I’ve read hundreds of frugal living ideas like meal planning (which is awesome) to less desirable tips like keeping your house at 60 degrees in the winter.
The tips below are ones that I have done all my life (growing up with frugal parents). Or learned tips that have helped my family go from living paycheck-to-paycheck to having a fully funded emergency fund.
So if you’re looking to start saving more money or take your frugal living to the next level, check out these 20 timeless tips that can save you thousands.
1. Know the difference between wants and needs
This is the first tip on the list because it is so important to assess what things are needed to live a healthy life and what things are wants/desires.
A need is something that is necessary to live and function. A want is something that can improve your quality of life.
If you’re in debt, living paycheck to paycheck, or just looking to save some extra money for peace of mind, it may be time to cut some of the expenditures that are wants.
Examples of needs:
- Clothing and shoes
- Nourishing foods and water
- Medicine and healthcare
- Personal care products such as toothpaste and soap
- Streaming services
- Fast food
- Taquitos or single serve drinks from the gas station
- The newest iPhone or Android phone
- Seasonal home décor
- New car
Take a moment to think about your assumptions of your needs.
If you’re still having trouble determining want vs need, check out my printable list with 20 questions to ask yourself before buying anything.
2. Buy secondhand whenever possible
Did you know that it is possible to get most things you need for a fraction of their retail price or even free?
It just takes planning, patience, and knowing where to shop.
Before stepping foot into a retail store, here are the places I look for items (in this order):
- Check your local Buy Nothing Facebook group. You can ask for whatever you need and see if anyone has it.
- Facebook Marketplace
- Thrift stores
3. Try to fix/repair things before buying new
You’ve probably heard the saying, “If it’s broken, fix it.”
It’s important to try and fix/repair things yourself, and be proactive about keeping your possessions in good shape.
Don’t procrastinate repairs, sewing, or cleaning your items. If you don’t know how to fix the item, there are a multitude of ways to learn.
A lot of the time, a simple YouTube search can help you learn what’s wrong and teach you how to fix it.
For example: my Father recently fixed the side door to his garage. It cost $50 for the materials and about 20hrs of time working on the door over many days.
If he had hired a contractor to fix the door, it would have cost $1,500 or more.
So for just a couple hours of his time every day over a couple weeks, he was able to save at least $1,450.
It pays to fix things yourself.
4. Stay out of the stores
Retail stores will send you emails, texts, and target you with ads – all in an effort to get you into the store.
That’s because every time you go into stores, you are likely to spend money.
The same goes for online stores. If a company can get you to browse their online products, you are way more likely to buy something.
The solution is to stay out of the stores and off retail websites as much as possible. Put your financial goals first.
5. Save eating out for special occasions
Fast food, take out, and sit down restaurant expenditures add up so quickly. And prices are only going up!
That’s why we suggest saving eating out for special occasions like birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries.
If you regularly eat out, doing this will help you save HUNDREDS (or even thousands) a year on food. And also give you something to look forward to.
6. Never be afraid to ask for discounts
Don’t be afraid to ask businesses for discounts, promotions, free shipping, etc…
You would not believe how much you can save by asking.
At the beginning of the year, I look at all of our expenses and call each company to ask if there are any new discounts or promotions.
Some bills I try to lower are car insurance, phone bill, internet, medical insurance, and more.
7. Regularly update your budget
If you do not have a budget, we implore you to create one.
Budgeting is the best way to see exactly how much money you’re spending and where you’re spending it. Knowing where you money goes gives you control over it, instead of the money controlling you.
We recommend updating your budget every week at the minimum so that you can reflect on your spending.
Or, if it is easier, carve out some time each day to write out your spending for the previous day. I would do this with my morning coffee. 😊
8. Write down your financial goals
What would you like to accomplish financially this year?
Take some time to write out your yearly financial goals and break them down into actionable steps you can take monthly, weekly, and daily to reach those goals.
For example, if my yearly goal was to save $5,000, that would be $416.67/month, $96.15/week, and just $13.76/day.
The $5,000 goal may seem like a lot, but when it’s broken down by day, it gets a lot more practical to reach.
Another tip is to not beat yourself up if you mess up. Learn from your mistakes, forgive yourself, and get back on track!
9. Never waste food
If you’ve been in the grocery store recently, you’ve probably noticed that food is still going up in price faster than it used to.
That is why it is so important to not waste any food! This is be done in a number of ways:
Freeze leftovers. The freezer is my favorite invention ever. Anytime I have leftovers or an over abundance of produce or baked goods, they go right in the freezer to be eaten later.
Turn your leftovers into something new. This is a fun one because you get to be creative! For example, if you had leftover hot dog buns, you could turn them into garlic toast.
Know when your food expires. I check every couple of months to see what food is expiring and move those foods to the front of my cupboards/pantry, freezer, and fridge to remember to eat it.
Donate to a food pantry or Buy Nothing Facebook group. If you have any food that is about to expire that you know you won’t eat, donate it to someone who will!
10. Buy used cars.
Did you know that a new car loses 9 – 11% of its value as soon as you drive it off the lot?
So on a $30,000 car you’re financing, you lose $3,000 right away just buy it new.
In addition, the insurance for new cars is much higher than used cars. That’s because if you get into an accident and total your car, the insurance company will have to pay out a lot more money for a brand new car.
We always recommend buying used cars that require little maintenance and have decent gas milage.
A couple examples are the Toyota Corolla and the Honda Civic.
Always bring an experienced mechanic with you to check the car before purchasing. And if you need to finance the car, do not take a loan with more than a 4% interest rate.
11. Buy clothes and accessories that never go out of style
Buy (secondhand) staples pieces that will last and never go out of style. This will save you time and money in the long run, and you will always feel confident in what you are wearing.
Here are some examples of clothes and jewelry that are timeless:
- Striped tops
- Little black dress
- Pencil skirts
- Leather jackets
- White button down shirt
- Stud earrings
- Gold chain
- Hoop earrings
12. Never leave your home without drinks and snacks
As mentioned in a previous tip, eating out can cost you hundreds and even thousands of dollar a year.
One of the easiest ways to prevent eating out is to always have a drink and a snack with you when you go out.
Then, you’re way less likely to stop by the gas station for a drink or go through the McDonalds Drive thru.
You can even bring a cooler to store some cold drinks and food if you are going to be out for several hours.
13. Plan your meals around what's on sale
This one was a game changer for us.
I used to just go on Pinterest every week, find recipes that looked good, and buy everything need to make them. It was NOT cheap.
Once I started shopping the sales at my grocery store and Walmart, and started using ingredients I already had at home, I cut my grocery bill in half.
Check out 72 Healthy Frugal Foods to Buy When Money is Tight for some more ideas to save on groceries.
14. Don't buy what you can make yourself
Much like learning how to fix/repair things, there is a ton of money you can save by making things yourself. And those savings add up!
Here are some examples:
Cut up your own fruits and vegetables. Pre-cut produce will cost you much more than buying the fruits/vegetables and cutting them up yourself. And you’ll get LESS food when you buy pre-cut.
Take the extra 10-15mins to cut up the produce yourself.
Make your own spice blends. Doing this allows you to use what spices you already have and control the portion sizes. Plus, your spice blends will probably be much fresher then the in-store blends!
Make you own air-fresheners. Did you know that you can make your home smell great for super cheap? Check out 10 Frugal Hacks to Make Your Home Smell Amazing for some creative ideas.
Make all-natural cleaning supplies. Search on YouTube or Google to learn how to do this.
15. Never pay for entertainment
There are so many ways to get free entertainment – many of which your city/county will provide.
The first place to check is your local library. Besides books, many libraries offer movies, audiobooks, games, puzzles, and classes you can attend for free.
Next, see what local attractions in your area offer free admission days. In our city, several museums offer free family days once a month, or even weekly.
Finally, you can organize free social activities with you family, friends and your community. Here are some fun examples:
- Picnic in the park
- Board game night
16. Foster pets instead of owning them.
Vet bills can be some of the biggest unexpected expenses. A great way save money and enjoy the companionship of a pet is to foster.
Pet rescues will usually help to provide necessities, including vet care. And you get to receive love from the pet and save a life. It’s a win-win!
17. Take advantage of preventative health care services
Staying healthy and preventing conditions/diseases can help to save thousands of dollars or more over your lifetime.
Most health insurances offer FREE or discounted preventative care services such as yearly checkups, dental cleanings/exams, vision appointments, and therapy.
Make sure you are taking care of your body and mental health every day. Your wallet will thank you.
18. Get at least 3 estimates for any car work or repairs
Most of us aren’t mechanics or contractors. There will probably be many things that you’ll have to get repaired or serviced in your life.
As a rule of thumb, always get 3 quotes or estimates from different companies for any work you need done.
This may take a little more time and effort, but you have the opportunity to save hundreds.
19. Grow your own food and herbs
This is a great way to cut costs on produce. It will take an initial investment to get started (usually under $70), but home gardens have the opportunity to significantly lower your grocery bill.
Check your local Buying Nothing group, Facebook Marketplace, library, and YouTube for free gardening resources and education.
20. Gift handmade items or baked goods
I saved this one for last because it’s one of my favorite frugal tips and such an easy way to save money during the holidays.
Whenever I have gifted handmade things, they are always well received. Sometimes even more so than store bought gifts.
There are tons of DIY holidays gift videos on YouTube you can get inspiration from.
When I don’t have time to spend hand making multiple gifts, baking some cookies or quick breads are always great for holidays.
You can buy little cookie tins at the Dollar store for $1.25 each, add a nice napkin to the bottom and fill with the baked goods for each loved one.