Are you living within your means? Do you want to start living frugally? Kickstart saving money with these 20 essential frugal living tips!
If you want to get the best frugal living tips and learn how to be frugal, I have some experience with that!
I LOVE living a frugal lifestyle & all that it brings me. Frugal living gives me the FREEDOM to do whatever I want.
Freedom from my debt, freedom from my 9-to-5 job, and freedom from stressing out about money.
Everyone is different and everyone has different priorities. What some consider normal is extremely frugal for others.
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.
[Related read: I Need Money Now – Ways To Get Quick Cash]
What Does Frugal Living Mean?
Many people misunderstand the word frugal and miss 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.
Is Frugal Living Worth It?
Are you tired of being stressed out about money? YES, frugal living is worth it.
Focus on all the positives you get from frugal living, and you never want to go back.
Frugal living allows you to build more freedom into your life. You will be able to reach your financial goals faster. You will be able to spend money on the things you value. You don’t have to stop spending money altogether.
BUT, you need to stop spending money on things that don’t matter to you.
Finding your why is important here.
If you have financial goals that you really want to achieve, this can be a great motivator to keep going!
Frugal Living Gives You Options
When you want to reach your financial goals, there are always 2 sides to the equation.
Income – spending = savings.
Some people believe that earning is the only way to improve your financial situation, while others believe saving money is better than earning more income.
The truth is, if you want to save more money, you need to focus on increasing the gap between your income and your spending.
You need to focus both on creating more income and on reducing your spending.
Most people still have some room in their budget to cut back just a little bit more. Even if you’re a high earner who is focusing more on the income side of the equation, spend less money to help you on your path to financial freedom!
Earning More Money Won’t Solve All Problems
If you only focus on earning more money while you never dive into your spending habits, it might hold you back for years. It can lead to lifestyle inflation, keeping up with the Joneses, and more.
If you don’t realize your drinking cup has a hole in it, you can keep putting more water in, but your cup will never stay full.
This is why I believe anyone can benefit from a frugal lifestyle. However, frugal living may not be natural to everyone.
I will show you how to start being frugal and share frugal living tips so that you can reach any financial goal you have faster.
Despite what other people often think – being frugal is NOT boring. On the contrary, being frugal will allow you to focus on your long-term goals and you will find true enjoyment in the things you already have, which in turn can lead to new and exciting experiences!
20 Essential Frugal Living Tips
Here are 20 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 about 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 lead 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, living your own life and focusing 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!
If you want to join the frugal fun, here are 105 fun things you can do without spending money!
2. Get Rid Of Your Expensive Car
Many of my friends have been saving for a new car for years.
They get a raise and decide that their reward should be a new car.
Some just go out and get one with a loan, which means that they are currently driving a car that’s not paid off. They are paying off more than $550 per month for almost 5 years.
I simply cannot believe that you would give 20% of your take-home pay every month to pay off your car. That doesn’t even include fuel, insurance, or maintenance costs.
My friends are not the only ones. According to the latest available data from Experian, people have an average loan of $31,455 for their vehicles. This means the monthly payments average $523 per month, with an average interest rate of 5.17% for an average period of 69 months. That’s a $523 payment for almost 6 years!
For some people car payments of $523 per month are affordable, but I’m assuming it’s a lot of money for most people. In addition to this, you can add fuel, insurance, taxes, and maintenance.
This means the number is even going to be higher!
If you want to start living frugally, you need to take charge of your financial situation and analyze your car expenses!
Try buying a used car, and saving up cash in order to pay for as much as possible of your car upfront.
3. Enjoy What You Currently Have
You’re reading this blog, which means you’re life is above average in terms of wealth. You have access to a computer and to an internet connection, which not all people have.
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?
I’ve bought things in my life just for the sake of buying things. I bought €8 avocado socks, just because I was not feeling happy that day.
It’s not a big purchase, and I love avocados, but I didn’t buy the socks from a good place. It was a place of disappointment from where I bought the socks, so they don’t even make me as happy as avocado socks should make me (+ they have glitter!).
Frugality means that you can still have a great life and do amazing things while being on a budget.
Frugal living tip #3 is about how money doesn’t have to put you in a certain direction, and it certainly doesn’t have to determine how much you enjoy life.
Part of being happy with what you have is being creative and accepting that living frugally is super fun. You don’t have to be bored when you’re watching your budget!
[Related Read: How I Live On Half My Income – And You Can Too!]
4. 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. They have a nice car, they have the newest gadgets, they have bought a new house, they have a holiday 3x per year to exotic places.
Okay, that’s good for them, but that doesn’t mean you should have it as well.
It doesn’t matter what their income is, what their job title is, or what their age is. You should think for yourself whether it will really benefit you or not. Will it add to my life?
Maybe your friends have saved for it for years, maybe their parents are helping them, or maybe they are neck-deep in credit card debt.
Frugal living tip #4, a
And be realistic about 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!
5. 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.
Decreasing your wants can help you reach financial freedom sooner!
You’re living on less than you were before and being more frugal. This means that your retirement savings don’t need to be as high, which means that they are easier to obtain and in a shorter amount of time!
If you want to dive further into how much money you will need for (early) retirement, read more here:
- A Simplified Look at the Savings Rate
- 3 Ways to Reach Financial Freedom
- The Ultimate Guide to Financial Independence and Retire Early
6. Stop Making Excuses
In the last few years, I’ve been working on increasing my confidence and increasing my self-awareness, but I’ve also stopped making excuses!
Stop saying ‘I can’t’, because most of the time it’s just not a priority.
‘I can’t spend less on a car, because I have to drive to work,’ well you can buy a cheaper secondhand car.
‘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 legitimate reasons why people have financial setbacks, but there are many people out there making excuses for why they can’t reach their goals.
It’s a bad money habit, that may hold you back from reaching your (financial) goals. You’re not giving yourself the life you want!
Try to be realistic next time you’re making an excuse. For example, if you’re living from paycheck to paycheck, identify your largest expenses, and do something about it!
7. 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?
If your goal is to earn €20.000 in passive income in five years, then what will get you there fastest?
Identify where your biggest expenses are coming from, and try to cut from them.
A few do-it-yourself things that I recommend:
- 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
I recommend that you try to DIY with these kinds of things, and you don’t go into things that don’t bring much money compared to the time it takes.
For example, if you want to make your own laundry detergent or make your own clothes, that can take more time than it will save money.
Just to illustrate you have to lay your efforts there where you can get 10X the results. Get the low-hanging fruit first!
Frugal Living Tip #8: Don’t Turn your 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 replacements 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.
You need housing, but you don’t need those extra rooms that will be empty anyway.
You need clothes, but you don’t need the most expensive brand in multiple different colors.
There are also things that you think are needs, but are honestly just wants.
You don’t need that expensive new car, a cheaper second-hand one will do just fine. You don’t need the latest gadgets or the latest phone, an old model that you buy with a sim-only plan will do just fine.
I think you get the point here. Don’t let your lifestyle inflate too much to the point where you can’t go back once you hit a financial setback!
9. Decluttering Like a Boss
One of my favorite frugal living tips is decluttering and having less stuff. If you want to be more frugal, decluttering is the way to go!
Decluttering will lead to minimalism, which has a lot of benefits:
- Less worry – when you get rid of things, you will not only free up space in your house but also in your mind. You can take on new things and bring in new ideas!
- Less maintenance and cleaning – if you want to have a lot of things, they require time to clean and to maintain. Plus, you don’t have to search for things as much! This will free up a lot of your time, which you can now spend on doing things you love!
- Less spending – sell the things you don’t need anymore and prevent buying back the things that you’ve just thrown out.
You can do it the way I did it, with Radical frugality, and clean out all your stuff in a few weeks. It helps if you’re going to move or having a major life event since that will be a more natural point to hit the reset button.
10. The True Test: Entertainment
Now comes the true test: do you truly want to be frugal? If the answer is yes, you should find some cheap cable TV alternatives.
Some people are spending a lot of money to try and enjoy life. One friend once told me that she and her partner are spending over €400 every month on entertainment. Going out to festivals, restaurants, and more.
If you’re already having debt and trying to get rid of it, I can’t think of any reason you should add more debt into the mix. Besides, it is not necessary; it can also add stress to your life.
11. Meal plan
One of the things that have helped me most to cut down grocery spending, is to meal plan. Do it the way you like it!
Some weeks I go to the supermarket and think about what I want to eat from the top of my head. There are weeks I go to the supermarket with a list of things I want to eat and what I need for it. Some weeks I just wing it and go to the supermarket multiple times a week, but that’s really upping my grocery bill.
Try to meal plan! Think about what you want to eat for the week, and buy only those things. Go to the grocery store once per week and buy the things you need in bulk.
This way, you’re saving on grocery costs, but you’re also less tempted to go out to eat during the week, and you can bring your lunch to work on days you’re going to the office.
If this is a week where you need more food inspiration, try these 11 cheap, easy meal ideas!
Other ways to save on food are: make your grocery list based on what you have in your pantry, never shop hungry, skip the expensive brands, cut your own veggies, and make your own meals.
[Related Read: 25+ Easy Money Saving Tips]
12. 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.’
Let that sink in. The first time I heard that my mind was totally blown, they have a point!
It is a common theme in this post, but I wanted to make it a separate point to really let it get through to you and stretch the importance of this.
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?
If it is something that you truly want, no problem, please go ahead. I am not saying you can’t buy nice things. I am saying that you need to be honest with yourself and ask yourself: do I really need & want this item?
If I’m honest, I have bought many things during high school to impress my classmates. Designer clothes, designer shoes, the newest bag. I didn’t care so much, but everyone else was doing it, so in order to fit in, I was doing that as well.
In the end, it doesn’t matter. It’s not about your outer appearance, but it’s about your inner world.
Stay true to yourself, and you’ll be a happier person.
13. Stop your bad habits
Everyone has bad habits, no worries you’re not alone! Some people are smoking, drinking, and gambling. Others are going to tanning beds, (online) shopping, spending way too much time with television or social media, speeding their way to work, or rushing to get things done. These are the habits that are bad for your wallet, but they may also be bad for your health.
My #1 bad habit is rushing, I’m always in a rush, and then I forget things. I’m in a rush sending an email out and forgetting the attachment, I’m rushing out the door in the morning and I don’t think about my keys, I’m rushing in the supermarket and I’m not getting everything I want.
These are just a few examples that happen to me on a daily basis when rushing, which I want to improve. They cost money as well, for example;
- I hit a parking pole with my car
- In the store, I buy poor-quality products because I decided to buy them in 5 minutes
- I am bumping over things on my way out, and more.
14. 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 have 3 different magazines coming in every month, but you only read one, it doesn’t make any sense to keep the other two.
Personally, I only like to pay for things that I use, and so should you if you want to live frugally!
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.
I love to hear your negotiating stories, let me know below!
16. 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.
If you think you don’t have anything to sell, my experience is that there are always things to sell. Here is a quick list for some inspiration.
Don’t want to hassle listing the items and dealing with people coming over to pick them up? Use Decluttr for any CDs, DVDs, games, cell phones, or LEGO you have lying around. You don’t even pay for shipping! You print their label, send it to them, and get paid once they receive the item!
17. Go To Your Library
A library is a genius place where they have all kinds of things. From books to movies to magazines. Everything you could ever need to live a frugal life, you can find there.
No more hundreds of dollars spent on books you may read once – or not at all.
18. Save On Your Electricity Bill
There are a thousand ways you can save money on your electricity bill. You can put down your thermostat, use LED lights, or switch things off completely.
Do you want to hear more tips to save your utility bill? Check out this article!
19. Return Things You Don’t Need
Everyone had a purchase that they completely regretted once they came home. Know that you don’t HAVE to keep it. You can simply return it to the store.
It may cost a little extra effort, but it’s better than keeping something you don’t even want.
20. 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 doing many side hustles. I was a babysitter and dog walker, filled out surveys, participated in medical tests, and tested websites.
The best side hustles out there are:
- Pinterest Virtual Assistant
- Online proofreader
- Flipping items online
- Online transcription
- Affiliate marketing
- Starting a blog
Are you looking for fast cash, check out these under-the-table jobs that will pay cash daily.
21. Earn Gift Cards
Getting gift cards is a great way to buy things for a discounted price. There are dozens of ways you can use to get free gift cards.
Here are a couple of my favorite ways:
Swagbucks – get $5 free when you’re creating a new account and collecting enough points. Get paid in gift cards or cash. Also, make money through shopping, playing games, or watching videos. Read our entire Swagbucks review.
Survey Junkie – make up to $45 per survey.
Find 15 additional ways to get free gift cards and get yourself the things you need.
Pro tip: 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 I took over the floor and curtains for the previous resident.
This means that actually, I didn’t buy anything new when moving into my new apartment!
I still want to shop more secondhand, but I’m getting there. I didn’t buy any new clothes since October 2018, and I’m not even missing them! When I buy new clothing again, I’ll go and find something second-hand.
What is your ultimate frugal living tip? What do you think about living frugally?
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.