59 Frugal Living Ideas You Should Try in 2021Saving Money
We may receive a commission if you sign up or purchase through links on this page. Here's more information.
Many people may be put off by the term “frugal,” as it carries connotations of depriving yourself or buying cheaper versions that are lower quality — all in the name of saving a few bucks.
In reality, frugal living is really about knowing what you want, prioritizing, and then working to use various resources in order to spend less on what you really want.
It’s all about how to live simply.
Why You Should Try Living Frugally
Cheap living has a lot of added benefits that most people may not be aware of.
First, you will save more money just by employing a few frugal living ideas. Simple frugal living ideas may just end up saving you tens, hundreds, or even thousands of dollars in the long run.
Second, living frugal can actually keep you out of debt! Think about it. If you’re making sure to only spend it where it counts, the odds are that you will be less likely to splurge and go into unnecessary debt.
Those who know how to be extremely frugal can actually save a lot of money, compared to their spend-happy peers. You’d be surprised by how a little savings here and a little there do actually add up to quite a lot over time.
Third, when you continually think about how to live frugally, you are making conscious decisions about where your money is spent and how much.
Often, people may give into ads or societal pressures telling them to buy this or that without really needing it at all. No more!
Last but certainly not least, living frugally may decrease concerns over money, as you spend less and save more. This is massively important to your mental health and stress levels.
Data released earlier this year by Northwestern Mutual reported that money is the top cause of stress (44%) among Americans. To put it in perspective, money worries trump relationship stress (25%) and work woes (18%).
How to Be More Frugal: A Guide
So, want to save money, keep out of debt, make conscious choices, and stress less now? Living frugally may just be the answer you’ve been searching for.
To save you time, we’ve put together the very best frugal living tips right here. Embracing these simple frugal living ideas takes next to no energy or time — perfect for both those who are busy or people who may have some spare time on their hands.
Try these simple frugal living ideas today and start reaping the rewards.
Overall: 10 Best Frugal Living Tips You Need to Know
1. Keep Track of Your Money
With so many money tracking apps available — such as Mint, Pocket Expense, Spending Tracker, and Saver 2 — there is no reason to not know how much you’re spending. Managing your money is the first and most important of our frugal tips.
2. Build Your Budget
Once you know how much money is coming into your life and how much is going out (expenditures), then you can effectively budget like a boss.
3. Want vs. Need
When setting your budget, be realistic. It may be difficult but try to separate out what items you really need versus items you want. The needs should come first and then the wants should be carefully considered.
4. Try to Maintain Perspective
Living frugally isn’t about deprivation. It’s about investing your money in your life — whether that be saving for a long-term goal, working toward a big expense or growing your worth.
5. No Impulse Buying
Regular impulse buying is a waste of money. When items are bought on the spot, there is no time for consideration of want vs. need or price comparison for best price, ultimately just wasting your money.
6. Always Price Compare
Comparing prices is one of the best frugal living tips because it could save you massive amounts of money when you shop. Not comparison shopping is like throwing money away. The following apps allow for local in-store and/or online comparisons: ShopSavvy, Now Discount, ScanLife, and Quick Scan.
7. Quality Is Key
Another major cheap living tip is actually to spend more on items that are better quality. Over time, these items will last longer and save you more than items that wear out quickly.
8. Be an Outsider in the Grocery Store
When you walk into the grocery store, stay around the outside where fresh items are. They are better for your health and wallet. Healthy eating is a great way to save yourself medical expenses later. It’s all about the long view.
9. Analyze Your Options
10. Start a Passive Income Stream
One of the best ways to grow your income is by having a side hustle. Consider starting a small side business or project that would provide you with passive income to add into your monthly earnings.
Basics: How to be More Frugal without Much Effort
11. Save on Gas, Groceries, and Restaurants
You can save naturally by downloading the GetUpside app, which notifies you of savings at your local gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants. All you have to do is go to one of them to save.
12. Get Cash Back for Online Shopping
If you shop a lot online, then downloading Swagbucks is key. You can earn points for shopping online, watching videos, searching the web, and answering surveys. Then, those points turn into Amazon or Walmart gift cards or PayPal cash.
13. Buy Generic Brands When Possible
Many major retailers stock their own home brands, which are more generic but often way cheaper than specialty branded goods. Save money by going generic.
14. Drink More Water
Switching out your soda, juice or $8 Starbucks creation for water can save you a lot over time. While water may not be as exciting as a unicorn frappe, the saved money is very exciting indeed and healthier too.
15. Avoid Late Fees
There is no reason for late fees. Pay your bills and return your library books on time.
16. Buy Second-Hand
One of the most commonly misunderstood frugal tips is to buy used goods. Many people may not understand the good quality that can be found in recycle or vintage shops. Take a look and buy anything that is high quality, what you need and fits your budget.
17. Search for Discount Codes Online
A simple Google search for “[item name] discount code” or “[item name] coupon” may yield discount codes ranging anywhere from 10% to upwards of 80%, depending on sales. You won’t know until you look.
18. Eat Out Less
Eating out is expensive. Consider limiting how much you go out. Instead, focus on cooking at home. The ingredients are cheaper and often healthier.
19. Make Money When You Do Eat Out
When you do eat out, maximize your experience using Seated. This app rewards you for dining out by offering up to 30% cash back every time you use it to book a reservation.
20. Buy Discounted Groceries
This is one of the most simple frugal living tips. When grocery shopping, look for anything labelled manager’s special or placed in a discounted food bin. Often, it may just be that the box or can is a little damaged while the contents are still perfectly okay.
Home Essentials: Simple Living Tips for Spaces
21. Get Rewarded for Using Clean Energy
Download Arcadia Power and it will tell you when your energy is at its cleanest and dirtiest. The app rewards you for not using dirty energy, offering cash-back and prizes.
22. Live Below Your Means
While living within your means is fine, living below your means generates surplus you can then use for emergency funds, investing or long-term goal planning.
23. Deep Freezers Are Your Friend
The magic of deep freezers is that they allow you to buy things in bulk and then store them without worrying about them going off. Just make sure you’re buying what you need.
24. Insulate Your Walls
Anyone who has spent a winter in an uninsulated house will know insulation’s importance. Not only will it keep you warmer, but it is an investment that will also save you on heating bills.
25. Keep It Clean
One of the ways to be more frugal is to clean up after yourself regularly. Many of us may leave things a bit dirty or uncleaned, which only breeds more work to do later on and, depending on the dirt levels, may require external cleaning help which costs money.
26. Clean with Vinegar
While vinegar is cheap, it is also great for not only cooking but also cleaning. Why buy harsh cleaning agents when vinegar works perfectly well?
27. Refurbish Thrift Store Finds
Among the best frugal living ideas is to buy furniture at recycle shops and then refurbish it to suit your home’s aesthetic. A little sandpaper and paint can go a long way for little money.
28. Be Realistic
When decorating a home space, many of us want to have everything perfect. Yet, how many of those items are actually used? Make sure to make your money count by buying what you actually use, not what you hope to use.
29. Don’t Buy a Dryer
Many areas around the world — Europe, Asia, Africa — don’t use machines to dry their clothes. Instead, they use clotheslines or hanging racks. Save money and energy by switching.
30. Ditch the Dishwasher
Much like the dryer, many countries around the world also eschew dishwashers. Instead, they hand-wash the dishes and let them air dry, saving energy and money.
Top Tips: Ways to be Frugal with Tech
31. Get a Free Cellphone
Simply Cellphones is a federal program whose goal is to provide low-income clients with telecommunication services. Why pay more money when you could get a phone for free?
32. Go Laptop-less
For many, having a laptop may not be necessary, as cellphones can do most of what a laptop can do. For those without a cellphone to replace a laptop, public libraries often have public computers available for use.
33. Borrow, Don’t Buy a Printer
How often do you print papers? If the answer is rarely or never, then there’s no need for a printer. Instead, go to your public library. Libraries almost always have printers attached to their computers, which are for public use.
34. Cut the Cable
Cable is expensive. Check out these cable alternatives to help you save more money.
35. Buy Your Modem
If you know how your money is flowing, you may realize that paying for a monthly modem rental is actually more expensive than if you just bought it. Purchase the modem to save money over time.
36. Watch Your Thermostat
As amazing as a hot room is in winter and an icy cold room is in summer, turning your thermostat down or up a few degrees to keep temperatures less extreme is a cheap living tip which can save you a lot of money.
37. Use the Internet to Find Clever Savings
38. Unplug Appliances When Leaving
It may seem small, but this is one of the ways to be frugal without doing much of anything. Just unplug all cords and save the money you’d have spent on those outlet expenditures.
39. Get a Cheaper Phone Plan
One of the best ways to reduce costs is to size down phone plans. For example, magicJack uses your Internet connection to provide service and is one of the cheapest options out there.
40. Get Paid to Walk Into Stores
Have you heard of the new app Shopkick?
It literally pays you to walk into stores! You don’t even have to buy anything — you will get paid simply for entering stores!
Of course, you will earn more points for actually making a purchase, but even if you’re just window shopping, you can still earn points.
Age-Friendly Advice: Frugal Living Tips for Seniors
41. Use an Online Pharmacy Service
Those with a little more time on their hands may want to give survey-taking a try. Sites like SurveyJunkie will pay you to take surveys that they then use to help brands refine products.
43. Swag IQ
One of the best frugal living tips is to play games that can earn you money. For example, Swag IQ is a free trivia game where you can test your knowledge of random fats and enter to win prizes redeemable in gift cards or PayPal cash.
44. Eat Less Meat
There are two reasons why eating less meat is a cheap living hack.
First, meat is expensive and plant-based foods are often cheaper.
Second, a diet full of processed red meat can be bad for your health, according to an article published by Harvard Health Publishing, and that may lead to more medical expenses later on.
45. Find Meetup Groups
An excellent frugal living tip for seniors and younger folks alike is to meet up with others that share a common interest.
46. Exercise for Free
There are lots of ways to exercise without paying a dime, namely via park exercise equipment, free exercise meetup groups or at-home exercise-based YouTube channels. For example, Yoga with Adriene is an excellent free yoga resource for all ability and age levels.
47. Make Money while Walking Outside
Why not benefit from walking? The app Sweatcoin exchanges your outside steps for coins, which can be exchanged for products, services or experiences.
48. Love Your Library
For all the book-lovers out there, consider using your local library. Books can be really expensive while library membership is often free!
49. Save Your Sweaters
Instead of buying a new sweater, save it. To make high-quality sweaters last longer, use a razor to shave off the pills (small beads of fabric) to make it look like new.
50. Play Games to Make Money
For game-lovers, slots fanatics or those with some spare time, game apps are perfect ways to be frugal. For example, Long Game has lots of games with dollar winnings including a slot machine game!
Advanced: How to be Extremely Frugal for Maximum Gain
51. Shop Smarter
Gone are the days of just entering a store and buying products at face value. Apps like Ibotta provide cash-back offers before you shop so that you can redeem the offers via receipt photo. Then, you get real money back via PayPal, Venmo or gift cards.
52. Ask an Associate to Price Match
If you find a cheaper option online, ask an associate of the current store you’re in if they price match. If so, congrats! You just saved a bunch of money.
53. Pack Your Own Lunch Every Day
This takes some prep work and thinking in advance but ultimately saves you money because you are less likely to splurge on expensive meals or eat unhealthy fast food.
54. Make Your Own Laundry Detergent
Laundry detergent can be expensive. Save the cost and the environment by making your own from natural ingredients. Here is a laundry detergent-making guide from The Guardian.
55. Limit Car Use
56. Re-Dye Faded Jeans
Have a favorite pair of jeans, but they’ve grown discolored over time? Try re-dyeing them and save yourself the cost of a new pair. Here’s a how-to guide to jean-dyeing from GQ magazine.
57. Cut Open Pesky Bottles
For the truly thrifty, consider this way to be frugal to the max: cut open bottles that may have product still inside, like toothpaste, to get every last drop.
58. Grow Your Own Veggies
If you have a green thumb, why not extend your skill to growing a bit of produce that can supplement what you buy? Here’s a grow-your-own article by HuffPost to get you started.
59. Use Kitchen Scraps
Kitchen scraps can be really useful. Two more simple living tips are to use trash scraps as fertilizer for a home garden and to regrow useful scraps. To help you know which scraps can be regrown, here’s a scrap-regrow guide from Food Revolution Network.
If you have any other frugal living tips, we’d love to hear them. Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Logan is a practicing CPA, Certified Student Loan Professional, and founder of Money Done Right, which he launched in 2017. After spending nearly a decade in the corporate world helping big businesses save money, he launched his blog with the goal of helping everyday Americans earn, save, and invest more money. Learn more about Logan.