Disclaimer: The statements made in this post are the opinion of the author. They should not be viewed as financial advice. Please consult with a financial specialist before making any financial decisions.
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When you hear that someone is frugal the first image that may pop into your head is clipping coupons. I know it is for me. But there is so much more to living frugal.
What Does it Mean to Live Frugally?
Frugality is spending as little as possible without reducing your overall happiness. When someone is frugal they will cut every expense they can to the bone, except those things that bring them real joy.
Often a frugal person will spend money lavishly on things that are important to them, but to be able to do that you have to cut all of your other expenses. A lot.
|In Article You Will Find|
50 Best Frugal Living Tips
Better Money Habits and Tricks
Lifestyle Change Tips
Reducing Spending Tips
Increase Savings Tips
Live Frugally and Happy
Frequently Asked Questions
50 Best Frugal Living Tips
Being frugal takes a lot of effort, and sometimes it is hard to know where to start. These 50 tips are all helpful, but they also may not all apply to you. Start with 2-5 tips until they become habits. Then add in a couple more. Eventually you will be a frugal person through the power of habit building.
To make it easier I have broken the tips into five categories: Good Money Habits, Lifestyle Changes, Reducing Spending, Increasing Saving, and Food–because food is probably the biggest thing that we underestimate in our finances.
Good Money Habits and Tricks
Good money habits are the foundation of frugal living. None of the other tips will make a difference if you can’t get the basics right. So make sure that you first do the basics.
Tip 1 Track Your Spending
I can’t say it enough. You can’t cut expenses if you don’t know what your expenses are. Always track your spending and you are half way to a strong financial position. This is the first frugal living tip.
Tip 2 Create a Budget
After you have tracked your spending you will know how much you spend each month on different things. Put your money in a certain category and stick with it so you don’t overspend. Don’t forget a savings category.
Tip 3 Have a Separate Checkings and Savings Account
Checkings Accounts are used to pay bills and cover expenses. Savings accounts are used to hold money long term or until needed for a larger purchase, or for emergencies. If you keep your savings money with your spending money, your saving money will become your spending money very quickly. Don’t fall for it. Separate them.
Tip 4 Put Your Savings in a High Yield Account
For a frugal person every dollar counts. So the difference between a normal savings account (0.06%) and a High Yield Savings Account (say 1%) can be huge. For just $1,000 that is $0.60 a year versus $10 a year. Don’t short change yourself… get it? Never mind…
Tip 5 Save Money Automatically
Set up an automatic withdrawal from every payment to go directly into your savings account. It is even better if you never see this money. Especially if you are easily tempted to spend it. Talk to your HR department about depositing into two different accounts if needed. If not, just set up an automatic deposit from one account to another on a monthly (or biweekly) basis.
Tip 6 Build an Emergency Fund
Another fundamental frugal tip is put money aside to have just in case an emergency expense comes up. Start with just $1,000. Then increase it to one month of expenses. Then three. Usually 6-12 months in recommended. Just do it so you don’t have to go into debt and ruin your financial stability when something big comes up.
Tip 7 Get on the Same Page as Your Partner
If you are in a relationship then you need to be on the same page when it comes to money. If not, it will be a continuous source of stress. That’s not just a frugal tip, it is a life tip. I wrote a whole post about this because it is that important, check out how to get on the same page as your partner financially.
Tip 8 Always Take the Employer Match
Many employers will give you a certain percent of your income that you contribute to your retirement accounts on top of the amount you contributed. This is called an employer match. So if you make $1,000 and they match 3%, every dollar you put in up to $30 they will also give that amount ($30 is 3% or $1,000). So if you contributed $30 you now have $60 invest (your $30 plus their $30). That is free money, it is a no brainer. Take it!
Tip 9 Use a Tax Professional
Let me start by saying that if you have a single W2 job, and don’t have kids, or own your home, or contribute to charity, or make any other income, then you probably don’t need a tax professional–Turbotax will do just fine. But if you have even slightly complicated taxes, a tax professional is worth their weight in gold. Consider talking with your tax professional about how you can prepare for tax season throughout the year as well, not just in April. It can save you a lot of money.
Lifestyle is just the way you live. And if you are an average American (or Australian or whatever) there are probably things in your lifestyle that are costing you big. And it is getting constantly worse through a process called Lifestyle Creep. Here are some frugal living tips you use to live a more frugal lifestyle.
Tip 10 Buy a Reliable, Used Car
A new car will lose value very quickly. Meaning that you are upside down on your loan as soon as you buy the car. Getting a used car (preferably paid for in cash) will give you a better bang for your buck because cars stop losing value so quickly once they are about 5 years old. So do yourself a favor and get a used car.
Tip 11 Buy/Rent Less House
Too often, people figure out the highest number they can pay for rent or a mortgage, and get as close to that number as possible. This is a mistake. Will your happiness really decrease by having a couple hundred less square feet or no granite counter tops? No, so spend less on your house because you pay for it every month.
Tip 12 Get Paid to Do What You Already Do
There are a number of things that this can mean, but I would recommend just asking “Is there an app that can pay me for this?” Because the answer is probably yes. Going for a walk? Get Paid. You like dogs? Get Paid. You get the idea. This is an easy frugal tip.
Tip 13 Bike to Work
I know that this is a scary thing to suggest, but biking to work is really not that bad. I do it myself. But even if you can’t bike to work, consider some other ways you can save money getting to work. Not every person has to drive one car by them self.
Tip 14 Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
We live in a throw away world. Everything is made to be disposable it seems. But what if you didn’t throw things away? Can you reuse a plastic spoon? Yes. Can you use an empty jar for storage? Yes. Can you have one handful less of chips? Maybe. The point is that using less means spending less and reusing it means not buying it again. Save money and I guess the environment will be happy about it too.
Tip 15 Sell Unused Stuff
Speaking of recycling, we all have junk lying around our house that is probably useful but you never touch it. So why don’t you sell it? There are so many places online to sell things these days it takes almost no effort. People will come to you! I mean I have a fondue pot that I’ve never touched up for sale. It’s on Facebook if anyone is interested…. Selling your old stuff to make money instead of just throwing it away is even better than a frugal tip, it is also a money making tip.
Tip 16 Give Generously
This might be an odd piece of advice on a frugal living tips blog post, but hear me out. Being generous is magical. The most generous people I know are also the most prosperous. The more you give the more you somehow get. So don’t be stingy while being frugal. Give to those that need and watch as you somehow have more than enough.
Now that you have some good money habits and lifestyle changes under your belt, it is time to get nit picky. Reducing spending is a number one priority for frugal people. Just remember it isn’t about living like a monk with only a hut and a robe, but cutting down on everything that doesn’t bring you happiness. So here are some frugal tips for reducing spending.
Tip 17 Cut Your Electric Bill
If you’re not paying attention, a high electricity bill is basically throwing money out the window (because windows are a number one culprit for lost energy). There are so many simple things you can do to cut your electricity bill. I wrote a post about it, so I won’t go over that here. Just know, if you don’t do those things mentioned in the linked post, you are leaving a bunch of money on the table.
Tip 18 Reduce Entertainment Costs
I’m not saying stop having fun. In fact, I would say have a lot of fun, but just don’t spend all of your money doing it. Do you have to go to the movie premier or can you wait until Tuesday discount night? Do you need 18 streaming services or can you get by with only one at a time? Can a picnic and a board game be as fun as a fancy dinner and a movie? YES! So use your imagination, not your wallet.
Tip 19 Host a Potluck Party
Next time your friends decide to go out, consider suggesting a pot luck party. Have everyone contribute something to a really nice dinner at your home. Then play some games together. You’ll be surprised how nice it feels to have fun without spending money. I’ve even heard of people hosting baked potato parties where you bring the potatoes and everyone brings an ingredient. You have fun for just a few bucks. Give it a shot!
Tip 20 Online Cool Down Cart
Sometimes in the excitement of buying things online it is easy to get carried away. To help calm us down it is important to take time to reflect on our purchases. Especially big ones. So whenever you find yourself online and adding things to your cart, consider stopping after you’ve found what you want, closing your computer, and coming back the next day. If you still think the purchase is necessary, buy it. If not, delete it from your cart.
Tip 21 Disable the Buy Now Button
Amazon and other platforms have now made it ridiculously easy to buy. You input all your card information once, then you just tap one button labelled “Buy Now” and it ends up at your door the next day. Wow, that is dangerous. To remove that temptation, go into your settings and disable the buy now button. This might be the simplest frugal living tip.
Tip 22 Buy the Off Brand
Let’s be honest, the brand doesn’t really make a big difference in most cases. Sometimes there is a quality difference, but it is often impossible to tell. So just get the cheaper one! Your quality of life won’t go down much, if any, and you’ll save a ton of money.
Tip 23 Upgrade to Save
On there other hand, there are times when going cheap is a terrible idea. You’ll often save money by getting the nicer thing that will last longer. Sturdy shoes can be this way. Diapers have a huge quality difference from brand to brand. And tools will either work forever or break in a week depending on the brand. So if it will save money in the long run then buy the nicer item. This takes research, but this frugal tip is well worth it.
Tip 24 Buy in Bulk
Often the more of something you buy the less it will cost per unit. This isn’t always the case, so double check. It you are going to use it anyway, then buy it in bulk and save money in the long run. Hand soap, toilet paper, food, and medicine are all good examples of this.
Tip 25 Buy the Lower Price Per Unit
There is a big difference between being cheap and being frugal when it comes to shopping. A cheap person will grab whatever costs less now. A frugal person buys what costs less in the long run. Price per unit (ounce, gallon, pound, whatever) is usually calculated for you on the price tag. So just find whichever product is less per unit and you’ll be saving money in the long run.
Tip 26 Shop at Used/Second Hand Stores
Unless your are someone that gets immense joy out of high fashion, there is nothing wrong with shopping at a second hand store. You can find a lot of good clothing, furniture, board games, kitchen utensils, etc. All at a really good price. So check it out. You’ll be surprised how fun a good find at a second hand store can be. And you save money too.
Tip 27 Use Digital Coupons
You might be asking what a digital coupon even is. But first let me say that when someone says “You should use coupons to save money” we all immediately think of cutting up a newspaper. Some businesses have finally figured out that people don’t want to do that and have started offering coupons through their app instead. If you frequently shop somewhere, then get their app! Get coupons right on your phone. Save time. Save money.
Tip 28 Save on Gas
Have I mentioned the phrase, “There’s an app for that”? Do you wanto to save money EVERY time you go to the gas pump. There’s an app for that. It’s called GasBuddy. You earn points by updating gas station information, and you can use those points to enter a drawing for a gift card. But on top of that you save between 4 and 25 cents PER GALLON when you use your gas buddy card. So get the app! And use the referral code EHGYYDK for some extra points.
Tip 29 Discount Date Night
Why is Friday night date night? It isn’t, that’s the truth. There is no law that you can only go out on a Friday or a Saturday night. But because everyone goes out on those nights prices are higher. Instead, plan your date night around specials. Tuesday night discount movies. Monday night buy one get one. This way you can have just as much fun for a fraction of the price. Find the good specials is half the fun of the frugal living tip, so get into it.
Tip 30 Shop at Less Expensive Stores
Some stores are just more expensive than others. I mean I can get a towel for $5 or I can get a towel for $35 with a silk ribbon around it depending on what store I go to. Your quality of life will not significantly decrease because your towel doesn’t have a silk ribbon. So shop at the less expensive store.
While decreasing spending and increasing savings sound the same they are slightly different. Increasing savings is all about being able to put more money aside while decreasing spending is about using less money when you spend it. Here are some great saving frugal tips.
Tip 31 Don’t Keep Cash on You
With all of the electronic spending trackers out there it is really easy to start thinking of credit and debit cards as your real money and cash as just whatever money. You can forget to manually record cash purchases very easily. I know, I just did it last week. That is bad for tracking your spending. Just don’t keep cash on your person and you can’t spend it.
Tip 32 Attend Free Events
A frugal person’s favorite word is free, or it is at least in the top 5. So whenever you hear about a free event, consider going (this helps reduce your entertainment budget too). There are all sorts of free concerts, art fairs, guided tours, displays, shows, and charity events. If you attend a charity event, remember to give generously. Free events are a great source of entertainment and a fun frugal living activity.
Tip 33 Negotiate Your Bills
This frugal living tip might sound frightening, but it really is quite simple. Call up a provider of a service, tell them what you could get somewhere else, and see what they are willing to do for you. OR just threaten to leave because they charge too much. The cost of getting new customers is higher than retaining you with a discount, so they’d rather cut you a deal. Give it a shot. The worst thing they can do is say no.
Tip 34 Shop for Lower Insurance Yearly
I’m sure you’ve noticed that insurance premiums NEVER go down. Every year there seems to be some reason or another given for raising your rate. I call this insurance creep. Don’t let it happen. Insurance companies offer their lowest and best rates to new customers, so shop around every year and find the best deal. If you like your current insurance provider, find that best offer and then turn around and negotiate your bill with them (see the previous point).
Tip 35 Save Money to Make a Purchase
Interest is either your best friend or your worst enemy. When you buy things on credit it becomes your worst enemy. Avoid credit as much as you can. Save up to make purchases instead of buying it first and paying it off for years. It will save you a lot of money in the long run.
Tip 36 Travel Hacking
Do you like to travel? Then stop paying full price. Travel hacking is too complicated to explain here, but the basic concept is if you are good at managing your money you can get credit card companies to pay for all of your travel, or at least most of it. So why keep paying full price? To learn more about travel hacking you can check out the MadFientist.
Tip 37 Choose a Lower Cost of Living Area
A lot of people have big dreams and move to the big city to achieve those dreams. Then they find out how much things cost and end up working three jobs and sharing a studio apartment with two roommates to make ends meet. Just do yourself a favor and choose to live somewhere that is less expensive. Even average is better than crazy expensive places like New York and San Francisco. Your wallet will thank you.
Tip 38 Use a Library Card
I can never stress this enough, libraries should be a top priority in an informed society. If you need to be entertained. Go to the library. If you need to be informed. Go to the library. If you need to advertise. Go to the library. The library is an amazing, free (there’s that word again) public space that is entirely under utilized. Just get a library card, it is worth it.
Tip 39 Do a Kid’s Clothes Exchange
Did you know there are places where you can give away the clothes your kids have outgrown and get clothes someone else’s kids have out grown? They’re amazing money savers because kids outgrow clothes faster than they can eat a chocolate chip cookie. It’s nuts! If you can’t find an exchange near you, then start one!
Tip 40 Do DIY Furniture
Furniture is incredibly expensive, and yet it is actually a really simple thing to make. With a couple of inexpensive tools and some wood you can make a lot of everyday furniture yourself. Depending on how much time you have, this frugal tip can be a big money saver and a fun side hobby. To get started with some ideas check out ana-white.com.
Tip 41 Learn Simple Car Repair
Cars are getting more an more complicated as well as more and more expensive to fix. So it is important to only take your car in when you really need a professional. Youtube is your friend for car repair. If it is something simple, I guarantee there is a Youtube video explaining how to fix it, and probably on your exact car too! So learn some basic fixes and save a ton of money.
Tip 42 Maintenance is Cheaper than Repair
Often when something breaks it takes a lot of other systems with it. Do regular upkeep and it will be much cheaper in the long run. For example, replacing the vent filter for your AC unit will save you money as the AC works at a more efficient level and works longer. If you don’t it will break sooner and then you have to replace a multi-thousand dollar unit instead of buying a filter for a few dollars.
Tip 43 Google Home Repairs Before Calling Someone
Similar to car repair, home repair is also something you can probably do yourself. Once again, Youtube is your friend. I’ve learned to replace electrical outlets, leaking bath faucets, install baseboards, and so much more without calling a professional. Don’t get charged hundreds of dollars for a thirty minute fix.
Tip 44 Cut Unused Subscriptions
Did you subscribe to something last year and then forget about it? I know I have (it was actually really expensive dental insurance I never used…whoops). If you are tracking your spending it is easy to notice those reoccurring expenses such as subscriptions. If you aren’t using it, cut it! Even if you are using it, is it necessary? Subscriptions suck your money away, so avoid them if you can.
Tip 45 Try a No Spend Challenge
A no spend challenge may seem like an extreme frugal living tip, but let me first say it doesn’t mean you don’t pay your bills or your mortgage. A no spend challenge is simply trying to live for a month without any variable expenses (as opposed to fixed expenses like your car payment). Try to eat only what you have in your pantry. Don’t drive if you can walk to save on gas. Have fun at home instead of out on the town. It can actually be quite fun.
Of all the things we’ve talked about, many of them can be applied to food, but since food is the easiest of the three biggest money suckers to tackle, it deserves its own section of tips and tricks. So here are a few frugal living tips to save on food specifically.
Tip 46 Make Your Own Pre-Packaged Breakfast
Do you get a fast food breakfast sandwich on your way to work? Or perhaps a large cup of artisan coffee? You can easily save a bunch of money by just doing this yourself. Buy in bulk and make your favorite breakfast sandwich and freeze them. All you have to do is just pull one out, microwave it, and now you have breakfast. Coffee machines are also incredibly smart these days. So do it in advance and save money.
Tip 47 Pack a Lunch
Going out to eat every day is very expensive and adds up quickly. Just packing a sandwich and some fruit will give you all the energy you need and keep a lot more money in your wallet. It is an incredibly easy frugal tip.
Tip 48 Make Dinner at Home Most Days
Eating out is fun and can give a much needed break from the humdrum every day, but it is expensive. Instead, try learning to cook more meals at home. You’ll save money and you can have a lot of fun learning to cook, especially if you do it with your partner. Have some fun with it, save money, and make going out more special. It’s a win-win.
Tip 49 Actually Eat Your Leftovers
Throwing away leftovers is a tremendous waste of money. If you can, try making a meal last two nights. If not, take the leftovers for lunch. Now you’re not eating out AND not wasting food. Also, leftovers are more filling than the Twinkies you got out of the vending machine.
Tip 50 Get Cash Back for Food
There are so many apps that will give you cash back for shopping I can’t mention them all here. But the two I use are IBOTTA, which gives you special offers on items for you to save on, and FetchRewards which will reward you for uploading receipts. If you are interested in using IBOTTA you can use my referral code jlbmjho for some extra points, or if you want to use FetchRewards you can get extra points with C8WPN.
Live Frugal and Live Happy
There are so many ways to live frugally. This list is a good place to start, but it isn’t everything you can do to be frugal. Get creative and you’ll be surprised at what you can come up with.
Remember, the main frugal living tip is cut back on things that don’t matter and increase your happiness.
What are some other frugality tips? What benefits have you had from living frugally? Tell me about it in the comments below.
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A list of definitions used on this blog can be found here.
Frugality: Spending as little as possible without reducing your overall happiness. When someone is frugal they will cut every expense they can to the bone, except those things that bring them real joy. In other words, frugality is using every dollar with purpose and not waste.
High Yield Savings Account: A savings account that pays interest above the national average. Usually this is much closer to keeping up with inflation although it is a bit lower than that. While rates vary, around 1% is a high yield in 2020.
Employer Match: When an employer will match the amount of money your contribute to your retirement account up to a certain percent (usually between 3-5%). So if 5% of you income is $500 and you contribute $500, your employer would also contribute $500 and you would have $1000 saved.
Lifestyle Creep: Also called Life Style Inflation, it means that you increase your expenses exactly as much as your income increases (if not more), this is usually gradual or unnoticeable with each small raise and it gets people into debt or at least living paycheck to paycheck.
Variable Expenses: Monthly expenses that are not consistently the same amount. Examples of this are food, your utility bill, and gas.
Fixed Expenses: Monthly expenses that are consistently the same amount. Examples of this are mortgage or rent, car payment, and insurance premiums.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you get rich by being frugal?
Yes, you can, but only if you deliberately save money and invest it for long term growth and cash flow. Just not spending money and putting it in a bank can only get you so far. You will have a good amount of money in the bank, but most likely not enough to live on. If you want to become rich by being frugal check out my post on investing basics. It is a good place to start.
How can I become very frugal?
Becoming very frugal can be a long process if you aren’t naturally frugal. Start with the list above and choose just a few things to try. Make those frugal tips into habits then add some more. As you slowly build frugal habits, you will be more frugal naturally. Also, if you are not naturally frugal, putting systems in place to help you avoid spending money unnecessarily will help. See the tips above like don’t carry cash on you and set up automatic savings.
Is being frugal bad?
No, being frugal is not bad. Just like anything, it is possible to take frugality to an extreme, but the basic principles of being frugal can benefit everyone. Remember being frugal is all about maximizing happiness while minimizing expenses. But if you go too deep into frugality you can start to be cheap or stingy.
What’s the difference between frugal and cheap?
Frugal people are not afraid to spend money, but frugal people are careful about spending money. Every dollar has a place and every dollar is accounted for. Cheap people on the other hand jealously guard their money, don’t spend it unless they have to, and always choose the less expensive option without thinking about it.
Frugal is like the mother of a large family making careful decisions on how to spend their money so they can eat all month and get to have a nice day trip to a state park (minimizing expense and maximizing happiness) while a cheap person is like Scrooge who refuses to even put an extra log on the fire because it would cost money.