If you’re looking to save money with your everyday spending, adopting a few simple frugal living hacks could save you some serious money in the long haul.
Frugal living, or ‘the frugal lifestyle’ as it’s sometimes called, is often misunderstood as someone being cheap, poor, or outright stingy.
The truth is, being frugal means being smart with your money.
The smarter you are with your hard-earned money, the more you can spend on the valuable things in life such as family, health, travel, retirement, and more.
Before we dive into all things frugal, making a budget goes hand in hand with frugal living. To create a budget, click to get step-by-step instructions, plus a free budget template.
What Does Frugal Living Mean?
According to the official (aka Wikipedia) definition, frugality (frugal living) is the “quality of being frugal, sparing, thrifty, prudent or economical in the consumption of consumable resources such as food, time or money, and avoiding waste, lavishness or extravagance.”
Essentially, being frugal means smarter money management. Just because someone chooses to be frugal doesn’t mean they have to avoid expensive things, rather, they spend their money thoughtfully and cautiously.
Frugal also doesn’t mean bargain shopping.
While you might choose to bargain shop as part of your frugal lifestyle, there is no hard and fast rule that all frugal people must shop at garage sales and secondhand shops (even though those are valuable ways to save money).
A great way to understand the meaning of being frugal is to first understand your spending habits. Frugal people often know where every single dollar goes so that they can recognize when spending becomes unnecessary or too expensive.
Common Myths About Living Frugally
There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding surrounding the term ‘frugal’. Here are a few common misconceptions about frugal living.
Frugal Living = Cheap
I’ve heard it said that only cheap and stingy people are frugal. I have personally been called stingy and prude with my money, but I have no credit card debt, no student loan bills, there is plenty of food in my fridge, and my husband and I take frequent vacations.
I wouldn’t consider myself cheap or stingy because the truth is, I spend money all the time. But, I am frugal because I know where every dollar goes and I spend my money wisely.
People have no choice to be frugal because they are poor
Nowhere does it say that poor people are frugal. In fact, that’s a terrible way to view money.
Excessively spending money to prove you’re not poor will never make you rich. Rather, being frugal with your money and spending wisely just might make you richer than you’d expect.
Frugal people always coupon clip
I’ve never clipped a coupon and my friends say I’m the most frugal person they know. While I would never pass up a good deal (if I’m already looking to make a purchase), there is no need to obsess over 15% off coupons to be considered frugal.
Sometimes, coupons will actually make you spend money when you weren’t planning too.
It might be best to just throw away some of those coupons you find in the mail unless you already intended to purchase the item before receiving the coupon.
Frugal people have terrible fashion
I’ll go on record and say that frugal people often have better fashion than people who spend money on fast trends. Why is that?
Frugal fashionista’s like to browse second-hand stores and sales to pick clothes that help then create a unique identity. Many times, they can put together an entire fashionable outfit with less money than if they bought only one item at the mall.
Is frugal living worth it?
Yes. Frugal living is absolutely worth it. While everyone’s financial story is different, most people can benefit from spending their money smarter.
When I was paying off my 30k student loan bill, I monitored every single dollar I spent to make sure I would be able to pay off my loans in only 2 years. During those two years I was teased and called all sorts of names (cheap, stingy, stuck-up, prude).
Did it hurt my feelings? Somethings. Did I care? Not really.
I knew that even though I had a low paying job, if I managed my money right, I could be debt free 8 years sooner than the banks anticipated.
In two years I was entirely debt free and it’s all because I adopted the frugal lifestyle. For me, it was 100% worth it.
The question is, how can your life change for the better if you adopt the frugal lifestyle? What debt can you pay off or what trips can you take? I’m sure there is something!
How to Start: 19 Frugal Living Tips
Here are my top frugal living tips to get you started. Feel free to pick a few from this list or to give them all a try. The great part of a frugal lifestyle is that you can customize it however you want.
1. Think before spending money
You don’t have to think long and hard about each purchase, but ask yourself, “Do I really need to spend my money on this?” If you have some hesitation, put the item back with the intention of purchasing it on a different day. If you never go back to get the item, you successfully saved some money.
Another place to think before spending is at a restaurant. Do you really need an appetizer, alcoholic drinks, an entree, and a desert? Probably not. Instead, cut out the apps and drinks and save yourself $20+.
2. Buy used (and sell your stuff)
There are things you should definitely buy brand new (a mattress is the first thing to come to mind), and there are plenty of items to buy used such as housing (apartments, renting, pre-owned homes), textbooks (Amazon or eBay), Kid’s clothes (they grow so dang fast), and kitchen applicants ($2 muffin tins, yes please!).
And then, there is tech. We all have tech somewhere in our ‘junk drawer’. Sell that and make some money back. I used Decluttr to sell back my old tech because I hate having the last 3 iPhones just chillin’ in my drawers.
3. Ditch single-use plastic water bottles
Maybe this is the environmentalist in me, but single-use plastic water bottles are just a waste of money. And, if I learned anything from the COVID pandemic, it’s that there is NOT an endless supply of water bottles in the grocery stores.
4. Cut out expenses
Take an honest look at your spending habits and start making some cuts. Here are some places to get started:
- Excessive hair salon trips
- Getting your nails done frequently
- Eyelash extensions (I perm my eyelashes at home for a fraction of the cost of extensions)
- Subscription services
5. Get cash back when shopping
People. We live in the 21st century. If you aren’t getting cash back on your purchases, you’re missing out on a huge part of frugal living. Cash back sites are free to join, they aren’t scammy (at least not the ones I recommend), and it’s real money that goes straight into your bank account.
Earn real cash back shopping online & in-store with Ibotta. The average Ibotta user earns $150 a year on groceries, online purchases, delivery, and more! Register for the free Ibotta browser extension and app today to start saving. Sign up free here.
Rakuten has helped shape the way people shop online, offering Cash Back, deals and shopping rewards on the world’s largest selection of products and services. To date, our 12 million members in the U.S. have earned over $1 billion in Cash Back at their favorite stores. Sign up free here.
When you use Dosh, you’ll earn cash back when you shop, dine or travel. Simply download the app, link your cards and start earning. No coupons or receipt scanning. Just cash that adds up in your wallet, simply by shopping the way you normally do. It’s awesome. Sign up free here.
6. Pay bills off monthly
When bills don’t get paid on time or in full, interest accrues. Interest rates are a killer on personal finances. Part of frugal living means avoiding unnecessary spending when possible.
Paying for interest on bills is a fast way to spend more money than you need to. Avoid interest rates by paying bills on-time and when possible, paying them in full.
7. DIY gifts and household things
8. Ditch the junk food in the house
Do you really need to buy cookies, chips, candy, soda, etc? Probably not. I don’t know how much money I save monthly by not purchasing junk food for my household. All I know is that my frugal lifestyle choices don’t include spending money on junk food.
9. Make a budget and stick to it
Sometimes, to get started with frugal living, the first thing you’ll need is a budget. If budgets aren’t your thing, or if you don’t know where to start with creating a budget, read my post on how to create a budget with step-by-step instructions and a free template.
10. Eat at home more
Of everything on this list, this one is the hardest for me to follow. Do I allow myself grace and end up getting McDonalds in the middle of the day?
I sure do.
Do I regret spending that money?
But, just to be clear, I don’t regret it because it wasn’t delicious. I regret it because I have a fully stocked kitchen with delicious foods.
The thing about frugal living is that there is no way to always be perfect. However, being aware of where every dollar goes will help you big time. With that said, I need to eat at home more and you probably do too.
11. Return things you don’t need
I return everything I don’t like or use. EVERYTHING. We live in a society where there shouldn’t be any stigma about returning things, yet so many people are afraid to do so.
What’s the point of keeping that pair of jeans one size too big if you’ll never wear it? Don’t keep it. Return it!
If you aren’t sure if you’re allowed to return an item, simply ask before making a purchase. If they say no, it’s okay to buy from a place that has a good return policy.
12. Save money with every paycheck
“The biggest mistake is not learning the habit of saving properly.” “Do not save what is left after spending; instead spend what is left after saving.”Warren Buffett
Sometimes being frugal simple means putting money into your savings account. Make it a habit to save money from each and every paycheck and your savings account will grow every month.
If saving money is something you struggle with, check out this post on how to save money the easy way.
13. Date nights at home
Have you ever had a date night in? They are a lot of fun and often super cheap. Sometimes, being frugal means utilizing what you already have so that you don’t have to spend extra money. If there is food in the kitchen and Netflix on the TV, a perfect date night already exists in your own home.
14. Make a capsule wardrobe
Fast fashion trends are such an easy way to blow a lot of money. Instead of shopping the trends, try making a capsule wardrobe. You’ll have to spend more money upfront, but in the long run, you’ll save hundreds.
15. Cut cable (or any streaming service you aren’t actively watching)
How many streaming services are you currently paying for? This could include Netflix, HBO, Hulu, Disney+, ESPN, etc.
How many do you actively watch?
If you’re super into Netflix, cut HBO until you’re ready to watch it. There’s no need to pay for something not being used.
I personally only subscribe to 1-2 streaming services at a time. It forces me to watch what I’m already paying for, which helps save money in the long run.
16. Drink water at home
Water is cheap, especially if you invest in a good water pitcher and refillable water bottle. Soda, alcohol, and juice are expensive. You could easily add $50+ to your grocery bill each time you shop just by buying expensive liquids (White Claws, I’m talking about you).
Instead, make your home a water only home and save special drinks for special occasions.
17. Travel frugally
Traveling is on many peoples bucket lists. However, it’s expensive.
Instead of blowing all your savings on one trip, take the time to shop for the best flight and hotel prices, affordable attractions, and cheap city transportation.
My favorite traveling trip is to get a Travel Cash Back Rewards card and use your points for vacations. I paid for my entire honeymoon with cash back rewards. Seriously, the entire trip! How’s that for being frugal.
If you’re going to Seattle, Washington any time soon, here’s how you can experience it cheaper.
18. Save energy in the home
I’m no expert in this area, but here’s an article on saving energy from someone who is an expert.
If you want my advice, unplug stuff you’re not using.
19. Meal prep
Like many people, I hopped on the meal prep train a few years ago. There’s a reason why it’s so popular. It works! Not only does it help you eat healthier, but it also helps you save money.
If you want to meal prep some yummy green smoothies, I can help with that.
Final Thoughts: How to Enjoy Living a Frugal Lifestyle
Frugal living isn’t hard, boring, or pointless. If you’re serious about saving money, the frugal lifestyle is a great place to start. The best part is that you can customize your frugality to meet your specific needs.
Getting started with the frugal lifestyle might feel like a drastic change, but it’s worth it in the end.