Frugal living doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Lots of us, me included, are used to spending what we have on what we need, when we need it. There was a time in my life when I spent without thinking about the future, I spent without considering the detrimental effects of credit card debt and, probably most importantly, I spent because I was unhappy and I didn’t have a plan for changing how I was feeling.
Then circumstance stepped in and everything changed. A job loss while I was living a thousand miles from my family, friends and general support network forced me to look at everything differently. I had no money, jobs were scarce due to a recession and interest rates (I bought my first house shortly before being downsized) were through the roof.
Back then, the internet was a thing of dreams so I couldn’t Google ‘frugal living tips’, I had to learn the hard way and finally start applying all that information my dear grandmother tried to teach me.
If you’re just starting out on your journey, here are 15 frugal living tips to get you on your way.
Frugal Living Tips
1 Evaluate every purchase
If you’re used to spending without a care in the world, this will be a big one. Stop and think about what you’re buying, why you’re buying it, do you already own something that will serve the same need and, of course, can you afford it?
2. Shop with a list
Groceries can seem like a need but if you’re serious about cutting your spending and becoming frugal, the grocery store is where you can see immediate savings. Always have a plan before you step inside a grocery store. Know what you’re buying and what you’re going to use it for.
3. Does spending get you closer to your goals
Sometimes it helps to think big picture when you’re considering putting some or all of these frugal living tips to use. The most important question to consider is ‘Why?’. If you don’t have a good answer, one that resonates deep in your soul, then being frugal will seem like daily torture. When you know why, your frugal choices bring that goal closer to you each day. Here’s the short version of a Ted Talk by Simon Sinek that might help define this concept for you.
4. Stop buying disposable paper products like serviettes and paper towels
Talk about throwing your money away! I’m not suggesting you stop buying toilet paper but, paper napkins and serviettes and paper towels not only chew up your disposable income, they also devour vast quantities of natural resources for absolutely no lasting benefit. Head to the thrift store and buy some fabric napkins and tea towels. Better still, make your own from scrap fabric or old towels. Waste not, want not!
5. Cook meals from scratch – simple food from simple ingredients
Wholesome, nutritious food doesn’t need expensive ingredients, just a little time and know how. If you’re not used to cooking meals from scratch, don’t expect to cook everything from scratch from day one. Start slow; search Pinterest for interesting recipes (check out Smart Money, Simple Life’s boards for ideas), watch YouTube videos to learn techniques and spend a little time in the grocery store getting to know what’s available. It might seem like work but remember, the most important thing you can do for your and your family’s health – is eat well.
A simple rule to follow is to shop the perimeter of the store, that’s where you’ll find all the fresh food.
6. Review the personal care products you buy
Bar soap is much cheaper and will last a lot longer than shower gels or washes. Evaluate each product and see if there’s a cheaper version or a better solution to your need.
7. Use simple and cheap homemade cleaning products.
There are lots of ways to ensure your home is clean without resorting to harsh chemicals. The classic combination of baking soda and vinegar will see you through most of your cleaning needs. You can find more options on our Frugal Cleaning Tips Pinterest board.
8. If you’re working, brown bag your lunch
I love the term brown bagging it! Does anyone still take their lunch to school or work in a brown paper bag? The good thing is, everyone knows what you mean when you say it. Unless there is a really good reason, always take your lunch to work. You could create a wonderful gourmet meal every day and it will still be cheaper than buying a healthy lunch everyday. Of course, you wont be doing the gourmet thing, you’ll be making healthy, nourishing food from cheap simple ingredients and taking that to work or school. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it has to be frugal and that means excellent nutritional value for money. You can find lots of ideas on our Recipes – Lunch Box Ideas Pinterest board.
9. No impulse buying. Ever
Step away from the mall! It’s pretty simple, the best way to avoid impulse purchases is to either stay way from the shops or follow Frugal Living Tip #2.
10. Get a library card
This is one of my favourite frugal living tips! I’m a huge fan of libraries. They’re free and full, not just of books but other entertainment options like DVDs, information sessions, and author talks, not to mention activities for kids. While you’re at it, check out your neighbourhood centre for free activities, too.
11. Use your credit card’s rewards program
If you’re disciplined, you can make use of your credit card’s reward program. I regularly use my rewards for prepaid visa cards and they can be a real boon to the budget. The caveat here is that you must always pay your credit card in full, every month. If you can’t do that, you need to stop putting anything on the card until you can.
More Frugal Living Tips and Related Posts:
- Smart Money Secrets from the Great Depression
- 3 Simple Ways to Stay Positive on a Tight Budget
- 6 Simple Rules for Being More Frugal AND Loving Life
- Save Money: How to make the power Pinterest work for you
- 7 Smart Money Moves to Start Your Year Right
- An Anarchist’s Guide to Meal Planning
- 7 Things I DON’T Do To Save Money
- Stop Impulse Spending with this Neat Trick
- How to Shop from Your Pantry
12. Only use cash
If discipline is a problem, remove the credit and debit cards from your wallet and leave them at home. Allocate a specific amount of cash and when it’s gone, your spending stops.
13. Make the most of leftovers
I love leftovers. There are certain dishes that get better with age: chilli, soup, Bolognese sauce… Don’t let any of it go to waste. Even left over cooked vegetables can be put to good use. As an example, I store cooked vegetables in the freezer until I have a decent amount then I cook them up with a bit of bone broth, puree them and add them to various dishes – my favourite is Mexican style chicken (chicken, vegetable puree and taco seasoning served over rice). It’s a sneaky way of upping your vegetable intake, too and that’s always a good thing.
14. Clean out your closet
It might sound counter intuitive but you’ll actually spend less on clothes when you know exactly what you own and you can put together a range of outfits in a timely and stress free manner. Being frugal is not about being cheap, it’s about being smart with your money and using it wisely. Having 25 dresses, labels still attached, is not being smart with your money. Plus, it becomes a source of stress. Best to cull your clothes and keep what you love and wear.
Related Post: The Ultimate “How to Save” on Your Work Outfits
15. Surround yourself with frugal people
There’s a lot of talk lately about tribes. It might sound a bit trendy but we all gravitate toward people who we believe are like us. If you’re changing from spendthrift to thrifty, you might find some relationships become… challenging. Look for ways to connect with like minded folks. You can join us at Smart Money, Simple Life on Facebook and Pinterest or subscribe to our posts. There are lots of options and you’re bound to make friends all over the world and learn a lot in the process.
This selection is just the tip of the frugal iceberg. There are so many different frugal living tips out there, some will appeal to you (or possibly your sense of adventure) and some might not. The trick is to try those that seem do-able and progress from there. Like I said, frugal living doesn’t come naturally to everyone and it can take time to build these steps into solid habits. Occasionally, some of us fall off the wagon but if we have a strong ‘why’, we always climb back on again.
So, if you’re just starting out on this journey, have fun and don’t be too hard on yourself if you slip up occasionally.
Is being frugal natural for you or did circumstance (or choice) set you on the frugal path?
Images courtesy of: Unsplash