Are you spending only what you can afford? Do you want to start living a simple and thrifty life? Start saving money with these 20 helpful tips for budget-friendly living!
If you want to work towards financial independence and retire early (FIRE), pay off your debt quicker, save more money, or whatever financial goals you have – frugal living will get you to your goal FASTER.
What Does Frugal Living Mean?
Many people misunderstand the word frugal into missing out. You can not get what you want. Or you can not afford to buy something.
Frugal living is living a life of meaning. Spending money on things that are important to you, and not spending money on the things that aren’t. When you are living frugally, you are very intentional with your spending.
Frugality means something completely different to different people.
Frugal living does not mean buying clothes at H&M while you value originality. It does not mean buying cheap shoes every other month. And it does not mean you will never go on vacation ever again.
YOU decide where you spend and where you save. You can take your own approach & use that to decide whether you want to buy something or not.
Does Frugal Mean Cheap?
Many people have asked me whether frugal means cheap or living stingy. It doesn’t. Cheap is buying new shoes every other month because you don’t want to spend more than $10. Frugal means buying those $60 shoes and saving for them by cooking food at home.
20 Essential Frugal Living Tips
Here are frugal living tips that will help you save money in the long run & start your life of fulfillment and joy.
1. Embrace Frugal Living
Don’t resist the awesomeness of a frugal life!
Frugality has many negative associations, people think if you’re frugal you’re boring and cheap. There are many myths around frugality.
That’s simply not true: you can be frugal AND have fun in life!
Lots of people think happiness comes from spending money. Of course, having money can help improve your life, but it’s not the end all be all!
Money can also read to undesirable side effects, like stress and debt, when it’s not managed well.
Being frugal isn’t something that is done out of necessity, it’s much more than that.
Frugal living is about:
- A long term lifestyle choice that you make
- Being SICK of the money stress & take control of your finances
- Learning how to save money by focusing on your own wants, by living your own life and focussing less on others
- Simplifying your life
- Appreciating everything that you already have
In order to start being frugal, it’s important to see that frugality isn’t a means to an end. It’s the beginning of your lifestyle change, that will start today!
2. Enjoy What You Currently Have
You’re reading this blog, which means your life is above average regarding wealth. You have access to a computer and internet connection, which not everyone has.
Next time you’re telling yourself that you really need this or that, be honest. Do you actually need it? Or is it just a habit, do you just want it?
Part of being happy with what you have is being creative and accepting that to live frugally is super fun. You don’t have to be boring when you’re watching your budget!
3. Can I Afford It?
The most important question you have to ask yourself before you buy anything is: can I afford it?
You may want to buy something, simply because someone else has it. If you think you can afford it while you can’t, this will hurt your financial situation in the long term. Plus, your debit card may get rejected when you’re at the checkout. That’s not fun for anyone.
Only buy things that bring you joy and things that you can truly afford!
4. Decrease Your Wants
Part of being happy with what you have and asking yourself if you can afford it is decreasing your wants. This is important if you ask yourself how to be frugal.
By practicing these kinds of things, you will need less in the future.
If you can live on less every month, you can decrease your amounts for emergency funds or even your amount for retirement.
5. Stop Making Excuses
Stop saying ‘I can’t’, because most of the time it’s just not a priority.
‘I can’t go to the gym, because I can’t afford it’, running is free and you’re getting perfectly fit doing that. Or join in on a 30-day beginner plank challenge.
Of course, there are many legit reasons why people have financial setbacks, but there are many people out there making excuses for why they can’t reach their goals.
6. Make your own / DIY
When you’re trying to start your frugal living, it’s important to make your own and try to do it yourself. Try to make your own and DIY within boundaries.
Think about, what will give me 10X the results? A few do it yourself things that you could try:
- Bring your own lunch to work
- Bring your own coffee or tea wherever you go
- Try to do most of the household yourself
- Take care of yourself, so that you’re healthy and happy
7. Don’t Turn you Wants Into Needs
There are certain things you can’t live without in life, which are water, food, housing, and clothing. This means that you need only these things, but you don’t need replacement or additions to these things.
You need water, but you don’t need soda, bottled water, or even Starbucks coffee (yes I know coffee has its own food group, but that doesn’t mean you won’t survive when you make it yourself).
Fun fact: I’ve stopped drinking coffee this year and it makes me feel GREAT!
Also, you need food, but you don’t need to go out to eat every time.
8. Stop trying to impress others
One of my favorite movies, Fight Club, has a great quote: ‘We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like’.
You have to stop caring about what others think about you. You’re probably thinking now: I don’t care what others think of me!
Then be honest with yourself, do you really want that expensive car? Do you really want that big house? Do you really want that designer purse?
9. Don’t Pay for Things You Don’t Use
Don’t be that person to has a gym membership and never goes or that person who has Netflix + Hulu + HBO and only watches one. If you don’t use it, don’t pay for it!
If you’re having 3 different magazines coming in every month, but you only read one, it doesn’t make any sense to keep the other two.
Always negotiate, seriously always!
Things you can negotiate about:
- Always negotiate your salary – obviously
- When you have a plan of some sort and you want to switch. So, for example, your phone plan – call your provider and see what they can do. Some will do it, some will not, it’s an easy way to save money!
- In every store where you’re buying expensive items – for example, when I bought a vacuum and a washing machine, I got a fan for free.
- When you’re on holiday – in a lot of countries it’s normal to negotiate when you’re buying something.
- When buying things secondhand
A lot of times when you want to switch and they risk not having you as a customer anymore, they will be able to give you some sort of discount.
11. Sell Things You Don’t Use
When you have decluttered and identified what items you don’t use anymore, you can sell what you don’t use anymore. I love how things turn into cash very quickly when you list them online.
12. Start A Side Hustle
If you really want to level up your savings, starting a side hustle is a surefire way to do that.
When you’ve already lowered your expenses and know where your money is going, making more money will speed up your financial freedom process. Here are the very best side hustle ideas.
When I was in college, I was making money by working a job and did many side hustles. I was a babysitter, dog walker, filled out surveys, participated in medical tests, and tested websites.
13. Buy Second Hand
If you need something – when I say this I mean need it, not simply want it – ask someone else if they have this item that they don’t use anymore. Ask friends and family, you will be surprised!
When I moved into my new apartment, I needed the basics. Furniture, hangers for my clothing, and more. I asked around and looked at the Dutch craigslist. I got chairs from my grandmother, a table from my aunt, a shoe rack for my birthday, a dresser, and a coat rack from craigslist, and took over the floor and curtains for the previous resident.
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Founder of Spark Nomad, Radical FIRE, Journalist
Expertise: Personal finance and travel content
Education: Bachelor of Economics at Radboud University, Master in Finance at Radboud University, Minor in Economics at Chapman University.
Over 200 articles, essays, and short stories published across the web.
Experience: Marjolein Dilven is a journalist and founder of Spark Nomad, a travel platform, and Radical FIRE, a personal finance platform. Marjolein has a finance and economics background with a master’s in Finance. She has quit her job to travel the world, documenting her travels on Spark Nomad to help people plan their travels. Marjolein Dilven has written for publications like MSN, Associated Press, CNBC, Town News syndicate, and more.