10 Frugalfying Ways to get to $1 Million
No matter how much you increase your income, you'll never increase your net worth if you spend it all on flatscreen TVs, double monitors, a swish home office, or a pimped-out ride. But the good news is that with a few minor adjustments to your lifestyle, you can set up your finances to get to $1 million (or more) without killing yourself or your pocketbook.
Let's take a look at 10 easy ways to frugalfy yourself and get to $1 million. But first, let's take a little look at how we're going to get there:
- Long-term. Let's assume that you're starting with $0 in investments, and that you have 25 years to get to $1 million. If either of those are wrong, you'll need to play with a calculator such as this one to get the right numbers for you. But the general principles will still apply.
- Automatic. How we'll get there is by making some adjustments in the way we live, and take the savings and automatically deposit them into an investment account. We'll also assume a 10% interest in an index fund. Again, the numbers can be played with.
- YMMV. The actual changes you make could also vary -- the ones we provide here are just ideas -- an example to get you started.
OK, so let's take a look at the 10 Frugalfying Ways to get to $1 million:
- Make your own coffee. Instead of buying that Starbucks latte at $4 per pop, brew your own at home and bring it in with a thermos. It's so much cheaper (and with a good creamer, tastes just as good), and you help the environment by not throwing out all those disposable cups! Savings: $120 ($4 a day) per month.
- Brown bag it to work. Instead of buying a $6-$12 lunch every day, bring in last night's leftovers or a sandwich and some healthy snacks (fruits and veggies!) at a cost of $1-2. Plus, get a lot more done at work during your quiet lunch hour, and you can leave early! Savings: $180 ($6 a day) per month.
- Watch DVDs instead of going to the movies. Not only will you save $5-6 on the ticket, but you also don't have to pay $10 for overpriced concessions. And you can be much more comfortable on your own couch. Get Netflix or a similar service with a monthly fee, and your DVD rental can be super convenient at a price of less than $1 per movie! Let's assume that you go to the movies once a week or more ($7 ticket) and get popcorn and a drink (about $8). If you go with your partner, this could be much more. Savings: $60 per month.
- Cut out cable. This might sound drastic to many people, but my family cut it out and we don't miss it a bit. And if you have Netflix or a similar DVD service, you still get to watch some great stuff without all the commercials. Better yet, read! Cable costs vary in each area, but in mine it's about $60. Savings: $60 per month.
- Eat in more. How often do you eat out? Depending on where you eat, it could cost anywhere from $6 to $30 (or more). And eating at home is not only much cheaper, but is much healthier as well. If you eat out 5 or more times per week, we're talking about some major cash here. Let's assume you eat in 5 times more per week at $10 savings per pop. Savings: $200 per month.
- Quit the gym. Face it -- you don't really use it. If you do, you can probably do it much cheaper at home with a set of dumbbells and a barbell. If you do aerobic exercise, the local park, or your neighborhood streets, are free! Savings: about $40 per month.
- Drive less. Gas prices (and auto maintenance) are really high. Commute with a friend or family member, consolidate your errands into one errands day, walk to your corner store instead of drive, and try cycling to work a couple days a week. I'm sure you can come up with other ideas. If you can drive less, you can easily save $20-40 in gas each week. And help the environment and get healthier at the same time! There are no losers here. Savings: about $150 per month.
- Rent. Sure, everyone wants to own a home. Until they struggle to meet their mortgage, or see how much they have to pay in insurance and taxes, or have to maintain a house on their own. Owning comes with a much higher price tag, with a higher mortgage and other costs. And when you factor in interest payments, you are paying three times the house's value just to get a little equity. Invest the difference instead and you'll have much more equity. This is a biggie. I don't know what it could save you each month, as housing and rent prices vary greatly per region. But for myself, I easily save $1,000 per month by renting. Let's be conservative though. Savings: $500 per month.
- Reduce power consumption. A few simple changes, such as using CFLs instead of regular light bulbs, or reducing your heating or cooling costs, using less hot water, shutting off your appliances and lights more, etc., and you can make big changes to your power bill. Savings: about $50 per month.
- Have sex. OK, this might not be an obvious way to save money, but I threw this in to make the rest of it more fun. To qualify as a frugal measure, though, you shouldn't pay for the sex. Find someone willing to do it for free. It's cheap exercise, it's great fun, and it's the cheapest form of entertainment there is. Savings: unlimited.
- Bonus. Top 10 lists are too constricting, so we'll add a bonus tip: buy a late-model used car instead of a new one. If you can, pay in cash, saving you thousands in interest payments. Savings: $200 per month.
Total saved with all of the above options: $1,560 per month. If you took this amount and invested it, at 10% return, you'd have more than $2 million after 25 years.
- You choose. You only need to choose half these options to get $1 million -- pick the ones that you think you can do, make them add up to $800 per month. Or substitute others where you can cut back (let's say magazines, or video games, or using store brands instead of brand names).
- Make it gradual. You don't need to make these frugal changes all at once. Do one or two per month, and it won't seem hard at all.
- Make it automatic. Now take the amount you save each month, divide it by two, and automatically deduct that bi-weekly amount from your paycheck and deposit it into an investment account. Again, make it automatic! Don't count on your willpower to make the transfer. And don't even think about touching it. To make this work, you should save up an emergency fund first, but after a couple of months of building up this fund, switch your transfers to an index fund investment account.
- Watch it grow. Every few months, check on your account. You should see it growing at a very satisfactory rate. Every time you get an income increase, or cut back on more expenses, put the difference into your automatic investment transfers. Now sit back, and enjoy the climb to becoming a millionaire.
Read more posts by Leo Babauta at Zen Habits, including popular ones on Zen To Done: The Ultimate Simple Productivity System, Double Your Productivity, keeping your inbox empty, clearing your desk, becoming an early riser, and the Top 20 Motivation Hacks.