The 10 Daily Habits of Frugal People

There’s a big movement towards frugality afoot these days. The wisest families are paying attention to what’s going on in the world. The rest of the folks are blithely going on as they always have, wondering why on earth they keep spending more money each week at the store.

If you are just beginning to move towards a thriftier lifestyle, you might be looking at the big picture. You could be asking yourself things like, “How can I save money on my car?” or “How can I pay less for that new laptop?” These are all fine things to do – paying less is great, but shopping for a bargain is actually not the key to a frugal lifestyle.

It’s all about the little habits.

Living a life of thrift and frugality is all about the little habits. It’s about your mindset. Saving money on enormous expenditures is great, but it is the small daily actions that add up and change your life. Truly frugal people absolutely LOVE saving money. Embrace these daily habits and make them your own. You’ll soon see an incredible difference in the way you look at pretty much everything.

  1. Frugal people use everything right to the last drop. If you go to someone’s home and notice that their ketchup bottles are upside-down in the refrigerator, their toothpaste tube on the bathroom counter is tightly rolled and held in place with a clothespin, and the contents of the liquid soap pump look mysteriously watery, you may be visiting a fellow frugal person. We don’t like to waste stuff, so we use things right to the last drop until there is absolutely no life left in it. We use rubber spatulas to get one more sandwich from the peanut butter jar. (I even have a special skinny rubber spatula that I purchased for the express purpose of scraping out containers in the kitchen.) We extend our dish soap with a little bit of water. What others throw away, we see as a personal challenge. I don’t know about you, but I get a little rush seeing how many more bangs I can get for my buck when using things that most folks would consider empty.
  2. Frugal people like to stay home. Going out costs money. I’m lucky enough to work from home, so I don’t have the daily temptations that folks do who go out to work. First, there’s the peer pressure. In my old workplace, I was one of the few people who brought my lunch.  Each day, the other ladies would spend half an hour deciding where they were going to go for lunch together. Then there are transportation costs and incidentals. Thirsty? A bottle of water is just $1. I’m not saying that you need to be a hermit on a mountaintop, trekking into the village on foot once a year for salt, sugar, and a box of oranges to offset scurvy, but you don’t have to go out every single day. If you have the day off, why not enjoy your home and your family instead of heading out to an activity that is going to cost for admission, refreshments, and a snazzy item from the gift shop?
  3. Frugal people don’t spoil their children. This may not make you popular now, but later, your kids just might appreciate it. When my kids were in public school, I was astonished at the cost of various activities and events. There were $40 field trips, $5 “pizza days”, and special $50 hoodies with the school emblem. As a single mom with two kids in school, there was no way I was just forking out the money for this stuff. So, when the girls came home with forms and asked for money, I made a list of extra chores they could do around the house to earn the money for the activity. If they didn’t feel it was worth a little extra work for them, I certainly wasn’t going to hand them my hard-earned cash for it. They learned the value of work, the relationship between work and getting stuff, and that sometimes, what they paid for just wasn’t worth the effort of earning the money for it. As well, they came to appreciate special meals and activities more. I recently took them on a vacation for Christmas and splurged a little. I was touched by how appreciative they were and delighted as I saw them take steps to keep expenses down, like packing a picnic in our little hotel kitchenette instead of planning to eat out all day. When a child is constantly given everything, they grow up to be less satisfied, and they’re a lot harder to make happy. Those are the kids who grow up to be the adults that trade their cars in every two years and keep remortgaging their homes for things like pools and pricey vacations. It is far more loving to raise your children in an atmosphere that encourages thrift, productivity, and personal accomplishment instead of a silver platter environment.
  4. Frugal people have productive hobbies. What do you like to do for fun? Does it use up resources or produce them? Productive hobbies should teach something, create something, repair something, or improve something. Think back to the days before television. People worked hard all day long, producing food, cutting wood, cooking, hunting, building…it was a full-time job to survive and thrive. In the evenings, by candlelight, they could stop and put their feet up for a while. Books were not widely available like they are now, so families passed the time by performing stitchery, carving, making furniture, mending things, and creating items that made their lives more pleasant and beautiful. Sometimes a family member would read aloud, play an instrument, or sing.  Time was of value and not to be wasted. Most of my hobbies are relatively productive.  Sure, I’ll watch a movie on Amazon, but while I do, I’m crocheting a Christmas present, mending clothes, or making some small item for our home. I like to grow vegetables and flowers. Chickens make me happy.
  5. Frugal people don’t shop as a form of entertainment. When you shop as “something to do” you are bound to spend money on something you don’t need. I have daughters, and they really don’t love my theory on this, but we shop when we need to get something. We don’t just go hang out at the mall. If it’s time to buy some school clothes, I allot a certain amount of money and time, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. I do the same thing with Christmas shopping. The mall is fraught with ways to drain your money – you get thirsty and buy a bottle of water or another drink. You weren’t hungry but the smells from the food court are so tantalizing you can’t resist.  That display in front of the store has doohickeys that are ONLY a dollar.
  6. Frugal people save pennies throughout every single day. Frugality is a way of life for us. It isn’t saving money on the big things. It is eagerly grasping hold of the challenge of doing everything less expensively. It’s automatically calculating the lowest unit price. It’s making things instead of buying them. It’s choosing to use your own creativity instead of the party supply store’s when throwing a birthday party for your child. It’s putting on a sweater instead of turning up the heat. These small daily actions add up to enormous savings and allow you, unlike the greater majority of our society, to live within your means.
  7. Frugal people put aside emergency funds. When times are tight, being taken by surprise over a sudden necessity is sure to turn your budget upside down if you haven’t prepared for it. This is why frugal people keep a rainy day fund and a fully-stocked pantry. Then, if the refrigerator groans and breathes its last, if the car grinds to a halt 50 miles from home, or if a family member needs to go to the doctor, it doesn’t put you in a situation where you must be faced with deciding whether to deal with the emergency or keep your electricity on.
  8. Frugal people cook from scratch. One of the most certain ways to destroy your budget is to eat food prepared by other people. Think about it: whether you buy it from a restaurant or from a box on the grocery store shelf, someone spent time making that food. And you are paying for that! Those pouches of pre-cooked rice, those rotisserie chickens, that bag of take-out food, or that just-add-water and heat for 10 minutes meal from a box all include the cost of someone else’s labor. If you don’t know how to cook from scratch, there are simple foods you can start with, like soup, steamed vegetables, baked potatoes, and chicken breast. Get an old-fashioned cookbook for simple instructions to make basic foods.
  9. Frugal people do things the low-tech way. There are simple ways to save money that don’t show you an immediate return. Things like hanging your laundry instead of using your dryer. Things like putting on a sweater instead of turning up the heat. Things like taking it easy in the hottest part of a summer afternoon instead of cranking up the air conditioner. Things like using solar lights as night lights. The list could go on and on, but by reducing your dependence on electricity and natural gas (or whatever your heat source is) you can save hundreds of dollars per year.
  10. Frugal people repair things. We live in a society of planned obsolescence. Most things aren’t made to last a lifetime anymore, and our society is happy to just toss their doo-dads in a landfill and go get new ones. Frugal people fix things. We mend our clothes, we repair our appliances, we fix broken furniture, and some of us even do unheard of things like darning our socks. We don’t immediately think about replacement. Our first step is always repair.

Real frugality is all in your head.

Hard-core frugality is not just making a choice to buy the generic brand of laundry soap instead of a jug of Tide with scent beads. Hard-core frugality is buying the ingredients to make 5 times the amount of laundry soap for half the price of that name-brand detergent, all the while LOVING the fact that Proctor and Gamble are not getting your money.

Being a black belt in frugality takes creativity and an optimistic outlook. It should never be some grim, sad thing that you have to do. It should be something that you choose to do. By finding joy in your non-consumerism, you will be far more successful at it. It becomes a game that you win if you can do something for free that others spend money on.

When you feel like you require less, then you are happy with less. This means that you have to spend less time working at things you may not truly enjoy to pay for the things that you never actually needed in the first place. This means that the money that you have goes a lot further and that your life feels a lot more satisfying.

When you finally cross that line between resenting the fact that you have to strictly budget to embracing the fact that by being as thrifty as possible, you have achieved freedom you never dreamed of before, you’ve made the conversion. You aren’t just acting with thrift until things get better. You, my friend, are one of those truly joyous frugal people that others look to for inspiration.

What are some of the little things you do that help you remain thrifty? Please share some of your small yet meaningful habits in the comments.

The 10 Daily Habits of Frugal People
Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is an author and blogger. She's the single mom of two daughters and credits extreme frugality and a good sense of humor for her debt-free lifestyle. She is the author of numerous books, the editor of TheOrganicPrepper.com, and is the founder of a small digital publishing company in the emergency preparedness niche.

26 thoughts on “The 10 Daily Habits of Frugal People”

  1. Some good advice. I would add, bar soap is cheaper than liquid soap. Going out can work well if you choose free (or nearly free) activities like picnics, local parks/hiking trails, outdoor scavenger hunts, geocaching, etc. and take your own food. I love powows as a family activity, because they are fun and lively and admission for a whole day is usually around $5. You bring a lawn chair (and sunscreen!) and are welcome to bring your own food/water. But do treat yourself at least to a piece of frybread, it is delicious! When it comes to kinds clothing, I am a strong proponent of a clothing allowance (say from the beginning of high school onwards.) Kids have their own money to buy clothes, but when it’s gone, it’s gone. If they want to blow it on pricey jeans, they’ll quickly learn that they won’t have to it buy a bathing suit for the summer trip to the lake, or will have to wear last year’s tattered runners for track meets, however much they impede performance. It’s a great way to teach kids how to budget and make wise choices about their spending. For adults who never learned to cook and find cookbooks too intimidating, check a children’s cook book out of the library. It explains what all the terms mean, usually with illustrations, and it is a simple way to teach yourself an essential skill. And of course, never buy your groceries and staples at full price! Stores had sales cycles, for food and other household and hygiene items. Wait for them, and stock up on good sales.

  2. Any cardboard or paper boxes i have left over from food, i save and cut up to help start my cooking fires on my grill

  3. I would add to your fantastic list, being frugal as an ongoing state of mind has allowed us to jump on super good deals without trashing our budget. Example: end of summer season/beginning of fall, I just bought 5 shirts, 100% cotton and well made, for $7 each. I’m wearing two, and put 3 away for next year. I would not be able to buy the fabric for that price, let alone my time. And despite the fact that I am skilled in sewing, knitting, weaving, etc there are items I will not spend my time making as it isn’t cost-effective. This is always my question, “is it possible to (easily, frugally, enjoyably) make this myself? Is it worth (however much time estimated for the job), or shall I put my energy elsewhere? At 62, I am well aware that my time has to be budgeted along with my money! The hours spent preserving our garden, and the waterfalls of produce coming my way today would be a better use of my time and energy than sewing up a shirt, as an example. Having money stashed means being able to bulk purchase food for storage in a 50% off sale, knowing I can put money back into that account next month. On and on. What a precious and beautiful life and lifestyle we can each have when simplifying down to what matters.

  4. Frugal people cultivate a mindset of being content and grateful. Frugal people focus on what they have rather than what they dont have.

  5. am 75 retired and on a fixed income here are a few tips I have learned during my years
    1) I grow as many vegetables as my garden will allow, canning and freezing the surplus
    2) I cook all my own food, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Stews, Caseroles and good country recipes
    3) Go shopping early on a Monday morning- as soon as the supermarket opens, there are huge quantities of marked down bread, meats( I bought 4 large wholemeal loaves for 25c each}
    4) save all bread wrappers, doubled over twice excellent for storage /freezing produce
    5) Learn to cook-I never buy store bought meals
    6)Always go to the “marked down” section you will be amazed at the savings, freeze surplus
    7) Thrift stores ave excellent for clothing also canning jars I just bought 24 for $2
    8)Home Depot has excellent laundry soaps at a fraction of other stores
    9)Learn to roast a chicken, you can get several meals off a big bird finally strip all the leftover meat off the carcass and make a big pan of soup
    10) Learn to take a pride in taking good frugal care of yourself and your family

  6. When I first started being thrifty I hated it and resented the extra work and wished I didn’t have to work so hard for the basics but now I embrace it and has made me a more resilient and confident person.

  7. My husband and I were raised poor and have been frugal all our lives so it’s natural by now. I make our yogurt instead of paying $1+ for a #5 cup you can’t recycle; use bulk tea instead of tea bags; hand wash zip lock bags; roll cigarettes; barter with friends for garden produce,jams,eggs and organic chickens; raise our own produce; draw names in the family for Christmas and set a dollar amount; cook from scratch; sew gifts for baby showers—-a lot more I can’t think of. We have a good time with 3 grown children and a grandchild and we don’t feel miserly at all. We feel like it’s a game to see how much of our money we keep! There is no virtue in paying more.

  8. A question raised above about “is this worth my time?” touched on a vital issue that’s worth expanding. While identifying the most cost effective way to acquire and cook groceries, or repair personal goods, etc has its proper place, there is a grand question that encompasses far more. It is “will this expenditure of my time and/or cash/credit be likely to return a sufficient increase in value for either me or other people to whom I might either gift to, help out in some way, or sell to — in a time frame soon enough to be worthwhile to me and/or them?”

    Example: is it worthwhile to spend a few hundred dollars to learn how to negotiate an option on either residential or commercial property, register that option with county records, find a buyer at a sufficiently higher price who will pay you a fee to release that option in your name so s/he can buy that property without your encumbrance, which then encourages you to work that same strategy over and over without needing a real estate license of any kind? Would that initial expenditure to learn that process have been a legitimate frugal / thrifty / tightwad / cost effective use of your financial resources?

    The answer would be yes for people who have the resources, personality, motivation, and courage to deal with strangers, and follow through to make use of that newly acquired knowledge. The answer would be no for people if for whatever reason either would not, or could not, follow through.

    Nobody can be an expert at everything. That’s what the classic division of labor is all about (which government is classically obsessive about getting in the middle of … and messing up). I stick to doing things that I’m either good at or can learn in reasonable time and effort when the subject is a good fit. My point is that the principles of frugality, thriftness, tightwadery, and cost effectiveness go far beyond clothing repair, DIY cleaning chemistry, scratch cooking, or gadget refurbs, etc. That perspective lends a greatly expanded meaning to that new word I’ve learned here: “thrify”.

    –Lewis

    1. Lewis: i would really like to know how to ” propose an option” when buying Real Estate! I am now done w agents. I am smarter then themand after paying obscene amounts of money to them, I said I wiuld only use a lawyer for any more sales or purchases! Would you advise? Thank you!

  9. As I went down your list, I was able to check each and every item off as something I do except for number 3. Substitute husband for kids (was not so blessed) and definitely, I pass although it does take restraint try to not spoil him.

    Couple of things to consider.

    First, don’t be overly hasty when checking out from Amazon. Put things in your cart and ponder for awhile. Do you need or simply want the item? Can you get them cheaper somewhere else? Give yourself a week or two to decide.

    Second, and somewhat related to the first, make a monthly trip to the Dollar Tree (aka the Dollar Store) if you have one reasonably close. Many items that are $5 (or more) elsewhere are only a buck. This is especially true for greeting cards and gift bags plus holiday decor items and kitchen chachkees. Shopping the dollar store can be extremely gratifying.

    Great article, Daisy.

    1. Gaye, on the part about placing items on Amazon into the shopping cart and then pondering, I would create a wish list just for those items and then do your pondering. If you really need the item(s) you can move them to the cart and then checkout. If you realize that you do not need some of them, delete them from the wish list. This protects you from checking out accidentally.

  10. I believe it’s a mind set. It’s a game to me to see how far I can stretch my money. I don’t prefer to donate more money than necessary to the grocery stores. This way I have money to help those people and organizations that I believe truely need help. Plus I live on a much higher standard for the income we live with by buying on sale , used and stocking up on good deals. The Tightwad Gazette is good to read for good ideas.

  11. With 5 kids I had to cook from scratch. I can’t count the loaves of bread I made over the years and the cookies I baked and the pinto beans I’ve cooked for re-frieds. Cooking from scratch is just cheaper and healthier too! I taught myself how to make soap and have been able to make some extra money selling that. Along with lotions and salves etc. But the one thing that has not worked out for me here in the AZ desert is homemade laundry soap or dishwasher soap. I’ve tried several times. Our water is just so hard. It dosent get clothes clean or the dishes clean. And adding Calgon dosent help either.

  12. I have done most of those things for decades. A new one I learned on this site a week or 2 ago is why people waste so much money on paper towels: the one they have hanging in the kitchen is greasy and disgusting. I used to leave mine for a MONTH before I would wash it. No WONDER I bought paper towels by the half-dozen rolls or larger. Sometimes, I used only a little piece of paper towel for a small job, but now I bought 6 cheap terry towels at Family Dollar, and I can use several a day like I did with paper towels and just wash them.

    One that is harder is my neighbor/landlord says our septic systems clog up if we put cooking grease down the sink. He preserves his drains by using a paper towel to wipe out the pan. That is certainly more frugal than a clogged drain. I am putting my pan in the fridge sometimes and re-using the grease for another meal. This can be wise and frugal or sickening and stupid depending on the quality of that grease.

  13. Frugal people are patient and can afford to wait for best deal. Wanted a freezer, saw a nice one at Costco for $150, coulda bought it but didn’t need it that day. Some time later a relative found an older working model at garage sale for $50. Bought it from him, still running fine several years later.

  14. my brothers and I make sausage from ‘un-cooked; hams. when they are on sale we buy and freeze until we can get together and make our great tasting sausage…we live in different states… we are eternally saying I found hams on sale for 1.74 or .99 or 1.25 or…. and .59 is our biggest score so far…(after thanksgiving sale)…. homemade sausage is soooo much better than store-bought

  15. Two additional things I’ve found help to reduce expenses:
    (1) Cook in batches that yield at least six servings – stews, casseroles, etc. It saves time overall and some nights you get to just heat things up and just make a salad to go with the main dish.
    (2) Don’t forget the library! Borrow books and movies, don’t pay to buy/rent. If you have the time, you can also hang out and read the magazines and newspapers there. (Maybe less possible now due to Covid-19, but eventually we will get back to a more normal situation.)

  16. All great tips and I do them, except for the kids as mine are grown.
    Hubby and I have wondered for many years – when did shopping become part of taking a trip? We’ve found listings of the best stores in the area of state parks!! I don’t take trips to shop.
    Our local thrift stores, now reopened, have been loaded with everything especially clothes. I recently took advantage of a $5 grocery bag deal on “clothes, shoes and purses”. I found Tommy Bahama silk shirts, Alia pants and shirts, Bon Worth tops, Naturalizer shoes, Christian Dior, Victoria Secret and Warner bras with the tags still on them. Make friends with the manager of your favorite thrift store it can really pay off. Because the wonderful man who runs the church sponsored store we frequent knows we like jigsaw puzzles he saves them for us, & doesn’t charge us because he knows we’ll bring them back.
    A little warning about shopping at Dollar Tree – make sure it really is a deal, the cards definitely are, but sometimes the personal care items are not the same size, ingredients.

    1. Bellen and others, I have found that if you go to a thrift store near your vacation spot, chances are you can find cheap t-shirts or hoodies with the vacation spot’s name on it. Example: I used to live within 45 minutes’ drive of DisneyWorld. Our local thrift shop often got donations from people who worked at Disney. I took a visiting friend to the thrift shop and she loaded up on Disney gear. As for myself, I got a khaki shirt embroidered with Peter Pan, Wendy, Tinkerbell, Capt. Hook, the crocodile and a treasure map — for about 3 or 4 dollars. I’m sure it would be at least 10 times as much at Disney. You can also find souvenir Tshirts in other cities: I got a Grand Canyon shirt in Florida, a Vegas shirt in Texas, etc. The same is true of college T-shirts, sweatshirts and other clothing. And also for fun runs and races advertising all sorts of neat vacation spots. When I taught school, I’d hit the thrift stores to find spirit shirts for our school — often for 50 cents. The prices are great at secondhand places, and if you get a brand new shirt, it will look just like a second hand one after you wash it a few times.

  17. Loved your article Daisy! I like to save money by going to the dollar store and buying unscented lotion, emptying it in a bowl and spritzing my cologne on it and pouring it into a pretty thrift store container to give as gifts. I bought a $40 Janome mini portable sewing machine online so when I find a beautiful piece of clothing at the thrift store that is one size too large, I can sew a seam on each side and it becomes the right size! That way I’m able to find clothing in two sizes instead of one. When I find cashmere or angora sweaters at the thrift store, I cut off the arms and sew an oval seam on the cut end (for the toe part) and make cashmere socks! The wrist end of the sweater arm is already finished and becomes the opening of the sock. You can make another pair of socks by cutting the front and back of the sweater and doing the same. When you buy cashmere socks, they cost $60 a pair! In order to lower your electric bill in the summer, place a bowl of ice behind your fans and you’ll have cold air so you can raise your thermostat to 80 degrees. The football teams do this to cool off their players outdoors. Be sure and don’t let the condensation touch your electric fan!! Stop buying toxic bug sprays and make your own. In a spray bottle put. 10 percent Cedarwood oil, a few drops of peppermint oil and fill up the rest of the bottle with water. Spray it around entrances to your home and directly on the bugs. It’s safe for people and pets. Lastly, ditch the expensive moisturizing lotions and use organic unrefined coconut oil. Reduces the appearance of wrinkles and gives you smooth glowing skin! Blessings to all and take care. ❤

  18. Great article Daisy! Thank you! Being frugal becomes a way of life. When you adopt an “attitude of gratitude“, you can enjoy the simple things in life more, rather than focusing on obtaining the latest “gadget” the media says you need. Cancelling TV cable (some years back) was one of the best things we did. We don’t miss commercials!

    I find having a garden is good for your body (healthy food) and soul.

    I also enjoyed reading the comments. Thank you everyone!

  19. Very interesting and well-written post. I couldn’t agree more on what you wrote (I especially enjoyed the sentences “LOVING the fact that Proctor and Gamble are not getting your money”, “When you feel like you require less, then you are happy with less”). It’s all a matter of changing your mindset and then priorities, to achieve an invaluable degree of inner freedom and peace of mind. As someone else pointed out, I find very useful to toss away television: when tv system in Italy changed in 2007, I didn’t get a new one and that was one of the best choices I have ever made! All the best from Italy.

  20. RATTLEBONE, you asked about getting information on how to use options. If you will post here your OK to let Daisy & Co have permission to privately send me your email address, I’ll be happy to connect you with the knowledge teaching resource you need. Afterwards once these comments are no longer needed, Daisy & Co will simply delete them.

    –Lewis

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