One of the hardest parts for beginners of frugal living is living a life of intention. It’s not enough to want to save money on your grocery budget.
You need to shop sales, check the price per unit, start meal planning, and keep a price book. So as you start out, don’t be shy about drafting a plan and revising the plan and systems as you go.
Check out these frugal living tips and frugal habits to help you get started– beginners edition!
8 Frugal Habits of Serious Money Savers
When you decide to start your journey to frugal living, it can be easy to fall into the trap of becoming overly enthusiastic and trying to take a lot of big action all at once.
And while this may work for some, it’s important to note that big change doesn’t always require big action.
And for many families, big actions aren’t sustainable. Don’t discount baby-stepping your way into forming positive habits.
Simple actions are repeatable and repeatable actions are sustainable.
So when you are setting out to overhaul your spending habits or create new money habits, don’t be afraid to start small.
Learn To Say No
“No” is a full sentence.
Whether you are begging off an expensive dinner out with friends or talking yourself out of spending money that you don’t have in the budget– learn to be ok with saying “no”.
And until you are able to make smart money choices, it’s probably going to be one you’ll need to use a lot. And that’s ok.
Pace And Reward Yourself
Set short-term goals for yourself and when you reach them, consider a small reward.
Skipped eating out and hosted a family game night to save money for 90 days? What a great jump start to your frugal life! In celebration, you treat yourself to your favorite coffee shop treat!
If we’re honest, it’s easier to buckle down and do the hard things if we know that there is an end in sight.
If you are staring down a never-ending road of deprivation and restriction, it’s going to be hard to stay motivated and on track. But when you break up a larger goal into smaller goals, it feels much more attainable.
Tracking your money is for money the least enjoyable aspect of managing money. But financial awareness only comes with knowing what you are spending and where you are spending it.
If you are constantly pulling money from savings into checking and look back at the end of the month and don’t know where your money went– that’s a problem.
It’s a problem because you have lost money you set aside in savings as well as not knowing where that money went.
Intentional spending can help you save hundreds of dollars every month. Whether it’s through automatic transfers to savings or wrangling in your food budget– you need to know where your money is going.
Create a Budget Based on Your Financial Priorities
Personal finance is personal.
Every individual has their own unique circumstances and goals for their finances and your budget should reflect that.
If you are new to budgeting or struggle with budgeting, it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that there is a “right” way to budget your money.
The “right” way to budget your money is the way that helps you meet your financial goals and works for you!
Pay Yourself First
If you are struggling with saving money, cultivating the habit of paying yourself first is important.
When you put your budget for the month together, you’ll have your list of expenses and bills that have to be paid– those are your financial obligations.
But if you don’t start prioritizing your money so that you are able to save, it will be a struggle to make forward financial progress.
Don’t let your savings be an afterthought. Consider treating your savings like a bill.
You may have to reorganize your spending or cut some bills and expenses to make your savings goals work, but in the long term, you will be able to find success when you become intentional with your savings.
Cut Out the Unnecessary
When it comes to making your financial goals a reality sooner rather than later, it’s time to get lean with your budget. And that means cutting out unnecessary spending.
Picking expensive cuts of meat, multiple streaming services, pricy coffee shop trips, those sneaky spending traps lining the grocery checkout line.
Be sure to include an audit of your expenses to see what you need to keep, lower or cut.
Create Spending Speedbumps
If holding onto more of your money every month is your goal, consider creating spending speedbumps, especially in the areas where you struggle with overspending.
Some examples of common spending speedbumps would be:
- Unsubscribing from your favorite shops emails so you aren’t aware of sales and tempted to spend money.
- Switching to a cash budget for discretionary spending– when the cash is gone, there’s no more money to be spent.
- Picking one day a week or every two weeks to do your grocery shopping and eliminate all the little side trips to do during the week to pick up things like laundry detergent or milk.
- If you struggle with overspending on your grocery budget, create a meal plan, a shopping list and shop with a calculator. Giving yourself these spending guardrails and shopping with intention will help keep you on budget.
Frugal Living Vs Cheap Living
If you are new to a frugal life you may be wondering what the difference is between frugal living and being cheap. The main difference between being frugal and being cheap is the difference in their mindset about spending.
The chief concern for cheap people is spending as little money as possible, typically to the exclusion of any other considerations. While frugal people are looking to make use of they already have and looking for the best value for their money.
So when you are looking to make smart money choices consider your motivation and mindset around the way you spend.
49 Ways to Start Frugal Living for Beginners
Whether you are looking for extra money to pay down credit card debt or are chasing financial independence, there are tons of ways to stretch your dollar just a little further.
Here are 49 frugal living tips to help you get there!
Wash Laundry in Cold Water
A simple way to save money is by skipping the hot wash for your laundry, or potentially just minimizing how often you utilize the hot water setting. Most clothes don’t advise the use of hot water anyway and there is laundry detergent specifically designed for cold water washing if that’s a concern.
Try a No-spend Challenge
If you’ve never heard of a no spend challenge, it’s exactly what it sounds like. You set aside a specific time frame and decide during that time you will spend no money.
You can do it for a few days, the weekend, a week or even a month. It’s completely customizable to you and your goals.
Buy or Rent a Smaller Home
Housing is one of the highest (if not the highest) expenses in your budget. Making you are in an affordable living situation is important. A great rule of thumb is to try and keep your housing costs below 25% of your budget.
Yes, that can be tricky, especially when you live in a high-cost-of-living area. But do your best to evaluate what you need versus what you want. Trimming some of the housing wants may be able to save you big on your rent or mortgage.
Repair It and Wear It Out
A staple idea when it comes to being frugal is limiting (or eliminating!) waste.
So the next time something breaks, instead of just tossing it, and buying a new one consider if its repairable or if it actually needs replacing.
Find Free Entertainment
Movie nights at home. Getting movies or audiobooks from the library.
Instead of taking family vacations away, consider switching to staycations in your area and play tourist. Go for a bike ride around your neighborhood. Take a homemade meal to the park and have a family picnic.
There are tons of free fun options if you are willing to get creative and pre-plan!
Don’t Be Scared to DIY
Certain repairs should absolutely be dealt with by a professional. But for smaller repairs, there are great free resources (like Youtube or grabbing a book at the library) to teach you what you need to know.
Take Advantage of Loyalty Programs
Most grocery stores and many retail stores offer their own version of loyalty programs. After all they want to incentive you to keep shopping with them.
Whether it’s special coupons or cashback, check your regular shops to see if they offer a loyalty program to help maximize your savings.
Skip Single Use Products
Single-use products like paper goods or k-cups are a quick place to save money.
Instead of repeatedly spending money on something you can only use once, consider switching to reusable options like wool dryer balls instead of dryer sheets.
Instead of buying disposable k-cups, consider investing in reusable k-cups and filling them with your own coffee.
Cashback Apps and Coupons
Cashback apps like Rakuten and Ibotta are super fast and easy options to save money and earn cash back on items you were already going to purchase anyway.
Include Meatless Dinners into Your Meal Rotation
Incorporating meatless meals a few times a week can definitely save you money on your grocery budget every month.
And just because you skip the meat doesn’t mean you have to skip the protein. Beans are a fantastic source of protein.
Shop the Sales
You can really maximize your savings when you start shopping the sales as your first step in meal planning. If you know certain types of meats or produce are on sale, take advantage of those and choose meals with those ingredients. Simple, yet effective.
Buy Frequent Purchases in Bulk
If you are using certain products a lot, it may make sense for you to buy them in bulk. Just make sure you check the unit price for these items to ensure they really are the best deal.
Skip Convenience Foods
Convenience foods are just that– convenient.
But you are paying a steep price for that convenience. Buying pre-packaged snacks, cut-up fruit, single-serve juices, etc., when you compare what you are actually getting versus if you had bought a regular package and divvied them up yourself, it’s probably more than you think.
Next time you are at the store, take a look around and see just how much that convenience is costing you.
Drink More Water
Switching to water isn’t just a great move for your health but also for your wallet. If you order drinks while you are out to eat or even just going through the drive-through, you can quite easily add $7-$15 dollars to your total.
Do your wallet (and your body!) a favor and switch to water.
Start a Garden
You don’t have to have a huge plot of land to grow your own fruits and vegetables. There are tons of options for indoor gardening. You can even grow your own fresh herbs right inside your kitchen.
Watch Your Subscriptions
Subscriptions have a way of sneaking up on us. They are typically a series of low dollar amount services which, as you purchase, don’t feel expensive, but when you accumulate just 2-3 can really add up.
Subscriptions are an easy place to start when you are looking at trimming your expenses.
Watch Your Thermostat
Winter and summer months can be brutal on energy usage. The Department of Energy recommends keeping your thermostat at around 68F during the winter months and 78 in the summer months. To save even more you can bump it up a few more degrees while you are away.
It’s no secret that clutter can be stressful, but did you know it can also cost you money? Having tons of clutter around can disguise spending habits as there is already such an abundance of “things” around.
It requires more space which could mean a separate storage unit.
It can also lead to unnecessary spending when you aren’t able to find something or have forgotten that you already had an item, so a duplicate is then purchased.
Shop Your Pantry
Shopping your pantry is one of the easiest frugal living tips for beginners. If you have a stocked pantry, fridge, or freezer, make use of the things you’ve already purchased to plan meals out for the month.
If you are feeling super saver, you could combine your pantry findings with what’s on sale at your local grocery store. Talk about money savings.
Sell Things You Never Use
Unused gym equipment. Golf clubs you never use. A closet full of clothes you hardly wear. Instead of letting clutter build, consider having a garage sale or listing your items on the Facebook marketplace.
While you might not make thousands of dollars, you could quite easily make a few hundred dollars depending on what you have to sell.
Keep Up With Your Returns
Do you have returns waiting to make a trip back to the store? Don’t just let them sit there past their possible return date. Next time you’re going out, be sure to swing by and get your money back. This is a fast and super easy way to put cash back in your pocket.
Find the Best Deal on Insurance
Twice a year make a habit of doing som research and ensure you have the best insurance rates possible. An alternative is to build up a sinking fund for your insurance, put a little extra money aside and then you can raise your deductible, which subsequently would lower your payment.
Again, you’d want to ensure you have the money saved or can afford the new higher deductible, but this is a pretty straightforward way to lower your monthly payments.
Don’t Forget About the Library
Did you know the library is good for more than just books. If you haven’t been to your local library, make a point and stop by. Most don’t just offer books- they also offer movies and audiobooks.
Also, if you have a library card, be sure to check out the Libby app. You can borrow ebooks, magazines, audiobooks, and more with this downloadable app.
Make Your Own Gifts
Are you crafty? Handy? All gifts don’t have to be purchased from a store. You can put together a memory book for your kids. Or write down one thing you love about your speice for them to read every day.
You could make coupons for things you can do with your friends like a marathon movie night.
Be creative. A gift doesn’t have to be expensive to be amazing.
Before you leave your house, be sure you know what you are going to be cooking for the week and subsequently what you need to buy those meals.
When you shop without a list, it becomes incredibly easy to overspend your budget.
Savings starts at home with a plan for your meals.
Ditch High-Interest Credit Card Payments
Next time you get a credit card statement, take a look to see what interest rate you are paying on the balance. Unless you are under some sort of introductory offer, you’ll like have a high interest payment.
Paying high interest is wasted money you could be putting to a better use else where.
Shop Pre-Loved Items
Thrift stores, consignment stores, and garage sales are all great places to find great deals on the stuff you need.
If your child needs a bike or a new winter coat, or you are looking for kids’ books to round out your library. Save big money with gently used items.
Plan Your Emergency Fund
Life happens fast. It’s not a matter of if an emergency happens, but when an emergency happens. Making sure that you have money set aside can be the difference between a stressfest and a trip into debt or being ready to handle the problem in the moment.
Cars break down, people get laid off, and medical emergencies happen.
Be ready for them when they show up.
Include Sinking Funds
If an emergency fund is for an unknown situation, a sinking fund is for something that you know is coming up.
Great examples of sinking funds are: holidays, birthdays, taxes, new tires for your car, and home maintenance.
These expenses, while they don’t show up monthly, still need to be accounted for. If you don’t plan your savings ahead, you run the risk of not having the money available or a busted budget.
Be intentional with your savings to make sure you are ready for the irregular expenses that pop up through the year.
Empty glass jars, empty milk jars, gift packaging, shoe boes, empty cereal boxes.
Find ways to reuse and repurpose what you already have. We reused glass baby jars for craft storage. We cut milk jugs in half to use for gardening. You can reuse boxes for storage or crafting for kids.
Get creative the next time you start to throw something out; think about if there are any other uses for it.
Learn the Art of Delayed Gratification
Patience can really pay off. Whether waiting can prevent you from making an emotional purchase or taking time to shop sales, holding off on buying right away can help you make solid purchasing decisions.
Sometimes, when you are willing to wait, you can even find the thing you’ve been thinking about buying– for free. Be sure to check your local Buy Nothing group!
Make It from Scratch
Taco mix, bread, pancake mix, bread crumbs. There are tons of things you can find around your house that you can make yourself instead of purchasing store-bought.
Not everything you can make from scratch will be cheaper than making from scratch, but many things will be. Do the math and see where it makes sense.
Stretch Your Ground Beef with Beans
A fantastic option that many don’t know is subbing lentils for ground beef. For every pound of ground beef, you can substitute 1 cup of dried lentils.
Be sure to check out this article all about the how-to’s from The Kitchn.
If you don’t want to substitute beans entirely, they are also great to mix in with ground beef to stretch a few meals.
Combine Errand Running Trips
When you combine your errands, you aren’t just going to save yourself time by streamlining all your running around to just one trip but also money. That’s one trip in the car instead of multiple trips back and forth in your car.
It saves you on potential impulse purchase spending that happens while you are out. Picking up a quick coffee or finding a few things while you are out.
If you are looking to next level this tip, you could do this on the backend of something you are already doing. Like when you are coming home from work or dropping your kids off to practice.
Trade-In Expensive Car Payments
If you are struggling with an expensive car payment, you may want to consider selling or trading in that car and moving into a less expensive car or if possible, look at trying to pay it off quickly to be done with car payments faster.
You will want to run the numbers to see what your best option would be, as each financial situation will be unique.
Quicken Your Drying Time
One of the easiest frugal living tips for laundry is throwing a dry towel in the dryer with your load straight from the washer. This can cut your drying time up to 25%.
It would be prudent to use a towel that is older and not likely to pill or shed all over your clothes.
Ditch Expensive Habits and Find a New Free Hobby
Certain hobbies can get really expensive really fast. Why not trade in pay-to-play hobbies for something a little budget-friendlier?
Youtube is loaded with videos for people who want to learn to draw or cook. If you enjoy being outdoors, you could take up walking, hiking or bird watching. There are tons of fun budget-friendly options!
Find Out When Your Local Grocery Store Marks Down Perishable Items
Freshly baked bread, meats, and deli food– the grocery store will sell these items at a discount as they near their expiration or sell-by date.
These are generally great deals, but you’ll need to know when they do these markdowns so you can be sure to take advantage of these great deals.
Use Gas Buddy to Find the Cheapest Gas in Your Area
Gas Buddy makes it easy for you to find the cheapest place to fill up. You download this app, it looks to see where you are and then shows you the location and price of gas closest to you.
They also offer rewards if you sign up through their app– you can save as much as $0.25 per gal with their gas card.
Make Your Own Cleaning Products
Vinegar, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, dish soap, and water are some of the base ingredients needed to start making a variety of your own DIY cleaning products.
What you are cleaning will dictate how much and what you need, but these staple ingredients are extremely inexpensive and will make quite a bit of cleaner.
Check out Pinterest and Google for recipes for these awesome DIY cleaners.
Shop Farmers Markets
If you are looking for some amazing produce, don’t forget to check out your local farmer’s market. The produce is usually super fresh, and you can typically get some pretty great prices on what’s in season.
Keep a Price Sheet and Know Your Best Prices
Most families have access to multiple store options when purchasing groceries and household items. A great way to ensure you are stretching your budget and making the best purchasing choices is with a price sheet.
A price sheet is simple to set up. You list out your products, and then beside the product, you record the price of that item at the different stores you shop.
Another great way to level this up is to record what the sales price is of that item when it goes on sale at each store.
Knowing the sale price ahead of time, if it’s a product you buy frequently, would give you the opportunity to stock up at that special lower price.
Keep Track of Preventative Maintenance
Keeping up with and planning ahead for preventative maintenance is one way to get ahead of costly repairs. While it can’t guarantee that something will break, it can help extend the life of the item and lower the likelihood of a surprise repair.
Batch Freezer Cooking
Life gets hectic and it can feel so much easier to just hit the drive-thru on the way home than having to think about something to cook.
Batch freezer cooking helps you get ahead of this problem by having meals ready to go in your freezer.
Next time you are making a lasagna or soup (anything that freezes well) consider doubling or tripling the recipe so that you will have meals ready to go later.
It will save you both time and money.
If You Decide to Go Out to Eat, Split a Meal
Many restaurant portions in America are quite large. If you are looking to eat out, consider a meal to split. You get the luxury of eating out without the hefty price tag.
Make sure you check with the restaurant, though as some charge a split-meal fee!
Checkout AutoPay for Bills
Many companies will offer a discount on your bill if you are willing to set up auto-pay. This is an incredibly easy way to lower your bill.
Just be sure to make note of when these are debited so you don’t accidentally overdraw your account.
Buy Clothing Offseason
If you are looking to add to your wardrobe, be sure to shop the end-of-season sales when stores are looking to clear out clothing for the next season.
This is an especially great option for kids. Children tend to grow through clothing fast, so buying a size or two larger for next season is an easy way to save.
Need a sitter but don’t have the money? Need tree limbs trimmed but on a super tight budget? Swap services.
Trading services is a great frugal living tip that doesn’t have to cost you anything but your time. If you have a need, think about something you could offer in lieu of a cash payment.
You could swap babysitting services with a friend. You could wash and fold laundry, bake, mend, sew, etc.
Call Twice a Year to Check for Bill Discounts or Deals
Promotions and deals happen all the time. Why not take advantage of these?
Schedule a check-up with your current bills. It’s pretty straightforward and doesn’t have to take a ton of your time.
You start by making a list of your bills and do a quick search or make a phone call to see if you have the best deal currently or if any changes need to be made.
These 30 minutes could save you big money!
Frugal living isn’t just about saving money; it’s also about value and learning how to be content with what you already have.
Learning to become intentional with your money has the potential to save you big, so don’t wait to get started.
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