What exactly does it mean to live frugally?
Many people assume that frugal living is a life void of luxuries and an endless pursuit of being cheap.
As someone who lives frugally, I can assure you that it is neither of those things.
Or, at least it doesn’t have to be…
I still enjoy shopping, eating at nice restaurants, and getting my nails done, while still saving money and being intentional about my spending.
You can too.
In this post, I’ll share 22 practical frugal living tips that you can use while still enjoying life.
But before you implement these tips, it’s important to get an understanding of what frugal living really is.
What is a frugal lifestyle?
There is no one definition for a frugal lifestyle. That’s because it is unique to each person.
My definition of frugal is being diligent about my spending—ensuring that I’m not spending more money than I need to on things that I purchase.
It is also eliminating or reducing spending in areas that simply aren’t important to me.
Though someone else’s definition and approach to living a frugal lifestyle may be different from mine, the objective is still the same.
The overall objective of having a frugal lifestyle is to be intentional about how you spend your money.
Ultimately, when you are frugal, you don’t spend money unnecessarily or wastefully.
It is up to you to determine what is necessary for your life.
What is the difference between being cheap and being frugal?
Although people who are frugal are always looking for ways to save, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are cheap.
Cheap means that something is both inexpensive and of poor quality. Someone who is cheap merely looks for the lowest-priced options without regard to the quality or longevity of the item.
Contrarily, someone who is frugal looks for deals on quality items, services, and experiences.
How to be more frugal with money
Being more frugal with money simply means that you are more intentional about your spending.
To effectively do this, you will need to get on a budget.
A budget will allow you to allocate your money in a way that reflects your priorities and financial goals.
Within your budget, you can choose where you want to reduce your spending to be more frugal with your money.
If you’re not sure what expenses you can reduce, use the below frugal living tips as a guide.
22 Tips to Live a Frugal Lifestyle
Here are 22 ways that you can be more frugal with your money. Each of these tips will not only save you money but will allow you to live a frugal lifestyle that you can still enjoy.
1. Use cashback apps
Smart spending means not leaving money on the table.
Cashback apps allow you to get money back into your pocket when you spend. Taking advantage of that is intentional, frugal spending.
I personally use all of these apps and have been able to earn over $500 back from my purchases.
2. Use coupons (but don’t be extreme)
Using coupons allows you to save money, but you don’t have to be an extreme couponer for them to be effective.
3. Shop sales/thrift
There’s no need to pay full price for items when you can find them on sale or at a thrift shop.
I have personally purchased new and once worn name-brand clothing items for a fraction of the cost by thrifting.
Today’s thrifting is a bit savvier than the thrift stores of the past.
Though they are still viable options, consider buying directly from sellers on platforms like Facebook Marketplace, Poshmark, or Mercari.
You can check out this guide to thrifting to learn how to find the best deals on quality items.
4. Shop off-season
A great tactic for saving money on clothes is by shopping off-season.
So instead of paying full price for a sweater during the winter, find it on sale during the end-of-season sales.
Retailers are itching to get rid of past-season items and will sell them at a deep discount. Take advantage of this and save money.
5. Repair items instead of replacing them
In many cases, it will cost you much less to repair a quality item than to replace it.
Take, for example, a pair of jeans that are now too big. You could spend $60 buying a new, quality pair. Or, you could pay a seamstress $10 to take them in.
Do the math! It’s cheaper to keep her.
It’s a good practice to have a reasonably priced seamstress and mechanic in your network to handle these kinds of repairs.
6. Buy used on depreciating items
Being smart with your money means that you don’t spend a significant amount on things that will depreciate. Instead, put your money into things that will increase in value.
An example of this is when you buy a car. As tempting as it may be to purchase the latest model from the lot, new cars depreciate an average of 9% the moment that it’s driven off of the lot.
For a $30,000 vehicle, that equates to $2,700 in value gone in minutes that can’t be recouped!
The frugal thing to do is to purchase this type of depreciating item used so that you don’t absorb the depreciation loss.
7. Look for free alternatives
There is still a way to enjoy life frugally. The best approach to doing so is to find free alternatives for the activities and things you enjoy.
- Get a local library card to check out books, magazines, movies, and more.
- Use the Hoopla app to listen to audiobooks for free
- Read community newsletters to find out about free events (concerts, festivals, etc.) happening in your area.
8. Meal plan & prep
Save on groceries by planning out your meals in advance. Doing so makes your grocery runs more efficient and you are less like to spend on things that you don’t need
Meal prep—preparing multiple meals in advance—helps curb your temptation to make unplanned stops to fast food restaurants.
Those quick meals add up in cost and can be avoided.
9. Regulate your utilities
A lot of money can be saved by making slight changes to the way you manage your utilities.
10. Eliminate unnecessary expenses
Eliminating unnecessary expenses should be something that you practice when reviewing your budget. Don’t ever pay for things that you no longer use.
Take a moment to evaluate what you actually use and cancel the expenses that you no longer need to incur. This includes unused subscription services and membership fees.
11. Learn to do it yourself (DIY)
Though some things should be left to a professional, others you can do yourself.
There is a plethora of information on the internet to teach you how to do simple house and even car maintenance.
Don’t be afraid to roll your sleeves up and get dirty to save a few dollars…and learn a new skill.
12. Recycle and repurpose household items
Another great way to save money is to recycle and repurpose old household items.
That old mason jar can be used for decor or storage. That old T-shirt can now be used as a rag to wash your car.
Get into the habit of finding multiple uses for items around your house and start saving money.
This tip will serve you well during Christmas time when you’re looking for ways to save money on presents.
13. Don’t waste food
My dad always taught me never to waste food. From his perspective, there were kids all over the world who were hungry and I’d better be grateful for my food by eating it all.
That idea never left me as an adult.
If you want to save money, then you want to definitely pay attention to your food consumption.
Leftovers are not a bad thing. Try them and see how much you save.
Also, don’t forget to check the expiration for items in your cabinet. Be sure to use them before they expire. If you don’t, you’ll have wasted hundreds of dollars in unused food.
14. Invest in reusable items
Did you know that the average person produces nearly 5lbs of waste every day?
Not only have we seen the adverse effects of this on our environment, but also our pockets.
Think about it… How many packs of disposable plates have you bought in your lifetime? What about paper towels?
This tip applies to me too as I try to be more continuous of my environmental footprint.
So as we do better for the ozone layers, let’s also save money by investing in reusable items like cloth napkins, real china to eat from, and other non-plastic items.
I’ve already made the leap and invested in these glass food storage containers over plastic Tupperware. They make great options for meal prepping (tip #8).
15. Invest in quality items that will last
When you purchase poor quality, you’ll find yourself buying the same item over and over again. So instead of spending more money on the same item, invest in quality the first time around.
This tip applies to clothes, furniture, and even vehicles.
Remember, being frugal means that you care about the price and quality.
16. Shop around
Do you remember the song Shop Around by the Miracles? Well, there was some great advice in those lyrics: “you better shop around.”
When it comes to looking for deals and making an investment in items, you always want to shop around. Never take the first price because the first price may not be the best price.
A part of being frugal is doing your due diligence and making sure that you’re not paying more for items than you need to.
Knowing how to negotiate is a skill that will bid you well when it comes to leading a frugal lifestyle.
You don’t get what you don’t ask for, so be prepared to ask for a better deal.
One tactic that will give you leverage in negotiating is paying cash. When you are able to pay in cash, you are more likely to get the attention of the person that you’re negotiating with.
My husband and I used this tactic to pay hundreds of dollars less for furniture in our home.
Negotiating is a skill that’s mastered by frugal people.
18. Do regular maintenance on items
Preventative maintenance helps you avoid spending unnecessary cash on replacing items or having major repairs.
Do regular maintenance on your appliances and vehicles so that they remain in great, working condition.
Here are a few things that you can do regularly to keep your vehicle and appliances in great condition:
- Change the oil in your car
- Rotate your tires & fill them with air
- Clean out the lint from your dryer
- Change your air filters in your car and home
19. Take advantage of your employee benefits
Did you know that your job and health insurance provider may offer benefits that you aren’t even aware of?
Benefits like reduced or free gym memberships and gift cards for participating in health assessments all tend to fly under the radar.
Some businesses also get reduced rates for things like phone bills and internet costs. When signing up for these services, be sure to ask if your company gets a corporate discount.
20. Use gift cards
Don’t let those gift cards that you’ve received for birthdays and Christmas go to waste. Use them to cover monthly expenses or to purchase things that are outside of your budget.
Instead of asking for gifts, be sure to ask for gift cards instead.
21. Sign up for rewards programs
Signing up for rewards programs for stores and businesses that your frequent can work to your advantage when it comes to saving money.
Hotel and airline rewards programs are particularly beneficial, as points can be redeemed for free stays or flights.
If you choose not to redeem them for travel, they can often be redeemed for gift cards and small gift items.
22. Reduce your taxable income
The ultimate way to save money is by reducing your taxable income.
For most people, taxes will consume the majority of their earned income. So if you want to save big, this is the one area that you shouldn’t avoid.
There are several ways that you can reduce your taxable income, including donating money or items to charity.
For more advanced and impactful techniques, I recommend consulting a CPA and reading the book Lower Your Taxes– Big Time by former IRS attorney Sandy Botkin.
Why is it important to be frugal?
Now that you have some tips for being frugal, it’s important that you actually implement them.
With so much economic uncertainty, it is critical that you know how to maximize your money and save where you can.
Having a frugal mindset and living a frugal life will allow you to weather fluctuations in the economy and your own personal finances.
Final Thoughts: Is it worth being frugal?
In the end, being frugal is worth it.
It’s not about just saving money. It’s being smart and intentional with your money so that you can build wealth.
Frugality is the way of the wealthy.
They understand that not being wasteful with money or spending it unnecessarily will allow you to put it toward wealth-building vehicles instead.
So if you can adopt their same practices—the frugal living tips from this post—it will put you one step closer to being wealthy too.
With the frugal living tips provided, you can still be prudent with your money while still enjoying life.