Looking to live a little more frugally? Tightening up your budget can seem very daunting, but sometimes all it takes are some small changes to help you save more and spend less. We’ve rounded up 20 of the best frugal living tips and hacks to boost your finances without the added stress. With a little practice, saving money can be a piece of cake.
What does it mean to be frugal?
A frugal person makes financial decisions with the ultimate goal of financial stability. In general, it means being very intentional with your spending and saving, instead of being impulsive or careless when making purchases.
However, being frugal does not mean you have to give up the things that are most important to you. It also doesn’t mean you have to skimp on luxuries that genuinely enhance your life and make you happy. One of the best parts of living frugally is that you can really prioritize what’s important to you, while cutting back on spending that isn’t truly making you happy.
For example, many people think that frugal living means they can’t go out to eat. However, a truly frugal person might occasionally go out to a restaurant they really love, but choose to cut back on takeout or lunches on the go at work, which don’t provide as much value. Being intentional with your spending and saving decisions is what’s most important.
Why should I be frugal?
There are so many great reasons to live a frugal lifestyle. Living frugally now can give you a huge amount of financial freedom in the future. You can use the money you save to build an emergency fund, which can be incredibly helpful if you lose your job or have an unexpected expense pop up. Living frugally can also help you save for retirement more quickly.
Top Frugal Living Tips
1. Create a budget and stick to it.
The easiest way to live more frugally is to create a budget and stick to it. However, this can also be one of the most daunting parts of getting your finances in order for most people. While many people recommend certain formulas for creating a budget, the truth is that there’s not one way to do it that’s better than another. You’ll need to look at your income and your unique expenses and see what works for you.
To create a budget, you’ll need to assess your income and your regular expenses. After spending money on things like rent and bills, a budget can help you stay organized with the money you have left over. Knowing exactly how much you want to save, as well as how much you can comfortably spend on things like food and entertainment, will help you feel more confident in your spending decisions.
If you’re struggling to create a budget, there are plenty of great smartphone apps that you can use for a bit of extra guidance. Some of these include Mint, You Need A Budget, and PocketGuard, but there are plenty more to choose from. Each app has its own unique approach, so you can try a few different options to see which one works best for you.
2. Plan your meals ahead of time.
One of the areas where it’s easiest to overspend is food. Taking the time to plan your meals in advance can be very helpful. Before going to the grocery store each week, decide what you want to make and create a shopping list, instead of just going in aimlessly. It can be very helpful to cook in bulk as well – if you have a few pre-made frozen meals in the fridge, it can reduce the temptation to order takeout when you’re feeling tired. You should also plan ahead for lunches at work and other meals where you’re going to be away from home. Making your lunches ahead of time and taking them to work with you can help you save plenty of money each month. Those small lunches out add up! Cooking at home also has the added benefit of being healthier than going out.
You can also take this approach with your favorite drinks. If you typically get coffee out in the morning, try making it at home a few days a week instead. If you like to go to happy hour with your friends, consider hosting a wine night at home occasionally. The key is to take a balanced approach – it’s unrealistic to completely give up eating and drinking out, but cutting back can really help you save money.
3. Reconsider your car.
For many people, one of their biggest monthly expenses is their car. The cost of car payments, gas, insurance, and maintenance can quickly add up. Depending on where you live, you may be able to use your car less or even get rid of your car altogether to save money.
If you live in an area with public transit and reliable rideshare services, you can typically still get around very easily without a car, and you’ll save a huge amount of money every month. You can also consider walking or biking to your destinations in the warmer months. This is a great way to get some exercise in and save money at the same time.
For couples, a viable solution might be to share one car instead of having two. While it does require a bit of advance planning, you can really cut back on your overall spending. Driving less is great for your budget, and it’s great for the planet as well.
4. Shop secondhand.
Shopping secondhand is a great way to save money on things like clothing and home decor, and it can also be a fun way to find unique items. Check out your local thrift store – if you’re willing to spend a little bit of extra time going through the racks, you might even find some of your favorite brands at a discounted price.
There are also plenty of online marketplaces where you can find secondhand items. Sites like ThredUP, DePop, and Poshmark all stock secondhand versions of high-end and trendy pieces. If you have a big event coming up, you can also rent designer items for a limited period of time on sites like Rent The Runway.
5. Take time to think about major purchases.
Before making a bigger purchase, give yourself at least one night to sleep on it and make sure it’s an item that’s really going to add value to your life. You might find that you wake up in the morning and realize you don’t really need it. Impulse buying is very common and it can kill your budget very quickly. It’s a difficult habit to break, but once you do you’ll find that it makes it much easier to be intentional with your purchases.
6. Swap clothes with friends.
Many people feel the pressure to look fashionable and wear the trendiest designs every season. However, it can be expensive to add new clothing to your wardrobe every season. A good way to switch up your wardrobe without spending any money is to organize a clothing swap with your friends. Everyone can contribute a few items to swap, so you’ll get a few fun new pieces without spending a dime.
7. Take care of your possessions.
One of the best ways to save money in the long run is to buy quality items that you know will last for years to come. It’s also important to take care of your possessions – if you’re constantly damaging them, you’ll end up spending a lot of money on repairs and replacements. One great example of this is your cell phone. If you don’t put a case on your phone, you could end up spending a lot of money to fix the screen when it breaks. However, if you buy a case up front, you can keep your phone in good condition. You can also apply this to clothing – if you get your clothing dry cleaned and mend small rips or tears, you’ll be able to wear each piece for much longer.
8. Choose your subscription services wisely.
Entertainment subscription services can seem like a small expense, but they can add up very quickly if you’re paying for several of them every month. Take a look at every monthly subscription you have and decide which ones are the most worthwhile. If you only log into a subscription service once a month, that’s a good indication that you can let that subscription go to focus on the ones you really love.
You also might consider sharing accounts with a group of friends. Each friend pays for one subscription service, and you all share the login information. You get more entertainment for the price of one subscription service. Alternatively, consider checking your local library for free entertainment before paying for a movie rental. You can also swap books with friends instead of buying new ones.
9. Stay on top of your debt.
Many people have some form of debt, but it’s important not to let it get out of hand. The longer you remain in debt, the more you’ll end up paying in interest in the long run. Talk to an expert about consolidating your debt if you can, which could help you pay less in interest. You’ll also want to make sure you’re making your payments on time each month, which will help you keep your credit score up. Having a good credit score can help you pay less in interest if you do need to take out a loan or a new line of credit later on.
10. Set up automatic savings and retirement contributions.
One of the biggest goals of a frugal lifestyle is to increase your savings. However, it can be very tempting to put off saving and have extra money to spend. To resist temptation, set up automatic deposits to your savings and retirement accounts each month. There are also apps like Digit and Guac that you can use to save money automatically and work towards your finance goals.
11. Work out at home.
One of the biggest expenses for many people each month is a gym membership. However, there are plenty of ways to work out without spending so much money. You can find a huge library of workout videos on YouTube. There are also plenty of great ways to do cardio without going to the gym. You can go running or cycling outside, or you can invest in a collapsible bike or treadmill to use at home. Keep an eye on local fitness events in your city as well – you may be able to find free or low-cost workouts that way.
12. Make your home more energy efficient.
An energy-efficient home is not only great for the planet, but it can also help to save you money on your monthly utility bills. One easy way to do this is to switch to LED lightbulbs, which use far less electricity than a traditional lightbulb. You can also switch to low-flow showerheads and faucets to cut back on water use. Finally, seal off your windows so you can heat your home more efficiently.
13. Swap nights out for nights in.
Going out for dinner or drinks can add up quickly. One great way to save money is to spend at least one weekend a month having fun at home instead of going out. However, just because you’re not going out doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Experiment with a new recipe, play board games, or watch a new movie. There are plenty of ways to stay entertained at home, and it’s an excellent opportunity to bond with the people in your life.
14. Get savvy with your travel plans.
Just because you want to live frugally doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a vacation. If you are flexible with your travel dates, you can use sites like Skyscanner to find great deals. For those who travel frequently, you can also save a lot of money by setting up rewards accounts and earning points with your favorite airline and hotels. You might also consider taking a bus or a train instead of a flight to save money on shorter trips. Finally, consider staying in accommodations that come with a kitchen, so you don’t need to eat out for every meal.
15. Use a water filter instead of bottled water.
We all need to stay hydrated throughout the day, but the cost of bottled water can really add up. Luckily, there are plenty of affordable filters that you can use with tap water. If you’re out of the house, consider carrying a refillable water bottle around with you instead of purchasing plastic water bottles.
16. Comparison shop.
Instead of purchasing the item that’s most accessible to you, take the time to shop around and find the best prices instead. You never know who might be having a sale on the items you need. Online shopping has made it easier than ever to find the best deals on whatever item you’re looking for. Even if you only save a few dollars each time you comparison shop, those savings add up over time.
17. Learn how to DIY.
You probably have at least a few services you pay other people to do for you regularly. Maybe you pay someone to deep clean your house, maintain your car, or do your nails. Take a look at the services you pay for and see if you can learn to do them yourself. YouTube videos have made it easier than ever to learn new skills on your own.
DIY projects are also a great way to make new home decor items or gifts on a budget. Not only is crafting great for your budget, but it can also be very fun. You might be surprised by how easy it is to craft your own items at home.
18. Check in with a friend or family member about your budget.
If you’re struggling to stick to your budget, you’re not alone. Chances are you have a friend or family member who is trying to save money too. Find an accountability buddy to help you stick to your budget. You can schedule regular check-ins and motivate each other to stay focused on your financial goals when things get tough.
19. Look for ways to get cash back.
There are so many different programs that will give you cash back on your purchases – you just need to know where to look for them. Many banks offer cash back programs for their cardholders, so ask your bank if this is an option for you. However, there are also cash back apps that you can use regardless of what type of bank account you have. With these apps, you can use their plugins to get cash back while shopping online, and you can also scan your receipts from in-store purchases to get cash back. Some of the most popular cash back apps include Ibotta, Fetch Rewards, and Shopkick. Many of these sites also offer coupons that you can use for everything from haircuts to gym memberships to online shopping.
20. Start a side hustle.
Living frugally isn’t just about watching your spending – it’s also about taking steps to improve your income so you can enjoy more financial freedom. One of the best ways to do this is to start an easy side hustle using skills and materials you already have. Have an eye for fashion? You can resell vintage items online. Have an extra room at home? Consider turning it into a vacation rental. Enjoy working with kids? Consider becoming a tutor. Starting a side hustle doesn’t have to be stressful or time consuming, and it can really boost your income.
Living frugally doesn’t have to be stressful – making just a few simple lifestyle changes can have a huge positive effect on your budget. A frugal lifestyle also doesn’t have to mean giving up the things you really love. Instead, living frugally means being more intentional with your purchases, which can help you feel more confident in your finances as a whole.