The word frugal is often misconstrued into a negative. Although a frugal lifestyle can seem like a sacrifice in quality, it doesn’t have to be. Instead, you can choose to be frugal in ways that will add more value to your life. Let’s dive into what it means to be frugal. Plus, check out our money-saving tips to get started.
What does frugal living mean?
Frugal living is the act of being very intentional with your spending. If done properly, you will choose to prioritize the things that matter to you most. You will spend money on those things that matter and cut back on spending in other areas. Luckily, frugality can mean very different things to different people.
Frugality does not need to mean trading your favorite Lucky Charms to the generic store brand. It does not need to mean living without napkins. And it does not need to mean forgoing adventurous vacations in favor of a staycation. The best part about frugality is that you are able to create your own approach. You decide where you will live stingily and where you will live large.
Does frugal mean cheap?
No. Frugality should not be confused with cheap. Cheap means going to the store to buy the lowest-priced item without a thought to quality. Frugal means assessing your desires and choosing to spend less money on the things that matter to you less. For example, you may choose to spend less on clothes in order to fund your next vacation.
Is frugal living worth it?
Yes. If you are tired of letting money control your life, then frugal living is worth it. However, it is critical to look at the positives. If you only look at the sacrifices that come along with frugal living, then you will have a difficult time staying on this path. Of course, you will have to give things up along the way. These sacrifices on your journey can add up to larger benefits down the line.
Remember, you are choosing to be frugal in order to more fully enjoy the things you prioritize. If you keep your priorities in mind, it may not be as difficult to live a frugal life.
Benefits of frugal living
First and foremost, a frugal life will allow you to build more financial freedom into your life by accelerating how quickly you achieve your financial goals. You can allow for a cause and effect reality to take hold. Every time you make the choice to spend less money on something, you are able to put that money towards things that matter to you. The best part is that you get to decide what matters to you most.
Maybe you will put your newfound savings away for early retirement. Maybe you will put them aside to fund your dream of living on a sailboat. Or maybe you will allow the safety net of savings to allow you to pursue a job you thoroughly enjoy.
How to start living a frugal lifestyle
If you have never attempted to live this lifestyle, then it may seem difficult at first. That’s okay! Don’t be afraid to make some changes along the way. As you start to try out different frugal tips and tricks, remember that this is not a one size fits all strategy.
Instead, you will need to try out different tactics and see how they feel. You may find that giving up meals out is not a problem but forgoing your favorite brand of shampoo is not going to be an option. Simply try new strategies out with an open mind. You will likely need to do some experimenting to find the balance that works best for you.
It is critical that you don’t overdo it. Although it is exciting to enthusiastically cut down your expenses without mercy, too many cutbacks could lead to a backfire. Instead of saving over the long-term, you might experience burnout and forgo the savings altogether.
A good way to start living frugally is to add new strategies slowly. Try them out to see how they feel. If you like a strategy, then keep it and add another. If you hate a strategy, then let it go and try something else. You may need to try many strategies before you truly find your frugal stride.
21 Frugal living tips
Here are a few money-saving strategies to help you get started.
1. Start budgeting
Creating and sticking to a budget is fundamental to your financial success. Although budgeting isn’t necessarily fun, it is a critical piece of the puzzle. Within your budget, you can prioritize things that matter and ruthlessly cut out things that down.
Keep in mind that there’s nothing wrong with occasionally splurging on the things you like. Just make sure you’re saving for these purchases in advance. If you want to take a particular trip with friends, buy a nice bag or pair of shoes, start putting aside the money for it. Luckily, there are many strategies to help you find budgeting success. Learn more about creating a budget that works here.
2. Meal plan
If you are anything like me, then meal planning doesn’t sound enjoyable. A combination of kitchen fears and laziness led to a lack of meal planning that was burning a hole in my budget.
When I took the plunge and started meal planning, I was pleasantly surprised at the savings. Instead of ordering lunch every day, I just eat what I've cooked at home. The savings of $10 to $20 a day really adds up quickly. Check out our 30-day meal planning challenge to find some inspiration.
3. Cook in bulk
In a similar vein, summoning the energy to cook dinner after a long day at work can be next to impossible. Unfortunately, I typically resorted to fast food which only hurt my budget and my waistline.
Cooking in bulk has completely changed my dinner routine. Now, I cook in bulk based on what’s on sale that week. I typically cook on Sunday afternoon and have enough to freeze several portions. During the week, I simply take those meals out of the freezer and heat them up. My budget and my waistline have thanked me.
How much could you save with a little bit of time in the kitchen? You might even find that you actually enjoy cooking when you don’t have to do it every single day.
4. Take a look in your pantry
The amount of food I keep in my pantry at one time is somewhat embarrassing. But, most people have a similar amount of food lurking in their cabinets. Take stock of what you have on hand. Consider making a meal out of what’s in the pantry or fridge.
Recently, I’ve been eliminating one weekly trip to the grocery store each month. The goal of that week is to finish all of the leftover ingredients lying around my kitchen. You might be surprised by your creativity in the kitchen.
5. Check out coupons
Groceries can be expensive even if you buy in bulk. Take advantage of coupons and believe me if you look, you'll find them. You might be able to save a few dollars on each trip to the store. Those savings can add up quickly.
6. Sell things you don't need
Most of us are guilty of having a bit of extra clutter lying around the house. Whether you have amassed an oversized collection of designer handbags, have a ton of items your kids have outgrown, or have an overflowing bookshelf, it might be time to downsize. That clutter could be turned into cash with a little bit of effort. A few places to start selling include Facebook Marketplace, eBay, and Poshmark.
7. Buy used
When you have the option to buy something used, do it. You can save a significant amount of money with lightly used items. Check around your local thrift stores and online marketplaces to find the item you need at a much better price.
8. Return things you don’t need
Take a look at your recent purchases. Is there anything that you absolutely don’t need? Make a trip back to the store or ship that item back and get your money. You can even return groceries. Yup! You read that right, Groceries will take back spoilt food and non-perishable items.
9. Repurpose the fabulous clothes you already have
Do you love to shop? Do you consider having nice clothes and shoes a part of your fabulosity profile? If so, you probably already have a closet full of items that you hardly wear. Instead of going out to buy another pair of shoes that you’ll only wear once and forget, consider shopping your closet.
There’s probably a bunch of clothes and shoes lost in the back of your closet, begging to be worn again. Organize your closet so that you can find some of these hidden treasures. Learn to repurpose the fabulous clothes you already have before spending unnecessary money on things you don’t need.
10. Buy a car you can afford
A car is a major purchase. In fact, it is one of the largest purchases you will make in your life. With that, it is critically important to buy a car you can afford. Don’t let the bells and whistles of a shiny car steer you wrong. Instead, determine what you can really afford before you head to the dealer.
11. Walk or bike when you can
Although having an affordable car is great, walking and biking are much more cost-effective. Take the opportunity to walk or bike whenever you have the chance. You will save on gas while enjoying some exercise.
12. Shop around for the best insurance
Insurance can be a large expense. Not having proper insurance can significantly derail your financial goals. It is critical to choose the best plans for your life and your budget. Once you have a better understanding of what insurance you need, make sure to shop around for a policy. Shopping around can save you thousands.
13. Swap out your lightbulbs
LED lightbulbs use a fraction of the energy that a standard bulb uses. Plus, they last many years longer. Over time, it could add up to large savings in your electric bill. Consider making the switch.
14. Automate your savings and investments
After setting up spending goals, it is important to automate those goals. Otherwise, you may easily fall back into the habit of overspending. A good place to start is by automating your retirement savings through your employer. Next, consider automatic payments for all of your bills. Run through your finances to find new ways to automate your money.
15. Check out the library
A library is an amazing place full of free entertainment. Of course, they have a wide selection of books. However, most libraries also have extensive collections of movies, magazines, and more. If you haven’t signed up for a library card in your area, then please do.
You might be able to sign up online and you can access your local library's selection of books (including audiobooks) via apps like Libby and Overdrive.
You’ll be shocked at the sheer amount of resources available to you for free. Check out our ultimate book list for our favorite personal finance, business and career book recommendations.
16. Evaluate your subscriptions
Are you guilty of having more subscriptions than you really need? Take the time to comb through your subscriptions and decide which ones are worth keeping. You might have more time to enjoy one or two of your subscriptions if you cancel the rest.
17. Have date nights at home
Date night doesn’t have to mean an expensive restaurant or a movie out. It could mean a board game night at home or a walk through your neighborhood. Find creative ways to enjoy each other’s company while staying within your budget as a couple.
18. Get a part-time job
One surefire way to accelerate your savings is to pick up a part-time job. Although you can find a job in your local community, work from home jobs tend to be more flexible. If you already have a 9 to 5, then consider finding a work from home job.
There are many interesting options. It is important to find something that interests you. Otherwise, it can be difficult to find the energy to work after a long shift at your day job.
19. Pay down your debt
Debt is a drain on your resources. Make it a priority to clear your debts for good. Once you eliminate debt from your life, you will never want to go back. Finding frugal ways to live within your means will allow you to break free from these financial burdens.
Living in a larger home has its perks. However, the costs of living in a bigger space can add up. Not only are you paying for more square footage but also the little costs that come along with it. Consider downsizing your living space to a more affordable situation.
21. Determine what thing you can do without
Just because you can buy something doesn't mean you should. As you work on stretching your dollars, determine what things you can do without. Whether it's temporary or permanently, this can really give you a boost with saving more money.
The bottom line
Living frugally doesn’t have to be a sacrifice. Make an effort to think of frugality as a way to fully enjoy what you care about in life. When you have your money under control, it can be easier to spend on things that matter. Try out a few frugal tips at a time to find out which work for you best.