Ultimate Guide to Practical Frugal Living Ideas | How to save money on groceries, clothing utilities and more!
What is frugal living and why do you care? Frugal living is simply about living well, but spending less. It isn’t about depriving yourself of things. It means making smart choices about how you are choosing to spend your money.
Frugal living is an important step in your journey to get control of your finances and it’s an integral part of planning and saving for your future.
So what does frugal living look like and where do you jump in? Check out these 107 frugal living ideas!
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Frugal Living Ideas for Clothing
Clothing is a necesary expense, but it doesn’t have to mean you need to break the bank to do it. Check out these frugal living tips on saving money on clothing for you and your family.
- Swap with friends or other moms.
- Shop garage sales.
- Consignment stores.
- Thrift stores. Thrift stores often have treasures just waiting to be found. If you have the patience to dig through the racks, you can often find some great pieces!
- Buy offseason. I often will wait until the end of summer when everything goes on clearance to buy for my kids the following year. Target has great clearance racks and you just can’t beat shorts and t-shirts for $2-$3 brand new!
- Buy a size larger to get extra use. You can squeeze a little extra use out of coats, shirts, etc if you buy one size up. I’ve been buying my toddler 2 sizes up in dresses and she’s gotten about 3-4 years out of them.
- Start at the back of stores. The back of the store is usually where the sale and clearance items are. Y’all please don’t pay full price for clothes. Nothing is worth that full price dollar tag. The markup on clothes is crazy. Do yourself a solid and head straight for the back, If you don’t see what you want, give it a minute. It’ll eventually go on sale!
- Search online for coupons or sales. I am a big fan of online shopping. Anything that means I don’t have to schlep my kids to the store is A+ in my book. You know one great thing about shopping online? There are tons of good resources for coupons and discount codes. Some of my favorites are:
- Honey. Helps you find the best price on Amazon. It shows you available coupons for the website you are shopping on. It’s as easy as clicking “apply coupons” button on your taskbar (You have to install Honey plugin on your computer). Bonus! When Honey makes a commission from the sale of an item, they split it with you, it’s called “Honey Gold”. Once you receive a certain level of “honey gold” you can redeem for gift cards to a variety of vendors (Target, Amazon, etc.).
- Ebates. Want to earn cash back for shopping online buying things that you would have purchased anyway? Then this is for you. Ebates is huge. You get a certain percentage (it’s different with each vendor) and once a month you’ll get the cash back on the purchases you made. You can use this for booking hotels, airfare, buying clothes, toiletries, groceries, etc. Who doesn’t love free money!! You can join for free and with my referral link, you get $10 after your first purchase of $25 or more!
- RetailMeNot. Download the plugin or search through their website and find coupons and promo codes to help save you money.
- Make your own clothes. Handy with a sewing machine? Know someone who is handy with a sewing machine? Go crazy choosing your own pattern and fabrics!
- Buy versatile pieces. You know whats better than buying one really awesome shirt. Buying one really awesome shirt you can wear 5 ways and create 5 different outfits with. Think classic pieces that can be worn a variety of ways.
- Shop outside your section. I sometimes find great deals when I check out the boy’s department. A white t-shirt for my 3-year-old is a white t-shirt, girl or boy. #amiright?!
- Skip duplicates. No one needs 5 different black t-shirts. If you don’t know what your wardrobe really consists of, maybe its time to take a minute and go through and organize.
- Save gift cards. If or when you receive gift cards. Look at those as your opportunity to get ahead in one area of your budget. Yes, you could blow it on the newest thingy-ma-whats-it. OR you could save it for a time that you really have a need for something.
- ThredUp.Think of ThredUp as an online consignment shop. The reason I am in love with this website is that, not only am I getting a great deal on gently used, or never worn items are available for great prices, but they also will accept your clothes. They will send you what they call their “Clean Out bag”. It gets processed (they go through everything) and then they’ll send you an email with your earnings. The first 14 days, you can use your credit to purchase items from the thredUP.com. After 14 days, you can cash out using PayPal or a thredUP Visa Prepaid Card. I’m kind of obsessed with this website. Bonus! If you sign up through my link above you get a $10 credit.
Finding Frugal for Groceries and Household Items.
If you’ve not read it yet, check out my blog post on frugal living tips for rocking your grocery budget and how to come up with a budget grocery list! I’ve included a few tips from that list here, but it also offers a number of different ideas and ways to plan that I don’t mention below.
- Compare unit prices. The best way for you to find the best price on items is to check the sale per unit price. This is usually found on the price tag on the shelf at the grocery store.
- Shop the sale papers. Many grocery stores have circulars that will show you whats on sale that week. This would be a great place to start when you are meal planning so you can see what ingredients are on sale and will save you the most money. A few of my favorite ways to check the circulars are:
- Shop with a grocery list. In order to stay on budget, you have to first know what your budget is. Once you have that budget in place, you can then sit down and meal plan accordingly. Once you’ve got your meal plan you can shop your list.
- Meal plan. As I mentioned, above, having a plan is crucial to staying on budget. So every week or month depending on how you do your shopping, take some time to plan what you are going to need so you don’t end up with alot of extra items.
- Shop your own pantry. This is something that can often be overlooked. You’ve already spent the money. You might as well use the food you’ve already got on hand.
- Stock up on frequently purchased items when they are on sale. If you find a product that you use alot and you find it on super sale, that’s when you’d want to stock up right? Make sure you know what you typically pay for these items, so when you see there’s a sale, you know whether or how much of a deal it actually is!
- Keep a price book. This goes hand and hand with what I mentioned above. I have a little spreadsheet that I keep of items that I buy regularly and how much they cost at the places I frequently shop. Once I have that, it’s really easy to plan where and what I want to shop for.
- Top and bottom shelves at the grocery store tend to have the cheapest products. Did you know that the middle shelves are where grocery stores stock the more expensive items? Check the top and bottom shelves for the best prices.
- Buy generic and skip the name brands. Did you know most name brands and generics are made in the same factory? Buying generics is a crazy easy way to save yourself some money without expending alot of extra effort. Target brand cleaning products are amaze-balls!
- Skip convenience packaging. Yes, convenience packaging is super…well, convenient. But you are paying a premium for it. It’s worth the extra 5-10 minutes to repackage it yourself. You can throw your cookies in a Ziploc bags just as easy and cheaper than buying individual serving packs.
- Make your own cleaning products. I’m a fan of making my own cleaning products for alot of reasons. Yes, its almost always cheaper, but I also know exactly what’s in them. No mystery ingredients for me. Most of the time, its as simple as vinegar, essential oils, and a little water. Pinterest is full of DIY cleaning product recipes.
- Buy reusable items. Why pay for something over and over when you can make a small change and just pay for it once. Some great reusable substitutes: microfiber cloths instead of paper towels, washable sponges, cloth shopping bags instead of all of those plastic bags, instead of buying your to-go coffee you can brew your own at home and take it with you in your own mug (also a money saving tip here as well!), buying metal washable straws instead of the plastic disposable ones, and many more! Edited to add: I just discovered these wool dryer balls. These are everything! I adore them so much.
- Buy in bulk. You can often get a much better deal per unit if you buy alot at once. I like buying diapers, toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, and meat in bulk.
- Skip the soda and juices and drink water. A much cheaper and healthier option.
- Shop less often. The more often you go to the store, the more chances you are giving yourself to go off budget or make impulse purchases.
- Check out co-ops and farmer markets. I love farmer’s markets. Not only are the prices usually quite good, but I love supporting small businesses. Alot of cities will have farmer’s markets on the weekends or once a month. Definitely worth checking out!
- Cook more vegetarian meals. Meat is definitely one area in your grocery budget where you tend to spend more. Consider incorporating a few vegetarian meals into your weekly meal plan!
- Make your own laundry detergent. I’ve been making my own detergent for a while now and I adore it. Not only is it crazy cheap, but it lasts forever!
- Grind your own coffee. Yes, this requires a one-time investment into a good grinder, but whole beans are usually cheaper than buying a bag of ground coffee. For all you serious coffee drinkers, give it a consider!
- Instead of using k-pods, use the reusable k-cups. I have these and I love them! So much cheaper using my own coffee than paying something crazy like $10 for 18 k-cups. More environmentally friendly too!!
- Buy in-season produce.
- Sign up for loyalty programs. Sign up for your local store’s loyalty program. They sometimes offer discounts or coupons. A super easy way to save money.
- Take advantage of online grocery shopping. Save yourself time, money and gas by shopping for groceries online.
- Don’t buy precut fruits and veggies. When you buy pre-cut fruits and veggies you are paying for the convenience. Save yourself some money and spend 30 minutes when you get home and cut everything up yourself!
- Skip the bottled water. Buying bottled water isn’t just a waste of money, but there are certainly greener options!
- Buying bagged produce vs individual pieces. The next time you find yourself buying apples at the grocery store. Check out the cost difference in pre-bagged apples versus the loose fruit.
- Buying sandwich meats at the deli usually can be cheaper than prepacked meats. Obviously, this depends on the brand of meats you buy, but price compare. For the store brand, I’ve found it to be cheaper.
- Make your own pancake/waffle dry mix.
- Use overripe fruit for muffins or smoothies instead of throwing it away. Don’t waste your money by throwing good produce away. There are still great ways to use up what you have!
- Apps like Ibotta* and Checkout51. You can upload your receipt and earn cash back on certain items that you purchased! You should check what items are earning cash back prior to going to the store to see if anything you need would qualify. *Note: If you click through to Ibotta using my affiliate link above, you will receive a $10 welcome bonus!
- Price match. Some stores will price match so do your homework and find out. Also, if I’m using a price match I usually save those items at the end of the transaction just to help for a smoother checkout.
- Don’t linger in the store. The longer you are in the store, the longer you have to talk yourself into items you don’t really need. Shop your list. Get in and get out.
- Prepare your own food. Save money by eating in versus eating out all the time. If you just need a break from cooking and just can’t, buying a frozen lasagna or pizza is still a cheaper option than going to a restaurant!
- Spread ingredients between meals. There’s a bag of tomatoes on sale? Think through meals you can make with those tomatoes. You can make salsa for tacos, or cut them up to make Tuscan pork chops or even Bruchetta. Plus, since you are sharing that same bag of tomatoes, you are doing this at a reduced cost!
- Organize pantry to keep foods visible. How do you know what you have if you can’t see it? Take an hour or two, help yourself by going through your pantry, seeing what you have an organizing it in a way you can find everything. Before I got my $#^& together, I found myself accidentally buying duplicate spices or canned veggies, because I’d missed that I’d had them in the first place.
- Subscribe and save. I love the crap out of Amazon’s Subscribe and Save. It’s so easy and convenient, you also can get an additional discount depending on the item and if you are buying several in one order. You can save up to 15% off plus free shipping on a huge list of items. If you are buying diapers, wipes and some baby food items, you can save up to 20% on those items when you buy 5+ in the same order going to the same address. Things I typically buy on subscribe and save are diapers, wipes, razors, a particular kind of toothpaste, but there are tons of Subscribe and Save items to choose from. I’d still recommend price comparing, but with that extra 15% many of these items end up being cheaper!
- Use your freezer. Using your freezer is a great way to manage bulk meat or meals you can make in advance and double. So. convenient.
- Grate your own cheese. This deserves its own point because it’s cheese and cheese is awesome and those huge bags of pre-shredded cheese are a total rip off if you don’t mind my saying. I’ve got a food processor that can shred a much cheaper block of cheese in no time flat. In case you were wondering you can make close to 8 cups of shredded cheese from 1 of the big blocks of cheese for about $8. OR you can buy the 2 cups of shredded cheese for about $4-$5. Bonus: shredded cheese freezes beautifully if you can’t go through that much cheese in a week!
Finding Frugal for your Utilities.
There is no escaping your monthly utility bill, but you can absolutely do something about consumption and making smarter choices to lower your bills. Check out these 15 ways to help save money on utilities!
- Use LED light bulbs.
- Try to use fans more and the A/C less.
- Dress warmer or grab an extra blanket to save on your heating bill.
- Buy energy efficient appliances. I am not saying run out and buy a new dishwasher if the one you currently have works fine, BUT if you are in the market for purchasing an appliance, go for the more energy efficient option!
- Turn off what you don’t need. If no one is in a room, are the lights really necessary? Something else to consider for your outside lights is a sensor!
- Use blackout curtains to help with room temperature.
- Shop around to compare utility costs.
- Consider switching to a pre-paid cell plan.
- Start using a smart power strip. You can turn the strip on and off (through wifi) your phone when you don’t need it.
- Draft blockers for doors.
- Change air filters regularly.
- Programmable thermostat.
- Don’t run the dishwasher or washing machine unless it’s full.
- Create a maintenance plan for appliances. You need to take care of what you have. It’s important to maintain those expensive appliances or systems in your home. For example, every winter I have my furnace serviced to make sure everything is working as it should. It’s better to be proactive and keep it running smoothly than not taking care of it and then you are forced to pay what could be a hefty repair bill. Wanna know a great way to track your maintenance plan? Click here to see my post about how to keep your life organized!
- Low flow shower head like this one.
Kicking Frugal Living into High Gear
Still looking for more ways to save money? Here are 40 of the best frugal living tips to level up your money saving game!
- Consider carpooling to work or school.
- Public transportation.
- Wash your own car.
- Do your own nails.
- Color your own hair. A $10 box of color is much cheaper than a $70-$100 trips to the salon!
- If you are an avid reader- consider Kindle Unlimited. It’s like the Netflix of books. You pay one low price and you get to read unlimited books in the KU Library. I’m a subscriber and love it!!
- Ditch Cable. Consider Netflix, Amazon Firestick, Hulu, etc as other frugal options! Edited to add: If you are a football fan, I found out you can watch NFL games without cable, with an antenna! Seriously, cut the cable cord. There are tons of cheaper options to keep up with your shows.
- Cancel unnecessary subscriptions.
- Family membership to places you’d visit alot. If you are always going to a certain museum or the zoo. It’s cheaper to buy a year-long membership than paying for each individual trip.
- Sign up for a membership at your local library.
- Ride your bike instead of taking the car.
- Re-purpose and reuse what you already have. Do you have a ton of empty baby food jars? Maybe you could use them to organize your craft supplies? Empty milk carton? Perhaps you can use it as a planter for an herb garden. There are tons of ways to re-purpose what you already have instead of just throwing it away!
- Optimize trips to save gas. Make a list of your errands and plan the most efficient and effective way to get everything done with as few trips possible.
- Bring your own coffee/pastry/breakfast to work. Yes, $3 doesn’t sound like much to some people, but when you consider spending those same $3 5 days a week every month, it really adds up!
- Negotiate with your bank and credit card company for lower rates. I have successfully negotiated my rates down. I leveraged being a good customer and making consistent on-time payments to get them to lower my interest rate.
- Sell unused items. Why not make a little money off things you don’t need or want any more.
- Get organized. I’ve mentioned organization a few times through this post, but it’s worth making a specific point about. The better organized you are, the better handle you have on what’s in your house, what you are spending your money on, and where things are getting off track. Yeah, getting and staying organized requires effort, but you can save yourself alot of money and heartache if you stick with it.
- Swap babysitting services with your friends and family! Anyone who uses a sitter regularly can tell you that a sitter for even just a handful of hours is expensive. Why not trade in-kind services. You babysit one night and your friend takes a turn another.
- Cut the gym and find free ways to get in your exercise.
- Budget ahead and sinking funds. Make a list of any irregular expenditures and start planning out the savings for them, so it’s not an unexpected expense and wrecks that months budget. Examples: yearly auto insurance, girl scout dues, vacation, property taxes, etc.
- Shop around. Comparison shop, don’t accept the first price you come to. In the Honey app, if you put something in the “save for later” in Amazon, it will track the price and let you know when it changes.
- Buy greeting card/invitations at the dollar store. Only a $1. Worth it!
- Raise your insurance deductible. If you establish a sinking fund to make up the difference this should be no problem and allow you to save some extra money every month.
- Shop around for insurance. Not all insurance is equal, however, it still needs to be competitive. Check out multiple quotes.
- Check out scratch and dent sales if you need new appliances. Scratch and dent can save you $100’s of dollars on what is otherwise a brand new machine.
- Use up your leftovers. If you haven’t checked it out yet, check out my post on my 1 trick to cut down on food waste and saves you time and money!.
- Buy school supplies at the dollar store. They offer quite a variety and typically have a good selection. I’ve been going here for years to pick up pencils, paper, tape, etc. for my kids.
- Shop garage sales for toys and books for kids.
- Buy used cars.
- Buy discounted gift cards for stores you frequently shop. I like using Gift Card Granny.
- Buy after the holiday for next year. Wrapping paper, Easter baskets, valentines day cards. Buy them when they are on clearance for the following year.
- Sign up for surveys to make a little extra cash or earn gift cards. One of my favorites is Swagbucks, but there are lots of good options. ** Note, that just added a feature where you can earn 1 SB for every coupon printed! BOOM– that’s a double savings, ya’ll!
- Do a 30-day no spend challenge!
- Refinance student loans.
- Plan a staycation instead of going somewhere.
- Build an emergency fund. Life happens at 100 mph, get ahead of it by giving yourself a cushion of just in case. It will ultimately save you money in the long run.
- Handmade gifts. Instead of buying something, make your own gifts. Knit a hat or scarf. May your own candles or lip balm, bath bombs. Tons of good options that are great gifts, but that you can also make relatively inexpensively.
- Save on gas with Gas Buddy.
- Round-up on mortgage and car payments to save on interest.
- Google and research on Youtube for simple repairs.
If you are on a tight budget, or even if you are just looking for ways to tighten the budget belt a bit, give a few of these a try!
I’d love to hear from you! Do you have any tried and true frugal living ideas? Please comment below.