5 Lifestyle Changes That Help Me Aggressively Pay Down Debt / by Jennifer Chan

 

As you know, I'm one for indulging in little treats -- overpriced Americanos at Starbucks and the occasional sushi take-out when I'm too lazy to cook. But I still, somehow, fit it all within my budget. The number one reason I’m still able to treat myself and put almost $1,500 a month towards my debt is because I lower the amount of my fixed expenses that I have.

Think big picture, and worry less about daily costs.

There are 5 things I’ve specifically reduced spending on:

1. Housing

I live in a junior one bedroom with my girlfriend. Ever since we decided to move in together, we’ve always lived in this particular apartment. It’s normal for us. We don’t feel suffocated, but instead the space feels cozy and it encourages us to declutter on a regular basis.

You know how Torontonians pay 70% of their net income on housing? I pay roughly 23.6% of my net income on rent.

It’s affordable, close to the subway, and has a remodeled kitchen and bathroom. What more could we ask for?

2. Cell phone plan

A few months ago I switched to Koodo, the cheaper brand of Telus. I also decided to cut out a GB of data, since everywhere I go (including my office) has wifi. I went from paying $116 to $52 every month (tax included). All it took was a 15 minute trip to the mall.

3. Transit

Over the past summer, I sold my car. It was in need of regular repairs, although it could have probably still worked fine for another year or so. I had always had a car for the past ten years, but since working downtown I hardly drove and it became too expensive to have it just sit in a parking garage. Once I sold my car, I freed up an extra $150 per month, as well as eliminating my car maintenance fund. I now walk or take public transit.

4. Meat

Tofu, beans, lentils and chickpeas are all terrific sources of protein and cost a fraction of any meat product. I understand that this won’t work for everyone, but I encourage you to incorporate some of this into your diet. I’m not vegan, but I do eat vegan at home and remain dairy-free 99% of the time. Not only does that make me feel much better, but it also frees up money in my grocery budget for fresh produce (and bags of coffee).

5. Alcohol

I drink the equivalent of two glasses of wine a month. I only purchase alcohol to drink at home if I'm having people over (I enjoy hosting dinner parties). I'm also lucky because my girlfriend's parents enjoy bottling their own wine and always gives us a few bottles whenever we see them. 

This doesn’t mean that I decline invitations to spend time with my friends, it just means that I spend my money on other things when I’m present with them -- like food or non-alcoholic beverages. It’s not that I necessarily do this to save money, because I don’t. I just know that I don't receive the same level of happiness that others receive from alcohol. I would rather save that money and spend it on things that I know will make me really happy.

I Don't Want to Be Normal

Some might say that it's weird that I hardly eat meat, rarely drink and voluntarily sold a car that was still in working condition. At first, I was worried about all the criticisms that I would receive (and have received), but then a magical thing happened: I stopped caring to be normal.

Does this make me uncool? I don’t care. But I do know that by knowing what I like - and only find "meh" - I inadvertently save money because I’m not pretending that I receive the same amount of joy on everything I'm able to consume.There's nothing more terrifying to me than to be swimming in consumer debt, a big mortgage, or living paycheck-to-paycheck (despite a comfortable income).  To me, it's just one big indication that I've accepted a high-consumer lifestyle.

A willingness to be slightly uncomfortable, and do things out of your comfort zone, can reap great financial rewards over the long-term.

Should we choose to live against the grain, we'll find that more room will appear in your bank account for things that bring real meaning in your life. That's how I choose to spend my money, and so far it's worked out great.