If you want to get more out of your money, here are some frugal living tips that you can embrace. Apply them and you’ll find that you spend less and save more.
Live within your means and thrive financially by making some simple adjustments and developing some important habits.
There are plenty of ways to save money, but the tips covered in this article will help you to develop the right mindset and focus on things that really make a difference.
Frugal Living Tips
Now, let’s look at some specific tips that can have a big impact.
1. Choose Your Priorities
Having a frugal lifestyle doesn’t mean that you can’t spend money on anything. Instead of trying to minimize or cut all expenses, make sure you know what matters most to you (and your family, if applicable).
It’s ok to spend money on the things that are important to you, and things that can truly improve your life. When you know your priorities, you’ll also know about the things that don’t matter as much to you, and that is where you can save.
Do what you can to save money on the things that aren’t a big deal to you, and you’ll have more money to use for your priorities.
Everyone’s priorities are different. What matters most to me may not matter at all to you, and vice versa. The keys are to know how you want to prioritize your money and being willing to make changes in other areas.
2. Create a Budget and Track Your Expenses
If you want to get the most out of your money, you need to be in control over your spending. One of the best ways to take control of your finances is to create a budget.
Budgeting is like a curse word for some people, but it really doesn’t have to be so bad.
Really, budgeting goes hand-in-hand with choosing your priorities. Once you know your priorities, and also the things that aren’t important to you, you can create a budget taking this into consideration. Scale back on the things that don’t matter as much to you, and have more for your priorities. Budgeting gives you control over how you spend your money.
If you need help creating a budget, be sure to see my article How to Create a Budget That Works, which will lead you through the process. You can also get a free budget worksheet/template by entering your email address below.
Once you’ve created your budget, be sure that you’re also tracking your expenses to make sure that you’re staying within the budget.
Tracking expenses can seem like a tedious task, but it can actually be really helpful to keep you motivated with managing your money. Also, you can use an app like Personal Capital to make it easier.
3. Track Your Net Worth
About a year ago, I started tracking my net worth, and I wish I had done it sooner. There are a lot of reasons why you should track your net worth, and one of them is that it will help you to keep your overall financial picture in mind.
Since I began tracking my net worth, I started thinking about how each financial decision will impact my net worth. You’ll see the importance of your decisions and how they impact your big picture, either positively or negatively.
Now that I have the big picture in mind on a regular basis, I’ve become more frugal with my spending just because I see the consequences.
Tracking your net worth may sound complicated or time-consuming, but it’s actually really simple. Personal Capital is a free app that does the work for you. All you need to do is sign up, and then link it to your financial accounts. In just a few minutes you can have it set up and tracking your net worth.
→ Related reading: Liquid Net Worth: What it is, Why it Matters, and How to Calculate It
4. Wait on Purchases
Get in the habit of waiting at least 24-48 hours for all unnecessary purchases. This habit will help you to avoid impulse spending that leads to buyer’s remorse.
Take time to think about purchases, make sure that you really want or need the item, and be confident that it is a good use of your money.
I picked up this habit years ago, and it’s helped me on countless occasions. In fact, most of the time I decide I don’t really want or need whatever I was considering buying.
5. Find “Easy Wins”
Easy wins are simple ways to save money (or make extra money) with little-to-no effort on your part. They won’t negatively impact your life, so there is a lot to love about easy wins.
Finding a few easy wins can free up a lot of room in your budget, especially if they involve monthly or annual bills.
Since we all have different priorities, what may be an easy win for one person may be a major sacrifice for someone else. The key is to find some easy ways to save on the things that really don’t matter that much to you.
For example, here are 3 of the biggest easy wins that I’ve found in the past few years:
- Choosing an inexpensive cell phone. I used to get the latest and greatest phone every couple of years, but I realized I don’t even use or care about any of the bells and whistles. Now I get a cheap phone with basic functionality and use it until it stops working. I save a few hundred dollars per year.
- Go with a discount wireless carrier. My wife and I cut our monthly bill for cell phone coverage in half by switching away from one of the leading carriers. We’re now with Cricket Wireless and our coverage is just as good, but we only pay half as much.
- Get rid of cable TV. We save hundreds each year by using Netflix for the majority of our TV. I also get a Sling subscription for part of the year during football season. See our list of the best cable alternatives.
6. Take Advantage of Perks
There are a lot of different perks available, like:
- Credit card cashback and rewards
- Cashback apps like Rakuten and Ibotta
- Loyalty programs
- Free money offers (see our Free Money page)
- Discounts from associations or memberships
Those are some of the most common perks, but there are plenty of other possibilities as well. These things may seem insignificant, but they really add up. I have my own process for maximizing credit card rewards and I get a nice chunk of cashback each year. Many people also travel for free or very cheap thanks to travel hacking with credit card rewards and miles (see our list of the best travel rewards credit cards).
I had heard of Ebates (now called Rakuten) a few years ago but never used it because I didn’t think it was was the effort. I’m glad I gave it a shot because it’s extremely easy, takes almost no effort, and saves a lot of money. My wife and I will save a few hundred dollars this year thanks to Rakuten.
If you make an effort, it’s not that hard to pass $1,000 or even a few thousand dollars per year in perks. That really adds up!
7. Watch Your Recurring Bills
When you are looking to cut expenses and increase your savings rate, looking at your recurring bills and subscriptions is a good idea. Any money that you can save on a recurring bill will put more money in your pocket every month, rather than just saving money once.
You can either cancel a subscription or work to cut the amount of the bill. Depending on the type of bill, you may be able to go with a cheaper plan or negotiate a better rate.
Some common bills that you may be able to eliminate include:
- gym membership
- magazine or website subscriptions
- cable or satellite TV
- any services that you don’t use or need
Other monthly bills, like utilities, can be reduced with some effort on your part. Here are some articles that can help:
- How to Save Money on Gas
- 33 Realistic Ways to Save Money on Electricity
- 30+ Easy Ways to Save Big Money on Your Water Bill
- 12 of the Best Cable Alternatives
Trim is a free app that can help you to save money in a few different ways. Trim will look for unused subscriptions that you can cancel, and they will also negotiate your cable and internet bill on your behalf to get you a lower rate. Try Trim here.
8. Buy Used, When it Makes Sense
A lot of the things you need can be bought as used. Sometimes the biggest challenge is just getting in the mindset to look for a used item rather than just going to a store out of habit.
Things like clothes, furniture, home goods, toys, kid and baby items, sporting goods, games, tools, and even electronics can be purchased used for a fraction of the cost.
If you’re looking for used items you can go to thrift stores, flea markets, auctions, and yard sales. There are also a number of websites like Craigslist, the Facebook Marketplace, Ebay, and Letgo that are excellent resources for finding great deals. Specifically for clothes, sites like Swap and thredUP are also great places to look.
Get in the habit of buying used, and you’ll find that you can save a lot of money.
9. Live in a Modest Home
Housing is a big expense, regardless of whether you rent or own. One of the biggest financial mistakes you can make is to buy a home that costs more than you can afford.
Living within (or below) your means is a key principle for frugality. That doesn’t mean that you need to live in a tiny home, but don’t spend a lot simply because the bank or mortgage lender approves you for a specific amount.
Of course, what qualifies a home as “modest” will be impacted by things like your income and net worth. Make sure that you can comfortably afford your housing costs with plenty of breathing room.
Another important factor is where you live. The amount you’ll have to pay for a house (or rent) will be impacted not only by what city and state you live in, but even the exact neighborhood that you choose.
10. Buy an Affordable Car
Cars are an expense that breaks many budgets. If you look at a car as a status symbol, you’re almost certain to pay more than you need to.
On the other hand, if you look at a car as simply a mode of transportation, you’ll probably spend a lot less.
Many frugal people choose to buy used cars, and some will tell you that buying a new car is always a waste of money.
When I was younger, I went through a few different used cars and I was always putting money into them. The last two cars I’ve owned (including the one I currently drive) I bought new, and I have no regrets at all.
Buying a new car can be a good deal if:
- You buy a car in a low price range
- You avoid most of the options and upgrades
- You keep the car for a long time before replacing it.
I owned a 2002 Saturn for 10 years. I bought it new for $10,000 and put very little money into it during the 10 years that I owned it.
My current car is a 2012 Mazda3 that I paid around $15,000 for in 2011. I’ve already had it for 8 years and I plan to keep it for a few more. I’ve had $0 in unexpected expenses with that car.
I may have been able to pay a little bit less for a used car, but the peace of mind of having a new car is worth something to me. That’s partly because my last used car left me stranded 300 miles from home for 3 days.
My next car will probably be something new and reasonable, that I can afford to buy with cash.
Regardless of whether you choose a new or used car, the important part is to go with an affordable car, and keep it for a long time before replacing it.
Another key principle of frugal living is to re-use, whenever possible. This can mean using things twice, re-purposing, or buying reusable items instead of disposable items.
There are a lot of ways you can put this into practice and save money, especially in the kitchen. Here are just a few ideas:
- Re-usable glass food containers
- Re-usable water bottles
- Microfiber cleaning cloths
- Wool dryer balls (instead of fabric softener sheets)
For more ideas, see my article 40+ Amazing Products You Can Buy Today to Save Money in the Future.
12. Look for Low-Cost Entertainment
One way to save a lot of money is to find free or cheap things to do instead of spending a lot of money on entertainment. Whether you’re single, in a relationship, or have an entire family to entertain, there are plenty of possibilities.
That’s not to say that you should never spend money on entertainment, but use free or cheap options the majority of the time. Things like going to a park, hiking, riding a bike, and playing games can all be excellent options.
→ Related reading: 30+ Fantastic Stay-at-Home Date Ideas
13. Avoid Clutter
Frugality and minimalism often go together, but you don’t have to be a minimalist to appreciate having less clutter. Getting rid of the clutter around your house can help you to realize that you don’t need a lot of stuff, which can result in buying fewer things.
Also, you can make some money in the process of getting rid of your clutter. A lot of that stuff that’s laying around your house can be sold.
See my article 17 Apps and Websites to Help You Sell Your Stuff to find some great resources that will help you make money and declutter.
14. Minimize Food Expenses
Food is another important part of the budget. Your food expenses can vary wildly depending on how many meals you eat at restaurants and how you do your grocery shopping.
For many people, food is an easy budget category to reduce. Here are a few ways to you can reduce your expenses for food each month:
- Eat fewer meals at restaurants
- Pack your lunch
- Shop at discount grocery stores
- Buy generic brands
15. Embrace Small Gains
If you’re trying to live a more frugal lifestyle and you’re just getting started, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with so many different things. Don’t feel like you have to master everything all at once. Take baby steps and embrace even small improvements and gains.
No one will instantly go from spending too much to being perfectly frugal right away. Focus on one area at a time, develop habits that will stick with you, and then work to add something else to it.
Start at the beginning by clarifying your priorities and creating a budget. Then work on cutting expenses in that budget one at a time.