Living Well on Less

There are as many reasons for working at home as there are telecommuters. We’re a varied bunch who share one thing in common – the desire to have an alternative work style.

Whether your desire stems from wanting to be at home for your kids, an utter disgust with a long commute, an obsession with a hobby that could be turned into a business, or the simple craving for a more flexible schedule; there’s another way to help you reach that work/life balance that should not be overlooked.

Lower your cost of living!

Making money is important, don’t get me wrong. But saving money is equally as important. The more money you shave off expenses = the less money you actually have to make. It’s basic accounting. The money you bring in has to exceed the money you send out in order to survive and even thrive.

So if you’re already working at home, or if you’d like to ditch the cubicle and join the slipper-commuters, take a good hard look at where you can cut your expenses. Telecommuting already cuts some of your working expenses, but there are a lot of creative ways to be frugal. And contrary to popular belief, being frugal doesn’t mean doing without. It’s all about changing the way you think and live, just like telecommuting is all about changing the way you think and work.

When I started working at home, I was surprised how much our cost of living decreased. I had no idea how much my job was actually costing me. I learned quickly that I could earn less and not really feel the crunch at all. And after a decade with that outlook, I thought I’d become pretty darned frugal. I shop at thrift stores for certain things, we never make a large purchase without leaving the store and discussing it over a meal, I’ve kept the same car for the past 10 years (which is easy to do when you don’t commute to work every day), and we don’t carry any consumer debt at all.

I make more money now than I did in the early days after leaving my job but I’ve continued to carry out those same early-day habits. And it’s a good thing. My husband works in an industry that is really feeling the crunch in this economy, so our overall income has once again slightly decreased for the time being. Sure, we could look for ways to earn more money, but given what I learned years ago, I know I’d much rather look for ways to cut our current expenses.

So I did, and I was able to shave off quite a bit right from the top, which inspired me to look for other ways to cut costs without really feeling the crunch. I searched Google for things like “living well on less” and “cutting my living expenses” and began browsing for ideas. I brushed up on some reading, and started to think outside the box again…

What I’ve been reading

I find it helps to get into the right frame of mind before looking for ways to creatively cut corners. These are all super reads for getting into the money-saving mood:

Be Frugal: Living Well on Less Money

“Frugal people are careful shoppers, mindful of their money, look for sales, and search out good deals. They are of the mind that their money is better off in their pockets rather than someone else’s. They learn through trial and error. They teach their children the value of the dollar, and hopefully raise frugal children… Living well on less does not mean doing without at all. It means that you can have more for less money, because you have learned to be wiser with your money.”

Frugal Dad’s 75 Money Saving Tips For Surviving A Recession

“Regardless of how economists refer to this economy, recession or no recession, people are hurting, financially. $4.00 a gallon gasoline, rising food prices, declining home values, and a deflating dollar are combining to make it tough to stick to a budget.”

Green Foot Steps

“I believe that we often compromise our health and happiness because we are sold products and lifestyle choices which line other people’s pockets but don’t really benefit us. We are not only missing out on the best things in life – the free things – we’re wasting money too, money we have had to work hard for…. The more I look into alternative and green lifestyles, the more I find that there are lots of ways of caring for ourselves in simple, ecologically sound ways – ways which are usually much less expensive too.”

Living With Less: 8 Reasons to Embrace the Simple Life

“Your family and lifestyle becomes the priority as opposed to being focused on earning more, buying more and looking after more stuff. You start thinking about what’s important to you and not what others or the media say is important to you. You create a thoughtful and meaningful lifestyle that offers satisfaction to the core of your being.”

Lighten Your Load, Living Well on Less – (A $20 eBook)

“Much of what it costs us to live our lives is the result of attitudes and mindsets that have little to do with money in any direct way. If we’re all honest, we have to admit that much of what determines the cost of living in contemporary America is the desire to impress others. It’s what drives our decisions on the type of house we live in, the car we drive, the clothes we wear, the entertainment we engage in and possibly the vacations we take, even if it is unspoken during the decision making process. While conformity to the immediate world around us may be comforting at some level, it is also categorically a very expensive way to live life, especially in a rich society. You will need to stop seeing yourself as fitting or filling some image of the person you want others to see, and instead to concentrate on being the person who you really are. Very fortunately, that tends to be a much less expensive way to live since it requires far fewer costly props.”

Changes I’ve Made Recently

Besides shaving money off our monthly expenses immediately, I’ve also been having quite a bit of fun looking for creative changes we could make. Here are a few examples of what we’ve been doing lately…

  • Mom and I chat via our cell phones every day.
    My mom was about to renew her cell phone plan when it dawned on me that I could look into adding a phone to our plan versus her renewal costs. The difference? A $20 savings a month for mom. (I know, it doesn’t really help me, but helping family members is just as good). Of course, with a cell phone or other expense like that it would have to be someone you really trust!
  • We like to eat out.
    And we still eat out, but we only go where kids eat free or for $0.99, we use coupons and purchase ourselves gift cards for the restaurant if they’re offering a deal, and we all order water to drink. We should be drinking water anyway, right!
  • We like to watch movies.
    We’ve been renting them for years since we’d rather stay at home than go to the theater (also a money saver in and of itself). So I looked into Netflix. At $8.99 a month for unlimited viewing of on demand and one disc, it’s cheaper than renting 2 movies a month. (And we’re more likely to rent 4 at a time from the movie rental store at least once a month if not twice a month). Sure, the movies on demand aren’t the newest releases, but we’ve discovered there are a lot of really good movies we haven’t seen.
  • The kids like to have fun.
    I have an 11-year-old and a 9-year-old who love going to the mall, visiting the arcade, spending the day at the zoo… What kids don’t? What adults don’t for that matter. But when you’re cutting costs, you’ve got to consider ways alternate ways to have just as much fun without spending the money.

    My kids are still young enough that the idea of playing board games, working a puzzle, going on a nature hike, or equally “frugal” ideas are just as much fun (if not more so) than hitting the game room to drop tokens like they were pennies. And, for the record, game rooms are one of the most expensive entertainment choices you could possibly make. If you’ve ever been to one, you know that you can easily drop $20 (or more) in 30 minutes (or less).

    One of my kids’ favorite things to do is to have a campfire and make smores. We live out in the country so that’s easy enough for us to do. We have the pit. We have the long forks. We just need to gather some sticks and twigs from the woods, grab a bag of marshmallows, a box of graham crackers, and some chocolate bars from the cupboard (which are in stock if we’re even thinking about a campfire anytime soon), and we’re good to go. Preparations take us all afternoon, we’re excited by early evening, and we often spend hours around the campfire telling ghost stories and talking about the last campfire we had.

If you’ve got some creative ways to live well on less, please share them in the comments!
I’m always looking for new ideas… And you could be, too.


  1. This write-up is very useful for home-based moms and families. Teaches frugal living and its benefit. Well done! 🙂

  2. I am truly inspired by your story here. I really love it and should try to be like you somehow. It’s really important to save some money and try to spend it very wisely.

  3. Hiya Lisa – enjoyed this post immensely ($4 a gallon of gas … we in the UK just wish!!!!!). Your absolutely right about saving money by working from home and it’s easier to save a dollar than to earn it.


  4. I think the important thing is to set a household budget, and stick to it. In my home, my wife and I try usually to take out cash from the bank every month for food, entertainment and clothing purposes, and only use debit/credit cards for paying bills and/or large purchases. That way we keep better track of when we are going over our budget.

    One thing that I find overwhelming us in the modern day is the telecommunications bill. It used to be we all had one phone bill. Now we have landline bills, cell phone bills, cable/satellite bills and High Speed Internet Access.

    Unfortunately, for a work at home person, cutting down on telecommunications is not really an option. We have cut down on entertainment by getting the minimum cable channels to get reception. While we briefly saved money by using Voice Over IP service instead of AT&T, we found the service horrible and had to bite the bullet and go back to the Plain Old Telephone Service.

    I was surprised at how much of the money I used to waste was from the cumulative effect of ‘small purchases’. Coffee at Starbucks- eating out everyday at lunch-little gadgets and knick-knacks/gadgets that we really didn’t need.

    We have thus cut down on wasteful spending and made it easier to sock away more money in savings.

  5. Great article summing up what I’ve been telling Dear Hubby for years – “Honey, it’s not how much you make that’s important – it’s how much you KEEP”.

    A couple of things we do:

    – I switch off the hot water heater (at the breaker) when I’m sure I won’t be needing it for laundry, etc during the day. Ours only takes a short time to reheat for dinner, showers, etc. I turn it off at night after the last shower & leave the breaker box door open to REMIND me to turn it back on the next day near dinner time). Even if we do this only occasionally, it can add up.

    – we always split meals when we dine out. We will decide on 1 entree (that usually comes with a couple of sides – we try to get healthy veggies), and then usually add on 1 additional side (soup, salad, etc). Though we both COULD eat more, we find that we are usually satisfied, and then grateful that we didn’t eat more. And we both drink water.

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