If you’re new to frugal living, it can seem overwhelming to digest all of the ways you can slash your expenses. Here are 19 easily digestible money saving tips for the newly frugal. Rather than trying them all at once, pick and choose a few of your favorite ideas, or those that would be most helpful in your current situation to try first.
Incorporate additional money saving practices into your lifestyle over time. It’s my personal belief that you’re more likely to stick to this if it isn’t a shock to your current lifestyle (unless a total overhaul is what you’re going for, and that’s great too!).
19 Money Saving Tips for the Newly Frugal
1. Get cash back for online shopping. Get cash back on your online purchases. If you shop online at all, installing the eBates extension on your browser will let you know if there’s a cash back offer when you visit a website. It’s a totally mindless way to get money back when shopping and I use it all the time.
2. Earn cash-back on groceries. Use money-saving apps in order to earn cash-back on the groceries you’re already buying. There are many apps available for this purpose, and though similar, most work slightly differently. So far, my favorite app for earning cash-back has been Checkout 51 (Read my full review here).
3. Declutter your home. Many people take the start of the new year as an opportunity to declutter their home. Turn that clutter into cash by selling some of the unneeded items in your home. Use the money made in the selling of your items to jump-start your savings account.
4. Brown bag it. Packing your lunch can save you a considerable amount of money, especially if you’re currently dining out for lunch each weekday. This can be as simple as making a PB&J sandwich every day, packing leftovers for lunch or even making your own $0.24 pasta freezer packs or burritos in a weekly meal prep session.
5. Make a meal plan. Daily stops at the grocery store will quickly lead to a ballooning grocery bill. What’s the first step to getting this under control? Create a budget. Then create a weekly, biweekly, or monthly meal plan so you always know what’s on the menu. I recommend starting with a weekly meal plan if you’re new to meal planning as it requires less upfront effort and organization.
6. Budget for fun. Living frugally doesn’t have to suck the joy out of life! Set a “fun money” budget in order to have your cake and eat it too. It may be a smaller slice of cake, but it’s better than no cake at all or cake on credit (cake analogy is now over, promise). The trick to successfully setting a fun money budget is to stick to it. Budget for fun as an expense, rather than something that lives outside of your day-to-day budget.
7. Make secondhand your first stop. In the market for a new item? Turn to secondhand sources first. You’ll typically save 50% or more when buying secondhand items, because they are gently used. If thrift stores aren’t your cup of tea, hit up Craigslist, garage sales or local for-sale groups on Facebook for items that have only seen one owner.
8. Make your own cleaners. Make your own cleaning products to avoid the high cost and unnatural ingredients found in store-bought cleaners. If you have these staples on hand you can make almost any cleaning recipe: vinegar, rubbing alcohol, essential oils (I use this Lemon essential oil in literally every cleaning recipe) and baking soda. Making your own homemade all purpose cleaner will definitely save you money at the store.
9. No more paper towels. If you’re making your own homemade cleaners, naturally the next step is to ditch disposable paper towels as well. I highly recommend purchasing a set of microfiber cloths (these are the ones I use – I like that the pack has 3 different colors so I never end up with a bathroom cleaning cloth in my kitchen pile). They make cleaning a breeze and don’t leave behind any residue. If you’re looking to spend as little as possible, regular cleaning cloths can be found at most stores for under $5 for a pack of 12. If residue is a concern, use scrunched up newspapers to clean windows and mirrors. Here is a more in depth article I wrote on how to ditch paper towels.
10. Take a closer look. When grocery shopping, sometimes we pay more for packaging that looks healthier than its cheaper counterpart. Take a peek at the ingredient list of both items. Do the products contain nearly identical ingredients? If so, go for the lowest price item. They are likely very similar in quality, if not the same exact thing.
11. Keep inventory. Learning how to shop your kitchen is one of the easiest ways to save money on groceries. Use these free printable inventory sheets (bonus: also includes a shopping list and meal planner) to keep stock of the items that are already in your kitchen. Base your weekly meal plan around these items in order to spend less at the grocery store.
12. Calculate unit pricing. Always take note of the price per unit (e.g. price per ounce, sq ft., etc.) before looking at the overall price of an item. Comparing similar items this way will easily show you which one is the best value for your money.
13. Eat beans and rice. Serve beans and rice in some form or another once per week. This is an easy way to lower your grocery budget because beans and rice are very inexpensive and committing to a beans and rice dinner once per week eliminates the cost of meat. If you don’t want to serve beans and rice for dinner, use them to make your own inexpensive breakfast burritos for the week’s breakfast.
14. Use coupons. When planning a date night or a girl’s night out, bring a coupon with you in order to save on the cost of your meal. Coupons can be found online for many restaurants on their websites, by signing up for their email newsletters, or by searching sites like retailmenot.com.
15. Ditch cable. Cutting the cord is not as difficult as it once was. With a variety of streaming services available in addition to streaming devices such as the Roku (full review here), you can completely eliminate your cable bill while still watching many of your favorite shows. Your TV, DVD player or gaming system may be a free or cheap option for accessing your favorite streaming services (here’s how we used to do it before we purchased a Roku).
16. Plan ahead. Opt for the crockpot instead of the takeout menu. With a bit of planning ahead, you can avoid cooking on those busy nights while still serving a home cooked meal. Crockpot recipes are plentiful on Pinterest. But consider taking crockpot cooking a step further by making your own crockpot freezer meals. Do the work once, and dinner is taken care of for several nights!
17. Marked down meat. The cost of meat eats up a significant portion of most of our grocery budgets. Consider purchasing marked down meats in order to lower this expense. This tip doesn’t only apply for poor quality meats – even grass fed beef gets marked down 50% or more at certain retailers.
18. Keep snacks in the car. Keep healthy snacks in the car in order to fend off hunger-induced unplanned drive-thru runs. Pack your own DIY portioned snack bags filled with nonperishable snacks like granola, pretzels or dried fruit. I actually just made some trail mix tonight and packed a few snack bags for the car and I’m sure it’ll save us money in the coming weeks!
19. Lose brand loyalty. Finally, it’s worth encouraging you to be loyal to the lowest price available, rather than to certain brands. This doesn’t necessarily mean that store brand will always be cheaper (it often is, but not always). It’s worth going into the grocery store with an open mind in terms of which brands you intend on purchasing in order to open yourself to the most savings.
Do you have any money saving tips you’d like to share with those that are new to living frugally? If so, please share them in the comments below!