More often than not, frugal living is compared to being cheap, but they aren’t the same thing. A cheap lifestyle is all about finding the immediate lowest price, which hardly ever works out for the best in the long run. Being cheap means hardly ever spending any money at all in fact and living a frugal lifestyle is actually very different.
Price is most certainly a factor when it comes to being frugal, but the main idea is getting the best value for your money. If that means you spending a couple of extra bucks, then so be it, the bottom line is not the only factor. Being frugal means being resourceful, smart, and meticulous with your money and I don’t see any of those characteristics as being a bad thing. You work hard for your money, why would you want to waste even a single cent?
It’s true, frugal people don’t spend lots of money and we don’t live lavish lifestyles, but we are mostly a happy bunch. You see, most frugal people have let go of the idea that you need to use your money to impress others or show your off your status. This simple change in your mindset can send you down a path to financial freedom. You’ll be happier in so many ways and you might even be able to (gasp) pursue what makes you happy instead of what you think others think you should do.
Happiness isn’t the only benefit you’ll see, although that’s a pretty good place to start as it’s worth every penny. You’ll likely find that a lot of money draining habits are bad for your health (junk food and cigarettes anyone?). With all this extra cash lying around, you can start investing or accelerate it. Even just a small increase in your monthly investing can drastically change your life when it comes time to retire.
Below are just a few (ok, a lot) of tips to give you an idea of where to get started. I’m not saying everyone needs to follow each and every tip, but you should at least consider them. Part of being frugal means doing what fits your lifestyle the best and allocating funds to what makes the most sense for you. Maybe you save money using a few of these tips, but splurge somewhere else, that’s ok because the spending brings value to your life.
Anyway, here goes my list of some ways to best start living a simple lifestyle full of frugality.
Saving Money Habits
No Unplanned\Impulse Purchases – Don’t go off script, if you go into a store or online to buy a specific item, only buy that item. Impulse purchases are normally unnecessary and the cost adds up quickly.
Coupons – There is no shame in using coupons. Any discount you can get on a purchase is worth it.
Buy Used – Don’t afraid to buy used items. There are too many ways available today not too. Buying second hand tools, toys, video games, the list goes on, all are just as good to you gently used as they are brand new.
Reuse stuff – Don’t use something a simply throw it away. Many items can be reused for several purposes. Many make great kids’ arts and crafts.
Maintain stuff – Maintaining the things you own is a great way to prolong their life-span and put off needing to replace them. For example, spending a few bucks each year to keep your lawnmower going can save you hundreds down the line.
Shop around \research purchases – Don’t purchase anything before doing your research first. Knowing the features and prices of similar items will help you know if you are getting a good price or can negotiate a better price.
Negotiate costs – With that in mind, most services are negotiable, you just need to ask. Again, do your research and be polite when doing so, but you’d be amazed where you can save a lot of money by just asking.
Subscriptions – Take a look at any subscriptions or recurring charges on your credit card and reevaluate them. Sometimes we outgrow a service or just don’t get our money’s worth and get cut it out completely.
Pay down debt – Paying down debt can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars a year depending on the interest rate. Getting rid of those pesky loans should be priority number one.
Don’t create new debt – Adding any debt (except a mortgage) should not be on your to-do list. Pay off your credit cards every month and never take out a loan.
Save for big purchases – Adding to the previous point, saving up for big purchases can be a financial lifesaver. Being able to make a big purchase and not go into debt will again save you tons of money on interest. Many times you’ll be able to get a slight discount paying completely in cash as well.
Pay all at once for discounts – Certain expenses like car insurance will offer a discount when paid in full in one lump sum instead of over the course of a few months, take advantage.
Use Loyalty programs – Many retailers will offer loyalty programs. Find a few retailers that you like and stick with them.
Avoid fees – Avoid unnecessary fees at all costs. Banking, rentals, services all have fees associated. Asked to have them waived and avoid late fees when possible.
Make gifts – Instead of buying expensive gifts, make some of your own. There are so many tutorials out there that even the least crafty of us can make useful items.
Rent one time use items like tools – If you are buying an item to do something specific, see if you can rent it first before buying it. You’ll have less stuff lying around and will save money too.
Carpool – Find a coworker that lives close by and split up the driving duties saving both of you on gas plus wear and tear on your car.
Don’t buy things just because they are on sale – Buying anything simply because is on sale is costing you money if it was an unnecessary item. You know what the biggest discount is? Not buying it at all.
When it’s something you need, buy the limit – On the flip side, if something you normally buy is on sale, and it doesn’t expire or has a long shelf life, buy the limit the store will allow. You’ll pay more upfront but save in the long run than if you pay full price.
Cheaper isn’t always better – Never use price as your only gauge, many times items are cheap for a reason. If they are ineffective or will break easily, you’ll just end up spending more money needing to buy more or replace it. Buying quality items will last longer and you’ll spend less in the long run.
Sell unneeded stuff – Now that you are living frugally you’ll find there is a lot of stuff you just don’t need. Have a yard sale and get rid of as much as you can. You’ll feel better with less clutter and make a few bucks too.
Money making apps – There are a ton of money making apps out there that are totally legit. You won’t be able to quit your day job, but even the small amounts can add up over time.
Credit card points – Don’t go into credit card debt, but definitely take advantage of credit card rewards. Use your card to make purchases can get you some immediate discounts and you can use those points toward a needed big purchase later on.
Around the House
DIY projects – Doing something yourself can be a great way to save money. There are lots of information videos out there that can get you started.
Buy your own modem – Did you know that your cable company is charging you to use their modem? They are and it’s not worth it, you can find a perfectly good one for yourself and break even in just a few months.
Use your dishwasher more – Studies show that using your dishwasher more can actually save you money. Most of us waste a ton of water manually washing dishes. Newer dishwashers can sense how much is in them and use the appropriate amount of water.
Unplug appliances – Don’t go around unplugging your refrigerator, but small appliances like coffeepots or toasters still use little bits of energy even when turned off. Unplug them to use the least amount of electricity possible.
Shutdown computer – Not to be overlooked, most of us leave our laptops on all the time now. Shutting it down will save on power usage and will likely extend the life of the laptop.
Lower utility bills – There are lots of ways to save on all the utilities you use. Take quicker showers, turn off lights when you leave the room, change the thermostat a degree or two, install a programmable thermostat, and the list goes on.
Go Green with Solar Panels – While we’re at it, solar panels are a great way to help the environment and your wallet. With little to no down payment, you can reduce your electric bill to zero most months depending on where you live.
Have a meal plan – Don’t get caught off guard every day for your meals, plan ahead to know exactly what you’re having to avoid falling back on ordering take out.
Make grocery list when buying groceries – When entering any store you need to be focused and especially when food shopping. Without planned out meals and a specific list of items to buy, you are more likely to buy unnecessary items and spend too much money. Have a list and stick to it.
Cook at home – Cooking at home is far cheaper than eating out and it’s much healthier too. Learn a few simple recipes your family will love to start with and work your way up from there.
Buy in bulk – Buying in bulk is a great way to save money, but again, make sure it a needed item and the amount doesn’t exceed your typical consumption. Eating more of something to make sure it doesn’t expire won’t save you money.
Eat less – If you eat less, you’ll lose weight and won’t need to buy as much food, simple as that.
Drink more water – Investing in a water filter is a great idea. Once you aren’t buying sugary sodas or other expensive drinks, you’ll see the pounds melt away and your wallet get fatter.
No bottled water – Bottled water is a huge waste. You can get the same outcome with the previously mentioned water filter and there are lots of reusable water bottles you can get for under $20.
Drink less alcohol – Alcoholic drinks are full of calories and provide no real nutritional value. I’m not saying cut them out completely but limit your intake as much as you can.
No Junk Food – Junk food does need to be mostly cut out. It’s a drain on your wallet and provides zero value to you.
Brew Your Own Coffee – Going out to get your coffee is a gigantic waste of time and money. Most of the time what you’re getting from Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts isn’t even coffee. It’s mostly sugar, save yourself the money and pounds by making your own.
No smoking – The fact that anyone smokes in this day and age is beyond me. It’s disgusting, terrible for your health, and very expensive. If you have this habit, quit now.
Walk and bike – Instead of taking your car around town, start walking or riding your bike. You’ll save money on gas plus wear and tear and you’ll be in better shape too.
Smaller house – Most of the time, a big house is too much house and that means your mortgage is too big as well.
Location – Don’t live in an area because it makes you seem wealthy. In reality, you’re paying much more for the same amount of house and property than you would elsewhere.
Refinance current mortgage – If it’s not possible for you to move, then look into refinancing. Depending on how much equity you have and your current interest rate, you could potentially save hundreds of dollars a month with a refinance.
Drive a reasonable car – Last I checked my Honda Civic gets me from point A to point B just as well as any luxury car. More than likely it’s more reliable too. Not only am I saving on the initial cost, but the overall maintenance. All a luxury car is good for is throwing money out the window.
Buy a used car- While we’re talking about cars, don’t buy new anyone. Used cars still have a stigma around them that’s unnecessary. Certified Pre-Owned as they are now called are just as good as new cars and a fraction of the price.
You don’t need the latest cell phone – Cell phone cost have gotten out of control and there is no reason you need the latest model. Buying the previous version of a phone can save you hundreds and fits your needs just fine.
No unlimited data plan – Along the same lines, do you really need the unlimited data plan? I bet you’re mostly using so much data “to get your money” worth. Try putting down your phone and talking to people again. You can greatly reduce your phone bill this way.
Staycation – Vacations are becoming increasingly expensive and also a form of showing your status recently. Don’t fall into that trap. Take a reasonable vacation or better yet, save tons of money with a Staycation.
Travel during off-season – If you insist on travel to the latest hotspot, try going during its “off-season”. It might not have all the hustle and bustle, but is that a bad thing? Being able to experience places without big crowds and at a much cheaper rate sounds good to me.
Don’t always buy name brand – Too many of us put stock in buying name brand items. Some of these are worth it, but most aren’t. You can find plenty of quality items on the discount rack that look exactly the same.
No expensive gym – You don’t need an expensive gym either. More than likely you’re paying for services you don’t use. Find a more reasonable gym or work out at home.
You don’t need more clothes – Take a look at your closet, if there is anything you haven’t worn in over a year, you have too many clothes. Stop buying more.
Hand me downs – There is nothing wrong with hand me downs. Be thankful that someone is willing to give you their stuff for free.
Invite friends over instead of going out – Instead of going out to a restaurant or bar, invite your friends over to show off your new cooking skills. You won’t be bothered by the crowds around you, won’t have to wait for your server, and can have a better time at home.
No cable – Cutting the cable can be great. There are tons of streaming services out there for a fraction of the price.
Share streaming services – If you do cut the cable, share the cost of streaming services. Many will allow for multiple users to be logged in at the same time.
Library – Did you know that the library is full of books and DVD’s and its free to use? Take a trip, check out a few things for the week for hours of free entertainment.
There you go, it’s a big list, buts it’s hardly everything. Start with a few of these frugal tips and find your inner frugal person. Modify or tweak to fit your lifestyle and off you go. Hopefully, you find a few of these useful and you are on your way to a simpler, happier, and more frugal life.
Have any other tips on how to start saving, I’d love to see them in the comments!
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Jeff is a fan of all things finance. When he’s not out there changing the world with his blog, you can find him on a run, a Mets game, playing video games, or just playing around with his kids.