10 Frugal Living Tricks for {Saving Money}

10 Frugal Living Tricks for {Saving Money}

10 Surprising Ways to Save Money!

I’m guessing you stumbled across this post because your budget makes you feel a little bit like your pants do after thanksgiving dinner… uncomfortable.

If your budget is too tight, there are two things you can do to fix it: make more, or spend less. 

Guess which one most people have more control over. 

Spending Less Money.

Usually, when people think of spending less money, they think of not buying the big things like a fancy new car, going on a nice vacation, or getting a bigger house.

But the truth is that the day to day decisions add up faster than you think. The daily spending will set the tone for your weekly, monthly, and yearly budgets, and can make or break your ability to stick with your budget.

And if you can get the little things under control in your budget, you can start to afford some of the bigger things that have always been out of reach.

(If you’d like a step-by-step guide for setting up your budget, check out my full post on How to Start Budgeting.)

We are a single-income family, so there isn’t much wiggle-room in our budget every month.

And on top of living on one income, we only live on 70% of our net income. So basically any time I can cut a couple of extra dollars from my expenses, I am all in! 

(If you are unfamiliar with the concept of living on 70% of your net income, check out my explanation of the rule in my post, The Secret to Sticking With Your Budget From The Start.) 

When Ross and I got married, we found ourselves living on one (small) income… with a bunch of debt to pay off. (You’ve gotta love those school loans that are supposed to land you a couple of nice paying jobs.)

Luckily, I had married a fellow penny-pincher. (He’s probably the most frugal person I know.) And we quickly decided that we would take our spending down to the bare bones to pay off the debt. 

And when I say bare bones, I mean bare bones.

(You can read more about our story here.)

This post contains the frugal living habits we used to pay off our debt, save money, and stop living paycheck-to-paycheck.

Frugal Living Tips for Saving Money

1) Create a Realistic Budget

Start by creating a budget that works with your family’s income, goals, and needs.  

By setting goals and limits for yourself within your budget, you will see where you can afford to cut expenses, save more, and find out where all the money is disappearing to every month.

If you want a step-by-step guide for creating a budget, check out How to Start a Budget: a Beginner’s Guide to Creating a Budget, Cutting Costs, and Saving Money.

2) Shop Insurance Companies

When Ross and I were going over our budget about a year ago, the number that we were paying for our insurance struck me as high. 

We realized that it had been a couple years since we had shopped insurance companies and decided that it was time to do that again.

I spent every spare minute over the next couple of weeks on the phone, giving different insurance companies the same information over and over again.

How to Save Money When You're Living on a Tight Budget

About a month later, after going over the policy with a fine-tooth comb to be sure we were getting the exact same coverage, we switched and saved $120 per month. That’s $1440 a year! 

All from just making some phone calls and putting in a little time.

3) Be a DIY Beautician

I’m a little crazy when it comes to saving money! 

As a general rule, I cut my husband’s hair, my own hair, and my girls’ hair. Once every couple years if I am going shorter than my shoulders, I will go somewhere and get it cut. 

But the vast majority of the time, we don’t spend any money on our hair.

If the thought of cutting hair makes you sweat a little, stick with me. Cutting your own hair, and cutting everyone else’s hair in your family, can save you quite a bit of money… And it can be fun once you get the hang of it! 

According to US News, the average women’s haircut costs $44 and the average men’s haircut costs $28. They also stated that the average person gets their hair cut every two months. 

That would be a total of $432 spent on haircuts per year for a family with one woman getting her hair cut and one man getting his cut. Add in a couple kids to the mix and you can be saving yourself a pretty penny if you make the switch to cutting at home.

Thankfully, the beauty college of YouTube can teach you everything you need to know!

Just type in “how to cut a _____________ (type of haircut) for__________________________ (boy or girl) at home” and you’ll get dozens of tutorials that you can play and pause and rewind when you need to.

Here are a couple of tutorials to get you started:

Sadia with Pick Up Limes has a great tutorial for cutting Women’s Hair.

Here is an easy tutorial for cutting Little Girl’s Hair.

Here is one for Little Boy’s Hair using clippers.

This is a very detailed Men’s Haircut how-to. I think she’s teaching a beauty school how to do it!

If this is your first time cutting hair, you will need a couple of things to get started:

Hair Cutting Scissors: I like this pair

You can technically make regular scissors work, but it will take you a lot longer and it won’t look as clean because they aren’t as sharp. 

(I may or may not have used a pair of office scissors for years before Ross bought me these scissors. Like I said, I like to save money!)

 Clippers: If the guys in your family like their hair short, you definitely want a pair of clippers. This set also comes with scissors if you don’t want to purchase both, but I still prefer the scissors I mentioned above.

Additional Money Saving Ideas:

If you color your hair, you can also do that in the comfort of your own home. I don’t personally dye my hair, but my mom has been doing her own color at home since I was little. No one ever knows the difference!

I also like to have spa days with the girls and paint their fingers and toes at home. 

No, it’s not as luxurious as having someone else do it, but it’s also a very small fraction of the cost and it’s a fun mommy-daughter activity!

4) Stop Buying Single-Use Products

Or at least, stop using them just once!

Single-use products are anything that is designed to be used once, then thrown away.

I’m looking at you, plastic sandwich bags, paper napkins, and paper towels!

Even if you buy paper towels at Costco, you could save over $40 a year if you stopped using paper towels alone and switched to using cloth towels instead.

That may not seem like much, but if I handed you $40 right now, what would you do with it? Would you wipe up the juice your toddler spilled, or would you spend it on something just a little bit nicer than that?

The Best Tricks for Frugal Living

Ways to Save:

1. Swap your paper towels for regular dishcloths or paperless towels.

2. Use cloth napkins instead of paper napkins. (But keep the paper napkins you get with takeout and use them on road trips or when you are out and about!)

We’ve been using our cloth napkins for about 9 years now and they are still as good as new!

3. Reuse your plastic freezer and sandwich bags until they cannot be used anymore. 

Just scrub them with a little soap and prop them upright on your faucet and/or soap dispenser to dry… good as new!

The next time you run out of plastic bags and need to buy more, consider a bag that is made to be reused like these.

4. Try replacing parchment paper with a Silicone Baking Mat to cut down on waste and cost in the long run.

5) Stop Going Shopping

Almost any time I step foot in a store I find something that I didn’t know I needed. But now I think I do because it’s oh so cute.

I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but there has been a switch in our society to the detriment of the consumer. 

It used to be that customers would tell the store what they wanted, and the store would try to stock the items. 

Now companies tell the customers what they need, want, and can’t live without. And the customer tries desperately to pay for and store all the items.

To take care of this problem, I don’t go shopping unless I have something specific that I am looking for.

I make a list, I stick to the list, and I don’t browse in any area of the store that doesn’t relate to the list.

My mom says I shop like a guy. I say I shop like a saver!

If I do happen to find something that I think I need that isn’t on my list, I have a one-week rule (or one month if it’s an expensive item.) I take a picture and I leave the item at the store while I go home to think about it.

If I am still thinking about it and want it after time has gone by, I can go back and get it. If I forget about it, then I obviously didn’t need it in the first place.

6) Share a Vehicle

Not only have we been a single-income family for most of our marriage, but we were also a single-vehicle family for the first seven-and-a-half years

Since we couldn’t afford to have a second vehicle and still reach our financial goals, we stuck with our one car.

Call us crazy, but we didn’t want to put ourselves into debt just because society told us that we needed two vehicles… and as it turns out, society was wrong anyway!

When both of us needed the car at the same time, we carpooled. One of us had to work a longer day while we waited for the other person, but it was never a problem.

I was usually the person who was at work more hours, so I would just bring a book for the end of the day, keep working, or go for a walk. 

Sometimes I even ended up with a work friend who lived close enough to my house to give me a ride home!

During the spring, summer, and fall, Ross would often ride his bike to work when we lived in a small town.

And when we moved to a large city, I used public transportation to get around since I worked downtown.

There was never a situation that we couldn’t figure out a solution for. It just took a little creativity!

What to Cut From Your Budget so you can start living below your means

Not only did it work just fine, but we also didn’t feel like we were getting the short end of the stick. On the contrary, we enjoyed our life even more because we weren’t stressed out about how we were going to make a car payment or pay more for car insurance.

Plus, it’s fun to have someone to talk with when you are stuck in traffic!

Another way we saved money with our vehicles was by purchasing cars that we could afford to pay off in short order. 

We didn’t choose cars that were the coolest, or that we loved the most, or that we felt like we deserved, we chose cars that we could afford.

When our first (and only) vehicle was totaled in an accident, we purchased a car that we could afford to buy outright between our savings and tax return that year. It wasn’t fancy, but it did the job and is still running over 7 years later.

We only purchased our second car two years ago when we knew we would be able to completely pay it off within one year.

After doing both ways I can tell you, not having a car payment is way nicer on your budget than having to make a car payment. 

If you could never afford to pay your car off quickly, consider selling your car and getting a car that will fit more comfortably in your budget!

It is worth driving a car that may not be as amazing to us to have a little extra breathing room in our budget.

Updated: When the first car that we purchased was totaled, we spent a couple of months as a single-car family again before we decided to go ahead and get another.

After scaling back on all our other expenses and putting any extra money (like tax refunds!) toward the principal amount on the loan, we are on our way to paying it off within six months of the purchase date.

7) Plan Your Meals

It’s so much easier to go out to eat than to cook and eat at home.

But when my family of four goes out to eat anywhere other than Taco Bell, it usually runs us close to $50 once the tip is included.

Edit in 2023: It is now closer to $90 for our family of 5! Thanks Covid.

When we eat at home? I usually can shop for meals for our entire week for $100. Max. That works out to less than $6 per meal for the entire family (and less than $1.50 per person per meal!)

Edit in 2023: Groceries now typically cost $150/week. Not as great as it used to be, but it is still a lot cheaper than eating out!

I’m not saying that you should never go out to eat, you just need to make sure it fits within your budget.

If you find it challenging to eat at home after a busy day, check out How to Begin Meal Planning When You Don’t Know Where to Start

Additional Ways to Save:

1. Create a Food Budget.

We budget $100 per person in our family per month for food. When we eat at home, we almost never go over budget. But it’s a different story when we eat out.

Edit in 2023: For our family of 5, we budget $150 per week for food.

Check out my post How to Begin Budgeting for tips on setting up your grocery budget.

2. Eat Your Leftovers

We used to be responsible and put our leftovers in the fridge, only to promptly forget about them.

Unfortunately, leftovers don’t save you money unless you eat them. 

Now we schedule eating leftovers into our meal plan and rarely throw any out. 

(Check out my post on Planning to Eat Your Leftovers for more details 🙂

Want 7 Extra Hours In your Week? Grab the Streamline Your Home Quick-Start Guide

8) Use Cloth Diapers

How you choose to diaper or not diaper your children is completely personal. But if you are looking to save some moolah when you have a baby, you may want to check out the price difference between disposable diapers and cloth diapers. 

The total cost for our cloth diaper stash (meaning everything we purchased to cloth diaper both of our babies) was about $500. 

That was buying everything brand-new off Amazon. 

That was my total diaper expense for both of my children. $500 total. Combined. I didn’t have to purchase anything for the second child. 

And that’s the total for any children I decide to have in the future. And any children that I give my stash to when I’m done with them. 

One of our friends has used our size one cloth diapers for both of their children since our kids have been staggered in ages! Plus, I might even be able to sell the stash when we are done with them and make some of the money back.

My sister was even savvier than we were and was able to get her entire cloth diaper system for $100 from a Facebook mom group!

If saving money when you have a baby is something you’re into, check out my Minimalist Baby Registry Essentials for Having a Baby on a Budget!

9) Love Second-Hand Clothing

Friends, family, Facebook Marketplace anyone? Do your best to get some hand-me-downs from anyone who is handing them out. 

I know one person who got bins of hand-me-downs for her daughter from a Facebook group for only a couple of dollars a bin.

Sure, some might be a little stained or worn. Sure, they may not be your kid’s style. And sure, they may not even be what you would choose. But you will save so much money!

I’ve read a lot of minimalist blogs that say you should get rid of clothing as soon as your child outgrows them because you can buy them at a thrift store for cheap if you have another child. 

Um, what?? I may not be very good at math, but I’m pretty sure “free” is less expensive than ”cheap.”

Maybe if you are well-off this will work well for you, but this minimalist is hanging on to her hand-me-downs until I am positive beyond a shadow of a doubt that I’m done having babies. Those tiny clothes are expensive!

If you don’t have space to store the clothes, see if you have any friends that need them in the meantime. Our friends that we’ve shared the cloth diapers with also rotate bins of clothes with us. Our oldest uses them, then their oldest does, then our youngest used them, and now their baby will use them. 

They were more than happy to store part of the stash so that their girls could use the clothes and give them back when we needed them.

Additional Ways to Save:

1. Shop at second-hand stores.

In addition to taking advantage of hand-me-downs, second-hand stores are the first stop we make when we are in need of new clothing.

I often find higher quality clothing than I can on a sale rack at a store and pay about the same for it.

I’ve even found amazing deals on hiking boots at second-hand stores!

2. Head to the Sale Racks.

If our local second-hand store doesn’t have what we need, I can usually find what I’m looking for on the sale racks at Wal-Mart, Target, or Ross (the store not the husband).

I don’t think I’ve purchased anything for full price for the girls and we’ve scored a lot of good deals by doing a little extra looking. 

Thrift Stores Aren’t Just for Kids

Second-hand stores are also a great place to find adult clothing. 

I struggled with purchasing maternity clothing since you only wear it for such a short amount of time and they are so expensive. 

Then a friend who was also pregnant told me that she went to Goodwill and found high-quality items that were affordable. The next weekend I purchased a pair of maternity jeans for $3!!

10) Cultivate a Minimalist Mindset

About 4 years ago I began reading more on minimalism. I have always been drawn to the lifestyle as it naturally syncs with my thoughts and feelings.

This mindset especially comes in handy when the holidays and birthdays come around. You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on each occasion as the stores would have you believe. 

Sometimes thinking simple is best.

The cool thing is that once you are in the habit of spending less, simple can be fun.

With our girls, we have found that the simplest toys and experiences have brought them the most joy. 

My oldest daughter still talks about her birthday party that she had when she was three. Her “party” was going to a local splash pad and play structure (which is free), having a picnic there with friends (everyone brought their own lunch but we shared sides), and having our friends come back to our place afterward to barbecue. 

There wasn’t even a traditional gift exchange. But what did she want to do this year for her birthday? 

“Go to the splash pad with all of our friends again!”

How to Stop Being Broke and Start Living Below Your Means

Sometimes saving money takes a little creativity and sacrifice. But in my book, it’s usually worth it. 

Take a closer look at your finances and see if you can cut any costs.

Here’s a Recap of the Frugal Living Habits we use to save money in our family.

  1. Create a Realistic Budget
  2. Shop Insurance Companies Regularly
  3. Be a DIY Beautician
  4. Stop Buying Single-Use Products
  5. Stop Going Shopping
  6. Share a Vehicle
  7. Plan Your Meals
  8. Use Cloth Diapers
  9. Love Second-Hand Clothing
  10. Cultivate a Minimalist Mindset

You May Also Enjoy…

How We Paid Off $20,000 in debt in 18 Months!

How to Organize Your Finances With 7 Bank Accounts.

37 Ways to Save Money on Groceries if you aren’t sure how to get your grocery budget under control.

If you want to be sure that you can stick with this budget from the start, check out The Biggest Secret to Sticking With Your Budget.

Does worrying about what other people will think of you if you start living more frugally keep tripping you up when you try to start a budget? Check out 7 Powerful Mindsets for Low-Income Families.

Teach your children how to budget with The {Simplest} Budgeting Method for Kids.

You can read about our journey learning to live on one income here: How We Became a Single Income Family.

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(Or if you are more of a do-it-yourself kind of gal, you can check out my DIY Master Your Money Resources!)

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