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When I first started trying to be frugal, I used coupons, asked companies for free samples and only bought generic items.
To me, being frugal was the same thing as being cheap. It meant not spending money on anything extra. Every dollar mattered.
Later, I learned that wasn’t how everyone interpreted frugality. In general, the term means spending money only on what matters to you. It’s not the same as being cheap and never having fun.
Once I realized that, I started spending on what I did care about, hobbies like baking and traveling abroad.
What is Frugal Living?
If you love traveling but don’t care about having a trendy wardrobe, being frugal means splurging on a trip to Italy rather than buying new clothes all the time. Instead of shopping at the mall, you may visit Goodwill or another thrift store, or try online second-hand clothing stores like thredUP.
You can apply this concept of being frugal to any of your financial priorities.
Making the switch to a frugal lifestyle can be a huge culture shock if you’re used to spending money however you want. Try to incorporate changes gradually so you don’t get overwhelmed and quit your new lifestyle.
1. Declutter Your Home
If you’re looking for a way to live frugally and simplify your life, consider decluttering your home. You can even sell some of your stuff with Decluttr and earn some extra money.
You may be surprised at the number of items you never use. Going through your possessions is a humbling experience and one of the best frugal living exercises. It teaches you how much you don’t need and can become a moneymaker if you can sell those items on eBay or at a yard sale.
Decluttering can also be a helpful exercise because it shows you how much money you’ve spent on things you no longer need and it can show you what you have before you buy more.
You can also consider leading a more minimalist lifestyle. Minimalism helps you focus your spending and pare down your life to only the things that matter to you.
2. Save Money in Many Areas (It Adds Up)
Once you know how much you’re spending, look for places to cut back. There are many ways you can be frugal and save money without impacting your lifestyle.
Review your major budget categories and consider what’s necessary and what isn’t. Do you really need a Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime subscription? Do you need a need Blue Apron and Hello Fresh box or is one enough? Do you need to eat out a few times a week or can you cut back?
To decide what to cut, make a list of what really matters to you. If you love your monthly cleaning service, keep it. But if you can live without your Stitch Fix box, then get rid of that. If you don’t have time to evaluate all of your subscription services, use a service like Trim. The app tracks your spending. It will go through your accounts and gives you suggestions on what to tell you what you can cut.
3. Understand Being Frugal vs. Cheap
Being frugal doesn’t mean being cheap or stingy. They’re often used interchangeably, but they’re very different.
Someone who’s cheap will spend the least amount of money regardless of quality. A frugal person knows that paying more for quality can be the better option in the long term.
Cheap items often break quickly and need to be replaced faster, which means you could actually spend more money over time. Saving up for a quality item means getting a purchase that lasts.
Frugality is about making the best choice with your money. Sometimes it means spending much more to buy something that will last for a long time. Other times it may mean buying something used because you don’t need a new version.
4. Budget Your Income
Before implementing any frugal living tips, you need to know where your money is going. This is where making a budget comes into play. It will help you gain control of your spending and reach your money goals.
A budget is a spending plan that tells your money where to go. There are many different options including a zero-based budget and the 50/30/20 rule. Pick one to get started and see how you like it. Don’t be afraid to try a different system until you find one that fits you best.
5. Pay off Debt
One of the best things you can do for your finances is to pay off your debt. Before you get started, you need to figure out how much debt you have. Tally up everything you owe and make a list.
As you implement the frugal living tips, apply the extra money toward your debt. You can choose to pay off debt starting with the lowest balance or the highest interest rate.
6. Use Cash-Back Apps
If you’re looking for an easy way to save money, try using a cash-back app. These apps can save money on purchases you’re already making. There are several cash-back apps that will help put more money in your pocket.
These apps typically pay a percentage of the purchase you make and are simple and easy to use. Though you usually only earn a couple of bucks at a time, the savings add up. It’s a great way to save money on anything from groceries to clothes and even hotels.
7. Earn More Money
If you’re looking to pay down debt or save for a dream vacation, consider earning more money. An extra $100 or $200 a month can supercharge your frugal living efforts.
There are many ways to earn extra cash from taking surveys to starting a weekend side hustle. Working a few extra hours a week could make a huge difference if you put that money toward your goals. Plus, it can be a lot easier to make $100 than it is to scrimp and save $100.
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8. Learn to Coupon
While couponing has gotten a bad reputation lately, you shouldn’t avoid this frugal hack. Coupons can save you hundreds of dollars on stuff you already buy.
The trick is to use coupons and combine them with sales for the best possible price. Once you get the hang of it, it will become second nature. You’ll save money and get discounts in ways you never thought possible.
Remember not to go crazy and spend money on items or quantities you don’t need. There’s no reason to stockpile 20 bottles of shampoo or a dozen cases of cat food.
9. Set Financial Goals
Living frugally can help you reach your financial goals because it makes you aware of your finances.
Research says that putting pen to paper and writing out your goals is one of the best ways to reach them. Post that list of goals somewhere you see every day like your fridge or bathroom mirror.
When you think about making a financial decision, consider how it will affect your goals. Will it move you closer to them? Or make it more difficult? Knowing the impact on your goals should influence your decision.
10. Learn to Have Fun for Free
Frugal living is all about making the most of your time and money. There are many things in life that are free. Learning to enjoy them will save you money and make you happier.
Consider things like taking a walk in a nearby park or exploring a hiking trail. Spending time with family and friends doesn’t have to be expensive either. Most cities have lots of free activities, like concerts or workshops in your area. Many museums and zoos have free days and local libraries might offer free tickets to those as well.
Want to spend time with friends? Host a potluck or a game night and invite everyone over to your place.
11. Continually Learn About Managing Your Personal Finances
There’s more to frugal living than counting your pennies and opting for generic rather than brand-name goods. Learning how to manage your money is the next step after creating a budget and cutting expenses.
The best way to be successful with money is to educate yourself about personal finance. Take an active role with your money and learn more about investing and growing your income. Investing money in the stock market is one of the best ways to build real wealth.
Think of yourself as a personal finance student and check out reputable personal finance books on managing your money and paying down debt.
What Are You Willing to Change to Live Frugally?
There are many small and big ways to live frugally and save money. You can’t change your mindset overnight, but you can start with small steps.
Find a purpose for your frugality such as paying down debt or saving for a dream trip. That will help focus your efforts. Your reason should be specific, like taking your parents on a 50th anniversary cruise or paying for your child’s college education. It’s hard to be frugal on a regular basis unless you have a clear motive for doing so.
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