What Does Frugal Living Mean?
To be perfectly honest, it means something a little bit different to each and every person, but in general, it means living within your means and not spending money unnecessarily.
Frugality is being intentional with your money and belongings. There are some big similarities to minimalist living.
While we’ll get into some specific mentalities and habits shortly, which will get you into the right mindset to look at your situation (and your finances) from a different perspective.
In a nutshell, there are 3 basic rules to simple frugal living:
- Minimize the waste you create (reuse whenever possible).
- Maximize the value of every single item you spend money on (and even some things that you don’t spend money on).
- Let go of the idea that money = happiness, and that money = popular/successful/worthy/etc. (Those are all just lies to get you to spend more money and stay miserable.)
What I do want to take a second to point out is the difference between frugal vs cheap.
If you live frugally, you’re making smart choices with your money, getting the most value for each penny spent, and not purchasing things that have low value.
For example, buying a Honda or Toyota vehicle knowing they are the most reliable cars on the road.
On the other hand, if you’re living cheap, well, I hate to say it but you’re actually not being very smart with your money.
You’re buying a cheaper, off-brand TV because it has a lower up-front cost, but you’re definitely going to need to replace it much sooner than if you had bought a higher-end/better quality TV.
You might buy shoes that only cost a few dollars, but if they’re running sneakers and you’re training for a marathon, I doubt you’ll make it to marathon day before they’re worn out entirely.
In a very simple but straightforward example, consider this:
- Frugal: Go out to dinner at a restaurant. Only drink water, and skip dessert to save a few dollars. Tip the waiter at least appropriately, if not generously (20%+).
- Cheap: Go out to dinner at a restaurant. Order anything you want, realize you need to save a few dollars and give the waiter a really crappy tip (maybe 10% or less).
You don’t have to be a cheap skate in order to be living a frugal lifestyle. We suggest making small incremental changes if you have doubts. This will allow you to start living frugally and still be a kind and courteous person without feeling overwhelmed.
Another example that demonstrates the true frugal meaning: When shopping you may find yourself choosing value over the price of an item. A frugal person won’t be afraid to spend a little bit more money on something they know will last them longer. A cheap person will try to find the least expensive option available, to spend as little as possible.
What Benefits Come From Frugal Living?
Now we aren’t trying to talk you into an extreme frugal living, where you reuse bath water with your entire family to save on your water bill or something!
But there are a number of benefits to frugality. Some examples are:
- Improved mental health. If you can live within your means and stop worrying about how your life compares to others, you’ll feel much less stress and less desire to “keep up” with those around you.
- Increased overall wealth. Whether this starts to happen immediately or it takes a little longer will depend on your income level, but in general, you’ll be spending less money on things that don’t matter and start seeing an increase in either savings or money spent on things that do matter, such as memorable family vacations. Wealth isn’t just measured in dollars, after all.
- More satisfying family life. With less money going out the door every month, you’ll very likely be able to right your finances to finally get out of debt, not need to work as many hours (as you were when trying to pay off debts), and have more time to relax and enjoy your family without feeling stressed that you aren’t at work.
- Capability to have more freedom. You may find that frugal living is the key to being able to minimize costs to such an extent that you could retire early. Maybe it simply allows you to have a comfortable disposable income each month.
How To Enjoy Living a Frugal Lifestyle?
This is pretty easy, so I’ll keep it short and sweet: stop caring what your life looks like in comparison to anyone else’s life, and start enjoying it for exactly what it is this very minute.
I mean, it could always be worse, right?
Really, that’s all it takes. With a little more pause before you buy, and a little more creative thinking before you complain, you really CAN live a life that feels fulfilling, comfortable, and enjoyable, all while being smart with your money.
Once you settle into your own routine of living your frugal life, you’ll find that frugal living is fun and that yes, frugal living is worth it.
15 Frugal Living Habits That’ll Change Your Life
These are the best frugal living tips that you’ll find, because rather than giving you a specific list of “buy this, don’t buy that,” we’re giving you the mindset required and the mental tools necessary to help you learn how to be frugal.
Because again, everyone has a slightly different scenario and frugal living could never be compiled into a list of specifics.
We want to you work hard on this, and one day find yourself living a frugal life and enjoying it — I mean, we sure do!
1) Always think long-term when making decisions
Again, don’t get cheap people confused with frugal people. There is actually a difference. Cheap people always look for a quick fix, something that will benefit them immediately. Frugal people are always looking for a long-term solution.
Get into the habit of thinking long-term when making purchases, especially “big” purchases. Things like appliances, cars, and houses should be thought of as a long-term investment. These are items you want to get the most value out of in the long-term.
Being able to sacrifice your desire for instant gratification and a fast solution will save you a ton of money.
2) Always seek the best value
Whether it’s a new pair of sneakers or a meal from the grocery store frugal people always seek the most value. Frugal living is all about getting the most value out of your money.
Instead of buying quantity start thinking about quality. You want your purchases to continue to work and provide value years down the road.
Did you know you can earn cash back using companies like Ibotta? Using cash back programs are a great way to help get the most value with your purchases.
3) Never pay full price
Find coupons and deal shopping is what frugal living is all about. A frugal person is always looking for the best deals around and planning shopping around them.
It’s important to note that just because a store is having a “deal” does not mean it’s a deal for you. Unless the deal is an item you need it’s not worth buying. Understanding wants and needs come into play quite a bit. Start a good habit of learning to decipher between the two.
Remember everything is negotiable!
You might also consider saving any gift cards you receive as gifts to either re-gift at a later date (if possible), or use as the money to pay for a gift for someone else. Why spend your own money if you don’t have to, right?
You can even get discounted or free gift cards, if you know how to!
4) Put saving right into your budget
A good habit is to automate your savings. Not only do you want to budget your savings right into your monthly budget, but having them on autopilot is also a great habit.
5) Pay off your debts…and keep it that way
While saving is important, you won’t do yourself any favors by saving a ton of money while you’ve got debts piling up on the other side of that coin.
Make it a point to tackle any and all debts you’ve got against you BEFORE you get heavy into saving and investing. The sooner debts are off your shoulders the sooner you’ll have more cash available to put into savings!
If you’re currently struggling to get out from under your debts because your income just doesn’t stretch far enough, take a look at this list of side hustle ideas.
6) Buy a smaller modest home for frugal living
Banks will often approve you for a mortgage much higher than you can comfortably handle. Stop listening to their advice! A home is the largest purchase in your life and it’s not a liquid asset (can sell quickly). Purchase a small modest house as your first home that you can easily afford.
A good rule of thumb for knowing how much your mortgage should cost is 25%-30% of your monthly take home. Since your home is such as a large portion of your budget, be realistic when deciding where to live.
Remember that buying is not for everyone. Renting might be a better option depending on your individual situation.
7) Use everything until you can’t any longer
If you want to start saving money fast, simply don’t spend money at all.
It’s true, we both wear our shoes until they have holes in them and our pinky toe starts to stick through.
Frugal people have the habit of using everything to the very last drop. This includes cars, clothing, tools, disposables, machines, appliances, and more. The longer you can use something the more money you save.
If you truly want to start frugally living, get into the habit of using everything until it’s no longer possible.
8) Use your handyman skills to repair and reuse
Learning how to repair and reuse your own items can save you thousands of dollars each and every year.
A car is a great example of this.
Learning how to replace your own brakes and complete your own oil changes can save you hundreds of dollars by its self. Add in some drywall repairs, driveway sealing, roof patching, electrical work, and plumbing and you are now a money-saving savage.
The saying “knowledge is power” is so true. Most basic handyman/repair skills can be learned by a simple search on YouTube, Google, or Pinterest.
9) Learn how to entertain yourself at home
Leaving your house for entertainment is almost a guarantee you are going to spend money. Learn how to stay entertained at your house. Buying a device like an Amazon Fire Stick is a great way to stay entertained at home.
Get into the habit of never leaving the house without a plan in place. Going out for entertainment is not a bad thing, but keeping it in moderation is a great habit.
Some great at home entertainment ideas include a campfire, dinner with friends, game night, DIY projects and movie nights.
Even better why not make some extra money in your spare time? Or even do what we did and start a money making blog. It has allowed us to achieve an income level we thought we could only dream of, making our frugal life no longer an absolute necessity, but now simply a fun challenge!
10) Cook for yourself / Don’t eat out
We are a huge proponent of this habit! Since we don’t “value” eating out we don’t and save thousands each year by not doing so.
Eating out is EXPENSIVE! Anytime someone else is making, serving, and cleaning up your food you are going to pay a premium. Learn how to cook for yourself at home. There are a plethora of cheap recipe ideas all over the internet.
Start with some basic meals and work your way up. You will soon find that cooking at home is actually fun and the money you will save will put a huge smile on your face.
11) Have an emergency fund
One of the most important aspects of personal finance is having your emergency fund set up. An emergency fund a set amount of money put away for unforeseen expenses such as car repairs, deaths, and surgeries.
The last thing you want to deal with during an emergency is where the money is coming from. Take the stress off an already stressful situation and have your emergency fund set up. This will also prevent you from going into debt when something comes up and you don’t have the money to pay for it.
Normally $1,000 set to the side is more than enough for an emergency fund, but everyone’s situation is different.
12) Find a credit card with great rewards
If you are responsible with your money then using a credit card with great rewards is a no-brainer.
Once you have decided your responsible enough to use a credit card decide what kind of card you are looking for. Do you want a travel rewards card? Cashback? Building credit? A great source to compare cards and see which ones fit your needs best is creditcards.com.
We personally value travel far more than anything else. With that being said we obviously use a travel rewards credit card to earn miles and save up for free vacations.
If you are using credit cards it’s always important to keep track of your credit score.
13) Buy a used reliable car
This is a very debated topic for some reason. Buying a used car should be your only option when it comes to frugal living.
Cars are a depreciating asset so “investing” in a new car or even worse financing one can kill your financial future.
Use a website like Kelly Blue Book or Edmunds to research, compare, and find the value of cars. After completing your research, go on a site like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace and start a search for cars that are of good value. Just be vigilant and don’t fall victim to any potential scams.
We also always use Consumer Reports when purchasing a car.
Buying a reliable car is important in steering clear of large expensive repairs. Brands like Honda and Toyota are always rated top-notch when it comes to reliability.
14) Never gamble
Did you know the average American spends $300 a year playing the lotto? What a waste of money! You have better odds of getting struck by lightning twice in the same day.
Although casinos and playing the lotto can be very enjoyable for the rush of winning it big it’s not a good habit to be in. Save your money and put it elsewhere that’s more important in your life. Better yet invest that money.
15) Declutter and avoid letting it build up again
While “stuff” sure does seem nice to have, think of how much money you’ll save by not buying it, how much space you’ll keep freed up by not having it, and how much time you’ll save not having to keep it all clean!
If you don’t need it anymore, don’t like it anymore, don’t fit it anymore, etc., send it straight to the donation pile and wish it good riddance! Better yet, have a garage sale and earn a few bucks, that you can put towards paying off those debts or building up your savings.
While you’re on your decluttering mission, make sure your home is super well organized so you can eliminate the risk of buying duplicates because you forgot you had something or, worse, couldn’t find it!
Frugal Living Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Live a Frugal Lifestyle?
You can start to live a more frugal lifestyle by making more intentional life decisions. Become selective about your spending habits, and making sure that your purchases align with your budget goals.
How Can I Become Very Frugal?
You can become very frugal by becoming informed of your spending choices, and learning to use a budget. Understand the time value of money, and make sure that you get value out of everything you purchase.
Is Frugal Being Cheap?
No, most people would say they are two different things.
Is Being Frugal Bad?
Being frugal usually is not a bad thing unless you’re allowing it to control all of your spending decisions. You’re allowed to buy things you value or that you receive joy from, such as a nice cup of coffee from time to time.
Bonus Frugal Living Tip: Start a Side Hustle
When it comes to saving money you can only save so much before you become cheap and start to lower your quality of life.
That’s why it’s important to live a frugal life focusing on the value you are receiving from your purchases.
If you have already worked on cutting back your expenses and living on less it’s a good idea to shift your focus onto making more money!
Focus on the skills and passions you already have and learn how to monetize them to create some extra breathing room financially in your life.