Frugal living, for some, is as natural as breathing. They celebrate every penny saved, revel in every deal and glory in even the smallest money win.
I’m not like that. Being frugal never rocked my boat and ‘saving for saving’s sake’ has never been my thing.
Don’t misunderstand me. Many times, my modest budget had to stretch a long way.
Still, until recently, being frugal and living a simpler life, was forced upon me rather than being a free choice.
Today, I pride myself on being a frugality maverick. What changed, you may ask.
Simple. I realized that frugal living:
- doesn’t have to limit opportunities;
- doesn’t have to drain the joy and fun out of life; and
- doesn’t mean being embarrassingly cheap.
If you are like me and need, or want, to become more frugal but cringe at the thought of cutting your own hair, using one sheet of toilet paper or taking only one shower per week, take heart.
There is another path to frugal living; a path that is about not wasting and saying farewell to over-consumption.
This, friends, is mindful frugality. Your money still nourishes your life, but you deliberately side-step the droughts and floods.
Here I share the practical frugal living tips for mindful frugality that eased the pressure on my purse without the sacrifice of fun and joy. I hope these frugal living ideas help you too.
What is frugal living?
What does frugal living mean to you?
As a word, ‘frugal’ originates in Middle French and can be traced back to the 1530s. It simply means ‘economical in use’.
Over the centuries, its meaning has changed but not much. For instance, according to Wikipedia, frugality is about
“…being economical with consumable resources like food, time or money and avoiding waste, lavishness, and extravagance.”
For me, frugal living is about:
- Not wasting;
- Getting value for my money; and
- Avoiding over-consumption.
All frugal living tips offered here, are about not wasting and rejecting over-consumption. Within that, the frugality ideas are placed under the main categories of spending we normally incur.
Ultimately, I hope, these frugal living ideas will help you optimize your spending and keep the sizzle of pleasure in your life.
How much less would you expect to spend?
When I first used these frugality tips, we slashed our monthly spending by over a third. Better still, making habits out of them will keep your spending low.
Why become frugal or four little-discussed benefits of frugal living
“He who has a ‘why’ to live can bear almost any ‘how’.”
Nietzsche’s words ring as true today as they did nearly a century ago and they apply to a frugal life.
Very few can achieve and maintain, the levels of discipline and dedication frugality demand without the motivation of a big dream, or a higher purpose.
This includes you. Once you are clear about the benefits frugal living will bring to your life, living frugally is easy.
There are many obvious benefits of frugal living.
- You may wish your money would last the month.
- You may wish to save for your dream house; or the designer bag after which you’ve been lusting.
- You may wish to take your loved ones on the adventure of a lifetime.
Some benefits of practicing mindful frugality are not as obvious, and within these, your ‘why may reside.
#1. Frugal living puts you in the driver’s seat
Mastering the art of mindful frugality demands knowledge, imagination, discipline, and organization. These are the aspects of your character bringing control to life and will empower you to achieve even the most audacious dreams.
#2. Mindful frugality will help you organize your life
The habitual discipline leading frugal life requires, and develops, spills to other areas of life. Not wasting money, leads to not wasting energy and time.
Coming up with ways to get the best value for your money goes hand in hand with much research and creativity.
#3. Frugal living is good for the environment
Leading a frugal life is leading a life of balance. Balance, in turn, is good for the environment and may help us prolong our existence on Earth.
Not wasting food reduces our personal carbon footprint.
Using less energy means using fewer resources and causing less pollution.
Consuming less means less waste and fewer landfills.
Learning to be frugal is good for our purses and for our planet.
#4. Living frugally is liberating
I used to worry about my possessions, my money, and my routines all the time. Nothing was ever right.
When I traveled I either took too much or left behind things I absolutely needed.
Even when I had money for today, tomorrow and the next five years, I worried that I won’t have enough money when I’m 84.
My morning routine was sacred and wouldn’t even think of leaving the house/hotel without completing it.
I worried until martial arts training camp in Korea.
For two weeks I slept on the floor, shared a room and facilities with six other women, started training ten minutes after waking up and lived in tracksuits, t-shirts and my do-bohk (this is the clothes in which you train).
Was it hard?
You bet. My grumbling, for the first two days, could be heard over the border in North Korea. After that, all fell in place.
Living with little made me realize I need little.
Possessions, money, and routines no longer worry me. Living on very little is something I can do.
How to live frugally, feel empowered and love your life: frugal living ideas for a less wasteful life
You are serious about giving frugal living a try.
It is time to try my tested frugal living tips. A reminder that these are organized according to whether they refer to:
- cutting waste; or
- minimizing over-consumption.
Further, all frugal living tips are organized according to the area of spending/life.
This allows you to pick and choose the frugality tips that are relevant to your life and the ones you intend to implement immediately.
There is no point waiting once you’ve decided to take control of your spending.
Don’t fear: the frugality tips shared here won’t make you cheap and boring. Some may require you to test your limits – so much worth it for the empowerment, this brings in its wake.
Frugal living ideas to reduce waste
Back when we were so deep in debt that even breathing was hard, I mistakenly believed we spent only what is necessary. We certainly didn’t live in opulence and ostentatiousness.
Then I had a good look at the numbers. Turns out, we were over-spending and nearly all of it was from waste.
There were two areas where the waste was nothing if not shameful: food and insurance.
Here is how to stop being wasteful in key areas of your life and learn to lead a more frugal lifestyle.
Frugal tips to stop wasting food
You can buy non-branded goods, shop at farms and eat more vegetables – this is all sound and will help you slash your spending on food.
My bet is still on up to 40% of the food you buy ending in the rubbish bin – a safe bet given a third of the food produced for human consumption in the world is wasted (it is also safe to assume that this is wasted in the ‘developed’ world).
Hence, the frugal tips here are not about saving on food by changing your choices; these are about eliminating food waste. Compromising on the quality of food is not something I’d encourage anybody to do.
We used the frugality tips below and minimized food waste. How much did we save? We slashed our food budget by nearly half.
#1. Make a weekly menu. You may belong to the rare breed of people who can look at a pile of ingredients and come up with a tasty meal. Most of us are not like that – faced with a pile of ingredients we order a take-out and throw away the food we have. If you are like that, you need a weekly menu – start from the meal and deconstruct the ingredients.
#2. Buy (only) what you need for the meals on your weekly menu. You deconstructed the meals, right? Now make a shopping list and stick to it. (Yes, I know you’d look like your granny in the supermarket, but this is better than throwing away half the money you spend.) Okay, you can buy a couple of treats.
#3. Create a store cupboard. Store cupboards are wonderful for saving money and increasing security. Mine contains pulses, pasta, rice, cereal, tomato cans, and selected sauces; generally, things that last.
#4. Learn how to use ‘by-products’. Often recipes ask you to use only part of an ingredient. For example, there are many meals that use only egg yolk. Don’t throw away what is left. Google the ingredient and you’ll find many ways to use it.
#5. Learn to love leftovers. Never been able to understand people who can’t eat leftovers. I cook more on purpose. The leftovers from our evening meal make a great lunch for the next day (and saves me paying for lunch). Things like rice are a bit more problematic; though rice left from dinner makes great rice pudding for the next day.
#6. Use your freezer. Batch-cook and freeze meals – this saves money and time.
#7. Cook (and freeze) soups. You’d be surprised how far £5 of vegetables go when you cook soups. You can also use any slightly tired vegetables in your fridge to make a tasty and healthy soup.
Frugal tips to stop wasting on accommodation
Accommodation is a major spending line in a budget and there are a variety of ways to waste it. This is what to look for:
#8. Do you have too much house? Having too much house, whether owned or rented, is cumulatively wasteful – you not only overpay mortgage/rent but also pay more than necessary on bills. You know that you have too much house when there are spaces/rooms used as storage or ones you have not used in the last six months or so. If you find that you have too much space, consider downsizing; or renting out some of the space.
#9. Is your house maintained regularly? We’ll talk more about this one in the next section, the one on utilities, but maintaining your accommodation is the key to cutting out waste.
#10. Is your accommodation well located? This is something to seriously consider when buying/renting accommodation. Reducing waste here is about living close to shops and other amenities; it is also good to live close to your place of work, schools, etc.
Frugal tips to stop wasting on utilities
Energy is not getting any cheaper and wasting it is damaging to your bank account and the planet.
#11. Pull the plug. How many of your electrical appliances are on standby? My guess will be ‘many’. Word on the street is that you can save between £35 and £50 per year by simply unplugging.
#12. Put out the lights. I’ve come to consider leaving lights on as a waste of the worst kind – there is no need for light when there is no one to see. So, put the lights off; and teach your kids to do it as well.
#13. Get yourself some draught excluders. These look silly and you can trip on them, but they help keep the heat in. While you are at it, you may wish to get some heavy curtains as well.
#14. Carpet is better than wood. Carpets will keep your house warmer.
#15. Get some more insulation. Insulation, in my mind, is a bit like shoes: one can never have enough of it. It makes a big difference and keeps the heat in during winter and the heat out during summer.
#16. Double glazing. When it comes to eliminating waste and saving on energy, this is essential.
#17. Check for drips. Sounds trivial, I know. But dripping water can really lead to a very large waste of both water and energy; and very high bills.
Frugal tips to optimize your insurance (and banking)
You need insurance; no two ways about it.
Many people overpay on different kinds of insurance. We, for instance, were paying about twice as much as we needed to pay on life, house, and car insurance.
#18. Shop around every time you renew your insurance. Insurance is a very competitive business and loyalty counts for nothing. Shop around for better deals every year you renew. When you get a lower quote, tell your current insurance company – nine times out of ten they will offer you a lower rate.
#19. Check your life insurance regularly. Make sure that this is at the right level and you aren’t overpaying to be under-insured. Shop around. Oh, and it is not true that the older you get, the harder it is to get a good rate – the competition overshadows ageism.
#20. What are the benefits of paying account fees? Some fee current accounts offer great perks like insurance, access to lounges, etc. Get your numbers straight – do the perks justify the fee? If you think it is not worth it, get a free, or very low fee, account.
#21. Overdrafts are expensive. Thinking about it, overdrafts, even agreed ones, are not only expensive; they are very wasteful. Keep your account in the black and don’t waste money on paying overdraft fees.
#22. Pay off your credit cards every month. Don’t waste on paying extortionate interest.
Frugal tips to stop wasting on clothes and shoes
Clothes and shoes are a personal matter and you are the only one to decide which way to go. You can, however, observe, these general rules and reduce the waste in this area:
#23. Buy quality. High-quality clothes and shoes look good and last longer. Don’t buy from Primark – this is the kind of stuff that you wear twice and send to a landfill.
#24. Select classical designs. There is timeless fashion and there is a fashion fad. The ‘little black dress’ is timeless; flairs are a fad. And you know what – in a little black dress you will always look smart. (It can be any item of clothing that is classically cut.)
#25. Match your lifestyle and your wardrobe. It is wasteful to have a row of evening dresses when you don’t go to functions where you can wear them. Just like it is wasteful to buy a tuxedo you wear once in a decade. One way not to waste on clothes is to match your lifestyle and your wardrobe.
#26. No one needs forty pairs of shoes. Clothes, shoes, handbags can become an obsession. Yes, you probably want to have shoes for different occasions (who am I to argue with that) but you certainly don’t need forty pairs. Plan and resist temptation.
#27. Recycle your clothes. When you don’t wear some of your clothes you should recycle them. Either give them to a charity shop or sell them. Keeping clutter is wasteful on many levels.
Frugal tips to optimize transportation
Moving around is a major expense in your budget. Don’t believe me? Check your spending records (I assume you are keeping a spending record; if not start now).
#28. Do you really need two cars? Between you and me, most people don’t need even one car. So, if you are a multiple car unit, have a closer look – you may find that you don’t need two cars and that going down to one will save you hundreds of pounds per year. For that matter, do you need to own a car at all?
#29. Don’t buy new cars. Cars lose loads of value in the first couple of years of purchase. You can save tens of thousands of pounds buying two-three years old cars (yes, someone must check that the car is not faulty but…).
#30. Walk short distances. Walking saves money on transport and is great exercise. When you add the saving, the health gain, and the saved gym fees…well, you see what I mean.
#31. Cycle when possible. Cycling is also a good exercise and you can cover longer distances faster than walking. (On the other hand, you may be like me: a danger to myself and to everyone on the road when on a bike. Either learn to ride a bike properly or revert to walking.)
Frugal tips to stop wasting on entertainment
You need fun in your life, I agree. Fun, however, can become hard work when this is all you do; and this is how it becomes wasteful.
#32. Work out what makes your heart sing. Spending money on the fun that lifts your spirits is never wasted; especially when done with moderation. Thing is to know what you love and put your money behind it.
#33. Much fun can be had for free. Think back to your childhood – what is the most fun occasion that springs to mind? Very likely it is something that didn’t cost anything. Remember this next time you feel down because you don’t have money for fun and get creative. Make memories!
#34. Streaming is cheaper than going to the cinema. Yes, streaming movies is cheaper than going to the cinema. Prime video is the best value, for me. You may prefer Netflix or iTunes. Paying for a movie is slightly over half the price of one cinema ticket.
#35. No treats. You don’t need to eat and drink at the cinema, at a concert or theatre. In fact, not buying treats will save you on paying for slimming.
#36. Host dinner parties. Cook for your friends. Going out to eat is fun but it is costly, and you may not be able to chat with your friends.
Frugal tips to stop wasting on holidays
After working hard, we all need a break. Holidays, however, can be a test for ingenuity when it comes to frugal fun.
#37. Book flights and accommodation separately. Generally, holidays work out cheaper when you book the flights/travel and accommodation separately. This way, you also have more control overspending.
#38. Wait for last-minute deals. You can save up to 40-50% off a holiday if you have the flexibility, openness, and nerve to wait for a last-minute deal.
#39. Go self-catering. Always book accommodation with self-catering facilities. Eating out is costly in tourist places and alternating between preparing something simple and going out can save you hundreds. Especially when you have children.
#40. Agree on ‘pampering’ rules. Treating yourself to things you enjoy is part of being on holiday. You can have anything, but you can’t have everything. Hence, it can save you a pretty penny to agree to some ‘pampering’ rules and stick to them.
#41. Do you really need a car? Deciding on whether to hire a car is a balancing act between costs and use. Hiring a car is often cheaper using a local agent.
#42. Go to the beach later. When on the beach, I like to be a deck chair under an umbrella. Going to the beach later in the afternoon means that you will either not be charged or pay half price for hire.
#43. Swap with friends. You may have friends who have holiday properties. Talk to them and swap or rent at a good price.
#44. Check out for free fun activities. Most tourist destinations are brimming with free fun activities. Research these and take advantage – making memories doesn’t have to cost you a packet.
Frugal tips to stop wasting on fitness
There are two key ways to waste money on a gym membership: to choose an expensive one that you don’t need and not to use the membership you have.
#45. Choose the gym membership for you. Remember, a gym membership is not for you to show off; it is to train and exercise. Choose.
#46. Use your gym membership. Did you know that most people who join a gym stop going within eight weeks? They keep paying membership though. Don’t be like that! If you pay membership, exercise at least 3-4 times per week. If you notice that you have not been for two weeks, just cancel your membership – you are wasting your money.
Frugal tips to stop wasting on services
Trying to do everything, to a high standard, is not part of frugal living; in fact, this can be very wasteful. You need to buy services, but you don’t have to waste it when doing it.
#47. Outsource what you don’t like doing. Confession time: I’ve never done any ironing in my life. We are talking close to four decades of an adult, or nearly adult life. Even when I had little money I paid for ironing. This is rather frugal because otherwise, I’d have spent my life energy finding ways to avoid doing the ironing. Feel similarly about gardening, knitting, and sewing. All outsourced.
#48. Relax by doing what you like doing. I don’t mind cooking and I listen to books or music while doing it. Great!
#49. Barter what you can. Swap services you can provide, and like doing, for ones you need to bring in. I used to swap personal training for writing. It works.
#50. Make an inventory of your apps. Keep only the ones you use regularly and cancel the subscription to the rest. Your wallet suffers when the subscription to apps you don’t use renews automatically.
Snap out of consumerism and forego over-consumption
We are all consumers.
In other words, we are all in the grips of ‘consumerism’ which is an ideology encouraging the acquisition of goods and services at increasing amounts (and speed).
This also means that over-consumption is not only part of our everyday lives; it is also a profoundly ingrained ideology, a powerful mindset. As a result, we eat more than we need, we remodel our kitchens every couple of years, have piles of clothes, shoes, and artifacts and consume pop culture.
One of the most effective frugal living tips is to limit your consumption in all aspects of life.
Rejecting over-consumption is not a behavior game; it is a matter of changing your mindset (or ideology).
#51. Embrace a minimalist lifestyle. A minimalist lifestyle is generally about simplifying and reducing consumption and clutter. You’ll need to decide what is the minimum that nourishes your life and get rid of the rest. You are unlikely to become a minimalist overnight but simple things like getting rid of duplication in your life, sorting out your clutter and traveling light(er) can be enacted quickly.
#52. Become an essentialist. If minimalism is about reducing consumption, essentialism is about doing (consuming) the right things. Essentialism is about ‘living a life of intent, meaning, and purpose and applying the principle of ‘less but better’.
Try applying one, or some combination of these two, ideology in your life. Every day. Watch your life become better and enjoy.
Top frugal living blogs for inspiration
You now have your reason, and the knowledge, to adopt a more frugal lifestyle.
What you need next is an inspiration and more frugal living ideas.
These six frugal blogs are my favorites amongst the many by a large margin. (Click on the images to have a look and you shall see why.)
Note that these blogs are listed in no particular order – they are all outstanding.
Much More With Less
By now hopefully, you have overcome your aversion and resistance to frugal living by understanding that frugality doesn’t have to be extreme or deprive your life of fun and joy.
You also have acquainted yourself with over fifty frugal living tips that, when implemented, will slash your spending by over a third.
What is left is that you implement these frugal ideas and start reaping the rewards.
Once you have made most, or some, frugal tips into everyday habits for money management and have stopped wasting, you can become more adventurous. Think about changing your routines so you can get the best value for your money. Challenge yourself to prepare gourmet meals on a budget, travel at a fraction of the cost and not buy clothes for a year.
What are you waiting for? You can do it!
(And you can share your top frugal living tips in the comments.)