“Living on Less,” Ensign, Feb. 1995, 71–72
Unexpected death, disability, divorce, or unemployment may force you or your family to live on less. Maybe you are considering cutting back on spending because you are planning to retire, returning to school, going on a mission, or quitting work to care for a new baby. Some families want to pump more into savings or reduce spending so they can get out of debt. For one reason or another, almost all of us experience living on a reduced income at some times. Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles commented: “One of life’s great lessons is to teach us that what we do with what we have is more important than what we have. Limited budgets can teach us sacrifice, self-reliance, restraint, and personal management” (Ensign, Sept. 1982, p. 75). If you are forced to or want to live on less, the following strategies can help you spend less—a lot less.
Spend Less on Transportation
Where applicable, sell the extra car. By the time you add together the price you paid for the car, insurance, gas, repairs, parking fees, and registration, your car costs between twenty and forty cents a mile to drive. If you sell the car that is most expensive to operate, you can save several thousand dollars each year.
Buy a used car instead of a new one. New cars lose about 20 percent of their value the moment they are driven off of the dealer’s lot. After three years, most cars are worth less than half of their purchase price. A carefully selected, low-maintenance, three- to five-year-old car can last many more years if maintained properly. Consumer magazines can help you identify cars with lower-than-average operating costs and repair expenses. When repair work is needed, seek out repairs that are guaranteed for the life of your car. Many repair jobs such as brakes, shocks, and mufflers are guaranteed for as long as you own the car.
You may find that some of your needs do not require the use of a car. Try using public transportation, forming a car pool, biking, or walking.
Reduce Clothing Expenses
Recycle clothing. Go through your closets and take out articles of clothing and pairs of shoes that your family has not worn for some time. Donate these to Deseret Industries or your local thrift shop. While there, check for items you and your family need.
Buy new items on sale after working out a year’s clothing budget. Prices are often lower at the end of the season.
Exercise and eat nutritiously to maintain your normal or ideal weight and clothing size.
Fix It Yourself
When something breaks, see if you can tackle the repair yourself first. If you are not able to repair the item, compare a professional’s estimate of repairs with the price of replacing the item. Use the “three-thirty” rule. Before you make a large purchase, get three price estimates and then consider waiting thirty days to see if you still need the item.
You might share costs with a family member or neighbor. If you make a group purchase, decide as a group where the item will be stored and agree that all parties will share in repair costs.
Focus on conservation. Insulate attics and exposed water pipes. Conservation also means turning down thermostats, turning off unnecessary lights, closing off unoccupied rooms, taking shorter baths and showers, and developing other good habits. Local public utilities often conduct free energy audits of your home; some even offer a do-it-yourself home energy examination.
Thrifty Family Fun
Rediscover your community. Every year tourists probably spend a lot of money to visit the area where you live. They come to enjoy activities and points of interest that your family may have never tried. Visit your local visitor information center or chamber of commerce and collect brochures about places to visit in your area. Visiting and sight-seeing can be a fun, inexpensive way to spend a vacation or weekend outing.
Provide children with activities that don’t require expensive equipment. For example, use the local public library to borrow books, videos, and music. The library’s resources can keep your family happily occupied.
Living on less can strengthen family ties. As we worked as a family to reduce expenses, we found many opportunities to teach children responsibility while also sharing special times working together. We learned to have greater faith in the gospel and to rely more on the Lord and each other. Living on less presents many opportunities to refocus priorities and find happiness in simple things.—Jerry Mason, Lubbock, Texas