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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? Precisely, yes. 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 ~$16k when I bought it used 7+ years ago and I drink organic whole-bean coffee.
You may be asking – how is that frugal living?
In my case, I’ve opted to focus my spending on what makes sense for my life and I have been able to still save a considerable amount of money.
You can do the same.
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?
I will break it down by category of the 14 tips I have used to cut back in order to SAVE MORE. In turn, investing to build wealth!
Understandably, there will be aspects of this list that may not pertain to your situation.
Alternatively, there will be at least a few that you can take and start emulating today!
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.
Living arrangements can be expensive. Understandably, depending on where you live, the cost of living is going to vary considerably.
There are ways to minimize these costs. Some examples include opting to live in the suburbs, an apartment complex with fewer amenities, and a home with a smaller footprint.
If your preference is to live in a larger city, consider options to have a roomie pay some of the costs.
Living situations can vary significantly for each person. The reality is, keeping the costs down in this area will largely affect long-term savings.
#1 – Modest home.
I used to have aspirations of having a large home with stairs overlooking the living room and a large library with a warm, inviting fire.
Some of these aspects are still on my wish-list for my forever home, but I have grown to understand what is practical and what isn’t.
For the past 11+ years, I have resided in a modest starter home.
It is the perfect size for a two-person household, but could easily accommodate a couple more.
Staying in my current house has been a deliberate choice for the past 5-6 years. The talk of moving surfaced a lot about 5 years in, but it got put to the wayside because staying put made economic sense.
Coming into our 12th year in this house, there are plans to make a move in the next 1-2 years. This being the case, the next move will not be the forever home, only an intermediate living arrangement.
If a move out-of-state occurs then I will likely find a place to rent that mirrors my prior suggestions.
Though I want to stay closer to the city, I know that renting on the outskirts will allow for a few hundred dollars savings each month.
Side note: If you are considering a larger home, remember to factor in the costs of upkeep, utilities (upstairs is never the right temp), property taxes (larger home generally larger mortgage), furnishings, and if it is a new build – window coverings. It can get very costly!
#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.
In my mind, I always think about how that money could have been used alternatively and make comments like “I could have gotten 3 nice shirts for that price!” It may sound silly, but in time it just came down to realizing what I could buy with the money that was spent on the blowing air.
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.
On most occasions, I feel fine when I’m lounging indoors. When it gets to be cold outside it gets somewhat uncomfortable in the house, but nothing outrageous.
The temperature fluctuation inside the house can make a difference, even if it’s a small extent. If you are conscious about just adjusting a few degrees that’s better than nothing.
Also, being mindful of the thermostat when the home is unoccupied is a simple solution.
Utilities need to be paid regardless, so why not take some measures to reduce the cost?
#3 – Basic Appliances.
None of my appliances are super fancy. All super basic. The fridge was purchased for ~500.00 and has been in use for over 11 years and is still functioning great.
The dishwasher and oven were new when the home was bought and have not been updated.
I have come to realize that unless the functionality changes drastically, it isn’t worth it to pay exorbitant prices for appliances.
Let’s just say, unless the washer or dryer will clean and dry my clothes in record time, buying mid-level is sufficient.
Appliances will eventually give out from use, so moving to a higher price point isn’t going to give me cleaner dishes or keep my food from perishing.
These are the costs that creep up every, single month to take a bite out of your paycheck.
Consider cutting back on these recurring expenses to maximize savings. I’m talking about cable TV, gym membership, lawn service, food delivery, 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.
#4 – Antenna TV.
Not exactly an antenna attached to a TV, but an antenna for the TV. Mine is lying on its side on one of my side towers. It’s kind of funny because it just wouldn’t cooperate sitting straight up.
With over a year of reflection, eliminating this monthly cost was worth it to me.
I talk all about making the switch in the below article…
Related article: Real-Life Savings Series – Bye-Bye Cable
#5 – Home gym.
A monthly cost that is not in my budget are trips to the gym. Early on, an investment in gym equipment was made in my household. A treadmill and a simple weight machine.
The one-time costs 10-plus years ago have been well worth it.
And, it’s also likely that the items will move with to the next living arrangement or be sold for a small recoupment to invest in newer equipment.
Side note: Nowadays, there are alternative forms of exercise that are FREE or low cost. It is not necessary to spend money for the gym or even on equipment. It depends largely on what activities you like to do to stay fit, so do what works for you.
GROCERIES + EATING
This category can be one of the second largest areas of your budget.
It is for me, because hey, I love food!
In my opinion, controlling the spending within this category can lead to considerable cost savings.
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!
My household used to spend a crazy amount eating out each month. A few years ago, the eating out costs amounted to a large portion of the food budget.
Of course, for what really came down to junk – not the good stuff. Now, we try to eat in and meal prep each week.
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.
The cost and time savings makes the hour of meal prep each Sunday well worth it!
Side note: You may not have acquired the cooking skill, though I can assure you that it is not that hard.
Sure, you may never be able to make great Chinese food or muffins from scratch – but any attempt will have your wallet thanking you.
- Simple Yellow Chicken Curry
- Seasonal Veggie & Ham Quiche
- Hearty Crockpot Beef and Veggie Soup
- Vietnamese Chicken Rice Porridge
#7 – Lunch in at the office.
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
Bringing lunch from home is one of the easiest ways to save money. The supplies for a whole week of lunch is about $12-$15.
You can easily spend that amount in a day and a half eating out.
#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.
Though, let me tell you, pizza slices sitting out there in the open always call my name.
Download the shopping list template I use. It includes a tab to enter your go-to recipes! It is available for Excel & Google Sheets. You can download either version from the FTD Resource Library. You will receive access when you sign up below!
Get The Shopping List Template!
#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.
For instance, you see the pants pictured above? These are J. Crew from 2015. I bought 3 pairs of the same pants on sale for $17/each in black, and they are my absolute go-to’s for travel, work, and trekking around town.
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 Ebates, RetailMeNot, Cartwheel, Whole Foods, and Groupon as a go-to.
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.com first and find Sephora. I use their link to click-through to Sephora and proceed with making my purchase.
After the fact, give it a short amount of time (it varies), 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!
As for discount codes, Retailmenot.com 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.
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!
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!
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 shop at Whole Foods, try the app. You will be able to view their upcoming sales for the week to plan your meals AND there are coupons that you can review and use with a simple scan at checkout.
I will be writing up an article as to why I shop at Whole Foods, and it’s not what you think…I’m not a mind-reader though so you will have to check it out when it’s released!
As for Groupon, I don’t use it as often as I used to because it’s geared towards discounts on food (ya know, the whole eating out thing from #6).
I pretty much just keep it around for those times my social media goes crazy because there is a Starbucks half off deal.
Related article: The Ultimate Gift Guide For The Millennial Woman
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 – Old phone.
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.
And yes, I just anthropomorphized my phone!
Also, for about one year I used a phone where I had to buy the minutes. I seriously did not want to pay the phone bill for some reason so I resorted to this method.
A dinky phone where anytime I wanted to send a message to my husband it was through email because text wasn’t enabled. I don’t miss those days.
Though, it has certainly left an imprint on my memory.
Side note: In your situation, consider the costs of upgrading. Is it worth it? Can you get by using your phone and wait until the next phone generation is released and buy the older version at that time?
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- 3 Impactful Reasons To Prioritize Saving Money
#13 – Computer/Laptop.
Up until this past summer, I was using an old MacBook I got at the end of 2011 from my graduate studies.
I was using that one up until the point I spilled coffee on it. RIP, old MacBook… I took this opportunity to invest in a new laptop I will use until it stops functioning.
Side note: My suggestion here is similar to buying a new phone. Purchase an older generation to limit the costs of purchasing due to the hype.
Also, consider purchasing from online retailers such as QVC.com when it’s more likely you can get on a plan to spread those interest-free payments out.
The key word is “interest-free”…I will never promote paying anything with interest.
#14 – Old cars.
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.
I will drive my car until I need to [begrudgingly] go buy a new-ish one. Do people really think shopping for cars is fun?
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.
Side note: If I lived in a larger city with a robust public transit system I would not own a car at all. I would actually enjoy doing that someday and be completely car-free. Wouldn’t that be nice?!
The Bottom Line
Now that you have my frugal living measures, in a nutshell, you can tell that I live pretty frugally and try to let things affect just my husband and me.
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 more savings and an easier way of living.
I’ll be honest with you.
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
Until next time…
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Readers, what are the frugal living measures you take to save money in your household? Please share!