Real frugal living is about so much more than learning how to hack $5 off your grocery bill. How to setup your frugal strategy, plus frugal living tips with a big impact.
“How can I become very frugal?”
Frugal living articles listing out 50+ tips on how to save a buck are a dime a dozen.
This one is different.
Instead of throwing 67 frugal living tips at you – I do still have an entire section of frugal living tips below, so definitely stick around – I'm going to share some of the STRATEGY behind living a frugal life.
The stuff people don't talk about.
Because if you want to be really frugal? Then you need to understand how to up your frugal game by having an overall frugal strategy, not just hunt after the newest way to shave $1.50 off your next grocery bill.
Adding an overall strategy to your frugal efforts means you'll get to where you want to go with your money and with your life.
It's life-changing stuff.
Stick with me, and you'll see what I mean.
Frugal Living Meaning – What is the Meaning of Frugal?
I've not only been living the frugal life for 20+ years, but I've been writing about it and coaching others on how to live it for over 11 years now.
And I can tell you, without a doubt, that there's so much more to frugal living and being thrifty than learning how to cut down your grocery bill by $5 each shopping trip.
Frugal living is about taking all the resources you have in your life – your money, your time, your energy, your friends, your family, your job, your side hustles…everything – and figuring out ways to both maximize them to their true potential, plus to not waste them.
And the reason why we do this?
There are many, but I'll give you the most exciting one: so that you can use your limited resources to get all the things that you want out of life. Probably not all at the same time, but overall.
But to really get to that point, where you're using frugal living tips to have a big impact in your life, you've got to have a frugal strategy behind your efforts.
How Do You Become Really Frugal? Develop a Frugal Strategy
Being a frugal person means making the most out of all of your resources at hand – both time, money, things…really, everything. It’s learning how to use what you’ve got in the most efficient way so that you can get the most bang for your buck.
Before we dive into all of these cool frugal hacks that will help you save lots of money, I want to talk about taking your frugality to the next level – by developing a strategy behind it.
This strategy will give you the reason and motivation to be frugal, as well as keep you on track to make real financial change in your life.
Here’s a step-by-step way to build your strategy:
- Figure Out the Reason Why You Want to Be More Frugal: Use the Big Impact reasons below to figure out what part about becoming really frugal gets you excited. This will partly be your motivation to keep going until the fruits of frugal living kick in.
- Decide Where to Funnel the Savings to: The rest of your motivation? Comes from picking a savings goal or financial goal to funnel any extra savings you get from your efforts. You'll get ideas below.
- Figure Out where You’re Being Wasteful: Identify areas in your life where you’re being wasteful. This could be a feeling you've got that you're just spending too much money in a category, or it could be because you're tracking your daily spending with a daily spending log and you know that you're spending too much. This could be with your money, with your time, with your food, with your use of paper towels…it could really be anything.
- Tackle One Category at a Time: You’ll want to pick just one category where you’re being wasteful, and tackle it. Read through the 67 frugal tips below, and see which to use, first. Don’t choose something huge, because you want a small win to keep you motivated to keep going. For example, if you want to become really frugal and you know you’re especially wasteful about food, then start with becoming frugal about one category of food. This could be about your dining out, about a category of grocery shopping (such as ice-cream, or produce), about work lunches, etc. Find frugal hacks to help you with this category, get a small (or big) win, bank the money in your savings account. Here's how I tackled our grocery spending, my financial goal, over the last 6 months to really rein it in.
- Rinse and Repeat: Keep that new frugal habit in that one category going, and move onto your next category. What can you tackle next?
As you move through the various categories of your life and find frugal hacks for how to save money and decrease consumption in each, you’ll naturally become a more frugal person.
And one day? It’ll just come naturally for you – the daily frugal habits of finding the best ways to save money on whatever you’re trying to be, do, or have.
Let's start with Step #1: figuring out your intentions and your why.
Big Impacts You'll Get from those 67 Frugal Living Tips
Do you dabble in frugality, but not really with any “why” behind it?
This section might change you.
Frugal living has so many benefits, beyond just the obvious one of saving more money.
And good thing it does, right? Otherwise, penny pinching gets old!
I can also confidently say that sometimes, it is these fringe benefits that really make the whole thing worthwhile.
Big Impact #1: You Gain Appreciation
When you have few resources at your disposal, you learn to appreciate them more. I have found that as you appreciate your resources more, you begin to appreciate everything more.
Suddenly, your world seems filled with people you love, beautiful landscapes, and everything that you could ever ask for. Appreciation brings happiness, satisfaction, and an entirely different perspective.
The more I appreciate things, the less I seem to need or even want.
Less really is more (here's the meaning of less is more).
Big Impact #2: You Cultivate a Feeling of “Having Enough”
Frugality is all about utilizing a basket of limited resources. It is not necessarily about growing that basket so that you need to upgrade to a storage container in order to fit everything. It's about simple living.
Because of cultivating an understanding and usefulness for limited resources, I have found that being frugal helps to satiate and appease the typical consumer appetite.
This has wonderful, lasting effects besides to your savings account; living your life with a sense of fulfillment and without feeling a constant need to purchase and procure leads to a more authentic kind of happiness.
Spending less money means you get more out of life.
Big Impact #3: You Deal with Less Consumer Product Health Scares
The number of consumer products that are recalled every year is astonishing. Reasons for these recalls range from lead paint to cancer-causing agents to other safety hazards. Sometimes I wonder what will be the asbestos and tan beds of our generation. Since frugal people generally consume less products, choosing instead to substitute, buy used, make themselves, or go without, their exposure to dangerous products can be much less than other consumers.
Big Impact #4: You Benefit the Environment
Some people care about their role in the environment, while others do not. As a former environmental investigator, I think you can guess which side I fall on. Being frugal naturally results in decreasing your carbon footprint in a multitude of ways. For example, carpooling and purchasing used products over new products means you cut down on petrochemical use.
Or, sourcing quality furniture cheap instead of buying new furniture.
Big Impact #5: You Add Time Back into Your Life
Contrary to recent cultural belief that frugal people are extreme couponers who must spend about 20 hours of their lives each week huddled over sales and coupon circulars and reading coupon fine print, being frugal can open up a significant amount of time in your life.
Why is that?
Because instead of running to a store, or working extra in order to pay past obligations, or cleaning/maintaining lots of belongings, you can siphon off more of your time to spend with people and to spend doing what you enjoy.
Psst: you'll want to check out my article on time vs. money.
Choose Where to Funnel Your Savings to – Your Current Motivation for Frugal Living
Thrifty living and nitpicking your good and bad spending habits can only take you so far.
I would know – I've gotten to partly design my life and our family's life all because I decided long ago to not waste our resources (and to instead learn how to maximize them to their fullest potential).
But to keep you motivated to pick up new frugal habits + keep going with the ones you've already acquired?
Is to choose where to funnel all of the savings you reap, towards.
Let me paint a picture of some of the more exciting financial goals (steal the ones that speak to you!):
- Retirement account savings for early retirement
- Saving money for Mini-Retirements
- One parent staying home to raise your child(ren) (checkout: going from two incomes to one)
- Get out of debt (debt repayment)
- Money for travel
- Save up to pay cash for your home (read these mistakes to avoid when buying a house)
- Build up an oh sh*t fund (aka, the emergency savings fund)
- Be able to quit your job and start a business
- Be able to quit your job and travel the world through travel hacking
- Simple living
There are all kinds of awesome motivations and reasons for frugal living!
Next up? Let's dive into those best frugal living tips that will have the biggest impact in your life, now that you have a strategy to go with them.
67 Best Frugal Living Tips with a Big Impact
I've got some of the best frugal living tips for frugal living with purpose. With money strategy. With a reason – as in, so that you can live the life that you want.
Because guess what? You might learn new tips and tricks for how to save money and get really excited about them…only to find out that the way you did it takes you three steps back in the end.
I don't want that for you! Read my advice below – it's from experience.
Tip #1: Don't be a Part-Time Lover of Frugality
I’ve noticed something: when it comes to money, people tend to be loosey-goosey during the good times – taking shark-sized bites out of their monthly cash flow by increasing their debt load – and then try to unload everything they possibly can to stay afloat during the bad times. It’s one extreme to the other:
Good times = lease a new car, renovate a room, buy shiny new appliances, charge up the credit cards because we will be able to pay them off with our future income, daily lattes, etc.
Bad times = no lattes, cancel magazine subscriptions, cancel cable, sell the timeshare we never should have bought, unplug electronics when not in use, etc.
Tightening your finances and being frugal will certainly allow you to survive bad financial times. But if you only use frugality during the bad times, you will fail to reap its full benefits.
When you practice frugality just to survive, you don’t get the chance to stockpile. During the good times is when you can sock away money into your savings from living a simpler life, and when you can fill your cupboards until they are overflowing. And how do you save up for an emergency fund, the great neutralizer during the bad times? By practicing frugality when times are good.
You really reap the benefits of frugality when you use it during the good times, not just when you are sweating financial bullets.
It’s important for us to remember that the cost of what we are buying during the good times is not just what we spend on that particular day. The real cost will be felt more in the times when we are in need.
Don’t be a part-time lover of frugality. Be a full-time lover, and reap the full-time benefits.
Tip #2: Sometimes Delaying Spending Means You'll Pay More in the End
You need to realize that delaying spending money is not always the best way to live the frugal life.
Sometimes my life seems to revolve around delaying gratification – the satiation of my needs and wants – by delaying purchases or services. By nature, my consumer pulse is sluggish at best, so it is not a far stretch for me to do so. I do not constantly feel a nagging craving inside of me for new, better, and more technologically advanced.
But I have found that sometimes delaying gratification by not making a purchase or having a service done actually ends up costing me more in the end.
Here is a perfect example: I went three summers (two in Southern Florida, and one in Houston) without AC in my car. On any given summer day, you could see me cruising down the road with all of my non-automatic windows down, sitting up towards my steering wheel so as not to gather a small pool of sweat on the small back of my business shirt while driving to and from work. By the third summer, I was ready to give in. A mechanic charged me $100 or so to put new Freon into my car, which worked for the day. By Day #2, the AC was no longer working; turns out that because I had waited so long to put new Freon into my car’s AC system, something burst, and my entire AC system went bust. To fix it would have been close to a $1,000 (mind you, this was the vehicle I had originally purchased several years ago for just $1500).
I learned a bit about the importance of maintenance as a long-term cost-saving measure from this and a few other experiences.
To hopefully save you a headache in the future, here are a few items that I feel should not be delayed, no matter how tight your momentary budget.
- Health Services: Health issues tend to get worse (which means cost you more money) the longer you wait to get them taken care of. For example, if you wait to get a cavity or aching tooth checked out, you may end up needing a much more costly root canal instead
- Insurance (Health, Auto insurance, Home, etc.): Even if you are in-between jobs, do not lapse your coverage on things like car insurance; at least be covered by accidental at all times in case the unthinkable happens, and you find yourself in an ambulance on the way to the hospital
- Leaks: Any type of leak can lead to water damage elsewhere (and possibly mold), which will cost you more than if you immediately take care of the problem
- Early Bird Specials: We’re not just talking about diners…many things, such as concerts, tickets to the Dave Ramsey live event (I missed out on this when the tickets were $15 – and now the tickets are $40 each!), products retailers want to get a head start on selling, etc. have early bird specials that save you money for buying in advance.
- Things that Appreciate in Value: One of my favorite artists is Kessler. He began selling his work in the Eastern Market in D.C., and when I was in college, his paintings were going for $300 (an astronomical price back then). Now that I am older and wish to buy a real Kessler painting, his originals are going for $1500!! Yet again, an astronomical price. While it’s true that you cannot always tell what will appreciate in value, things like mutual funds, retirement accounts, etc. will most certainly appreciate over a long-term time frame, and so delaying the purchase of them will only cost you money earned down the road
Tip #3: “You Get What You Pay for” is a Totally Bogus Saying
This is one of my pet peeves about frugal living because people get this wrong all the time.
The reason people love to throw around the statement, “you get what you pay for” is either:
- a) to justify their spending more/too much money on a particular purchase despite not having the funds to do so
- b) as an “I-told-you-so” spit of wisdom to rain on your parade after a frugal fail (and yes, I’ve had a few frugal fails)
Here's the truth: you can pay very little for something, and it is super valuable well beyond the transaction amount. Or you can pay a ton for something, and it sucks.
Need more proof of how false this statement is? Head over here for more info on debunking the saying “you get what you pay for“.
While you're at it? Make sure you're not confusing the relationship between cost and value.
Tip #4: Remember that a Bargain is Not Always a Good Deal
I have to learn this lesson over, over, and over again. So much so, that I call it my Groundhog Day's money lesson.
Here goes: just because something is cheap, or extremely discounted, does not mean it's a good deal for me.
I became aware of my Groundhog Day money lesson when shopping with a friend many years ago. We were both trying to decide on whether or not to make our purchases; mine was a pair of sleek brown pants from Banana Republic on clearance for $5.
As my friend modeled her potential purchase and asked my opinion, I said something like “well, you really can’t beat the price”.
She then passed on an ounce of wisdom, saying that her grandfather had taught her that if you’re not going to use something then it’s no bargain at all.
That was the moment I could have walked away with a nugget of truth to save me money over the next ten+ years of my life.
But I didn’t.
Brand names rarely made a debut in my wardrobe, and this was my chance! So instead of putting the pants back and saving my $5 for something more useful, I paid for my little-too-big, little-too-long Banana Republic pants. Over the course of high school I never actually wore them; they stayed in my drawer for about a year until I finally thought that I should hem the bottoms. After my sister helped with hemming, I think I may have worn them once before figuring out that they just really were not me.
Banana Republic fire sale or not, those pants represented $5 down the drain.
Fast forward over a decade, and I am still having trouble with the idea that something is not a bargain if it does not truly fit your need or want.
Thank goodness this financial lesson does not cause me to lose a lot of money, as I am usually in the clearance or sale section of a store when I fail to heed it. But you can see how it could add up over the years:
- I’ve had rubber garden clogs only slightly too small that quickly became too uncomfortable to wear (only $4,99!)
- I’ve purchased books I found somewhat appealing that are still collecting dust on my shelf (only $0.50!)
- I still have an outdoor metal table purchased for an incredible $12 that will hold one glass of iced tea (with two it might topple).
Really, if it wasn’t for my minimalist attitude I would probably have ended up on a show like hoarders with all of the oddities collected over the years through the rationality of “but it’s a bargain, and it will almost work for what I need”.
Tip #5: Patience is Not Only a Virtue, It's a Money Saver
Much of personal finance is really quite simple.
Earn money. Spend less than you earn. Save the extra.
However, mastering these seemingly easy concepts is difficult for many people.
You know you should set a budget, but it seems so complicated and limiting that you never quite sit down to do it. You have a budget, but this month there are extraneous costs (i.e., health, new outfit, opportunity, fill in the blank) that have you once again breaking your budget barriers.
Now that you have all of this money left at the end of the month (earmarked for savings), why not buy just one more thing you’ve had your eyes on?
Well, here is another very simple concept that many of you may struggle with, but is truly the secret to most frugal purchases: patience.
Turns out, patience is not only a virtue, but a cost-saver as well.
Anytime you add speed, convenience, or instantaneous gratification to a purchase, from houses down to toothpaste, you add cost. This works several ways, and we’ll discuss each separately.
Patience Pays Off By Taking the Urgency Out of Situations
The first way that patience pays off is by not “needing” things right away.
If you can take most of the urgency out of the equation, you can wait for sales and gift-receiving opportunities to get them at a discount. For example, I “need” a new digital camera. I am fortunate because Paul has one that I have been borrowing, which allows me to take most of the urgency out of my need.
Now I can afford to wait until either a great sale comes up that I can combine with a coupon in order to receive a great discount on the camera, or for my birthday/Christmas to ask for this gift if someone is looking for something specific to purchase for me (don’t worry, this isn’t a plea!).
Secondly, if you do not need something urgently, then you have the chance to save up money for it.
This will save you interest charges and a possible headache down the road by not going into debt for a purchase. Sometimes while waiting and saving, you may even find that you lose interest or do not need the product afterall, thus saving you from making an unnecessary purchase all together.
Finally, many products offer the same end result, but at varying speeds. For instance, while wrinkles are inevitable for everyone (and if you don’t believe this, than perhaps you have been deluded by wrinkle-free cream commercials), there are ways to mitigate them.
You can diligently and consistently take care of your skin your entire life by cleaning, moisturizing, wearing sunscreen or a hat in the sunshine, and eating a diet rich in antioxidants.
Technically, this would be the long method, and the least expensive.
At the other end of the spectrum would be having plastic surgery to remove wrinkles or costly botox treatments. This would be the fastest, and therefore most expensive, method.
To further illustrate this concept, take a look at the chart below for a comparison of costs between products that all have the same end result, but offer it at varying speeds.
|Product||Low Speed||Enhanced Speed||Instantaneous|
|Teeth Whitening||Whitening Toothpaste: $2.99||Whitening Strips: $40.00 (per month)||Laser Whitening: $400-$900|
|Tanning||Natural Sunshine: Free||At-home Sprays/Lotions: $6.00-$20.00||Tanning Bed Visit: $25-$35|
|Pizza Dough||Homemade: $0.58||Ready-Made Crust: $4.00||Pizza Delivered: $12-$17|
|Movie||Network television debut: $0||Rent it: $4-$5||See it in the Movie Theater: $9.00 per ticket|
|Develop Digital Photos||In Days: $0.15 per photo||In an Hour: $0.19 per photo||Instantly: $0.29 per photo|
As you can see, having patience can save you money in every consumer sector. Keep that in mind, and instead of buying the “instantaneous” result, next time go for the lower-speed one.
While it seems like an incredibly simple concept, learning to have patience may take some time (that’s right; learning patience may take some patience!).
Try it out on your next gotta-have purchase that you can practically do without, and see how much money you can save.
Tip #6: Borrowing Works Best when It Goes Both Ways
The other day while reading the Get Rich Slowly blog, a reader’s comment struck me as something I needed to expand on. I can’t seem to find the comment again, but to sum it up: a reader was tired of hearing frugal bloggers talk about borrowing others’ belongings without ever mentioning that they should lend people things in return.
As a frugal blogger myself who certainly stands behind the advice of borrowing, I wanted to make certain that it is clear that when I mention this as a great money-saving tool, I mean for it to be reciprocal. People need to both borrow and lend belongings in order to help everyone save money. It may not be borrowing and lending from the same person each time, as they may not be in need of anything or vice versa. However, reciprocity and gratitude are integral to building solid relationships.
To show this commenter, and others, that we both borrow and lend, I’ve included examples from our own lives in the past few years:
- Lending a Tent: Most people go camping once every few years. It doesn’t make sense for them to sink several hundred dollars into a tent only to use it three times in the next decade. I was fortunate to snag an Eddie Bauer, 6-person tent for $23.96 off of eBay shipped in my early twenties (frugal decadence at its best!). Since then, we’ve lent it to a family member for a backyard birthday party, and are about to lend it to another family member for a camping trip next month. What a great feeling knowing that we saved them from having to purchase something they only need every few years.
- Lending a Juicer: One of the first appliances I purchased for myself in my early twenties was a juicer. I was super-stoked, as I figured I would be juicing everyday (lesson learned!). Six years later when my friend started talking about looking into purchasing a juicer, I immediately brought up the fact that she could borrow mine to see if she would even use one. It just made sense! Since I hardly used it to begin with, the invitation to borrow it is an open-ended one and we haven’t missed it yet.
- Lending House Supplies: Recently we helped out a foreign exchange student from the Ukraine. We met Vlad through my aunt in D.C., which is where he was staying before moving to Houston for an internship set-up through the State Department. After picking him up from the airport and helping him get to his destination (of course we introduced him to some tasty Texas barbecue first), we learned that he didn’t have a place to stay yet. Several days later, he found an apartment, but it was unfurnished. Since he is only here for three months, it just did not make sense for him to purchase an apartment full of things to use and then have to sell or donate when he leaves. So Paul and I gave him a spare bed/mattress, basic kitchen utensils (frying pan, an oven-proof dish, spatula, silverware, a few dishes, a few cups), our old television, a pillow, set of sheets, and two towels.
- Borrowed a Power Washer: Paul and I noticed some algae growing on the side of our house (perfect conditions for it in humid Houston summers). When I mentioned this to my friend, she immediately mentioned that she could get a power washer for her and me to borrow to take care of the problem. It was tremendously helpful!
- Borrowed a Scientific Calculator: As I mentioned in last week’s Frugal Confessions Friday post, Paul’s brother is allowing Paul to borrow his scientific calculator for his Algebra class this semester. Paul will likely not take any other math or engineering-type classes again to complete his major, so it made great financial sense for us to borrow a $100+ specific calculator rather than to purchase one (and we were fortunate to be able to know someone close to ask!).
- Borrowed Hedge Trimmers: Two years ago we had to dig up the dead hibiscus bushes in our front flower beds and plant some other bushes instead. They finally have grown enough where they were in need of a trim. Fortunately, Paul’s brother allowed him to borrow his electric trimmers and get the job done quickly. In the future we will probably need to purchase a pair of trimmers ourselves for an annual trim. But for now, it saved us money.
- Free Flow of Books: I love to both lend and borrow great books among family and friends. By borrowing, I’ve been able to read books like Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Nigella Lawson cookbooks, Jurassic Park, and Anthony Bourdain books. Subsequently, we’ve lent Eat, Pray, Love, Total Money Makeover, The Da Vinci Code, etc. from our own library.
As you can see, by borrowing and lending material possessions there has been a lot of money saved over the years (and this is the short list). I love saving people money almost more than saving ourselves money. It makes me feel good to help others, and being able to lend and borrow belongings is a natural extension of this.
57 More Frugal Living Tips with a Big Impact
Alright, alright, you made it all the way to my 67 ways to be frugal tips for you! Now that you've read through some of the money strategy (wait – you did read through some of it, right?), you can pick and choose from these frugal hacks to get the most bang for your buck.
Remember, creating a frugal home and frugal life is all about maximizing + not wasting all of the resources you have in life. This list reflects our attempt to do just that!
FYI: Where I've done these things myself and written about it, I'll share the link so you can read more.
- Refinance your mortgage. Read about refinancing our mortgage here.
- Cloth diaper your baby (plus use reusable baby wipes). Our cloth diaper tips.
- Get paid to walk (seriously!).
- Learn how to change your style on a budget (using many of the items you've got in your current closet!). You can also use one of these cheap ways to decorate your office at work to restyle your office!
- Consider applying for a free home makeover.
- Look for cheap but awesome things to do on date night (like playing strip poker at home, or meeting up for a honeymoon lunch date).
- Sell your used smart phones. Find the best place to sell used phones here.
- Fight property taxes to decrease your tax bill (we saved over $600 by doing this).
- If you work for yourself, find cheap childcare options for work at home moms.
- Consider getting your small claims court case on court tv shows. They typically pay the judgement and an appearance fee!
- Take your family entertainment budget wayyyy down by using one of these these free 33 fun things to do at home with family, or one of these 100 family fun night ideas at home.
- Figure out how to save money on groceries, either using coupons or not. Aim to cut down by $150-$200/month!
- Take advantage of Tupperware's replacement warranty, even if it's been 20 years! I did.
- Shop around for your surgeries and operations (as long as they're not emergencies). I shopped around for hernia operation costs, and was amazed at the difference I would pay out of pocket!
- Go through this page on how to spend less money – lots of strategy + concrete tips in there.
- Whittle down your weekly food bill by figuring out how to save money on food.
- Buy experiences not things. And yes, there's tons of really low-costing experiences, too!
- Make your grocery list for two weeks at a time (I've got a sample with menu/recipes). The less you're in the store, the less you'll spend!
- Use cheap things to do with your family at home to keep you all entertained + bonding!
- Consider downsizing to one car (we've had one car for over a year now!).
- Consider purchasing beater cars instead of purchasing used, leased, or new cars. Heck, you might even consider being a one-car family, like we did for 2.5 years.
- Find out how to find an honest mechanic to save money on your car repairs (especially helpful strategy if you own a beater cars!).
- Dispute any hospital bills or medical bills you think are in error. Here's our experience with how to dispute a hospital bill.
- Use these Bachelorette-style, inexpensive date ideas.
- Play the Drugstore Game.
- Read about how to pay off your mortgage faster…then get to work doing it.
- Learn how to save money on electric bills in apartments.
- Pick up a few extreme couponing tips you didn't know.
- Check out these at home date nights for married couples (no TV allowed!).
- Learn the art of negotiating medical bills.
- Take one of these 30 day challenges (all free!).
- Declutter for the holidays and earn cash at the same time.
- About a month before your birthday, sign up for these birthday freebies so that you can get lots of free products when your birthday rolls around to make it extra special.
- Start using swagbucks to do your internet searches, and earn gift cards or Paypal cash! Don't forget to pay yourself first (i.e. this is one of the most simple ways to save yourself money in a savings account — just put all your swagbucks earnings in there!).
- Sell old appliances for cash.
- Read about how to save money on health insurance premiums (even with your employer!).
- See if you qualify for any of these savings match programs.
- Read about how to save money on electric bill.
- Get cash for scrap metal laying around your home (or neighborhood).
- Don't say “no” to vacations, just reconsider your cheap weekend getaway.
- Unplug from technology at least one evening a week.
- Source all the books you want to read, but cheaply (of course, interlibrary loan at your library is your best bet!). Also, here's free full-length audiobooks, and free eBooks for Kindle.
- Reconsider shopping at dollar stores.
- Consider creative ways to pay off student loan debt.
- Question your brand loyalties.
- Read how to save money on your water bill.
- Check out these Amish money saving tips.
- Save money on laundry costs.
- Cook healthy freezer meals on a budget.
- Shop every other week at the grocery store. Here's my meal plan for two with grocery list you can snag for free.
- Save on Netflix and use your local library's interlibrary loan system instead.
- Learn how to reward yourself in small ways, instead of experiencing reward inflation.
- Use this trade secret of frugality.
- Get inspired by these extreme frugality tips and extreme frugality stories.
- Score Free Money to Pay Down Your Student Loan Debt: You have probably heard of Upromise, an awesome program where companies will kick back a percentage of your purchases into a college savings account for an up-and-coming college student. I signed up for this program in 2002 for my niece, and have since accumulated $182 in free money to put towards her college tuition (or rather, to pay for a few textbooks). What you may be surprised to learn—I know I was—is that if you have student loan debt from certain providers then you can open an account for yourself! Link a loan through Upromise Loan Link, and each time your account accumulates the threshold of $10, then free money will automatically be put towards your own student loan debt.
- Find Higher Quality Items By Choosing the Right Thrift Store: I both donate to and shop at thrift stores. One of my favorite tips, aside from shopping on their “sales” days, is to go to thrift stores in higher-income areas. It turns out that you can find higher quality items in these neighborhoods versus thrift stores located in lower-income areas.
- Order Cold Subs to Avoid Paying Tax: Until recently, I had no idea that there was a sales tax difference between purchasing a cold sub versus a hot sub at sandwich shops. It turns out that if you purchase a hot sub, then you will pay sales tax for it. However, if you order a cold sub, you will not pay sales taxes on it. Some sources say that you must also purchase the cold sub to go, versus eating it in the shop in order to not be charged the sales tax, but I have no confirmed this.
- Score Truly Free Digital Prints (i.e. Pay No Shipping/Handling): I love free digital print deals like the next person. However, many of them come with hefty shipping and handling charges (try calculating the per-print cost of “free” digital print deals from the shipping and handling charges to make sure you are truly getting a deal). The solution to this is by picking the photos up yourself at a local photo center. I recently did this with a free 8X10 photo collage I got at Walgreens.com. I simply checked a box to pick up in the store nearest to our house, and the total was $0.00. Not every site will allow you to do this, but it’s worth a try.
- Earn Free College Credits: Other than taking Advanced Placement courses in high school to receive college credit and/or getting a free ride on scholarships and grants, I had no idea that you could potentially earn college credit for free. Recently, I found this website where you can do just that. Before you get too excited, you need to make sure that your college will accept CLEP credit. I searched for the college where I graduated, and they do not accept CLEP credit. However, I found several universities that I know that do accept it. Imagine if you could shave an entire semester worth of costs off by taking an extra class online each summer?
- Source Cheap Plants for Your Home for Years to Come: By now you might know about the clearance sections at Lowe’s, Home Depot’s, or other gardening centers. If not, be sure to ask someone at a cash register if they have an area where they keep their less-than-desirable plants to sell for clearance. To take this even a step further, keep on the lookout for perennial plants in the clearance section. I was able to score two perennial plants that had already flowered for a great price of $1.00. These were planted along the side of our house, and will hopefully keep coming back year after year.
- Grab Cheap Holiday Swag for Next Year: I’ve discussed this one before, but it’s such a great way to keep money in your pocket that it’s worth a mention again. A simple way to snag the more expensive holiday items at 75-90% off is to purchase next year’s holiday decorations, cards, wrapping paper, etc. in the after-holiday sale this season. In the wintertime, if you find yourself grocery shopping or returning a gift, take the time to peruse the seasonal aisle as well. This is how I scored beautiful Christmas cards (the really high-quality kind) at 85% off two years ago, and thick wrapping paper for around the same discount. It’s an amazing way to save on seasonal items, and when you unpack it from the closet next year, you will be pleasantly surprised.
What to Do with Free Samples (Freebies)
Perhaps you have wanted to send away for free sample boxes with free shipping, or to review products for free, but do not see the point in doing so.
After all, how is a little 3 oz. bottle of shampoo going to help you in the long run?
Well, I am here to tell you that there are several great ways for you to use free samples.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Make a Guest Basket: Put together a guest basket for your guest bathroom, sort of like a hotel. Include toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, disposable razor, floss, etc. This added touch will make your guests more at home and appreciative of your hosting talents.
- Make a Travel Bag and Gift to a Student: Purchase a travel makeup bag, and fill this with all of the airline-safe free samples you have received. You can give this as a gift to a college or high school student going abroad, a friend taking a honeymoon, or even someone going off to college.
- Make Your Own Travel Bag: Use this for your own personal travel. Keep all of these items in a travel bag so that the next time you take a trip, you can just grab it and go without having to pick through your own items at home to figure out which to pack.
- Reuse the Sample Containers for Travel: After you use the products from these containers, wash them out and use them to put your own products in for when you travel instead of purchasing a set. The containers that free samples come in are generally all within the allowable 3 ounce limit for liquids on airlines.
- Gift to a Mother-to-Be: You can collect free baby samples of products, then purchase a baby traveling bag and fill it with products. Purchase a few baby travel tools and give this as a baby shower gift for mothers who plan on traveling with their infants.
How to Live Frugally and Happy
Your life is valuable. In the time vs money debate, time wins out – hands down.
So, you've got to enjoy this life you are given on earth, however long that is for you.
And you know what's NOT enjoyable? Being told no – by either you, or someone else – all the time.
In order to really get frugal living, joyously, you need to stop telling yourself + your family “no”. Instead, ask how.
No is easy. No doesn't cost money (usually). No means we're building up a wad of “yes's” in our savings account because we've learned how to save money, or putting money towards debt.
But ‘no' is also unimaginative. It's limiting. And it's darn right boring after awhile.
You start feeling like you're missing out on things. You start feeling like you're working to pay other people for things you don't want to pay for anymore. You start feeling deflated, as if you'll never get out of this stupid cycle of work-bills-work-bills. Like money is the dictator and you're kind of just at its whim (isn't it your paycheck, after all?).
‘No' became a reflex for us, like when the doc whacks your knee in that special spot and your leg kicks up without you telling it to.
Frugal Living Tips from the Great Depression
People who survived the Great Depression are changed people.
My grandfather was one of them, though he was very young.
Lucky for him, he lived on a farm. So, he told me that his family was always okay because they could grow their own food. He also told me about how they would always let the random hitchhiker or homeless person get a meal plus spend the night in our hay barn.
You'll want to check my article out on how did people survive the great depression for more extreme frugal living tips from the Great Depression.
Did I inspire you to create a frugal strategy, and really see how frugality can change your life? I hope so! Combine some of the best frugal living tips out there with your strategy, and you'll be unstoppable.
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