Frugal Living Tips – it’s a topic that comes up quite frequently when you start taking control of your money. But what does it really mean and why should you even care about it? I’ll show you the best frugal living tips that you can actually use to get more value for your money.
A lot of people think frugal = cheap. But that’s not necessarily the case. Cheap has more of a negative feel to the word. Think about it. If you say something is cheap, it often means poorly made, low quality, and won’t last long.
Cheap focuses only on price. Frugal revolves around getting the best value for your money.
So how do you draw the line between frugal living and living cheap? And are we just splitting hairs when it comes to budgeting your money? Saving money is saving money, right? Not necessarily. There are lots of ways you can get more value for your hard-earned cash by incorporating these frugal living tips.
There are no hard and fast rules for frugal living but there is one almost guaranteed result – If you can incorporate some of these frugal living tips, it can make a huge difference if your financial future.
The Best Frugal Living Tips You Can Actually Use
Now to some people, when they hear the word frugal, they think, nope – you’re about to tell me I’ve got to sell all my stuff and live off the grid in order to save money. Or I can never go shopping again. Not at all.
It’s not about depriving yourself, but about thinking how much value you can get with your money. Not being wasteful with your money and choosing wisely.
Why Should You Care About Frugal Living?
Think about what you want to spend your money on. Are there things you waste money on that you feel guilty about later? Or think about the things you’ve spent money on and have zero regrets.
Take a second and write down the last several things you spent money on.
Did you overspend at the grocery store by $100 because you didn’t make a meal plan? When you blow your grocery budget but don’t plan, you often end up throwing things away that don’t get used. If you do that even 12 times a year – that’s $1200 bucks that could’ve been used for debt payments, savings, a vacation, or something else that truly gives you value for your money.
Those groceries in the trash don’t give your money any value.
Or that last Target run that you intended to get only shampoo and conditioner and walked out with a cart full of decor items or clothes because it’s a new season. Did you really need all that crap? Nope. But it’s become a joke when we go to Target and walk out with hundreds of dollars worth of “stuff” that we just couldn’t pass up.
Or you were bored one night and decided to do some online shopping. How much of it gave you the best value for your money? And if you didn’t actually need any of it, then none of it gave you the most value.
So what crazy lady? We’re never supposed to spend money on stuff just for fun? No – I think we all need a few fun dollars to spend however we choose with no judgment. In fact, I 100% suggest budgeting in some fun money even when you’re struggling to pay off debt.
But buying loads of crap you don’t need, going so deep in debt that you are drowning, and wasting money on things that give you no value isn’t going to get you closer to the financial future you deserve and want. Frugal living isn’t a magic formula that will make you rich. But it can offer many benefits, including benefits that don’t involve money.
Benefits of Frugal Living
Spending your money wisely and practicing a few frugal habits can often lead to less clutter. Less crap you don’t need, fewer bills to have to pay, and fewer items going in the trash because you didn’t use them.
When you place more emphasis on the value that you’re getting for your money, it allows you more freedom.
If you can save money on household expenses every month, that’s more money you can add to your vacation fund. Or add to your debt payments or a kid’s college fund.
And you don’t have to practice all of these. Try a few – see what works for your personal finance needs. That’s the lovely thing about your finances. They’re personal. No one size fits all crap here. You’ve got to decide where you want to put your value and what works for your family.
Frugal Living Tips – Household Expenses
Household expenses can completely blow your budget. Along with adulting, comes tons of financial responsibility. Rent/mortgage, insurance, electricity, cell phones, internet, water, heat, and the list goes on and on. But you can make some adjustments that will save you money and give you more value for your dollars.
Rent or Mortage
This area is one that may or may not be flexible. Here’s a personal example of how I could’ve saved hundreds of dollars a month if I’d been smarter with my money right out of college. I graduated from college and immediately decided I needed to move out on my own.
I was living rent-free with my sister at the time. Rent-free – did you hear that??
But I was impatient and frankly, pretty stupid. I chose an apartment that was over $900 a month. It was amazing and had two bathrooms and two bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room, a dining area, and a patio. Did I really need all that? Hell no. If I could go back to my 24-year-old self, I’d tell her to just sit tight for a bit in the rent-free place. Stack that cash and use it for a down payment on a house. And I didn’t move for the location. My new place was five minutes from my old one. #idiotmove
Now I know not everyone has the luxury of living rent-free. But do you have an option that will save you money each month? It doesn’t have to be permanent. Can you get a roommate for a while? Live at home? Are you living in the most expensive part of town? Where you choose to live can have a big impact on your monthly finances.
Consider Your Moves Carefully
If you want to move and branch out on your own, there’s nothing wrong with that. But you need to consider where you’re going to live. If you can’t afford a decent place in a safe area on your income, it might not be a wise choice. You need to accept the fact that either you’ll be in debt forever and living like a broke college student, or you simply cannot afford to live there at this point in your life.
If you choose an area that’s out of your range, you won’t be living frugal, you’ll be living desperate and cheap.
According to an article from Kiplinger that rates the most expensive cities in America, the average apartment in Manhattan, New York is a whopping $4,888 a month!! Thinking of a move to Seattle – get ready to pay 54.8% more for the cost of living compared to the rest of the country. Maybe you want to live in a big city or by the beach – just do your research first and ensure that you won’t be living out of your car once you get there.
Gas/Electricity – You’ve got to have heat and lights. But you can find ways to cut some of these without sacrificing comfort and necessity.
- Choose energy-efficient bulbs. Swapping out traditional light bulbs to LED bulbs can save you money in the long run but you have to be smart about it. You don’t need to run out and replace every light bulb in your house with an LED. If you want to go this route, only change out the lights that are on the most. LED bulbs cost more upfront but give you more value for your money in the long run and are more environmentally friendly. But you don’t need to spend $30 on bulbs in a room that you rarely go into.
- Program Your Thermostat – Are you cooling your home all day even if you aren’t home? Take some time and program your thermostat. You can trim hundreds of dollars off your bill, by adjusting the temps. Or if you don’t want to program manually, consider investing in a Nest. A Nest will cost you money upfront but could save an average of 10-12% on heating bills and 15% of cooling bills. No matter which method you choose, make a concentrated effort to only use electricity when you need it.
- Turn Lights Off – So basic, but so effective. Make sure you’re turning off lights when you leave a room – this is simple, but often overlooked. If you leave a room, turn the light off. And do you really need every light on in the house if you’re home?
Cable – If you’re paying hundreds of dollars a month for cable, you have lots of frugal living options that will still allow you to watch your favorite shows. The list of streaming devices and options are endless. Amazon FireStick, YouTube TV, Hulu, Netflix, Sling, and on and on. Think about the channels you’re paying for and if you actually watch them.
Car Insurance/Home Insurance – One of the best frugal living tips is to shop around and make sure you’re getting the most value for your money. Just because you’ve been with the same company for 20 years doesn’t mean it’s the most cost-effective. Take some time and call around or get quotes online. You could bundle your policies for discounts, raise your deductible (make sure you have an emergency fund to pay for the deductible), or pay for 6 months or a year at a time and get a discount.
Cell Phone – Are you still paying for insurance on your phone? Make sure it’s even cost-effective at this point. After a certain period, it’s not worth that extra $10-15 a month. It’s worth looking at your bill to see what all the charges are for and what can go.
Frugal Living Tips – Food
Food is a budget buster and one of the top areas that we waste our money every month. The good news is that this is one of the most controllable expenses. And I don’t think you have to become an extreme couponer and carry around a binder full of sales papers and then drive to every store in town to get the best deal.
Living frugally when it comes to your food is about finding the best value and spending your money wisely. However, my time also has a price and I’m not about spending 10 hours shopping.
Frugal eating doesn’t mean eating crap. You can still eat good, healthy foods and get the most value for your money.
If you never make a plan and routinely overspend on tons of food that you don’t end up eating, it’s time to make some adjustments. And yes – it takes a bit of time each week to sit down and plan, but you can save so much money on groceries with meal planning.
Meal planning also has added benefits that aren’t monetary. You are more likely to stick to a healthy eating plan if you meal plan. We’ve all been there-you’re starving, you have nothing planned, so what do you do? Run through the nearest drive-through, spend $10 on crap food, and feel awful afterward.
Just try it – I’ve got a free simple meal planner and grocery list. Grab one of these, print it out, and commit to using it for a solid month. Compare what you spent the month prior and see if it’s lower. I can almost guarantee it will be.
This kind of goes along with meal planning, but if you’re eating out 3-5 times a week, you aren’t living frugally. And it doesn’t mean you can’t eat at a restaurant ever again. But when you do, think about some frugal tips you can put in place while you’re there. Choose water instead of a soft drink or alcohol. Choose an appetizer instead of the main course. And by all means, if you can’t afford to leave a good tip for good service, then you’re being cheap, not frugal. Don’t do that!
Check your spending last month and add up every dollar you spent on eating out. Instead of 3-5 times a week on crappy fast food, could you eat at home most of those times and then spend your money on one nice dinner? Again – frugal living doesn’t mean you never enjoy nice things. But you’re choosing where you put the most value on your money. Cheap crappy food doesn’t bring much value to your life or your hips!
Buying in Bulk
Be careful with this one. Bulk stores like Sam’s or Costco can definitely help you with frugal eating. But you could also end up spending hundreds more than you planned. If you’re the type that can’t walk into a store without overspending, it might not be the best option for you.
My husband pays more attention to this than me – he’s willing to look at the cost per item and determine if it’s actually a cost-saving price. And you’ll be surprised at how often it’s not cheaper to buy in bulk.
It might take a few times of comparison shopping to determine if you’ll save money, but if so, it’s worth the effort.
If you have room in your pantry or a deep freezer, this can be a great way to store sale items that you can buy in bulk.
Some of the best items to buy in bulk are paper products (if you have room to store them), snack foods, and toiletries. Just make sure you aren’t throwing stuff away. It doesn’t do any good to buy 6 pounds of apples if no one is eating them.
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Buy Generic or Store Brand Products
Store brands have come a long way over the years. They aren’t crappy tasteless boxes or bags of food. We use store brand items for plenty of pantry staples like pasta, condiments, flour, sugar, salt, and most other baking items. I buy store brand bacon, dressing, meat, and canned goods that save me hundreds of dollars per year.
Test them out – many stores even have a guarantee that if you aren’t satisfied, they’ll give you the name brand for free. This is what I mean by frugal living – you save hundreds of dollars per year, but you aren’t sacrificing taste or quality. You’re simply getting the most value out of your money.
Start a Garden or Take Advantage of a Local Farmer’s Market
If you have the time and the ability, growing your own food can save you lots of dollars over the course of a year. You don’t have to have acres of sprawling farmland to start a garden. You can buy a 4×8 raised bed garden kit like this one for less than $65 and get started. After the initial investment, you’ll enjoy fresh veggies for far less money than you’ll spend at the store.
If growing your own veggies isn’t something you’re interested in doing, check out a local farmer’s market instead. Not only are the vegetables fresher and tastier, but it’s often much cheaper than buying at the store.
Use Coupons and Rebate Programs
Again – I don’t mean you need to go all out and become an extreme couponer and have a closet full of 80 tubes of toothpaste because you stacked coupons and got them for free. Or you spend hours and hours clipping coupons. But most grocery stores will send you coupons for items that you buy the most. Use them. It may be only a dollar here and there, but those add up over time.
Ibotta – This one is more labor-intensive than Rakuten (formerly Ebates) in my opinion because you may have to scan in your receipts. But it can still add up. They’ve streamlined the process a bit with some stores that have loyalty cards – you can link your card and it will automatically apply the rebates for you.
Rakuten – This one is my fave. I use Chrome on my computer. Rakuten has an extension you can add and every time I’m on a site that has a cashback option through Rakuten, it pops up and I can use it. No searching or forgetting to use it. It’s just there! And the list of stores that it has discounts for is incredible. Grocery stores, department stores, Amazon, and on and on. It’s free. You get money back for shopping for items you were going to buy anyway. Just don’t get suckered into buying things you don’t need just because you’ll get cash back.
Frugal Living Tips – Entertainment
This is an area that can bust your budget so fast you won’t know what happened. You’re sitting at home bored, your kids are bored, there’s nothing to do. So you load up and take everyone to eat lunch, then you hit the movies or the jumpy place. You come home tired and $150 poorer.
Or your friends tell you they’re going out for dinner and drinks again at some swanky place you’ve never been to. You go enjoy great food and company, but you come home $100 poorer.
There’s nothing wrong with the above scenarios. If you plan for it and if you budget for it. Where it all goes to hell and back is when that occurs several times a week and you don’t know how to entertain yourself or your family for free. Frugal living doesn’t equal deprivation. But you have to have a balance and other ways to spend your time without spending money.
Free Entertainment Options:
- Museums or parks – Many have free admission – I live in Georgia and anyone can watch a DVD about the Atlanta Zoo and get 4 free passes to the Zoo. That’s a savings of over $100 for a family of four!
- Nature hikes – Lace up your shoes and go explore. Take an epic walk somewhere either solo or grab a friend or your family. It’s good for your body and frugal living at its finest.
- Have an at-home movie event – pop your own popcorn, lay out the blankets and pillows on the floor and make it an event. No one is on their phone or computer – it’s a movie night only.
- Game Night – Bust out your old Monopoly game or any other game you like. You can spend hours on games! Invite your friends over for a fun night in instead of spending too much money on restaurants and bars. Have everyone bring a drink or appetizer and a game and see if you don’t have a great time. It’s always fun!
- Hit up your local library and read. It’s 100% free and instead of spending hours wasting time on Instagram or Facebook, you can read for pleasure or for learning. My kids and I love the library and it’s one of our top entertainment options in the summer when they can’t go to the school library.
- Talk – What?? You want me to actually put down the phone or turn off Netflix and actually talk to someone? Yes. Trust me – it’s amazing. Invite a friend or family member over and just talk. Make some coffee, remember what it’s like to look someone in the eye when having a conversation and just talk. And 100% free.
- Make A Craft or Bake Something – I’d be willing to be that a lot of us have a closet full of crafting supplies (aka good intentions that never happened). Scroll through Pinterest and find something to make. Start using your supplies instead of letting them collect dust. Dig through your pantry and make a new meal using ingredients you have on hand.
- Declutter Your House – Now don’t roll your eyes. I know for a lot of folks, this is sheer torture. But there are actually people that love organizing and gladly do it. If you’re working hard at saving money and living a frugal lifestyle, it’s a great time to go through some of the clutter and rid your house of unnecessary junk that brings you no value.
- Volunteer – Consider using your time or talents to serve others. If you don’t know where to start, just Google “volunteer opportunities in my area”. Homeless shelters, food pantries, churches, pet shelters, libraries, assisted living facilities, nursing homes – there is a place for everyone to serve. And it’s completely free to serve, but 100% rewarding.
Frugal Living Tips – Clothing
Ok – so this is an area I have no problem with. I think I’m in the minority. But, I just don’t give a crap about clothes. I hate shopping for clothes and it bores me to tears. Trust me – my closet and my wardrobe don’t lie. If you’re appalled at this, trust me, you aren’t alone. I’m the weird one, not you.
But even if you’re a fan of clothes, you can still shop frugally for them. And there are a few things you can do to help your current situation whether you’re a clothes lover like the norm or weird like me.
- Go Through Your Closets! Seriously. No more clothes until you actually know what you already have. If your closet doors won’t close or your drawers are busting open from being so full, you need to have a come to Jesus meeting with yourself. Do you even need clothes? Why are you shopping when there’s nowhere to put anything?
- Consider Why You Shop – Are you bored? Are you trying to impress someone? Do you have so many mountains of clothes that you can’t find what you need?
- Where are You Shopping? If you only pay full price for clothes and put zero thought into where you’re shopping, then you will see a big change in your finances when you stop those habits. Don’t be afraid to check thrift or consignment stores, or bargain stores like T.J Maxx, Ross, and Marshalls.
- Are You Buying Cheap and Not Frugal? Cheap clothes and shoes can actually be more costly in the long run. If you are continually having to replace your clothes because they won’t last through five trips through the washer, it’s time to re-evaluate where you are spending your money. If you can buy a quality pair of pants or shoes and have them last for several years – that’s frugal shopping. But, If you have to buy those cheap pants every 3 months, you’ve spent more in the long run than if you had invested your money into well-made items.
- Kids Clothes – For kids, especially take into account how long they will even wear these clothes. Does your kid really need a new Patagonia each year if they will only fit in it for 3 or 4 months out of the year? If you’re going in debt to dress your kid to the nines every day, it’s time to reign yourself in. Once your kids get older, it might make more sense to buy them more expensive items they can wear year after year. Buy them what they need and remember that kids grow fast, they play and get dirty, and they should! Also, little kids don’t know the difference in brands or care about them unless you are the one telling them that.
- Sell Your Own Clothing – If you take inventory and realize you have enough clothes for you or your kids to clothe four families, consider selling some of them. Bag them up by size and use that money to invest in a few quality pieces that will last you for years. Living a frugal lifestyle means you get value out of your money. If your money bought you a ton of clothes that never see the outside of your closet, you got zero value for your money.
Being frugal with clothing does not mean buying the cheapest clothes or never shopping again. Invest in your clothes and get the most value for your money.
Frugal Living Tips – DIY Projects
This is one of my favorite ways to practice frugal living. I started learning how to DIY out of necessity. We had moved into a new house. Our mortgage was higher than before and there wasn’t much money left over for furniture or decorating.
I started learning how to paint, shop thrift stores and yard sale for furniture I could refinish, and searching junk stores for accessories. And I’ve never had anyone come into my house and tell me it looks cheap. You’ll be amazed at how much you can save by doing it yourself.
Of course, there are some things we leave to the experts and it doesn’t hurt that my husband is one of the handiest people I’ve ever met. But you’ll be surprised at what you’re capable of doing.
For example – I wanted to paint our kitchen cabinets and backsplash since we moved in. But there was no way I was going to afford the $4000+ price tag that came along with hiring someone to do it. I had painted plenty of furniture, and I was pretty confident in my skills. So I did it myself. It was time-consuming but 100% worth the effort.
The options are endless for putting your DIY skills to the test when it comes to furniture. You can even put some extra cash in your pocket if you want to start flipping furniture for profit!
- Refinishing – Buy secondhand furniture and refinish it the way you like it. It’ll save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars.
- Build Your Own – If you’re talented with building, make your own furniture. There are tutorials out there for everything and if you already have tools and supplies, it’s a win-win situation. I made a DIY Farmhouse Table for around $135 and a DIY desk using yard sale items for virtually nothing!
Shop online yardsales, thrift stores, junk stores, your Grandma’s basement – anywhere you can score a good deal. And just for comparison, go check out a local furniture store and compare prices. And in my price range, it’s often not even good quality furniture!
DIY can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars each year!
I’ve kind of shifted my priorities on decorating in the past year. I’m definitely becoming more focused on only buying things I need and not just because it’s a new season and Instagram tells me my tablescape should change. For starters, it gets expensive and that’s just not where I’m choosing to put my money these days. Gasp – I know as a primarily home decor blogger, that’s kind of not the norm.
That doesn’t mean I won’t decorate my house. But I’ll think twice about running to Michael’s or Hobby Lobby each season. Frugal living doesn’t mean you can’t decorate your home if you love it. Just be smart about where you put your money.
- Shop thrift stores
- Check out the dollar stores for good deals
- Shop your house first
- Take advantage of after season clearance sales
- DIY with inexpensive supplies (like this $3 wreath I made last fall)
- Use flowers from your yard if they’re available instead of buying fresh flowers from the store
- Use glass jars that your spaghetti sauce or taco sauce come in for vases – wash them good, take off the labels and you’ll have an array of gorgeous vases for free
Often times when you start embracing living frugally, you’ll find that you just don’t need as much stuff. In my case, it’s not that I think those that go all out for every holiday are wrong. It’s just that I’m choosing not to do it as much anymore. It’s a lot of effort to buy it, make it, store it, keep it dusted, and then take it all down again.
I’ve been on a self-imposed limit to what I’ve bought over the past year. I realize that I don’t need to go out and spend more money on more stuff. And I don’t miss it. I’m not depriving my family or myself of anything.
Frugal Living Tips – Holidays
Holidays are amazing. They are meant to be celebrated and enjoyed. And just because you are living frugally doesn’t mean you don’t get to enjoy them too. Quite the opposite I think.
Because you are putting more value on your money, you know where it most useful and where you can skip spending.
You just need to plan. What is the most important thing for you when it comes to celebrating the holidays? I bet if you wrote down how you want to enjoy a holiday, most of your list doesn’t involve money.
If you look back on every birthday or Christmas, what memories come to mind? The gifts you gave or received, or the people and experiences? And, again, I’m not saying I’m not buying presents for anyone anymore. Not at all. I love buying for people. In fact, I make myself a Christmas budget and stick to it because I love buying for people so much that I can get out of control.
Make the holidays about the experience. The family, friends, and memories. Not the money you spend.
Here’s a personal example – We host Thanksgiving each year for around 12-15 people. I love it. The cooking, the people, the memories, and of course, the food. But every year, I buy too much food, spend too much time cooking, and we have entirely too much. My grocery budget is a wreck that week. So this year, I’m taming myself. We don’t need all that. When you have enough leftovers for 8 families, it’s too much. I’ll make a list of the favorites and only make those.
I’ll make my Thanksgiving about my family. And, I’ll be grateful I have a family to celebrate with and I’ll know that whatever food we have will still be just perfect.
Christmas Frugal Living Tips
Christmas is magical. I’ve always loved it but I didn’t grow up with mountains of gifts under the tree. My parents did what they could and I had the most amazing grandparents and family that always filled in the gaps. But it was never excessive.
I’ve got kids of my own now and I know what it feels like to want them to experience the most magical Christmas ever. And yes – I’m not about to sit here and lie and say I haven’t wished I could do more some years. But, in the grand scheme of life, my kids haven’t suffered because they don’t have so many presents under the tree that they don’t even open half of them.
I promise you. If you tame it down and don’t go in debt over buying your kids so much stuff they don’t even need or want, they’ll be just fine. Especially when they’re tiny. They love the boxes and paper more than anything and they won’t suffer if you stick to a budget. And once they get a little older, they will be ok if you don’t get them the latest iPad, phone, watch, gaming system, clothes, and toys all in one day.
In fact, once they get old enough, it’s a perfect time to teach them about serving others at Christmas instead of ourselves.
Most importantly, make a budget for Christmas and stick to it. Include it all – the gifts, the wrapping, the charities, the meals, the parties – anything. If you spend money on it solely for Christmas, it goes into your budget. And start early – preferably in January with saving for all of the above.
You’ll still enjoy your holidays. Frugal doesn’t = Scrooge. The difference is, you’ll be putting your money where you and others will get the most value and joy.
Final Frugal Living Tips
To me, frugal living can = freedom. Freedom from debt, endless clutter, and freedom from the need to feel like you have to do it all.
Frugal Living = Freedom
You’ll be finding ways to save money on unnecessary expenses, spending money where it’s most important, and it’s not as hard as you might think. It’s rewarding to have control over your money instead of the other way around.
Freedom sounds pretty good to most people. And it feels good too. And who doesn’t like that feeling of contentment, a satisfaction that you aren’t overpaying for things or wasting your money on useless stuff?
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