Looking for frugal living tips is pretty much the same as typing “how to live well” in the Google search bar.
Like, what does that even mean?
When it comes to frugal living tips (and living well, for that matter), there are a million-and-a-half ways to go about it, which means you’re going to find different answers basically forever.
But here’s the deal. Frugal living isn’t just a list of do’s and don’t’s. It’s a mind thing. It’s a perspective on living.
That’s why it’s so hard to take on frugal living if you don’t have the right mindset, and so easy if you do.
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How I Developed These Frugal Living Tips
Before I share what I learned about frugal living, saving, and building wealth, it’s important you know why I feel like I even can talk about it. These aren’t tips I’m pulling out of thin air.
My husband and I were married in 2015, and I relocated to Southern California from small-town life in Northern California.
I’d worked in ophthalmology and eyecare for years, and my husband was currently at a crossroads between continuing his college education in the same path or changing directions.
We decided I wouldn’t go straight to work right away until I both adapted to my new life and researched my job options.
There are many universities, large HMO’s and many options in the private sector as well. I needed time to learn which was best for me before jumping back into the field.
It was a major time of decision in our lives. Newly married, one income, and that income was small. By small, I mean college-guy-working-at-a-fast-food -restaurant-to-offset-bills small.
How We Learned Frugal Living Tips
We didn’t have options. Our income forced us to quickly learn how to cut every unnecessary expense in our lives.
I remember looking at my husband one payday after we paid all of our bills. We had $50 left to live on for over a week.
We literally looked at each other and pumped ourselves up like we were entering a wrestling match. With a high-five, we declared “challenge accepted.”
I bought juuust enough groceries to combine with what we had to prepare meals that would last a few days (hello, pasta!).
Then Adam started his business. From nothing. Things got harder.
During this season of our lives, we attended Dave Ramsey‘s Smart Money Conference (an amazing person bought us tickets).
That was when it sunk in. Something locked into our minds and changed everything about our financial perspective.
That was when the mindset of frugal living, hustling, and defeating financial setbacks took hold of us.
We combined our acquired frugal living tips with the mindset of “getting ahead” and starting hustling. Hard.
In a matter of 2 years, everything changed.
How Applying Our Frugal Living Tips Changed Our Lives
We had two options available to us. When it came to living, we could live on credit, or we could buckle down and learn to live on our small income.
Between the two of us and the influence of Dave Ramsey, there was no way we were okay with adding piles of financial debt to our challenges.
Instead, we had to think differently. Because our mindset changed, our decisions changed, and then new habits followed.
Those little habits and small changes soon began bringing little results that accumulated into bigger results, and then even bigger ones.
We kept hustling, living small and reinvesting our income back into the business.
In a matter of three years, we went from $50 after a paycheck to owning a six-figure company.
How Did We Do It?
I just want to emphasize this–Adam and I are regular, everyday people. We’re just like you–working, living, raising a family.
All we did was change the way we think. Here are three concepts we starting living every single day:
- No debt
- Live below our means
- Find new ways to earn and save cash
This was our personal finances model. The business model differed slightly. We stayed out of debt (aside from financing a work vehicle) and used our extra income to reinvest back into the business.
While Adam poured blood, sweat and tears into building up the business, I found ways to earn extra cash. I starting selling stuff on OfferUp and I learned the value of having a good yard sale.
Any extra cash we mustered up we threw back into the business and covering our living expenses.
Now that you know how we got started and what we did, I’m going to share those exact frugal living tips with you.
Frugal Living Tips: How to Think
In order to successfully live frugally, I’ve discovered that you actually have to train your brain to think differently.
We live in a society that is highly competitive, where flash means cash. Basically, the flashier you look and live, the wealthier you must be.
Which is why you now have people strutting up and down Rodeo drive in hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. Yes. I just said that.
To build real wealth, you’ve got to let that go. It’s much easier to live frugally when you’re not trying to impress anyone.
Think about why? What is your purpose of living frugally? Is it to simplify and declutter, or to free up cash?
Either way, you’re going to have extra cash by living frugally, so what are your plans for that extra cash?
You need to have a plan in place for that extra cash. Knowing what you’re going to do with it will help you stay motivated about why you live frugally and work so hard to save money in the first place.
Here are some questions to always ask yourself before you buy to train your brain to live frugally.
1: Do I Really Need This?
I created a method to categorize our purchases in our first year or so of marriage. I used what I call the traffic light budgeting method.
Items categorized in the “green light” box were things that we absolutely needed to survive.
- Basic Clothing
The “yellow light” category were things that were helpful but we could swap out and even nix when things got tight.
- Extra clothes/brand clothes
- Eating out
- Fun groceries (specialty drinks, juices, snacks and sweets)
- Basic monthly subscriptions
The “red light” category consisted of things that were unnecessary and just didn’t need to be purchased at all.
- Specialty coffees
- Extra monthly subscriptions
- Fast Food
- High-end items
- Expensive trips
- Delivery services
- High-end furniture/clothing/items
When we purchased anything, we taught ourselves to honestly answer which category the purchase fit into and if we truly needed it.
Most of those purchases ended up not being made.
2: How Much Of This Do I Actually Need?
Companies have mastered techniques to get consumers to “buy more”. That’s why deals like “buy 2, get 1 free” exist.
We don’t even think about it. It’s a deal, so get three, right?
But how many jars of peanut butter do you need for two weeks? If you truly need three jars of peanut butter for 2 weeks, that deal is perfect for you!
If not, you just spent twice the amount of money you really needed to on peanut butter. Is that going to break the bank? No, but how many times are you doing that in one grocery run?
Or in a week, or month? It’s a mind habit.
Simply buy what you need, when you need it and you will automatically save money. Use the deal when it applies. Never buy more for the deal. Ever.
3: Can I Get This At A Better Price?
We implemented this practice with a qualifier: we weren’t willing to sacrifice quality.
But we did train our thinking into researching other possibilities to make sure we got the best possible price for our purchase. This is most important when it comes to making large purchases or repairs.
Poor quality will end up costing more in the long run, but you have every freedom to research your options. It can’t hurt!
4: Can I Do This Myself?
One of the key factors of frugal living is making money-saving substitutes.
A good example of this is getting your car washed. Paying to have it done for you is super convenient, but when you’re living frugally, washing your own car immediately becomes a way to save.
A good frugal living tip to keep on standby is to swap money for time. If you can save money by doing something yourself, save the money and spend your time instead.
That one adds up quickly.
Frugal Living Tips: What To Do
Now that you have those 4 key habits to begin training your brain, I’m going to share some of the tips my husband and I practiced to save money and make money.
1: RUN AWAY From Credit
My wise grandfather used to put it this way. Credit is “buying money.” Your purchase is the credit, and your payment is the interest.
So, instead of saving and using your own money (for free), you buy money from the bank.
Then, you pay the original amount you needed, and then you pay the bank, too.
Credit is not there to be your friend. It’s the banks way of offering you instant gratification at a (high) price.
2: If you Can’t Pay Cash, You Can’t Afford It
This is a concept taught by Dave Ramsey (I’ve linked his Financial Peace University book for you), and we quickly learned its value.
For us personally, we don’t apply this concept to home purchases, but many people do.
When it comes to everything else (even our personal cars), we save the cash. Not only does this keep you away from paying exorbitant amounts of interest by financing, it also motivates you to achieve goals.
You quickly, and I mean quickly learn how important things are to you, and how creative you can be to get them.
3: Live Below Your Means
We’re kind of back to the “flashy cashy” mentality, but it’s a big culprit in adding pressure to people to appear a certain way.
One of the fastest ways to save cash and live frugally is to set a budget that is well below your means.
If your income is 70K a year, find a way to live on 60K.
That sounds like quite the jump, but really, that 10K can be saved by making 20 small changes to your lifestyle.
4: Find Ways to Earn Extra Cash
What does earning extra cash have to do with living frugally?
Honestly, why are you choosing to live frugally? If you make plenty of money and just want to practice simplicity, then you can skip this one.
But most people practice frugal living to save money. Which means they need more of it for one reason or another.
Perhaps you’re planning on buying a home, or maybe trying to pay off debt. Maybe you need to build up your savings.
Or, maybe the honest-to-goodness answer is that you’re just not quite making it financially, and the stress is overwhelming.
We’ve been there.
Frugal living and earning more cash go hand-in-hand to achieve those goals.
The amazing part is that by training your brain to think frugally, you start naturally becoming proactive to make money to achieve your goals.
There are some amazing ways to earn some extra cash to loosen the belt a bit:
- Delivery services (Door Dash, Instacart, Amazon Flex, etc)
- Yard sales and yard sales apps (ie OfferUp)
- Selling like-new clothing to boutiques, on consignment and on eBay
I still sell my sons’ clothing on OfferUp. It’s good clothing and I paid for it. Why not? (Get my guide to selling successfully on OfferUp here.)
5:Get Mad. Get Motivated
Are you tired of living paycheck to paycheck? What about those months you don’t even quite make it all the way?
Do you work hard, but find yourself running in circles like a hamster on a wheel?
You’re better than that.
Stop what you’re doing and take a very close look at every single expense on your bank statement.
Where is your money going?
Then, form a plan. You need a budget.
Let me say it again.
You have got to have a budget.
Successful spending and saving is near impossible without some sort of guide. It doesn’t need to be super fancy–in fact, it shouldn’t be super fancy. Just tell your money where to go.
Who’s in charge, after all?
Be honest with how you really feel about your financial state. Don’t let yourself down by qualifying and comparing to everyone else.
If you’re just 1 in 500 people drowning in the ocean, is your circumstance no longer a big deal, just because there are 499 other people in the same situation?
It’s okay to get mad at debt, at financial stress. Just get motivated, too. That’s when you’re at the mental place to really change your situation.
Don’t Get Discouraged
Adam and I set a budget. One of the things on that budget was for eating out. Our friends love to go to restaurants for meals and fellowship, and we love to go, too.
During the most stringent season of living frugally and freeing up cash, we had to put a ceiling on how much money we would spend eating out.
Our ceiling, because of our circumstances, was much lower than most everyone else’s.
We spent many Sunday afternoons going home after church instead of out to eat, a little sad because we were practicing frugality.
After a little bit, it got easier. Then, we got creative. Instead of having to always go our separate ways, we started a “grab food and come over” trend, where different people opened up their homes and folks just brought their own food.
It was fun!
Frugal Living Can Get Lonely
It’s easy to feel discouraged when you’re living a different way because you’re practicing frugality. You have to say “not today” much more often.
It can get pretty lonely, too. This is the hardest part of sticking to frugal living. It’s the crossroads.
You can either become discouraged and give up, or you can get creative and turn the tables.
It’s okay to be honest with how you’re choosing to live. You might even start a healthy trend. Trust me, you’re not the only one going through this!
Find creative ways to include everyone and still stick to your guns. Things like, game nights, potlucks and car pooling are just a few ways to incorporate your friends and your frugal lifestyle.
Learn to Be The Leader
When it comes to your money, you’re either going to control it, or it’s going to control you.
Learning to say “I’ll wait and save,” or “I’ll spend my time rather than my money,” are ways of building up financial muscles.
The more you do it, the stronger you get. This is where it gets exciting. The stronger you get, the faster you see results and the more you discover what you are truly capable of accomplishing.
That’s when success and reaching those big, big, big goals suddenly becomes a much greater possibility.
Frugal Living Tips: Don’t Give Up
Be prepared to mess up. A lot.
Just don’t ever be prepared to give up. If you set out on your frugal living journey expecting to get it all right all the time, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
It takes training and it takes learning. Start with changing your perspective on the idea of simplicity and wealth.
Then build habits. Just keep at it.
You can do it.