The importance of living frugally is a major concern in every household. Even if you make a comfortable living, saving for the future is wise. Popular books, magazines, and websites admire the benefits of thriftiness.
Have you ever read cookbooks or watched shows hosted by the late Jeff Smith, The Frugal Gourmet? Smith was quick to emphasize that being frugal does not mean cheap. It involves stretching your dollars to buy the best quality your budget allows.
If you imagine being thrifty makes you one of the extreme examples from a popular reality show about cheapskates, you needn’t be. You can manage your spending habits wisely while still enjoying an abundant life. How is that possible?
With careful planning, research, and reevaluating your priorities, frugal living is possible for your family or anyone else. Along the way, you may meet others who have success with thriftiness and will share pointers with you. Here are twenty-one tips that give you some helpful suggestions.
21 Actionable Tips to Live Frugally
1. Establish a Household Budget
No doubt you have worked from a budget for years. Has it helped you pay bills while providing money for savings? If not, consider revising your budget to reflect what you earn and how you can eliminate unnecessary items.
2. Keep a Spending Journal
It’s easy to whip out cash or card all day and not realize how much you are spending. If you keep a journal, you may be shocked at how these little changes add up. Even more sobering is that many of these could be impulse buys you don’t need.
3. Reevaluate Your Family’s Spending Priorities
Some bills, like mortgage/rent, transportation, utilities, and other basic needs, are inevitable. However, you have some financial wiggle room to monitor these needs closely. Study your spending journal and see where you can eliminate frivolous items or reduce the cost.
4. Reduce or Eliminate Your Debt
Did you know that most Americans are seriously in debt? Has society’s mandate to “keep up with the Jones family” kept your bank accounts in the red? Unfortunately, interest and late charges can compound and leave you destitute for years.
If you are struggling with debt, seek a qualified debt counselor to learn how you can reduce, and eventually eliminate it. Your counselor can advise you on how to pay off high-interest credit cards and loans, usually without resorting to bankruptcy. With a clean slate, you can better manage your money and avoid the pitfalls of debt.
5. Shop Smart with Coupons
When you pitch those store circulars and coupon packs from the Sunday paper into the recycling bin, you may be throwing out cash. Clipping coupons is still a reliable way to save on your grocery bills. You can also sign up for free coupon exchanges online.
Pay attention to local store circulars advertising sales. Correlate the deals and coupons with your grocery list for optimal savings. Remember, don’t buy things you don’t need just because they are on sale or you have a coupon.
If you want to save on the cost of the Sunday paper, you can also install couponing apps on your smartphone.
6. Live Frugally by Shopping Online
Before you purchase an item at a store, you should look it up online. You may find it on the company’s website for a lower price, and many of them offer free shipping. Some offer impressive online sales that aren’t available in stores.
Online auctions and buy/sell websites are another excellent source for purchasing things inexpensively. While most items are gently used, you can often find new ones in their original package. Be sure to read all item descriptions, shipping information, and guarantees before buying.
7. Discover the Joy of Thrifting
Thrift stores were reusing and upcycling things long before it became popular. If you can find something in good shape that you need at a high price, why buy new? Also, you are kinder to the environment.
You can find almost anything you can imagine in a thrift store. You can also scout out local garage sales to buy great stuff for pennies on the dollar. Check out your local thrift store before buying new.
8. Learn to Upcycle at Home
Use a creative eye around your house to reuse things you already have. Before you pitch or recycle something, ask yourself if you can repurpose it. Kids enjoy learning how to upcycle old stuff into other useful items.
For example, you can cut up worn out towels and soft clothes and turn them into free cleaning rags. Clean food jars and lids to turn into handy storage containers. These are just a few of the countless ideas you can try for frugality around the house.
9. Visit Your Local Library to Live Frugally But Still Read the Latest Releases
Have you noticed the astronomical prices of new books and periodicals in the bookstores? Don’t spend your hard-earned cash for something you will probably read once. Instead, borrow them for free from your local library.
Modern libraries are a treasure trove of books, periodicals, and other media material that is available with your free library card. For your copies, consider joining a local book/magazine exchange group and stay well-read without breaking your piggy bank.
10. Eat at Home More Often
It’s shocking how much you can spend on fast food, and it’s also impressive how much weight it can add to your waistline. While dining on the go is convenient when you’re pushed for time, it’s seldom economical. The same offerings at your local restaurant would be a fraction of the cost if made at home.
Plan your meals each week and resolve to minimize restaurant visits. Try nutritious recipes that your family will love for meals or snacks. Homemade food is usually tastier and healthier, plus you spend more quality time with your loved ones at home.
11. Grow a Victory Garden
Long before the farm-to-table movement, our ancestors knew how to grow and preserve their food. No paltry produce in the grocery store can compare to the taste and quality of something homegrown.
Consider cultivating a small vegetable patch in your back yard with your favorite ones. Don’t have a yard? You can quickly grow tomatoes, strawberries, and other tasty produce in pots on a sunny patio.
12. Keep Your Wardrobe to a Minimum
Is your closet bursting to the seams with clothes you hardly ever wear? Purge your wardrobe and keep a minimum of quality clothes that look attractive to you. Shop thrift stores for beautiful clothes and accessories and avoid trendy items that won’t match several things you already have.
13. Live Frugally by Firing Your Cable TV Provider
Your cable television bill probably bites a big chunk of your income each month. Not only is it usually a waste of money, but too much television is an unhealthy waste of time. Nix the cable and opt for streaming channels on your computer or smartphone.
14. Try Homemade Cleaning Products
With some of the potentially hazardous ingredients in many household cleaning products, mixing your own makes sense. The Internet is full of free recipes for everyday cleaning products. Most use natural ingredients, clean just as well, and are a fraction of the cost.
15. Start a Bartering System in Your Neighborhood
Recruit some like-minded neighbors to start a money-saving bartering group. Trade quality items you no longer need to your group for things you can use. You can also do the bartering system with homegrown produce and handcrafted items.
16. Walk for Health and To Save Cash
Health experts say that walking is one of the best exercises. Instead of driving short distances, consider walking. You save fuel and wear on your car, plus you are doing your body a favor. The environment will also thank you for reducing your carbon footprint.
17. Learn How to Do Things Yourself
Do you watch the popular DIY reality shows with envy? With time and practice, you can learn to do many of the same things around your house. While some more complicated things require a professional, you can watch online tutorials and learn how easy it’s to make simple home repairs and updates.
18. Dry Your Clothes Free and Naturally
Clothes dryers use a lot of expensive energy to run. With a simple clothesline and a couple of poles, you can hang your clothes to dry outside as your grandparents did. There’s nothing like the delightful fragrance of wind and sunshine from line-dried clothes.
19. Conserve on Your Water Usage
Water is another expensive utility that can be minimalized. Consider using timers for shorter showers and use stored rainwater for your garden and lawn. Replace faucet washers that drip and waste your water by the gallon.
20. Practice Frugal Giving
Frugal giving does not mean you turn into the Grinch. Learn to buy or make gifts that show you put thought into them. A gift lovingly made by hand will be cherished long after the department store afterthought is gone.
21. Learn to Entertain on a Budget
When your friends or loved ones come to visit, spending time with you is more important to them than an extravagant meal. Find recipes for delicious appetizers and dinners that are delicious and don’t cost a fortune.
Final Thoughts: You Can Live Frugally But Still Enjoy Life
Living abundantly doesn’t have to bankrupt you. A frugal lifestyle can keep your debt minimalized while maximizing your joy. You will have more time to enjoy things money can’t buy when you live frugally.