How I Live Comfortably on 50% of my Income and 6 Ways to Optimize Your Own Life

Have you ever seen people talking on the internet or social media about how they live on half of their income or less? For a long time, I didn’t think this was actually possible (unless you made over 100k) and these people had to be exaggerating. My main problem was that I couldn’t see HOW they were doing this to replicate their process (I’ve noticed there are lots of big ideas shared, but usually a lack of specifics). Now that I’ve been doing it for the last two years, myself, I’d like to share what that looks like specifically and how it can be possible if you make less than six figures.

First things first: I do think you have to have a few ducks in a row before this will be feasible.

  1. You probably need to make at least $55,000 a year to have a number big enough that you could reasonably tuck half away (or even 30%+)– also this will adjust depending on the area you live in. I live in North Florida.
  2. You probably need to have a partner or a roommate that you can share your cost of living expenses with. Any amount of money (even if it’s $35,000) is going to go much further if you can split your main expenses in half
  3. You probably need to have little to no debt that you’re paying on.

Here are my six brain shifts I’ve had and some tactics on how to make this work:

Optimize your spending and expenses

  • Set a realistic budget that includes can’t-go-over-this-number limits for all of your must-pay-for things as well as categories for those flux things (fun money, gifts, etc). See my personal budget with real numbers here if you like real numbers.
  • Be open-minded about your spending – consider generic options, MVNOs like Mint, being a one-car-household and less common ways of cutting down your outgoing dollars
  • Shop/reshop service-type things regularly that tend to go up on renewal like insurance, internet, etc. (pro tip: set recurring calendar reminders)

Mix high and low and be okay with “good enough” sometimes

Everything in your life doesn’t have to be top of the line or the most expensive version. Take some time to think about the things that truly matter to you and spend more on those things and be okay for “good enough” if it’s not top of your priority list. I’m talking getting a Toyota vs. a Tesla, buying the store brand of pretty much anything (including food), using renter idea decoration ideas vs. the permanent/very expensive decoration ideas targeted at “real homeowners” — things like that.

My personal home is a mix of mostly thrifted and antiqued treasures as well as funky new things that suit my taste/budget. Just because it’s not new, doesn’t necessarily make it less expensive (ahem, antique stores) but a good mix and match of all things in life presents a unique balance that is usually difficult to replicate (taste/decor wise) and feels uniquely you.

Upgrade/Invest in tools and systems that lower expenses

Hybrid cars – I just bought a new Toyota Prius (I wanted to buy used since that is the general rule on how to save on cars but because the car market has been crazy for the last couple of years, buying new made more sense for me than paying $20k for something with close to 100k miles on it)

Fluorescents– We made the switch to fluorescent bulbs a couple of years ago. It’s hard to compare electricity bills side by side since the rates have gone up quite a lot in the last year and I work from home now when I didn’t before, but it would be even higher if we hadn’t made this switch.

Buying in bulk– This is something I switched over to last year. I have been slowly moving some of my budget categories to a quarterly budget because the monthly amount can barely cover what we use in a month, but the collective quarterly total can more than cover the 3 months. I think it was a matter of getting ahead of the usage curve and then staying ahead by buying for the quarter rather than chasing the things running low every month. Better for my brain and my pocket. It is worth mentioning that you may have to set aside money you would do something else with initially or work extra to have a starting amount to fund this concept. I took 3x my usual amount (3x$45=$135 from elsewhere in my budget and bought for the quarter, then moved that usual $45 into a holding fund until it was time to buy again).

Instant pot/Sous vide cooking tools: I’m sure everyone is familiar with the greatness of the instant pot. It not only replaces a ton of individual appliances (rice cooker, pressure cooker, yogurt maker), but it also saves you pots/pans (and the time to clean those extra pots/pans) by cooking/sautéing in the same pot, cooking things faster, etc. We also recently got an Instant Pot brand sous vide that works with our existing pot, but are still a little behind the learning curve with it. Air fryers are another popular one that essentially expand what you can do, more easily and in less time. These type of tools are well worth the investment for saving future time, money, and sanity in my opinion.

Reusable things – Anything that you can replace with a reusable version: do. I bought a big pack of microfiber towels and we use these instead of the obnoxious amount of paper towels we did previously. I also added towel bars to two of the kitchen cabinets and have one for hand drying (under the sink) and another for drying clean pots/pans. They get washed/swapped out regularly and this has also cut down on paper towel usage. I now buy a large pack of paper towels once per quarter instead of twice per month! We also use reusable spray bottles, soap bottles, Brita pitchers and water bottles.

Maintain and care for your things

I’m talking things like:

  • living space (whether that’s a place you rent or a place you own)
  • car
  • clothes/shoes
  • furniture
  • health
  • pets health
  • essentially anything you need and use regularly

Most things need some kind of preventative maintenance to keep them in good shape. By never letting things fall into total disrepair, you save that heartache & probably a nice chunk of change by not having to replace it regularly or a large repair that tends to happen when you don’t do regular maintenance.

Be willing to live outside the “normal” box

  • Be willing to do extra things: projects, side hustles, have goals
  • DIY things instead of hiring them out
  • Make investing a required line in your budget
  • Share a car with your spouse (we did this for almost a year when I was saving up for the hybrid)
  • Be willing to try the generic version of EVERYTHING (I’m talking food too- you’d be surprised)
  • Be okay with working extra to meet your goals. That might look like overtime, it might look like a second job, it might mean doordashing some Friday nights so you can invest half of your pay AND still go out for happy hours AND buy your dogs new toys. All in the same week.

Dig into what kind of spending really matters to you

This is a bit of a tough line to draw for me, because I find that I am perfectly happy to invest most of my pay (usually my entire commission check) but I really hem and haw over unessential spending on things primarily for myself (I don’t have this problem when buying for others). In digging in to these feelings of resistance, I have realized that I personally value spending my money on:

  • things that improve my life (fixing a bottleneck somewhere, streamlines/improves something I do all the time, or ups the convenience factor for things I dislike doing).
    **Examples include buying a desktop monitor and riser with a drawer that doubles my workspace capabilities, an enlarged cup holder for my hydroflask style water bottle so it fits where it is supposed to instead of rolling around on the front seat, etc.
  • things that bring me joy– like true, grinning-like-an-idiot joy (house decor projects like painting or adding color/pattern, adding to my plant collection, my dogs, things I find beautiful)
  • things that make my living space smell nice – both house & car.
    **These purchases include Pineapple Airwick Botanica plug ins near the doors of my house and two Pura diffusers that are programmed to run periodically and strategically throughout the day so that when I wak through the house, it smells lovely. I love the Bath and Body air fresheners for the car.

Ultimately, there are a few underlying details that matter in this process (like having an income that can cover your necessities and still have some breathing room and having a well-considered budget in place), but the rest is mostly psychological. I have slowly put all of these concepts into practice in my life after reading about other people’s lifestyles and various ways of doing things. These are the ones that work for me and I believe would work for anyone whether you want to revamp your entire lifestyle or just tweak it to improve it a bit.

If you have other ideas besides the ones I’ve mentioned here, I’d love to hear in the comments!

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