Many people mistake frugal living with a bland, boring life filled with nothing fun and no adventure. Oh, and rice and beans. They picture us frugal folk eating nothing but good old rice and beans, and if we’re feeling really adventurous we might, MIGHT dare to eat an egg. But, maybe not, because eggs are a bit too expensive. Is that what frugal living really is? Find out here, with 10 frugal living ideas to try this year.
No! That’s not frugal living at all. Frugal living is all about smart spending, not NO spending at all. It’s all about smart money habits. Sure, we will certainly say no to some purchases that aren’t that smart for us to be making, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t and won’t use any of our money.
Quite frankly, there is not just one right way to live frugally. Frugal living can, and often does, look quite different from one person to the next.
So rest assured knowing that if you want to start living frugally, I’m not going to tell you that you have to give up your precious steak dinners, in fact, we’re having steak for supper tonight. Maybe just tone your steak dinners down a bit and find some ways to make them cheaper – but more on that later.
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10 FRUGAL LIVING IDEAS TO TRY THIS YEAR
1. HAVE A DESIGNATED CHANGE JAR
Change jars are awesome ways to save up money without even thinking about it.
Grab any old jar that you have laying around, put some cute labels on it (if that’s your type of thing), and start loading it with change. Any spare change or money that you get, put it into your change jar.
My husband and I have a change jar and we’ve managed to save up several hundred dollars in our jar in less than two years. Every once in a while, when I think of it, I will go through my purse and wallet and empty out most of my change into our change jar, and if I have any bills that I got along the way that are just spare money, rather than spending that money on ourselves, we put it into our change jar.
We put the jar somewhere that we don’t see it often, so we aren’t tempted to pull money out of it, but somewhere that is easily accessible so that when we do have spare change we can easily put it into the jar.
2. PAY WITH CASH
Paying wish just cash is something I took a while to come around to. My husband and I have always paid with credit cards and just paid them off every week or two to ensure we never run into late fees. This has worked great for us as neither of us are big impulsive spenders, so we have been able to walk away from a purchase that we didn’t need.
We enjoyed paying with credit cards because they offered us rewards, either in the form of physical cash back or points that could go towards buying something in store.
We have been able to rack up a lot of cash back by using our credit cards for our everyday purchases, and we have been able to always control our spending. But, regardless of the fact that we do have good spending habits, paying with cash is still a better way to go if you’re really trying to cut your spending.
I’ll admit, when you see the cash coming out of your wallet, that’s when you realize how much you really are spending, rather than when you simply swipe a credit card and go on with your day, only to realize the next week when you go to pay your credit card bill truly how much you spent.
The only cons that come with paying with cash are that you don’t earn rewards or cash back like you do with some credit cards. Paying with cash and paying with credit each have their own set of pros and cons, but if you’re really looking to have a reality check on your spending, try paying strictly with cash – leave your credit cards at home.
3. COOK FROM SCRATCH
I’m sure you’ve heard this one before, and that’s because it is such an effective way to save money – it’s what all the frugal people are doing. Buying whole ingredients and cooking from scratch, rather than buying oven and microwave ready meals, saves you more money than you may know.
When my husband and I were both working, I often bought a fair amount of oven-ready meals, because at the end of the day I was just too exhausted to come home and cook dinner from scratch. I wanted to come home, climb into my pajamas, and curl up on the couch.
I didn’t want to have to cook dinner, and neither did he after a long day’s work. So, we ended up buying more oven-ready meals than we should have, because they were such huge time savers.
I didn’t have to worry about making a meal plan and grocery list for all our homemade meals, I just had to go to the store and grab a handful of pre-made meals.
As it turns out, those pre-made meals are nice for the tired wife, but not nice on the budget OR on your health. We were spending so much money every month on groceries because we were buying these pre-made meals, so when I started staying home and cooking all our meals from scratch, we were actually SAVING money because now I could buy the whole ingredients, in bulk if I wanted to, and make several meals out of these ingredients.
It was incredible to see the savings we were making.
If you’re a tired mama and/or wife looking for ways to save money on meals and cut down on the time spent making meals, you can check out the $5 Meal Plan. It is $5 a month for a completed meal plan and already filled out grocery list filled with meals that are healthy, delicious, and don’t require a lot of time to make.
If I knew about this back when I was working outside the house and didn’t have time to make meals or to worry about creating a shopping list, I would have been signed up in the blink of an eye!
4. BUY LOCAL
Buying local certainly isn’t always cheaper, but do your research because there are times when it is cheaper – and it is much healthier. This is SUCH a good frugal living idea to try.
I can buy a dozen eggs from a local farm for cheaper than I can buy them in the grocery store where I live. This doesn’t always happen, because there are many other people around here selling farm-fresh eggs who happen to be a fair bit more than grocery store eggs, but this one particular farm sells them for less – the trick is to ask around.
My husband and I also buy our beef straight from farms, rather than from the grocery store. We buy either a whole, half, or quarter beef straight from farmers in our area and it turns out to be a lot cheaper than buying beef from the grocery store.
Last time we bought a quarter of a cow and we saved over $500 simply by buying our beef in bulk, from farmers, than from the grocery store.
So that’s how you can have steak dinners for MUCH cheaper, if you have the space for it, buy your beef from a farmer, you will be saving a lot of money.
The same goes for chickens, you can buy whole chickens from local farmers, as well – I haven’t personally done this yet, so I can’t tell you whether it is significantly more or less, but it would be worth looking in to.
You can also buy farm fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers markets. Again, not everything there is going to be cheaper than you get it in the store, but keep your eyes open because you will likely come across some stuff that is cheaper.
5. DON’T SETTLE
Don’t settle for paying full price for an item you know you can get cheaper somewhere else. Always look around before making big purchases to see who has the best prices, and keep your eyes open for sales and coupons.
You don’t have to settle for paying full price – find out what you can do to never have to pay full price again, here.
Okay, some things, like band-aids, should never be reused. But, there are a lot of things that people throw out that can really be reused time and time again. Reusing your items rather than using them once then throwing them out is one of my favorite frugal living ideas to try – the options really are endless.
Some things that can be reused include:
- Teabags. Hear me out. This might sound disgusting to you, but honestly, it’s not! I’ve done it many, many times before. If you are someone who drinks a lot of tea, consider reusing your tea bags. Teabags usually have more than enough in them to make at least two mugs of tea. After you have made your cup of tea, put the teabag in a ziplock baggie or a small bowl covered with plastic wrap and store it on your counter for later use.
- Sandwich bags. Speaking of storing tea bags in ziplock baggies, sandwich bags can be reused time and time again. I have never understood those people who use the bag once, then throw it in the trash, it just seems like such a waste to me! I use my sandwich bags well over a dozen different times each, do you know how much money I’m saving by simply taking a few extra minutes to wash my bags rather than throw them in the trash? Although, I do throw the baggies out if they had any sort of raw meat in them – I don’t bother saving those ones.
- Glass/Plastic bottles and jars. I always buy my hand soap in bulk, but I have one small plastic soap dispenser that I reuse time and time again by filling it up with the soap I’ve bought in bulk. Saving your plastic and glass jars is a great idea to use in the future as storage containers.
- Plastic grocery bags. I have a stack of reusable bags that I always try to remember to take grocery shopping with me, but there always seems to be a few times that I forget to take them and have to dreadfully pay $.05 a bag for their plastic bags. Whenever I do end up having to use their cheap plastic bags, I save any of them have haven’t ripped by the time they make it home and use them around our house as garbage bags. Hey, if they’re going to make me pay for them, I better get my use out of them.
- Gift bags. Gift bags can be expensive. I was heading to a bridal shower just the other day when I realized I had forgotten to put the gift into a gift bag. So, I had to make a quick stop at the store to grab a bag. And I had to pay $5 for the bag. I was not impressed, to say the least. How is it that the very thing I am putting the gift into can be so expensive? No one even really notices the gift bag. All this to say, some gift bags are cheaper, some are more expensive, but either way – I always save gift bags I get so I can re-use them on a future occasion (like for bridal shower gifts, except when I forget to put the gift in a bag…)
- Parchment paper. Parchment paper is much too expensive to only use once, in my opinion. So I like to use mine again, and again, and again. After I have used the parchment paper for baking whatever I am baking that day, I shake it off over the sink, fold it up nicely, and put it back into the drawer to use again another time. Why only use it once when you can get many uses out of it and make your roll of parchment paper last over 3 times longer than normal?
- Old clothes. If you have any old clothes lying around that are beyond repair and shouldn’t be worn anymore, cut them up and make rags out of them. 90% of the cleaning rags in our house are simply old, cut up clothes.
These are just a few of the many, many things that can be reused. There are so many more items, the options are nearly endless.
Related: 12 Items Frugal People Reuse to Save Money
7. WALK MORE
Make a habit this year to start walking more, if you are within walking distance to stores. If you really feel ready for a challenge and are looking for an extremely effective way to save money, become a one-car family.
Shortly after getting married, my husband and I became a one-car family. We had two cars insured for a couple months before we realized how silly it was since I was staying home anyway that we would have two cars insured, so we decided to take the insurance off of and sell our second car.
We have saved mounds of money since doing this. We now have only one car’s insurance to pay, and we only have one tank of gas to fill up.
Of course, this won’t work for everyone. If you and your husband both have jobs outside the home and don’t live somewhere that you could take public transit to work, then becoming a one-car family probably wouldn’t be the right move for you, but if it is something that you can make work, I say go for it.
If you’re not sure whether or not being a one-car family will work for you, first you can just take the insurance off of your second car, you don’t need to sell it right away in case it doesn’t end up working and you end up needing to re-insure the car.
8. DRINK MORE WATER
Drinking water is cheap and healthy. Instead of grabbing a pop or juice when you’re thirsty, pour yourself a great big glass of water.
If you run into the same problem that we had early on, where our tap water was not good for drinking, consider purchasing a Brita water jug to filter your water. Brita’s are affordable and will last you a long while. We purchased a Brita water jug and are extremely happy with it, and we find we are drinking a lot more water now than before.
9. BUY SECOND-HAND
It may surprise you the wide variety of items that can be bought second-hand. When I used to think of second-hand I would always think of clothing, which is a very cost-effective way to get nice clothes for cheap, but I didn’t realize that you can get things like appliances and nice furniture for second-hand, too.
If you need to furnish your house, search around some second-hand stores to find yourself whatever you need at a fraction of the regular price, it may just require some TLC.
Another awesome option for purchasing GOOD appliances for cheaper is finding some local scratch and dent stores. Scratch and dent stores are where most of the brand-spanking’-new appliances go that have small defects on them.
They may have a scratch behind the handle, that really isn’t noticeable, but they are selling at a steep discount because of the scratch. Or it may have some other kind of dysfunction or reason of why they are selling it for cheaper, but most of the time these appliances are new, so they shouldn’t have problems other than some possible minor physical damage.
10. LOWER YOUR UTILITY BILLS
Utility bills are something that people often live with, just accepting that they are what they are. But, there are some changes you can make that can drastically change the amount of your utility bills.
Some changes are as simple as turning off the water while you brush your teeth, while other changes may take a bit more effort like unplugging appliances that aren’t in use.
Either way, find some ways that you can lower your utility bills to help you save a significant amount of money every single month.
With countless different ways to save money and live frugally readily available, which frugal living ideas to try are you going to choose to save money and create a frugal lifestyle?
Thankfully, living frugally doesn’t require you to give up everything you know and love, it’s all about smart money decisions. Frugal living might look completely different from one person to the next, and that is okay – if you find something that works for you, but doesn’t necessarily work for someone else, stick with it.
In what ways are you going to challenge yourself to live frugally over this next year?
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