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What is Frugal Living: How to Live a Frugal Life

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Want to save more money and curious about how to live a frugal life? Learn what frugal living is and 40 of the best (and easiest) frugal living tips!

When you hear the word “frugal,” what’s the first thing you think of? For many people, the word frugal makes them think about being a cheapskate. There are a lot of negative myths and misconceptions about frugal living!

At its core, frugal living is basically a way of spending your money and time as wisely as possible. It’s about smart spending and using your resources (like money) in a responsible way.

If done correctly, frugal living can be an incredibly positive way to add more value to your life. Read on to learn about what frugal living in, as well as my best frugal living tips!

Note: Some links may be affiliate links. That means I may make a commission if you use my links to purchase, at no extra added cost to you! I only recommend products and services that I personally love and believe in. Full disclosure here.

What does frugal living mean?

In a nutshell, frugal living means smart money management. It’s the act of being incredibly intentional with your spending.

Living a frugal life doesn’t mean you need to live without and only buy cheap, low-quality products! If you do it properly, you’ll be prioritizing the things that truly mean the most to you, and spend money on those things while cutting back on other areas.

The best part about frugality is that you are able to create your own approach and decide what things are most important to you and your lifestyle.

Does Frugal Mean Cheap?

Not at all! There’s a common negative misconception that frugal living means that you are buying only cheapo products or sacrificing the things that make you truly happy.

Having a mindful, frugal approach to your life means that you are prioritizing putting your money towards the things that are really important to you, and choosing to spend less on the things that don’t actually matter that much to you.

Here’s an easy example: You are daydreaming about a dream vacation to Greece, so you’re choosing to put more money to fund your vacation and have chosen to spend less money on going out to eat every work day.

Is Frugal Living Worth It?

Absolutely. Frugal living is an EASY way to stop letting money control your life, but you’ve got to look at the positives instead of focusing on the “sacrifices.”

When it comes to living a frugal life, you’re going to have to give some things up, as in the items that aren’t as important to you (like the work lunches out in the earlier example). However, these small sacrifices can add up to incredible benefits down the line.

You are choosing to live a frugal life in order to be able to enjoy the things you truly prioritize.

Benefits of Living a Frugal Life

What are the benefits to living a frugal life? There are tons! In my experience, the most important benefit is that you are setting the groundwork to have more financial freedom in your life. Every single time you choose to spend less money on something, you are able to put those extra dollars towards the things that matter most.

YOU decide what matters the most. You’re taking your future into your hands and creating the life you want to live!

The possibilities are endless. Maybe you’ll decide to put your newfound savings towards paying down your debt faster, or funding your new dream car. You can even put those dollars into a savings account and begin to build up a safety net for your family.

No matter what you decide to put the money you’re saving from spending less towards, you’ll be able to begin to reap the benefits of being intentional about where your money goes.

woman paying bills at kitchen table

Related Article: The Ultimate List of Budget Categories (Free Printable)

How to Start Living a Frugal Life

If the frugal lifestyle is new for you, it might seem difficult at first. Many people feel that way, but remember that it’s not a one size fits all kind of thing.

Living a frugal life doesn’t have to be hard! You can start with small changes, like brewing your own coffee at home instead of stopping at Starbucks every morning. Even minimal changes like this can start to add up.

One of the fastest ways our family made a dent in our debt situation was by beginning to live a frugal life. Our biggest goal was to pay off our debt and create a safety net savings account. Neither of us had the ability to take on a second job at the time, so instead we slashed expenses by eliminating spending money on things we didn’t really need.

My husband chose to stop by lunches while at work, instead bringing homemade meals. I curbed my frequent Starbucks addiction. Within just a month, these small changes made a big impact on the amount of money we were spending, allowing us to begin putting more towards our big goals.

These small changes also motivated us to make bigger decisions, like cutting the cord on cable. Baby steps!

The key is experimenting and finding what works. If you switch from your expensive face wash to the generic less expensive store brand and your face hates you for it, switch back! Keep trying new frugal tips and swaps as you go. You’ll find what works for you and what doesn’t.

The most important part is that you don’t overdo it. It might be tempting to cut out a bunch of things at once, but this can backfire as you might be left feeling frustrated and negative about the changes.

Start slow. Try a few things at a time and see how they go before adding other changes.

mom and daughter putting money in piggy bank

40 Easy Ways to Live a Frugal Life

Living a frugal life doesn’t have to be painful! If you’re looking for inspiration on how to get started, read on for 40 easy ways to live a frugal life.

1. Create a budget.

If you don’t already have a budget, today is the day to start one! A functional budget is an ongoing process, and one that can help you see areas to trim expenses on top of the frugal changes you’re making. Creating (and using) a budget is the biggest step towards understanding where your money goes and finding opportunities to make changes.

Having a budget doesn’t mean you can’t occasionally splurge on things. What it means is that you are planning for these things in advance and actively saving for them.

There are a lot of strategies for budgeting. Check out these beautiful free budget printables here!

2. Buy only what you need and can afford.

For many of us it’s incredibly tempting to have the newest fun, designer clothes or a new house. If you’re someone who can afford to purchase these things easily, that’s one thing. But if you’re making purchases that are living on your credit card and accruing debt, you’re setting yourself up to continue to feel stressed over money.

3. Meal plan as much as you can.

In a nutshell, be strategic about grocery shopping! Creating a monthly meal plan can make a huge impact on your grocery bill. Plan out what food you’ll by and the meals you can make with it by looking through your local grocery flyers for what’s on sale that week.

By preparing meals at home that you can then also repurpose into lunches for the kids or for your spouse to take to work, you can save big!

When I first started actually planning out our menu for more than just a day or two at a time, I was shocked at how much money we had been throwing away. We quickly realized we could cut our food bills simply by having a plan on purchasing items that were on sale that we knew we could incorporate into meals our family loved.

Over the past few years we have cut our food bill from more than $700 a month to now feeding a family of 4 for under $350 each month!

4. Use what’s in your pantry.

Most of us have pantries that are stocked with canned and dry goods! Take stock of what you have on hand, and challenge yourself to make meals out of these items.

Our family has started doing our own version of the show “Chopped,” where we create meals based only on items we already have in the fridge or pantry. It’s become a really fun challenge, and allows us to skip grocery shopping for a full week each month (minus anything the kids need like milk).

You might surprise yourself with how creative and delicious these meals turn out.

5. Make meals in bulk

On a similar note, some days it can feel like too much to come home from work exhausted and have to whip up a meal for the family. On nights like that it can be incredibly tempting to open up your favorite delivery app and just order in. However, we all know that getting delivery or take out hurts our wallets.

Making meals in bulk has been a big gamechanger for our family. I make items on Sunday night that can either be easily repurposed into leftovers (like these chicken burrito bowls) or that I can portion into individuals meals and freeze. On nights where I’m wiped, I just need to take those meals out of the freezer and heat them up.

6. Buy in bulk

If there are items you frequently use, consider purchasing these in bulk. Great examples are toilet paper, soap and cereal.

Snagging these in bulk from stores like Costco and Sams Club usually means the price per unit is lower. This also typically means you need to make fewer trips to the store, too!

Keep in mind that if you purchase any perishable items in bulk, you’ll want to cook those and freeze them before they expire to prevent waste.

7. Save even more while shopping.

Groceries can still be expensive even when you try to only purchase items on sale or buy in bulk. Luckily, there are even more ways to save money while shopping, like using coupons, cashback apps, store loyalty programs and more.

I love using cash back apps like Ibotta to save a few extra dollars after a shopping trip. It might only be a small amount each time, but it adds up!

8. Stop impulse buying and shop responsibly.

This one can be a hard habit to break! It’s incredibly easy to click “purchase now” on items with how simple e-commerce has made our lives. How many of us have made a late-night purchase that has snowballed into more than one item and a big bill down the road?

Learning how to curb impulse buying is a crucial part of frugal living and saving more money. Really make an effort to only purchase the things you truly need.

Easy ways to help curb impulse buying include not going to the grocery store hungry (I’ve been super guilty of this and have walked out with WAY more food than I needed) and not saving your card information on shopping apps and websites.

If it’s an expensive item, take a few days to think about the purchase. It might be something you actually need, but it could also be something that just FEELS like a need right now.

If it’s something you truly need and you can hold off purchasing, try to wait until you have saved the cash on hand to get it.

9. Make at home celebrations instead of going out.

I love hosting parties! Not only is it a great way to spend quality time with our friends and family, it’s also so much less stress than having to figure out parking, the increased prices and bars and restaurants and the cost of baby sitters.

For an even more frugal gathering, have a potluck! We do these once every month or two. Our family provides the main course, and our friends bring the sides or desserts.

10. Brew your own coffee when possible.

Did you know that millennials spend over $2,000 a year on coffee?? If Starbucks is your guilty pleasure, think twice before your next order. That’s a LOT of money that you could be putting towards other things!

There are tons of bloggers out there who show you how to create coffee shop quality brews at home. All you need is a coffee maker and a bag of beans! Even if you splurge on the “fancy” creamer that’s $5 a bottle, it’s enough for more than a week of coffee for one person, for a fraction of the price.

11. Stop buying bottled water.

First, bottle drinks are terrible for the environment. They’re also a big waste of money. That small bottle of water in the grocery store can sometimes cost more than a gallon of gas!

Consider investing in a quality water filter, like this one for your sink faucet or this filtered water picture that you can put in the fridge. Be sure to also order a reusable water bottle you like (I love this one!). The savings from cutting out bottled water can add up to be hundreds of dollars a year.

family smiling and laughing

12. Find free ways to have fun.

One of the best frugal living tips is to find ways to have fun for free. The odds are that there are ton of free things to do in your city or town. Here are a few ideas:

  • Pack a picnic and go to your local park.
  • Check free concerts or free movie nights in your area.
  • Look for free entrance days at museums.
  • Grab your friends for a board game night at one of your homes instead of hitting the bars

13. Review your monthly subscriptions and make cuts.

I know for some of us it’s just not possible to cancel all subscriptions. Our family is one of them! We cut the cord on cable easily, but kept Amazon Prime for the access to free movies and streaming services.

If you still have cable or satellite tv, I challenge you to try a simple experiment: don’t watch tv for a week. Play board games, go to the park, spend time with friends or reading. At the end of the week, think long and hard about if the cost of your cable or satellite subscription is really worth the money you’re throwing at it.

You can access so many things for free with just an internet connection and a device like an Amazon Fire Stick!

14. Stop using disposable napkins and paper towels.

The average person uses around 1,000 disposable napkins and about 3,000 paper towels every single year. That adds up to about $1,500 per person per year!

Instead consider using fabric napkins for meals, fabric towels for the kitchen and microfiber towels for cleaning. Below are a few really cute options you can get on!

15. Use reusable glasses and plates when possible.

This is one that a lot of people don’t think about. If you love to have people over, you might also love the ease of disposable plates, cups and cutlery.

Not only is this harmful for the environment, but those little purchases add up! Take advantage of the dishes and cups you already have at home and can just throw in the dishwasher!

16. Get to know your local library.

A library is such a fantastic resource for the frugal living lifestyle. It’s full of free entertainment, and not just books! Your local library also has an extensive collection of magazines, movies and even audiobooks. Some libraries also allow you to check out passes to your local zoo and museum, which means you can go for free!

If you haven’t signed up for your local library card, make an effort to get there this week and take a peek.

17. If you own a vehicle, take a look at your expenses.

If you own a vehicle, there might be room to make some changes that can help you live a more frugal life.

Is your car payment expensive? Are you leasing a vehicle (or several)? Large car payments and vehicle lease payments can account for a huge chunk of your monthly expenses. Can you find a cheaper car for sale that will still serve the needs of your family?

Next is your car insurance. It’s incredibly important to have the right insurance plan for you budget and your life. Shop around and see what’s out there and if another company might have a better insurance rate.

18. Buy Secondhand

Purchasing items secondhand can save you a significant amount of money! You might be surprised to see the number of high-quality and gently used items that people list on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, eBay and more.

Your local thrift store is also a great resource! I’ve found so many items that I’ve been able to easily upcycle with just a new coat of paint.

19. Review your living situation and potentially downsize.

This won’t be possible for everyone’s situation, but potentially downsizing the home you live in can also help you live a frugal lifestyle.

While living in a larger home is great, the costs can start to add up with that bigger space too. This is especially true if you’re not living in a larger home per say, but a fancy apartment in a sought-after area of town.

Could you find a less expensive place to live that might help you save more money for your goals?

20. Travel smart and save more.

There are so many ways to incorporate frugal living into travel! One trick is traveling to places during the “off-season,” when it’s cheaper to book hotels and airfare. You can also use websites like Kayak.com to track the cost of flights and book when they’re the lowest.

Use credit card rewards to book hotel stays and cheap flights, and look for free activities to do when you reach your destination (like exploring local parks, outdoor landmarks and street festivals).

Another idea is choosing lodging that includes a kitchen, so you can make your own meals instead of eating out the entire time.

21. Review your wardrobe and repurpose what you have.

Have you ever heard of a capsule wardrobe? It’s a collection of clothing pieces that you can mix and match to create a variety of different outfits.

We live in a world of fast fashion, where it’s very easy to want to go out and get new clothes every season (or even every month). Buying clothes you don’t need is a huge expense, and for many of us we already have plenty of outfit items to choose from in our closets.

You don’t need new clothes to be successful or stand out. Steve Jobs wore a black sweater, Levi’s and New Balance sneakers every single day. His focus was on something bigger. While you might not want to wear the exact same outfit every day, the concept is the same. It’s ok to wear the same items over and over!

Use this as an opportunity to go through your closet and pull out items you haven’t worn in over a year. List them on sites like Poshmark to earn some extra income!

22. Get rid of unhealthy, pricey habits.

If you smoke, try to quit. Cigarettes are not only terrible for your health, but they are also incredibly expensive. Work to reduce the amount of alcohol you drink, as well as sodas and fast food.

Not only will you feel better physically, but your wallet will thank you too.

hand putting money in piggy bank

23. Evaluate your subscriptions and memberships.

Sit down and really think about all of the subscription services you’re paying for. Do you really need all of them? For example, magazine subscriptions, monthly apps, streaming services, that gym membership you never use.

You don’t have to cancel all of them, but by cancelling the ones you really don’t use or need, you’ll be able to put that money towards the things that mean more to you.

24. Have at-home date nights

A date night doesn’t have to mean a night on the town! At-home date nights can be special and affordable ways to spend time with your partner, too.

Make dinner together and do a board game. Start watching a new series from the beginning. Work on a home project together. Pull up cooking videos on YouTube and challenge each other to make something creative.

My husband loves Star Wars and the Marvel movies, so we started watching 1 movie in chronological order each week until we finished them all. Not only was it a great way for me to experience movies he loves and get to learn more about that side of him, but it was also fun to have a dedicated night each week for us to connect after the kids went to sleep.

25. Sell things you don’t need for extra cash

Almost all of us have extra things lying around the house we no longer use. Whether it’s all of those clothes in your closet that you haven’t worn in years, kids gear your kids are too big for, or furniture that no longer fits your style, it might be time to consider downsizing.

List these items for sale on places like Facebook Marketplace, Poshmark or eBay! You might be surprised by how much extra money you’re able to get for things you no longer need or want.

26. Walk or bike as much as you can.

While having an affordable car is convenient, biking and walking are much more cost-effective (and also great for your health). You’ll save money on gas and car maintenance, and get your body some extra exercise.

27. Get a part-time job or side hustle

If you are trying to live a more frugal life to save more money, one of the fastest ways to accelerate your savings is to make more money.

 If you’re able to pick up a part-time job in your community, great! For many of us who already work a 9-5, a virtual work from home part-time job might be a more flexible option.

Be sure to do your research on options, and find something that interests you. Otherwise, it can be tough to stick to an extra job after a long day at your day job.

28. Use money making apps

Make money in your spare time with one of these best money-making apps! You can make money playing games, taking surveys or even by earning cash back from your necessary trips to the grocery store.

29. Swap out your lightbulbs

LED lightbulbs can make a difference on your electric bill, as they use only a fraction of the energy that a standard light bulb uses. Plus, an added perk is that they last many years longer too!

While they are more expensive up front, over time they can add up to extra savings on your electric bill (as well as not having to purchase lightbulbs as frequently).

30. Make gifts instead of buying them

Making your own gifts not only helps you reduce the money you’re spending, but is also a unique and heartfelt way to show others you care.

Christmas can be a really tough holiday for all of us because of the added expenses. It can be extra challenging if you’re trying to live a frugal lifestyle. Making your own holiday gifts is a great idea. Check out Pinterest for some great inspiration.

31. Workout at home.

In the United States the average gym membership is close to $60 a month. Unless you actively use your gym and love it, it might be a smarter choice to start working out at home.

You can find free home workout videos on YouTube and put the money from your gym membership to use in other areas!

32. Cut the cord on cable.

If you’re paying $100 a month on your cable package and get rid of it, you can save $1,200 every year!

Opt for cheaper streaming services and put those savings towards your future.

33. Automate your investments and savings to maximize success.

It can be hard to remember to put money into your savings and investment accounts, and without actively doing so it takes longer for those accounts to grow.

You can automate your retirement savings through your employer, or if you have your own plan you can also easily set up a monthly direct deposit. Your bank most likely can also help you with setting up automatic payments for all of your bills.

For extra savings, I like to use Qapital. It’s an app that allows me to set goals I want to save for (for example, a new car downpayment) and how I want to save my money towards each goal. I might choose to have $2 deposited automatically every day, or $20 every 2 weeks. I can also round up purchases I make to go toward these goals too.

Doing this has helped me save much more money than I could on my own!

34. Pay down your debt ASAP.

If you’re carrying debt of any kind, it can be a huge drain on both your finances and your mental health. Paying off your debt is the key to living the life you truly want.

Starting a frugal life is one way to save more money to put toward your debt paydown goals. Once you pay off your debt, don’t go back! Continue to only purchase items you can afford to buy in cash/on your debit card, or pay off in full each month.

35. Avoid generating credit card debt

The average American has over $4,000 of credit card debt, and it can be one of the most challenging debts to pay off. It’s incredibly important that you pay off your credit card balance in full each month. Otherwise, the interest on your purchases can make your debt snowball in size.

A really easy rule of thumb is that unless it’s something you absolutely NEED to have, don’t buy it unless you can pay for it in cash.

36. Try a no-spend challenge

I love challenges because they are a fun way for me to compete with myself! A no-spend challenge is a great way to change the way you’re spending your money. Challenge yourself to not buy anything that’s not an essential item for life for a full month.

I love to do this challenge at the beginning of a new year. It’s a great way to pay off any remaining holiday bills, and also get my family back on track with our frugal life.

37. Skip the salon appointments

Yes, I know this one is tough! We all love our beauty treatments, but those salon trips add up quick. For example, if you get your hair cut and colored every 6 weeks for $200, that adds up to more than $1,700 a year. Getting your gel nails twice a month for $30 each time is more than $700 a year.

Even if you just reduce the amount of times you go, this can make a big impact on your ability to save more money.

38. Grow your own fruits and vegetables

I love growing my own fruits, veggies and herbs! You can even do this indoors or in a very small space on an apartment balcony.

It can be a really fun hobby to start, and you might surprise yourself with how much you get into it. We own this Greenstalk Garden tower garden and it’s made growing our own food so easy! You can save $10 on yours with code MIMOSAS10 too.

39. Lower your electric bill with small changes

It might feel like there isn’t much you can do to lower your electric bill, but small changes can make a difference. Use fans when possible to help your air conditioner run less. Avoid using your oven on hot summer days, and use cold water when you wash your clothes.

40. Determine what thing you can honestly do without

The whole point of living a frugal life is to be more intentional about how you spend your money, focusing on putting it towards the things that are really important to you instead.

Remember: just because you might be able to afford to buy something doesn’t mean you should. Work on curbing your impulse purchases, and instead determine the things that you can do without right now.

family having fun

Frugal Living Can Help Change Your Financial Life

Frugal living is a fantastic tool to help you lead a richer life. It’s not about making sacrifices and doing without: it’s about making small changes to help you enjoy the parts of your life that mean the most to you.

Think of it this way: what would it mean to you and your family to pay off your debt? Would you be able to take a family vacation, update a part of your home, or send your child to their dream summer camp?

The money you save from frugal living can be put toward so many things that you care about. It will help shift the way you look at money. Instead of seeing a pair of $300 boots that are on sale for $200 as a good deal, you’ll start to think instead of how that $200 could go towards your 10th anniversary dream vacation instead.

Simple and easy changes help to form new habits. It might be hard at first, but these changes will help you along the way to financial freedom. You can do this!

If you found this article helpful, please take a minute to share it to help inspire others along their own path to living a frugal life, too.

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