42 Practical Frugal Living Tips to Save Money
If you're looking to cut your spending and put more money toward your financial goals, living a more frugal lifestyle will help you do that. Here are our best frugal living tips with a big impact.
Posted By Sara Graham
Posted In Spend Less Money
Last Updated: 03/20/2023
Frugal living isn’t about denying yourself or being stingy. It’s about spending money wisely and saving money where you can.
But it’s hard to go from spending recklessly to being frugal.
To live a frugal lifestyle, you might have to change your outlook on spending and work on some new money habits. Making small changes to how you approach your finances can add up to significant results.
Frugal living offers many benefits that make it worth it. Living frugally will help you live within your means, get out of debt, build up your savings, and reach financial freedom. The frugal living tips below will help you on your way.
- 42 Frugal Living Tips
- 1. Start a budget
- 2. Stop impulse spending
- 3. Do a no-spend challenge
- 4. Don’t pay full price at the grocery store
- 5. Check the fridge and the cabinets
- 6. Plan your meals for the week
- 7. Buy in bulk
- 8. Use coupons
- 9. Sign up for loyalty programs
- 10. Get cash back on your grocery purchases
- 11. Keep a grocery price book
- 12. Prep meals in bulk
- 13. Stop being loyal to brands
- 14. Sell stuff you no longer need
- 15. Buy used items
- 16. Repair instead of replace
- 17. Return stuff you don’t need
- 18. Buy an affordable car
- 19. Keep up with auto maintenance
- 20. Shop for better car insurance rates
- 21. Drive less
- 22. Switch to LED light bulbs
- 23. Lower your utility bills
- 24. Get rid of cable
- 25. Cancel unnecessary subscriptions
- 26. Get a library card
- 27. Enjoy free and cheap entertainment
- 28. Enjoy the outdoors
- 29. Enjoy date nights at home
- 30. Exercise at home
- 31. Travel for less
- 32. Do a wardrobe inventory
- 33. Cut back on salon visits
- 34. Make coffee at home
- 35. Make instead of buy
- 36. Give homemade gifts
- 37. Start a vegetable garden
- 38. Pay down debt
- 39. Avoid more debt
- 40. Automate your savings
- 41. Consider moving
- 42. Find ways to increase your income
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Frugal Living
42 Frugal Living Tips
There are plenty of ways to be frugal and save money, but not all are practical. I won’t suggest you reuse paper towels, ration toilet paper, or load up on free ketchup packets at fast food places.
Here are my best frugal living tips. Besides tips for reducing your daily spending on little things that add up over time, we also have suggestions for reducing major unavoidable expenses like food, clothing, housing, and transportation.
1. Start a budget
Starting a budget is one of the best things you can do for your finances.
A budget challenges you to examine your spending. You’ll prioritize your expenses, spending your money on what’s essential and reducing or eliminating spending on unimportant things.
You can still leave room for fun and the occasional treat. You can also save a percentage of your funds for large purchases.
2. Stop impulse spending
Stores are designed to separate you from your money. The layout, sounds, smells, and product displays are all calculated attempts at getting your money. That’s why they put everything you don’t need, like candy and gum, right by the checkout.
There was a time my husband couldn’t fill the gas tank without getting a snack, something to drink, and a scratch ticket or a magazine. Impulse buys add up.
I sometimes bought something I saw on sale, even though I had no intention of buying it when I left my house. I had to remind myself that getting a sweater for 40 percent off isn’t a bargain if I don’t need another sweater.
If buying things impulsively is a problem for you, try the 30-day rule. The 30-day rule works like this:
- The next time you catch yourself about to make an impulse purchase, put it down.
- Put the money you would’ve spent on it in your savings account.
- Wait 30 days.
- Buy it if you still want it when the 30 days are up.
You might find you can live without whatever it was. You might also value the higher savings account balance more than the item you were thinking of buying.
3. Do a no-spend challenge
Doing a 30-day no-spend challenge is a fantastic way to save a lot of money relatively fast. You’ll also learn a lot about your spending habits and how much you spend on things you could stop buying without affecting your quality of life.
During a no-spend challenge, you cut out all discretionary spending. You pay your bills, you buy groceries and other essentials, but that’s it. No restaurants, no movie theaters, no new toys, and no spending on hobbies.
At the end of the month, every dollar you would’ve spent on fast food, entertainment, and whatever else will still remain in your bank account. That could be a sizeable chunk of change.
If a month with no unnecessary spending sounds too radical, start smaller. Do a no-spend week to get your feet wet or start with a no-spend weekend. You could also try one of these fun money-saving challenges to gamify saving money.
4. Don’t pay full price at the grocery store
Food takes up a sizeable chunk of most household budgets. The easiest way to save money at the supermarket is to only buy items that are on sale.
Grocery stores have sales every week. Go through the sales flyer and make your shopping list based on what’s on sale. By not paying full price, the savings are automatic.
Meat tends to be the most expensive ingredient we buy regularly, so check out this article for my best tips to save money on meat. If you really want to spend less on groceries, here’s a list of cheap foods to buy when you’re broke.
5. Check the fridge and the cabinets
Most of the time, our pantry looks like we’re ready for the zombie apocalypse. But we’re not preppers by any stretch.
When there’s a good deal, we load up. We also shop in warehouse stores for certain items. It’s entirely possible for us to have several days’ worth of meals without going food shopping.
So before you go to the store, see what you have for leftovers. Check your cabinets. Use the ingredients you have on hand in combination with the sale items to plan your meals for the week.
If you can use what you already have, you’ll cut your food bill. You might even cut out one trip to the grocery store every month.
6. Plan your meals for the week
Once you know what’s on sale and what you already have in the cabinets, you can plan your meals. Meal planning helps you cut down on unnecessary spending on fast food and takeout. If you know what you’re having every day and it’s already made, there’s no reason to order lunch or pick up dinner on the way home.
7. Buy in bulk
When we buy in bulk, it’s not uncommon for us to save 20 to 50 percent on our purchases. But buying in bulk isn’t always a great deal.
The key to figuring out if buying in bulk is a better deal is looking at the unit price rather than the individual item price. Compare prices per ounce or per unit with the calculator on your phone.
As long as you have enough storage space and whatever you buy in bulk won’t go bad before you use, you can save quite a bit of money. You also make fewer trips to the store, which will help you spend less.
8. Use coupons
Setting a food budget and sticking to it is tough. Hunger, temptation, and cravings wreck even the best plans. That’s why saving money on food any way you can is a must.
Using coupons will save you a few dollars every time you shop. With the number of trips to the grocery store we all make, that adds up.
Here’s a list of companies that will send you free coupons.
9. Sign up for loyalty programs
Many stores offer loyalty programs that come with exclusive discounts and coupons for cardholders only. These programs open the door to personalized deals and exclusive coupons.
At Kroger, you need the free Kroger Plus Card to get the sale prices. Besides coupons and members-only pricing, you can also get a discount on gas with your Kroger Plus Card.
Some people feel that having their purchases tracked is an invasion of privacy. I get that. You don’t have to sign up if sharing your data makes you uncomfortable.
10. Get cash back on your grocery purchases
Download the Ibotta app to your phone for cash back on groceries. With Ibotta, you browse offers from stores in your area and add the ones you’ll use to your list. After you’re done shopping, scan your receipt via the app. With some stores, you can connect your loyalty card to Ibotta so you don’t have to scan your receipts.
You’ll get money back for your purchases credited to your account, usually within 24 hours. When you hit $20, you can cash out via PayPal.
11. Keep a grocery price book
Some discounts aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Sometimes stores jack up the regular price so high, 25 percent off or buy one get one half off seems unbelievable. The truth might be other stores sell the same items even cheaper.
How do you know for sure if that sale price really is a good deal or not? By keeping a price book. Use a spreadsheet or a notebook to keep track of prices at local grocery stores for the items you buy regularly.
After a while, you’ll know right away if the price you see advertised is a good deal or if you can do better. You’ll also notice trends and sales cycles. You’ll be able to predict when certain items will go on sale and you’ll be able to recognize a real deal when you see one.
12. Prep meals in bulk
If you can spend a Saturday or Sunday afternoon cooking in bulk for the upcoming week, you’ll cut down the temptation to go out to eat or have something delivered. After a long day, you might not feel like cooking. But if you can just heat something up and have dinner on the table in 15 minutes, there’s no reason not to.
13. Stop being loyal to brands
Brand loyalty is great for companies. For consumers, not so much.
If you have to have a particular brand every time, you pay full price most of the time. You don’t consider products that offer comparable quality or better value.
Brand loyalty is expensive. Give it up. The companies you love don’t love you back.
14. Sell stuff you no longer need
Most of us have bought things we ended up not using much or at all. Kitchen appliances, tools, sporting goods, toys, and plenty of other things end up collecting dust in a corner somewhere.
Sometimes we outgrow things. Sometimes things that seemed like a good idea at the time proved otherwise.
Whatever the case might be, there’s a healthy market for used goods. You don’t have to go full minimalist and get rid of everything, but you probably have stuff you’re not using that someone else would pay for.
You can have a yard sale. If you have clothes you no longer wear, you can make money selling used fashions on Poshmark. You can use an app to sell furniture you’re not using and sell other unwanted items via eBay, Craigslist, or Facebook Marketplace.
15. Buy used items
Besides selling your gently used items, there are plenty of things you can buy used as well.
We’ve received tons of compliments on the outdoor furniture we bought from a couple that was moving away. They used the set for less than one season. We got it at a tiny fraction of the original price.
Some other things we’ve bought used include:
- Power tools
- Baby gear
Buying secondhand can save you a lot of money. It doesn’t mean settling for beat-up products that belong in the trash either.
16. Repair instead of replace
Some people automatically throw out and replace anything that breaks rather than having it repaired. That’s an expensive approach. And it’s not always necessary.
Many products come with warranties that cover common repairs. Some repairs are simple enough to do on your own with the help of YouTube or a little research. Sometimes the cost of a repair pales compared to the cost of a comparable replacement.
Repairing isn’t always the best strategy, however. Sometimes things reach the end of their useful life. Other times, the repair cost is more than the item is worth.
But you should at least consider it before you throw something away.
17. Return stuff you don’t need
Ever felt buyer’s remorse? There’ve been a couple of times I got something home from the store I thought I would be excited about. I wasn’t.
I felt regretful and a little stupid. So back to the store it went.
There have also been a few times where we’ve found clothes with the tags still on and things we never opened sitting in our closets. There was even a bag with a couple of gifts we never gave. That has more to do with regrettable friend choices rather than regrettable purchases.
If you have a receipt and it’s been less than 90 days, you can get your money back at most stores. You can return almost anything, including groceries. Some stores have longer return periods or will let you return an item without a receipt.
Costco, Target, and Kohl’s are known for generous return policies. Amazon and Zappos are tops for returns among online retailers.
18. Buy an affordable car
Buying a car is not an investment. Cars can make you poor due to the cost of ownership.
There’s no simple formula for how much to spend on a car. The conventional wisdom is that your car payment should be no more than 10% of your take-home pay for a used car and up to 15% for a new car. That doesn’t seem like much, but you have to factor in maintenance, insurance, gas, and other expenses.
Monthly car payments don’t have to be a fact of life, though. The alternative is to save up and buy a used car outright. You might spend a bit more on maintenance, but if you’re not burdened with a monthly car payment, you should still make out ahead.
19. Keep up with auto maintenance
You might overlook getting your car serviced unless there’s a problem. Cheap preventative car maintenance can save you from much larger repair bills down the road. Better safe than sorry.
Some maintenance tasks you can do on your own. You can handle changing wiper blades, maintaining tire pressure, and checking fluid levels. And you can keep track of when to get an oil change, rotate and balance your tires, and replace air and fuel filters.
Your owner’s manual has guidance on all the required maintenance. Make a schedule and stick to it.
20. Shop for better car insurance rates
Insurance is one of those things that are better to have and not need than need and not have. It’s just that insurance can be very expensive. But there are things you can do to lower your car insurance costs.
First, shop around. Insurance is a competitive business. The best way to get a better rate is to contact multiple providers.
Also, find any discounts you’re eligible for. There are discounts available for good drivers, students, veterans, and members of certain organizations or professions like teachers. You can usually get a discount if you bundle coverage like auto and home.
If you’re paying more than you’d like for car insurance, it’s worth it to spend the time comparison shopping. You can save hundreds annually when you find cheaper insurance.
21. Drive less
Driving a well-maintained car that gets great gas mileage you can easily afford is super. Not driving at all is even more affordable.
If you live in a major city with a robust public transportation system, you might not need a car. For the rest of us, there’s walking, riding a bike, carpooling, and taking public transportation when possible. Driving your car less leads to less wear and tear, spending less on gas, and lower maintenance costs.
22. Switch to LED light bulbs
LED light bulbs cost more than the incandescent bulbs you might be used to, but they save you money. They use less energy and last years longer.
According to Consumer Reports, LED bulbs use 80 to 85 percent less electricity than incandescent. Factor in the 23 years LEDs claim to last and the bulbs pay for themselves.
23. Lower your utility bills
Besides switching to LED light bulbs, there are several other things you can do to lower your utility costs. You can’t avoid paying for utilities, so it makes sense to look for ways to reduce the bills. Here are some quick tips:
- Fix leaky faucets
- Stick to warm or cold and don’t wash clothes in hot water
- Replace existing showerheads with more efficient, WaterSense-labeled models
- Use a programmable thermostat to change the temperature while you’re at work
- Take quicker showers
- Install dimmer switches
- When buying appliances, go with energy-efficient models
24. Get rid of cable
When we first moved to our new house, we took advantage of a sweet package deal for new subscribers. We weren’t really paying attention when the introductory offer expired. For a little while, we were paying for hundreds of channels we never watched.
We cut the cord completely and saved $115 per month. Between Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and a cheap indoor antenna for local channels, we don’t feel like we’re missing much. The money we saved is going straight into our savings.
If you don’t want to sacrifice live TV, see if a live TV streaming service like YouTube TV works out cheaper than cable. You can watch your favorite shows over the internet without installation fees, cable box rental fees, and all the other hidden charges cable companies throw at you.
25. Cancel unnecessary subscriptions
These days you can pay a monthly fee to gain access or have many things shipped to you automatically. Food, coffee, clothes, video games, movies, audiobooks, razor blades, and just about anything else you can think of.
But is any of that really necessary? Take a long, hard look at the subscriptions you’re currently paying for. If you’re not using it or you’re paying for something that doesn’t solve a pressing problem or add much value, cancel it.
26. Get a library card
When my sister and I would complain to my parents about being bored, it was yard work or the library. I spent a lot of time in libraries growing up.
Libraries offer all sorts of reading materials, but there’s more to them than just books. Public libraries have DVDs, BluRays, CDs, magazines, audiobooks, and even video games available. Many offer free access to audiobooks, ebooks, and other downloadable content as well. There’s also typically Wi-Fi, printers, scanners, and copiers available if you ever need them.
A library card unlocks a wealth of entertainment options and resources. There’s no catch, and it’s free.
27. Enjoy free and cheap entertainment
The cost of taking your family to see a movie or a ball game has gotten out of hand. Fortunately, there are plenty of free and low-cost alternatives.
Check local websites and newspapers for free and low-cost things to do. You can spend an entire day at libraries, museums, zoos, or aquariums without spending much money. You can attend high school sporting events or little league games.
Get outside and walk, ride a bike, or practice your free throws. Or stay home for movie marathons, board games, card games, or arts and crafts.
You have complete control over how much you spend on entertainment. There are plenty of frugal things to do available. You might have to seek them out or get creative, but the money you save will be worth the effort.
28. Enjoy the outdoors
There’s a world of free and low-cost fun right outside your door. When the weather is nice:
- Go for a walk
- Ride bikes
- Take up hiking
- Visit parks, beaches, or lakes in your area
- Pitch a tent in your backyard
When there’s snow on the ground, dress warmly and head out to:
- Build a snowman or a snow fort
- Go sledding
- Make snow angels
- Ice skate
- Go snowshoeing
Besides not having to spend a fortune to enjoy time with your family, you also get the benefits of fresh air and exercise.
29. Enjoy date nights at home
Date night doesn’t have to be dinner at a fancy restaurant and a show afterward. Dinner at your house can be just as romantic.
A nice outfit, your favorite meal, candlelight, and soft music in the background all work just as well at home. Be creative.
30. Exercise at home
If everyone that had a membership to your gym showed up for a workout at the same time, they’d have to lock the doors and turn people away. That doesn’t stop them from selling memberships, though. They know that a high percentage of their customers will show up sporadically or not at all after a while.
Are you getting max value or any value out of your gym membership? If not, consider canceling. Exercise at home instead.
You don’t need state-of-the-art equipment or a sweaty instructor yelling at you for a good workout. You can walk, run, or do bodyweight exercises for free at home. Barely used exercise equipment shows up frequently on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace at very cheap prices.
31. Travel for less
You don’t need to be wealthy to travel. If you’re creative, traveling on a budget is possible.
If you travel off-season, shop around for the best price on airfare and accommodations, and avoid tourist traps, you can travel cheaply. We’ve done relatively cheap trips where we’ve flown off-peak, stayed in an Airbnb, and cooked most of our own meals.
32. Do a wardrobe inventory
My closet was once bursting with things I never wore, things I wore once, and things that no longer fit. I was running out of closet space, yet I was still buying new clothes. And don’t get me started on shoes and accessories.
I finally did a closet inventory. I took everything out, made little piles all over the bedroom, and started trying things on in front of the mirror. There were hidden gems, what was I thinking moments, and things I forgot I had.
Once I got organized, I donated some things, made money selling clothes on Poshmark, and started wearing what I already had. I stopped buying things I didn’t need. I’ve spent almost nothing on clothes in the last year.
Instead of going shopping for new clothes, take a trip through your closet instead. You might rediscover some forgotten treasures among the fabulous fashions you already have.
33. Cut back on salon visits
I color my hair sometimes. Sometimes I do it myself, but other times I go to a professional.
Is the $10 box of DIY hair color as good as the $120 salon treatment? No, but the salon isn’t $110 better when we’re focused on retiring debt and saving for the future.
Say you get your hair done every 8 weeks, your eyebrows and nails every two weeks, and your toes once a month. That adds up. Maybe that’s an extreme example and doesn’t reflect the average beauty routine, but $60 per month for salon visits works out to $720 a year.
What if you could skip some of those visits? I’m sure you can look just as gorgeous while putting extra money into your savings.
34. Make coffee at home
Your favorite beans and a travel mug will save you a lot of money if you’re in the habit of buying coffee on the way to work every morning. No, you won’t get rich by giving up coffee despite what some money gurus say. But not buying coffee out could put over $1,000 back in your wallet every year if you’re hitting coffee shops regularly.
35. Make instead of buy
You already know that some things are almost always better homemade, especially with food. Things like tomato sauce, mac and cheese, and guacamole.
But there are also tons of useful household products you can make yourself. Things that are simple to make, cheaper, healthier, and just as good or better than the familiar brands.
I’m not suggesting you DIY your own light bulbs or toothbrushes. You can make things like beauty products, cleaning products, and even dog treats, though.
Try it. Once you make your own, you might never go back to store-bought.
36. Give homemade gifts
I appreciate and remember handmade gifts more. They’re a lot more thoughtful than a gift card. And making gifts will save you from blowing up your budget during the holidays.
Some homemade gifts I’ve given or received include bath bombs, photo collages, sugar scrub, a candy bouquet, peppermint bark, wooden coasters, and fudge. If you need inspiration, browse Pinterest for ideas.
37. Start a vegetable garden
Growing your own vegetables is fun and rewarding. If you prefer organic produce, you can have a steady supply without paying the high grocery store prices for organics.
You don’t need a lot of land to grow things like herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce. You can also grow herbs and vegetables indoors if you lack space.
38. Pay down debt
Carrying debt makes your life harder. Debt makes it hard to save money, reach your financial goals, or sleep easy at night. High-interest credit card debt is toxic. Make getting out of debt one of your top priorities.
Get out of debt by following a budget and freeing up extra money to put toward your debt through frugal living. If you can increase your income by getting a raise, working a second job, or starting a side hustle, you’ll get out of debt even faster.
39. Avoid more debt
Not living within your means and not being financially prepared for emergencies are two reasons people get in trouble with credit cards.
If spending more than you have is an issue, set a budget and stick to it. Cut up your credit cards and pay for everything in cash.
Prepare for the unexpected by starting an emergency fund. Set aside at least $1,000 to help you avoid financial problems on top of any surprise expenses. Having 3 to 6 months’ living expenses tucked away is ideal, but you can work up to that.
40. Automate your savings
You understand the importance of saving money. While you’re building your budget, include a category for your savings.
But don’t just save whatever you think you’ll have left at the end of the month. Make your savings a priority by paying yourself first and automating it.
You can have your employer direct deposit a portion of your paycheck into a savings account and the rest into checking. Or you can set up an automatic transfer between your bank account and your investment account.
When you automate your savings, things like forgetfulness, emotion, and willpower don’t come into play. Your savings become more likely to grow when you remove all that.
41. Consider moving
You don’t have to move into your mom’s basement to save money. If you can find a place in the same neighborhood for $100 less, you put $1,200 a year back in your pocket. The cheaper place probably won’t have much of an impact on your lifestyle, but the money you save could help you reach your financial goals faster.
If you own a home, you could also look to stay in the same area, but downsize. Downsizing can lower your mortgage payments, utilities, maintenance costs, and property taxes. Even if you have a mortgage you can afford, your home loan is often your biggest debt payment, so lowering it by downsizing could help you reach other important financial goals.
If you have extra space, take in a roommate or rent out a room short-term via Airbnb. Both options have their pros and cons, but either will give you some financial flexibility.
You could also consider moving further away to a cheaper area. Whether you move from the city to the suburbs or across the country to save money, there are a lot of factors.
You’ll have to think about:
- Moving costs
- Employment opportunities
- Health care
- Family ties
With so many monetary and non-monetary considerations involved with a major move, it’s hard to be sure if it’s the right thing. But it definitely can be.
42. Find ways to increase your income
There are plenty of frugal ways to save money, but there’s only so much you can lower your spending. Making more money solves a lot of financial issues faster.
You can make more money by asking for a raise. Easier said than done and there are no guarantees.
You could also take on a second job. Working two jobs requires commitment and sacrifice, so think about whether a second job is worth it in terms of the extra money you’ll make and the problems you’re solving. If it is, look for a part-time job in your area.
If you have in-demand freelance skills, freelancing might be a solid opportunity to make extra money in your spare time. There are also plenty of side hustles with low startup costs you can try, some of which are work-from-home opportunities.
The gig economy offers some opportunities to be your own boss, set your own hours, and make a little side income. For example, you could deliver food driving for DoorDash or do tasks for people through TaskRabbit.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Frugal Living
Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about frugality and frugal living.
What does it mean to live frugally?
Living frugally means having a plan for your money and being intentional when spending money. To live frugally is to live within your means and spend according to your priorities. Frugal people want the most value, not just the lowest price. They don’t waste money on things they don’t need.
What’s the difference between frugal and cheap?
The difference between frugal and cheap comes down to attitude about spending money. Cheap people always want the lowest price and hate spending money. Frugal people want the most value and look for a balance between price and quality. Frugal people don’t mind spending when it’s prudent.
Can frugality make you rich?
Frugality alone will not make you rich. Adopting certain frugal habits, like living below your means, sticking to a budget, and cutting out unnecessary spending will help you build wealth. There’s a limit to how much you can cut expenses, however, so living frugally is not enough to make you rich.
Is frugal living worth it?
Frugal living is worth it if you’re tired of struggling financially or haven’t reached all your financial goals yet. By being frugal, you’ll stick to a budget and spend less than you make. You’ll free up money to pay off debt, grow your savings, and build a future. You’ll reach your financial objectives faster through frugal living.
Featured Image Credit: Pexels
Sara Graham is a frugal living and household budgeting expert. Her writing has appeared on MSN Money, The Good Men Project, Fairygodboss, and several other online publications. She is the co-founder of KindaFrugal.com, a personal finance and frugal living blog.