The Top 20 Frugal Living Tips with a Big Impact

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It costs a lot of money to be alive. Doesn’t it seem like people always have their hands in your pockets trying to get your money? Most people spend the majority of their lives working to earn enough to pay for housing, transportation, food, and other essentials.

If you would like to save more of your hard-earned money instead of watching it vanish to pay for your living expenses, there are some ways you can make it happen. It depends on how badly you want it and whether you are willing to make some changes.

There are many frugal living tips you can implement in your life to save money, but some can have more of an impact on your finances than others. So why not go after the tips that can save you the most money? Why not go after the tips that give you the most bang for your buck?

The following are the top 20 frugal living tips with a big impact on your budget to consider.

1. Create a Budget

One of the best frugal living tips with a big impact you can implement is also one of the easiest. It involves creating a budget – and sticking to it.

A budget is simply a written plan where you take your monthly income and allocate a portion to each of your expenses. A few things you may include in your budget include:

  • Groceries
  • Utilities
  • Rent/Mortgage
  • Entertainment
  • Insurance
  • Savings
  • Transportation
  • School Tuition
  • Memberships
  • Vehicle Payment
  • Vehicle Repairs/Maintenance

Everyone’s budget is going to be different, and the things you include will depend on your unique situation. Also, how much you allocate to each expense is up to you.

The purpose of creating a budget is to prevent you from overspending. For example, if you designate $200 for entertainment and you’ve already spent $200 in the month you’re in, you know that it’s time to stop spending on entertainment for the month.

2. Avoid Debt

Another important frugal living tip you can implement that can have a major impact on your life is to avoid debt as much as possible. It isn’t always possible to avoid debt – most people can’t buy a home without a mortgage, for example. Still, by saving your money and paying cash as much as possible, you may be able to avoid racking up a lot of debt that may take years to repay.

Going deep in debt can cause a lot of problems for you if you suddenly lose your income. What if you lose your job? Sometimes things happen that may be outside of your control, like economic recessions.

3. Don’t Buy More Home Than You Need

It’s common for many to buy as much home as they can afford. They may save up a down payment for a large home and then finance the rest for 15 or 30 years.

But have you ever thought about why so many people buy such large homes? Obviously, many large homes cost a lot more than smaller homes, although where you live and other factors also play big roles in housing costs.

Also, the more home you have, the more it costs to heat and cool it. Energy isn’t cheap. You may also have to pay more in property taxes than you would for a smaller home. Maintenance costs may also be higher.

So, instead of buying a mansion, why not go for a more modest home? Why not buy something affordable that you can pay for more quickly so you can eventually live debt-free?

One reason why many people buy great big homes is because their home is a status symbol. They want people to think that they are wealthy.

Who cares what people think?

Smaller homes have many benefits. It isn’t just the financial savings. Smaller homes are usually easier to sell, for example. Not everyone is able to buy a large, expensive home, and it may take months or years in some cases for those homes to find buyers.

4. Skip Expensive Colleges and Universities

This is one of my favorite frugal living tips with a big impact – and it’s very easy to understand and implement.

Many people choose expensive private colleges or universities or schools located in another state instead of opting for affordable state schools. And to pay for these schools, many go deep in debt with student loans that will take years to repay.

Graduating from a “good school” isn’t always a guarantee of success in life. Other important factors include how hard you study, your major, how well you network, and other things.

Before you select an expensive school, take the time to do some comparison shopping. See how much other schools in your state charge. Be sure to check all of the state schools. Different schools charge different tuition rates, and it’s important to know your options before making a decision.

Don’t forget about community colleges. These schools are usually just a fraction of the cost of four-year colleges and universities. Many people complete their first two years at community colleges and then transfer to other schools to finish their bachelor’s degrees. The savings can be significant.

5. Wait to Make Big Purchases

Another great frugal living tip to consider is to wait to make big purchases. If there is something expensive you want to buy, for example, make yourself wait a while before buying it (unless it’s something you really need, of course). The idea is to prevent you from spending a lot of money on impulse purchases.

For example, let’s say that you were walking through a store and a shiny new TV with some nifty new features caught your eye. Instead of buying it right then, you make yourself wait a day or two (or longer) before buying it.

The purpose of waiting to make big purchases is to give you time to think about it. Do you really need it? Is it in your budget? Will you have to finance it? Many people decide against making a big purchase after they’ve had time to think about it.

How much time you wait to make big purchases is up to you. Some people like to wait 24 hours before making big purchases, while others may wait a week or more.

6. Watch Your Grocery Budget

Another one of the frugal living tips with a big impact to consider is to watch how much money you spend on groceries. It’s very easy to spend more than you planned when you visit a grocery store, especially if you don’t use a list. Some people are attracted to the fancy displays and free trials and end up leaving the store with far more than they planned on buying.

A simple way to save at the grocery store is to make a list of the things you need – and stick to the list. A list can help you avoid impulse buys so that you only pick up the things that you really need. Having a list can also help you with meal planning and meal preparation.

Planning your meals is another way you may be able to save on groceries. If you know in advance which meals you want to make for the week, you can determine exactly which ingredients you need and how much you need to buy. This can prevent you from buying more of an item than you may need.

Shopping at discount grocery stores is another frugal living tip that can help you save on groceries. Discount grocery stores often have lower prices than the big chain stores because their stores are usually not fancy and they have fewer employees. The money these stores save on overhead is usually passed on to shoppers in the form of lower prices.

7. Buy Used Whenever Possible

Another great frugal living tip you can use to save money is to buy used things as much as possible. Many people sell things used for just a fraction of what they cost new. If you are a savvy shopper and don’t mind buying things second hand, you may be able to realize substantial savings over buying new.

There are many places you can shop to find great deals on used items. You can check out yard sales, thrift stores, flea markets, and other places. You can even shop for used items without having to leave your home by checking online buy and sell marketplaces like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp, and others.

Vehicles are something you may be able to save a lot on by buying them used. Brand new vehicles are very expensive, and they depreciate quite a bit in the first couple of years of ownership. By purchasing vehicle brands that are known to be reliable with relatively low miles, it’s possible to save thousands and have a vehicle with the majority of its useful life ahead of it.

8. Do It Yourself

If you are looking for some of the best frugal living tips with a big impact, doing things yourself instead of hiring people to do them for you is another option to consider.

Many people like to hire people to do things around their homes for them like mowing their lawns, landscaping, painting fences, power washing walkways, washing and waxing their vehicles, and other things. No one likes to do chores when they are home from work.

Hiring people to do things you can do yourself may sound like a great way to free up some of your time – but it comes at a cost. This is especially true with home repairs, which are often very expensive.

Homeowners may be able to repair many things in and around their homes themselves. Professional help usually comes with a high price tag. Thanks to the internet and YouTube, many online tutorials are now available that show you step-by-step how to do many common home repairs yourself.

9. Stay Home More Often

There’s no denying that going out on the town is a lot of fun. Sometimes it’s nice to go eat at a nice restaurant, see a movie, attend a concert, or see a magic show or comedian perform.

But all of these things cost money. If you enjoy going out every weekend, the expense can really add up.

Instead of going out, why not stay home sometimes instead? You could have a relaxing evening at home reading a book or watching a movie. You could curl up on your couch under a blanket, for example, and enjoy some popcorn or another snack while you stream your favorite TV show or something else.

If you don’t have anything to watch, check out your local public library. Most libraries these days have great selections of movies, TV shows, and other things you can borrow for free.

10. Downgrade to One Vehicle

For those looking for frugal living tips with a big impact, downgrading to one vehicle is another option to consider. Many couples or families have two, three, or more vehicles. How many do you really need?

Depending on your life situation, you may be able to sell one of your vehicles and get by with just one. This strategy won’t work for everyone, of course. If two members of a household both work and have different schedules, for example, two vehicles may be necessary to make sure they can both can get to work on time.

Vehicles are very expensive, and if you can eliminate one, you may be able to save a lot of money. Maintenance, repairs, insurance, and fuel are other vehicle expenses you may also be able to save money on.

11. Look for Free Entertainment

Entertainment is a major expense for many. It can include a variety of things like eating out, concerts, movies, and other things. While all of these things are certainly fun, they can be expensive. If you do them often enough, they can eat a major hole in your budget.

Another great frugal living tip is to look for free things to do in your community. You might be surprised by how much you discover near your home that doesn’t cost anything.

Many communities have free events you can attend. There may be a book signing, for example, at your local library. You may also be able to hear a guest lecturer at a local college or university. Don’t forget to check out your local parks and walking trails.

12. Move Further Away from the City

The closer you live to a city, the more expensive the real estate becomes. This isn’t always the case, of course – some rural communities are very expensive to live in. But in general, city living is often much more expensive than in other places.

Most people who work in cities want to live as close as possible to their jobs, but this convenience often comes with a high price tag. You may be able to save on housing by living further away from a city and commuting further to and from your job.

Another option to consider is to try to land a remote position with a company and move to a rural location where the real estate is very affordable. There are many communities where homes are as much as half the cost of homes in cities. As a bonus, many find living in the country to be more enjoyable than living in the concrete jungle.

13. Build Your Own Home

I know what you’re probably thinking…

“Build my own what?”

Although the idea of building your own home may at first sound like a daunting task, many people do it each year, like Cara Brookins who built a 3,500’ home for her family by watching YouTube tutorials.

The amount of money you can save by building your own home can’t be ignored. The average cost to frame a home in the U.S., for example, is between $5-$10 per square foot. That comes to between $10,000 – $20,000 just to frame it. That doesn’t include everything else like roofing, finishing the interior, and other things.

If you are considering building your own home, it’s important to point out that you probably won’t be able to do everything yourself. You have to follow all local building codes, and some codes stipulate that some things – like plumbing and electric – must be completed by professionals.

14. Do an Energy Audit

Do you feel like your monthly energy bill is high? If so, it might be worth your time to have an energy audit done on your home.

An energy audit is when your home is examined to see if it is losing energy. It could be from cracks in the walls, roof, or foundation. It could also reveal that your home needs additional insulation.

In addition to finding out if your home is leaking energy, you may also be able to save money on energy by making a few simple adjustments to the way you live. A few examples include:

  • Turning down your heat one or two degrees
  • Turning down the temperature on your hot water heater
  • Air drying your laundry and dishes
  • Using fans instead of air conditioners
  • Switching to LED bulbs
  • Washing your laundry in cold water
  • Installing low-flow showerheads

You can hire someone to do an energy audit for you or you can do it yourself.

15. Grow Your Own Food

I used to hate tomatoes. As a kid, I thought they were the worst thing ever and that they tasted like cardboard.

But that was before I tried a garden-fresh tomato. Oh my, what a difference! Since then, I’ve been a huge tomato fan – as long as they come from someone’s garden and not from a grocery store.

For those looking for frugal living tips with a big impact, it’s possible to save a lot of money by growing your own food. To do this, of course, you do need a place where you can plant a garden. This strategy won’t work for those who live in apartments, condos, and homes with small yards.

In addition to being a great way to save money, growing a garden is also a great hobby. It’s a lot of fun to plant seeds, nurture your garden, and watch it grow and produce a bounty of food.

The food you grow in your garden can last all year long if you learn how to can vegetables. Canning isn’t difficult, and with a little planning, you can preserve the produce you grow to last until the next growing season starts again.

16. Install and Use a Wood-Burning Stove

When I was growing up, my home had a wood-burning stove in the living room. We tried to use it as much as possible instead of the regular heat because it was more affordable to operate. It heated the entire house!

In addition to being an affordable way to heat a home, wood-burning stoves are also very cozy. It’s hard to describe what it’s like to be warm and snug inside your home with a fire burning in your stove when it’s cold outside. If you’ve never experienced the comfort of a wood-burning stove, you’re really missing out on one of life’s great pleasures.

It’s important to point out that I specifically mentioned stoves – and not fireplaces. Fireplaces don’t put out anywhere near as much heat as stoves do. In fireplaces, much of the heat they generate goes right up the chimney. With a stove, much of the heat radiates into the home.

If you are considering adding a wood-burning stove to your home, it’s important to let a professional do the installation. It’s a big job, and you want to make sure it’s done right.

Another thing to consider if you already have a fireplace is a wood-burning stove insert. As the name implies, a stove insert is a stove that you install in your fireplace. Instead of the majority of the heat going up the chimney, your home can now benefit from much of the heat that is produced.

17. Ditch Your Landline

Traditional landlines are an extra monthly expense to deal with if you already have a cell phone. You may be able to save some money by ditching your landline and only using your mobile device. How many phone lines do you really need?

Cell phone call quality in most places is now quite good. Unless you need a landline for something important – like for a home-based business – your cell phone may be all you need.

18. Ditch Cable TV

The days of cable TV being the only option for receiving TV channels is now over. You have options. One of the easiest frugal living tips with a big impact to consider is to ditch the expensive cable TV bundle and watch TV other ways.

One of the most popular ways to watch TV is to stream channels over the internet. Many TVs are now capable of connecting with a home’s wireless internet. Streaming devices can also be used.

With streaming, it’s possible to watch many movies and TV shows for free. You will have to view some occasional ads, of course, but this small inconvenience could allow you to save a lot of money. Tubi TV, for example, is a streaming service that is completely free. Paid services give you additional channel options.

Something else to consider with TV channels is to use an antenna. The quality of over-the-air channels in many places is actually quite good these days. Many channels, in fact, are broadcast in high-definition – no more rabbit ears to adjust.

And finally, another option to consider if you are looking for free things to watch is to check out your local public library. Most libraries have good selections of TV series and movies that you can check out.

19. Work from Home

There has been a major demographic shift in recent years where many people have switched to working from home instead of working in an office somewhere. Many employers now realize that their employees can be just as productive from home as they can in an office somewhere.

There are many financial advantages of working at home to consider. If you work at home, you no longer have to commute back and forth to your job. This alone could result in significant savings in both fuel and maintenance on your vehicle.

You may also be able to save on work attire. Since you won’t have to “dress to impress,” you may be able to dress more casually – and comfortably.

20. Have a Staycation

Yet another frugal living tip to consider is to have a staycation instead of going on an expensive trip somewhere. You don’t have to do this every year, of course, but the less you travel, the more you can save.

Vacations can be expensive, especially if you fly to your destination. In addition to airfare, you will also have to spend money on hotels, meals, attractions, taxis, and other things.

One of the main benefits of having a staycation is that you can rest and recuperate from your job during this time. Traveling to a destination somewhere can be exhausting. Have you ever felt like you needed a vacation to recuperate from your vacation?

Frugal Living Tips with a Big Impact – Final Thoughts

Did you realize there were so many frugal living tips you can use to dramatically lower your expenses? You do have options. But knowing about these tips is just one part of the equation. They won’t do you any good if you don’t take action to reduce your costs to save money.

There are many ways you can save money on things, but not all of them result in big savings. Using a coupon here and there, for example, may save you a little at the grocery store, but it won’t have a big impact on your finances. For maximum results, you have to go with the frugal living tips that give you the most bang for your buck.

Cyrus Vanover

Cyrus Vanover, MBA, is a financial copywriter who has written for companies of all sizes. He is also the author of the personal finance book, "Earn A Debt-Free College Degree." His goal is to help families save money, make more money, and achieve financial independence. Based in the mountains of Virginia, he enjoys hiking the local trails, listening to 80s music, and reading books on military history in his spare time. Read more.

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