Frugal living is amazing once you learn how to do it. You don’t need to feel deprived, or that you’re a Scrooge. Frugal living is simple a super-smart way to make sure you have plenty of money each month for the things you need and want, without spending frivolously.
And, it’s essential if you’re in the process of paying off debt or saving for something special. This list of handy frugal living tips will help you slash hundreds of dollars from your monthly bills and expenses, and you can start them all today.
1. Start Hammering Your Debt
Paying off debt is possibly one of the biggest money-suckers you’ll encounter every month. Yes, your money goes toward getting rid of that debt. But, if you didn’t have that debt, your hard-earned cash could be going elsewhere, like toward other bills or things you want.
To live a frugal life, you’ll want to learn how to cut off your debt so that you have more money to spend on more important things.
2. Use the Snowball Philosophy
Years ago, debt relief experts used to say that you should focus on paying off your costliest debts first and worry about the smaller ones later.
These debts are the ones that will cost you the most in interest, after all. But, there’s a major flaw in that philosophy, and the debt snowball technique made famous by Dave Ramsey exposed it.
This method focuses on paying your smallest debts first. You’ll make the minimum payments on all your debts except the smallest one. For that one, you’ll pay as much as you can toward it.
Why? Basically, the smallest one is the easiest to pay off. Once you’ve clinched it, you’ll gain more momentum toward paying off the others.
It’s part psychological (or has Ramsey calls it, “behavior modification”), but also part mathematical because you’ll now have more money to put toward the next smallest debt each month.
3. Pick Up a Side Gig
Do you want to know what’s been the biggest help for me in getting rid of my debt over the past two years? I picked up some extra work outside of my normal working hours so that I could use all the extra cash toward paying my debt.
I no longer needed to use every ounce of my paycheck toward bills. Instead, I made just enough from my side gigs to cover my credit card bills for the month so that my regular paycheck could go toward my other bills, expenses, and entertainment.
Your side gig doesn’t have to be like a second job. That’s why it’s called a gig. A few hours a week doing some lawn work for the neighbors, teaching music lessons to local kids, or repairing computers for your co-workers is all it takes.
Figure out what you need to comfortably pay your debts every month and work toward achieving that sum through a side gig.
I love working online since I work from home for my normal job, too. So, I signed up on Fiverr and Upwork to find online gigs I can do for my extra cash each week. Utilize whatever skills you have to start earning.
4. Sell Stuff for Extra Cash
Your house is probably a treasure trove of things you could sell for some extra money, but are instead just sitting there collecting dust. Clothing, electronics, toys, and movies you no longer watch could give you the money you need to put a good chunk of cash toward your debt for this month.
I started using Swap about two years ago, and I haven’t looked back since. You can sell your gently used clothes by shipping them to Swap and letting them do the hard work of taking photos and putting them up for sale.
You choose your prices. Once one of your items sells, Swap takes its fees from your payment and you get the rest.
Every two weeks, like clockwork, I receive a PayPal payment for old clothes that sat in the closet for months, looking fancy with no place to go. As soon as I get the cash, I put it toward a credit card payment without thinking twice.
5. Make a Budget You Can Stick With
Now comes the “fun” stuff: the dreaded budget.
It really doesn’t have to be that bad, though. In fact, I’ve learned to love budgeting over the years.
It makes me feel accomplished when I stick with it and it’s become so routine for me that I don’t think about it anymore. I just do it. Even my kids love to help keep our family on a budget.
How do you create a budget that won’t make you feel like you’re pinching pennies, though?
Easy. You make one that fits what you actually earn and still allows you to spend some money on things you love, like an occasional Starbucks or a movie night with the kids.
The most important piece of your budget is your income. Write down what you earn for the month after taxes. Now, give yourself an “oops” amount, which covers unexpected expenses like car repairs or losing work for a couple of days due to an illness. Deduct the “oops” amount from your net income.
Then, you’ll need to deduct all of your expenses, like food, utilities, and your house payment. Don’t forget all the small things that are easy to forget, like your Netflix account and your Dropbox storage.
Once you do this, you’ll either see what you have leftover for the month, or that you’re living beyond your means if you have little or nothing leftover. This is where you need to rework things and find out where to cut expenses or how much more you need to make to avoid putting yourself in further debt.
After you situate your budget, you can learn new tricks for binging on a budget so that you don’t feel deprived of having fun. There’s no need to stop shopping or treating yourself to a night out, as long as you learn to do it frugally and within your budget.
6. Save Money on Food
According to USA Today, it can cost up to $249 each week to feed a family of four! That’s almost $1,000 every month just for food. Of course, that cost includes all meals, snacks, and drinks, but that’s still a hefty price to pay just to eat.
Guess what? You can easily slash that cost in half. My family, including myself, also consists of four people, and I don’t pay anywhere near $1,000 a month on food. In fact, I pay just over what most families pay each week for a full month of groceries – about $300!
Here are some of my best tips that you can start using in your own home to slash your grocery bill:
7. Make a Meal Plan
I can’t stress the importance of meal planning enough. Once I started planning out my meals and grocery list for the week, my bill immediately started dropping – by a lot. It’s amazing how much money you can save just by spending an extra hour each week to plan your meals and grocery list.
Pinterest is your friend. Search for things like “budget-friendly dinners” to find endless ideas of meals that you can make with just a few ingredients. The fewer ingredients you have, usually, the less you’ll have to spend on groceries.
Pin your favorites to a special board and write down all the meals you want to make that week. Go through your recipes and write down the ingredients you need to buy. From there, make your shopping list, adding in any odds and ends you need outside of your meals, and stick to it.
I guarantee you’ll see huge savings every month over blindly shopping for food.
8. Pick or Grow Your Own Food
Picking your own produce from local farms takes out the middleman – the store – which saves you money. You can use Pick Your Own to find farms near you that let you do this.
Or, grow your good! Growing produce isn’t as complicated as it seems. Many types of plants, like tomatoes, carrots, and spinach, can all be grown indoors so you don’t have to worry about frost ruining your plants.
Check out our series, 35 Foods You Can Regrow from Scraps Inside Your Own Home, for more painless ideas that can save you cash.
9. Stock Up
If you don’t have a deep freezer, it’s time to shell out some money for one. Yes, it’ll set you back a couple of hundred dollars, but the long-term savings is well worth the cost. I bought one from my local Costco so that I could start buying bulk meats and frozen fruits and vegetables to store away until I needed them.
Buying larger packs of meat can save you a lot of money. Bulk packages typically cost less per pound than the smaller ones do. If you have a deep freezer, they won’t go to waste. =
I buy huge packs of chicken breasts from ALDI, cut up the breasts into smaller portions, and bag them into freezer bags. I usually get three or four meals from one pack of breasts and easily save between $5 and $10 with this method.
10. Always Look for Manager’s Specials
I love those bright yellow stickers that say “Manager’s Special” on baked goods, meats, and produce in my local grocery stores. Others pass them by for fear of them spoiling too quickly. I see them as the perfect way to save money on food.
Meat specials have a simple solution: freeze them! Once you thaw them out, be sure to use them within the next 24 hours for a meal. As for baked goods, you can usually get a longer life out of them if you stick them in the fridge.
If you buy produce that’s expiring soon, be sure to understand the best storage solutions for the fruits and veggies you buy. This helpful food storage guide from Mint can point you in the right direction.
11. Cut It Yourself
It’s convenient to have your meat, vegetables, and fruit cut up and packaged neatly to save you some time and effort. But, that convenience absolutely comes at a cost. And, when you think about it, it’s unnecessary.
I spend about a half hour cutting meat into the portions I need after I get home from the store. That half hour probably saves me $20 or more over having the butcher do it for me.
Those apple slices your kid loves? Cut whole apples yourself and dip them in orange juice before putting them in his lunch box. They won’t turn brown and they’ll taste even more delicious! You can get a whole bag of apples for about the same price as you can get a small pack of pre-cut apple slices.
12. Pack It Up
When you know you’ll be out of the house for a while, it’s a good idea to pack a lunch for yourself. Once your body feels hungry, it can be difficult to convince it that it’s not. That’s when the fast food cravings and convenience take over and, before you know it, you’re spending $10 on a lunch that could have cost you $2 at home. Don’t forget a coffee or drink!
13. Cut Down on Household Expenses
This area is a tough one for most people, because they get so used to living a certain way that it can be difficult to learn how to cut back. But, making even small changes in your bills and lifestyle can have a huge impact on your monthly costs.
The following tips are small ways you can change what you do at home, but these small costs can add up to big savings.
14. Save Money on Utilities
Your utility bills, like water, electric, and gas, can take up a good chunk of your budget every month.
Fortunately, you can save cash easily on these bills just my making some home and lifestyle tweaks.
These 17 tips to save you money on your utility bills will set you on a cash-saving path!
15. Skip the Extras
Two years ago, I took the plunge and cut the cable cord. I was tired of seeing my cable bill skyrocket every few months. Mostly, I paid for channels I never even watched.
I ended up immediately saving $70 per month just by switching to Netflix and Hulu. About a year ago, I decided to add Sling TV into my routine, which costs $30 per month for me. So, I’m still saving $40 every month ($480 a year!) and my family never runs out of things to watch.
16. Clean Your Clothing Efficiently
People tend to think that washing clothing in hot water gets them cleaner. For some really tough stains, that might be true. But, for everyday washing, all you’re doing is wasting cash. Washing your clothes in cold water not only has the same results for most clothing, but it’s also gentler on your clothes – and it saves money!
Every time you use the water heater, you’re not just paying for water, but you’re paying extra for the gas or electric used to make the water hot. Switch to cold water for your laundry and you’ll start noticing a difference on your energy bill.
17. Go Prepaid
Prepaid phone service is no longer just a thing people who have no credit get. Most mobile service providers now have their own prepaid services for people who aren’t into the whole contract thing. And, they can usually save you money because you’ll only buy what you need.
For example, I only talk on my phone for about ten minutes a week. Most of my phone use is checking emails and browsing the internet for work-related things, both of which I tend to use Wi-Fi for. Why should I pay a huge bill every month for unlimited minutes, when I hardly squeeze out 40 minutes a month?
It’s worth your time to check out your provider’s prepaid services and compare the costs to your current plan.
18. Save on Healthcare
With or without insurance, healthcare isn’t cheap. The average health insurance plan for a family costs $833 per month with close to an $8000 deductible. It’s wise, then, to find ways to cut down your additional costs that insurance won’t cover, and any costs for uninsured families.
These tips should help:
Cut Prescription Costs
Prescriptions are one of the things that many insurance plans won’t cover, and some only cover part of your costs.
To save money on your out of pocket expenses, be sure to ask your doctor to prescribe the generic version of your medication. You can also request samples of the medication from your doctor.
Doctors won’t typically offer this to you, but most offices do get free drug samples. It doesn’t hurt to request some, and you might even end up with a month’s supply for free.
And, treat your pharmacy as you would any other place you purchase from to find a good deal. Some pharmacies have better prices than others, as well as special discounts for customers.
Ask for a price list and compare the prices of your medications. You could even get some cash back for switching to a new pharmacy.
Negotiate Medical Bills
Hopefully, you have a doctor you feel comfortable talking to. If so, feel free to negotiate the cost of your procedures before they take place. Explain your financial situation and offer a price that you can comfortably pay. Many doctors will work with you to work within your budget as much as possible, or will offer a special payment plan. Just be sure to get your agreement in writing.
You can also negotiate past bills. Use the Healthcare Blue Book to look up the fair price of your procedures. Most physicians will accept this price if you bring it to their attention, and it could save you hundreds, or even thousands, on your medical bills.
19. Get Creative
Much of frugal living is based on creativity. You learn to adapt to living on a budget and you get creative to do so. I’ve started doing things I never thought I’d do, like fixing my own toilet when the wax seal broke and reusing my plastic store bags for more shopping trips and crafts.
Here are a few other ways you can get creative to save cash:
Hit the Library
Why purchase books and movies when your library has them to borrow for free? I visit my library once a week with my kids and it’s just as exciting for them as going shopping.
Most libraries also have free Wi-Fi, so you can even cut out your home internet bill if you only use it sparingly and don’t mind making some trips to the library.
And, your library probably has a printer that you can use for copies or printing information from the internet for just a few cents per page. For occasional printing, you might as well take advantage of your library’s printer and save money on paper and ink.
Do it Yourself
Many of the cleaners you purchase in the store are ones you can make yourself (and they’re usually better for you when you do!).
You can also make things like hand or body soap and candles with essential oils!
Cut Down on Driving
You might be missing an opportunity to save money just by cutting down on how much driving you do every day. Even your daily commute to work is something you can save money on by starting a carpool with some of your co-workers. You can also combine your errands into one big trip instead of several small ones.
And, check out these tips for saving money on gas!
20. Repurpose Your Clothing
My philosophy is that it’s pointless buying new clothing until you’re sure you’ve repurposed your old clothing in every way possible. I have a daughter and a son, and my son has some hand-me-downs from his older sister, like some unisex shirts and pants.
But, you can save money without ever making your kids wear hand-me-downs. Old t-shirts can turn into blankets or scarves. You can turn too-short jeans into shorts by cutting them and sewing a new hem.
Check out Pinterest for some other ideas. You’ll be amazing by how easy it is to bring new life to new clothing.
The most important tip I can give you is to have fun with frugality. Once you start treating your budgeting and saving as a normal, beneficial thing, it will become second nature. Hopefully, these tips will give you a good start so you can start getting creative with your money-saving ways.
If you have any other frugal living tips you’d like to share, please leave them in the comments below. Thanks for reading and happy frugaling!