I’m often asked how to save money, and my response is always ‘live more frugally.’
I’m surprised how many people, especially millennials, don’t know what this means. It’s not that they can’t try or won’t try to live more economically – it’s just that they don’t know how. So I’ve written this article to share my tips and tricks on how to live a more frugal life.
To start, I must add that living frugally doesn’t mean I’m cheap, or tight with money, or don’t want to spend. It simply means I’m economical – always searching the best price.
To be certain, living a frugal life isn’t for everyone. It’s not easy, it requires constant action and it quite frequently involves not doing what you want to do. (My biggest lament is giving up my gel nail polish pedicures. A gel polish in my state is around $26. Gels last approximately two weeks, so multiply times two, then multiply that times twelve – that adds up to $624 annually (not including tips)! That could pay for a plane ticket to Spain, or, more practically, my car insurance for the year.) Living frugally is essentially saving today so that I can afford what I want tomorrow. It’s about saving for retirement, for my next vacation, or (worst-case) that air conditioning replacement in my car.
As I said before, frugal living takes commitment. Commitment to always turn that light off before you leave the room. Remembering to not turn the water on full when rinsing dishes. Maintaining grocery lists staples per store so you always get the lowest price for each item. In short – it can be hard work!
However, it’s work that is rewarding financially and therefore, is worth the effort.
So how do you live frugally? How do you save more money day-to-day?
I’ve compiled the following extensive list of ways I save money every day.
Please note, this list is not for the faint of heart. My lifestyle is very low-maintenance compared to a lot of people and, as such, my frugal life may not be suitable for every individual. However, even if you pick only one item from the list below to start saving, it will put you one step closer to a frugal life.
Always remember, saving one penny at a time adds up in the long run!
1.) Use a credit card that offers cash back. With 1% cash back on purchases, this can quickly add up. And some cards, like Chase Unlimited, offer up to 5% cash back on select stores or items throughout the calendar year. All you have to do is activate within the app and start saving!
2.) Turn off your water heater during the day. This one never occurred to me until a landlord said if I could remember to turn the water heater off in the morning before leaving for work, then turn it on when I returned home, it could save up to $10 a week! She was right, too – I immediately saw a decrease in my electric bill and I’ve been using the trick ever since.
3.) Turn those lights off! Again, a basic idea, but it’s true. Don’t leave every light on in the house. Flip the switch – save a few bucks.
4.) Don’t run the water! Yes, I’m sure you heard that a lot growing up, I know I did! My parents were always reminding us to not turn the water on full blast, to turn it off when soaping up hands or dishes. This was redundant when I was a child, but as an adult, it saves me a lot of money. Don’t flush money, literally, down the toilet.
5.) Compare grocery costs and keep a list. It may surprise you to compare costs in one grocery vs. another – and perhaps not a good surprise! For instance, our local grocer costs up to .30 more for basic vegetables and fruits than WalMart. This may not seem like a lot, but a simple thing like creating a grocery list by store will help you remember where to buy which item at the lowest cost. You’ll be surprised how much you can save! I save up to $75 a month shopping at our local Aldi vs. WalMart.
6.) Buy a used car and pay cash. Okay, a lot of people have to have the latest auto, I get it. I’m not one of those people, and I’m okay with it! I bought (and always have) my car used from a neighbor, gave him cash, and now I have no monthly auto debt. As a side note, the auto insurance is WAY less for older cars, too – so it’s a double bonus!
7.) Shop around for better car insurance. You may be surprised how much less you can purchase your auto insurance just by shopping around online. I was!
8.) Buy used. This, obviously, doesn’t apply to everything, but if possible, buy it used. For instance, a few years ago I needed a new washing machine. Instead of running up my credit card, I looked at local flea markets and yard sales and found one for only $50! I bought that machine three years ago and it’s still running strong! Remember, new isn’t always better.
9.) Shop outlets for clothes. Okay, I love to clothes shop. Love, love, love! I really enjoy the name brand and designer clothes, which can really put a dent in my savings. However, a few years ago, a friend turned me onto outlets and I haven’t looked back! Fortunately, I’m within a thirty minute drive of two outlet malls, and the savings have been fantastic. I found two Banana Republic blazers for $10 each – they were on clearance and 60% off the lowest marked price! I found a $199.99 Ann Taylor dress marked down to $29.99, again, a mark down on already reduced clearance prices. The savings on clothes alone have been fantastic, and as I work in a office that requires me to wear suits on a daily basis, this has been a great find.
10.) Look at local thrift stores. I’ve saved a lot of money by thrift store shopping. Of course, there are a lot of things I wouldn’t recommend buying at a thrift store, but there are so many great ways to save on some things. For instance, when I adopted my dog a few years ago, I needed a crate for him to sleep in. The most inexpensive one online or in-store ran $40+. I walked into our local Molly Mutt Thrift Store and found a crate for only $10 (just had to give it a thorough cleaning and disinfecting when I got home). And they were having a wooden nickel sale (show the wooden nickel and get the daily discount) which gave me 50% off the item. I got it for only $5! Thrift stores are also a good place for dinner ware, coffee mugs, kids games (just wash them first!) and furniture.
11.) DIY furniture and knick-knacks. Unless you’re buying an antique, furniture and decorative items have very little, if any, resale value. Why not look to Pinterest for some DIY ideas on how to paint that old coffee table you found for $5 at a local yard sale? Or perhaps repaint a vase you found for $.50 at a farmer’s market? The DIY tutorials online are endless, and there are SO many unique and fun ways to make your own home decor! Not to mention the bragging rights when friends come over.
12.) Merchant Coupons. Not every store has or offers coupons, but before you shop, do a quick browse on their website or do a Google search to see if they have any discounts. Macy’s, JC Penney’s, Ulta, Michaels Arts & Crafts and Kohls, just to name a few, almost always have a coupon code or barcode to have the cashier apply at check out. You’ll be surprised how much you save with this trick.
13.) Take advantage of happy hour. For those of you who enjoy dining out, you know how quickly those restaurant tabs add up. So plan your dining, if you can, around happy hour. You’ll find a drastically reduced food and beverage menu. I’ve found that this can almost halve my final tab – just remember to leave a tip for the waiter!
14.) Groupon it. While I do not use Groupon excessively, I did recently stumble across a local business offer for $12 beginner horse back riding lessons for children. As their initial lessons start around $50, this was phenomenal! I think they are a great resource, especially for local restaurant discounts and events. Worth looking into!
15.) Free admission days. Want to go to a museum but don’t want to spend the $12 admission cost? A lot of museums offer free admission day – our local art museum is the last Saturday of every month. Just remember to put it on your calendar so you don’t forget the date!
16.) Workout outside. Have a gym membership but rarely use it? Try finding a local park that offers a fitness trail as an alternative. We have a local park that offers outdoor elliptical, weight training and walking trails – and while enjoying the fresh air!
17.) Buy it used. Okay, I know I’m saying this a lot, but it’s my go-to frugal advice for people trying to save money. If you don’t have to have it new, buy it used. Bicycles, surf boards, pool tables, trampolines… the list goes on. There are so many things that are bought that end up as dust collectors or garage space consumers. Save yourself some money and buy it from someone who needs the extra space in their home. Your pocket book will thank you.
18.) Save your pocket change. This one may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people discard, drop or just leave their coins anywhere in their home. Start a coin jar and see how full you can get it. (This is also a great money saving tactic to teach kids how to save!)
19.) Switch to a low-cost cell phone provider. The large providers too often bundle packages to make it seem you’re saving when in reality you’re not. Shop around and see if you can find an lower price option. I use Cricket Wireless and I’m amazed how much less their prices are than Verizon or AT&T.
20.) Shop after a holiday. This handy trick has saved me a LOT of money over the years. Wait until after a major holiday to snag wrapping paper, gift bags, bake ware, etc… Michaels Arts and Crafts often marks their Christmas items down to 70% off. Add that to a 20% off your total purchase coupon and the savings are amazing! Next year you’ll be stocked and ready to wrap gifts, bring cookies to the office party or decorate your home all at a discounted price.
21.) Open multiple savings accounts. Have one account where you pay your bills from and another savings account where you move any money left over at the end of the month. This will help keep your money separate and you can see how much you’re saving vs. how much you’re spending each month. I just did this recently and it really works as a great visual to let me see exactly how much I’m saving.
22.) Eliminate cable or paid TV services. This one is really hard for a lot of people. For me, it’s extremely easy because I just don’t have the time to watch a lot of television. Another option is to utilize your Amazon Prime membership and live stream movies and tv shows there. A lot of libraries offer free DVD rentals as well. While many people no longer have DVD’s, for those of us who do (yes, that would include me), it’s a great way to watch movies for free.
23.) Make coffee at home. A simple thing like a cup of coffee every morning can really take a hit on your savings, even at McDonald’s where coffee is a $1. Assume a cup of coffee every week day, multiply times four and then again times twelve – that adds up to $260. That could pay a few months’ water bill!
24.) Pack a lunch. Instead of always buying a restaurant or fast food meal during your lunch break, bring your lunch instead. As a single mom, this is a huge money saver. I pack my own lunch for work as well as the boys’ school and daycare meals and we save a phenomenal amount as opposed to eating out.
25.) Check if your employer offers any employee benefits. Some employers offer 401k match, childcare reimbursement, healthcare coverage, college tuition payment and more! My employer, for instance, offers up to $240 a month in childcare costs. They put it right into my paycheck each pay period! So if your employer offers benefits, make sure you check again and see if there are any offers you can take advantage of.
26.) Find free weekend events. This one is actually really easy to do. If you have kids, check out http://www.macaronikid.com for a local calendar of events – usually free! The library and bookstores frequently offer free children’s book readings. Weather permitting, find a local park for the kids to play on Saturday. For the adults, discover a unique hiking trail, walk the greenway, see if there are any live music concerts with free admission in your town, go to the library and borrow a book or movie, and check a local events calendar online to see what free weekend events your community offers. I’m always amazed by the variety of free events and entertainment that are offered in my community, and you might be too!
HAVE ANY FRUGAL MONEY SAVING TIPS? I’D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU!