You might think frugal living is reusing your teabags or forgoing avocado toast. And to some people, that’s exactly what living frugal entails. But it doesn’t have to.
Living a frugal life means different things to different people. In this guide, I want to share some ideas on how to incorporate more frugality into your life.
You don’t have to do it all, but hopefully, you can find some frugal tips here that’ll help you achieve your money goals.
Frugal living has completely changed the outcome of my life. It’s allowed me to get out of debt, save a huge chunk of money, build an online business and travel the world with my family.
By following the frugal tips I list below, I’ve gone from spendaholic to saver and life is easier than it ever has been.
What is frugal living?
Frugal living is simply being intentional with your money. That means prioritising the things that are important and spending on them and reducing your spending on things that aren’t important.
A real-world example of this is my pantry. I only buy store brand staples. Cereal, pasta, flour, herbs and spices, tinned tomatoes, toilet paper.
Saving a few dollars on pantry staples means I can save more for travel. I don’t care about brand-name pasta but I do care about trips to Thailand.
How to Be Frugal Without Being Cheap
Frugal and cheap are often used interchangeably but they are not the same.
As an example, someone following a frugal lifestyle would research and ensure they were getting the best price on an item they needed, and buy the best quality they could afford. That smart frugal person knows that buying quality costs less in the long term.
A cheap person would buy the cheapest version of the thing they require, and it would probably break on them.
The frugal person would happily save money on things like fancy meals and designer labels so they can enjoy a family vacation every year because living a frugal life means balance.
A great example of how to be frugal without being cheap is when you go out for dinner. You might choose to just have a starter instead of a main meal or entree, and drink table water instead of wine and still give a generous tip. That’s frugal. A cheap person would skimp on the tip.
Benefits of a frugal lifestyle
There are huge benefits to a frugal lifestyle including less stress, more money to spend on the things you value and an increased appreciation for simple living.
I’m definitely happier now living simpler in a less-spendy way than I ever was when I was in debt up to my eyeballs with loads of shiny new things.
Why do you want to live more frugally?
I can tell you how to live frugally and save money but before I do, I’d really like you to dream big. Write your bucket list. You know, all those things you’ve always dreamed of doing but never got around to because you were working, too busy with life or just plain did not have the money? Write all those things down.
Since you’re on your way to a more frugal life you’ll have more money and more time, so those dreams of yours are gonna come true.
Learning how to live frugal took me from up to my eyeballs in debt to financial freedom. I have no doubt it can do the same for you.
Now – on to my best frugal living tips for achieving your dream life.
The Best Frugal Living Tips to Start Saving Money Today
These tips for living frugally are the ones I use in my day-to-day life. Living a frugal life has allowed me so much freedom that I’m not sure I could ever go back now.
When you think about how to live frugally, you probably think of cutting costs and living with less. Whilst lower expenses are an important part of living frugal, there are other things you can do to improve your finances so you can increase your net income, whilst reducing your outgoings.
1. Create a budget that works for your lifestyle
A budget is simply a plan for where your money goes each month. The best frugal living tips won’t make a difference if you don’t have a budget.
I like to think of my budget as a tool for getting you the life you want.
Finding the right frugal living budget for you might take some time as there are lots of different ways to budget.
I budget backwards, focusing on keeping my expenses low so I can save more. There’s also zero-sum budgeting where you give every dollar a job, the 50/20/30 budget which allocates percentages of your income to different areas of your life and numerous other ways.
One of my best frugal budget tips is to include a fun money category in your budget. That way, you have some money set aside for fun and won’t blow your budget the next time a friend asks you to meet for a coffee.
2. Increase debt repayments
Paying back your debt fast is another way to live more frugally as you will save money on interest payments in the long run.
We all know that the best frugality tips include spending less – that includes interest payments too! Most of us end up paying back our car, home or student loans twice when we count the interest payments.
Increasing debt payments even if it’s only by a couple of dollars is the best way to start saving on your interest bill. An easy way to do this is to see if your lender will allow you to round up to the nearest $10 (if your payment is $342/month – round it up to $350).
Gradually increase payments where you can (you’ll be saving more from living a frugal life), and you’ll soon become pretty fired up about destroying your debt (read this if you are interested in how I got out of debt and became a saver).
More helpful resources:
3. Find ways to make extra money
The best way to start saving money is to increase your income so you have some extra money to save. This is often the only answer for people wondering how to save money when you are already frugal.
Extra income helps to pad your savings account and takes the strain off when money is scarce. For anyone on a tight budget, frugal living will only get you so far before you have to focus on increasing your income.
There are so many ways to increase your income these days. I like to take surveys that pay cash when I’m bored.
Other ways to boost your income include finding a side gig to do in the weekends, or getting extra qualifications so you can earn more in your regular job.
4. Pay for gifts with gift cards
One of my best tips for living frugally is to avoid using your own money wherever possible.
I try to pay for Christmas and birthday gifts with gift cards earned from through online surveys throughout the year. I can easily earn $20/month worth of gift cards in little time if I put in the effort.
5. Set a frugal Christmas budget
You don’t start wondering how to have a frugal Christmas in December.
Planning for the holidays should start at least 6 months in advance so you have time to save money.
We usually do a pretty low-key Christmas, but if it involves travel the costs can add up. If you’re using gift cards for gifts and groceries, you won’t need as much cash, but it’s best to plan early.
Budgeting for Christmas will help keep this expensive time of year under control. I like to put a small amount aside each month in a dedicated account so I know I’m covered.
6. Get cash back on everyday purchases
Before you buy a single item, join Ebates and check if you can get cashback first. I love Ebates! I get cashback on so many items including books (from BookDepository.com, travel and hotel bookings, clothes and more).
7. Reduce your grocery bill with Ibotta
It’s easier to save a dollar than make a dollar. That’s why most frugal living blogs focus on ways to save money.
Joining Ibotta is one of the simplest ways to save money every day.
Ibotta is an app that allows you to earn money from scanning your receipts, claiming offers and using coupons – read more here.
The best thing about Ibotta is that you can save money on the things you buy regularly – including fresh produce. Once you have over $20 in credit you can cash out with Paypal or gift cards. Join Ibotta today>>.
8. Save an emergency fund
Do you have enough savings to cover the cost of your washing machine breaking down?
Could you cover mechanical repairs if they happened tomorrow?
If the answer is no, you need an emergency fund. An emergency fund can mean the difference between paying cash or getting further into debt.
Having a decent sized emergency fund ($1000 is an excellent start) will help you sleep better at night and stress less.
Here are some frugal money saving tips on how to save your first $1000.
9. Avoid debt where possible
One of the best tips for frugal living is to avoid debt. You can do this by having an emergency fund as we’ve just talked about, and you can also do this by being intentional.
Do you need to own an item to use it? You might be able to borrow it from a friend, or barter services. There are many ways to utilise items without ownership. Just taking the time to think through your options will help you avoid racking up credit card debt for things you might not use.
10. Downsizing your home
If you live in a too-large-for-you home, it could be costing you money that you don’t need to spend.
This was certainly the case for my family when we decided to downsize to a smaller home so we could save money (over $500/month).
11. Decluttering your possessions
For my family, learning how to live simply and frugally means living with less in all aspects of our lives.
Before we set off on our overseas travels we sold and gave away a load of our possessions. Only the items we actually needed were put into storage.
Even if you’re not planning on travelling long-term anytime soon, decluttering your possessions is a wonderful exercise in frugality and one that can actually save you money.
By getting rid of items you no longer use or have a need for, you’ll have more space for the things that are important in your life.
You might also find things you forgot you had, and reduce buying duplicate items because in an organised home you can *find* what you’re looking for.
You could also make some cash by selling your old items or create some goodwill by donating useful items to people in need. Check out this post for more decluttering tips.
12. Meal planning
Meal planning not only saves you money, but it can also save you time too.
I like to do my meal plan around what I already have in the freezer or cupboards. I then write my shopping list to fill the gaps in the meal plan.
This stops me buying things I don’t need – and don’t have room to store, and forces me to use up what we’ve got.
If you need help meal planning, the $5 Meal Plan is an awesome service that’ll send you out meal plans so you don’t have to do anything.
Meal planning is one of the best frugal tips because the grocery bill is usually one place most people can make savings (check out these tips for slashing your grocery bill).
(Confession time: I’ve paused meal planning just recently, as I look to reduce our grocery spending. Go here to read why)
13. Double batch your cooking
Living frugally 101 – never cook just one meal.
I either use my crockpotto cook up a bulk lot of meals or prepare enough for 2 full family meals.
Turning on your cooker costs money – make it count!
More helpful resources:
- The Make-Ahead Cook: 8 Smart Strategies for Dinner Tonight
- Prep-Ahead Meals From Scratch: Quick & Easy Batch Cooking Techniques and Recipes That Save You Time and Money
14. Never waste a hot oven
Another of my top frugal living tips – never waste a hot oven!
If you’re cooking a roast dinner and the oven is at full temperature, prepare some baking (muffins work great) to put in the oven as soon as you take out your main course.
They should cook in half the usual time.
15. Use a thermostatOne of the easiest ways to be frugal and save money is by using a thermostat.
Using a thermostat is a smart way to be efficient with your heating.
The Nest Thermostat claims ‘independent studies have proven that the Nest Learning Thermostat saved an average of 10-12% on heating bills and 15% on cooling bills. That means that in two years, it can pay for itself.’ That’s a serious saving. Check out the Nest Thermostat here.
16. Learn how to make good coffee at homeOne of my biggest struggles when learning how to live more frugally was coffee. I love barista-made coffee. But at $5 a cup, my budget had other ideas.
If you like coffee, one of the most simple ways to save money every day is to learn how to brew the perfect cup at home.
Buying a home espresso machine was the best thing I ever did for my budget. I instantly stopped spending $4-$5/day on double-shot lattes. And after a while, I actually started to prefer my own coffee.
Now that I’ve got my finances under control and know how to live a frugal life that’s right for me, I go out for coffee with friends and family whenever I want. But I always have a sit-down coffee in a real cup to savour the experience and I still make my own at home most days.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money to get a decent espresso machine. The Mr Coffee Cafe Barista Espresso and Cappuccino Maker pictured above sells well and has excellent reviews.
An even cheaper option is the Aicook.
With the right equipment, you can even make barista-grade coffee with a french press, just make sure you get the right grinder. See here for more.
However, you do it, learning how to make your favourite coffee drinks at home will save you a bundle of cash.
Note: I recommend staying away from the machines that require capsules. Not only is the environmental cost huge, but the capsules are not cheap and you don’t get the variety of tastes that are possible with a regular machine.
17. Wash your clothes in cold water
Washing your clothes in cold water actually makes your clothes last longer (source). This is because cold water preserves the dyes and does not shrink your clothes.
I run almost all my laundry through a cold cycle only. For everyday washing, a cold cycle should be just fine. Try it and see what you think.
18. Line dry your clothes
Line drying is another great frugal tip. Line drying will save you money on electricity and dryer sheets – plus not having a dryer can save you space if you only have a small laundry as we do.
We actually don’t even own an electric clothes dryer and don’t plan to buy one in the future.
19. Bulk up meals with lentils.
One of the best frugal tips I was told was to stretch out ground beef with red lentils.
Using red lentils to bulk up meals means I have been able to reduce the amount of ground beef I put into things like bolognese, casseroles and chilli.
This saves me loads on meat, plus lentils are packed full of goodness.
20. Shop your pantry
Using up what you’ve already got on hand is the best way to prepare frugal meals.
Unfortunately for those of us who aren’t kitchen masters, being creative with new meal ideas doesn’t come naturally.
One of my top frugal lifestyle tips is to check out Supercook. This site allows you to enter in the ingredients you have on hand and coming up with a frugal meal idea.
21. Try store brand
Every time you go shopping substitute one brand item for the store brand. This is a simple frugal tip to figure out which cheaper brands you can live with.
Frugal living is all about experimenting to see where savings can be made.
22. Buy used where possible
Almost everything you need was needed by someone else before you. Before you invest in something new, check if you can borrow it from someone.
If that’s not possible, check out online forums and sites to buy used.
Buying used is better for the environment. You’ll often be able to buy a higher quality item, used for less than the cost of a lower quality item, new. Think about that!
23. Switch to homemade cleaners
Cleaning products are one area where big savings can be made. Lots of frugal living advocates are big on making their own cleaners and I’ve gotta say, I now see why.
24. Replicate double glazing on the cheap
We live in an older home and don’t have the budget for new windows but the cold radiates off our single-pane windows, especially at night.
I was stoked to discover there are some frugal ways to replicate a double-glazing effect in old single pane windows, without the huge price tag.
I went with the Duck Window Kit. The kit consists of clear shrink film and double-sided tape.
Essentially, you run double-sided tape along the outside edge of the window. Then you measure and cut the film to fit the window (with around 50mm or 2 inches extra) and press it onto the double-sided tape.
The final step is going over the film with a hair dryer to remove any bunching or wrinkles. This step made the film very taut.
I’ll admit I was sceptical, but we all slept better with the heater on a lower setting and the next morning there was absolutely no condensation on either of our bedroom windows (we only put the film in the bedrooms) but our living room had condensation.
Result! Frugal savings in the form of a lower electric bill. Drier and warmer bedrooms resulting in healthier kids and parents for under $40.
Or even cheaper if you live in the US and can purchase from Amazon!
25. Switch to LED bulbs
One of the simplest ways to live frugally is to replace better. Don’t rush out and buy LED bulbs when your existing bulbs are still working just fine.
Just replace them with LED’s when they blow. I’ve tried to approach the LED issue as frugally as possible. First, I was only replacing with LED Bulbs when my old 60– 75-watt incandescent bulbs blew.
That’s because LED’s are expensive (around $12-$15 per bulb here in New Zealand) and I’m a tight-ass.
But when I got a 3-pack on special offer for $21 I quickly switched out bulbs where we use them the most – kitchen, living room and bedroom lamps. I’m more inclined to change my incandescent bulbs, as I have some CFL bulbs which are still going strong.
If you’re unsure whether to make the switch, check out this tool from EnergyWise.co.nz.
Frugal living with kids is totally possible. Actually, I reckon I’m a whole lot better with money since my kids came along.
Kids love the simple life, which can be very cheap if you do it right. Here are my top tips for frugal family living.
26. Try to breastfeed if you can
Gosh, this is a controversial one but hear me out. I know people who don’t even try to breastfeed. They prefer to bottle feed and that’s what they do from the day of birth.
These are family members of mine who live in a different country. It’s unfathomable to me as in Australia and New Zealand (I had one child in each country) we are pretty much forced to breastfeed by the midwives in the hospital.
And I’m grateful that we are. I was forced to breastfeed through extreme pain and eventually got the knack of it. And it’s saved me a lot of money. We’ve never needed bottles or tins of formula or bottle warmers or sterilisers.
If you can’t breastfeed, please don’t take offence to this. I know not everybody can, but if you want to have a baby on a budget, it’s a great way to keep costs down.
27. Don’t buy all the baby crap
Your baby needs very little, but the baby stores don’t want you to know that. I’ve prepared a helpful minimalist baby list of things you need and don’t need – check it out here.
28. Dress them in used clothing
If you’re lucky, the piles of hand-me-down clothing that are bestowed upon you at the mere utterance of a positive pregnancy test will be a welcome addition to your new frugal lifestyle.
Kids really don’t need new clothing. The only things we buy new for our kids are underwear and shoes (although I do buy used shoes if I find quality items in the thrift store).
29. Talk to your kids about money
Instilling frugality in your kids is a gift that’ll reward them their entire lives. I know it’s hard when children are surrounded by messages and advertising in the media and from their friends of new toys and must-have gadgets.
I bring my eldest grocery shopping and explain to him how much money we have to spend. We talk about our budget.
I tell him why we save what we can, so we can spend on fun family experiences like travelling or going to the zoo.
I’m not saying I have this under control yet, but I’m working on it.
I know one thing for sure, if I had learned how to be frugal when I was young, I wouldn’t have gotten into debt or had to rely on my parents to bail me out.
Educating your kids on money management is perhaps the best frugal living tips with a big impact, and it’s sure to save you money in the future.
30. Start frugal family hobbies
My boys love to ride their bikes, go to the beach to hunt for crabs, go foraging for fruit and go to the playground. Other than the gas to get to the beach, none of these things cost money.
Taking part in free activities that are fun for the whole family will show your kids that a simple and frugal life is a good life.
31. Live car-free or car-lite
If you’ve always been a two-car family, it might be out of the realms of possibility that you could go car-lite – a fancy term for becoming a one-car family.
But cars are expensive to buy, maintain and insure so living without one can save you a boatload of cash. If you’re looking for ways to be frugal and save money and you haven’t considered getting rid of your car, you might want to put that on the table.
We’ve been a one-car family since my youngest was born. My husband bikes to work and I have the car for school pickups and dropoffs, although I’ve recently started to bike to school with my kids so we are pretty much only using the car on weekends.
Online shopping means you can skip grocery pickup. If you live close enough to school, walking, biking or riding a scooter are great ways to spend more fun time with your kids minus the parking issues.
I’m not saying you need to sell your second car right away. But using it less is an easy frugal living change you can make which will impact your finances in a big way.
32. Get back on your bike
There are way more benefits of cycling than I can cover here so just know this – cycling is good for your body, mind and wallet.
Replacing shorter car trips with a bike ride is an easy way to be more frugal. Decent pannier bags will allow you to do a grocery shop on your bike, and a bike seat for toddlers is a great way to get them into cycling at a young age.
I use the Do Little Universal Mid-Mount Bike Seat pictured above and my 3yo loves being on Mummy’s bike.
33. Get to know your library
The public library is perhaps the most underrated tool in a frugalist’s toolbox.
Not only can you get borrow books, but you can also access newspapers, e-books, magazines, online courses and more.
My local library offers members access to online learning sites like Lynda and Mango languages completely free.
They also run story time and special free events. One of my favourite personal finance books is the story of a British woman who lived for a year on a pound a day. Her library membership played a huge part in her success. She attended book readings and loads of other free events put on by the library.
If you haven’t been to the library lately, take a look. You might be surprised!
34. Join a toy library
The Toy library has been a saviour for my family in our little house. Managing toys is a constant battle, so I’ve found that becoming a member of a toy library allows me to own fewer toys (and therefore have less toy clutter) but still have happy kids.
35. Start some frugal hobbies
Hobbies like gardening, carpentry, blogging, making your own jams, baking not only allow you to follow a passion and increase your skills, they can also save you money.
If you’ve been thinking about a frugal life or just wondering how to live frugally and save money, I hope this post has been useful.
Frugal living comes as the result of many small changes and can take some time to implement. That was certainly the case for me when I started to take ownership of my finances and get my debt under control.
Go easy on yourself, and give yourself the grace to stuff it up on occasion. Focus on the long game, and the exponential benefits of making small frugal changes to your life, and you’ll be golden.
What are your favourite frugal or money saving tips?