Frugality is often confused with being poor or cheap and spending only the minimum. But I’ve found that living a frugal life isn’t about sacrificing and feeling deprived.

Being frugal is learning to live smarter so that you can afford to live the life you want. It’s about being thrifty with not just your money, but your food and time as well.  Frugal people tend to be less wasteful and get the most out of their money.

I began my frugal journey years ago, and I am still learning new ways to live more frugally. We cut our cable bill completely, we pack our snacks & meals for outings, and even lowered our car insurance premiums.

I began my frugal journey years ago, and I am still learning new ways to live more frugally. We cut our cable bill completely, we pack our snacks & meals for outings, and even lowered our car insurance premiums.

We sold some of the possessions we didn’t want or need anymore, and I love to find creative ways for us to save even money on our everyday purchases.

Frugal habits never came naturally to me, I was always careless about spending money. Now, I question every dollar we spend and even stopped buying certain items when I know I can get them cheaper elsewhere.

If you are still on the fence about frugality because you think it might feel depriving, or you want to know more about frugal living, let me show you what it actually means to be frugal.

Being Smart With Your Money

Frugal people are smart with their money. They build budgets to track what they spend each month.

When you know how much is in your bank account, and how much you need to cover your expenses, it’s easier to make better financial decisions.

Frugal people know how to stick to a budget. They know what they can afford, and what they simply have to do without.

Frugal people take charge of their finances by knowing where they stand on debt repayment, savings balances, and then investments.

Spending Your Money Smarter

Frugal people stretch their money as far as it will go.

They learn sales cycles and know when to get the best deal on everything they buy. They search clearance racks, thrift stores, and yard sales to find deals on clothes and other items so that they never pay full price.

Frugal people think of coupons and rebates as money that can be used to pay instead of their own. And then they combine those coupons with sales to ensure they get the best price on groceries.

When there is a great deal, they stockpile to fill their pantry until they go on sale again.

Frugal people also know when NOT to shop. If a purchase doesn’t fit into their budget, they wait for a sale or a better deal. Frugal shoppers are in complete control of their spending.

Being Creative

Frugal people live by the saying: make do, use it up, or do without. Frugal living is learning how to get the most use out of an item.

Sometimes frugal living involves getting creative and using what you already have.

When we moved into our first apartment together as a married couple, we didn’t have a coffee table or anything to put the TV on. We didn’t immediately rush out to buy those things because we didn’t have the money to purchase them. Initially we used an old dresser to make do until we had enough money to buy one. We also used old crates as end tables and as a coffee table. Later we even reused them as shelving.

Frugal people recognize opportunities and turn them into savings.

Get Weird

When James and I were fighting our debt we figured out that living frugally needed to be our new norm. We found several cooky ideas that might inspire you with ways to save a little money by simply paying attention.

Do the Sniff Test Before Washing Clothes
Laundry is inevitable. Even if you clean every last bit of clothing you have, you’ll still have dirty clothes by the end of the day! Running your washer and dryer is expensive, so before you just throw your clothes in, make sure you need it. Sniff your clothes before you put them in to see if they need to be run through the wash. I ended up making a rule that my kids only got new towels on Sundays… for the week ahead. And jeans have to be worn at least 3 times before they get washed. {I hope you don’t think I’m gross now?!!}

Skip the Shower
I know this sounds so gross, but most of us are probably washing our hair far more than we need to. Instead of washing your hair every day, see how long you can go before it gets too out of control. You may be shocked to find it’s longer than expected. By just washing your hair twice a week, your hair will still be clean and stay healthy, and your water bill will be a little lower.

Eat Expired Food, Within Reason
Expiration dates refer to the date when the food item is no longer considered at its freshest. Most food is still good long after its sell by or use by date if it stored in the right conditions. Just because your milk is expired, doesn’t mean it’s gone bad yet! The best way to test if your food is still good is to give it a sniff before you use it if it smells bad, it probably is. This won’t work for all foods so please use caution when choosing what to toss, and what to hang on to. But I’ve found that most food can still be used plenty of time past the expiration…

Hoard Condiments
We’ve all been guilty of getting a few extra sauce packets while at a restaurant. If you are already eating at the establishment, there is no reason not to get a few extra packets to take home! While it may seem weird, you can end up with quite the stockpile! You’ll never need to rebuy ketchup! And FREE ketchup is always good at my house!

Act Like Your Grandma
This might sound silly, but our grandparents lived in an era where they had to survive and thrive on much less. Our grandparents learned how to make do or do without. Put these practices into your own life, and see how far you can get with this mentality. You may find you need a lot less than you thought.

Reuse Disposable Products
Ziploc bags are one of the best examples that come to mind, but this can work with some other products as well. Many of these items can be used a few times before they’ve reached their limit. Plastic bags can be washed, dried, and reused again like new for a few times before being thrown away. This will help extend the life of your products and save you money.

Don’t Buy Something Just Because You Have A Coupon
When you’re couponing, you may tend to use up every last coupon in your binder. If it’s only $1, we are so tempted to go for it without a second thought. If you don’t use something before it expires, then it is a waste of money no matter how much it will cost you. Only use coupons on the items you will use, not just to score a good deal. It’s not a good deal if you end up just throwing it out.

Treat Yourself
I know spending money on yourself may seem a little counterproductive, but it can be a great defense against overspending! Now and then, go ahead and get yourself something you will enjoy. Potential impulse purchases will tempt you less often, and it will help you save more money in the long run. The more you restrict your ability to buy something, the more you will want it.

There are so many ways to save money, and while some of these are borderline cheapskate, they will add up quick!

When I emailed this list to my readers, they had some great addtional suggestions:

• Joe reminded me of the opportunity of the tiny tidbits left inside deodorant, toothpastes and shampoos! I’ve saved my face makeup before by adding alcohol to the broken pieces…but didn’t even THINK of all that wasted extra that when combined over several tubes that kinda makes a new one! It’s like a “Buy Several… Get One FREE!” {BOOM!}
• Linda had a genius idea that when you eat fast food and have extra plastic forks, spoons that you didn’t use, instead of the restaurant throwing them away (because no one is allowed to use them after you’ve taken them to your table) take them home and put in a bag to use for camping (or picnicking).
• Eleanor suggested cutting her hubby’s (and kids) hair… I forgot that I used to do that too! You’ll make your money back for buying the clippers after one or two cuts!
• AJ buys looks for the almost expiring french/Italian bread @ Walmart (for only 50¢ a loaf) to make garlic bread (you can freeze it and it’ll last a month or so!)
• Christina travels for work and brings back all the mini toiletries, coffee and tea to either use or donate to a Veteran’s home!
• Aislinn also suggested taking a few tips from a few generations ago such as hanging our laundry out to dry instead of using the dryer inside… not only will that extend the life of our dryer, but we’ll save loads of money on electric too!
• Nancy puts a bucket in my shower when I’m running it to get it warm to catch the water to use for her indoor plants. And she grows herbs on my porch, dries them and puts them in old vitamin bottles with new labels. She also uses black out curtains to insulate against the heat during the summer months and buys auto windshield reflectors (bought at the dollar store cheap in the right season) and put them in her house windows in the summer to reflect the sun. She takes styrofoam veggie trays, remove the electric faceplates and trace them onto the styrofoam, cuts them out and puts them back on the outlet to insulate against drafts that seep in or out as the case may be. Lastly, she uses plants instead of furniture to fill large spaces in rooms. It’s cheaper than furniture, feels good and provides oxygen.

My Pastor used to say, always go for the low hanging fruit. If you keep your eyes open to the potential for saving, you’ll find there are loads of ways to save money in the every day!

Why should you live frugally?

Frugal living opens a door to possibilities. Frugal living can help you become debt free, save for your children’s college fund, or even retire early.

It means figuring out what you want out of life by having a long-term mindset and then identifying the steps to make it happen.

Our frugal life has allowed us the freedom to travel more and build our savings account.

I think it helps us to cherish the little things and live a more meaningful life. Plus, we never feel pressured to “keep up with the Joneses.”

While some are living frugally out of necessity (I’ve done that too!), a vast majority of people are doing so by choice. One of my favorite bloggers, Sarah Titus, lives with her two kids on just 18k a year! If you are thinking about embarking on your frugal living journey, let me start by saying keep at it. Frugal living can sometimes be hard because it goes against everything society preaches. But the dedication is worth it for the payoff, I promise.


YOUR TURN: What frugal steps will you try in the next month? Let me know in the comments below!

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Being frugal is different than being a cheapskate it's learning to live smarter so that you can afford to live the life you want later.