The word frugal is often misconstrued into a negative one. However, 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 frugal living 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'll be able to prioritize the things that matter to you most. You'll prioritize spending 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 cereal for 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 largely.
Does frugal mean cheap?
Absolutely not! 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 don't really matter to you. For example, you may choose to spend less on clothes 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. But these sacrifices on your journey can add up to larger benefits down the line.
Remember, you are choosing to be frugal in order to 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. This basically means every time you choose to spend less money on something, you can 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 frugal living tips 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 frugal tips and 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 frugal tips and 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.
35 Frugal living tips
Here are some frugal living tips and strategies to help you get started on this new path!
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 don’t.
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. here are some great ideas for frugal meals!
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 them 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 back. 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 in 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. You can be fashionable, even on a budget!
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 on 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.
20. Avoid credit card debt
Credit card interest is expensive, and it can be easy to rack up unnecessary debt fast with credit cards. It is essential you pay your balance off in full every month if you do use your credit card. If you are unable to pay it in full it’s best not to use it. One of the key frugal living tips is avoiding credit card debt because you can save a bundle of money and stay out of debt.
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 living situation.
22. Try a low-buy or no-spend challenge
Sometimes it’s easier to stick to something if it’s in the form of a challenge. If you’re not sure where you’re money is going, why not try to do a low-buy or no spend year? If a whole year intimidates you, try a no-spend month to start with and go from there.
23. Use money making apps
Put some extra money in your pocket with these 26 best money-making apps! You can earn cash back, invest your spare change, or sell those beautiful sunset pictures on your smartphone. Earning extra money has never been easier.
24. Buy in bulk
Buying frequently used items in bulk, such as toilet paper, paper towels, soap, etc., is one of the frugal tips that can save you money on your grocery bill. The price per unit is usually lower when you buy in larger portions, and you can make fewer trips to the store too. Remember, if you purchase perishable food items in bulk to cook in bulk and freeze to prevent waste.
25. Ditch cable
Depending on what cable package you have, this is one of the frugal tips that can lead to significant savings if you’re paying $100 a month in cable that is $1,200 every year! You could quickly build your emergency savings and start saving for a luxury purchase if you wanted. Instead of expensive cable, opt for a cheaper streaming service and rack up those savings.
26. Frugal traveling
One of the best frugal living tips is to travel frugally. You can save a good chunk of cash by traveling places during what they call their “off-season” and still have a wonderful vacation. You can also save while traveling by cutting down on eating out and opting for a place with a kitchen so you can make some of your own meals.
Also, things such as purchasing discounted airline tickets or fares can save hundreds of dollars.
27. Skip the salon
Okay, we all need our beauty treatments and pampering but skipping the salon when possible can save you so much money. For instance, if you get your nails done twice a month at $25 a pop, that’s $600 in a year! Even if you reduce it to once a month, this is one of the savvier frugal tips that will help you save money quickly.
28. Make gifts instead of buying them
Whether you're getting a gift just because, or it's the holiday season, making your gifts instead of buying them can reduce spending and avoid credit card debt too. Christmas is one of the most expensive holidays and can be challenging for those on a budget. Making gifts can be more meaningful than purchasing them too. Check out Pinterest and YouTube for some great gift-making ideas!
29. Grow your own vegetables
Did you know you can grow vegetables indoors? Whether you live in an apartment or have a house with a yard, you can grow some of your own vegetables and herbs to save money. Not only is growing your own vegetables one of the more unique frugal living tips, but it’s also fun too!
30. Lower your electric bill
There are many ways you can lower your electric bill. For instance, you can use fans if possible when it’s not too hot to cut back on using your air conditioner. You can avoid cooking with your oven on hot summer days to reduce use too. You can also use cold water when washing clothes to cut costs on your bill as well. There are many frugal tips on how to lower your electric bill to help you save money.
31. Fun for free
Nothing makes a challenge easier than making it fun. One of the best frugal living tips is having fun for free. There are a ton of free fun things to do, such as going to the park, having a picnic, or having a bonfire are just a few free fun things to do.
32. Cut expensive coffee
Millennials spend over $2,000 a year on coffee! Yikes! I'm not saying cut out your favorite coffee but reducing how you spend can be a big deal. Even if you average $20 a week on lattes to go, that’s still a whopping $1,040 a year. It’s hard to cut yummy coffee, but you can purchase different flavors of coffee and creamer and have your cup of joe at home and put that cash in the bank. This is one of the frugal living tips that can save you a bundle of money!
33. Fitness at home
More and more Americans are opting to work out at home. The average gym membership can be about $58 per month, equal to almost $700 in a year. You can find home workout videos on YouTube and save quite a bit of money by exercising at home.
34. Stop impulse buying
Impulse buying has never been easier, thanks to e-commerce. You can find anything and everything at the touch of a button, and before you know it, those late-night shopping sprees cost you hundreds to thousands of dollars. Learning how to stop shopping is one of the most crucial frugal living tips to help you save money.
35. 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 permanent, this can really give you a boost by 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 living tips at a time to find out which works best for you. You can also get inspired by these great frugal living blogs.
Don’t forget to access our awesome and 100% free courses and worksheets to help with your frugal living journey and help you become financially successful!