Live Cheaply – How To Be Successful At Living On Next To Nothing

If you look hard enough there are ways to live cheaply or even to live on nothing.

Realistically though, when you have no money it’s not about learning how to live on nothing but fresh air alone (because that ain’t going to happen). What it is about is learning how to live simply and cheaply.

And as cheaply as possible.

If you are like me you will already have read many different articles that talk about cutting $1000 grocery budgets down.

And I know what you are thinking when you read them.

$1000 grocery budgets?

Yeah right – wishful thinking!

You don’t earn the kind of money that allows for $1000 of groceries plus eating out.

You’re living on a low income and right now what you need are cheap living ideas in order to make ends meet.

You want to get creative and be honest about what you can do and what you can’t do.

When you are trying to survive with little money, it’s not about what you want to do it’s what you NEED to do. You need to learn how to be smart with money. So you can make it stretch further.

woman sat on the floor with notepad using calculator to signify how to live cheaply

Firstly – Please Don’t Panic!

You may not realize it but living very cheaply is possible, really it is.

Of course it’s a huge worry when you have nothing in the bank and are faced with the prospect of trying to find super cheap ways to live, preferably living for free.

Which you know in reality is not possible, not nothing at all.

So go right ahead and take a little time to sort your thoughts out. ((hugs)).

Now that you’ve given yourself a little hug and a shake it’s time for action.

Because you CAN do this and the following tips will help you to find the cheapest way to live for you and your family.

womans hands counting coins with notepad and calculator to signify how to live cheap

how to live simply and cheaply: you Can Win At Living On Next To Nothing

(This post contains affiliate links. If you click on a link and make a purchase, I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. You can read more here)

Create A Survival Budget

To learn how to live inexpensively you need to have full knowledge of what money you do have and what bills you must pay.

You need to have a budget that is realistic and honest. Your normal budget isn’t going to cut it right now.

Right now you need a survival budget. A budget that stops you from starving but doesn’t have any excess in it at all.

No luxuries, no fun things.

Because it’s not for ever.

A survival budget is one where you have cut everything to the bone to keep you going whilst you learn how to live very cheaply.

If budgeting has not been your thing then check out my post on how to budget your money for help in getting started the right way.

You will also want to know about the best budgeting tips for beginners. These help you stay on budget in those first few months when it’s a new and hard routine to follow.

Digital budgeting help

If you like to do things digitally then the Empower app* is the perfect choice to help you master your new budget because it makes everything simple, clear and immediate.

Empower automatically tracks your spending which will be essential in the coming weeks. It also gives you updates on where you are against the weekly and monthly spend limits you set up.

No need for multiple apps for saving, budgeting and banking as these are all features of the Empower app.

Find out more about the Empower app here and sign up for your free 14 day trial.

Note: You need a reliable and steady internet connection to stay live on this app and save money. If you are looking for suggestions, Spectrum is a great option. The deals are quite affordable and the speeds are great, too.

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“Empower is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services provided by nbkc bank, Member FDIC.” 

Read these posts to get started:

How To Survive, Thrive And Save Money On A Tight Budget

How To Live Fabulously On A Budget (And Save Money)

Don’t pay for unwanted subscriptions

Monthly subscriptions can be lethal for leaking money every month and a key place to start when building your survival budget.

One of the easiest finance tips and tricks I advocate is to make sure you are only paying for memberships or subscriptions on things you can justify the expense to yourself in these lean times.

Ask yourself these 3 questions:

  1. Do I get value from this service (or product)?
  2. Can I find it cheaper?
  3. Do I really need it or can I do without it for now?

Cancel any that fail these questions.

An even better way is to get TRIM to do this for you. Trim is a virtual personal assistant that constantly works to save you money.

Need to cancel your old subscriptions? TRIM can do this for you. TRIM can even help you fight fees.

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Lower Your Bills

Most companies rely on us not questioning our monthly bills, including internet, wireless and TV providers so we end up paying more.

In some states and countries you have a choice of companies to provide these services. This is an easy household hack to save money as these companies always offer new customer discounts.

You don’t need to change company, just contact your existing provider and request a discount.

Even better, get Billshark to ask for you. BillShark negotiates lower prices on your monthly bills to save you time, money and hassle.

You could save hundreds each month with the help of professional bill negotiators at BillShark, starting today!

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Keep Your Utility Bills Down

Utility bills are often cited as being part of your essential living costs but the amount you use and pay is very much down to you.

The more energy you use the more you will pay so now is the time to be thinking of all the ways you can live cheaply and reduce your usage.

If you can cut your energy usage by 20% then that is money you don’t have to pay out.

Save Electricity

  • Keep your heating down low
  • Turn heating off at night or even lower (we keep ours off or at 12c)
  • Wear extra layers including jumpers and warm trousers and slippers
  • Shut your doors
  • Turn lights off when you leave the room
  • Use LED lightbulbs when you need to replace bulbs
  • Batch cook in your oven
  • Use your microwave more
  • If you have air-conditioning – turn it off or up high and get used to the higher temperatures. A little bit uncomfortable is better than paying out money you don’t have.

More cheap living ideas to save energy available here: How To Keep Your House Warm and Your Energy Bills Low This Winter


  • don’t leave the tap running
  • turn the shower off whilst you are soaping & shampooing
  • wash your fruit and vegetables in a bowl of water, not under the running tap
  • wash full loads of clothes only
  • do the sniff test before washing, does it really need a wash?
  • fit an aerator to your tap to halve your water flow

More tips available here: 10 Ways To Save Money On Your Water Bill

Recommended products to help cut your bills

Monthly bills can really eat into your budget. These products will help you reduce the amount of energy you use and bring your bill payments down.

Embrace Frugal Living

Learning how to live simply and cheaply through frugal living is probably the best thing you can do for your wallet right now.

Frugal living isn’t about being cheap, it’s about getting maximum value from the money you have so you can learn to love living within your means.

However small your means may currently be.

The thrifty lifestyle will help you understand how to live cheap and save money.

And by living cheap I do not mean being cheap! There is a world of difference between frugal and cheap.

These are my favorite books on frugal living that have stood the test of time. Get them from your library or buy used from Amazon. I did!

Best books to help you live frugally and save money

These books will help you learn more about frugal living and saving money. Packed with actionable advice and creative ways to save money.

Develop Your Frugal Living Master Plan

The frugal folk who have worked out how to live cheaply have all started with a plan.

You will be amazed at how frugal you can become when you put your head to it and planning will ensure you are successful from day one.

Your plan should include some or all of these:

  • planning ahead
  • using your time wisely
  • stop spending
  • creating new money habits
  • keeping your heating and cooling costs down
  • keeping it simple
  • simplifying your life
  • reducing your costs
  • building a pantry stockpile
  • saving something every time you get paid
  • managing your housing costs
  • making more money

You may also like:

How To Stop Living Paycheck To Paycheck The Frugal Way

The Best Books On Frugal Living You Need To Read

overhead shot of woman writing on a a4 ringbound notepad, sitting on a bed with laptop beside her to signify how to live cheap

Planning Ahead

Planning is a cornerstone of cheap living. When you don’t have the money then you must recognize that you do have the time.

Plan your time so you can clean your own house, make your own lunch, mow your lawn.

You may be working long hours but time is something right now that you do have, whereas money is something you don’t.

If you use money to pay for someone else to do something for you then what you are actually doing is buying their time.

If you are not used to planning your time and filling it up with daily chores then why not use a daily planner to help you create a successful schedule?

When you are not used to doing all the different tasks it can be helpful to have a visible reminder of what tasks need doing and what their deadlines are.

Related post: 7 Things To Do At The Beginning Of Every Month For Your Money

blank ring binder open diary with small succulent plant on white background overhead shot to signify living cheaply

Use Your Time Wisely

When you have money, buying convenience food, having a cleaner, using a dryer are all things its easy to fall into the habit of.

When you plan on living cheaply you need to get out of these habits fast!

There are 168 hours in one week so you have time and you need to allocate a bit of it to doing stuff you might not have done before.

Making your own lunch rather than paying for someone else to make it for you.

Cooking from scratch rather than buying ready made.

Packaged rice takes 2 minutes in the microwave versus cooking your own rice in less than 20 minutes.

Yes you spend up to 18 minutes longer to achieve the same food.

But pre-packed rice is about 5 times more expensive than normal rice.

You have 18 minutes, you don’t have money to waste when you’re trying to live on next to nothing.

Related reading: 27 Brilliant And Effective Ways To Create More Time In Your Day

womans arm in black top holding black gift bag

How to Live On Nothing – Stop Spending!

I know I’m stating the obvious but if you’re trying to live on next to nothing then you need to stop spending!

Some people are emotional spenders (me!) so when feeling low they shop to make themselves feel better, which it doesn’t because you spend money you don’t have.

If you haven’t already, switch to cash only and use the cash envelope system.

Much harder to part with cash when you know you only have X to last you until next pay day.

Use the 30 day rule for items you truly need.

Related reading:

How To Stop Spending Money You Really Don’t Have

How to stop spending money on clothes: 10 Simple Tips for Success

How To Spend Less Money (And Save) – 6 Easy Tricks

happy young child making pizzas

Meal Plan To Make Simple Meals

When you need to live on a really tight budget, your grocery bill is a place you can make some big savings.

There are many easy ways to save money in the kitchen but food is potentially your biggest win.

Meal planning helps you to use the ingredients you already have and plan your meals for the week so you do not get tempted to buy a takeaway or have a restaurant meal.

Use your slow cooker/crock pot, batch cook and freeze extra meals.

Simple meals with less ingredients cost less and will help you when living on a tight budget. They also lend themselves to being batch cooked which means you cook once and eat twice or more.

The simple but homely meals I batch cook include:

  • chilli
  • bolognese
  • lasagna
  • tuna pasta
  • chicken curry

These meals don’t need a ton of expensive meat. Indeed my chilli often has more lentils and veg in it than meat!

You can make basic, homely meals using cheap meat, the cheaper, in-season vegetables and tinned or frozen veg. All of which helps you to live cheaply.

Batch cooking also reduces your energy bills as you will cook less and do more re-heating.

These posts have lots of helpful ideas on cheap but tasty meals you will like:

55 Cheap And Easy Meals You Are Going To Love

10 Frugal Meals For When You Feel So Broke

15 Cheap And Comforting Chicken Dinners On a Budget

21 budget meatless meals to save money

20 Easy Cheap Vegan Recipes Everyone Will Devour

For help organizing your meals grab a copy of the Meal Planning Mini Bundle

However if this all feels a little overwhelming right now then the $5 meals plan could be your savior.

Given we can waste up to 30% of all the food you buy, $5 a month for a weekly meal plan, recipes and a grocery list emailed to you every week will definitely save you a ton of money over the next few months.

I recommend using the 14 day FREE trial to see how successfully it works for you.

Try $5 Meal Plan Today!

Related reading:

7 Meal Planning Strategies All Beginners Should Know

9 Meal Planning Mistakes You Need Solutions For

Simple living to help you manage your finances

Simplify Your Life

Leading a more simple life can be one of the cheapest ways to live. Consider everything you do and consider whether you can simplify it.

Cut down on activities your children are doing – they will be just as happy and possibly more so being creative at home and having downtime.

Learning how to live extremely cheap is not about doing without but doing things differently. It’s about finding alternatives to your usual spending patterns.

If you need inspiration have a read of what rich people do. They don’t splash their cash at every opportunity. They make their money work for them, as hard as possible.

Related reading:

How To Simplify Your Life When All Around Is Chaos!

Living A Simple Life – Simple Inspirations For You

woman at at a white table putting money in a pink piggy bank with a calculator and a spread of money notes to signify how to live cheaply

Reducing Your Costs

We can all spend on stuff we don’t really need. Think about ways you can live on less money. Ways like:

Purchasing only reduce to clear bargains – this can mean completing your grocery shopping at more than one store and timing it just right to pick up those bargains.

Coupons – If you have coupons link them in with the items being on sale. But never use a coupon if it will cost you more cold, hard cash than buying an alternative brand.

Use Rebaid to get free items and claim big rebates on things you need to buy at Amazon, Walmart, Ebay and other independent websites. No credit card required, no hoops to jump through, just great offers and even greater rebates!

Swap phone plans – consider using the likes of Skype or WhatsApp chat to keep in touch with friends and family.

Line dry your clothes – I line dry even if there is a frost on the ground, clothes will get 80% dry then can be finished off inside on a drying rack. Dryers cost money to buy and money to run.

Have a large freezer – you can freeze purchases of meat and other perishables. If you can, buy a second hand freezer cheaply from Ebay, craigslist or a local Facebook group. You might even get lucky and pick up a free one from Freegle or Freecycle.

Support Schemes – ensure you are signed up to support schemes that are aimed at low income families. You might get reduced energy bills or free loft insulation.

Cook from scratch wholesome food – home made bread, potatoes, beans (dried then re-hydrated is cheaper) and rice are all cheaper than their processed equivalents

Learn new skills – through YouTube or asking a family member to fix things yourself. Don’t automatically think you need to buy a replacement.

You may also like: 12 Traditional Frugal Living Tips To Supercharge Your Savings

cupboard shelves full of food packages

Build Your Store Cupboard On The Cheap

Your grocery budget can be a big chunk of your budget after rent/mortgage.

You can slash your grocery budget in many ways and spend next to nothing for a while if you have a solid store cupboard to feed your family from.

Plan your food through a weekly or monthly meal plan and also take note of sales. Over time you will recognize when an item is at its lowest sale price – stock up then with enough to last you until the next sale.

Within a few months you’ll have an idea of how often you need cans of tuna and stock up on the next sale. This works really well with dried goods and tins. Just make sure you are going to use them.

If money is really tight right now then try to buy one pantry item each week, even if it’s just one big bag of pasta.

Over time stockpiling will get easy.

The key to a successful pantry stockpile is knowing what you have, their best before dates and using them. No point stockpiling if you don’t use the item to take advantage of its low cost.

Related posts:

How To Stockpile Food On A Budget – 10 Easy Tips

40 Essential Foods to Create Your Emergency Stockpile

For more help in reducing your grocery bills join the grocery budget challenge

Save Money

It wont be much to start with but create a new money habit of saving every payday whether its $10 or a little less.

Save Every Month

I know we started this off and you didn’t have any money, but the thing is you have to find ways to save money, even when living on little money. In order to change where you are and make a long term difference.

Every time you get paid whether that’s weekly, bi-weekly or ad-hoc make sure the first thing you do is save something.

You are saving for your future self and prioritizing yourself and your family. By paying yourself first even if it’s only a few pounds you are demonstrating to yourself that you matter.

As time goes on you will be able to save more and more. These savings can be the start of your emergency fund. Not to be touched unless it really is an emergency. Such as car repairs to get your car back on the road and you to work.

Not a top up grocery shop or a take away because you’ve had a long day at work.

Sorry, emergency is emergency and nothing less.

You may also like:

Emergency Fund Examples: 23 (Unexpected) Reasons Why You Need One

 Why You Should Have Two Emergency Cash Accounts

woman with red open purse pouring coins into her hand to signify how to live cheaply

Challenge yourself

Living cheaply gets easier, the longer you do it, until it becomes second nature. We humans like to challenge ourselves, especially when it comes to our money. Whether that’s living on very little or setting a savings challenge.

We like to achieve, we like to win. Which is why setting yourself money challenges is probably one of the best ways to learn how to live on very little money.

Where to start with setting yourself a challenge when there are so many to choose from? Well if you are aiming for a year long challenge then check out my post on 10 great 52 week money challenges.

There are big challenges and those aimed at tight budgets.

Alternatively if you weren’t necessarily planning on 52 weeks of savings then check out my post on 25 best money saving challenges with varying lengths.

The 100 envelope challenge is probably not for you right now because it involves a lot of cash savings in a short space of time but maybe next year?

Of course not all challenges have to be money orientated, there are plenty of ideas to target in my post on 30 day challenge ideas – over 80 of them to be exact!

Reduce debt

The ultimate savings challenge is to cut your costs enough to free up money to pay off your debts and become debt free.

I know it may feel almost normal to be living with debt, but it’s no fun and that debt is costing you a lot of money. Not only do you pay interest but the monthly repayments you have to make is money you could use for something else.

The benefts of being debt free most definitely outweigh keeping it. I always recommend snowballing your debts because you get the quick win of seeing a debt completely paid off.

If credit cards are your weak point then you could leave them at home (but online shopping might still tempt you). The alternative is to think about cutting up your credit cards. This could be exactly what you need to fast forward to debt freedom.

white thatched country cottage on lane to signify how to live cheaply

Cheaper Housing Costs

It’s not easy to instantaneously reduce your housing costs. You might have a mortgage or a rental contract.

But there can be things you can do depending on your individual situation.

  • Do you have a spare room you can rent out?
  • Can you get a lodger?
  • Can you do Airbnb?
  • Could you move to a smaller place to free up some money?

Some people advocate living in an RV/mobile home as a great way to live cheaply.

Can you refinance your mortgage or extend your term to reduce your monthly repayments?

Thinking outside the box will help here.

How To Pay Off Your Mortgage Early (So You Can Be Free)

15 Things We Gladly Gave Up To Become Mortgage Free

An Essential Guide To Determining Whether Equity Release Is Right For You

Make Money To Save Money and live cheaply

There are 168 hours in every week. How many hours do you spend working?

How many hours are you spending stressing about how to live on nothing because you have no money?

Why not try and find a way to make a little money at home or online.

The first place to look for making money is to sell anything you currently own that you don’t need.

Less clutter will help reduce clutter in your mind and selling it will bring in a few pennies.

You’ll be amazed at what people buy.

Use your local Facebook groups or Gumtree as these are free to use.

Ebay is of course a great place to sell as well, just remember that their fees can add up to 10% or more.

Ideas To Earn Extra Money

Working overtime or extra hours is possibly the easiest and most lucrative way to earn more money.

Alternative you could take a second job that fits around your commitments by using Fiverr to pick up online gigs. I’ve used people for all sorts of small jobs, fixing my website, creating some artwork. You name it, you can gig it on Fiverr!

There are many work from home jobs that pay a good income when you commit to learning a new skill.

These posts have some great ideas on money making hobbies and flexible work from home jobs:

How To Make 300 Dollars Fast: 30 Proven Ways

The Best Work From Home Jobs When You Need Flexibility

41 Awesome Hobbies That Can Make You Money Right Now

Additionally these are some really easy ways you can earn a little money doing small things every day while at home or waiting in a queue!

Fetch Rewards

Fetch Rewards is a free grocery savings app that rewards you just for snapping pictures of your receipts.

Fetch Rewards works anywhere you buy groceries.

✓ No hoops to jump through. No pre-selecting offers, no scanning barcodes, no surveys, no ads – you scan your receipts and you’ll earn points!

✓ You can cash out rewards as low as $3.

Use code “APREWARDS” to redeem 3K points!

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Companies are eager to get their deals in front of consumers like you, and to get your feedback. In fact, your opinions are so valuable, they’ll even pay you for them!

All you need is a few minutes and an internet connection.

From answering surveys to watching videos, there are always great, easy tasks for you to choose from with KashKick. Complete as many as you’d like – there’s no limit!

Your insights help companies grow, so they are happy to pay you for your time and effort.

KashKick offers the lowest payout thresholds on the market, and we deposit your money quickly, securely, and conveniently – starting at just $5 at a time.

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Reward Survey

Get $30 in Reward Points to spend IMMEDIATELY! Get $30 to spend on great rewards for sharing your opinion. Surveys takes only minutes to complete, plus no credit card information is needed.

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Survey Junkie

With Survey Junkie, you take surveys and get paid. Simple! This is your opportunity to be an influencer (and make a little money). Share your opinion to help brands deliver better products & services.

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young couple holding their heads in their hands with bank statements on table to signify how to live cheaply

tips for living with very little money

How can I survive on little money?

It’s probably almost impossible to live with no money at all. But you can live on very little money if you are willing to live very differently. I’m talking living off grid, find a rent free place (which could mean camping).

Foraging and eating food that others have discarded (e.g. dumpster diving – check your local laws first!)

How can I live very frugally?

Living very frugally requires you to consider every cent, every penny you have as a prisoner, not to be released unless all else fails. You need to be prepared to get completely out of your comfort zone, to cut every cost and jump in feet first into extreme frugal living.

What is the cheapest way to live?

Every country has some super cheap places to live. But they can come with downsides, like no local jobs, extreme weather, high crime rates. Alternative you can think about living in more unconventional places like an RV, a boat, a commune or even a tent.

You choose it, you live it. For less extreme yet still very cheap ways to live do investigate the 14 frugal living tips above. They will help you cut your costs and save money.

Where can I live for free?

There are some places you can live for free, not many in this day and age. Land is almost all owned by someone or something (e.g. government or a company) so you can’t just pitch up anywhere. If you’re in the US then this post on living off grid on free land could be interesting.

Living Simply and frugally Reduces Your Stress

Living cheaply because you have to, rather than because you want to can be stressful.

Having no money is stressful.

Reduce your stress by being active in doing everything you can to find the cheapest way to live for you.

You deserve not to be stressed over money which means you need to take charge and get your spending down and your saving up.

Most people at some point in their lives have a really, really tight money phase.

It could be because you’ve lost your job, got a chronic health condition that limits your work capability, had a marriage relationship breakdown.

All super stressful in themselves.

Add in money worries and you are one stressed bunny.

If, despite trying everything you are still struggling with living cheaply then seek out help in your local area.

There are people, charities and government agencies, that can help you.

Don’t shy away from this help, reach out to them. They have experience and it is what they are there for.

Related post:

What To Do When You Can’t Afford The Snowball Method

For more help in saving money grab your copy of the Money Saving Mini Bundle today!

Come and follow me on Pinterest for more money saving hints and frugal tips!

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Last Updated on 3rd April 2023 by Emma

About Emma

I'm here to help you become confident in making the best money decisions for you and your family. Frugal living has changed my life, let me help you change yours.

8 thoughts on “Live Cheaply – How To Be Successful At Living On Next To Nothing”

  1. This is such a comprehensive post! My husband lost his job earlier this year and we had a tough time adjusting to the income drop. It is so scary, and we definitely panicked a bit haha.

    • Thanks so much Steph! Losing a job unexpectedly is always scary so its understandable you panicked, I think we all would. Hope you are both in a better place financially now. Remember to top up your emergency fund as well to give you some peace of mind. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. The thing that I love about this list is that it makes sense whether you are trying to live on no money or not. The other thing I love is that almost all of these ideas will have zero, or minimal, impact on your lifestyle while saving you loads. It’s the very definition of working smarter!

    Great set of ideas!

    • Hi Caveman, thanks so much for your feedback. You’re so right, working smarter is absolutely what us frugal people want to be doing. I’m all for saving money whilst still enjoying my lifestyle!

  3. such an amazing article very helpful me and my family are going through a tougher time of late (just set up our youngest in university) so we really need to build up our savings again as they have been totally depleted. Thank you for making me realise that I can make positive changes if I just take a minute to breathe and think clearly and plan instead of panicking and freaking out.

    • Hi Kelly! Yep, sending kids off to uni is never cheap is it? When you start to worry about money and not having savings it can feel like you don’t know where to start. The main thing is, you’ve had savings before, you will again. Don’t panic, sit down and make a plan. When you have a plan I bet you will feel so much more in control. This time next year you’ll have those savings – I wish you the best of luck in getting there in no time. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  4. We retired at 59 and 60 sold a big home in a big city moved to a small town bought a small house. We save money every month . We cancelled magazine and newspaper. Read everything online or at the library. Never baked bread or cooked much of anything but I learned how from u-tube. We hang clothes on the line to dry and planted a garden. We walk to stores , library etc. We can go on vacation when we want. Keep learning and grown. Think outside the box be peaceful try your best.

    • Hi Linda. I love that you are so open to continually learning and am so pleased you have learned so many new skills since you retired. Try your best – it’s all we can ask of ourselves isn’t it? Try to be the best version of yourself. Thanks for stopping by!


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