Frugal living is not something that happens overnight. It’s a lifelong journey guided by our habits and decisions when it comes to money. Making small changes on a daily basis can have a substantial effect on our lives.
These frugal living habits will help you learn how to budget your money, destroy your debt, save like crazy, and start investing to reach financial freedom.
What Does Frugal Living Mean?
To be perfectly honest, it means something a little bit different to each individual, but in general, it means living within your means and not spending money unnecessarily.
Frugality is being intentional with your money and belongings. There are some big similarities to minimalist living. We think of words like economically conscious, being a thrifty person who knows how to live well while they save money.
While we’ll get into some specific mentalities and the best frugal living tips shortly, which will get you into the right money mindset to look at your situation (and your finances) from a different perspective.
3 Basic Rules to Living a Frugal Life
- Minimize the waste you create (reuse whenever possible).
- Maximize the value of every single item you spend money on (and even some things that you don’t spend money on).
- Let go of the idea that money = happiness, and that money = popular/successful/worthy/etc. (Those are all just lies to get you to spend more money and stay miserable.)
I do want to take a second and point out the difference between frugal vs cheap.
If you live frugally, you’re making smart choices with your money, getting the most out of penny spent, and not purchasing things that are low quality and may need replacing.
For example, purchasing a Honda or Toyota vehicle knowing they are the most reliable on the road. Or even buying a good pan to cook meals in because it will last you longer in the kitchen.
On the other hand, if you’re living cheap, well, I hate to say it but you’re actually not being very smart with your money.
You’re buying a cheaper, off-brand TV because it has a lower up-front cost, but you’re definitely going to need to replace it much sooner than if you had bought a higher-end/better quality TV.
You might buy shoes that only cost a few dollars, but if they’re running sneakers and you’re training for a marathon, I doubt you’ll make it to marathon day before they’re worn out entirely.
In a very simple but straightforward example, consider this:
- Frugal: Go out to dinner at a restaurant. Only drink water, and skip dessert to save a few dollars. Tip the waiter at least appropriately, if not generously (20%+).
- Cheap: Go out to dinner at a restaurant. Order anything you want, realize you need to save a few dollars, and give the waiter a really crappy tip (maybe 10% or less).
You don’t have to be a cheapskate in order to live a thrifty life. We suggest making small incremental changes if you have doubts. This will allow you to start living frugally- and still be kind and courteous- without feeling overwhelmed.
Another example that demonstrates the true meaning: When shopping you may find yourself choosing value over the price of an item. A thrifty shopper won’t be afraid to spend a little bit more money on something they know will last them longer. A cheap person will try to find the least expensive option available, to spend as little as possible.
What Shopping Problems Should You Look For?
Bustle recommends looking for “lifestyle creeping”– what purchases were a luxury to you before, but now you claim are necessities? You may be buying a “necessity” you could do without! First and foremost, think about your spending and shopping habits- and get ready to revamp them with the best frugal living tips!
What Benefits Come From Frugal Living?
Now we aren’t trying to talk you into an extremely tight economical or minimalist living style, where you reuse bath water with your entire family to save on your water bill or something! Yeah, that’s one way to save more money, but we have some easier tips to integrate into your life.
But there are several benefits to being thrifty. Some examples are:
- Improved mental health. If you can live within your means and stop worrying about how your life compares to others, you’ll feel much less stress and less desire to “keep up” with those around you.
- Increased overall wealth. Who isn’t looking to save money these days? Whether happens immediately or it takes a little longer will depend on your income level, but in general, you’ll spend less money on things that don’t matter. You will see an increase in either your savings or spending money on things that do matter, such as memorable family vacations. Wealth isn’t just measured in dollars, after all.
- More satisfying family life. With less money going out the door every month, you’ll very likely be able to right your finances to finally get out of debt, not need to work as many hours (as you were when trying to pay off debts), and have more time to relax and enjoy your family without feeling stressed that you aren’t at work.
- Capability to have more freedom. You may find that frugal living is the key to being able to minimize costs to such an extent that you could retire early. Maybe it simply allows you to have a comfortable disposable income each month.
How To Enjoy Living a Frugal Lifestyle?
This is pretty easy, so I’ll keep it short and sweet: stop caring what your life looks like in comparison to anyone else’s life, and start enjoying it for exactly what it is this very minute.
I mean, it could always be worse, right?
Really, that’s all it takes. With a little more pause before you buy, and a little more creative thinking before you complain, you really CAN live a life that feels fulfilling, comfortable, and enjoyable, all while being smart with your money.
Once you settle into your own routine of living your frugal life, you’ll find that thrifty living is fun and that yes, it is so worth it.
15 Frugal Living Habits That’ll Change Your Life
These are the best frugal living tips that you’ll find, because rather than giving you a specific list of “buy this, don’t buy that,” we’re giving you the mindset required and the mental tools necessary to help you learn how to be thrifty.
Because again, everyone has a slightly different scenario and frugal living could never be compiled into a list of specifics.
We want to you work hard on this, and one day find yourself living a frugal life and enjoying it — I mean, we sure do!
1) Always think long-term when making decisions
Again, don’t get cheap people confused with frugal people. There is actually a difference. Cheap people always look for a quick fix, something that will benefit them immediately or save money quickly. Frugal people are always looking for a long-term solution.
Get into the mindset of long-term thinking when making purchases, especially “big” purchases. Things like appliances, vehicles, and houses should be thought of as a long-term investment. These are items you want to get the most value out of in the long term.
Being able to sacrifice your desire for instant gratification and a fast solution will save you a ton of money.
2) Always seek the best value
Whether it’s a new pair of sneakers or a meal from the grocery store, frugal people seek the most value even when they want to save money. Frugal living is all about getting the most out of your money- a.k.a. more bang for your buck!
Instead of looking for cheaper options, think about quality as well as price with whatever you buy. You can spend less but still have good quality. Some things you think will save you money may be a money pit- something that needs to be replaced for being chintzy!!
You want your purchases to continue working and provide good usage years down the road. For example, instead of buying a cheap phone case, invest in a sturdy one to protect your cell phone better, it’ll stay in better condition and it’s one less thing to worry about.
Did you know you can earn cashback using companies like Ibotta? Using cash back programs are a great way to help get the most value with your purchases.
3) Never pay full price
Find coupons and bargain shopping is what frugal living is all about, you save money without always forgoing things you need or want. A frugal shopper is always looking for the best deals around and plan shopping around them.
It’s important to note that just because a store is having a “deal” does not mean it’s a bargain for you. Unless the sale is an item you need, it’s not worth buying. Understanding wants versus needs comes into play. Part of saving money and being thrifty is learning and thinking about your purchases and making sure you know the difference.
Remember everything is negotiable!
You might also consider saving any gift cards you receive to re-gift someone else at a later date (if possible), or use the money to on a gift for someone else. Why spend your own money if you don’t have to, right?
You can even get discounted or free gift cards if you know how to!
4) Put saving right into your budget
Have you heard of the saying “always pay yourself first”? This means that you should always put money into your savings/investment accounts before spending your money on other things.
A good habit is to automate your savings. Not only do you want to budget your savings right into your monthly budget, but having them on autopilot is also a great routine for your budget.
We use Mint & Personal Capital to manage our money electronically and automate our savings.
5) Pay off your debts…and keep it that way
While wanting to save money is important, you won’t do yourself any favors by saving a ton of money while you’ve got debts piling up on the other side of that coin.
Make it a point to tackle any and all debts you’ve got against you BEFORE you get heavy into saving and investing. The sooner debts are off your shoulders the sooner you’ll have more cash available to put into savings!
If you’re currently struggling to get out from under your debts because your income just doesn’t stretch far enough, take a look at this list of side hustle ideas.
6) Buy a smaller modest home for frugal living
Banks will often approve you for a mortgage much higher than you can comfortably handle. Stop listening to their advice! A home is the largest purchase in your life and it’s not a liquid asset (can sell quickly). Purchase a small modest house as your first home that you can easily afford.
A good rule of thumb for knowing how much your mortgage should cost is 25%-30% of your monthly take home. Since your home is such a large portion of your budget, be realistic when deciding where to live.
Remember that homeownership is not for everyone, and you need to think of the best option for you. Renting might be a better option depending on your individual situation.
7) Use everything until you can’t anymore
If you want to save money fast, simply don’t spend your money as often or at all.
It’s true, we both wear our shoes until they have holes in them and our pinky toe stick out the side.
Frugal people have this quirk of using everything to the very last drop. This includes vehicles, clothing, tools, disposables, machines, appliances, and more. The more you can use something, the more money you save.
If you truly want to embrace frugally living, get into the routine of using everything until it’s not usable and needs replacing.
8) Use your handyman skills to repair and reuse
Learning how to repair and reuse your own items can save you thousands of dollars every year.
Maintaining your vehicle is a great example of this.
Learning how to replace your own brakes and complete your own oil changes can save you hundreds of dollars by its self. Add in some drywall repairs, driveway sealing, roof patching, electrical work, and plumbing and you are now a money-saving savage.
The saying “knowledge is power” is so true. Most basic handyman/repair skills can be learned by a simple search on YouTube, Google, or Pinterest.
Leaving your house for entertainment is almost a guarantee you are going to spend more than you would on a night in. Learn how to stay entertained at your house and spend less money while still enjoying yourselves. Buying a device like an Amazon Fire Stick is a great way to stay entertained at home.
Get into the habit of never leaving the house without a plan in place. Going out for entertainment is not a bad thing, but keeping doing so in moderation is better for your wallet.
Some great at-home entertainment ideas include a campfire, dinner with friends, game night, DIY projects, and movie nights.
Even better why not make some extra money in your spare time? Or even do what we did and start a money-making blog. It has allowed us to achieve an income level we thought we could only dream of, making our frugal life no longer an absolute necessity, but now simply a fun challenge!
10) Cook for yourself / Don’t eat out
We are huge supporters of this! We honestly don’t eat out, we cook and eat at home and save thousands each year by not doing so.
Eating out is EXPENSIVE! Anytime someone else is making, serving, and cleaning up your food you are going to pay a premium. Learn how to cook for yourself and any meal you make could be cheaper, maybe even tasting better! There are a plethora of cheap recipe ideas all over online and you may be surprised at what meals you can throw together.
Start with some basic meals and work your way up- no shame in starting simple. You will soon find that cooking at home is actually fun and the money you will save will put a huge smile on your face.
11) Have an emergency fund
One of the most important aspects of personal finance is having your emergency fund set up. This fis money reserved and specifically put away for unforeseen expenses such as car repairs, deaths, and surgeries.
The last thing you want to deal with during an crisis is where the money is coming from. Take the stress off an already stressful situation and have your “crunch-time” fund set up. This will also prevent you from going into debt when something comes up and you don’t have the money to pay for it.
Normally $1,000 set to the side is more than enough for an emergency fund, but everyone’s situation is different.
12) Find a credit card with great rewards
If you are responsible with your money then using a credit card with great rewards is a no-brainer.
Once you have decided your responsible enough to use a credit card decide what kind of card you are looking for. Do you want a travel rewards card? Cashback? Building credit? A great source to compare cards and see which ones fit your needs best is creditcards.com.
We personally treasure our travel and vacation time far more than anything else. With that being said we obviously use a travel rewards credit card to earn miles and save up for free vacations.
If you are using credit cards it’s always important to keep track of your credit score.
You can do this for FREE using a company like Credit Karma (you can read our in-depth Credit Karma review here).
13) Buy a used reliable car
This is a very debated topic for some reason. Buying a used car should be your only option when it comes to frugal living.
Cars are a depreciating asset so “investing” in a new one- or even worse financing a vehicle- can kill your financial future.
Use a website like Kelly Blue Book or Edmunds to research, compare, and find the worth of vehicles you’re thinking about. After completing your research, go on a site like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace and start a search for what’s available to you right now. Just be vigilant and don’t fall victim to any potential scams.
We also use Consumer Reports when purchasing a car.
Buying a reliable car is important in steering clear of large expensive repairs. Brands like Honda and Toyota are rated top-notch when it comes to reliability.
14) Never gamble
Did you know the average American spends $300 a year playing the lotto? What a waste of money! You have better odds of getting struck by lightning twice in the same day.
Although casinos and playing the lotto can be very enjoyable for the rush of winning it big, it’s not a good thing to get used to doing. Save your money and put it elsewhere that’s more important in your life. Better yet invest that money.
15) Declutter and avoid letting it build up again
While “stuff” sure does seem nice to have, think of how much money you’ll save by not buying it, how much space you’ll keep freed up by not having it, and how much time you’ll save not having to keep it all clean!
If you don’t need it anymore, don’t like it anymore, don’t fit it anymore, etc., send it straight to the donation pile and wish it good riddance! Better yet, have a garage sale and earn a few bucks, that you can put towards paying off those debts or building up your savings.
While you’re on your decluttering mission, make sure your home is super well organized so you can eliminate the risk of buying duplicates because you forgot you had something or, worse, couldn’t find it!
Frugal Living Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Live a Frugal Lifestyle?
You can start living a frugal life by making more intentional life decisions. Become selective about your spending habits, and making sure that your purchases align with your budget goals.
How Can I Become Very Frugal?
You can become very frugal by becoming informed of your spending choices and learning to use a budget. Understand the difference between spending less money and money-making, and make sure that you get good, lasting use out of everything you purchase.
Is Frugal Being Cheap?
No, most people would say they are two different things.
Is Being Thrifty Bad?
Being frugal usually is not a bad thing unless you’re allowing it to control all of your spending decisions. You’re allowed to buy things you want or that bring you joy! Don’t worry about splurging on a nice cup of coffee from time to time, buying some clothes a few times a year, or being truly frugal by checking out the goods at thrift stores for hidden treasures.
Bonus Frugal Living Tip: Start a Side Hustle
When you save money, you may find yourself hitting a brick wall at times. You can only save so much before you become cheap and start to lower your quality of life. And you can only do so much when you have bills and debt to take care of.
That’s why it’s important to live a frugal life focusing on the quality you receive from your purchases.
If you have already worked on cutting back your expenses and living on less it’s a good idea to shift your focus onto making more money!
There are plenty of side hustle ideas, legitimate online jobs, and unique ways to make extra money in your life.
Focus on the skills and passions you already have and learn how to monetize them to create some extra breathing room financially in your life.
- The Complete Budgeting Guide: How To Create A Budget That Works
- How to Build an Emergency Fund When Money Is Tight
- 45 Ways To Get Out of Debt in 2021