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Looking in, how would you know that I live a frugal lifestyle?
Is it the old car? The coffee brewed at home?
Those are a couple of the measures I take in order to cut down on the expenses that would otherwise add up.
It’s not to say I am driving a $1,000 car or drinking Folger’s coffee. I’m not.
My car was ~$15k when I bought it used 7+ years ago and I drink organic whole-bean coffee.
You may be thinking –
“whoa, how is that frugal living?”
Let’s look at it this way.
I don’t trade-in my car every few years. I plan on driving it until it goes kaput.
As for the coffee, a bag costs ~$11.
It sounded scary at first, didn’t it?
Decide what matters the most to you and spend purposefully in those areas. This way, you don’t feel deprived in the slightest.
Sounds good, right?
Coming up, I’m breaking it down by category of the 14 effective ways to save money!
Ready to start chipping away at those expenses?
Frugal Living: 14 Practical Tips To Save Money
Home + Utilities
The bulk of your money is likely spent on housing.
Depending on where you live, the cost of living will vary considerably.
In NYC, $1,000/month means you need a roommate, whereas in a small town in Texas you can get a 1-2 bedroom apartment or a single-family home for that price – and you don’t have to share.
#1 – Modest home.
There are effective ways to minimize housing costs.
1. Factor in location, condition, and size of your potential home.
• Live in the suburbs
• Older apartment complex with fewer amenities
• Home with a smaller footprint (1,300 vs. 2,300 sq. ft.)
2. Share costs with a roommate.
Having a roommate may not be ideal, but do the calculations. If you have a 2nd bedroom to rent, that could cut your monthly payment by a hefty amount.
3. Avoid upgrading until your income can realistically support it.
It can be tempting to upgrade every few years. Try to find reasons to keep a lower mortgage or rent payment for as long as you can.
Upgrading to a new home can have its perks, but keep in mind all the associated costs.
There are costs such as upkeep, increased insurance coverages, utilities, property taxes, homeowner dues, and if it’s a new build – window coverings are mighty expensive!
#2 – Temperature inside the house.
Have you ever gotten a gas or electric bill that has been astronomical?
I received one for over $150 once, when normally it’s ~$30/month. Yikes!
In an effort to keep the gas and electric bill at a reasonable level, I set the thermostat a few degrees lower in the wintertime and a couple notches higher in the summertime.
If you are conscious about just adjusting a few degrees that’s better than nothing.
Utilities need to be paid regardless, so why not take some measures to reduce the cost?
These are the costs that creep up every, single month to take a bite out of your paycheck.
I’m talking about cable TV, gym membership, lawn service, and so on.
Think about it like this. Is there any way the monthly costs incurred can be done for free or by you?
If not, consider if it is a cost that you can slowly wean from your life. Start somewhere, it doesn’t need to be instantaneous.
#3 – Cable TV.
You may be apprehensive about quitting cable TV cold turkey.
That’s okay – there are ways you can cut your expenses if antenna TV isn’t your thing.
Here are some ideas:
1. Call the cable company and ask for a discount.
Hands down, this is the easiest way to either get more value for your money or get a discount while you contemplate cable alternatives.
2. Find alternatives to the shows you currently watch.
If you love watching HGTV and the Food Network, you can find similar shows on streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, PlayStation Vue, and Hulu – just to name a few.
Personally, I’ve found that Netflix has MANY home improvement and cooking competitions that are just as entertaining.
Netflix comes in at ~$8.00/month for streaming versus the big bucks for cable. Plus, no commercials.
3. Determine what networks you enjoy most and find them in one package and/or à la carte from a different company.
Sling TV is a good option if you want some of the popular networks such as HGTV, Food Network, and Bravo. There’s also a small smattering of other channels in each package.
All this for $25/month. Plus, it’s $5 for à la carte services.
Related article: Bye-Bye Cable TV
#4 – Exercise.
A gym membership is a worthwhile expense if it’s actually being used.
Nowadays, there are alternative forms of exercise that are FREE or low cost. It depends largely on what activities you like to do to stay fit.
Here are some ideas:
1. Get creative with your workouts.
I’m all for a regimen, but sometimes that can get dull and boring FAST.
How about a short-term fitness challenge that takes a minimal amount of time each day to complete?
Think squats, planks, push-ups, and the list goes on. You can stack these and stagger them out to make it work for your life.
Recently, I completed a squats challenge and it was SO worth it. I got REAL results in just 30 days.
These challenges are a great way to jumpstart your fitness routine or mix up your workouts!
Just Google a challenge you want to try!
Want a personal finance challenge? Take On The Money Challenge: 30 Days To A Better Financial You
2. Opt for non-subscription or one-time cost for services.
There are plenty of fitness related apps out there to choose from that are free or low-cost.
Some of the ones I have used in the past are high-intensity interval training (HIIT), strengthening, firming, and yoga with meditation.
The one I’m loving for yoga and meditation is called DailyYoga. There are free beginner lessons that you can try before purchasing. The annual fee can be discounted to ~$20.
3. Use a step-counter.
Walking is a low impact activity and one of the best ways to get moving. I saw my greatest weight loss by getting 10,000 steps a day and eating better.
The results will vary, but getting your steps in will improve your mood, strengthen your bones and muscles, and your balance and coordination will benefit as well.
#5 – Other subscription services.
One of the simplest ways to cut back on expenses is to re-evaluate what you’re paying for but not actively using.
I’ve had subscriptions in the past that automatically got paid and were on auto-pilot. Sure, I could afford it, but did I REALLY need it?
Once I did my review, there were some recurring expenses that got cut pretty easily.
Here are some of the subscriptions I’ve nixed:
• Birchbox / Birchbox Men – this is fun for awhile, but I still have samples I haven’t used from years ago.
• Graze – the snacks were “nice-to-have”, but I ended up subbing for a big bag of pistachios that lasted longer.
• Cable TV – as discussed previously.
• Lawn service to spray the weeds – my HH now just keeps the grass low and it helps with the weeds!
• Shopping clubs – I no longer pay to play.
• Credit cards – I cancel any cards that don’t have a benefit that offsets the annual cost.
• Blue Apron – I found that I didn’t like the meals – overall it’s just expensive.
Groceries + Eating
This category can be one of the second largest areas of your budget.
It is for me, because hey, I love food!
To cut down on costs, acquiring the skills to make food and beverages at home can make such a difference!
#6 – Eat at home often.
I enjoy cooking and acquired this skill a few years back. Lucky for my husband (or not), I don’t follow recipes to a tee. I have done pretty well for experimenting.
You see all the budget-friendly recipes I have on the blog? Those are my variations.
They are tasty, I promise!
Here are some money-saving ideas for eating at home:
1. Find easy recipes that you can cycle through.
Ingredients for different recipes can get expensive REALLY quick. If you cycle through some of your favorite meals, you’re guaranteed to save money.
2. Simple meal prep is essential.
Meal prep is absolutely necessary if you work full-time and get lazy in the evenings.
It doesn’t have to be super organized either. It can be in multiple cooking dishes that you just pile on a plate and reheat.
OR, you can always make dishes that go straight from the fridge to the oven. It cooks up in 30-40 minutes while you decompress from a long day of work.
3. Make food that is appetizing.
The #1 thing that keeps me from eating out regularly is this: I make food I want to eat.
Let’s take for instance – spaghetti. It’s simple to make, delicious, and you can make it healthy by subbing out pasta for zoodles and hiding veggies in the sauce.
Sure, you may never be able to make great Chinese food or muffins from scratch – but any attempt will have your wallet thanking you.
• DISCOVER •
If you are seeking to discover new healthy foods, try Thrive Market. It’s my latest obsession! Thrive Market is making a huge impact in making healthy goods accessible at wholesale prices.
Better yet, with every sign-up, Thrive will sponsor a low-income family for their own year-long subscription so they have access to healthy eating. Awesome!
- Simple Yellow Chicken Curry
- Seasonal Veggie & Ham Quiche
- Hearty Crockpot Beef and Veggie Soup
- Vietnamese Chicken Rice Porridge
- Baked Potato And Turkey Chili
- Stuffed Bacon Cream Cheese Chicken
- Shepherd’s Pie Deluxe
#7 – Lunch in at the office.
Bringing lunch from home is one of the easiest ways to save money.
The supplies for a whole week of lunch can be less than $15.
Here are some ideas:
1. Bring a portion of your dinners. You could even make a small casserole dish that works for the whole week!
2. Prep all lunches prior to the work week. Sandwiches, wraps, salad bowls, and soups make for great grab-and-go lunches.
My husband brings a “burrito/quesadilla” for lunch at work. It consists of a rice tortilla, deli meat, ground black beans, and cheese.
It’s so easy to make too. It takes about 20 minutes tops.
Here’s the quick rundown of this recipe…
- Ground the beans to mush – think refried bean consistency
- Spread on rice or flour tortilla
- Add deli meat
- Add cheese
- Fold in half for a quesadilla if using a rice tortilla (they don’t roll up that great) OR if using a flour tortilla, roll it into a burrito
- Put on hot skillet to seal, let cool, then store
#8 – Coffee is brewed at home.
Trust me, I do enjoy the convenience of a Starbucks fancy coffee, but at $5 an order, it is just not feasible to do it all the time.
My method involves purchasing whole-bean coffee to grind and brew myself.
There are a few reasons why I started doing this – the cost difference from ground coffee is minimal, the coffee tastes better freshly ground, and I can assure that my coffee is made with 100% coffee beans (and no filler).
Also, brewing coffee at home allows me to stretch my coffee further by putting in exactly as much as I want for a stronger cup and also add the accompaniments I enjoy.
Of course, feel free to make it easier on yourself and opt for ground coffee. Invest in a coffee machine for a reasonable price and there ya go, a nice hot coffee anytime you brew it yourself.
Pshhh, Star —- who?
When shopping occurs, how are you ensuring that you don’t overspend or are getting the most out of the actual dollars spent?
Here are a few ways I do it…
#9 – Shopping list.
Chances are you may not consider a shopping list because it takes time to write it all out. Wouldn’t it be much easier to buy whatever looks good?
Yes, in the perfect world.
When I go out grocery or household shopping I have a list. At this point it’s not due to a poor memory, it’s because I have a list of estimated prices and a grand total.
If I veer off the list then I know I have gone over how much I wanted to spend. Sometimes this is fine, other times it keeps me honest and focused on why I’m shopping.
#10 – Clothes on sale.
I’m a woman who likes pretty things, but I don’t do much clothing shopping. This past year I bought maybe one item of clothing – and it was interview attire. Crazy, huh?
When I do decide to shop for clothing, I make a beeline for the sale merchandise. It is great to find a deal on an item that adds value to my closet and is worn consistently.
Along with seeking out sales, I also think about resale value. Somewhere down the line if I want to sell the item, it will move way faster.
If you are looking for advice on frugal fashion or where you can sell your clothes and accessories for extra money, definitely check out the below articles for more info!
#11 – Discounts or Cash back.
I have some go-to apps that I use to get the most out of spending on everyday items and gifts.
When I make a purchase I always check Ebates and RetailMeNot for cash back or discount codes, respectively.
Let’s say, for instance, I’m making a purchase at Sephora.com (my go-to for skincare products). I go to Ebates first and find Sephora. I use their link to click-through to Sephora and proceed with making my purchase.
After the fact (24-48 hours), a percentage of your purchase will be added to your Ebates account.
The cash back varies, so check it out to see what your favorite online store pays out for each purchase!
If you are interested in using Ebates in-store, there are select stores that are offered.
As for discount codes, Retailmenot is awesome for that. I use it when I order delivery pizza, buy gifts, and so on. It has the same simplicity as Ebates.com.
Just visit the website, enter the retailer, and if they are in-network then there will be codes that come up.
The next step is to review which code you want to apply to your pending order and get ready for a discount code or freebies!
Another tip here is that if you are not particularly “retailer loyal”, if one store doesn’t have a code you can use, try finding a store that does so that you CAN get the discount. It’s your preference!
For shopping in-store, who doesn’t shop at Target?!
Cartwheel is available through the Target app. A simple download and account setup and you are able to get percentages off for what you would normally buy.
My method is simply scanning the everyday items I purchase. At checkout, scan the code on your phone, and voila!
If you have a range of stores that you visit, try Ibotta. They have a wide variety of grocery/non-grocery retailers under their umbrella.
This is how Ibotta works.
› Add the products to your account › Purchase the goods from the store › Take a picture of the receipt › Scan the barcode (sometimes)
Cash back will be deposited within 48 hours. How cool is that?!
Lifestyle Upgrades + Upkeep
This category tends to rise in costs when more money is made.
That is because it is very easy to get sucked into consumer spending.
Yes, a brand-new phone or laptop with the best tech and a shiny new car sounds great. But, do you really want to pay the price?
The money going here will take away from paying yourself first.
#12 – Cell phones.
My household uses phones from 2013 which these days can seem pretty archaic especially being a smartphone.
It’s not as though the phone is operating seamlessly at this point – it’s DEFINITELY not. It gets really sassy when I want to take screenshots or need storage capabilities.
Side note: In your situation, consider the costs of upgrading tech. Is it worth it? Can you get by using a phone and desktop/laptop and wait until the next generation is released and buy the older version at that time?
If you opt to pay now, recoup your costs by selling your used device on eBay or Decluttr.
#13 – Cars.
This can be tricky because many people identity with having a nice car and will even go into debt to fund one.
It’s all relative.
If you can afford a nice car and it’s important to you – go for it.
Alternatively, if you can’t afford to fully fund a car purchase, then that’s where you have to consider your options – do you go into debt or wait and buy a car when you have the money?
Personally, both my husband and I drive cars that are each over 10 years old.
The two cars I have are economical and reliable. I purchased them outright and keep them maintained. I’m in the camp of not switching out cars until it’s absolutely necessary.
Here are some ideas when it comes to cars:
1. Do your research. Find a reliable car that has a track record of lasting a long time.
The plan here would be to use the car for a long, long time. You will find that many people that build their wealth choose not to sink money in depreciating assets like a car.
2. “Like new” cars cost thousands less.
Once you drive off the lot, you lose ~10% of your car value and the value will continue to depreciate each year.
Buying a used car that is “like new” will save you thousands of dollars.
3. Insuring an older car will save you money.
A perk of buying a car that is used is that the insurance costs much less. It’s on a sliding scale. The older the car, the less it costs to insure.
Also, if it gets to the point that the cost of insuring the car outweighs the benefits, there’s an option to exclude collision insurance.
#14 – Salon services.
These type of services are nice and sometimes necessary – after working that stressful 9-5!
That being the case, there are ways to cut down on haircare expenses and still feel pampered.
Here are some ideas:
There are ways to get your color done without the necessary upkeep. For instance, coloring techniques that use bayalage, lowlights, sombre, among others.
If you’re just looking for root coverage, there are hair powders that you can use to match your hair color. This can extend your salon visits.
Once you’re at the salon, make sure the stylists are only applying color to your roots and not pulling the color through to your ends. Less color used = Less expensive
If you have a no-fuss hairstyle, you can get by with visiting the salon every 4-6 months.
As for bangs, do you find yourself visiting the salon to get them trimmed often?
A trick to cutting bangs is to comb them to the opposite side of where they hang and trim them that way. Start with a few snips (and work from there).
Comb them back the usual way you wear them and voila shortened bangs that aren’t messed up.
3. Visit hair schools.
If you have a hairstyle that needs regular upkeep, consider going to a hair school for service. The prices are a fraction of typical salons.
If you find someone there that you like, you can always request for them to do your hair. Just keep in mind, that you will continually have to find someone new since the students will eventually graduate.
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The Bottom Line
There you have it – my frugal living measures.
I’m not afraid to spend on things that are important to me. Likewise, I’m not afraid to make cuts that will help the bottom line.
As a reminder of my previous points, take a good hard look at the following costs that you pay:
- Monthly extras
- Groceries + eating out
- Lifestyle upgrades
My method of controlling the larger and recurring expenses in my budget have resulted in an easier way of living.
In my situation, I don’t feel restricted because this is just a way of life for me. It has allowed my household to save often and life is easier as a result. As crazy as it sounds, the less you spend, the less complicated your life is…#truth
Read more about my mission HERE.
Ways to stretch your money further + earn extra cash:
Ebates – receive $10 when you spend $25 (online/in-store shopping)
Ibotta – receive $10 as a welcome gift (grocery in-store shopping)
Visit my resources page for more information on each service and to view other offers!
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Readers, what are the frugal living measures you take to save money in your household? Please share!