12 Ideas for Living a Big, Full Life on a Small, Modest Budget

Even for the cost-conscious, the good life is within reach. You just have to be smart about it. With a little bit of creativity, financial savvy and dedication you can enjoy the finer things in life without breaking the bank. Try these strategies for a bright, budget-friendly future.

1. Attend free events. Bookmark your city newspaper or alt-weekly’s event listings and check in regularly for free events. You’ll likely find something for any mood you might be in, including free concerts, literary events, meet ups, comedy shows, theater performances and more.

2. Become a library and park district regular. These days, libraries offer more than just books. You can rent movies and music, snag free museum tickets, take computer classes, rent sports equipment and many more surprising things. Park districts also offer free and heavily discounted classes such as yoga, barre, interval training, rock climbing, gourmet cooking, ballroom dancing and other activities that would cost you much more elsewhere.

3. Visit friends in other cities. Vacation just became a whole lot more affordable. If you visit cities with friends who can host you, not only do you save on accommodation costs, you get to spend quality time with people you care about.

4. Do a staycation. There are countless things on your local bucket list, but there never seems to be time to get to them. Maybe you secretly envy the tourists you see every day, the ones snapping pictures on that amazing architecture tour or waiting excitedly outside that musical you’ve been dying to see. If you opt for a staycation, you can put a portion of the money you saved on airfare and lodging toward splurging on activities in your own city.

5. Think quality over quantity. Don’t eat out every night. Save the money you would have spent at mediocre take out joint and treat yourself to the occasional meal out at an excellent restaurant. When shopping for clothing, buy high quality staples that will last you a long time.

6. Feast in the daylight. Foodies, don’t despair. You don’t have to say goodbye to fine dining – just go during lunchtime or happy hour when prices are deeply discounted.

7. Go to the farmers’ market. If you love Whole Foods (aka Whole Paycheck) but don’t want to go broke in your pursuit of high quality produce, check out your farmer’s market. You can shop seasonally, take advantage of surplus discounts and support your local farmers. If you live in an area where farmer’s markets shut down in the winter, consider getting a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture subscription, that allows you to buy food directly from a local farmer. Many CSAs deliver a box of produce to your doorstep weekly.

8. Exercise in the great outdoors. Cancel your expensive gym membership and enjoy exercising for free in nature. Not only does the fresh air surpass the sweat smells of the gym, but experiencing the beauty of the outdoors is good for your brain, relieves stress and helps you concentrate, according to Psychology Today.

9. Get designer for less. Just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you need to give up your sense of style. Just be savvy and know your options. Deal sites like Gilt.com and RueLaLa.com can get you designer goods for less. Online designer thrift stores like ThredUp.com feature like-new or gently used designer clothing items at the fraction of the cost. Groupon.com gets you discounts from your favorite brands. And, outlet malls work great for folks who prefer brick and mortar stores.

10. Host a clothing swap. Invite your friends to come over with high quality, stylish clothes they no longer wear and watch your wardrobe get an update in the span of a single party.

11. Be a beauty school drop in. Local beauty schools offer dramatically discounted hair styling. Supervised students training at schools like the Aveda Institute provide stylish, trendy hair cuts for as little as $10. Book in advance as they can be in high demand.

12. Move to a city or neighborhood with more affordable housing. The general rule of thumb says that no more than 30 percent of your income should go toward housing costs, but in cities like New York or Los Angeles, housing costs eat up a much bigger portion for those making low to moderate incomes. Research neighborhoods, cities and towns with more reasonable housing costs and good opportunities for career advancement. This is a big decision, but if you pull it off well, moving to a more affordable city can bring tremendous financial freedom.

Living within your means is important, but so is living a fun, fulfilling life. As you work to achieve both, remember to let your core values guide you. If you know building up your savings will give you the financial peace of mind you’ve been craving for years, maybe a more drastic adjustment, like moving to a more affordable neighborhood is in order. And if adventure is also deeply important, maybe by cutting back on housing costs or fashion expenses, you’ll be able to afford that ski vacation you’ve been dreaming about for years. The good news is you don’t have to choose between financial security and living your best life. You can do both.

Image via Unsplash/Brooke Cagle

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