. Take a year to cut back and see what kind of dent you can make in your student loans — then get back to living your life.
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