Frugal living is about pinching pennies so you can spend money in ways you actually value. Don’t worry, you won’t need to be living off the grid, off the land, or out of touch with the world in order to be frugal. Let’s dive into what frugal living is and how you can make it work for your finances to get ahead in life.
What is Frugal Living?
Frugal living means you’re being purposeful and intentional with your means and money. Put another way, you prioritize where you spend and where you don’t. This is where personal finances really is personal. Your values will likely be different from my own and this means your frugality will also look different. Your stingy is different from my stingy – and that’s totally ok.
23 Frugal Living Tips That Can Save You Money
I have composed a list of 23 frugal living tips that can help you get started saving money. Choose the ones that work best for your life, because like I said we don’t all want to spend money on house plants and cat toys as I do.
Meal planning has saved us some serious money over the years. We go to the grocery store with a list and we stick to it. Not only this, but we also use all of the food we purchased so it doesn’t go to waste.
2. Buy Generic
You do not need to buy the generic brand of graham crackers because we know those taste like cardboard. But there are many generic options that are just as good as the name brand. Some of them are even made in the same exact factory. Medicine like Claritin and Benadryl all have generic alternatives that work just as well and will save you money.
3. DIY It If You Can
Learning how to do-it-yourself is a valuable skill that is always in the frugal life handbook. We have learned how to change our own car oil, replace a leaky faucet and repair the dishwasher hose. How? YouTube. No joke, YouTube is full of free videos that will walk you through how to fix up just about anything.
4. Walk or Bike to Work
If you live close enough to work, are able, and can spare the extra bit of time, try walking or biking into work. Not only will you reap the health benefits but you will also reduce the wear and tear on your car saving you money.
5. Sell Your Unused Items
Who has a junk drawer? *Raises hand. Before we downsized I actually had a few junk closets. Eeek. Take the time to clean out your garage, closets, and drawers. Make a donation pile and a ‘to-sell’ pile. List your items on OfferUp, Mercari or the Facebook Marketplace to make some extra money.
6. Repurpose Old Items
Using old items in a new way can save you money and free up your time spent searching for something new. We use our old glass jars and bottles for food storage. We have also repurposed old sheets into cheese cloths and turned ripped jeans into cut off shorts. The options for repurposing old items are endless.
7. Use Free Resources Like the Library
Your community has tons of free resources and one of the best is the library. Beyond books, libraries host events for kids and adults alike.
If your city also has a community center you might see if they provide any free activities or access to their facilities for a reduced price on specific days. For example, our old community center had a family swim day where you could access the water park-like facilities for $5.
8. Create a Budget
9. Cut Your Subscriptions
Monthly subscriptions might not seem like a big deal, but I bet if you added those up for the course of one year you might feel differently. Review what you’re paying for each month outside of utilities and see if you can get rid of any subscriptions (especially if you do not use them).
10. Try Exercising at Home
If the 2020 pandemic was good for anything it at least forced me to figure out how to workout from home. I started trail running and hiking the trails everyday. You can also start small with neighborhood walks. You might also try YouTube for workouts that rely on body weight and don’t need fancy equipment. This will help you save money and your health. (Plus, you can kick that gym membership)
11.Put All Purchases on a Waitlist
Make a rule that anything you want to buy goes on a list. You wait at least 48 hours before you purchase the item. If you still want it, then go for it. I can’t tell you how many carts I have ghosted because I did this.
12. Turn Off Lights and Heat in Rooms that Are Empty
If you’re not in the room, then keep the lights off to save on your electricity bill. You can also shut the doors to your spare rooms and turn the vents closed so you optimize heating and cooling. Some proponents of frugal living will also keep the general temperature of their house low, but this is up to you and is not a frugal choice everyone needs to make.
13. Use Coupons
Do not pay full price if you don’t have to. We like to use the Chrome extension Honey which will search for coupons after you made it to the checkout page of a website. I will also check RetailMeNot.com in case they have any deals I can swipe to save that cash.
14. Find the Beauty Dupes
You do not need to pay a ridiculous amount for skincare. Take this from the girl who used to pay $200 for a bottle of magical oil. (I know…I am really airing my dirty laundry right now). In 2020 I found a way to convert my skincare routine to an affordable luxury instead of just a luxury. I did this by finding beauty dupes. That basically means expensive products – but the knock off version. The Inky and Cereve both became my got to for skincare (they each have dupes for brands like Lancome, Drunk Elephants, and ROC).
15. Buy in Bulk
If you can, buy in bulk. It will save you money in the long run. Costco is a great place to go- just make sure you have a plan and aren’t lured in to buying too much of something you don’t need.
16. Automate Your Savings
I have said this a million times, and I’ll keep saying it – treat your savings just like a bill.
17. Host Your Next Get Together
When you get together with friends, those cocktails and good times can also rack up some $$$$. So instead, opt to host your next hang out. Have everyone bring a dish and their own booze (no it’s not rude).
18. Join Freecyle Communities
There are so many online communities, especially in the parenting niche that all offer to give away their used items. Does you toddler want a new toy kitchen, I bet there is someone who needs to get rid of theirs and make room for something else. Freecyle is a great place to start, but you should also look at Facebook groups.
19. Negotiate Your Interest Rates and Bills
Did you know you can negotiate your bills? It’s true. You can even negotiate your interest rate on a credit card. Rule of thumb: Your accounts need to be in good standing and you need to give customer service your reason for asking
20. Shop Around for Better Rates
Every frugal lifer knows how to shop around for the best rate. There is no reason you need to stick with the same insurance company forever. Get quotes and see if you can’t lower your monthly payments.
21. Try a Financial Challenge to Get Ahead
If you’re looking to really work on your mindset, but need a good frugal challenge then try one of these financial challenges to get ahead. Each one offers a structure so you can hold yourself accountable.
22. Download a Money Saving App
There are so many apps out there that will help you save money. From the Safeway app to GasBuddy, they each work to keep money in your pocket. (Even frugal living has entered the 21st century).
23. Think Long Term Whenever You Spend
When you go to make a purchase consider the long term implications. Do you need that item now? Will you use it for a year? Two years? Could this money be used in another way that would benefit me in the long term? Having this mindset will keep you considering your purchases and living frugal.
The Benefits of Frugal Living Are Generated Overtime
Frugal living is not an immediate fix to anyone’s money problems. Instead, these frugal choices add up over time to save you money in more ways than one. Not only will you be saving a couple of bucks here and there, but you’ll be more aware of your spending habits and this starts to change your mindset. This focus on the ‘why’ behind your spending is the key to breaking out of some money draining habits.
Frugal Living Means Money Saved, So What Do You Do With It?
You’ve started to live frugally, but you also need a plan for the money saved. It would be fun to spend it all on things you value, but intentional frugal living means you find a balance and also take care of your own money business. Here are a few ways you can put the money you saved by being frugal to good use:
Pay down your debt
Debt is a drag on your finances and only gets worse overtime. (That interest will really get you). Make a plan to pay down your debt. I use the debt avalanche method, which targets the highest interest rate debt first.
Save for emergencies
If you haven’t built an emergency fund yet, now is the time. Stash that money in a high yield savings account until it reach 1-6 months worth of expenses.
Save for upcoming expenses (sinking funds)
If you know you’re going on a trip, need a new water heater, or have to buy a new car seat then you need sinking funds. Those are savings accounts each with a specific purpose. They help you prepare for the future instead of always being blindsided by it.
Increase your retirement contributions
If you have taken care of your savings and debt, then by all means put that money away in your retirement accounts. Frugal living is a common way for individuals to boost their contributions and retire early.
Spend it in areas you value
Life still needs to be lived, so use some of that money for fun. A fancy dinner, tickets to a show…anything you know you would love. The key is to plan for it and not spend money you don’t have.
The Bottom Line:
Living a frugal lifestyle doesn’t mean you’re a cheapskate. You should still be tipping at the restaurants. Instead, frugality will help you reach your financial goals faster and live a more intentional life.