Are you looking to save more money? Perhaps you are trying to spend less? Most people are these days. Depending on your dedication level, you might be a candidate for extreme frugal living.
What’s extreme frugal living? Well, there’s saving money, there’s frugal living, and then there’s extreme frugal living.
It goes beyond clipping a coupon once in a while or quitting shopping for a month. It’s a whole lifestyle that involves cutting back on your spending and saving money wherever possible. And we mean wherever possible!
If you’re interested in seeing how extreme frugal living works and how you can start incorporating frugal hacks into your own life, read on.
Who is extreme frugal living for?
Before you commit to extreme frugal living, it’s good to get a sense of who it’s best for. It’s a lifestyle, so it’s not for someone looking to dabble in saving once in a while.
While what is extreme to one person might not be extreme to another, extreme frugal living generally means saving money in ways that most others are unwilling to do. So, who might benefit from this type of living?
Someone with a big financial goal
Have you got a big financial goal that you want to reach? Many things go into reaching a financial goal, like making sure it is measurable, realistic, and written down. By incorporating frugal life hacks, you’ll have more money to put toward those goals.
Extreme frugal living isn’t easy, but having a goal that you are working toward will make it more likely that you’ll stick to your new lifestyle.
Someone willing to make sacrifices
Are you someone who can make sacrifices to reach your goals? If so, extreme frugal living might be right for you! If not, it might be difficult to stick to some of the more extreme aspects of the lifestyle.
Even if you think you aren’t willing to make sacrifices, give extreme frugal living a try if you want. You might surprise yourself – it’s never too late to change.
Someone interested in living a more eco-friendly lifestyle
Living frugally can help reduce your impact on the environment. From buying less (or no) new clothing to growing your own food, to reducing your waste in general, frugal living can help you leave less of a footprint on the environment.
Those who take the environment into all of their consumer decisions follow what is called “ecofrugality.”
It essentially means being aware of how your spending impacts the world. If you are interested in reducing your impact, following an extreme frugal lifestyle can definitely help you do just that.
What are the benefits of incorporating extreme frugal living into your life?
No matter your reason for wanting to live more frugally, there are benefits to incorporating frugal hacks into your daily life.
Helps you reach your financial goals sooner
Those financial goals we just talked about? Well, by living frugally, you’ll be way more likely to reach them and to reach them quickly. You’ll be shocked at how fast your savings add up when you hardly spend anymore.
Helps you learn to live below your means
When you figure out how to live below your means you get an excellent life skill, no matter where you are financially. By turning frugal life hacks into habits, you’ll likely continue with those habits throughout your life.
This means that even once you’ve reached a more comfortable place financially, you’ll still be living below your means, leaving more money for future financial goals.
Helps you realize what’s really important to you
Do you know your priorities? What is really, truly important to you? If not, it might be because spending and consumption are getting in the way of figuring that out.
By cutting out the excess and the spending, you’ll have more time and space to explore what’s important to you, and to pursue those things.
Extreme frugal living is a great way to reduce waste. First, consuming less reduces the amount of trash you produce, helping lower your environmental impact.
Second, it also reduces time wasted on things that aren’t your priorities. When you are laser-focused on spending money only on the necessities, it opens up a lot more of your time.
Managing your possessions or shopping excessively is no longer a problem. You have that time for yourself and for what you want to do.
15 extreme frugal living ideas
Intrigued by extreme frugal living? Here are 15 tips to help you begin! Remember, what is extreme to one person might be normal to another, so adapt these as you see fit!
1. Grocery shop with a pre-made list and stick to it
Little things that might not sound that extreme can actually lead to extreme results. Take grocery shopping, for example. When did you last create a list and stick to it?
If you are already grocery shopping on a budget, take it up a notch and resolve to buy only what’s on your list. This seemingly small change can really add up!
2. Make your own cleaning products
The average U.S. household spends about $170 on cleaning products every year. If you want to spend less cash than that, try making your own cleaning products.
Natural products are not only better for you (you actually know what you’re putting on your counters and what you’re cleaning your clothes with), but they can save you a lot of money, too.
3. Track your expenses
Tracking your expenses is one of the best ways to get organized and learn where your money is going. It’s a classic frugal hack.
But, if you want to make it extreme, track every single penny spent. And we mean every single penny! Doing this gives you the best understanding of your spending and where you can cut back.
4. Borrow, don’t buy
You’ve probably heard of clothing challenges where you stop purchasing new clothes for a month or so. But why not take this to the next level? Vow to borrow everything you need instead of purchasing anything new.
From borrowing clothes to baby gear to gadgets, not buying new things is one of the quickest ways to save big.
5. Don’t throw away any food
Every year, over 130 billion pounds of food is wasted in the U.S. This staggering number is harmful to both the environment and our wallets. There are solutions you can try to lessen this amount and even cut it down to zero.
Using up all leftovers and freezing food before it gets too old to eat are just two of the many ways you can eliminate food waste and save money in doing so.
6. Go vegetarian
Speaking of food, another way to go extreme is to go vegetarian. Getting enough protein is essential, but meat can get expensive. Which is why it’s great that there are healthy vegetarian alternatives, like beans and lentils, which are way less expensive than meat.
If you want to go extreme, try cutting out meat entirely. If you want a little less of a commitment, try to eat meatless at least twice a week to see how much you can end up saving on groceries.
7. Freeze your credit cards
Whether you freeze them in a block of ice in your freezer or choose a more tech-friendly option, freezing your credit card can help stop you from making impulse decisions.
This will help you curb your spending and force you to really think about any purchase you want to make, saving you money in the process.
8. Cut down on all expenses
Sure, you can quit cable (and Netflix, Hulu, etc.!), but that’s not the only way to cut back on your expenses. An even more frugal hack is to do that, plus lower the rest of your expenses.
Extreme frugal living followers do things like: (1) lower the thermostat to 60 degrees year-round, (2) unplug all appliances (microwaves, printers, TVs, toasters, lights, etc.) when not in use, (3) line dry clothes instead of using a dryer, and (4) take cold showers only.
These might sound extreme because they are, but they work!
9. Give up your smartphone
Many people are looking to spend less time on their phones these days. The most extreme frugal life hack to accomplish this? Get rid of your smartphone!
Either replace it with a flip phone that does nothing but makes calls and sends texts, or rely on your landline. You’ll not only save some money, but gain the extra benefit of losing your addiction to your phone.
10. Sell (almost) everything you own
A big purge is another way to clean out your home of unused items and get some extra cash. The more items you sell, the more cash you’ll make, so be ruthless! You never know what you can live without until you sell it all.
Those who follow extreme frugal living lifestyles know they can live without a lot!
11. Stop gift-giving and make your own cards instead
Making homemade gifts is a wonderful way to save. Even better? Eliminate gift-giving from your life entirely.
Explain to your loved ones that you no longer want to exchange gifts. Most will understand, so long as you replace that gift-giving with time spent together! If you’d like to give something for a special occasion, a homemade card goes a long way.
12. Use cloth diapers and reusable menstrual products
Those who buy either diapers or menstrual products (or both!) know how expensive they get. The cost of these disposable items can add up on a daily or monthly basis. Instead of wasting your money on a product that goes into the trash, consider reusable alternatives.
Cloth diapers and reusable menstrual products are both good for your body (or your baby’s), the environment, and your wallet.
13. Cut your own hair
Become your own hairdresser and the hairdresser and barber for your entire family! Monthly or even twice-yearly cuts (not to mention color!) add up. By eliminating trips to the salon, you’ll learn a new skill and save along the way.
14. Stop eating out
At the top of most popular frugal life hacks lists is cutting back on dining out. But if you want to do more, don’t just cut back on eating out and delivery, cut it out of your life entirely.
Making all of your own food (and not throwing any of it away!) might be a big life shift, but it will be worth it in the long run.
15. Downsizing your home is the ultimate in extreme frugal living
Are you willing to make a significant change? If so, you might be a candidate for downsizing your home. This is one frugal hack that will make a huge difference.
It’s a commitment, but if you are willing to rent a smaller home, or sell your house and move into a smaller one, you’ll save a ton on monthly expenses and payments.
Don't go overboard with extreme frugal living
By now, you might be ready to dive in and get started on all of the frugal hacks there are, which is great! However, you can go too far with it, so be aware of the following as you start your extreme frugal living journey:
Saving at the expense of your time or well-being
Implementing frugal hacks is one way to build up your savings. Just be careful that saving doesn’t come at the expense of your time or well-being.
If following all of your frugal life hacks cuts into the precious little time you have to spend with your kids, for example, it might be time to reevaluate your choices. Sometimes, saving is not worth it if it will cost you so much.
Missing out on things that you love
It’s ok to spend money on yourself, your loved ones, and on things that you love! People who practice extreme frugality might start to forget that. If you lose track of the fact that money is there for you to spend, you might miss out on things you could have afforded.
It’s all about balance, even if you are in a season of life where frugality is at the forefront of your mind.
Viewing spending money as “bad,” no matter what it’s for
It can be dangerous to think of spending money as “bad,” because there are things that are beneficial to spend on. Not only that, but if you veer too far into extreme frugality, it could start to hurt your money mindset.
You want to live a life of financial abundance, not scarcity, so be aware if your mindset starts to shift into one of lack rather than wealth.
Are you ready to try out extreme frugal living?
Extreme frugal living is certainly not for the faint of heart or the casual saver! But it is an excellent tool to help you reach financial goals you never thought were possible and change your life. Which frugal hack are you willing to try today?
With all the money you save from extreme frugal living, you'll want to check out the other Clever Girl Finance articles about saving and investing your money. And try out our free financial courses!