Live better for less

March 23, 2018

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Average costs of living are increasing in the United States, and pay simply has not kept up with the costs of everything from real estate to doctor visits.

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Make smarter money decisions to make your own life more affordable and make the most of what you have. Here are four ways to do so.

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1.

Make a big move

Finding an affordable place to live is difficult because of tougher lending standards, builders focusing on high-end homes and tight rental markets.

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Consider relocating to an area that strikes a balance between high wages, low housing costs and strong quality of life.

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Midwestern cities like Grand Rapids, Michigan; Columbus, Ohio; and Kansas City, Missouri, are all sensible options.

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2.

Lower health care expenses

Uncertainty in the insurance marketplace and consolidation among drug manufacturers, hospitals and drug stores are all making medical costs less affordable.

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Taking advantage of a health savings account or flexible spending account to put away money for medical expenses tax-free can help you save.

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Other options: Buy insurance when you are healthy, stick to in-network doctors and favor generic drugs, which can be as much as 85% cheaper than brand names.

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3.

Slash education costs

Though college has gotten far more expensive, it also pays off more than it used to.

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Focusing on a college or program’s “debt to income” ratio can give you a better idea of whether a degree is actually likely to pay off in the long run.

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If you’ve already graduated and are paying for student loans, there are ways to cut costs, like speeding up your repayment plan, refinancing or consolidating.

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Worried about falling behind? Consider applying for deferment or forbearance, which will give you temporary reprieve from making payments.

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4.

Earn more — or need less

A way to make affording life easier is to get a pay bump. But are you already making decent money but living paycheck to paycheck?

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Consider budgeting, re-prioritizing and using shopping hacks to help eliminate wasteful spending while still affording what you need to live a happy life.

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Also try carrying cash, which has been shown to be effective at cutting down on impulse purchases.

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Though costs are rising, making a few creative tweaks to your financial life can help you spend less time stressing — and more time enjoying life.

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