What is frugality?
Being frugal is being mindful of your spending and intentionally spending your money on items you need while getting the best overall deal for your purchase.
Being frugal is not being cheap. If you buy only with the intent of buying the lowest cost option, you may sacrifice quality and in the end spend more money.
For example, if I were to buy the cheapest running shoes I could find for $30, they may last me only 100 miles and cause me to have stress fractures. Where if I bought a good quality running shoe for $90, I would avoid the stress fractures entirely and have the shoe last for around 500-600 miles.
If I were to keep re-buying the same cheap shoe every 100 miles, my total cost would be $180 for 600 miles, or double the cost of the good quality shoe for the same life.
This was a lesson I learned the hard way.
Why should you be frugal?
Being frugal means you are able to spend less money overall, increase your savings rate, and therefore reach financial independence sooner.
28 Ways to be More Frugal
These are 28 ways Mrs. Free Runner and I use to practice frugality. We are always adding to the list and looking out for deals.
- Couponing and price matching
- Any time you buy something, do a google search for a coupon. Also search the websites of other big box stores and Amazon.com. Many big box stores will price match their competitors, including Amazon.
- Look for coupons before you plan on buying, not in the check-out line. Have a plan.
- I use Honey to automatically apply coupons and promo codes to online purchases.
- Bike or walk to work (or carpool)
- If you are able to bike or walk to work, every time you do it you will be saving money. Your wallet, and your health (and future wallet from less medical expenses) will be thanking you.
- Find low cost or no cost hobbies (or hobbies that make you money)
- Running and biking are 2 of my most favorite hobbies and besides buying the initial equipment, don’t cost me very much. However, this is not for everyone.
- Many local libraries have books, videos, magazines, and newspapers available for free.
- Walking your dog is free. In my case I’ve made around $26 this year so far from money I’ve found literally laying in the street.
- Do you have a hobby you can monetize? Even better!
- Cook nutritious meals
- Nutritious meals are not only healthy, they tend to be more filling and more cost effective!
- Meal plan
- Have a weekly plan of what meals you will be cooking. This will limit buying of unnecessary food that you end up disposing of after expiration.
- Start a vegetable and fruit garden
- Growing your own vegetables and fruit takes a bit of initial work in the spring, but pays off very well. I suggest starting with tomatoes, squash, and potatoes.
- Right now, we grow cherry tomatoes, spaghetti squash, zucchini, peppers, garlic, sweet potatoes, and green onions.
- Can your vegetables and fruit
- If you have excess vegetables, more than you can consume – look into canning to preserve them. There are many guides online. You can also turn berries into a jam, preserves, or jelly.
- Make your own bread
- Making your own bread is much more cost effective than buying bread, and tastes much better once you get the hang of it.
- I routinely make loaves of bread, English muffins, and pizza dough.
- My full guide to reducing grocery and food expense: 15 Ways to Reduce Your Grocery Budget
- Avoid debt
- Debt costs you money in the form of interest. Interest is an extra charge for not waiting until you can pay cash.
- Think you need to buy something? Sleep on it. Often times I realize I don’t actually need that thing. I get more joy out of adding money to my savings funds.
- Use Craigslist, eBay, and Facebook Marketplace
- Buy used – you can literally buy almost anything through all of these sites. Look for good quality and be sure to meet the sellers at safe locations.
- Thrift shops
- Keep an eye out for good quality products at your local thrift shops as well.
- Cut the coffee shop and restaurant visits
- Spending $5 at the coffee shop 5x week adds up fast. If you need coffee like me, buy a thermos and make it at home. I buy whole beans and use a thrift shop grinder and French press to make my own coffee (and it tastes much better).
- Buy bulk
- Buy the bulk products where it makes sense- check the price per item to make sure the bulk pack is cheaper (do the math).
- Don’t buy bulk products that expire and you couldn’t possibly use before expiration- example a 5 gallon container of peanut that expires next month.
- Buy quality
- I gave the example of running shoes in the beginning of this article. Buy things that will last.
- Think twice before throwing something away. I had some old 2×8 boards that I was going to toss, then I realized that I was planing on buying shelves for our garage. Instead of throwing away the boards, I sanded them down, stained them, and mounted them to the wall.
- BYO- Build your own
- Instead of buying it- build it! Since we’ve become homeowners, I’ve built a custom slim table to go behind the entire back of our sectional couch, planters with a post to hang string lights, and the garage shelves. I have many more plans.
- Barter when it makes sense. Example- don’t barter with the cashier at Walmart; do barter with a car salesperson and sellers on eBay/Facebook marketplace/Craigslist.
- Cut out unused subscriptions
- Do you pay for a subscription service? Write them all down. For the next 1-4 weeks write down how often you used those services. If you used it, did you enjoy it and can you use a free alternative? Cancel the ones you don’t need.
- Routinely get quotes – insurance, internet, etc
- There may be a similar service that costs less. When you find one, get a quote and call your current provider. They may price match the lower offer, saving you the hassle of switching, but saving you the money too.
- Use credit card offers & cash back offers
- Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I traveled 20% for my work (the 3-years before that, I was at 80% travel). I always used cash-back or point credit cards on all my work related expenses and paid off the cards before it carried over and accrued interest charges. Because of this, for the last 3 years my wife and I have yet to pay for flights or hotel rooms when we vacation (and we do so 3-4 times a normal year).
- Be careful – don’t let interest charges hurt you!
- House Hack / Rent Hack
- House hacking could be owning a house and renting rooms out to roommates or owning a duplex, living in one half while renting out the second half. In many cases, those pursuing FIRE make enough money from the renters to cover their mortgage and put money in the bank.
- Rent hacking can mean the same thing, but also includes renting out a dwelling with other co-renters to reduce the overall individual rent payments.
- Reduce your consumption
- Do you enjoy 3 bags of potato chips a day? Think about your high consumable products in your life and how you can reduce your usage.
- Heated Blankets
- Living in the northern Midwest US, we get some cold winters. Instead of heating our whole house, we will maintain our temperature in the low 60s, wear layers, and use heated blankets if needed. Our energy bill was greatly reduced the first month we did this.
- Refinance your mortgage
- Mortgage rates are at record lows. You can save a lot of money on interest alone by refinancing. Look out for the best deal and consider the time you have left on your loan against any refinancing fees. Make sure the refinance will actually save you money.
- Make a budget
- Having a budget helps you know what your expenses are and will give you a benchmark of what you need to and can reduce.
- Auto Invest
- Set up automatic investments. If your money isn’t in your checking account, it’s harder to spend.
- We have our Roth 401k, Roth 403b, and HSA taken out of our paychecks, and we have our Roth IRAs and mutual funds auto deposited.
- I also use Acorns round ups for an additional fractional amount of savings and Robinhood to invest into ETFs.
We use all of these frugal tips ourselves, what do you do to be frugal?