Updated: Feb 2
What does frugal mean?
Before we dive into all of the best frugal living tips below, do you know what living a frugal life is all about? To be frugal means to be thrifty and sensible. We can be frugal with our spending but also with other resources like food or water.
Since the pandemic, toilet paper and paper towels might also be resources you want to budget. Though frugality often has a negative connotation as being miserly, it's actually more about being resourceful and mindful of our spending.
Choose to drink water over your favorite soda, plan a game night, and get rid of clothes that could benefit someone in need. Look at your bills, could spend less money on things, and how is that impacting your financial goals?
It may seem like a daunting task, but it's actually not as difficult as you might think. The more frugal living tips you know, the easier it is to save a lot of money and still use your credit cards when spending money on the things you normally buy.
With some strategic planning and a few simple tips, you can easily save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars each year by implementing these steps and living more frugally.
Why is it important to live a frugal life?
Frugal living is all about getting what you need while saving money and keeping a smile on your face. Living frugal is not a one size fits all type of lifestyle. Rather than push yourself to the extreme, aim to find a level of frugality that you can live with happily.
Cut back on unnecessary expenses
This one may seem obvious, but it's worth repeating: save money by cutting back on unnecessary expenses. This could include things like eating out less, buying fewer clothes, and driving less.
Make a budget and stick to it
Figure out how much you need to spend each month on essentials, and then cut back on other expenses accordingly. Depending on how creative you want to be, there may be room to cut back on some of the essentials like housing. Keep reading to learn how.
Live below your means
A key part of frugal living is learning to live below your means. This means spending less than you earn, even if it means making some sacrifices. It may not be easy, but it's definitely worth it in the long run.
Practice our Frugal living tips
Once you've successfully implemented a few money-saving practices, you can always reevaluate your budget and cut back more if you wish. Knowing where to start evaluating your spending will help you start saving money faster.
There are four key expense areas that you need to evaluate when looking to save money: food, housing, transportation, and entertainment. Collectively these expenses can be referred to as the cost of living.
Key Expense Areas
Are you familiar with the cost of living in your area? Cost of living refers to the cost of maintaining a certain standard of living in a geographic area. Generally, the cost of living falls above the poverty line to a point where you can live comfortably with limited or no extras like entertainment expenses.
Cost of living takes into account everything from housing to food costs, transportation, and entertainment. Though the cost of living can vary greatly by region, finding a suitable cost of living for your lifestyle will depend on your personal preferences.
For example, the cost of living in Manhattan is much higher than in a small town in Arkansas. However, in Manhattan, transportation costs can be much lower as people are less car-dependent and use mass transport, whereas rural living usually requires owning a car.
If you prefer to have a smaller living space without any yard care, the extra housing costs of living in Manhattan may suit your preferences better than living in a home with a yard to maintain.
Evaluating the cost of living in your area will help inform your budgeting plan and identify challenges based on where you live. With nomadic and remote work opportunities becoming more popular, you may feel inspired to start exploring other areas to live that would better suit your lifestyle.
Now that we have a foundation for how to evaluate our expenses, we can dive into some of the things you can start doing today to start spending less and saving more. Here are 21 of the best ways to save on housing, unnecessary expenses, and regular spending. Your frugal living journey starts now.
Adopting a Frugal Lifestyle
Frugal living tips are everywhere if you take the time to notice. As you practice being more mindful of spending money, you will also become more aware of how to save more money by changing some of your habits and looking at how you spend money with fresh eyes.
Everything you pay for, from Laundry detergent to the electric bill and your credit card use, is an opportunity to find a way to save more money. You'll learn to be loyal to saving money and your financial goals rather than brands and unnecessary conveniences that cost you extra money.
Frugal living 101:
Opt for the generic or brand on sale
It won't always be a lot of money, but a little money saving here and a little savings there is what frugal living is all about.
Bigger is not always better. Look at the cost per oz/piece/unit
Many clever manufacturers market the bigger size of the product as the economical option when often it's more expensive per piece or oz than the smaller size.
Check your apps before you shop
Retailers like Target and most grocery store brands have convenient apps that allow you to clip coupons that will save you money in a matter of minutes. Sometimes they will even alert you when a favorite product goes on sale.
Our best frugal living tips:
Budgeting Food Costs
One of the best places to look for opportunities to save money is food. Everyone has to eat, so we cannot eliminate this expense, but we can be more frugal in planning our next trip to the grocery store.
Would you reevaluate your food spending if you knew, on average, Americans throw out $2200 worth of food each year?
According to recent Bankrate figures on American spending and reports from the USDA on food waste, it is clear to see that there is a significant upside for your personal finances by fine-tuning your grocery shopping.
During the novel coronavirus, we saw a lot of empty shelves and panic buying at the grocery store. Interestingly, according to reports from the USDA, 89.5% of households were food secure during 2020. This figure was unchanged from 2019.
So, before you plan your next grocery store run, take a look at your fridge and cabinets. Are they well-stocked already? Have you thrown out spoiled food lately? How many creative recipes could you come up with using only the ingredients on hand?
Asking yourself the above three questions can really help you develop a system for buying the food items you are most likely to use and want to eat.
Don't shop when you're hungry.
We've all been there, it's the end of a long day, and we haven't been to the store in a while. We're just going to get a couple of essentials to get us by until the weekend when we can make a proper store run.
Make a list.
Not only does having a list help you get through the grocery store faster, but it also helps keep you focused while shopping and makes you less likely to impulse buy any extra tempting treats.
Buy in bulk for pantry staples.
Especially dry goods like grains and legumes. Instead of buying items like laundry detergent, toilet paper, paper towels, and other essentials as needed, choose a subscription option that will keep you stocked and save money or buy in bulk less frequently.
Meal planning and portion monitoring.
Cooking at home more often and bringing your lunch with you to work are all great ways to save on food.
Grow your own.
Save money on groceries and enjoy the reward for your efforts.
When it's time to go to the grocery store, pay with a credit card that earns 5% or more cashback. Use the cash back towards a credit on your statement balance. Over the course of a year, these rewards add up to a lot of money. It's like extra money to live frugal and help you save.
If you've spent any time around people of older generations, it's likely the high costs of today compared to years past. One of my grandfather's favorite stories to tell was about how particular his mother would be when grocery shopping for the family. She went once a week to the butcher and knew down to the fraction of an ounce how much meat she would need for each dish the coming week. Though our lifestyles have moved away from this type of precision buying, it's a great lesson in buying only what you need.
Saving on Housing
If you're short on cash, save money by getting creative with your living situation. There are several ways to do this, including:
Refinancing your mortgage or negotiating rent.
You never know until you ask or do a little research. You may be able to save yourself thousands with nothing more than a little effort and a couple of conversations at the bank or leasing agency.
Renting out a room in your place.
Long-term or short-term are great options just be sure to check any restrictions in your neighborhood or housing complex. Finding a roommate or family member to live with will cut housing costs dramatically.
Check the efficiency of your home and appliances.
Years ago, Energy Star ratings for appliances became mandatory. Meaning appliances made after 1992 have already been optimized to lower your electric bill. You're less likely to see much money savings in upgrading most appliances. However, evaluating windows, doors, and insulation can still save you money over time.
Less space, lower utilities, and the opportunity to make some money by selling off excess furniture and goods you will no longer have space for.
Consider alternatives to traditional housing.
RV living or van dwelling, or ditch your living space altogether and try couch surfing.
Frugal tips for Transportation
Where, how, and how far you commute can vary greatly based on where you live and how active your lifestyle is. There are several ways to save money on transportation, including:
Carpooling or using public transportation whenever possible.
These days you don't even have to work at the same place as your carpool pals. Check Waze for drivers taking similar routes in your area or check out the local public transport website in your area.
Buying a used vehicle instead of a new one.
Avoiding the immediate depreciation of driving a new vehicle off the lot is a quick way to save thousands.
Avoid unnecessary trips by planning ahead.
Consolidating errands will save gas money as well as your time.
Keeping your car well-maintained to avoid costly repairs.
Check the owner's manual to see when specific parts need servicing. Spend a little upfront to prevent unexpected large expenses down the road.
Shop around for the best insurance rates.
Make it like a game. Know exactly what type of coverage you need so you can make sure you're comparing service and rates as closely as possible.
Use apps or websites that help you find the cheapest gas prices in your area.
Money saving is at your fingertips at all times. Apps like google maps even show the gas prices for nearby stations without a specific search.
Save Money on Entertainment
Typically, spending on entertainment is what we look forward to most. We fill our weekends with fun activities to keep the grind of work at bay. So if we cut out entertainment to be more mindful with our spending, won't we just be miserable? Nope! Keep reading for our top frugal living tips on keeping boredom at bay when you're on a tight budget.
Find free or cheap activities in your area.
Often museums have a free day or time during the week for local visitors. Many fitness clubs or groups also offer free classes to new students or in public spaces, especially during the summer.
The thrill of the hunt!
When buying nonessential items like new clothes or home decor, shop around and really get specific about what you want. Challenging yourself to identify what you want and search for the best price can be a rewarding way to limit your spending.
Take a free class or sit in on a free lecture.
Many community colleges or local businesses host classes and seminars on a whole variety of topics from the arts to personal finance, health, hobbies, and more. Check your local specialty shops for an events calendar that may have a few free events that interest you. The best part of attending a class is that you walk away with valuable knowledge at no cost.
Stream movies instead of going to the theater.
This is a great way to save money on both food and entertainment costs. Nothing
beats a good movie night with friends from the comfort of your own home.
Take advantage of coupons and deals.
There are often coupons and deals available for entertainment venues when you purchase tickets in advance. Sometimes venues even offer last-minute discounts, so be sure to check for them before you go out.2.
Volunteer or take a part-time job.
Why not spend time doing something rewarding for your community or your bank account? Keeping boredom at bay is a big part of living frugally and happily.
Around the holiday's many retailers offer gift card bonuses with a minimum gift card purchase. You'll get a gift to give and one to keep. You can also consider putting gift cards to your favorite restaurants or venues on your wish list. A night out is always fun, but a free night out is even better!
After reading this blog, you now know of a few ways to save money in different areas of your life. Save this post and review these frugal living tips often and start saving today! A little bit of effort can go a long way in making your budget stretch further. Have fun and be creative with finding frugal ways to enjoy your hobbies and entertainment options. Be mindful of your spending and save money without sacrificing too much of your lifestyle. Happy saving!