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The word is out — you really can create life-changing money habits that will allow you to save money with frugal living – maybe even get rich!
Not sure where to start? You’re in the perfect place!
This post is filled with all the best ideas frugal living ideas that actually work and can make a huge difference in your life!
Savvy savers know that frugal living isn’t about being cheap; it’s about being smart and allocating your time, money, and efforts effectively so that you can maximize savings while still having fun and enjoying life!
In this guide, you will get all the top frugal living tips that have stood the test of time.
What is frugal living?
First of all, what is frugal living?
The word frugal is often confused with being cheap or even with minimalism.
In reality and in practice these three terms are very different.
Obviously, there is some measure of overlap between the three, but the core philosophy behind each lifestyle is slightly different.
Frugal living definition:
A lifestyle concerned with being frugal and economical in one’s management of material resources, especially money.
Being “cheap” definition:
A person who doesn’t like to spend money, to the point where they might be considered miserly or stingy; a cheapskate is someone who takes being cheap to an extreme.
People who practice minimalism aim to remove the non-essential items in their life and create more space for the things that do matter to them. You can read more about the characteristics of minimalist people in this blog post.
NOTE: Remember, there can certainly be an overlap between each of these lifestyles! Minimalism is a spectrum and there are many iterations, such as financial minimalism, which you can read more about here.
Is frugal living worth it?
If any of your life goals include saving money, increasing financial freedom, and being happier, then yes, frugal living is worth it!
Money — or a lack thereof — can hold you back in so many ways.
Not only can a frugal lifestyle help you reach your money goals faster but often people who live frugally experience greater life satisfaction.
Here are a few benefits of being frugal:
- Being frugal helps you save money. This is one of the major reasons people decide to start living frugally. A frugal lifestyle can help you naturally save more money – you might even find that when you make a commitment to frugal living you start to manifest positive changes in other areas of your life!
- Frugal living reduces stress. Living paycheck to paycheck and constantly worrying that you might run out of money is stressful. Over time, this stress can even affect your physical or mental health. Not only does frugal living help you save money and reduce your wealth-worries, but when you stop comparing your money and success to that of other people and resist the desire to compete with them, you will feel less stressed and naturally happier!
- Living frugally is good for the environment. True frugal living is almost always more environmentally friendly; when you start living frugally you organically help the environment because you will naturally spend less, create less waste, and be more mindful of your possessions and resources.
- A frugal lifestyle can empower you. When you take control of your finances you are taking control of so much more; not only your money, but also your time, your future, and your happiness. Sadly, even in our “first world” society, a lack of money can hold you back, in everything from being able to afford emergency healthcare to eating healthy.
- Frugal living helps you focus on what matters. Frugal living isn’t really about having less – it’s about creating more of what you want.
Is it easy to live frugally?
The answer to this question might depend on who you ask!
Living frugally is often not easy, especially if you suddenly make the decision to switch to frugal living after years of being careless with your money and impulsively spending money whenever you feel like it.
Just because you didn’t grow up frugal doesn’t mean you can’t succeed at frugal living, however!
Can being frugal make you rich?
Yes, yes, YES!
Naysayers love to scoff about how far frugal living can get you, but there are plenty of rags-to-riches stories that prove otherwise – frugal living can help you get rich!
As a general rule, the self-made rich are frugal – when you look at their overall net worth, most millionaires and billionaires are living well below their means.
A frugal lifestyle has helped my family:
- Escape extreme poverty and pay off 25k of debt, fast
- Afford our dream wedding (we saved 30k and paid out of pocket – no help from family!)
- Purchase two safe and reliable cars with ALL CASH
- Move to Europe, where we now live totally debt-free
- And so much more…
Small frugal changes can add up
But your goal isn’t even about trying to get rich – maybe you are just trying o save a little bit more money so you can stop living paycheck to paycheck.
By changing your spending and saving habits you can start saving 10%, 25%, or even 50% of your income – yes, even if you are living on one income!.
Just think about it: there are so many little choices you make every day that add up to wasted money – a takeaway Starbucks coffee here, a quick Chipotle burrito bowl there, and before you know it there goes your budget!
This experience isn’t just a low-wage earner problem.
Even high-earners that make $150,000 or more per year are living paycheck to paycheck!
It isn’t the size of your paycheck that makes you rich – it’s how you spend it — or don’t — to save your money!
FRUGAL PRO-TIP: Focus on the “big three” expenses to save the most money!
We aren’t talking sports leagues here!
The “big three” expenses are the top three most expensive categories costing people money – if you think of your money as a pie, these are the biggest slices of the pie that eat up your money each month.
In fact, the big three account for around 60% of total spending.
The big three expenses include:
You will often find you get the most bang for your buck by concentrating your frugal living efforts to reduce costs within the big three expense categories.
Infographic courtesy of the USDA website.
25 frugal living tips to get started
Here are the best frugal living tips of all time; these tips have been used to save money in modern times, and even frugal living tips from the Great Depression.
These tips helped us survive the hardest and poorest times of our lives – now, we want to help you live more frugally!
1. Don’t pay money for stuff you can get for free
The world is overflowing with abundant free resources – you just need to know where to look for them!
One way to find free stuff is to get familiar with your local trash pickup schedule.
There should be certain days allocated to trash collection for large items. Once you figure out the day of the week people are trashing their large items you can take a cruise to see the crazy amazing treasures people are literally throwing away.
You can find perfectly good bicycles, solid wood furniture, TVs, and more. Just keep in mind your vehicle will need to be big enough to carry your loot home with you and you may need someone to help you lift larger items.
The zero-waste and sustainability movement has also made it easier to find free stuff in your local area.
You can find free stuff in local Facebook Swap groups or even check out Freecycle, which has 9 million members all over the world connecting to exchange free resources and keep items out of landfills.
2. Buy at thrift stores, shop sales, or use coupons
Frugal-living experts agree that you should avoid paying full-price as much as possible.
Sustainable shopping is hot, hot, HOT right now.
Half of my wardrobe comes from Goodwill and I even snagged a $2,000 designer luxury jacket for $13 with my savvy thrift store shopping know-how!
If thrifting isn’t your thing, there are tons of coupon apps and sales going on all the time; the good news is you don’t need to be glued to your computer screen to stay up to date with sales – if you love Amazon, you can sign up at camelcamelcamel to track prices and set sale alerts to catch price drops fast.
3. Don’t be afraid to negotiate
Negotiating and haggling are a time-honored frugal tradition!
Despite what retail shops and sellers would like to have you believe, nearly everything is negotiable; I have successfully negotiated everything from a 13% pay raise to discounts on non-discounted brand-name items.
4. Get laser-focused on your goals
Setting explicit goals for yourself and your family can be a make-or-break moment; people who set clear goals for themselves are more likely to achieve those goals.
It’s often helpful to set one scary-big long-term goal (I want to retire by the time I am 40) and then brainstorm the smaller baby steps you will take to get yourself to that goal.
If you have a family, talk things over together and decide where you want to focus your saving efforts and where to cut.
It’s better to work together when deciding which categories you wouldn’t mind splurging on (for us, it’s grocery shopping) and which expense categories could benefit from being reduced or eliminated altogether.
5. Plan ahead
Another frugal living tip is to always think long-term.
Every single time you think of making a purchase or changing your budget, consider how it is going to affect your financial goals.
You can think of your money in terms of time and happiness. There are lots of ways you can curb your spending just by reframing your thoughts.
6. Track your income and spending
If you had to sit down with a pen and paper and jot down from memory all of your monthly bills and expenses could you do that?
The truth is most people have NO IDEA where their money is going every month!
If you’re guilty of this, you should challenge yourself to track your spending for 30 days — one full month — so you can see where every cent is going.
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7. Create a budget that works for you
The foundation of a frugal lifestyle is in a solid budget because the as-you-go style of budgeting is grueling!
If you don’t know how to budget, then check out this beginner’s guide to budgeting that lays out all the steps to creating your perfect budget.
8. Cancel or delete subscriptions
After tracking your expenses you will likely find a few subscriptions you are paying money for but rarely use.
Common budget-breaking offenders include gym memberships or Netflix subscriptions.
Cancel subscriptions and memberships that you don’t use or can replace with free options – for example, instead of going to a gym, you can find many free YouTube exercise videos that can help you stay in shape without leaving the comfort of your own home.
It’s also a good idea to unsubscribe from email lists that make you want to spend money.
If you are someone that can’t resist spending money when you see a $5 coupon in your inbox, unsubscribe from those email lists to prevent purchase temptation.
Then, when you are finally ready to spend money you can easily search for the best deals or coupons online!
9. Sell stuff you don’t need
A good decluttering session can not only make your home a happier place but also a richer one!
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you if you have less stuff you will spend less time tidying and cleaning up, which, in turn, gives you more time to do stuff you enjoy.
Once you’re done decluttering you can turn that clutter into cold, hard cash!
10. Downsize your home to save money
Remember those big three expenses?
If you get really serious about decluttering and saving money you might find you don’t need as much space!
Downsizing your home can save you money across the board, from mortgage payments to utilities to sneaky maintenance and upkeep costs.
11. Save money with meal planning
Meal prep and meal planning can help you save time and money each week.
Meal planning will keep you from getting bored eating PB&J sandwiches or red beans and rice week after week; plan ahead and you can cook and meal prep tons of tasty meals to keep you eating well on a dime!
12. Cut your grocery budget
Because food is one of the biggest monthly expenses it makes a lot of sense to try and cut your grocery costs.
Find easy ways to save money on groceries, whether it’s using coupons or shopping sales. You can save hundreds of dollars every month on groceries even without spending hours cutting coupons!
13. Eat at home to save money
Learn how to cook your favorite meals at home and you can save tons of money!
There are recipes built around cooking delicious food that still keeps you on budget, such as $1, $3, or even $5 meals.
14. Play “Chopped” in your very own kitchen
Have you ever seen the cult-favorite cooking show Chopped?
Basically, a group of cooks is given a ludicrously odd batch of four mystery ingredients that they must use to make delicious meals for the judges.
You don’t need to be a chef to appreciate the fact that getting creative with your cooking can save lots of money! When you know what is in your pantry you are less likely to waste money buying more of the same thing; it also helps reduce food waste.
Make sure you know exactly what ingredients are in your refrigerator and pantry at all times and you can cook yummy meals even when you are running low on food. Let no dry beans go uncooked, no random ingredient go unexplored!
You can even make it a fun family game.
Just sit down with a few ingredients and see who can come up with the best meal idea!
You will save money and at the same time teach your children important life skills, such as problem-solving, how to live frugally, and meal planning.
15. Buy a used car
Brand new cars are a total waste; the instant you drive off the lot your car immediately depreciates.
Instead of buying new, finding a good used car can save you lots of money.
Focus on reliability and quality rather than going for something flashy – and don’t forget to bargain!
Don’t expect to walk away with a great deal at the first car dealership you go to either; when you’re trying to get a great deal on a car, get multiple quotes and you can even play dealer offers against each other.
Remember, all’s fair in love and money.
16. Explore other methods of transportation
If you live in an area where walking, taking public transportation, or riding a bike is a viable option, those are almost always more cost-effective than owning and maintaining your own car.
17. Save money on utilities
Daily frugal habits can help you save money on your monthly utility bills.
These money-saving habits include:
- Turning off or unplugging electronics when not in use
- Switching lightbulbs for energy-efficient LED lights
- Don’t leave the water running when washing dishes
- Hang clothing to dry instead of using the dryer
- Switch to a smart thermostat or program temperature levels yourself to reduce energy
- Check with your utility companies to find ways to reduce costs
- Comparison shop between utility companies
18. Pay off any debt ASAP
One of the biggest money-sucks is debt.
You literally pay 20% more for things and it all goes into your creditor’s pockets. Yikes!
Tons of frugal living experts say one of the first ways to keep more of your money is to stay out of debt.
Start with your smallest debt and pay it off. Then, take the money you were paying on that debt and apply it to the next-highest debt. This is what Dave Ramsey calls the “snowball method.”
Once you get out of debt, make it a goal to not go back into debt again.
19. Buy stuff with cash only
Do you have a tendency to buy stuff with money you don’t have?
Cut those credit cards UP!
If you commit to only paying with cash you may find yourself more thoughtful about your purchases.
It’s easy to whip out a credit card and pay for things with money you don’t have, but when you are literally handing away your last $20 before the next paycheck you might find yourself thinking twice.
20. Find sneaky ways to make money even when you spend money
If you are going to buy toilet paper and socks, you might as well earn money from those everyday purchases.
There are lots of rebate apps out there and using them will help you make some money back!
The best cashback apps include:
- Ebates/Rakuten – This sweet and easy app earns you cash back on most online purchases. Sign up now FOR FREE and get $10 instantly when you spend your first $25 – you can even refer family or friends and make $25 for each referral!
- Swagbucks – This is another way to earn cash back on purchases, and they also have surveys you can take to earn extra money. Find out how to get free gift cards for your favorite stores like Target, Amazon, or PayPal cash!
- Ibotta – Ibotta works with tons of retailers. You can use it with your store loyalty cards or by shopping online.
👇I don’t LIKE to spend money, but when I do I MAKE money! 👇
21. Learn new skills to save money
Instead of always buying new things, learn how to build them yourself or repurpose them.
Watch YouTube or browse Pinterest and try to fix minor things around the house yourself. You can even make your own beauty products for yourself or as a DIY gift to save a little extra money.
22. Build an emergency fund
Emergency funds are critical.
Having the means to quickly come up with the cash for things like a broken air conditioner or a new roof will keep you out of debt.
How much money should be in your emergency fund?
Some experts say you should try to keep 3 months’ worth of income in a savings account.
23. Find free ways to have fun
There are so many ways to have fun for free!
Go for a walk or a bike ride, cook a romantic meal together at home using food you already have, look for free museum tours, or visit the library.
No matter your hobbies or interests there are plenty of free ways to have fun; if you use free entertainment 80-90% of the time, you can still splurge every once in a while, as long as you are smart about how you do it.
24. Don’t waste anything
Once you spend money on something make a commitment to use that thing until it is gone or beyond repair.
This includes reducing food waste, wearing clothes or shoes until they are worn or full of holes, squeezing the last bit out of the toothpaste tube, and more.
If you have ever added water to a soap dispenser to get every last bit or cut off the bottoms of your kids’ pants to turn them into shorts you are on the right track!
25. Start a side hustle to make more money
While these frugal living tips can help you save money you can definitely get rich faster if you increase your income!
Here are some of my favorite side hustles:
- Thrift flip items on eBay, Etsy, or Poshmark
- Take online surveys (you can make up to $45/survey)
- Become an online tutor
- Make money pet sitting or dog walking
- Start a blog (even when I couldn’t work for MONTHS during our move overseas, my blog still made us passive income!)
Frugal living can help you live a rich and happy life!
Just by changing how you view and spend your money, you’ll find more money than you even knew you had.
I hope this guide helped you out! If so, feel free to share it with your friends or save it to read again!