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Frugal living is a term many people associate with cheap. This, however, couldn’t be further from the truth! Frugality is simply a way to cut back on expenses and finding ways to save, while still being able to enjoy the things you want to enjoy in life.
Here we’ll cover several frugal living for beginners tips you might consider, to help you start saving, and only buying items which are necessary for life.
What is Frugal Living?
Many people who hear frugal living immediately jump to the conclusion that someone’s cheap. This isn’t true, in fact, people who are frugal spend money like the rest of the population. Instead, those who are frugal look for resources, look for deals and avoid waste. It’s important to be mindful of your spending. If you’re just throwing money away and buying things you don’t need, you’re eventually going to end up in a much worse situation than the frugal individual.
Some key characteristics of frugal living include:
- Not wasting money (some people buy for the sake of buying)
- Searching for discounts, coupons, resources to help you save, and free assistance
- You prioritize spending
- Frugal individuals don’t spend money on things that don’t bring them happiness
Those who are frugal consider values in life.
For example, you can eat dinner at home or dine out. Eating dinner at home doesn’t detract from the quality of life, you’re still getting the nourishment you need! And, dining out isn’t going to add immense value to your life. This isn’t to say you can never dine out, it’s just an example so you can learn to prioritize what’s most valuable to you, so you can prioritize where you’re spending money!
How Much Money Can You Really Save Living Frugal?
How much?? It’s a question on everyone’s mind. But, it’s quite impossible to put an exact dollar figure on the amount of money you’re going to save with frugal living. So, let’s look at a few examples instead.
We’ll start with dining out. According to MyDomaine.com by simply cooking one meal at home each week, rather than dining out, you’ll save almost $900 a year. Now imagine cooking two meals a week, that’s nearly $2,000. For most people, that’s rent or a mortgage payment for a month.
Another great example is the cable. You can easily pay over $100 for a monthly cable bill. If you simply can’t live without shows or movies, Hulu or Netflix is available for under $10 a month.
CNBC.com also highlights how cutting back on unnecessary subscriptions can save you money. Say you subscribe to WSJ and NYTimes online, do you need both? NYTimes is about $15 for one month while WSJ is about $230 for 6 months. That’s a lot of money. Cut one of these two, and you’ll see savings of over $200 annually.
And, the list goes on! There are so many ways you can save. It’s easy for some people to save over $5,000 or even $10,000, depending on just how frugal they are, and just how much they’re currently wasting on things they don’t need.
Your savings figure will differ from the next person, but, you’ll instantly see the returns when you start cutting out what you don’t need.
How to Start Living Frugally
It’s not all that easy to go from a lavish life of having Netflix, Hulu, three iCloud services, two gym memberships, and dining out three times a week, to cutting back on all of these luxuries, But, you have to start somewhere when it comes to living frugally and saving money. Where should you begin?
1. Ease into the Process
Start small. Maybe during the first month, you dine out once a week, rather than three times. In your second month of frugal living, you can cut this back to once every two weeks. You’ll also start cutting the subscriptions, ordering food at home, and other things.
Make sure you go slowly. You might compare it to trying to quit smoking cold turkey. Sure, you’re okay for a few days, maybe even a few weeks. But, you start feeling those cravings and eventually cave in.
Take small steps and make minor changes from month to month. You’ll instantly see the savings, and you’ll find it easier to start living frugally in other aspects of life as you get more comfortable and confident with the idea.
2. Understand Your Spending Habits
If you don’t know what or where you’re spending money, how do you cut back? You’ll have to track and understand your spending habits to make changes. So, you’ll want to
- Track your spending habits for a month or two
- Check your bank statement daily to see where you’re spending
- Look for areas you can cut back
- Figure out where you’re spending the most money
- Find cheaper alternatives for those things you’re spending too much money on
Similar to easing into a frugal lifestyle, you’re going to have to understand where your money is going in the first place. If you have no idea what your spending habits are like, you can’t stop spending so much money.
3. Identify Unnecessary Spending Habits
Look for areas where you’re spending money if you don’t have to. Dining out, going to the movies once a week, owning three cars, paying for housekeeping services, and more.
When we try to “Keep up with the Joneses,” we’re going to go broke! You must find areas where you’re spending money which you shouldn’t be, and don’t need to spend so that you can start cutting back on superfluous spending habits.
Make it a priority to spend only what you need to, and cut back on unnecessary things you’re doing, that aren’t adding value to your life.
4. Look For Areas of Overlap
This circles back to cutting things out. For example, if you subscribe to
- Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Go
- WSJ, NYTimes, DailyMail
- Gym membership (when you have a free gym in your building)
- Other services you’re not using
You’ll need to cut back.
If you’re spending money on things you don’t use, or if you’re overspending on the same item (via two different services/subscriptions), make the decision which of these services you like most, and cut the other ones out.
The same goes for your shopping habits. Are you paying for a subscription at Costco and Sams Club or BJs? Or, do you pay for Shipt as well as Instacart for grocery delivery?
Choose one or the other, and you’ll start seeing a great deal of money remaining in your bank account, rather than being distributed to retailers/merchants which you aren’t benefiting from every month.
5. Make Your Financial Goals Clear
Having a goal will help you steady the course, especially early on, in your frugal living journey. It’s not easy, and some things are going to be challenging, but when you have concrete goals in mind, it’s much easier. Some examples might include
- Paying off student loans
- Paying off the mortgage and finally owning your home
- Finishing the last year’s payment on your car
- Saving for your child’s tuition/college
- Save for your dream vacation
The goal can be anything, and it will differ for each individual or family. Make sure you write those goals down. When you see something every day, it makes it easier for you to follow through.
6. Get Everyone On The Same Page
If you’re living frugally, packing your lunch, and avoiding drinks out with co-workers on Friday night, while your significant other is buying luxurious handbags or dining out every day at lunch, it’s tough to achieve your goal.
It’s nearly impossible for you to live frugally if everyone isn’t on the same page. And, it’s not just husband and wife, you also have to bring the kids into the mix. They have to understand there will be certain cutbacks, and if they want something, they might need to go out and work for it.
Working towards the same goal is critical towards reaching it. If one person is giving, and the other is taking their share, and the other person’s share, you’ll never reach that common goal.
So, check-in frequently, talk to your family, set clear goals, make sure limits are in place, and make sure everyone is on the same page. It will make things much easier for everyone in the long run, plus it will allow you to work together as a family and build a stronger bond with each other.
7. Track Your Success
Have you ever tried to lose weight or diet and failed? You’re probably not alone. But, those who eventually succeed are the ones who track their progress. They’ll weigh in regularly, go to the gym, write down what they’re eating, and stay the course. The same goes for your family’s ability to transition to living frugally.
It’s important to realize that you’re going to have bad days and make mistakes, or you might dine out every night one week. It’s not going to be a perfect transition. You must track what’s going on, where you’re spending, and how you’re progressing in your family’s journey
If you don’t track it, you won’t know what’s going on? Similarly to our earlier example of knowing where you’re spending money in the first place. If you don’t know how much you spend each week eating out, how do you know where to cut back?
When it comes to achieving your goal, you need to track the good and the bad. Make sure you take notes, write things down, and make sure everyone knows where you stand in the process.
It’s far easier to ultimately achieve your goal of frugal living, and start saving more for your future, when you constantly check-in on what’s going on, and where you stand in the journey.
8 Best Frugal Living Tips
Below are some great frugal living tips you can incorporate in various aspects of your life. So, get started!
1. Save on Transport & Auto
Several options are available if you want to save on transport including:
- Public: Take the bus if you don’t have to drive
- Walk: You’ll avoid the price of parking, fuel, and the price for the bus/cab; if you’re job’s close to home, leave 15 minutes early and walk there
- Carpool: If you have friends at work who drive, take turns picking each other up. You’ll save on fuel, maintenance, parking, plus it’s a great time to bond
- Insurance: Shop for car insurance. If you have an older car, only buy the minimum, and compare savings options.
- Roll the windows down: Don’t use AC if it’s not necessary. Outdoor air is just as cool, plus it’s free!
2. Food Savings
When shopping for groceries, there are many ways to save. These are some frugal tips for beginners
- Reward programs: Join your local grocery store’s reward program. Get coupons, promos, and earn points each time you shop
- Go Generic: Don’t buy Silk (almond milk), but the store-brand.
- Bulk Purchases: Cereal, oatmeal, and other foods you eat regularly (that don’t spoil) are much cheaper in larger quantities than single-serve packs
- Compare Unit prices: Many people don’t look at that “cost per ounce” when shopping. Make sure you do! You’ll save on the cost of poultry, meat, seafood, and other foods
- Ask for Specials: Managers specials are often available on items which are expired (or close to it); these foods are usually safe to eat (it’s the best buy, not an expiration date), and they’re usually on sale for 50% off the original price or more
3. Household Essential Savings
You need to buy items for the home, when you do, consider these savings tips
- Buy in Bulk: Toilet paper, paper towels, and non-perishable items are much cheaper in bulk. So, stock up!
- Buy Generic: Cleaning supplies are the same whether you pay $10 for brand-name or $1 for non-brand name items. Buy generic when you can
- Make your own: Vinegar, warm water, and baking soda can clean virtually anything. Plus, you can make it into a paste or liquid, and it’s much cheaper than the store-bought $20 product
4. Clothing Saving Tips
Another essential is clothing, but you don’t have to buy a $5000 Gucci jacket. So, how do you save? These are some frugal living tips when buying clothes
- Shop Off-Brand: Buy non-brand or off-brand clothing; the quality’s just as good, and the price is less than half the price of name-brand items
- Use coupons: Look for online coupons, codes, and promos when you shop
- Buy online: If you see an item in stores check if it’s available online before you buy, the prices are often cheaper
- Loyalty Programs: Join reward and loyalty programs in stores you shop at regularly. You’ll receive promos and coupons before the general public
- Shop off-season: Buy winter coats in the summer, and your new bikini in the winter. Buying off-season is a simple way to cut back on costs
5. Dining Out Savings
You’re still going to dine out, just not as often as you used to. When you do, some savings tips include
- Share a Meal: Have the kids get an adult meal and split it instead of ordering two dishes
- Water Please: Drink water instead of soda or cocktails
- Ask if refills are free: If you do order soda, only do so if the refills are free
- No Dessert or appetizer: Oftentimes, these cost more than your main dish, save by eliminating these items
- Go on Kids Eat Free Nights: Many restaurants have family nights where kids eat free, if you dine out weekly, choose this night!
- Ask for a Lunch Menu: If you go out for dinner, order off the lunch menu; portions are smaller, plus they’re half the price
6. Wellness Savings/Medication
You have to go to the doctor and buy certain prescriptions. To save on these items, you can
- Join free reward companies: GoodRx is a great service and many prescriptions are more than 50% off the retail price
- Your Grocery/Pharmacy Rewards: CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart offer prescription cards, you can often get discounts using them
- Go with Generic brands: A generic medicine for 3 months at Walmart is $10 versus the full-price
- Buy 3-month supply: If you buy a 3-month supply at Walmart, it’s $10, versus about $4 each month (for generic)
- Buy on Sale: Certain supplies/items go on sale at different times of the year. Stock up on items that don’t expire
7. Save on Health
You don’t have to put on weight or live an unhealthy lifestyle just because you cancel your gym membership. Some ways to save are:
- Walk, hike, run, or jog outside. It’s free and you get to get out and get some fresh air
- Go to the park with your dog and kids; again, it’s free plus you get to socialize
- Do a family membership: If you join a gym, you can join as a family and save
- Ask a friend: If you have a friend with a free gym in their building, workout with them
- Use at-home services: There are workout programs you can register for at home; some are free, but there are some paid-for services, which are much cheaper than a monthly gym membership
8. General Shopping Savings
There are some items you’re going to buy regularly, both online as well as in-store. Some ways you can save include
- Buy it used: Consider eBay, Amazon, and other retailers that sell certain items used/refurbished
- Haggle the cost: There are websites where you can haggle/offer deals or bid on items to save
- Use cashback shopping: Ebates, Swagbucks, and other sites pay you for the items you’re buying in the form of cashback deals, use them
- Membership Cards: Grocery rewards, fuel rewards, and other retailers offer incentives for you to sign up for their reward programs, look for these savings options when you shop
Don’t limit yourself to these options. Frugal living is just around the corner! Start with these basics, and eventually, you’ll come up with far more ways to save, cut back, and preparing to live a more meaningful life, by only purchasing the items which bring value to your life!