We could all stand to save a little money, right? Sometimes we feel like our spending is out of control and we just need a simple way to rein it back in. Frugality doesn’t mean living with nothing – it simply means that you are wisely using what you have readily available to you and consuming less. In other words – simple living.
D and I started living more simply about a year ago (which you can read more about in another one of my posts) and haven’t looked back since. Our life was made much easier when we weren’t shopping or eating out all the time. We just consumed less. Less processed foods, less ready made products, less things in our closets, less time in the car driving to one shopping mall or another… you get the picture.
We suddenly had more time to ourselves and more money in the bank. We were able to achieve a big savings goal and put away HALF of our income. HALF Y’ALL. Going from two full salaries to living on one and saving the other was a big step and took lots of dedication. Was it worth it? Oh yeah. And now I have the ability to be a stay at home mom because of our dedicated savings and planning over the last year.
I used to be a super spender before we got married and even several years into our marriage. I really wish I would have found frugality whenever I found couponing back in 2013. I can only imagine the amount of money we could have saved!
Here are 20 ways you can start your frugal journey (or maybe your Financial Independence journey) today. You don’t have to do all of them, not even half of them, but you are starting the process of saving money and giving time back to yourself just by reading this post.
*Update* I was given two more wonderful frugal tips from my parents this weekend and I thought that I should definitely include them! Bonus frugality!
Mow your own lawn/do your own yard work – The average cost to hire someone to do a bi-weekly mow of your front and back lawn is $35. In Oklahoma we could mow grass 6 months out of the year. That’s $420 if you paid someone!! If you also hire someone to do your yearly landscaping, that’s another $200-$500. Tree trimming can run you $100-$500 on your annual trim. And to spray the yard for bugs and fertilizer (which we do pay for) is $200 a year. Yikes! All together your yard can cost you over $1000!
Make Your Own Backpacking Meals – My dad is quite the adventurer. This year right after Little Guy was born, he hiked rim to rim (and back) in the Grand Canyon. So he knows a thing or two about the cost of pre-made backpacking meals. His favorite DIY meals include: Ritz crackers and peanut butter, instant potatoes and bacon bits, and dried taco soup mix that he adds hot water to. The pre-packaged meals at Bass Pro or any other outdoor store cost upwards of $7 EACH. Separating out these DIY meals ahead of time can save you big time on your next adventure.
1 – Cook at Home
I enjoy eating out from time to time, but we eat out as a treat. We don’t view it as a way to avoid cooking for a night. The more rich restaurant food you eat, the less exciting the food you make home will be. Any one of my simple recipes can be whipped up on a weeknight with no problem. I have a list of 10 frugal vegan meals that can each last for several days so you aren’t cooking every single night.
2 – Meal Plan
I love planning just about anything! But meal planning is especially exciting for me. It is planning out your nightly dinner and making a grocery list at the same time. Tackling your cooking for the week all in an hour or two over the weekend puts time back in your busy weekdays.
3 – Use your pantry staples to avoid processed (more expensive) food
When we did our $50 grocery budget challenge, we had no idea how much of our pantry staples we would go through. The answer? Almost all of our pantry was cleared out! Our staples include dried and canned beans, rice, flour, sugar, pasta, tomato sauce, canned diced tomatoes, frozen mixed veggies, and condiments like peanut butter, maple syrup, etc. It felt great to use everything up! Maybe a “clear the pantry challenge” is in order…
4 – Take your lunch to work
I mentioned this in my $50 grocery challenge post, but we love simple rice and beans for lunches everyday. We based it on the Frugalwoods’ recipe but have gotten more creative as time goes on. We take our lunch, a cloth napkin, and utensils to work with us along with any snack type food. Whenever you have all of your food with you at your desk or in the break room fridge, it is far less tempting to get a cookie from the cafe down the street or buy take out coffee from the shop downstairs. Those little purchases (even if it isn’t a whole lunch) can add up to $15+ a day.
5 – Brew coffee at home
Several years ago we bought a Ninja drip coffee pot from QVC on a super-sale before Christmas. We have gotten our money’s worth on this purchase. We brew coffee every single day (if not twice a day). It makes anywhere from a full carafe to a single cup. It will also do a regular brew or an “iced” brew (it’s still pretty warm). I love my iced coffee! I make a travel mug size brew on the iced setting, mix in 2 TBSP of hot cocoa mix, add ice and maybe a 1/4 C of almond milk and it tastes better than the Starbucks version of an iced mocha. Not to mention about $4 cheaper.
6 – Cooking in Bulk
We regularly shop for all of our meals at one time so we can prep all in one day. Our priority is lunches first and then dinners. If we need black beans for three meals and lunches that week we cook enough all at one time so we are duplicating work. Same for rice, chopping veggies, washing fruit, etc. This saves us time during the week but it also reduces the temptation to eat out instead of cooking what we already have.
7 – Split a meal when you eat out
This seems like a no brainer to us but we used to each the giant restaurant portions all by ourselves! Once we started taking time to enjoy the food, we realized that we could share a portion at the restaurant AND take leftovers home. There are very limited vegan options at most restaurants in Oklahoma so it is relatively easy to decide on what to split.
8 – DIY Cleaning Supplies
No one really loves to clean, but whenever you make your own cleaning supplies you feel a little more likely to use them. We love our Norwex of course, and I make our own cleaning spray by reusing a Windex (or same size) spray bottle and filling it with 1TBSP Dawn, 1/4 vinegar, 1tsp lemon juice, and fill the rest with water. We also use our DIY dish detergent tabs. It uses less packaging, it is quick to make, AND it saves us roughly $5-10 a month.
9 – Cloth Diapers
If you don’t have babies in diapers, this one doesn’t really apply to you. D talked me into doing cloth diapers. After doing some more research I have gotten really into it. I think about it like this: each diaper change costs approximately $0.30 which includes the diaper, the wipe(s), and the diaper cream if you apply it. If you change your kiddo’s diaper 7 times in a day that is $2.10 a day which is roughly $64 a month. We invested $160 into cloth diapers (shells, bamboo liners, cloth wipes, disposable diaper liners, wet bags) and over the last 3 months it has now paid for itself. We still use a disposable here and there but is much less frequent.
10 – Shop Secondhand
This is probably my favorite frugal life hack. I have really gotten into shopping second had since we’ve had Little Guy because I have seen the outrageous prices of baby things and “necessities”. I get so excited every time I see something that we will need for Little Guy 3, 6, 9 months down the road for an awesome steal of a price on eBay or Facebook Market Place. Getting anything for great discount is a win as long as you really need it. I have recently began to grow my eBay side hustle where I resell upscale clothing. Why buy new when the benefits of buying secondhand are outstanding? You can read more about my love for secondhand wardrobes here.
11 – Create a budget and stick to it
Budgeting is hard at first. You have to look where all of your money is going and decide where it should go over the next week, next month, or the next year. I do not work well without a budget. I tend to get very “spend happy” with my magic swipey card (credit card). Setting limits for yourself but not depriving yourself of anything is very important. We have fallen victim to lifestyle inflation as many people do as time goes on. Reigning in expenses and cutting back on those purchases that are not necessary for you can help reach your budgeting goals (pay down debt, FI, etc). Making a spending diary of all of your expenses every day and reviewing them at the end of the week can be a helpful tool.
12 – Entertain at home
We are board game fanatics! Having people over is so much fun for us as we love having people in our home. I am not a social butterfly and have always been more comfortable entertaining in my own home or visiting a friend’s home. You save money buy not going out to have $10 drinks or dinner ($50 -$75 for two people). Playing a board game, drinking some wine, and having a simple pot luck style dinner has always been our sweet spot for being with friends and family. Bonus points for not having to pay a baby sitter either! Our favorite games include Ticket to Ride, Small World, and Pandemic.
13 – Declutter your home and sell the items
Whenever you declutter your home you will find things you don’t even remember owning. You will either start to use them again or get rid of them by donating, recycling, selling, etc. By clearing your house of clutter you can see that you already own so much and do not need to spend more money on a duplicate of an item that you already have. I remember when D and I first got married and had very little, we were still able to donate so many things before our move to the city because we had duplicated items, things that were broken, and really just things that we didn’t need anymore. Find my simple guide on how to purge your house of unwanted things here.
14 – Call your service providers
Service providers for cable, cell phones, insurance and other things that we pay on a monthly basis for charge an outrageous amount if you don’t watch your bill regularly. D is the best when it comes to negotiating a bill down. We call and very politely ask if there is anything that we can do to reduce our bill. In the case of our cable (our very, very basic 23 channel cable bill) they weren’t able to do anything for us so we turned in our cable box and bought a $30 antenna from Amazon to get our local channels.
We called Verizon to see if they could lower our bill any more. We were already paying close to $100 for two phones with super limited data. When we told them we were going to switch, they offered us a dollar off amount for the next three months. We took it… and still switched to Google FI. It has a much lower bill every month and you only pay for data that you use. The less you use, the lower your bill. Get $20 off your first statement with our referral code!
15 – Pay in cash
We pay everything off every single month. No exceptions. We charge all of our expenses that we budgeted for (see #7) to our credit card that has great rewards and we pay it off every single month. If we aren’t trying to accumulate points for a trip, we pay in cash. I use my mini-accordion folder and divide the cash into different categories. If you are really interested in starting to use the cash envelope system (a.k.a. the Dave Ramsey method), please read my post on the top four things you need to do to succeed at an all cash system.
16 – Cut your own hair/husband’s hair
I was very nervous the first time that I cut D’s hair! I watched four or five YouTube videos of women cutting their husband’s hair before I even tried. Once I tried, I had to watch several more videos (and a few episodes of Queer Eye) to get it right. We invested $50 into a set of Wahl clippers (that’s the exact set) and salon grade scissors. D went to Super Cuts every three to four weeks and would spend $25 each time. This has most certainly paid for itself! And remember ladies – if you mess it up, it grows back rather quickly AND there is a thing called a buzz cut :).
I have not been brave enough to let D cut my hair. When I do let him… I’ll make sure to post it (or basically live Tweet it) on my Twitter (@hellobrownlow) and my FaceBook page.
17 – Cut cable out
We have not had cable since 2012! I’m very proud to have been ahead of the curve on this one. I had Netflix when it was only $7.99 a month. We don’t watch a whole lot of TV and we never let Little Guy watch it, so there is no need to have dozens of channels. Living in tornado alley (thanks Oklahoma) I need to have at least the local stations for severe weather updates. We had a cable box up until June of this year to get the local stations but the cable company was charging $20 a month for that. We bought a $30 antenna from Amazon and it has been well worth it! We get our same local channels plus some really random ones (ones that only have Sci-Fy and Westerns on).
We still have Netfilx and now Amazon Prime Video. Follow my affiliate link to try Amazon Prime FREE for 30 days!
18 – Create 72 hour list to curb impulse shopping
I have become very methodical in how I shop now. We are on a tighter budget so spending on those unnecessary wants can really add up. Now we have a list on a Google Doc that my husband and I share with a rolling list of the things that pop into our heads that we want to buy. The item cannot be purchased for 72 hours. If you’re still thinking of the item and really do want to purchase, go find yourself a good deal and buy it. This has helped my impulsive shopping tremendously! The biggest save we had was $1200 season tickets to the Tulsa Performing Arts Center. I love musicals but can find cheaper tickets to the specific shows we want to see.
19 – Use a water filter instead of buying bottled
need want for single use items is getting pretty out of hand in our consumer-driven world. Single use water bottles are a big waste of resources and money. We have a PUR water filter that stays in our fridge and we refill every day. We have cold, filtered water anytime we want it. Keeping several reusable water bottles and tumblers on hand helps us avoid buying drinks at the gas station when we’re on the road or packs of water when we are at the grocery store. In all, we have put about $70 into our filter (purchase of the filter package itself and the replacement inserts). It has saved us hundreds on single use water bottles if were purchasing them three at a time at $3 each several times a month.
20 – Have a no spend week or month
I sometimes will feel gross after spending money. This will happen if we go too far over our grocery budget or if I buy things I know that we need but all of them at the same time. We started doing no spend months several years ago. It makes a powerful impact on our savings rate each month we do it. This has allowed us to save for Little Guy and his medical expenses and has also afforded us the opportunity to go on some pretty great vacations. It feels like a spending detox and you come out the other side renewed and ready to save some more!
Hopefully these ideas will point you in the direction of saving money. What are some of your favorite frugal life hacks and frugal wins?