You know all the common savings tips: cut the cord on cable and your landline phone, pack your own lunch for work, stop buying $5 Starbucks lattes, quit smoking, have your spouse cut your hair.
All good advice worth taking. But if you’ve heard it before, you’re either already following it, or choosing not to do so. So what else can you do to save money, beyond the easy and the obvious?
Try the following ideas to move the needle on your savings. They aren’t necessarily easy—but they can save you thousands of dollars a years, and in some cases thousands every month.
1. Move Overseas
You can live a better quality of life overseas for a fraction of the cost of living. I know, because I do it.
The thought never even occurs to the average American, but today most knowledge workers can telecommute. That means they can live and work from anywhere in the world, no longer shackled to the high-cost-of-living city where their employer is based.
My wife and I live entirely on her teacher’s salary, funneling all of my income into investments. Investments that generate passive income, helping us near financial freedom in our 30s.
Meanwhile, we visit an average of ten countries a year. Or at least we did, before the coronavirus pandemic temporarily skidded international travel to a halt. We spend several months of the year in the US visiting family, and the rest in South America.
It helps that my wife’s employer provides us with free housing. But even if we had to pay for our own, housing in many parts of the world costs far less than in the US.
2. Score Free Housing with a Live-In Flip
Imagine you buy a fixer-upper that costs you $1,500 per month as a mortgage payment, or $18,000 per year. You spend the next year fixing it up in your spare time, as a fun and profitable hobby. You then sell it for a modest profit of $20,000, giving you effectively free housing for that year.
If you keep the property for at least one year, you pay the lower capital gains tax rate on your profits rather than the full income tax rate. Better yet, live in it for at least two years and you can avoid capital gains taxes on the first $250,000 ($500,000 if you’re married) through the primary residence exclusion.
Known as a live-in flip, this model lets you use owner-occupied financing with a low down payment, and lets you tinker and upgrade the property on your own schedule.
3. House Hack
If you don’t like working around the house, you can also score free housing through house hacking.
That could mean the traditional multifamily model of house hacking, of course. Or you could get more creative, and find ways to house hack single-family suburban homes. A few ideas include housemates, renting out storage space, renting out parking (whether for cars, boats, or RVs), setting up a basement- or above-garage apartment, building a detached “granny pod,” or something else entirely.
Because if you want to reach financial freedom in five years or even ten, you need a massive savings rate. Aim to live on half your income at most, and better yet, aim to save and invest 60% or 70% of your income.
That kind of rapid wealth-building leaves no room for “average” or “normal” behavior like blowing 30% of your income on housing.
4. Ditch Your Car
The average car in the US costs $9,282 per year to own and operate. That includes costs such as insurance, maintenance and repairs, fuel, parking, and the car payments themselves.
Once again, it’s hard to achieve a 50%, 60%, or 70%+ savings rate when you’re blowing nearly $10,000 a year on a car.
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