Whether you are thinking about paying off debt, saving money, reaching financial goals, or simply adopting the mindset of living a frugal life, these best frugal living tips will help you on your journey.
What does frugal living mean? Simply put, frugal living is living with intention. You prioritize spending money on things that matter to you in your life.
1. Make a budget
Having a budget sets the tone for living frugally. It helps you understand where your money is going. It helps you become more intentional with all the money that is coming in and leaving your pocket.
2. Try a cash diet
One way to make sure that you stick to your budget is by using a cash diet. This diet usually involves a cash envelope system. Each envelope represents a category (e.g., household expenses, entertainment, etc) in your budget. You are only allowed to spend the money in the envelope.
3. Make extra money if you have time
Speaking of side income, another golden frugal living tip is to make some money if you have time. Not only will you have a bit more money, but you will also feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
4. Think twice before you make a purchase
Humans are emotional animals. Sometimes, we may not necessarily be able to differentiate between needs and wants, This is why giving yourself some time to think before you make a purchase can cool down your head so you don’t buy on impulse.
When I am shopping online on Amazon, I like to place all the items I want to buy in my shopping cart. If I still want to buy them the next time I review the cart, then I will. However, there are always items that I end up deleting, saving myself some money in the meantime.
5. Purchase something because you need it, not because you want it (most of the time)
This tip is closely related to the previous one. Most of the times, you should buy things that fulfil critical needs in your life, and minimize your purchases that fall into the “wants” category.
Of course, I am a firm believer in moderation. I do believe that “wants” can fulfil critical emotional and mental needs and help make sure that we live well. This is why I do advocate for allocating a small budget for little luxuries to have in your life.
6. Take advantage of free trials
If possible, I strongly recommend that you try things out for free before committing financially. Many products and services, such as Amazon Prime, offer free trials. Make sure you test out those that interest you, and only make a purchase if you find them useful.
7. Spend money NOT based on other people’s opinions
Whether you want to admit it or not, we all want to look good in front of other people. Other people’s opinions of us do matter, but it doesn’t mean that we should spend to build a certain image we want to build in front of others.
Take the opinions of others, especially the ones close to you, into consideration when you spend money, but to live frugally, don’t let their opinions be the only reason why you purchase an item or a service.
8. Think through all the unlimited plans you are on
“Unlimited” makes everything conceptually easier: you will never have to worry about going over the limit. However, in many cases, there is no way you can even be close to the limit. Check the actual usages of all the unlimited services you are on, such as the internet, cell phone, and data. Do you really need unlimited plans, or can you spend less money on plans with a reasonable limit? You can save money every month on these recurring bills.
9. Use coupons
Coupons have been around for ages, and they are still an effective tool to help you save money. Using coupons is one of the tried-and-true frugal living tips that you should adopt if you haven’t already.
Nowadays, you don’t necessarily have to clip coupons out of newspapers or flyers anymore. Browser extensions like Honey or Capital One Shopping can easily help you find coupons and automatically apply them to your purchases so you can always get the best deals.
10. Cancel subscriptions you do not need
How often do you sign up for a subscription only to forget to cancel because you hardly use it? Now is the time to cancel all the subscriptions you do not need! This is especially true if you are subscribed to multiple subscriptions services that offer similar needs (e.g., all the streaming services). If there are shows available exclusively on a platform that you want to watch, remember to cancel the subscription after the shows are over.
11. Sell the stuff you haven’t used in over a year
Most of us, myself included, have bought stuff that we thought we would need, but have ended up leaving them on the shelves untouched. A simple frugal tip is to sell these items online.
Over the years, I have sold textbooks, bookshelves, musical instruments, a laptop, and fitness equipment on Amazon, Kijiji and Craigslist. I have also done some bartering on Bunz to get items I need in exchange for items that I have but don’t need. Selling items has helped me declutter and has also generated a small side income.
12. Dine out less or skip takeouts
This one is pretty self-explanatory. When you dine out or order takeouts, you have to pay for delivery fees, tips, labour, transportation cost, etc. All of these do not exist if you cook at home. Of course, I love dining out or ordering takeouts once in a while, but I do it mostly for special occasions. If you cut back on eating out, you can start saving quite a bit of money.
13. Meal prep
Meal planning can be another one of the fun and financially-savvy frugal living tips to use. It is also great for time management because you don’t need to spend time every day thinking about what to eat. Spend a few hours on the weekend to plan out your meals, make a grocery list based on what’s on sale, and get cooking! Your future self will thank you.
14. Batch cooking
You can save more by batch cooking. It is a great way to save money and time. The approach that I like the most is sheet pan cooking. Arrange your protein, vegetables (check out my guide on growing your own bean sprouts!) and starch on a sheet pan, add your favourite seasonings, and roast them in the oven. You can then portion out the food and store them in the fridge or the freezer.
15. Bringing your lunch to work
One advantage of meal prepping is that you can bring your leftovers as lunch for work. It saves you time because you don’t have to wait in line in the food court for food that isn’t particularly good, and it saves you money as well.
16. Take advantage of your employer’s benefits
If you are working at a company, chances are your employer provides you with some benefits. Read your pamphlets to understand what those benefits are, and take advantage of them whenever you can. For example, my company collaborates with a platform to offer discounts for a wide range of products and services, and it also offers a taxable benefit that can be used to reduce my gym membership costs.
17. Negotiate to work from home a few times a week
This is again a tip I learned because of COVID. Working from home saves me quite a few hours in commute time and transportation, without really impacting my productivity. I’d love to work from home a few times a week going forward. I am not sure if it is possible, but I’d like to try negotiating at least.
18. Negotiate your bills
Yes, all bills are negotiable. The worst-case scenario is that your request is denied, but the potential benefit of someone saying “yes” significantly outweighs the little time you spent on the phone.
If you have credit card debt, call the company and see if they could lower your interest rate. If you have a mortgage, check and see if you could reduce your mortgage rate. If your phone bill is too high, call your service provider and see if there is anything they can do about it. If you have student loans, see if there is anyway for you to consolidate them. Whatever the case may be, don’t assume that you can’t do anything about it. It’s better to be told “no” by someone than giving up the possible savings you can get through negotiating.
19. Call your vendors and inquire about discounts
This one is closely related to the one above on negotiating your bills. It helps to just pick up the phone and call your vendors to inquire about discounts.
For example, my car insurance company offered a special COVID-19 discount, but the discount was not explicitly marketed on their website (to be honest, I really think they should have). Had I not asked about it, I would have had to pay the same premium as pre-COVID.
20. Switch to an independent service provider
I was with a large internet service provider for the longest time, until one day I decided that I had enough of the expensive monthly bills to make the switch to an independent service provider.
I hesitated for quite a long time because I was wary of the quality of service and the quality of the internet. As a blogger and someone who spends a significant amount of time online, having a reliable internet connection is critical. However, after making the switch, my only regret is that I should have done it sooner. I was able to reduce my bill by about 40% without really any visible impact on my life.
21. Exercise frugally
There is an expensive way to exercise, and there is a frugal or even free way. Follow YouTube fitness instructors or running outside don’t cost you any money. You can purchase some dumbbells for under $10 each for strength training.
Of course, I understand that some people find it easier to stay motivated if they work out in a gym or attend classes. If that’s the case for you, please remember to check if they offer any discounts. Some gyms even have rewards programs if you meet certain goals, so make sure you participate in those as well!
22. Walk or bike as much as you can
I understand that for some people, especially those who live in rural areas, cars are a necessity. However, for those of us who live in urban centres, most places are within walking- or biking-distances. After all, we are paying a huge premium on rent just to be close to everything, so we should take advantage of that.
23. Look for free hobbies
Working on hobbies is a great way to spend time doing what you enjoy. If you want to enjoy simple frugal living, look for hobbies that you can do for free or at a very low cost. Hiking, watching documentaries, exercising, following YouTube tutorials to learn something new and having a board game night are all free fun things that you can do.
24. Turn off the light
This is a really easy tip you can do around the house. When you leave a room or the house, turn off the light! It can make a noticeable difference to your electric bill.
25. DIY gifts
If you have talents in designing, you may want to create your own gifts. It may even be more meaningful for the gift recipient because you dedicate many hours to making the gift.
I have to admit that I am not that great at designing gifts myself, which is why I tend to purchase useful but inexpensive gifts.
26. Use travel hacks
Whether you want to use travel rewards credit cards or search in incognito mode for plane tickets, you can save quite a bit of money using travel hacks. For
27. Cut your own hair
I didn’t know cutting hair at home was possible until the COVID-19 pandemic hit and all the hair salon were forced to shut down temporarily.
Although I won’t cut my own hair 100% of the time going forward because I still think a professional does a better job, I will most likely reduce the frequency at which I visit hair salons.
28. Invest in good-quality pieces
It helps to invest in good-quality pieces upfront when you need new clothing than replacing them once every one to two years. Your clothes last longer if they are high-quality, and you will probably spend less on cost per use. This is one of the frugal living tips that may not be so obvious at first sight. Although you may spend a bit more at the beginning, it will help you save in the long run.
29. Purchase clothes that do not require dry cleaning
Dry cleaning costs can add up quickly if many of your clothes require dry cleaning. I recommend that you don’t spend as much on garments made of silk, wool, velvet, suede and leather.
30. Buy second hand
If you are comfortable shopping at thrift stores, you should consider buying second hand. You will not pay full price on these good-quality products that sometimes even still have price tags on them.
31. Take advantage of credit card rewards
If you are a responsible consumer, then you should feel comfortable using credit cards. Most companies offer reward points or cash-back rewards for using their cards. You can save yourself quite a bit of money using cash back or reward points. As long as you can pay off your balance on time to avoid late fees, you should use a card to pay for your everyday expenses. The pros of using credit cards will most definitely outweigh the cons.
32. Get discounted gift cards online
If you shop regularly at certain stores, it can save you money if you purchase gift cards at a discount online. Here are a few sites you can purchase them from:
33. Use high-interest savings accounts
The best place to park your short-term savings is a savings account. It offers liquidity and gives you some interest.
34. Automate your savings
Closely linked to using high-interest savings accounts is to automate your savings. It is much easier to put aside money for your financial goals (e.g., an emergency fund) if you don’t see the money in the first place. Most banks now support automatic withdrawals. You can also speak to your employer about automatic deductions from your paycheque.
35. Consider having a higher deductible on your insurance policies.
If you are looking to lower your monthly payments, you may want to set a higher deductible amount on your insurance policies. Now, please keep in mind that in case something unfortunate did happen, you’d have to pay more out of pocket. I recommend that you set an amount that you can comfortable afford with your emergency funds.
Final Words on frugal living tips
There you have it, my top 35 frugal living tips to live a fulfilling life. There are many ways to save money, and start living frugally isn’t a difficult thing to do. Living a frugal lifestyle only involves some simple changes in your life, such as the money saving tips mentioned above, and you don’t have to be cheap!
Bella Wanana is the blogger behind bellawanana.com, a personal finance and lifestyle blog. She loves sharing with her readers the best tips and tricks on personal finance and how to live a balanced but fulfilling life. She is also a freelance writer, and she has been featured on sites like MSN.com, Reader’s Digest, The Financial Diet, Yahoo Finance, and GOBankingRates.