Downsize Before You Have To

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This post is by Bernie Carr,

I don’t know about you but my finances have been feeling the pinch lately.  I’m not even talking about all the dire economic warnings, but on a personal level, it feels more of a struggle this year than last year.  For one thing my paycheck is smaller:  health insurance premiums as well as taxes increased.  When I go grocery shopping, the same budgeted amount of money buys less food – beef prices have increased due to the drought, and so have fruit and vegetable prices.   On top of that, gas prices are higher too.  The economy does not seem to be getting any better, and we can all feel it.

What’s a person to do, having to cope with these financial difficulties?

Downsize your lifestyle before you are forced to.

Lowering your monthly expenses will ensure you are in a better position than you may have been, in case things get worse.  And if things stay the same you won’t feel as financially stressed.

  1. Consider moving to a smaller house or apartment.   When your lease is up, evaluate whether it’s a good time to move to a smaller, less expensive space.  Your payments will be lower, allowing you to have more money at the end of the month.  At the same time, your electric bill and gas utility bills will be lower as well, since you are not having to cool or heat a large space.
  2. Give up the “hundreds of channels but nothing to watch” cable plan.  Cut out cable, or do it gradually by switching to a lower plan.  If you are on a one or two year contract that charges high penalties for leaving, here’s some good news.  I had one of those contracts too, but I called the company and found out the contract is to stay with them for the specified number of years, not stay on the same plan.  If you switch to a cheaper plan, you will not incur any penalty.  As long as you stick with them until the end of the contract term, even if you downgrade to the lowest plan, you won’t be charged the penalty for early out.  Talk to your cable or satellite provider and see what you can arrange.  Another thing you can do is negotiate a lower rate just by asking.
  3. Shop for a lower cell phone plan.  Once your contract ends, go month to month for a while and shop for a lower rate.
  4. Shop in your own closet before heading to the mall.  We recently went through all our stuff and found so many unused items and duplicates even though we try to be careful about that.
  5. Lower your food budget  Opt for cheaper cuts of meat, and buy produce in season.  Dust off the cookbooks and search for simple recipes that don’t need a lot of unusual ingredients.  Avoid waste in the kitchen.  Quit buying bottled water and use filtered tap water instead.
  6. Review all your insurance policies and find some discounts.  I recently got a renewal statement for our renter’s insurance and it was $200 higher than last year’s.  I called the agent to discuss ways to lower the premiums.  I opted for lowering some of the coverages and also found a few discounts.  The call resulted in a lower premium overall.
  7. Use less of your household and personal care products  I remember my grandfather used to use masking tape and a Sharpie to note the date he started using each item.  I didn’t understand it when I was a kid, but it to keep track of how long the item would last with normal usage, so he could adjust his habits accordingly.
  8. Stop using credit  It might be tempting to use credit to make ends meet, but charging up the cards only compounds the problem.  Your debt obligations will only increase, adding to your stress.  Instead, use cash for all your purchases and start lowering those balances.
  9. Choose free or low cost entertainment   We used to go to the movies at least once a month, but now that DVDs come out just three months or less after the movie originally came out, we just wait.   Now we have movie night, complete with popcorn, candy and snacks (bought on sale)  Read the community bulletin or paper for events such as school plays, events at the park such as Easter Egg hunts, etc. Having fun does not have to cost much, and for even more free fun, check #10.
  10. Get a library card.  I used to buy books all the time, but found they just add to the clutter once I’m done reading them.  Sell your used books and make some money.  The library also carries music and magazines.  Make the most out of your library visit by checking your book’s availability online first.  Most city or county libraries allow you to place a hold on a book, and they email you when the book is ready for pickup.
  11. Take less expensive vacations    Many frugal families splurge on the family vacation.  However, now is not the time to wipe out your savings for short term enjoyment.  It’s good to take a break – don’t forgo your vacation, but try something closer to home.  Consider camping and hiking – you get to experience nature, and learn a few skills at the same time.
  12. Make things last longer  Try to repair before you replace something, and find a way to repurpose your items.
  13. Let go of wasteful habits   Turn off appliances when not in use.  Guilty of this one – I have a bad habit of leaving the light in the closet on.  You don’t need to wash towels and sheets after just a couple of uses.  Unless you sweat heavily, you may not need to wash your hair everyday.  Combine your errands into one trip instead of spreading them out.  Stop eating out for lunch everyday and start bringing lunch from home.  These are only a few ideas to get started.  Don’t just do things because that’s how you’ve always done it.  Evaluate whether your hobbies are costing you way too much, and find more economical ways to get your materials.  Once you really think about your habits, you will find lots of ways to save.
  14. Find ways to lower your tax bill    There is no “one size fits all” advice for lessening the tax bite (legally of course), but we can all use a few tips.  See this article on how one couple manages their taxes
  15. Put the brakes on “lifestyle inflation”  If you are fortunate to get a nice raise this year, don’t increase your expenses in proportion to your income.  Put your new higher earnings to good use – pay off debt, add to your emergency fund or buy emergency supplies.

Do the above tips only if they make sense to you, and if they fit in with your overall lifestyle.  Keep up your prepping efforts, because they also help you in the long run.


© Apartment Prepper 2014



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  1. Good stuff.

    One thing I have found about downsizing or downgrading your living space though. You should consider your comfort level where you live, because in a round about way, a nicer place can save you money.

    What I mean is, I remember back in the 1990’s, I lived in a 1970’s style mobile home on a small parcel of land, and it was not fancy or “nice” by any means. It needed some work. At any rate, I paid around $500/mo mortgage, plus $125/mo in property tax and insurance, add on top of that, it was located about 10 miles out of town, and that cost me around another $100/mo in gas, not to mention extra wear and tear on the car.

    When I sold the place, I moved into town and rented a brand spankin’ new 2 bedroom 1125sf condo for $750/mo. All of my friends were like, “wow, how can you afford such high rent?” But really, it didn’t cost me anything more, since the mobile home was running me about the same, when factoring in mortgage, tax, insurance and extra gas. Not only that, my new place had a lower heating bill and since I was right in town, I found I walked almost everywhere rather than drove.

    But… the most significant thing I found was, by moving from a so-so place and into a nicer place, I simply enjoyed being home more often than I did before. My new place was nicely decorated, had a fireplace, had track lights to display my art work, a prep island in the kitchen, a walk-in closet in the bedroom, and it was all brand-new. It was, quite simply, a pleasure to be at home. And since it was a pleasure, I found I went out less, and invited people over more. After this, I moved to another town, and again, I downgraded back into a 1970’s/80’s style apartment, which wasn’t nearly so nice to live in… and again I found because I didn’t like to be home as much, I went out and spent more money “getting out of the house.” After that place, I again moved back into a nicer and newer apartment for more money, and again, I stayed at home more because I found it more pleasant to be in the place.

    This is perhaps a personal quirk of mine, but I have always found that if there is ONE thing to spend a bit more on, it is your monthly rent – if it gets you a nicer place. $100 or $150/month really isn’t that much money on a daily basis – only $3 to $5/day. If you move into a crappy place and find you get restless and “want to get out of there” 3 or 4 times a week, to go to the pub or to the movies, or out for dinner with a friend, you will quickly burn through the extra rent money you would have spent on a nicer place.

    At any rate, I guess what I am trying to say is, I would much rather down-grade my car to save $150/month than my apartment. I don’t spend fifteen hours a day in my car, after all.

    1. Hi jeb, That is a good point – deciding what to downgrade is a personal choice that may work for one but not the other. Certainly would not want to downgrade to the point of being uncomfortable where one lives, or move to a high crime area and the like. Thanks for the comment!

  2. I suffered a forced downsize when I lost a job, had a bad motorcycle accident (8 broken bones and a lot of lost skin) and had my wife walk out at the same time. I got raked over the coals by the court system and had to live a very low level life. It was a very unpleasant time, but I learned to live with almost no income. While I never got married and never will again I am doing very well in my self-employed business, it took years to get to this point. But I still live a fairly frugal debt free life and will NEVER go into debt for any reason. Garage sales and thrift stores are your friend when you want to or are forced to save money.

    Living a simple but very happy life where I keep excessive spending down has allowed me freedom to work less hours then most people and still build a silver nest egg for retirement. I also have a lot of prepping supplies, and food put away.

    The debt free life should not be understated in it’s value to your piece of mind. And it gives you the ability to have freedom to enjoy life. I use to punch a time clock (Time-clocks are truly an evil thing that sucks the life out of you) but since I became self-employed (1995) I have the ability to set my own hours and can take days off to go camping and not worry about loosing work or a job. Living below my income level has made this freedom possible. I try real hard to never work over 4-days a week, only during the spring busy time do I ever work 6-days a week and while the money is good, I hate the extra hours. I use all the extra money to buy silver.


    1. Hi Chuck – Sorry you had some difficulties but it sounds like you came out a winner. The simple life if the way to go – all this consumerism leads to stress and heartache. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Excellent ideas. My husband and I are retired and we are debt free. We never made lots of money, he worked for the fire department and I worked part time in a hospital.
    We now own a rent house, drive older cars (and will never buy a new car, and we always pay cash). We stayed in our home for 35 years and paid it off early. We just plan ahead for expenses and fun. We even were able to take vacations that lasted weeks and several times we vacationed for 2-3 months…just took planning. When other women buy $500 handbags, I bought $40 ones and got lots of compliments on the cheaper one.
    I admit I feel a little smug when I see our family and friends who have big credit card debts, drive new cars, take expensive vacations, had to move up to the next new home, borrowed money for their kids’ educations……………they are still working and complaining about how expensive it is to live and they can’t retire.
    Looking back, I can’t think of one thing our family needed or missed just because we lived on a budget. That new car we didn’t buy in 2009 and that new home we only looked at back in the 90’s………..really glad we stepped back, took a deep breathe and walked away…..we already had a good car and house. And I can’t begin to tell you how wonderful it is going to be when we move to a small town, this year, and pay cash for our new home!

    1. Hi olivia, That is wonderful you have been frugal all your life, and now you are reaping the benefits of it. Best wishes on your upcoming move to a small town. Thanks for your comment.

  4. Great list. I love all of your money-saving posts!

    Most libraries have interlibrary loans. This lets you get books from any library in their system. If your search for a book fails, look into interlibrary loans.

    The old standby: Shop the grocery store specials and stock up when prices are low. It amazes me that Spaghetti sauce regularly goes for $3 but only $1 when on sale. To take advantage, you need cash reserves. Buy like 20 at a time.

    Sell your unwanted stuff on Or if you must sell a gun, look at I agree downsize before you must to get the best price on your used items.

    1. Hi Charlie, I agree, some cash reserves are needed to take advantage of good deals. These are all great tips-thank you!

  5. Downsizing to a smaller house or apartment makes a lot of sense for older couples whose kids have moved out. Do you really need that 5 bedroom house any more? You might be able to sell the bigger house and buy a smaller house for less than what you just made, putting some money away in the bank.

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