When you live paycheck to paycheck, living cheap is the only way to survive. Sometimes you have to get creative, but it’s not hard to do!

There is no way around the fact that I’m poor. I have a job, but life has an odd way of seeing to it that I never get ahead. It used to frustrate me, but I realized emotions have no factor in increasing my bank account.

I’ve read the books of financial experts who talk about paying cash for everything instead of using credit cards, paying off high interest balances, getting a second job, living below your means and so forth. These are good tips, but most of this advice isn’t practical for the average person.

There are those who will say there are always ways to better yourself – education, skills, talent, or whatever else is out there to earn a better living. I don’t disagree, but these things involve universal alignment, also known as being in the right place at the right time. And they take time.

While you’re working toward bettering yourself, you’re still going to be broke.

I’m always trying to better myself, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen. As such, I’m forced to live a life of creative financing.  I’ve learned how you can live a normal life without making drastic changes, but you need to do some abnormal things.

If you come to my house, bring a jacket because I keep my thermostat at 62 degrees (or less). The reason for this is because utility companies estimate your energy bill increases roughly 3% for every degree you raise your thermostat. The same rule applies for air conditioning. I keep the house a little hotter in the summer.

Over the course of the year, this really adds up. I’m willing to be a little chilly or sweaty in order to save fifty dollars or more a month. It’s also important to make sure your heating and cooling systems are working properly. Change the filters regularly. You’ll save even more money when they’re running right.

I’m a single male, but I love using coupons. I can’t live without them. I’m often made fun of for doing so, but I don’t care. If I can save a few dollars each month, why wouldn’t I?

If you don’t get coupons in the mail or in the Sunday paper, just go online. There are numerous websites containing discount codes for online purchases. They vary in value, but it’s not uncommon to find as much as 50% off. I love pizza, but I rarely, if ever, pay full menu price. I know I could save even more money if I stopped this habit, but it’s the one vice I allow myself.

Even if pizza isn’t your thing, other restaurants routinely offer deals. If you don’t have a coupon when dining out, ask about what deals they have. Sometimes specials aren’t advertised. This is a great tactic if you’re planning a party or just buying one item.

Just say “What can you do for me?”

This works in restaurants and in some cases, grocery stores too. You just have to be willing to speak up a little in order to save a little. For the best results, ask for a manager. 

For things you need at home like phone, internet, cable TV and other amenities, you don’t have to pay full price there either. Most of the time, if you ask for a lower price you’ll get it. (Read my article titled “The Unethical World We Live In”).

Look at sites like Groupon too. They have many deals on dining which can save you big money at restaurants and stores. Even big box stores like Walmart and Target offer online discount codes. You can get the same items as in the store, but you’ll sometimes save 5%, 10% or more just by ordering online.

To be thrifty, you also need to learn the word “generic”.

Store brands are comparable to name brand, and it some cases they are actually the exact same thing but far less expensive. Look for quality, not a name. If you are insistent about having a name brand item (shoes, purses, perfume, clothing, etc.), shop an outlet store. You’ll find the same stuff but at substantially discounted prices.

Another option is a thrift store. You’d be amazed at what you can find. Some stores are better than others, but it’s not uncommon to find brand new, or like new items in these stores (even name brand items). Your dollar will go a long way with clothes, toys and miscellaneous household items.

For large purchases like appliances, the same principals apply. Learn to price match and negotiate. If one store knows another is offering a lower price, they’ll often try to beat it in order to earn your business.

Even if you’re buying a car, you need to know how to get the most for your money. When you don’t have much, you need to stretch those dollars out.

Where you keep your money matters too…

Many banks charge anywhere from $3.00 – $20.00 per month just for having an account. There is no reason you should ever be paying a fee to your bank to have an account. They should be paying YOU. If you open an account, read the terms. If they want YOU to pay, run away.

When you’re broke you won’t be earning much on interest, but there are banks who offer great incentives and promotions. Credit unions are much better than banks and often offer better promotions to maximize your money. Always shop around to find the best place for your money.

These are simple things you do put more money in your pocket. Some will argue saying “it’s too much trouble to do all that”. It does take time and a bit of effort, but when you’re broke, every penny counts. For me it’s worth it.

What do YOU do to save money? Drop a note in the comments below.