Want to save more money and live more financially secure lives?
The average household may be in good shape economically if we look at the currently low unemployment of 3.7%, but inflation remains higher than it should be. The Fed continues to raise interest rates to fight inflation, but it will take time.
Over the past year, the economy challenged many with higher prices associated with inflation. Many people tapped their savings to pay bills, lowering the latest US personal savings rate to 3.9%, well below the pre-pandemic levels.
Recession worries have not disappeared, and it is always an excellent time to restore your savings to comfortable levels. Frugal living can help you save money and do more with it.
What Does Frugal Living Mean?
Frugal living means being conscious of your spending and being less wasteful. Choosing a frugal lifestyle can better financially prepare one to live comfortably now and in the future without feeling deprived. Frugal living does not mean you’re solely buying cheap things and only considering the price.
Raised in a modest home, we had little choice but to make our dollars stretch further across a broader path, but my parents avoided buying cheap clothes, shoes, and other things that would only last for a while. We had fewer things, but they were of decent quality, and Mom never left out being charitable to others.
We didn’t label our lifestyle as frugal or stingy back then, but I still carry those values to save more and invest money to grow our wealth to respectable levels. You don’t have to be so stingy that it hurts your lifestyle, but if you have overspending problems, you may want to be more aggressive about saving to pay off your debts.
By living frugally, you will be able to spend within your means:
- You can achieve your financial goals more quickly.
- Better handle money shocks from unwanted surprises with an emergency fund.
- Establish a sound budget.
- Eliminate high-cost credit card debt.
- Have more savings to make investments using low-cost index funds.
- Build wealth
34 Frugal Living Tips To Save More
1. Pay Yourself First By Automating Savings and Bill Payments
When you pay yourself first, your income will go to savings and retirement accounts. By automating your finances, you’re removing your emotions. Your bills don’t go unpaid, but savings will become an essential line item on your budget. Recognize that saving money is not an end, but a means to build wealth.
2. Learn To Make Trade-offs And Compromise More
The harsh reality is that most of us need more money to spend it all and accomplish our priorities. Learning to make trade-offs on spending your money and time should not be about limiting yourself but making better choices. If dining out is essential to your daily life, cut out something else you value less, like reducing your subscriptions or skipping Uber when you can hop on public transportation.
3. Negotiate Your Bills
You probably noticed that some of your bills are higher as inflation rose over the past year. It may be time to research and find alternative vendors to compare prices. Where there is competition, there is more choice for you to reduce costs. Scrutinize your bank and brokerage statements for charges you don’t recognize and ask the companies to explain them and possibly reduce them.
Start shopping around for better rates for car insurance, cable, internet, cellphone, radio, home security, gym memberships, and subscriptions. Many providers expect their customers to negotiate bills, especially with lifestyle changes.
4. Get Free Samples From Companies
Many retailers offer free samples from notable household brands to try products like spices, food, and books. Parents can try free baby samples like diapers, formula, and bottles for finicky newborn babies, benefiting from the convenience and saving money.
5. Have A Reasonable Shopping List
Groceries have been a casualty of high inflation. However, a good shopping list of your needs can save time and money, helping your budget. When grocery shopping, peruse your pantry, frig, and freezer for what you need. While I will make exceptions for sales, I shop as deliberately as possible without meandering down aisles.
Your list will save time and money with less meandering down all the aisles. I often give myself just enough time to buy what I need. Without a list, I find surprises in my cart.
6. Use Unit Pricing As A Great Tool
Unit pricing is a valuable tool to help you find the best prices. The price label on grocery shelves usually includes the unit price for the product. Sometimes, in tiny writing, the unit price tells you the cost of the product in ounces or pounds, allowing you to compare the price of different-sized packages better. Larger-sized products and store-brand items often have a lower unit price.
For example, buying one pound of baby-cut carrots may cost $0.99, but two pounds of that item will likely amount to $0.94 per pound, but a pound of full-size carrots has better pricing and may sell for $0.68 per pound. All you need is a calculator to make better buying decisions.
7. Cut Your Fresh Produce and Grate Your Cheese
I will buy fruit, cheese, and veggies cut or shredded in a pinch. However, I find cutting fresh produce very therapeutic. They stay fresher longer, tastier, and are less expensive. We have all the tools–shredders, graters, dicers–and use them, but I enjoy cutting a cucumber or a carrot. It may not look as pretty (so I have been told), but it is a relaxing activity.
Experimenting with dressings is fun and rewarding. We buy bagged greens or salad packages to save time. Saving money is a collateral benefit when you are enjoying your salads more.
8. Eat At Home More
We enjoy eating at home, which serves multiple purposes. Eating at home is healthier, less expensive, and more fulfilling. I’ll make simple and quick meals on busier days, but be more creative and try out recipes, especially on vegan nights.
9. Leftovers Provide Benefits
Leftovers are the bane of so many people’s existence. Growing up, we had leftovers, though we never called them that. I purposefully make more significant portions to freeze for another week or the next day, especially marinated recipes that taste better.
Leftovers can save time and money at the grocery store, in the kitchen, and searching for a new recipe. Certain foods are better (lean proteins, vegetables) for snacks, breakfast, or add-ons to salads the next day, providing flexibility.
10. Comparison Shopping
Finding bargains is in my DNA, and I like pursuing deals for groceries, clothing, electronics, appliances, or used cars. Use your phone to shop for lower prices and understand the products for features you need. Don’t just seek the lowest prices, which may mean lower quality and less durable.
11. Use Cash To Avoid Overspending
If you overspend, you may rely excessively on your credit cards and grow your balances. Switch to using cash for groceries or other items to limit your purchases. You can still use some money and get rewards if you are in a store loyalty program. Sometimes, we paid cash to negotiate better prices for used cars, jewelry, and antiques.
12. Avoid Lifestyle Creep
Getting an income boost or bonus sometimes leads to higher spending. Consider increasing your monthly savings to targeted accounts, like retirement, and put some of the remaining dollars by investing more.
13. Use Loyalty Programs For Savings
Using loyalty programs for retailers, you frequently get access to their sales and savings benefits. CVS (i.e., CVS ExtraCare Rewards) and Walgreens (i.e., myWalgreens) have excellent reward programs when you frequent their businesses for reduced prescription costs and drugstore items.
14. Credit Card Rewards
Using credit cards for their travel, gas, or grocery rewards makes sense so long as the rewards you receive outweigh the high interest costs associated with card balances. However, skip credit cards if you can only pay them off partially each month, as interest rates on credit cards are rising.
15. Bulk Buys For Non-Perishables
Buying in bulk makes sense for products without “Best by dates.” Our favorite membership-only warehouse is Costco, but we like Sam’s Club, BJ’s Wholesale Club, though limited to the eastern US, Target, and Walmart. You can stock up on household necessities, like paper goods, toiletries, cleaning, pet supplies, or family-size Cheerios, which you use frequently.
16. Buy Generic Brands
Buying generic brands for food, drugs, pet foods, and household products at warehouses and retailers is a terrific way to save money. The generic brands (also known as the private labels) and the name brands often sit next to each other. They are usually identical except for the price, with the generic brand costing one-third to two-thirds less.
Kirkland Signature, a generic brand, accounts for 25% of Costco Wholesale revenues and significant savings. For example, a $47.99 bottle of Grey Goose sells for $19.99 under the private label.
Make Purchases At The Right Time
“For everything, there is a season.” These words remind us to value our seasons and our seasonal foods. Getting a pomegranate when we want one is fun and convenient, but it usually costs more out of season and is less fresh.
17. Know Store Policies, Sales Cycles
All stores have their sales cycles, varying every six to eight weeks. The key is to know your store’s predictable cycle to make your purchases at their lowest price points. This information can be found in-store ads, on websites, or by asking the store manager.
You can also find discounts on certain items during the quieter morning hours, allowing “coupon stacking,” which enhances your ability to apply multiple coupons on the same product, including vouchers from the store, manufacturer, or competitor. Retailers may give you twice the discount on whatever coupon you use or double couponing. Some stores will take competitor coupons.
18. Use Cashback Apps, Coupon, and Receipt Scanning Apps
Arm yourself by getting access to deals, discounts, and coupons to get some savings into your pocket. These apps serve multiple purposes by providing pertinent information to market research firms or supporting brands and retailers to target their promotions better.
Among the cashback, coupon, or receipt apps to put some savings into your pocket:
19. Avoid Retailer Marketing Strategies
Retailers use behavioral psychology to encourage us to linger longer in the stores. They plant higher-margin items on eye-level shelves, use red sale signs, and use larger shopping carts than we need, and we subliminally spend more filling them up. Use your headphones to avoid the store’s easy-listening music to slow our pace and buy more than we need.
20. Looking Like A Million Bucks Doesn’t Have To Costly
Shopping for bargains at thrift shops and buying high-end costume jewelry can make you look and feel luxurious without spending a fortune. It is also fun to get gorgeous outfits and jewelry at affordable prices. Self-made millionaire Barbara Corcoran, who grew up in a modest home, admits proudly that she only wears costume jewelry and shops for bargains.
21. Eat More Fruit and Vegetables
You don’t have to be a vegan to eat more fruit and vegetables. Eating healthier at lower prices than meat with better choices at your local grocery or farmer’s market is always a good strategy. We feel better eating vegan meals, drinking more water, and eating less processed foods.
22. Free or Low-Cost Experiences
Forget high-end restaurants that are more memorable for their prices than the experience. Seek unique experiences that are easy on your wallet. Go alone, on a date, or with friends. Find experiences that you’ll enjoy and provide memorable times that may be something new, fun, relaxing, or give you fresh perspectives.
- Find scenic places like parks, waterfalls, nature trails, or mountain hiking.
- Go window shopping in a fashion district leisurely with hot chocolate.
- Roam through thrift shops.
- Try pottery making at an art studio.
- Find literary landmarks of your favorite authors.
23. Use Free or Cheaper Streaming Video Services
It’s easy to sign up for streaming video services until you realize you have ramped up your monthly bills for services to untenable costs. Have you considered free ad-supported movies and TV shows on sites and apps? The ads are fine.
While you can now get a free or cheaper Netflix subscription, these companies are already ahead of the game to put the extra money in your pockets. Several free legitimate streaming companies with distribution rights and support from prominent companies, like Crackle, PopcornFlix, Peacock, and even Amazon’s Freevee.
24. Cancel Unwanted Subscriptions
We add subscriptions one at a time but accumulate them quickly, becoming a high fixed cost. Purge those services you don’t need or use. Review what you have and eliminate some subscriptions. Video streaming services are only one of the subscriptions we may want to reduce, but there are many more for you to review:
- Amazon Prime
- Audiobooks (Audible)
- Beauty and Cosmetics
- Beer Club
- Cable service
- Clothing (Stitch Fix)
- Cloud storage services (Dropbox, iCloud)
- Dating apps (Tinder)
- Dog Toys (Chewy)
- Fitness apps (MyFitnessPal)
- Food delivery service (DoorDash, Uber Eats, GrubHub)
- Gaming apps (Xbox Game Pass)
- Grocery Delivery (Instacart Express, ThriveMarket)
- Home Essentials (Grove Collaborative)
- Identity protection services (LifeLock)
- Meal kits (HelloFresh, Blue Apron)
- Music (Spotify, SiriusXM)
- Razors (Dollar Shave Club)
- Subscription Boxes (all kinds)
- Video streaming (Netflix, Apple TV+, Disney+)
- Wifi Services (Verizon, Comcast)
- Wine Clubs (Cooper’s Hawk)
25. Buy High Quality
Frugal living doesn’t mean buying low-quality cheap things that may not last long. Please don’t shy away from higher prices as it may mean better materials, quality, and longer-lasting products, whether clothes, shoes or furniture you hope to have for a while.
Consider buying higher fiber quality and durable materials for clothing, synthetics, and plastic zippers. Have fewer but better things and value what is most important in your life. Less stuff means more space, and spending less means more money to buy what you most need.
26. Declutter Your Home And Sell Unwanted Items
Declutter your home and sell unwanted items for extra money. The average home has 300,000 items. Depending on your selling items, your family can have a garage or tag sale. Categorize what you want to sell, like clothes, baby gear, gift cards, jewelry, luxury watches, books, vintage posters, kitchenware, electronics, appliances, or used gift cards. You’ll be able to find specific places that will buy your things based on their condition.
27. Earn Extra Money As A Side Hustle
Besides saving money, you may want to earn extra money. Find time to add a side hustle, depending on the skills or hobbies you have or want to strengthen. You can make extra cash if you write, proofread, give your opinion, walk dogs, or sell crafts. You can apply to be an Uber driver if you’re free as a student or teacher in the summer or have days off. There are jobs out there. You have to look around you.
28. Travel More Frugally
Don’t let high inflation derail your plans. At many price points, there are more ways to go away with friends and family. You can still travel by finding cheap travel destinations. Go to a National Park closer to home for an $80 annual pass, and seniors can get a lifetime pass for the same amount. Some parks, like Veteran’s Day, may be free or have discounts on certain holidays.
Be creative and consider these cheap vacation options, like booking hotels and flights at the last minute for reduced pricing. Go off the beaten path, use your travel rewards, or consider going someplace off-season when it’s less crowded and more affordable.
29. Save Electricity Costs By Adjusting Your Thermostat
I am amazed how our kids will turn up the heat but leave our house without winter jackets.
You can save as much as 10% on heating and cooling costs by turning your thermostat back seven to ten degrees F for eight hours daily. Buy a smart thermostat and adjust the temperature remotely. We close rooms we don’t occupy and use ceiling fans to spread the heat or cool the air. Turn off your lights when you leave the room for some time.
Unplug less frequently used appliances. You will save costs, and plugged appliances can be a fire hazard. They account for about 10% of our energy bill.
30. Save Water Costs
Your family can save water costs by turning off the tap when unnecessary, taking shorter showers, using a budget-friendly sprinkler system, and repairing leaks. It may be time to replace old appliances like the dishwasher and fixtures like faucets with water-saving ones. According to the EPA, the average family spends $1,100 in water costs but can save $350 annually by retrofitting with better fixtures labeled ENERGY STAR.
31. No More Plastic Bottles
We last used plastic bottles a long time ago. We bought them in bulk but soon grew suspicious of bubbles. Spending $2 a pop walking around the city was ridiculous. Water bottles do a better job of keeping the water cold longer. My bottle, 32 ounces steel insulated bottle by Takeya, keeps the water cold significantly longer than any other product and remains my loyal friend.
32. Visit Your Library
Your local library is for books, online music, movies, videos, and audible books. Sign up for the Libby app for free ebooks, audiobooks, and magazines. We went weekly with our kids.
Libraries are excellent environments for exploring, meeting fellow book lovers, finding local discounts, and holding speaking series. I enjoy visiting our perfect small-town library and walking out with my favorite books.
33. DIY Projects
Learn how to do more independently using videos from YouTube, TikTok, or elsewhere. Get handy wallpapering your bathroom, tiling a backsplash, and painting your doors. We want to redo our bathroom next summer. If you have the time, watch videos to learn how to repair, clean, and make things at your home.
34. Delay Gratification With Mindful Spending
Don’t buy everything you want impulsively. It is often a costly and wasteful endeavor. Instead, be more mindful of your spending. Delay your gratification by putting your possible purchases in the online cart, and buy it 24 hours later if you did research and it is a meaningful buy. You may even find a coupon for a few dollars off your purchase.
Frugal living is a way to spend mindfully and prepare for your financial future. You don’t need to have it all to have a happy life. Learning to make trade-offs on spending your money and time should not be about limiting yourself but making better choices.
Thank you for reading this article! Please visit us at The Cents of Money for more articles of interest.
With a passion for investing and personal finance, I began The Cents of Money to help and teach others. My experience as an equity analyst, professor, and mom provide me with unique insights about money and wealth creation and a desire to share with you.