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It’s no secret that the cost of living has been a burden felt by millions of households across the world in the last few years.
From rising gas prices, inflation, and housing costs skyrocketing, the concept of frugal living has never been more needed.
In this ultimate guide, I’ll be taking you through a mammoth list of frugal living tips – big and small – that help you get a firmer grasp on your finances and ensure your money is used to bring the most possible value to your life.
What is frugal living?
When most people hear the term ‘frugal living’ they envision those homesteading types who make their own kombucha and bread every day, knit their own clothes, and are never so reckless as to make a spontaneous purchase.
Well, this post might not be for those people.
Have you ever got towards the end of the month, and you’re out for dinner with friends (because you can’t exactly say no, right?), and just before the check comes you sneakily log in to your online banking app ‘just to make sure’?
Maybe you’re pleasantly surprised – or maybe, you’ve got less than $10 sitting in your account and you have to either go into your overdraft or frantically transfer some savings over to get by until your next paycheck.
The worst part is that you don’t even know where this month’s paycheck has gone – but you’re sick of living paycheck to paycheck.
Yeah, I’ve been there too.
I used to live paycheck to paycheck with no real regard for saving or budgeting. I spent my money mindlessly – a spontaneous night out here, a little shopping treat there – until almost without fail, I’d be counting down the days until the next payday and telling myself that next month would be the one I start actually saving.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Frugal living opened my eyes to living mindfully with my money. To the sheer joy living with less can bring. More than a shift in spending habits, living frugally can totally transform your perspective on money, your daily habits, and on your whole life.
If one of your financial goals this year is to be more frugal, this ultimate list of tips is a great way to get started. You might also want to consider reading some books on financial freedom to inspire you further.
Frugal Living definition
Frugal living is learning to be smart with your spending. It means knowing what your priorities in life are, spending your money on those things – and being happy without the rest. Frugal living means being sensible with your money so that you can afford the things that you really love, and that bring real value to your life.
When you think of frugal living like this, it’s pretty easy to see why so many people have trained themselves to be frugal and live a more intentional life.
What are the benefits of living frugally?
Just a few of the benefits of living frugally for some people include:
- Saving enough to make career choices based on happiness rather than obligations
- Paying off debts
- Saving an emergency fund for unexpected incidents or more ‘luxury’ treats
- Build up a savings pot to invest in real estate
- Start your own business (and even become a digital nomad!)
Being frugal with your money is a journey, and there’s no right or wrong way to spend your money.
If you want to splurge on a shopping spree, go for it.
Equally, however, if you want to re-programme your spending and have more spare cash for the things you love (or for a rainy day), that’s perfectly fine – and possible.
How to be frugal: The Ultimate Guide
1) Bring Awareness To Your Spending
Sometimes, the easiest way to start living more frugally is simply to bring some awareness to your actions, especially when it comes to spending.
In reading this post, you’ve already taken a step towards living more mindfully (that’s a pat on the back, right there!).
Before you make a new purchase, just ask yourself ‘do I really need this?’ and that moment of hesitation is all it takes to prevent you from making an impulse, and unnecessary, purchase.
Sure, you may decide that actually, yes, you do want and need that item – and that’s fine. The point is that you may start to realize that for every 5 purchases, there’s actually only one that you really need – and that’s good for your wallet!
2) Start Decluttering Your Home Regularly
Minimalism and frugal living go hand-in-hand. You can’t be smart with your cash and spend your money on the things that make you happy when your entire life is cluttered with stuff.
Try to make a habit out of decluttering an area of your home once a quarter. For me, that almost always means my wardrobe (self-confessed shopaholic, right here!). For you, it may be your garage that ends up messy and cluttered or your kitchen. Or it might be your entire home!
Getting out of this mindset was a mission, but after clearing out my entire house a couple of years ago and making an insane number of trips to the recycling centre, I vowed never to hoard again.
Read this total guide to decluttering your home to get started.
3) Set A Budget & Track It
Frugal living is all about being smart with your spending, and that starts with knowing how to budget your money correctly. Whether you’re paid weekly, monthly, or multiple times a month, you can find a budget that works for you.
To create a budget, you need to be able to track:
- Your income
- Your bills
- Your other outgoings
- The amount you want to be put into your savings every month
- The amount you should have leftover
Spend a month or two just tracking these things, getting a feel for the figures. From there, it should be fairly obvious what needs to change. Allocate your expenses into different budget categories or even consider adopting a more ‘extreme’ budgeting method such as using cash envelope wallets.
Check out these other great posts to get started:
- How to Budget on a Low Income
- 55 Budgeting Tips (That Everyone Should Know)
- 16 Top Tips For Budgeting When You’re Pregnant
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4) Cook Meals From Home More Often
I didn’t really start cooking for myself until I was about 18 and living in a shared house at University. As a previously very fussy child (that’s a story for another time!), I’d never really cooked vegetables or made real meals from scratch.
Over the course of a year, that totally changed. I fell in love with food and tried countless new fruits and vegetables that I’d deprived myself of for years.
I taught myself to cook, and the habit of creating meals from scratch using fresh ingredients has been ingrained in me ever since.
I know a lot of people haven’t had this experience. Cooking from scratch can seem difficult and time-consuming, with ready meals and jarred sauces seeming like the far more convenient option.
However, this is a less healthy, and much more expensive way of feeding yourself. Get into the habit of cooking as many of your meals from scratch as possible, even if you just start with one meal a day.
Check out my guide to meal prep for a less time-consuming way to prep your meals too.
5) Learn To Travel Like A Minimalist
You might think that part of learning how to be frugal means accepting less ‘luxury’ things like travel, but I think if it’s a priority for your happiness, then travel should always be a part of your lifestyle.
Travel and experiences are, for me, far more important than material possessions, and I’m always going to be willing to forego lots of fancy clothes and expensive things in favor of a trip abroad.
That being said, you can definitely still be frugal when you travel. One of the best ways to do this is to travel as a minimalist.
That means no check-in bag (i.e. no extra fees!), and packing your carry-on bag efficiently to minimize the space you need. In 2017, I traveled for 10 months with all my clothes, laptop, etc in one carry-on backpack.
If you’ve ever traveled with an enormous backpack and a day bag, you’ll know how inconvenient traveling this way can be – even if it does let you bring more stuff.
Keep it light, and you’ll be able to focus on the far more enjoyable aspects of travel (and without backache!)
Although sometimes it was tough to have so few possessions, it was also incredibly liberating and has definitely filtered into my everyday life.
See my minimalist travel packing guide for more info!
6) Set Some Goals For Your Spending
In order to truly live a happy frugal life, you need to know your priorities.
I have a planner to jot down weekly tasks and appointments, but to also have written evidence of my goals and aspirations for the year.
This could be anything from ‘learn 3 new recipes this year’ to ‘save enough to get a mortgage on a house’ – you do you!
The really important thing is to know your priorities for you and to write them down so you can always refer back.
Knowing my goals and what I want to achieve each month and year is what really helps me direct my money towards the things that will make me happiest.
7) Find Some Free Hobbies
The abundance of free things to do literally at your fingertips is pretty remarkable when you think about it. Sure, some hobbies can require a large disposable income to sustain, but being frugal doesn’t mean living a boring lifestyle. Free hobbies you could take up to complement a tight budget include:
Long hikes in the countryside.
Packing up a picnic and sunbathing in a park.
Swimming in the sea.
Running through your neighborhood.
Growing your own vegetables and cooking up an amazing meal.
Practicing yoga when the sun is setting and casts an orange glow over the sky.
There are so many things in life that cost very little or nothing at all. Learning to appreciate those things is essential to learning how to be frugal, and more importantly, how to actually enjoy a more intentional lifestyle.
The finer things in life are already at your fingertips.
See these 36 Cheap Or Free Hobbies To Try Out for more info!
8) Build A Capsule Closet
I loved reading Matilda Kahl’s article on why, as an art director, she chooses to wear the exact same outfit to work every single day. She describes a feeling of regaining control, of freeing herself of unscalable expectations.
In my own life, I don’t go so far as Matilda, but I do try to limit my wardrobe as much as possible. For all of 2017, when traveling the world, I had access to maybe 8 outfits.
Like Matilda, I never had to think about my clothes anymore. I simply got up, got dressed, and then started thinking about the day ahead. It was liberating.
Now that I’m home, my wardrobe has grown, but not to the enormous proportions it was before I left. My clothes are coordinated by color, and then by style. Nothing is buried at the back, forgotten. It’s an effort to keep things organized this way, but it makes me feel so good when I open the doors to my wardrobe and everything is in order!
Having a small and compact wardrobe may sound like it limits your freedom if you love fashion, but I’ve never felt so free as when I have so few clothes that choice isn’t an option.
Check out this guide to building a capsule closet for more inspiration.
9) Pay Attention To How Much You Waste
Being more intentional about the way you use products around the home can be a huge lesson on how to be frugal. Often, you simply need to bring some awareness to your lifestyle – and that includes how much you waste unnecessarily.
How often do you find yourself throwing out food that has gone past its sell-by date?
Even with other products, if you take note of how much of something you use (like, for example, toothpaste or shampoo) you might realize how much money is wasted through excess. Being frugal and eco-friendly goes hand in hand.
10) Use a Re-Usable Water Bottle
By purchasing a reusable water bottle, you could save over $266 a year on plastic water bottles. More importantly, you could also dramatically reduce your plastic usage (an estimated 10 – 20 million tonnes end up in the ocean every year).
Save the environment, save your money, and improve your health by drinking more water and investing in a water bottle today.
Personally, I have had my CamelBak Eddy for years and take it everywhere with me.
Check out these articles for some ideas on where to start clearing your clutter:
- 7 Self-Care Routines to Clear Your Mental Clutter
- How to Declutter: Where to Start & Making it a Habit
- 10 Ways to be More Minimalist
Those are my frugal living rules – but there are tonnes of easy lifestyle changes you can make to help you save a little more cash and focus on what’s important to you.
How to become a minimalist: 8 essential steps you need to know
How To Be Frugal With Your Food:
11. Cook your meals in bulk
Batch cook your meals and have the extra portions for lunches and dinners the next few days. If you find recipes you absolutely love, this won’t feel like a sacrifice! These vegan meal prep ideas are a great place to start.
12. Take packed lunches instead of buying out
It may not seem like a big change, but a packed lunch instead of $5 on lunch every day can make a huge difference.
13. Don’t throw away leftovers
Keep them in the fridge for the next day or freeze them!
14. Grow your own veggies!
Last November, my family got an allotment just around the corner from our home. Not only have we all found a fantastic free hobby that gets us outside, but it’s also let us save money on fruit and veg this summer!
15. Shop seasonally
Shop seasonally to save money on ingredients (especially when shopping with a local grocer over a supermarket). You could also adopt a more minimalist diet.
16. Eat out less
Try cooking your own fakeaways from home instead! I love nothing better than getting to stay in on a Friday night (haha yes I’m old before my time) with a homemade burger and chips, a glass of wine, and a movie cuddled up with my dogs. Livin’ the dream.
If you can’t live without your regular cup of Starbucks, at least make sure you know what the cheapest drinks on the menu are!
17. Go yellow tag (bargain) hunting
Here in the UK, there is a certain time each day that the supermarkets will reduce the price items reaching the end of their expiry date and mark them with yellow tags, hence ‘yellow tag hunting’.
18. Use your veg scraps
You know all those carrot peelings, onion skins, and vegetable off-cuts that normally go straight in the bin? Well, you can save them and make your very own vegetable stock! I love this idea as it’s such a simple way to cut down on your food waste and use up scraps to create something delicious.
19. Buy food in bulk
Buying in bulk when you can is a frugal decision to help you save money and stock up on things every household needs.
Things like non-perishables like rice, pasta, long-life plant milk, beans, nut butter etc are all perfect for this.
20. Designate a monthly food budget
Using an app like Mint or Yolt to track your spending for a few weeks is a great way to get an estimate of how much you are spending on food each month, and you can then set yourself a reasonable, achievable budget for your food shopping to try to stick to each month.
21. Reduce your meat intake
Meat and dairy products are amongst the most expensive food items you can buy at the supermarket. Reducing your meat and dairy intake and switching out expensive meats for canned chickpeas, beans, or lentils is an easy way to be a little more frugal in 2019.
I’ve made it no secret on this blog that switching to a plant-based diet this year had an enormous impact on my entire lifestyle, and saving money is just one huge benefit reducing your meat and dairy intake can have.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the benefits of being plant-based, here are a few good places to get started:
How To Be Frugal With Your Health:
22. Quit your vices
An obvious one, but if you smoke – quit! Not only is this one of the best decisions you could make for your health, but it will also save you a significant amount of money. Same goes for drugs, obviously, drinking, gambling etc.
23. Stay in more often
Try to cut down nights out to once or twice a week. If you like indulging in a few alcoholic drinks at the weekend, a bottle of wine from the shop will be a lot cheaper than buying 5 drinks at the pub.
24. Use your legs
Do you currently drive to work? Would walking or cycling be an option instead? You can make huge savings on fuel every month and it’s a great way of improving your fitness!
25. Get a free hobby!
Running, yoga, wild swimming, and HIIT workouts are just a few healthy hobbies that are totally free. The more of your time that’s taken up with free hobbies that you love doing, the less time you have to spend money unnecessarily!
26. Drink more water
Cut your spending on fizzy drinks and expensive takeout coffees and improve your health by drinking more water as a default instead of other beverages.
Get yourself a good quality water bottle (I love my CamelBak Eddy!), and try to stick to drinking H20 all day, and have a fruit juice or alcoholic drink if you want to on the weekends. I used to be addicted to fruit squash, but now I can’t get through the day without my water bottle by my side!
Frugal living is all about your mentality – and meditation can be a hugely effective tool for living more mindfully and in the present.
28. Take time out for your mental health
Living frugally isn’t just about your lifestyle habits, it’s a frame of mind.
Taking the time out to look after your mental health and clear your mental clutter is just as important as changing your spending habits.
How To Be Frugal With Your Gadgets & Technology:
29. Change to a SIM-only contract
So many people get an expensive iPhone with a 24-month contract but continue paying the same price long after those initial 24 months is up.
You could save hundreds every year by remembering to cancel your contract when it’s up and switching to a SIM-only contract instead. Better still, save enough cash that you can buy your next phone upfront and just pay-as-you-go from then on.
30. Consider cancelling your TV subscription
These days, Netflix or Amazon Prime combined with catch up services online offer everything you need from a TV. Consider cancelling your expensive TV subscription for one of these cheaper services instead.
I highly recommend signing up to Trim – a free service that helps you to cancel old subscriptions, negotiate bills you’re over-paying for, all automatically.
31. Be smart with your spending
Get more frugal this year by finding other ways to keep warm: from wearing an extra layer to using draught stoppers and thicker curtains to keep the heat in your home – and the cold out! You might also be interested in finding out the cheapest space heater for heating your room.
My family invested in one of these Nest Learning Thermostats early last year and it is such a good buy – you can program your heating from your phone, keeping your house warm when you’re in it, and turning the heating off when you’re not to make massive savings on your heating bills.
How To Be Frugal Around The Home:
32. Avoid all late fees
Make sure you are on time for bills, utility providers and anyone else that you need to pay. This is a really simple tip, but simply staying organised and paying your bills on time will save you from paying out any more unnecessary money.
33. Switch utility providers every couple of years
This alone can save you hundreds – simply by making a phone call. You’ll often find utility providers have better deals for new customers as opposed to loyal customers, so it’s always worth looking around and getting some new quotes.
A really fantastic feature of Trim is that it will reach out to your bill companies on your behalf to negotiate your contracts. It’s free to sign up to so I would highly recommend checking it out – you can read my full review here.
34. Use fewer household products
Try to be more aware of how much you are using household essentials like washing up liquid, shampoo, body wash, toothpaste etc. Simply paying attention to how much you are using can be a great way of reducing waste.
35. Make decluttering a regular habit
Try to declutter your home every couple of months, even if you focus on one room each time. This is a great way of ensuring you’re not picking up a habit of mindless spending again, not to mention finding new things to sell online!
36. Keep your home tidy
Keeping your home tidy with everything in its place is essential if you want to keep a frugal, organised home. A messy home can encourage you to spend mindlessly without knowing what you actually need – and it’s much better for your productivity!
37. Try DIY around the home
From applying a lick of paint to your walls yourself rather than paying a painter to making your own crafts (like this gorgeous chunky blanket!) DIY can be great fun and is a great way to stay frugal.
38. Keep hold of your plastic bags
These days, most retailers charge a fee for using a plastic bag in an attempt to cut down on how much plastic consumers use. Do your bit for the environment and save unnecessary spending on bags by storing your own at home – and keep some in your car and handbag to ensure you always have them handy when you need to do some shopping!
Frugal living tips for home & beauty
39. Create a strict skin-care routine
I share my skin-care routine on my post about how I finally cleared my skin up, and although the products I use are high-quality and therefore relatively expensive, creating a strict skincare routine has actually helped me be more frugal with the products I use.
Because I don’t spend money on products I don’t use anymore. I only stick to the products that work for me, and this has helped me massively cut down on spending money on random creams and moisturisers that I never end up finishing!
40. Invest in makeup that works for you
Likewise, I’ve started investing in higher-quality makeup in the past year or so.
While it’s more expensive, it lasts longer, looks better, and means I don’t pick up random products in the shops anymore because I already have a collection of makeup that works best for me.
Being frugal can be your own definition, and for me, investing in quality products that really work for you is one of the best frugal living tips I can suggest.
41. Do your own nails
Getting a manicure or pedicure is a nice treat, but it’s not an essential spend. If this is something that you do on a regular basis, learning how to DIY your nails could be a quick fix for saving a little more money each month.
Do your own nails and save money on these beauty treatments that could be better spent elsewhere.
42. Try out some DIY beauty recipes (also great for gifts!)
Take a look at my list of frugal beauty recipes here for some great face masks, hair masks, lip scrubs and more.
43. Only buy clothes to replace or specifically add something
In my post on how to declutter your wardrobe, one of the tips I share is to only buy clothes when you specifically need to either:
a) replace something that is damaged, old, or doesn’t fit
b) add something to your wardrobe that you don’t have
This is a great way of avoiding having duplicate items in your wardrobe, and also helps you to be more aware of what you’ve actually got before you go shopping.
44. Follow your washing instructions
Simple? Maybe. Also a commonly overlooked habit that can lead to your clothes losing shape and needing replacing quicker? Also yes. Avoid shrinking or damaging items by following the washing instructions on your garments.
It’s one of the worst feelings when you buy a lovely new jumper and end up shrinking it because you wash it on the wrong setting!
45. Shop in thrift/vintage stores
Thrift shopping has really grown in popularity with frugal people these days, and it’s a great way of finding quality clothes and household items for a fraction of the cost. Not only that, but vintage shops can hold absolute fashion gems!
My one tip would be to be patient – you do have to rummage through the racks before you find something good sometimes!
46. Don’t keep items that are too small, too big, or for sentimental reasons
We all have those garments that we keep for a ‘one-day’, whether they’re too big, too small, or simply out of date but sentimental to you.
Be ruthless, and clear these items out of your wardrobe. Donate them, recycle them, or sell them, but get them out. These ‘one-day’ items are unlikely to ever actually be worn and just take out unnecessary clutter in your house.
47. Stay on track
One of my top ways to stay on track is to stay in the frugal living community – and one of my favourite ways to do that is to keep reading about minimalism, decluttering, and living a life you love.
If you’re looking for some more frugal living tips, below are a few fantastic books for starting a more minimal lifestyle:
- The Joy of Less: A Minimalist Guide to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify – Francine Jay
- Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life – Joshua Fields Millburn
- Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism – Fumio Sasaki
- The More Of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own – Joshua Becker
- The Year of Less – Cait Flanders
80+ More Frugal Living tips…
Frugality and eco-living go hand in hand. That’s why I built up a completely separate list of sustainable, green living-focused frugal tips for anyone interested in combining being frugal with your cash with looking out for our planet!
This guide to over 80 frugal green living tips is a must-read.
How I Found Frugal Living
In 2017, I decided to see more of the world. So, I booked flights to Thailand and prepared for a year-long adventure, during which time I would travel through Asia and also build my location-independent content writing business to sustain my travels.
One of the most stressful things about that time wasn’t the travel or the cultural shock, or even not seeing my family for months: in reality, one of the most stressful things was decluttering my possessions from a house to a backpack.
Frugal living lets me spend my money on the things that bring value, meaning, and happiness into my life.
What those things are exactly, is different for everyone, but learning how to be frugal will show you what you want to spend your money on, and what you’re currently spending on without any real thought or meaning.
I really hope these tips have shown you how easy it is to start your own frugal living journey. Let me know if you have any more tips on how to be frugal – and if there are any tips shown above that you’re planning on implementing into your own life!