Your money mindset matters. That mindset determines how you spend your money. If you don’t think frugal living is possible, then you’ll never achieve savings success – because you don’t see that as a goal! If you’re a big spender, then perhaps you don’t see the true value in money. Stressed about money? Priorities may be to blame… and you may need some frugal living tips!
Whatever the reason you want to get into frugal living, here are some practical frugal living tips that can help save you hundreds of dollars every month.
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Big Impact Frugal Living Tips
You need a budget – plain and simple. Analyze your spending with apps like Mint. Write down categories your spending falls into such as: rent/mortgage, utilities, transportation, loan payments, other debt payments, groceries, eating out, entertainment, shopping, baby supplies, daycare, etc.
Start to set realistic goals around what you should be spending each month.
See more on budgeting >>>
What would happen if one of your car tires blew out tomorrow morning? Or your car didn’t start and little Timmy broke is arm? Do you have cash to pay for this or would it end up on a high interest credit card?
Start building an emergency fund before you begin a hard push to pay off debt. Begin with a goal of $1000 and work your way up to 3 months of expenses.
Pay Off Debts
There was a time in our lives when we bought two cars and an A/C unit… we had THREE LOANS on top of our mortgage. This may seem small compared to other families living with student loan and medical debt on top of this. We made it a priority to pay off our debts before we started saving more money.
Frugal living has allowed us to be on a path to achieve our financial goals. I’m a stay at home mom and we still save a large portion of my husband’s income every month. We want to retire (hopefully) in our early fifties. This wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t have that goal set and we weren’t diligent in being frugal.
Where do you want to be in five years? Ten years? Thirty years? What do you need your money to do in order to get there? Set goals around that. Nerd Wallet has a wonderful retirement calculator to get your mind going on savings goals (or any other finance goals).
The Best Frugal Living Tips
Shop Your Pantry
Before you even make a list for the grocery store, shop what you already have on your own pantry shelves. Often times, you can come up with dozens of different meal ideas with just what you already have!
See my complete guide to take pantry inventory and score a free printable >>> How to Take Pantry Inventory + Why Every Family Should Do It!
Shop What You Already Own
Dreaming of a whole new wardrobe or redecorated living room? Instead of going out to shop, shop from what you already own! Whenever you take stock of what you have already in your own home, you’re able to reinvent your belongings.
>>> How to Shop What You Already Own (& Save Money, Too!)
My Meal Planning 101 printable is popular for a reason: it works! Meal planning allows you to take pantry inventory (see #1), make a recipe bank of your family’s favorite meals, and make a budget friendly list of what you actually need at the store to make your weekly meals.
Focus on Frugal Foods
We all know (hopefully) that dry beans are better for you and your wallet than a box of your favorite crackers. Focusing in on those “frugal foods” that deliver on budget and on nutrition is key when saving money on groceries. Items like rice, beans, frozen veggies, potatoes, peanut butter, baking essentials, and more are great staples to keep in your pantry and a great foundation for all of your meals.
Don’t Eat Out (Often)
Eating out and splurging once in a while is definitely okay to do! But when you feel the urge to eat out, ask yourself a few questions before hopping in the car:
Are you avoiding cooking?
Do you have no food left in your house?
Did you already meal plan for tonight?
Is today just really hectic and your family needs a fast and easy meal?
Is this a celebration or a treat for your family?
If you know that tonight is going to be chaotic and you can’t really afford to eat out, try preparing and bringing along your dinner. It can be easy sandwiches, rollups, or really anything else that doesn’t need to be warmed up.
Eat Your Leftovers
I worked at a pizza joint in college. I was always amazed (as a hungry and broke college kid) that so many people left half a pizza or more at their table to be thrown away. How silly to pay for an entire pizza if you’re only eating 30% of it!
Even food you make at home you pay for. You drove to the store and purchased your groceries, cooked and prepared the whole meal, and then you just throw the rest away? I don’t think so!
So eat your leftovers. Your wallet will thank you.
Pack Your Own Food
Eating while running errands, at the zoo, or on vacation can cost you big time money. A frugal living tip is to pack your own food ahead of time when you know you’ll be away from home around a meal. Peanut butter sandwiches, granola bars, mixed nuts, apples, bananas, and other foods don’t need to be kept cold. That makes them ideal to bring with you wherever you go!
Take Your Lunch to Work
Lunches out can be pricey. At minimum lunch would cost me $7. Seven bucks five days a week can really add up over the course of a even a month. Let alone a year!
So instead, pack your own lunch and bring it to work. We often make our Ultra Frugal Lunch Recipe for just a few dollars.
Make Your Own Coffee
Every morning, usually without fail, we drink coffee. Dan brews a half pot that makes one cup for him and one cup of iced coffee for me. If we were to get this at Starbucks, it would cost around $7 after tax. Why so expensive? Because I can’t just get coffee. I always got a muffin too.
Bring Your Own Cup
When you do need a beverage on the go, bring your own reusable cup. I love my Tervis tumbler. I’ve had this one for seven years and there are no signs of damage or plastic deterioration.
When you bring your own cup, you’ll often get a discount on the drink you purchase. Plus you’re producing less waste. Go you!
Don’t Buy Bottled Water
This goes along with bringing your own cup – water bottles are the same way! Many gyms, offices, airports, gas stations (you get the picture) have water bottle refill stations that you can use for free. When you tote around your own bottle you reduce plastic waste and save yourself money. My favorite reusable water bottle is from Pogo. It is insulated and has a leak-proof cap, plus it fits into all of our backpacks, cup holders, and strollers.
Buy Alcohol at Discount Stores
In Oklahoma we (finally) can purchase beer and wine at most stores and gas stations (as opposed to liquor stores only). I love a good, sweet white wine and honestly can’t tell the difference between a $20 bottle and a $3 bottle. So I buy the $3 bottle.
Stores like Aldi and Trader Joe’s have excellent “store brand” wine – Winking Owl for Aldi – and it is several dollars cheaper than other brands they sell. Their brands of beer, and oftentimes local brews, come at a discount too.
Find Free, Local Festivals
Free festivals are easily my favorite events to go to! Most often you don’t have to pay for parking and admission to the event is free. Of course, there are goods and food for purchase, but the live entertainment is absolutely free! Take a quick look at Facebook or Google search festivals and shows near you. Hint: Halloween, Christmas, and Easter are great times to find free and kid-friendly events!
Use the Library
I calculated how much our library saved me (this does NOT include all the books and movies my husband checked out) over the last 12 months. The grand savings total was just over THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS. Thousands of dollars, people. I check out movies, books, audiobooks, and children’s books (which are completely overpriced).
So if you like to see the latest movies and read the best books, go check out your local library! Or check out a book swap online! Stash away all that cash you’ll save.
Meeting up with friends – or people from a local Facebook group – to swap out clothes, toys, books, and more is an amazing way to start your frugal living journey. Not only are you decluttering your home, but you’re also receiving something you want/need in return.
This is another of my favorite frugal living tips. I love thrift stores! Secondhand shopping has become second nature for our family. We always look at our local thrift store first before heading to Wal-Mart or Target. We find amazing deals on websites like Poshmark, ThredUP, and eBay. Why pay full price for an item with loads of life left?
Going outside is a great frugal living activity to do. It can cost you zero dollars and all you have to do is walk out your front door. This can be as simple as walking around the neighborhood with the family, going to the playground with the kids, or finding a nature center nearby and taking a hike.
Whatever you choose to do, take deep breaths of fresh air and enjoy screen-free time.
Cloth diapering is one of my favorite frugal living tips for babies (next to secondhand shopping, of course). Not using disposables save so much money. While they are more expensive up front, the return on your investment will pay off. Our total set up includes: 24 shells and inserts, wipe warmer, cloth wipes, and liners. While that was close to $200, we could have easily spent that every month purchasing disposable diapers.
Read more >>> The Simple Guide to Cloth Diapering
Wash Clothes and Linens in Cold Water
With the cost of the water aside, washing in cold water saves money. Laundry detergents have gone through major changes over the last 15 years and work great in cold water like they would in hot waters. If you wash/rinse in cold water, your average cost per year would be $16. If you wash/rinse in hot water, you average cost per year would be $265. That’s $249 in savings! (Source)
Line Dry Clothing
Say your electricity costs $0.15/kWh. If you do 6 loads of laundry each week and run each load through the dryer at 40 minutes a cycle, that’s $0.44 a load or $137 a year! (Source) Try to use a drying rack when you can.
Adjust Your Thermostat
The more frequently your A/C or heater turns on and runs, the higher your electric bill will be. Turn up the thermostat in summer while you are out of the house. Turn it down in winter. In the summer, our’s is set at 76F while away. In the winter, it is set at 67F. Some power companies and thermostats can auto-adjust the temperature for you – that’s an easy way to live frugally.
Cancel Your Subscriptions
Check your bank statement for recurring transactions. Other than your regular bills, do you see any subscription services you can cut? Do you really use Audible? Is that BarkBox really worth it? This year, to be frugal and save money, we are cutting out Netflix (gasp!) and Amazon Prime. That’s over $200 in savings.
Call Providers for a Discount/Negotiate Your Bills
Calling a provider, whether that be your homeowner’s insurance or a hospital, can save you thousands of dollars. Call the customer service rep by name and be nice to them. Let them know that you would like to lower your bill and ask how they can help you. In the case of medical bills, often times the hospital offers financial aid or will settle the bill with you at a lower price. We saved over $3000 in addition to our insurance savings when I gave birth to Little Guy – just by negotiating the bill!
Switch Phone Plans
$120/month for mediocre service and limited data? No thanks! We switched to Google Fi almost two years ago and it has been great! We get great coverage and use way less data than we did with the traditional carrier (Google Fi is WIFI optimized). If you use our referral link, you’ll get $20 off your first bill when you switch! Our average bill is only $50-$60 for two phones.
Check out Google Fi.
72 Hour List
Buying things on impulse is the opposite of being frugal and intentional. A frugal living tip is to write down your wants and keep a running list. Wait to purchase these wants for 3 days (72 hours). If you’ve forgotten about the item, you probably didn’t need it!
Get my free printable >>> 72 Hour List
No Spend Day/Week/Month/Year
2020 is an ultimate frugal living year for us. We are doing a NO SPEND YEAR! I currently have mixed feelings – excited, nervous, stressed out already, but still excited. A no-spend time period is a great way to reset your shopping habits. It makes you look at money differently after you are “banned” from shopping and eating out for a week/month/year.
Read more >>> Our Successful No Spend Month
Cut Your Own Hair
YouTube has the grail of hair cutting tutorials. I cut my own hair, my husband’s, and our son’s hair. We spent $50 on these Wahl clippers and $15 on these shears. They have paid for themselves tenfold!
Do Your Own Landscaping
We have been pretty frugal with our landscaping since we’ve owned our home. Other than taking out two dying trees ($$$), it has been pretty inexpensive to maintain. We purchased a mower in the off season for a good discount at Home Depot. The rest of our yard equipment was found at garage sales and the outdoor flea market for dirt cheap. We mow and edge our own yard. Furthermore, we planted flowers and greens that come back year after year.
Don’t Buy Duplicates
With frugal living, one of the ultimate goals is to not buy more than you need. With that being said, you shouldn’t purchase duplicates (with a few exceptions).
Do you actually have a need for two bottle openers? Or did the second one just look cooler than the one you already have? It is the same with multiple shirt of the same color, backpacks, dishes, cups, etc. Is there a true need to have a second, identical item?
The only exception to this “no duplicates” frugal living tip, is for grocery items.
If you use canned tomatoes on a weekly basis and find them on a great sale at the store – stock up! It’s silly to pay full price for something just a week later when you know you need to buy it anyways.
My rule for stocking up on pantry and personal care items is:
One for now – two for later
This way, you buy only what you know that you’ll use.
DIY Cleaning Supplies
Ditch the pre-made, chemical-filled cleaners. Make your cleaners at home to save money and reduce the chemical exposure. Yeah, water and vinegar are technically chemicals. But I’m talking chemicals like bleach, ammonia, etc.
An easy, frugal all-purpose cleaner is water/vinegar mixture stored in a spray bottle. 1/2 C vinegar, 2 C water, 1 t. soap, and 20 drops lemon essential oil.
Also check out our favorite DIY Dish Detergent Tabs! It’s been months since we’ve purchased dish washer tabs from the store. This recipe saves us about $4 every month and has far fewer chemicals than the regular kind. It makes frugal living easier.
Entertain at Home
Dan and I really enjoy hosting people in our own home, and you might too! Having people over avoids the temptation of going out to a nice restaurant or a bar.
Most often, if we have lots of family and friends over, we make it a potluck style meal or have our guests bring their own drink. Games are played, fun is had. And if someone can’t drive home that night, they will always have a place to stay with us. And your friends might learn a frugal living tip or two!
Read more tips on entertaining at home on a budget >>>> How to Entertain on a Budget
What frugal living tips will implement this year? How much money do you think you’ll save if you just make three swaps this year? That’s my challenge to YOU!! Start living a more frugal life by taking three of these tips and putting them to practice.