There is this odd stigma in modern times where when someone in society sees a person being frugal with money, they instantly get branded as poor, boring, or any similar attribute.
This can’t be farther from the truth.
Frugal people are simply being careful with where they spend their money, as spending money uncontrollably can lead to becoming poor.
Normally, when you start pinching pennies, it’s either because you’ve noticed that you can’t keep up with your bills and that you’re going deep into debt, or because you want to save up for a vacation, a new car, or something else, so you start seeing what you can cut out of your monthly routine.
Most people don’t even see the hidden expenses and budget leaks that rack up into large amounts over time – sure, getting some extra sides for an entree is only 60 cents, that extra feature from your cable company is an extra $2, and so on and so forth.
While they seem small on the side, a dozen of these can end up taking away a lot of money.
So what’s the trick to the frugal lifestyle?
There are many tips, which I’ll go through with all of you promptly, but the most important one for the average family budget is that to be frugal with money you need to be intentional about your spending and resourceful in saving.
What does that mean?
Well, don’t go shopping for every little thing you see out on the street corner.
Most, if not all of those are luxuries, and depending on your budget, you can only afford a certain amount of luxury.
As for the second part of that motto, that means that you should always look for opportunities to save on money without stepping too far out of your lifestyle comfort zone.
If you aren’t ready to follow this base tenet, then there is no point in following the others, as you’ll only end up blowing through all the money that you save up regardless and you’d be back to square one in a vicious cycle that’ll only cause you more stress than needed.
Nothing good ever comes easy and it always takes a certain level of discipline to work toward being frugal with money.
Sometimes you may luck out, but that’s too inconsistent to rely on. But, if you keep at it, you’ll be seeing the results show and the benefits start piling on.
The best part is that you get to construct your own frugality plan based on what works for you.
You don’t want to sacrifice your entire lifestyle for financial freedom; that’s not the point.
Frugal Living Tips And Strategies
The first place you should look to save more money at when wanting to see big positives in your bank account is your home.
The bills you pay for your heating, electricity, and such are what make up most of those hidden extra expenses without you realizing it.
While it will take a bit of time and some upfront investing to see the fruits of your labor when it comes to cutting down on costs in your house, it will be your biggest money saver overall.
1. Replace your windows
The main problem with heating is usually not down to the air conditioner itself, but the insulation in your house.
You can keep blasting your AC on high for 5 hours straight to heat your house up during winter or cool it down in the summer, but all of that escapes through a poorly insulated room, only to revert right back to outside temperature.
You can’t really check your walls properly, but you can at least check your windows for any potential damage in their seal.
If you have older, wooden-frame windows, then that’s already cause for alarm and reason for you to replace them, since they’ve undoubtedly suffered some damage as is.
The initial cost of replacing will put a dent in your budget, but you’ll have to power through it.
Trust me, it will make up for itself in spades in a year or so when you only need to turn the air conditioner on for 20 minutes to get nice and cool or toasty, depending on the season.
And don’t skimp out on quality here, since then there’s little point to doing this.
Make sure to get modern windows with proper insulation that will last you a long time, and hire a professional to install them.
2. Buy a programmable thermostat
Speaking of conserving on the heating and electricity bills, the next logical step would be to get a thermostat to control how long your house needs to get heated or cooled for.
This way, you don’t have to bother with the remote yourself and just let it do all the work.
Just make sure to adjust it seasonally to a temperature that’s slightly lower or higher than the one you want so it doesn’t start turning on more than it needs to, which will cause you more harm than good.
The best part about it being programmable is that you’re the one personalizing it, so you can set it to always start working at a certain time or only when there are people inside and the temperature isn’t suitable.
Just make sure it’s out of reach of children because then you’ll have a really bad time.
3. Replacing cable in favor of streaming services
Let’s face it, TV is slowly becoming a relic of the past, and an overpriced one at that.
If you have a PC or laptop at home, chances are you can watch everything you normally do on TV there.
Your cable can cost up to $60 on average, which is a sizable chunk of your budget, and it racks up to an annual cost of $720.
Conversely, some streaming services like Netflix, Disney+, Hulu or AppleTV go from $12-30 a month depending on the plan, which, in the worst case scenario, is already a 50% cut on this expense.
The price of cable inflates because of the sheer amount of channels on it – when you really only watch a dozen at best.
Streaming sites allows you to curate content and help you plan ahead, so you can subscribe to one service the first month, watch the shows you want there, cancel, and then switch to another one for the next month, and so on and so forth.
If you want news and the like, you can always browse the web from your cell phone or PC and view them at your leisure there for free.
If you’re concerned you won’t get the feeling of the big screen anymore, don’t worry, just buy a smartTV and play YouTube or your selected streaming service directly on it.
A cheaper alternative would be to get an HDMI cable that connects to your PC and allows you to use your monitor as a display instead, but that’s a personal preference.
Now here is where the bulk of small expenses are.
The household ones are sizable, but sometimes hard to push forward due to the necessary upfront cost.
These ones just require a bit of discipline to see through.
Working through these will help you work on yourself and, in turn, make you a more responsible and diligent person, so these money tips hold a twin meaning to them.
1. Design a budget
Before you start anything, make sure to work through your personal finances first, categorize your expenses and see how much of a budget you get each month.
The whole point is to make this as big as possible so you’re able to save a portion of it for emergencies and similar.
Once that’s done, we make a budget calendar and start shaving off the unnecessary expenses.
This will be the point of most of these tips here – making your income stretch further.
The most important part is that you keep sticking to it, never exceed it.
Always stick to the same exact budget and stick any extra earnings aside as savings for whatever you’re saving up for, or for a rainy day.
2. Don’t fall into the peer pressure trap
It’s very hard not to give in to the temptation of breaking into this savings fund that we’re meant to be setting aside when we see a friend of ours or someone on social media showing off something new that they’ve bought.
It takes a strong will to do so and not everyone can do it right off the bat, so don’t beat yourself up if you slip up a few times, it’s only natural.
Just don’t let it happen too often. If it does, force yourself to be better; tell yourself that that slip up will be the last.
Take responsibility and be adamant in your frugality to avoid overspending on unnecessary stuff as much as you can.
The budget is sacred and reality can hurt, but you came here to read about saving up to afford things later, not to splurge your entire budget on one piece of clothing or something less useful.
3. Work on quitting bad habits
This is what I meant by something less useful. Stuff like drinking, smoking, even the lottery and gambling altogether.
Sure, they may seem like negligible amounts when looked at in a vacuum, but when you add it all up, they’re quite the expensive habits that drain your budget away like a sewer grate sucks up water.
Not only are they pricey, but drinking and smoking will have a negative effect on your health as well if you’ve developed an addiction.
Plus, all of these are a great cause of stress, and gambling especially can be your downfall if you get in too deep.
Habits are hard to quit, but you need to start by establishing set boundaries for yourself.
Have a seat, think about how big of a negative impact these things have on you, and come to your own conclusion.
Hopefully it’s the one where you drop these habits in favor of being frugal with money.
4. Quit the gym
This one can be optional because it solely depends on how much you go to the gym.
Most people tend to keep renewing their membership because they fall into this thought process of “I’ll start going next week” and they never do.
The safest way to deal with that is to simply drop it altogether and just stick to exercising outdoors or in the comfort of your own home.
Sure, you won’t have all of the fancy equipment, but DIY stuff is all you need to stay in shape if you keep to well-balanced diets and regular exercise.
Plenty of trained professionals post workout routines online anyway and apps for fitness do exist to help you progress at home in a healthy and manageable way rather than being forced to do so.
5. Alter your phone’s data plan
As a modern, 21st century society, we tend to spend most of our time connected to the internet because we love staying on top of information, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be so.
All of the data offered by your phone company can easily be replaced with the free Wi-Fi coverage you get nearly everywhere in the US, and for indoors you can just stick to your computer.
The plans they put out are usually as expensive as they come, especially if you go unlimited where they just gouge your wallet.
Take it from me and just cancel the service outright if you can and just rely on what Wi-Fi you can hook onto when you can. It pays to be offline for a while, both financially and mentally.
After all, always being available carries a massive amount of stress with it too.
6. Stick to the manual car wash
By that, I mean that you should start cleaning your car by hand instead of paying for the commodity of a regular car wash.
Those things can get rather expensive and cost up to a few hundred dollars if going all out.
It does pay to keep a clean car for a better self-image, but stick to your trusty garden hose and some fresh towels or rags.
It’ll save you a lot of money and give you a sense of accomplishment once you’re finished.
While it may take a lot longer than an actual car wash, at least it’s more precise and this way you get to choose the smell of your car rather than whatever they funnel into the car wash for you.
While not the highest priority tip and potentially skippable if you really cannot find the time, I’d still suggest considering it (or at least paying your kid to do it, if they’re old enough.)
7. Drive safely
Seeing as we’re already on the topic of cars, it’s worth mentioning that you should never risk rushing to work or anywhere else for that matter.
Traffic rules are there for a reason and you would do well to obey them, otherwise you might be facing a hefty speeding fine.
It’s not the officer’s fault that you’re getting a ticket, it’s just poor management on your part initially.
Make sure you have a proper schedule sorted and that your alarms will actually wake you on time for work so you can avoid speeding tickets.
If anything, set them half an hour earlier so you still have time to wake up and won’t have to hurry to work or risk getting into a nasty fender bender along the way.
What’s important to note is that if speeding tickets keep happening, it might affect your standing with your car insurance company too.
8. Manage your insurance policies
While yes, insurance is a great thing and insuring oneself to get some sort of compensation for something that may happen is great on paper, it also drains a lot of your wallet away from you.
Sit down, much like you did when calculating your budget, and list how much you spend on each insurance policy, then weed the unnecessary ones out and only keep the essentials like your life and car insurance and such.
Especially try avoiding ones that try to rip you off by only covering a set amount of cases and not everything that is likely to happen in the event of an accident.
9. Seek free entertainment when you can
By this I mean to lay off the wallet when you decide to go on a random walk and end up buying dozens of dollars worth of stuff.
Practice self-discipline, it’s the key to maintaining a frugal lifestyle with many of these tips, and it’s no exception here either.
You don’t need to grab junk food if you planned your meals out on time nor do you really need that blouse that’s hanging out behind the glass window pane.
In fact, tune out whatever is unneeded in your environment when you go out for a walk. Just think of yourself and the goal you set out to do with said walk.
Something like going out for a jog in a local park, heading out to a local library to find some peace and quiet or to read some new book, maybe going over to an art exhibition at a local gallery or some other random event.
Surprisingly, you can find a lot of events locally that are free to attend and are not lacking in quality whatsoever, it just takes a bit to find.
But anyone who knows their way around a phone can manage that these days, so you should be good.
One suggestion is to call a friend to join you, but that might require a bit more discipline as some friends tend to have a negative effect on your wallet.
Speaking of which, avoid frequenting places like the cinema too often or cafes.
Or rather, expensive cafe orders. You don’t need to have a drink every time you sit down.
All those coffees burn a hole through your wallet as well.
Trust me, I should know – I work on four of those puppies a day.
10. Spending more time with your loved ones
Life is sometimes a lonely trade and no amount of saved money can help you out with that.
If you feel like you can’t stop yourself from spending when you leave home, consider just calling your family over or just spending more time with your kids and partner.
Create your own family rituals, take a break and enjoy the treasures life has given you already.
Cherish them and they’ll cherish you back. You’re all in this together, after all, and they’ll try to help you out any way they can.
There is no need to buy them any expensive gifts for their birthdays, celebrations, or similar, just give them something from your heart as well as your own presence, and it should be more than enough to last them during the festivities.
11. Pay your credit card bills on time
If there is one thing that’s certainly a drain on your funds, it’s the credit card bills that have piled up over time and interest just keeps pushing them higher and higher.
In fact, this is one of the main reasons why we start living a more frugal lifestyle, to save up to eliminate any lingering credit card debt, since it risks getting out of hand.
Stay organized and always make sure that you pay everything on time.
That way, you’ll also keep a healthy credit score for any future loans that you might need if you ever start thinking about moving to a new house or even open a business or something of the sort.
And they don’t give these big loans out to people who slack on their payments.
I’d suggest you keep that in mind. Once you’ve done that, you should look toward the next tip.
12. Try negotiating with your bank for lower interest rates
Once the bank sees that you’ve been paying your bills neatly for some time, they’ll note how punctual and accountable you can be and might be in the avenue of helping you lower the interest rates you pay on said bills.
This does require a year or two of diligent regular payments though, so do be patient.
Plus, it’s not always a guarantee that your current credit card company is willing to lower your interest rates, in which case you should re-evaluate if it’s worth it to be a well-behaved customer or perhaps time to swap banks.
13. Wear clothes more than you’re used to
While it may sound like a disgusting idea at first, as long as you maintain your hygiene, this shouldn’t pose any issue.
Extending the clean lifespan of your clothes will greatly reduce the number of times you’ll be needing to turn your washing machine on by watching the clothes hamper fill up slower and slower.
Not to mention, all that washing also takes its toll on the lifespan of clothing items.
A can of antiperspirant will do wonders for us, while a simple undershirt can aid either women or men in soaking up sweat over our actual shirts.
A win for hygiene and a win for finance in any case.
14. Buying used clothes at thrift stores and similar places
While most people consider this anathema, used clothing stores tend to house some hidden gems within them and the quality of the clothing usually isn’t half bad, it’s just the stigma of wearing something already worn that tends to drive people away.
I personally don’t see the problem, but to each his own.
It’s their loss, as this is the most common cash saver for people who are frugal with money.
So, in case you’re not above thrift stores, I suggest you go to your local Goodwill or similar places to stock up on clothes for you or the kids.
15. Don’t be a hoarder
Seriously, don’t. It won’t benefit you in the slightest.
Anything that no longer fits or serves a purpose in your household can be sold off or just gotten rid of to free some extra space up.
The main targets are obviously clothes. If your kids have outgrown their clothes, then you can just package them up and sell them.
The same goes for toys and the like.
If there’s no place to sell them near you, then you can just make it a fun experience and organize a garage sale to help stock others up with items you no longer need.
They’re always a nice cash injection to help deal with any lingering debts.
16. Get a side job
It may not be something big, but an extra source of income is always welcome – IF you can manage it.
Don’t overwork yourself by thinking that you can cover everything and more by yourself; you’ll just burn out and then nobody will be happy.
Organize your schedule and seek a part-time job that fits your timetable.
It doesn’t have to be anything spectacular, as long as it’s worthwhile.
While this step will give your financial plans a bit of a boost, this step is purely OPTIONAL in case your health would suffer for it.
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17. Learn some DIY skills
I’m certain you all had shop class when you were younger.
If not, then it’s high time you learn some skills that can be rather applicable in your household besides cooking and cleaning.
While some things are best left to the professionals, you can still learn some basic DIY skills around the house to help you maintain the functionality of your shelves and appliances.
And it’s all thanks to the help of the internet again, as there are plenty of guides there that can help get you started, whether it’s YouTube tutorials or something of the sort.
18. Buying reusable items
Now, just because we’re trying to be frugal with money doesn’t mean that we have to be wasteful now, does it?
Some of our initial purchases of one-time purpose items like paper plates and similar may seem cheap and efficient at first.
But, the opportunity cost does end up racking up to quite a bit higher than if you were just using regular reusable plates and forks, since those just use water to clean up.
So try going green in a sense and grab some reusable alternatives like cloth diapers, solid/plastic plates, water bottles, and the like.
19. Plan your trips on off-peak hours
So now that you have scrounged some money up and you are ready to go on a trip, you are almost ready to travel.
Before you book your ticket, make sure you get it in off-peak hours, that way you get lower ticket prices and less of a crowd on your transportation of choice.
Try to still keep it in-season, but if not, it’s not that big of a deal. I’m sure the place you were planning to visit is nice all year-long.
Now that the lifestyle bit is over and done with, it’s time to move onto what we eat and how we go about getting it.
It’s time to discuss how we can make sure to get the most out of our grocery shopping and save money while doing so.
These should be rather simple to follow through.
Again, all you’ll need is a bit of organization and the willpower to incorporate these new changes into your daily routine.
1. Empty your pantry
First things first: Every time you are wondering what to make, take a look at your pantry and see what you have left over.
Something can surely be made into a few budget meals with the ingredients on hand, and if not, just make sure to note them down so you don’t need to wonder if you need to purchase more or not the next time you go shopping.
It’s a crude method, but at least it’s one that will help prepare you for the rest of the frugal food tips.
2. Make a grocery list
Yes, it does sound cliche, but it’s a tried and true method.
It always helps to have a designated list to keep track of what you need and don’t need.
This way you won’t end up grabbing a few extra packs of Cheetos, Oreos, or random food items that you’ll just end up throwing away because you couldn’t keep up with the expiration date, thereby saving you money and the time it would take to throw this out in the process.
3. Plan your meals
This is what the grocery list is for.
It’s derived from you planning out your meals for the next few days and writing the ingredients down to prevent any extra purchases from occurring.
Budget meal planning is a crucial skill and it might seem boring initially, but some sacrifices have to be made in order to save some money after all.
Another thing to mention here is that when you’re planning your meals, make sure to make most of those meals something that you can cook in bulk and that can be frozen or stored in the fridge for a few days.
Something like baked beans or vegetable stews that would just need a re-heat to revitalize them as good as new, if not better, so you can divide the portions out before you store it for the next day or similar.
Plus, monthly meal planner and buying in bulk is cheaper than buying in small batches. A gift and a curse on our society.
Meal planning is also something you might need to do if you’re still a working mom.
You might not get enough time to prepare a healthy lunch to carry to work in the morning, but you sure can make something the night before and store it in the fridge until it’s time to go.
This ties back into the earlier punctuality tip about avoiding speeding tickets, as it saves precious minutes one needs to get ready for another day of work.
4. Take up couponing
Couponing is a tried and tested tradition of many frugal shoppers when heading to the grocery store for a supply run.
That said, you should still keep in mind to only look for coupons that apply to the essentials, since you certainly don’t need to get a tea set or a lawnmower just because there’s a coupon that can give it a few percent off.
No, stick to what you require for the next few days and see if those items have any sort of discount code.
Nowadays, it’s not just magazines that provide coupons; several apps as well as the internet itself handle a variety of coupons for all sorts of needs.
Pick out which ones work best for you and make sure to restock when you can.
If managed properly, couponing can save you quite a bit of money on a monthly basis, and it doesn’t take too much time to figure out thanks to the contributions of people who are better with computers than I’ll ever be.
As you can see, there are plenty of little bits that can contribute to enjoying a frugal lifestyle – too many to count on one simple list, especially since it varies from household to household.
Make sure to keep to the core tenet of sticking to your budget and start from there, expanding your strategy slowly as you go along, as this is a process that takes time, effort, and a lot of lifestyle adjustment once you start cutting back.
Do be careful not to cut down on too much at once since you’ll just be left miserable and your will to continue with this way of life will start to wane.
Always keep your comfort in mind when you’re thinking about cutting down on something that might be giving you joy.
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