What does it mean to live frugally? People often confuse being frugal with being cheap, but there is a big difference between the two.
A cheap person might avoid spending money even if it’s in their best interest. If they do make a purchase, they might buy something so low in quality that it needs to be replaced and thus, spend more in the long run. Unlike being cheap, being frugal is not about avoiding purchases, but making wise purchases and investing in the right things.
Today we’ll give you 12 tips for living a more frugal life.
1 – Avoid new and expensive phones and electronics – If you feel like every year electronics companies are throwing waves of new products at you, it’s not just your imagination. There’s always a new, better model and the prices continue to climb. As exciting as unboxing a new phone is, the fact is your current phone is probably perfectly fine, or even great. With the rising prices, cell phone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung are experiencing declining sales as people wake up to this fact.
It might seem obvious, but buying a new phone every year is not sustainable for most folks. Cell phone carriers often try to rope you into a monthly installment plan, which can cost you more in the long term (see “interest” below). If you need a new phone, try to purchase it all at once. If spending $1200 on the latest phone isn’t in the cards, there are plenty of budget phones with many of the same capabilities as their expensive counterparts.
2 – Cut back on eating or ordering out – Frugal people will always tell you to really cut down on eating at restaurants. It might be delicious, but it’s also expensive. If you’re a foodie and find yourself at a different restaurant every day, take a few minutes to add up your weekly expenses. It might surprise you.
More recently, food delivery apps have emerged as another chasm to throw your money into. Apps like Favor and Doordash heap a hefty fee onto already expensive food and can really cost you over time.
3 – Buying Name Brands – What’s in a name? Does a perfume by Gucci smell any sweeter than a cheaper brand? Sometimes, a name brand means higher quality. However, with many everyday products, like household cleaners and many food products, name brands only mean more money.
The next time you’re about to shell out an extra few bucks for the name brand product, ask yourself if you have even tried the cheaper alternative. If you haven’t, give it a shot. You might be pleasantly surprised.
4 – Keep track of online/trial subscriptions – Who can say no to a month of free shipping through Amazon? Trial subscriptions are awesome, but they are designed to get you to spend money on a full subscription. Usually, they require you to enter your credit card info and before you know it, the trial period is over and your card has been charged. If you sign up for a free trial, make sure to set a reminder for yourself.
It can also become difficult to keep track of all the different online services you’re a part of these days. Many services, like Amazon Prime, offer options to send reminders several days before billing periods. These reminders can help you keep track of your subscriptions and offer you the option to cancel them if you no longer need them.
Finally, make sure you’re actually getting value from your subscriptions. If you don’t find yourself using the service frequently enough to justify the cost, it’s time to cancel. This may seem like obvious advice, but many online companies make it difficult to quit and it’s easy to forget to cancel and just allow it to go another month.
5 – Perform simple auto maintenance yourself – Cars are some of the biggest money pits in our modern lives. They require oil changes, new tires, windshield wipers, cleaning, and on and on. Make sure you take care of your vehicle because neglecting it could cost you a lot more down the line.
However, with our busy routines, it’s often easier to just pay someone else to do it. However, if you want to start saving money, this can be a good place to start. Most of these simple maintenance procedures are easy enough to do on your own and the savings are nothing to ignore.
6 – Watch out for interest – These days, it’s difficult to avoid debt of some kind. So much in our financial world depends on your credit score, and that often relies on taking on some amount of debt.
But debt in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s the interest that gets you. If you’re going to take on debt, always shoot for the lowest interest rate possible. If you have a low introductory rate for a loan or credit card, keep track of the expiration date. You may get buried by the new rate if you have a remaining balance afterward.
If you can’t get a good interest rate and still need a loan, then make sure to pay off the debt as quickly as possible to avoid paying more than you have to.
7 – Shop smart – Coupons are great if they apply to something that you already need. However, if they require you to spend more money to get the “savings” then they’re just getting you empty your wallet faster.
When you go grocery shopping, create a grocery list beforehand. If the coupon applies to something on your list, great! If not, evaluate whether or not it’s worth buying that item simply because it’s on sale.
Grocery stores are designed to trigger an impulse buy. This is another great reason to make a list and stick to it. Also, don’t go to grocery stores hungry. Grocery stores are known for tempting your senses with tasty food presentations and scrumptious smells.
8 – Reevaluate your insurance premiums annually – Like online subscriptions, it can be easy to lose track of the insurance premiums you pay. If you’re not careful, your rates can slowly climb and before you know it, you’re spending hundreds of extra dollars a year.
Keep an eye on your various insurance premiums. If they start climbing, talk to an agent and see if you can’t find a better deal.
9 – Don’t waste money on the lottery – Yes, someone will win eventually. But let’s be real, it’s probably not going to be us. Everyone loves to talk about what they would do if they strike it rich, but spending money on lottery tickets is actually a great way to ensure that will never happen.
Instead, invest your money in ways that will earn money for you over time or save up and invest in yourself and your skills. The more you invest in yourself, the higher your earning potential. Playing the lottery might be fun, but investing in yourself is always your best bet!
10 – Minimize energy use in your home – Texas Summers are hot. Sometimes it seems like our AC has to be blasting all day just to avoid having a heat stroke. However, there’s no point in keeping it chilly inside when you’re not home.
Programmable thermostats have been around for a while, but now there are even better smart home devices that can help you save energy and money.
11 – Minimize food waste/overbuying – Clean your plate! We’ve probably all heard that at one point or another, but reducing food waste isn’t just about eating what you cook; it’s about using what you buy, too. Fresh produce, like spinach and avocados, can go bad quickly even if stored in your fridge. Creating a meal plan can help you keep track of what groceries you need and when you need them. If you make sure to only buy what you need, you’ll never throw money into the garbage (or compost) again.
12 – Save on entertainment – Being frugal also doesn’t mean you can’t have fun! It’s about being reasonable and spending in moderation. If you go to the movies, save money by purchasing the tickets in person rather than online. Book your vacations and flights as far in advance as possible to get the best prices on hotels and airfare. If you want to go out with friends, go to a venue that allows you to bring your own drinks.
These are, of course, just a few ways you can work towards a more frugal lifestyle. Remember, it’s not just about abstaining from spending – it’s about knowing when and where to spend and making smart choices when you do. If you have any bad spending habits, it may take a while to replace them with better ones, but your future self will thank you!