With living a frugal lifestyle, it is often easy to get caught up in particular ways to save on specific items, but there are some basic frugal living steps that can help you live as thrifty as possible and help you save money on nearly everything.
These frugal living principles can be applied to just about anything in your life to help you maximize savings and minimize spending.
Frugal Living Principles Everyone Needs to Know
If you can, buy it used
You will save a lot of money buying just about anything you need used. From furniture to kids clothes, in my opinion it’s all better used. I can get those Children’s Place and Gymboree clothes at $1 each, whereas if I were to buy new, it would be at least $10 per item. In my world, that’s like, buy 1, get 9 free! lol. Furniture is the same way. Here’s an article where I lay out how I get all my furniture for super cheap. My super expensive large wall unit ET center and matching coffee table made from real wood, I only paid $150 for! If I were to buy them new, it would be over $2k. Same with my dining table. I actually was paid $50 to buy that one, and again, it’s real wood, nice set.
If you need something, the first place you should look is at yard sales and online on websites like eBay, Craigslist and even your local newspaper’s classified ads section. You can also check out thrift stores and even Facebook sometimes has a local page for your city. Other places to check out are Freecycle if you are looking for reselling to upgrade your furniture. Get something, sell it, and then get what you want. More times than not, you will find what you are looking for at a fraction of the price and if you get extra lucky, you might even get it in new condition.
If there is a coupon or a discount, seek it out and use it
Before planning any big purchase, trip, or even grocery store run, know what special discounts and coupons are out there. For instance, let’s say you are planning on taking your family to the local amusement park. Look on the park’s Facebook page or Twitter account and their website to see if there are any current promotions. Also, check out daily deals sites like Groupon for discounts. Other good places to check are RetailMeNot and of course, always use Ebates.
Several months ago, I purchased a kitchen faucet for my sink and I went to my local hardware store and took a look in person. Wrote down some model numbers and searched out reviews. Another huge tip, always get reviews. It’ll save you a ton of a nightmare in the long run, and money! Found the one I wanted and searched online for it. I found that one on eBay for more than $50 off the hardware store cost, plus there was no tax, which was about another $12 savings!!!
Never pay full price. Ever. This has to be your mantra. You can get almost everything a lot cheaper by following these tips and haggling (offering a FAIR price).
Buy gift cards ahead of time for purchases you know you will be making
Did you know there are websites out there that sell used gift cards with remaining balances for less than the amount left on the card? This can work out in your favor for large purchases but can also be used to save on everyday expenses like groceries, gas, and health and beauty products!
Example, if you know you shop Target regularly, buy a gift card. One of my favorite things to do is purchase gift cards to the restaurants I go to. This is very seldom, so the cards last a long time. Chipotle’s and Panda Express usually have once a year specials on them. Chipotle’s is usually buy a $25, get a $5 card free. That’s like a free huge burrito! When those deals come around, I like to spend $100, so it lasts me all year.
For Panda Express, you can find them on Amazon fairly cheap. A few months ago, they had one for $25 value for like $17.50! Again, that’s a free meal. Yes, I’d like a free lunch, thank you!
Another good one is to always look at the bottom of your receipts. I went to Panda Express this week and there is a short survey on there where you get a free entree just for answering it. That’s a $3-$4 value just for answering a quick survey. Uhm, yes, please!
Don’t always buy the cheaper version of something
Part of living thrifty is knowing when to splurge and when to save. This may seem counter-intuitive, but imagine this; you buy something at the lowest price and it keeps breaking or wearing out quickly, forcing you to keep replacing it. If it is something that you will be using a lot of, it makes sense to spend more to get the quality item you won’t have to replace as often.
Taking a look at online reviews before you make bigger purchases will help you to get an idea about the quality of what you’re considering before you spend your money on it. If it looks too good to be true and the reviews aren’t good, then you know to avoid it. If, however, the reviews are pretty good and you trust the brand name, then you know that it’s a good idea to go ahead and buy it.
Take Good Care of Your Purchases
This one goes hand in hand with making good quality purchases, and it saves so much money in the long run. Taking good care of the things around your house will help them to live longer…meaning less money spent on having to replace them. Taking a bit of extra time to carefully wash your pans, use cleaning supplies properly (to avoid unnecessary wear and tear) and do necessary maintenance on your car and home will get the most life out of each purchase you make.
Use rewards systems
When stores started coming out with rewards programs years ago, they started to slowly catch on, but now it seems every store has a reward system of some sort. If you shop regularly at a store, make sure to sign up for your rewards cards and take full advantage of them. The small amount of time you spend managing them will be worth it in the end.
I shop at Fred Meyer’s quite often and by having my rewards card, they not only send me a gift card at the end of the quarter to use in their store, but I save a good 30¢ on each gallon of gas when I fill up. Since I don’t fill up that often, my rewards stack and I save the most amount of money. I just got gas yesterday, and it was $3.49/gallon, which ended up being $3.19/gallon for me. 14 gallon tank = $4.20 savings. If I fill up every two weeks, that’s $8.40/month (almost a free Netflix account per month!!! Say bye-bye to that bill cost!!!) and $100.80/year.
It may not sound like much, sure, but if you do that with EVERYTHING, you save massive amounts of money.
I usually get about $15 each quarter from Fred Meyer to use in the store, so by shopping there, in one year, that’s $160 free including my gas savings, and I have found their grocery prices to be cheaper or the same as Winco in my area, which gives me NO rewards and dare I say…have to bag my own groceries. I hate that! Try watching your kids so no one runs off with them, a cart, the checker, prices, paying, and bagging at the same time. Not worth it in my book AT ALL! Plus they really don’t have a great selection of fresh or organic food here.
Be a Money Drain Detective
There are so many places in your home that can be money drains, if you let them. Training yourself to find those places and correct them will save you a ton over time. If you have leaky faucets or toilets that run, that’s literally money down the drain and should be fixed as soon as possible. Do you or your family leave lights on around the house? That’s added money to your electricity bill. Are you throwing away spoiled food every week? Create a meal plan with only those items that you know you’ll use. By teaching yourself to eliminate every single way possible that money is being wasted around your home, you’ll be saving a bundle. It really does add up!
Plan, Plan, Plan
Part of living a frugal lifestyle is planning all your purchases. This can be anything from groceries to big items like appliances and even small stuff like snacks at the gas station. A thrifty-minded individual doesn’t just spend money that is not accounted for. Why buy snacks at a gas station if you are not traveling, when you can get a full size of that product for the same price at the store? Get in the habit of setting aside funds for small purchases and keeping track of everything. This will keep you focused on what you are trying to achieve.
Planning your Entertainment
Sure we all love to go out for dinner or go on a trips as much as possible. If you aren’t locked into any one destination, take a look through Groupon, Hotwire, and more to serve as your guides in planning. The discounts that you can find on restaurants, hotels, airfare, etc. are huge! Taking a look at discount sites as you plan your night out or weekend away not only can add more to your adventure, it also gets you there at a lesser cost.
Keep a Budget
As mentioned in the last principle, budgeting for all of your purchases (and keeping on top of it) helps you view how you spend your money on a monthly basis. It allows you to use the surplus that builds up in certain funds over time to make the purchases that you’ve planned. By keeping a simple budget you are better able to really see areas where you can cut back and those where you might need to consider spending a bit more. The greatest thing about a budget is that, when ran effectively, the money that you need is always there in the appropriate fund (and ready to spend). You just need to make sure to stick to the amount that you have to spend when you do your shopping.
Keep an Eye on Your Spending Priorities
Once you’ve built your budget and can see where your money is being spent each month, you’re in the driver’s seat for making changes so that you can save more. One example could be gym memberships. Do you find yourself doing classes at the gym or running on a treadmill? If you’re choosing ways to exercise that could be achieved outside of the gym or at a lower-cost gym, then maybe it’s time to make the switch. Are you really using all of the channels provided by your satellite provider (for the high cost that you are likely paying?) If not, consider downgrading to a less-costly plan.
By looking at how your money is spent and making sure that it reflects your priorities, you’re able to free-up money from your budget to spend in other places or add more to your savings plans.
Save for a Rainy Day
One thing is certain about life…there will be unexpected expenses over time. One important frugal living principle is to save so that you’re not up a creek without a paddle when you get hit with the unexpected. Saving each month and putting it aside for the unexpected, will help you to be more prepared. This will save you the added expense of interest costs that add up when you have to put something on credit or take out a loan due to an emergency.
Just in case you’re thinking this is not possible, as a single mom, I have absolutely 0 debt. There was a time in my life, that I was in $30k worth of debt, but today, I’m debt free. If I can do it, believe me, ANYONE can!
One way to have money ready when you need it is to put a little bit from each paycheck into funds for the kinds of expenses that might surprise you. I have one savings account for everything, but you could split the savings accounts up by type of cost as well. Adding to that account from each paycheck (and not letting yourself touch it) will allow you to save a lot over time, making for a good cushion when the unexpected happens.