Frugal living can help you reach your financial goals faster. Keep reading for an introduction to frugality with some of the top frugal living tips.
I cringe at the word cheap. I have almost the same reaction when I hear penny-pinching and stingy.
I never wanted to be associated with any of those words.
But…I was broke…and in debt (like, a lot of debt). I needed to save money. I needed to fix my spending habits if I wanted to reach my goal of debt-freedom, and eventually my other financial goals like a fully funded emergency fund, traveling the world, owning a home, and retiring rich.
Being cheap seemed like the only option. It seemed like I had to go to extreme lengths to save every penny and I really didn’t want to live my life that way.
But after wasting a few years feeling guilty about not wanting to commit to the pay-as-little-as-possible mentality, I finally realized being cheap is not the only option.
I could live frugally by making smart, conscious money decisions. Frugal living could bring me closer to my financial and personal goals.
I could find ways to change my lifestyle and habits that are friendly to my wallet, without sacrificing every thing that brought me joy.
Learning to be a little more frugal can make a big impact on your finances.
What is Frugal Living?
Being frugal is about being considerate of how you are spending your money and why.
Frugality is about making intentional, smart financial decisions based on your personal values that also help you reach your financial goals.
People who are frugal tend to spend less money when they do make purchases, or to limit their spending when necessary.
Frugal people are more likely to use what they already have, find a coupon before buying an item, or ask to borrow something from a friend.
They may share a similar lifestyle as you, or may be completely different. The ways that people show their frugal habits will depend on their spending habits and values. Being frugal to one person may look like extravagance to another. Frugality will also look different depending on one’s income, debt, net worth, and future financial goals.
Benefits of Being Frugal
By becoming frugal, you can more clearly focus on accomplishing your big financial goals.
Even if you aren’t able to get a raise or take on more work, you’ll have more money because you’ll be spending less.
When you work to only spend money on what is most important or impactful to you, you’ll learn more about yourself and your values.
Being frugal can also be a way to become more mindful – you’ll be more aware than ever of what you consume and why.
Are only broke people frugal?
The term frugal is often linked to the idea of being broke, but it isn’t always. While there are frugal millennials right out of college, some frugal folks can even be the millionaire next door.
Warren Buffett, one of the wealthiest men in the United States, is notoriously frugal, choosing to invest and donate his money instead of purchasing lavish items.
Frugality can be a method to accomplish your larger, more important financial goals.
How to Start Living Frugally
With any lifestyle change, it might be difficult to immediately switch your habits completely. Allow yourself to start off small, perhaps by giving yourself daily challenges, such as “Frugal Friday,” where you either choose not to spend money, or try to implement one of the tips below!
Set some goals for yourself and assess them later to see how they work for you.
If becoming more frugal is tied to a financial goal, remember to keep your “why” in mind, and adjust your budget according to the new frugal actions you plan to set in place. Remembering your rationale for taking these steps will help you to stay motivated and to get started!
Frugal Living Tips
There are some simple ways to integrate frugality into your daily life while still maintaining a healthy sense of balance. You don’t have to completely give up everything in order to live a more frugal life! You can also choose to implement some or all of these tips, or try different ones in different seasons depending on your goals and needs.
Here are a some ideas for how to get started:
1. Buy only what you need…
…at the grocery store. How easy is it to have an idea of what groceries you will need to buy, only to be bombarded with exciting and tasty items on every aisle, or to get overwhelmed and buy too much? Instead, work to bring a list or order items ahead of time through an online pickup service. By working backwards to plan out what you will want to eat (aka meal plan), you can avoid buying too much and wasting food and money. Check out this post for a ton of ideas on how to save money on groceries.
…in a car and home. Yes, you’d want the newest and nicest option for both of these high-dollar investments, but what do you actually need? While there are some comforts that you may choose to not live without, consider how many extra fancy features you need in a car or home before committing to spending more. By being a little frugal here, you can still get what you want and not go overboard! I love Paula Pant’s phrase “you can afford anything, but not everything”. Frugal living is about consciously choosing your “anything” (what is most important to you) and not spending money on “everything” (what doesn’t add value or joy to your life).
…at the mall. Having new clothes or items can be great momentarily, but shopping should not be used as a hobby. Work to think strategically about items that you need and will wear or use often so that you can make a wise purchase. When you’re not absolutely in need of such items, avoid the shopping trip.
2. Invest in experiences, not “stuff”
When trying to be a bit more frugal, you need to be intentional about your spending. Work to spend money on experiences and making new memories rather than aimlessly spending money on items (that will probably be Marie Kondo‘d in a few years anyway).
By spending time with friends or family, learning new things, or trying a different experience, you’ll likely be happier with how you’ve spent your money than if you would have purchased a new item.
3. Try to DIY
There are many household items that we purchase regularly that can be made simply and save tons of money. Many of these items have instructions or recipes that can be easily found online. By taking the time to make items from scratch or in bulk, you can not only save money, but typically your homemade item will be more natural and healthy for your family than store-bought options.
Some examples of what you could make include: laundry detergent, soap, lotion, toothpaste, candles, bread, etc. You can also enlist the help of friends or family and make these items together. Instead of doing expensive activities, you can work together on your frugal DIY items.
Remember, you can also make your coffee at home everyday to save even more!
4. Always look for a deal
One habit that is paramount when it comes to being frugal is looking for ways to save money on the things that you do choose to buy or experience. By doing this, you can work to enjoy life and still meet your other financial goals.
Here are some examples of deal-finding:
- Asking for student or military discounts whenever possible if you identify with either of those categories
- Going to the movies during the matinee, on special discounted days
- Signing up for loyalty programs online or in stores for special discounts
- Planning vacations during the off-season, or looking for special rates
- Following your favorite brands/stores/restaurants on social media to stay apprised of any specials they might have
- Eat at restaurants for lunch instead of dinner if possible, or ordering from their “specials” menu that day. Alternately, going to the restaurant for happy hour, or ordering appetizers
- Enjoy free or discounted items on or near your birthday by signing up on their website
Some stores will provide discounts or free items if you donate or return your used items–such places include Madewell (donate jeans), or Lush (return used containers)
5. Buy used
Buying used items is not only helpful when it comes to being frugal, but it is also a great way to reduce waste and be more environmentally-friendly. There are many items that go to waste or are overproduced when they are made new.
You can buy a used car, saving thousands of dollars! Ensure that the car is checked properly and in good condition, but this is a great way to get a car without paying sticker prices.
Books can be close to $20-$30 each, depending on where they are purchased. Instead, borrow books from the library (while you are there, try one of these other ways to save money with your library card), or buy them from a thrift store or used bookstore.
Buying used clothes is a great way to afford new styles without sacrificing your hard earned money! You can visit sites like Poshmark and ThredUp, which are online platforms, or stop by a thrift store in your neighborhood. Often times, these clothes can even be brand new with tags or never worn! Bonus: by selling or consigning your own clothes, you could potentially make a trade and get a new outfit, or even make money!
Over time, you can determine which tips are the most helpful to you. Some frugal tips might save you tons of time and money, while others might not be worth it.
As with any habit, it will take about a month to become a part of your daily life. After this time period, you can decide which action steps work best for your lifestyle. From there, you can try new ways to be frugal and find out what will suit you best.
As your financial goals change over time, you might find that you want to become more lenient with your habits, or take on a new challenge to become even thriftier.
Starting to live a more frugal lifestyle might seem challenging, but can be accomplished with just a few small changes to your habits. While you don’t have to be fully frugal, you can implement some of these strategies to help you reach your financial goals.
What is your favorite frugal living tip?