11 Tips for Frugal Living

Frugal Living www.GoGingham.com

11 Tips for Frugal Living does not include tired suggestions like, “Make espresso at home instead of buying drinks at expensive coffee shops” or extreme ideas like, “Take cold showers.” No thank you! These 11 tips for frugal living are attitude adjustments and ones that can implemented over time – as in baby steps – so that they become normal, stick around, and are habit forming. Once you see how easy it is to live a more frugal life, you’ll wonder what  took you so long to come around. That’s what happened to me!

11 Tips for Frugal Living

  1. Think differently – This is the start of frugal living – Think about “redirecting” of resources rather than spending them. Instead of thinking of having to make cuts or doing without and sacrificing, consider that your money is going into your savings account rather than into someone else’s profit category.
  2. Save first – put your paycheck into savings first and then live on less – Automate those savings! When you receive a paycheck, have it direct deposited into your savings account first and then have a lower amount transferred into your checking account for living expenses. This will help you save first. If you can keep your expenses low while your income goes up, you’ll be saving without thinking about it.
  3. Think zero and low cost vs. “establishing a budget” – Change your thinking to start each expenditure at the lowest point rather than picking an arbitrary “budget” number. So often we want a budget to work with so we can know how much we get to spend. What if your budget is zero and you have to get by without spending anything (or at least not much)?
  4. Creative! Get creative and don’t buy “off the rack”whether it’s for clothing, food, or hotels. Look for ways to save by not following the path of consumption. Instead of going to the mall for clothing, host a clothing exchange instead. Don’t buy the processed already cooked meal and try cooking from scratch instead. You can even freeze your own food for a later meal. Don’t go to a hotel – try home swapping or AirBnB instead. Life is richer when you have to be creative!
  5. Even when splurging, spend less – We all need to indulge, but find ways to spend less money while doing it. Need a manicure? Go to a beauty school cosmetology institute and let students “practice” on your hands for a lot less than what you’d be paying at a salon. For me, I love cashmere (anything!) but I shop for it second-hand and then I’m willing to mend a hole or two so that I can have gorgeous clothing but I’m spending a lot less money to have it.
  6. Find new pastimes or activities – This is tricky for women because most of us love to shop and for many, it’s a sport. Find a new activity to do with your girlfriends other than “retail therapy” and have zero regrets when the credit card statement arrives in the mail. If you truly LOVE to shop (which I completely understand because I do!), round up your friends and go to estate sales, vintage stores or root through the Goodwill Clearance store bins. Shopping fun and no regrets!
  7. Turn everyday occurrences into fun “events” – This is all about how we view activities or how we “spin” things in life. Bring a picnic to pick berries and you’ve got a fun outing and fresh berries for smoothies all winter. Declare a no small packaged food snacks rule and bake cookies or muffins and freeze them for school lunches or snacks. Read a family book out-loud and then reserve the movie from the library. You can have book-group/movie-review without spending any money or eating bad popcorn that you spent too much money on.
  8. Embrace healthy cooking at home – To become a good cook takes practice but the more you do it, the better you’ll become. There is so much to be saved by eating wholesome foods cooked at home. The savings come in less money spent at restaurants but also less money spent on health care costs! Believe me when I tell you my early meals were from boxes and were processed foods that I wouldn’t dream of eating today. Cooking at home from scratch doesn’t take much longer than buying mixes and is so much healthier for us. Eating dried beans that get cooked at home is another huge money saver. I’m with Michael Pollan who says, “You are what you cook.”
  9. Start saving behind the scenesThe FAITH categories of spending (F – Food, A – Apparel – clothing for yourself and your home, I – Insurance, T – Transportation, H – Housing) afford plenty of places where you can spend less, and yet, not have it impact your  actual way of life. Begin saving today with a price comparison on your insurance. Or, give a call to your mortgage company and ask to refinance –without fees – because you’re such a good customer. Ask for discounts and you’ll be surprised how often the answer is, “Yes!”
  10. Think “old fashioned living” – Look for ways to implement the rhyme from the Great Depression “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without!” Whenever I buy coffee or a jar of peanut butter, I know that I’m keeping the can or jar to reuse it. To make my clothing last longer, I hang it dry rather than let it get ruined by a full cycle in the dryer. Instead of tossing out food, I look for ways to freeze it, make it into fruit butter or bake with it, or use vegetable scraps and meat bones for homemade broth. There’s nothing new about old fashioned living – we just need to get back to it!
  11. Look for ways to save without spending – don’t “shop to save” – The logic involved with “Look how much money I saved by buying this stuff,” doesn’t always compute. If you really use coupons for items you and your family eat and use them, by all means, continue utilizing them. If you’re stock-piling for the sake of getting good deals, it’s time to look at the why.

This is a start , what would you add to the list? What’s your favorite saving method?

Go Gingham related links: Yes – 11!

  1. Budgeting and how to track expenses – Part 1
  2. Budgeting and how to track expenses – Part 2
  3. Budgeting and how to track expenses – Part 3
  4. Living a frugal life by choice: strategic frugality
  5. Viewing time as a luxury – it’s a precious commodity
  6. How finances figure in frugality
  7. The key to saving: frugal living is the key to saving
  8. What does it mean to budget? Find out here!
  9. Why we all need to balance our checkbooks regularly – checking your balance online doesn’t count!
  10. Frugal living secrets: Reducing FAITH (food, apparel, insurance, transportation and housing) costs
  11. Tried and true investing strategies for regular folks like me!

14 thoughts on “11 Tips for Frugal Living

  1. I embarked on a frugality adventure yesterday and this time it has to stick. I love this post ; it makes me feel less inadequate in front of the task to be accomplished. Thank you !


  2. I bought my most recent winter coat, wool with an insulated lining, at a Junior League thrift shop. I have had it for quite some time now; don’t need it very often for my climate.

    I cannot find clothes in my size(or near it) second-hand anywhere in my city. What little I buy is always on end-of-season sale. Buy only what is needed and not more than twice a year.


  3. I agree that living frugally depends a lot on the attitude you have toward it. If you look at it from the perspective of saving for later, wasting less and living healthier and better, you win. If you feel like you are being deprived, it will never work.


  4. I know many people will sell items on eBay or Craigslist to make a little extra cash. When I’m ready to pass on my clothing, I take it to a local consignment store. They are selective about what they take and the clothing does sell. It’s great to get a check from them for my clothes and I’ll admit to finding some great deals whenever I’ve shopped there. I like doing this so that I don’t have to post pictures online, traipse to the post office, etc. and the money stays in the community, as well as supporting a small business owner.


  5. Great overview, Sara! I have learned so much from you and I really appreciate when you say that we can take baby steps and make real changes that will stick. I have been using cloth cleaning towels and dinner napkins, as you have suggested. I also hang my laundry to dry – it is super easy and fast without clothes pins. I also printed out the template and make a Meal Plan some weeks – and even make the food I planned to serve sometimes! Baby steps are perfect for me!


  6. Good to have you back and hope to hear about your trip soon! Thanks for a thought-provoking post. I was raised to be frugal but have found that life circumstances occasionally force me to re-evaluate my spending choices. When I figured out (a few years ago) that saving $20 in expenses a week added up to $1000 over a year’s time, it was like a lightbulb went on. Maybe I should write a book on that strategy! 🙂


  7. I love your frugal living tips! It’s wonderful to keep finding new things to try, or a new perspective on the subjects you share so eagerly.

    In August 2012 I started something new that has been successful for me and may help someone else. Other than groceries, I only “shop” every other month. Along with that decision I started a “Wait-And-See List” so I can remember things I might need to purchase during a “shopping” month. That cooling off period from the time I add something to the list, until it’s a shopping month is valuable. I’ve become more innovative and find many of those things on the list aren’t necessary at all. It has helped me to question every purchase and “plug” some little spending “leaks”. Even as a thrifty person I was able to make some improvements.

    I, too, enjoy Michael Pollan, and like this quote, “We can eat less, if we eat better….”


  8. As always, I love your tips! I especially appreciate the idea of always pretending that your budget is zero. I suppose that’s what appeals to me about frugality – the constant challenge to do more with less. Thank you for always inspiring me with your posts!



  9. Golden golden rule of mastering our spending and enjoying more: thinking differently! Couldn’t agree more. At the end of the day, financial independence and mastery boils down to habits and temperaments. Most people can draw a budget, its following it thats the real hurdle! Very insightful tips!


  10. This is great. You gave me some great ideas for a blog I am just starting called Style Me Cheap, stylemecheap.blogspot.com. I like what you said, “Don’t shop to save”. Buying things you do not need or will never use is not really saving its spending, no matter how others try to sell it to you. Great post!


  11. My 22-year-old daughter finally landed a full-time job in her field for a nice salary. We’ve been talking savings/planning (and she’s shopped at Goodwill her whole life) but I’m going to send her the link to your list and ideas – perfect timing! And a great refresher for me ;-)too.


  12. We’ve always lived below our means. I got in the habit when I was single, lived in the city, my pay was about $100 per week and my rent was $100 per month (seriously!). A long time ago. But it was great to be young and working and living in the city, and I “made do”. Had a couple of nice suits, bought a few tops that could be worn with both suits, and two pairs of shoes (brown and black) one day handbag that was black and brown, an assortment of silk scarves (which were cheap then), and little makeup (mascara and lipstick).
    I never splurged on fancy undies, cut my own wavy hair. I diluted shampoo, used a solution of vinegar and water to rinse and make my hair shine. You get the picture.
    After I married, we more of less continued the frugal lifestyle. Bought a house, used the furniture we had from our city apartment, toted that to the second house. Bought a “you assemble it” kit of very rustic pine living room furniture that saw us through that house and moved with us to the house we built almost 30 years ago. Eventually we bought a sofa and sold the pine furniture but it served us well for a long time.

    We ate simply, meat, chicken, or fish with salads and dressings that I made myself. I’m a good cook but we were healthy on very simple meals, love sugar free jello and whipped cream for dessert, or cheesecake made from the recipe on the plain gelatin box topped with berries or whipped cream, or panna cotta that I make using an old recipe. Friday nights used to be pizza night, but we both have the gluten problem, so that expense was offloaded. I make pizza using a low-carb recipe. That’s quite a nice saving.

    I kept my cars for years, one for 14 years, the next for 12 years. My present car is nearly 7 years old. We’re fanatics about doing maintenance, we chose to use a private mechanic rather than the manufacturer’s shop, and our cars hold up well ’cause they get a lot of love.

    We refinanced our mortgage three times using progressively shorter-term loans, paying all three down early with progressively larger payments against principle which we were able to afford because our habits enabled us to save from our paychecks. We’ve been mortgage free for about 15 years.

    I’m a jean-loving kind of girl, they are the backbone of my closet and they wear forever. My “wardrobe” is jeans and turtlenecks or T-shirts with sweaters, jackets, or vests, which I buy on deep sale. I may not be a fashionista but I look good and feel comfortable. I still use scarves as accessories, still like black or brown shoes and neutral bags, have a couple of dramatic hats, and coats that are beautiful and in good shape but are old. Some coats are from consignment shops, as are some scarves and handbags.

    We both know that more things don’t make a happier life. Having control of our finances and income has given us that. We don’t have cell phone contracts or other contracts for nonessentials. We DO have annual maintenance contracts for our furnace, air conditioner, and generator. We don’t subscribe to magazines or newspapers. Online-Is-Us. Internet is the greatest library there is.

    Being cognizant of how we spent money and why made frugal choices easy…what was necessary in life versus what wasn’t. We lived well, had fun, enjoyed life, and we had, and have, financial security.


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