In a Nutshell: The last several months have been difficult for many U.S. residents. As the wealthy continue to grow their money, the average Americans is falling behind on bills and trying to stay ahead of debt. Living on the Cheap is a website that offers tips on how to save money across the board. From general financial advice to where to find the best McDonald’s coupons, Living on the Cheap has it covered. As the flagship website for a network of more than 30 localized Living on the Cheap websites, users can find deals for large national chains and the locally owned restaurant down the road.
The COVID-19 pandemic and a tumultuous political landscape have laid bare a huge number of issues in the U.S. The vast gap between the wealthiest and poorest in the nation has been a running theme in many stories tied to the pandemic and politics in recent months.
Perhaps now more than ever, the great imbalance between the wealth held by the upper class and lower- and middle-class households is evident.
Many Americans are scraping by or even falling into debt while millionaires and billionaires continue to grow their wealth at surprisingly fast rates.
The average U.S. resident would not be able to afford an emergency expense of $400 without going into debt — or falling deeper into existing debt. And, of course, digging yourself out of a debt hole can be extremely challenging, and in extreme cases can lead to bankruptcy.
Thankfully, numerous resources exist today to help average folks save money and hopefully avoid those dangerous debt spirals.
Living on the Cheap is one of these resources — a website filled to the brim with information about deals, discounts, coupons, money-saving strategies, and many more clever ways to keep money in the bank and debt collectors at bay.
We recently spoke with Teresa Mears, Executive Editor at Living on the Cheap, to learn more about the website’s vast collection of information on deals and pick up a few tips on saving.
A Network of “Cheap” Websites to Help Consumers Across the Country
Living on the Cheap was born in 2011 and sprung out of an association of local websites that focused on money-saving tips in various cities around the country. Mears said that, prior to 2011, the websites operated under a loose confederation of networks called Cities on the Cheap.
When the founder of the network decided to part ways with Cities on the Cheap, Mears said the websites decided to establish a more formal network.
“We joined forces and kind of rebranded as Living on the Cheap,” she said. “And we built the Living on the Cheap flagship website and changed the business models a little.”
Mears said many of the same individuals who were involved in launching Living on the Cheap remain active in the network today.
“Living on the Cheap offers readers useful tools for living well on less, plus the latest deals and freebies from national retailers and restaurants,” according to the website.
The network today includes more than 30 cities across the country and attracts more than 1.5 million monthly unique visitors.
Mears said the website is basically for anyone, no matter where they live.
“It contains general personal finance advice — everything from couponing to how to shop for groceries online. That was a new story we did this year,” she said. “There is also some real estate content, information on how to do a budget. It kind of runs the gamut of personal finance content.”
With the central Living on the Cheap website offering a wealth of broad finance-related resources, the city sites focus on money-saving tips specific to certain communities, such as free or cheap things to do.
Aggregating Deals and Discounts for Products and Services in a Wide Range of Categories
When Mears says Living on the Cheap offers a bit of finance-related information on nearly everything, she is not exaggerating. In addition to sound advice on universal finance topics, the website digs up and shares deals across a vast number of industries.
“More than 20 veteran consumer journalists and frugalistas produce smart, original, well-researched articles filled with actionable advice on personal finance, lifestyle, technology, health, travel, and entertainment,” according to the company.
The website is easy to navigate so users can find deals on whatever category they are most interested in, whether it’s discounts at national food chains like Einstein Bros. Bagels or inexpensive gift ideas for kids.
“We have a whole section on our site for online promo codes as well as coupons you can print out if you don’t get any delivered in your newspaper,” Mears said.
Another section particularly relevant in the COVID-19 era is Living on the Cheap’s At-Home Entertainment Options, such as “Free Movies and TV Shows You Can Stream,” “5 Free Apps to Help Improve Your Fitness,” and “Free Concert, Show, and Event Tickets for Military.”
The website also provides a robust offering of recipes and home cooking for those who are eating most of their meals at home these days. It also provides valuable family and parenting tips on how to save money while keeping little ones entertained.
Of course, visitors to Living on the Cheap can also access their regional Living on the Cheap website for more localized deals including dining, entertainment, and independently owned businesses.
Insider Tips on How and Where to Save Money
“Our idea is not necessarily that you should be as frugal as possible at all times, but that you should use your money well,” Mears said. “If you’re smart about how you spend your money, you can live well, despite living on the cheap.”
With that in mind, Mears shared some sound money-saving advice for the average person.
She said that, by keeping an eye out for sales and coupons, there are a lot of things that nobody should ever pay full price for.
“Some things go on sale often, but other things like laundry detergent, toiletries, shampoo — those kinds of things you should watch for coupons,” she said. “There are a lot of coupons for non-food items — cleaning products, things like that.”
Mears said there are plenty of opportunities to save money while grocery shopping without having to use any coupons.
“It depends a little bit on what you buy, how many people you’re feeding, and how you cook, but the first thing you should do is pay attention to sales because things periodically go on sale. Many things have a cycle of sales, like seasonal produce is cheaper than non-seasonal produce.” — Teresa Mears, Executive Editor at Living on the Cheap
She said even items like iced tea come up on sale every few months. And tea and other items with a long shelf life are great to stock up on during sales.
“There’s no reason to ever pay full price for tea bags,” Mears said.
As far as broader financial advice, Mears said one of the most effective ways to save is to remove money from your control before you have a chance to spend it.
“If you have a job where the employer will allow you to direct some money from your paycheck directly into savings so that you never even get it, I encourage people to do that,” she said. For those who don’t have an employer who provides this option, many bank accounts offer automatic withdrawals from a checking to a savings account as well.
“That’s the way to build up savings,” Mears said. “If you wait and say, ‘Let me pay all my bills and see what’s left over,’ there’s never anything left.”
The New Year is a Good Time to Start Tracking Spending
Mears said that, with a new year approaching, it makes for the perfect time to start paying more attention to budgets.
“The new year is a good time to make resolutions, and finances should be a part of that,” she said. “You can start your budget on January 1. You can start keeping track of your spending because until you know what you’re spending your money on, it’s hard to know how you can save.”
She advises people to look at other areas as well.
“If you’re buying a lot of food that’s going to waste because you’re not cooking it in time, you can work on your meal planning,” Mears said.
No matter what kind of savings you can benefit from, Living on the Cheap is likely to have a tip for you.