Forget the frugal living tips for a second. This post covers the biggest areas with the highest rewards you should focus on to build wealth quickly.
Living frugally is commendable and nothing to scoff at. You should definitely live within your means, cut back on excesses, and save a few dollars where possible, but you must not lose sight of the areas with the biggest impact.
Why? Because just one big win can improve your finances much more than several frugal living tips combined.
Look at the chart below showing the effort you put in to increase your income or cut down your expenses against their impact.
Many of the frugal living tips you read about are focused on the lower end of the chart: those with “low effort with low reward” and “high effort with low reward”.
So here are 3 areas you should really focus on for some big wins in your finances.
3 High Impact Areas For Big Wins in Your Finances
Want to build your wealth quickly? Here are 3 areas to focus on:
Increasing your income
Increasing your income is one of the best ways to improve your finances and increase your net-worth. Often, we focus too much on one part of the financial equation (expenses) and ignore the other equally, and arguably more, important aspect.
There’s a limit to how far you can go with cutting your spending and expenses, but your earning potential isn’t limited. You’re only limited by your skills, imagination and drive to try different things.
Many people don’t have a spending problem. What they have is an earnings problem – so keeping the focus on growing their income will have a bigger impact on their financials than any “20 tips to live a frugal life”.
Some of the quick ways to increase your income with little effort are:
- Negotiate a salary increase
- Start a side-hustle using your existing skills. If you work as a marketing specialist at your 9-5 job for example, you can make extra income by helping small businesses with their marketing.
- Get a better job that pays more than your current job
Other ways to increase your earning potential that’ll take longer and require more effort are:
- Learn a new skill that you can sell
- Get an higher degree or certification
- Earn by sharing your knowledge. This could mean selling an online course, blogging, vlogging on Youtube or Podcasting.
Think about what an extra $500, $1,000 or $2,000 will do to your finances both now and in the future. It could mean you’ll be able to spend more on the things you really value or retire much earlier than planned.
Check this post for 11 awesome ways to make money online using your expertise and knowledge that are really worth it.
One final tip: When the extra cash starts coming in, invest it! And automate your contributions as much as possible.
Related Post: 15+ Great Ways To Improve Your Finances
According to Statistics Canada, the average Canadian household spent 29% on shelter in 2019, making it the highest spending category.
In the United States, housing also accounted for 33% of consumer expenditures in 2019 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labour Consumer Expenditure Survey.
Reducing your housing cost will generally be tough and require more sacrifice. But it is possible with some effort. A few ideas to get you started include:
- Get a roommate to share your rent
- List a space in your apartment on Airbnb
- Downsize your home
- Move to a cheaper location within the same city
- Relocate to another city
Obviously, many of these require a great deal of planning and would cause some disruption.
For example, moving across cities or states could mean changing jobs, children’s school and so on. Downsizing a house you own is also a big deal with lots of paperwork.
But they can pay off big time.
Imagine cutting your living expenses by 15%. For an average Canadian, that is an extra $3,000 to put towards other financial goals like saving and investing for children’s education, retirement and so on.
Think about how much you pay monthly for housing, reduce it by 10%-15%, and imagine what you can do with the extra cash savings.
Transportation cost is another big expense you can focus on to score a big win. It represents 17% in the US and 18% in Canada.
Moving from one place to another is a necessity and it could be difficult to live without a car. But buying a car you can’t afford is a big mistake that can hold you back financially.
Like housing expenses, reducing your transportation costs will require some big adjustments but they are definitely worth it.
A few options to consider:
- Drive your older car for a few more years
- Sell an expensive car and buy another one that’s more fuel-efficient and requires lower maintenance
- Take public transport (buses or trains) or use ride-hailing services
Should you buy a new or old car? It depends on several factors.
If you can justify the value of the car given your current net-worth, the monthly payments will be a reasonable portion of your income, and you plan to drive it for many years, by all means go ahead.
But buying an expensive car with the expectation of offsetting some of the cost by driving for Uber or Lyft is probably a bad idea. You may be better off spending that time learning other skills that’ll pay off over the years.
You can check the link below for a Car affordability guide and some tips on how to save money on auto insurance.
Related Post: How Much Car Can you afford
2 Extra Areas With Big Rewards Potential
Two extra categories where you can potentially save are taxes and food.
Taxes are compulsory, but you can ensure you’re not paying more than is necessary by carefully planning your affairs.
Tax planning is more than just investing in a tax-advantaged account. It is an holistic assessment of your finances, plan and goals to ensure you’ll pay the lowest tax possible.
You should work with a professional and get a second opinion regularly. This will ensure there are no blind spots in your finances that will cost you dearly in the future.
Do you receive a large tax refund every year? There could be an opportunity to adjust the tax withheld from your pay, so you keep more of your income.
Should you invest in a TFSA or RRSP as a Canadian? Choosing the wrong investment account for your personal situation may mean paying thousands more in taxes and getting some of your income-tested benefits clawed back.
DIY tax-filing is great if you know what you’re doing, and your tax situation is not complicated. Otherwise, pay a professional to prepare your taxes.
You’ll be rest assured that you’re claiming all the tax deductions and tax credits you’re eligible for. And as a bonus, you may even get an higher tax refund.
What about Food?
Canadians and Americans spent 15% and 13% of their total expenditure on food respectively in 2019. So food is also one of the largest areas we all spend on.
Food is a necessity, and you need it to stay healthy. For many people, the biggest way to save on this expense category is to cook more at home and reduce the number of times they eat out.
If you already have this in check, then you’re really left with fewer options.
You could buy in bulk, use coupons, grow your own food, shop with a list and try many of the hacks you’ll find on frugal living tips. But these would only save you a few hundreds and the efforts may not even be worth it in some instances.
Not bad if the extra cash is going towards paying down a debt or other financial goals. But the point is…you’re better off investing your time and effort on the 3 areas above.
Related Post: 45 Creative Ways To Save More Money
Doing the little things are great and can help you build momentum quickly. However, the big wins are the ones that will make you rich.
Increasing your income by just 10% or cutting your housing cost by the same percentage will probably provide a bigger boost to your financials than any 10 frugal tips that are focused on savings a few dollars every month.
Note: Your own big wins may be different from the ones above. Childcare or recreational spending could be a bigger portion of your monthly expenses for example.
The idea is for you to do an assessment of your own unique circumstances, identify the areas with potential for big wins and focus on them.
As humans, we suffer from decision fatigue. We’re less effective and efficient when we’re focused on several activities that depletes our willpower and brainpower.
So we’re better off reserving those limited resources for the things that’ll potentially result in the biggest rewards.
Related Post: Want to Build Wealth? 21 Money Mistakes to Avoid