30 Frugal Living Tips: Tiny Changes That’ll Get You BIG Savings

People all over the globe are struggling right now to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads.  We’re losing jobs, paying higher expenses, dealing with governmental idiocy, and getting slapped with medical bills that we won’t make enough money to pay for in this lifetime.

For some folks, tips like the ones that follow would not be helpful because their situations have become so dire.  (If you are in that situation, go here.) For the rest of us, though, there are many places that we can cut the budget in order to survive in the new economic paradigm. As the iconic Amy Dacyzyn of the Tightwad Gazette famously said, “Thrift is a viable alternative lifestyle.”

You may not want to make changes.  You may not want to sacrifice your little luxuries.  You may feel like you “deserve” them or that you have “earned” them.

First, please get out of your mind the phrase, “I work hard and deserve this chocolate thingamabob while someone paints my toenails for me” or any combination thereof.

You may work hard, but rationalizing poor spending habits is a surefire way to remain broke forever. Now, please don’t misunderstand – you don’t have to be miserably unhappy, grimly plodding through a life bereft of any pleasures. You just have to change your perspective, and that can take a little tough love.

Even small savings matter

Making some small changes in your day-to-day habits can actually add up to huge savings.  And before you say, “Oh, that’s only $2, it doesn’t matter” think about this.

Two dollars, saved on a daily basis over the course of a year, is $730.

If you save $2 on 4 different things, that total is $2920.

Sure, if you’re a multimillionaire homeowner with a paid-off house, yacht, and car, those numbers are small potatoes. But for most of us, a savings of $2920 makes an awfully big difference.

Frugal living tips for any budget

So, look over these small savings and see which of these expenditures you can cut. You can often figure out a way to still have your small luxuries while saving money.

  1. Drink water.  Even if you purchase it in 5-gallon jugs with the hot/cold dispenser, it’s still the best deal around, with the added bonus of being good for your health.  Skip the soda pop, juices and sports drinks. Also, skip the individual bottles of water because those can be just as pricey as buying a soda. Coffee and tea that you make at home are also very inexpensive.
  2. Join a Farm Co-op.  You can get baskets of produce for more than half the year at a fraction of the price. (Find some local farms here.)
  3. Stop buying coffee in the drive-thru on your way to work every day.  You can save anywhere from  $300-1300, depending on whether you are a Tim Hortons/Dunkin Donuts/Starbucks person. If you absolutely adore your coffee, make it at home and put it in a nice to-go mug for your commute.  You can give yourself a Starbucks feeling with this. And these recipes for 25 different creamers will help you to get the fancy flavors without the fancy money.
  4. Brown bag it.  Bring a healthy lunch from home instead of spending $5 or more each workday on your lunch. The peer pressure to go out with friends from the office can make this difficult, but stand firm.  If there are 260 workdays in a year, and you save a minimum of $5 on each one of those workdays, at the end of the year, you’ve tallied up $1300!!! (and these days, a $5 lunch is tough to find – you’ll most likely be spending closer to $10, which means your savings is closer to $2600.)
  5. Skip the meat – consider 2 meatless meals per week, or at the very least make meat a condiment instead of a main dish.
  6. Cancel cable or satellite.  Yes, the kids will complain.  Yes, it will suck at first.  Then you’ll learn to do other things and it won’t bother you at all. If you still want to watch television and movies, get an Amazon Prime or Netflix membership for viewing and pay less than $10 per month. (Prime also offers a music service, a photo service, and a Kindle Lending Library service, making it a better investment.)
  7. Lower your thermostat.  The Consumer Energy Center says that for every degree you lower your heat under 70 degrees F, you can save up to 5% off your bill.  Look into other ways to stay warm.
  8. Don’t use credit cards. If you must, because of an expense account, be sure to pay it off in full before the interest can kick in.
  9. Check your insurance rates. Shop around for car and home insurance to be sure you are getting the best price. This can be a recurrent savings of up to hundreds of dollars.
  10. Grow some of your own food. You don’t need a farm to grow some of your own veggies and herbs. You can also consider sprouting for fresh off-season greens at a fraction of the price of grocery store sprouts or produce. (I’ve had much better luck with the sprouting kits than with makeshift sprouters I’ve created – for me it was $20 well-spent)
  11. Find the best phone plan.  For some it may be Skype, for others it may be a cell phone instead of a landline and for still others, especially those who make a lot of long-distance calls, it may be a VOIP service with unlimited national calling.
  12. Take shorter showers – this can save you up to $100 per year, depending on your water rates and your cost to heat the water.
  13. Make homemade pizza instead of ordering delivery.  At the very least, go pick the pizza up to save yourself delivery charges and tip. In our house, Friday night pizza-making is a beloved family tradition.
  14. Set up a clothesline. Hanging your clothes to dry instead of using an electric dryer can save over $300 per year.  You can set up a clothesline outside, or, if you live somewhere dusty like me, get a foldable drying rack, or devise something in your laundry room for drying clothing.
  15. Wash in cold water. Washing your clothes in cold water can save $50 per year – plus your clothes will last longer.
  16. Don’t throw away your leftovers.  You can collect small amounts of left overs and combine them into something totally new.  We often keep a container in the freezer for leftover veggies.  Later we add them to soups or pot pies.  Sometimes we have enough miscellaneous leftovers to create an entirely new meal, which is like free food!  Another option is what my kids call “leftover buffet” – all the leftovers go out on the counter and the kids can pick and choose their items – the ovenproof dish gets heated up and voila – TV dinner is served!  If you have a few servings of dinner left over, put them in single serving containers so that you can grab them for lunches throughout the week.
  17. Eat at home.  If you cut meals out to one a month, you can save up to $3000 per year for a family of four.  As well, when it is a rare occurrence, it’s much more of a treat.
  18. Shop secondhand.  Hit up thrift stores, Craigslist, Ebay, and yard sales before purchasing items new.  Seek and ye shall very often find what you need for a fraction of the price.  Also check out “Freecycle” – a website dedicated to unloading unwanted things at no charge.
  19.  Stay healthy.  Sometimes this is easier said than done, but by taking precautions like washing your hands and avoiding sick people you can reduce your risk of becoming ill.  Also, good nutrition, vitamins, exercise and sunshine all help to boost your immune system.  Being sick results in lost wages, money spent on trips to the doctor,  and expensive medications.
  20. Prep your food ahead of time.  Nothing says “drive thru” like a gnawing hunger pain in your stomach on your way home from work.  Spend time on the weekend prepping your food for the week ahead so that you are able to have dinner on the table in less time than it takes to wait in line at a fast food restaurant.
  21. Skip the gym and take your workout outside.  Walk, run, bike, or hike and save those monthly fees.
  22. Quit smoking.  Need I say more?
  23. DIY your hair color.  At the very least, touch up your roots at home.
  24. Speaking of hair – consider simplifying.  Try to stretch the time between haircuts, learn to trim your hair yourself, forgo the fancy highlights and procedures, and cut back on the products.  I realize not everyone is as enthusiastic about the ponytail as I am but see where you can simplify.
  25. Ditch the fake nails.  I used to have a friend that insisted it was necessary for her job to have perfectly manicured fingers. No.  If you are not a professional hand model, it’s not.  Either learn to do it yourself or simplify to short neat fingernails buffed to a shine.  I sincerely doubt any person ever lost a job for not having artificial nails.
  26. Clip coupons.  Coupons can often net you big savings, but not always. Be sure to compare with the price of the less expensive store brands – sometimes coupons aren’t that great of a deal. As well, another risk with coupons is that you’ll buy something you wouldn’t normally purchase. Make sure the item is something that would be on your list anyway.
  27. DIY cleaning products. Skip the fancy cleaning supplies and use household items like white vinegar and baking soda to keep your house spotless.
  28. Repair instead of replace.  In our disposable society, most  people say “Oh, it’s only $3 – I’ll get a new one.”  Repairing items isn’t just a way to save money – it’s a great way to improve your skills.  Learn skills like mending, darning, welding, simple electrical and mechanical repairs and minor carpentry and keep these items on hand for simple repairs.
  29. Skip the doggie beauty salon.  Learn to groom your dog at home.  For the price of one trip to the groomer, you can purchase quality nail clippers and a good brush.  Use human shampoo and brush your pet frequently to reduce matting.  If your dog requires trimming on a regular basis, consider getting professional quality clippers and learning to give her a cut, or at the very least, stretching out the visits with a bit more time in between.
  30. Stay home.  When you stay home, you aren’t spending money on gas, drinks, food and shopping.  If you are the type of person that needs the social aspect of going out, take your own water bottle and picnic lunch, and focus on free activities like going to the dog park, the museum on free-admission days, and the splash pad with the kids.

If you used every one of these tips, you would save, literally, thousands of dollars per year. And they’re all small things, a dollar here, a quarter there. But I’m sure you can see how they add up.

You can use one of these suggestions or all of them.  Be creative and come up with your own ways to save that work well with your life.

Do you have any easy frugal living tips?

For you hardcore frugalites, what are some cuts that you have made in order to meet your goals? Please share your ideas in the comments below, and remember to be encouraging to people who are just starting out on their journey to a thriftier lifestyle.

Recommended Reading

Here are some books to help you with your frugal journey.

30 Frugal Living Tips: Tiny Changes That\'ll Get You BIG Savings
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.

19 thoughts on “30 Frugal Living Tips: Tiny Changes That’ll Get You BIG Savings”

  1. One of the things I do is save spare change. Nickels, dimes, and quarters are all saved and rolled. Since we don’t shop often, it adds up slowly, but it does add up, and it’s painless – I have yet to raid my rolled change. At some point I hope to have enough to make a significant purchase (I’ll exchange the coin for paper cash at the bank to spend it) or make a deposit.

    Depending on where one lives, there are also “No buy” groups one can join. One posts anything they no longer want, and if someone wants it they arrange to pick it up. This is also a good way to remove things cluttering up one’s home, in addition to acquiring something needed.

  2. I would second the “No Buy” groups. Our family has been using one for a year now and we have been able to gift a lot of items as well as get a few we needed.

    The only thing I would add for credit cards (if you are able) is to use one that collects points and then pay it off at the end of each month. We have done this with an airline credit card and it has enabled us to travel more frequently for effectively no additional cost.

  3. Great list! I switched to family cloths for liquids, which has significantly cut down on my toilet paper use; not only does this save me a lot of money, but these days sometimes toilet paper is hard to find. I use e-cloth microfibre cloths for cleaning, so now the only cleaners I buy are toilet bowl cleaner, dishwashing liquid, bleach, and laundry detergent. Instead of using shampoo, I have switched to washing my hair with baking soda, followed by an apple cider vinegar rinse. Instead of shaving your legs, etc., use an epilator (and for those who shave with razors, there are ways to make the razors last a very long time). I also have a heated mattress pad, which means I don’t need to turn on the baseboard heaters unless it’s significantly below freezing outside (for those living in poorly-insulated homes, I’d also suggest getting a heated throw or blanket for daytime hours when you’re sitting on the sofa or at your desk).

    Best wishes to you and yours in 2021! Thanks again for all your valuable help, it’s much appreciated!

  4. I do most here, on my to do list is to get cheaper car insurance this year. One thing I’ve done is Ive gone from $170 per month on electricity to $77 just by turning everything off at the wall and pulling out the plugs. (Except the ones behind furniture) I did it as an experiment to see how much power drain the standby power was. I was so shocked. It’s also made me more aware of the power we use.
    The extra money helped pay off the credit card and now goes into savings one month and pantry the next month.

    1. I have also discovered savings from stopping phantom power drain! We have a surge protector strip that turns off all accessory items when the main item is turned off – so, when the TV goes off, everything else in the same strip does too. I also stopped letting my computer ‘sleep’ – I power it down. Unplug microwave and other things with constant digital displays.

  5. PS One last tip: Skip breakfast and snacks, and just eat lunch and dinner. Not only will you save money, but you’ll lose weight. (In fact, I also fast one or two days a week. Dr Jason Fung’s videos and books are a great source of information. I have type 2 diabetes, and Intermittent fasting and keto have helped me keep my blood sugar levels in normal range without having to take medication.)

  6. PPS Switch to LED bulbs! That will save you hundreds of dollars every year in electricity bills. Costco and Ikea are good sources for inexpensive bulbs, so this a quick, cheap, and easy way to save money.

  7. Trimming my own hair isn’t that difficult and it saves me $25 plus the time to go over there. And yes, little things add up to serious savings. With the cost of everything going up and some things a bit harder to find, I’m happily in Waste Nothing mode. My grandparents made it through the Depression by being adaptable and frugal. I think I’ll try their method.

  8. Some grocery stores mark down their meat as the packet gets closer to the expiration date of sale. These mark down are usually found at the end cap of the freshmeat section. If i want a treat to some decent cuts of meat, i hit the grocery store between 7am -8am.
    I have 2 small dogs and they consume what we produce. Meals for the dogs consist of bake potatoes, eggs and chicken meat. This is a big help on the budget.

  9. Don’t forget to cancel those ‘free’ trials before you get charged! Also, don’t forget about ‘auto renewals’ on products and subscriptions. Do you really need or use that product or service?

  10. I shop at the Dollar Tree for trash bags, aluminum foil, drain cleaner, dish soap, washing powder,dry goods storage containers,pet bowls,etc

  11. Sadly buying veggies locally cost much more. That said buying meats directly from the farmer by the side saves a ton of money. You get a variety of cuts for about he cost per pound of ground beef… as long as you can store it and are willing to eat what you get(might get small amounts of high end cuts or cuts you like less). Bonus you can reduce trips to the grocery store thus saving impulse buying(as I have a large family and we always need or could use something).

    Shopping every other week for groceries and trying to stick to that saves a ton on money. I found monthly didn’t work for us as it was too hard to budget out the food with kids eating the good stuff right away, and fresh foods mostly we can only make due for about two weeks…

  12. Great list. My one caution would be about using human shampoo on dogs – dog skin has a different pH than human skin and using shampoos not formulated for them can potentially cause skin dryness and irritation. This can lead to infections, especially since a dog’s less acidic skin makes it a more hospitable place for bacteria. A single visit to the vet and prescriptions for oral and topical antibiotics can more than wipe out any savings from not buying your dog his own shampoo bottle. I had to learn this the hard way.

  13. i once read that washing your underwear in cold water leaves the e.coli, etc on them because it is heat/sunlight that kills the germs. adding bleach should do it, but some people can’t use bleach and so when you hang them to dry, it must be outside and in the full sun.

  14. Sell stuff….. my husband sold the house we moved out of 5 years ago…. there was an attic, basement, and barns full of STUFF. We suddenly had to get rid of this STUFF that we had procastinated about. We began by making weekly trips to the recycle center with various collections of metal that had been stashed away. All toll we hauled 15,000 lbs to be recycled. $$$ in our pocket. Had a yard sale and then started selling stuff on line…. do you know what people will buy? Every time I told him nobody will buy that he would come in the house with cash in hand. In our state you pay a deposit on cans and bottles that contain beverages. Many people don’t bother to cash these in. On a short walk along our road we can pick up 8-10 cans that translates into 50 cents …. multiply that by 52 weeks a year …$26 of free money. When it comes to groceries we buy 80% of our food at Aldi. Being children of Depression era parents many of the things on your list we already do….. now we are trying to teach the next generation down these lessons.

  15. Controlling your expenses as efficiently as possible is part of a much larger challenge. In an economy where government has long established a system where counterfeiting of the currency funds the forever warfare/welfare state (a crime that once called for the death penalty in the US 1794 Coinage Act), it is not taught in government’s “public” schools that such counterfeiting is purposely structured to steal purchasing power away from savers IN ADDITION to the purchasing power taken via published tax rates.

    The significance of that means that as the value of the money that you save in a bank or at home in a piggy bank diminishes faster than any interest you might be receiving on it, part of your frugality challenge is to minimize (or even make up for) that loss of value by some combination of

    1) investing available funds in places where the return is more than enough to cover your annual inflation (counterfeiting) loss of value and to more than cover any IRS taxation of that gain to fight inflation.

    and

    2) increasing your personal earning power in one or more ways whether as a self-employed entrepreneur or employee and/or an investor in other people’s earning projects.

    Part of the challenge is to balance the time you put into such earnings efforts against the time it takes you to save on expenses by doing things like spending the time (for example) and possibly money for tools to learn to repair things personally. Everyone’s tradeoffs of where to spend personal time and effort versus hiring out such efforts, or replacing such items versus doing without will be unique and self-chosen.

    The point is that being frugal is simply one aspect of your personal financial management (including your limited available time) that must be balanced against your present and future earnings capabilities as well as your investing skills in this era of government’s annual fractional stealing of the purchasing power of the money you can save — beyond the cash you have to spend for ongoing expenses, shelter, transportation and an emergency reserve.

    That’s an easy lesson to teach in a homeschooling environment but one you’ll never find in a government-approved public school book.

    –Lewis

  16. I capture rainwater and shower water/washing water to flush the toilet. At 2 gallons a flush, it saves me money and the planet. I know It seems extreme but that is where my family is right now. We are at the extreme stage. We also don’t flush every time. If I shower or wash clothes, I plug the drain so I dont lose the grey water to the sewer before it can be used again. Our above ground swimming pool is our totally “grey man” and legal rain catchment system. 2 gallons a flush, over a long period, adds up.

  17. I’ve quit buying new items unless absolutely necessary, and then usually store brands. I shop garage sales, thrift stores, and other “used” or “salvage” outlets; if I can’t get it used, then I go to outlets, dollar stores or big box discount stores and the most inexpensive grocery stores in town. I never pay for entertainment, other than to buy old DVDs or VHS tapes for 49 cents at Salvation Army. I kept the old VHS player, and am glad I did! A friend gave me big boxes of all her old VHS movies for free, most of which we hadn’t seen before or are old favorites. We use indoor antennas for over the air stations. The library will let you check out DVDs for free, just like books. Living in the country, we’re not required to pay for garbage pickup, so we compost and recycle everything we can, use a trash compactor for the rest, then take the compacted bags to a friend’s trashcan in the city. When we have to trim trees, we save the wood for the fire place next year. I brown bag not only lunches but coffee, snacks and soda (use the plastic individual bottles as a thermos, and fill it from 2L bottles.) The one “frugal” thing I usually don’t do is use coupons to buy groceries bc store brands are much cheaper and often produced and packaged by the same place as the name brand products. Generic Rx and OTC drugs unless my doctor specifies otherwise. Planned Parenthood for annual “female” exams is cheaper than the OB-GYN; my friend went there and they found her cancer in the very early stages, and probably saved her life!

  18. I am trying to be more frugal at the moment, especially as we don’t know where money is going to come from at the moment so I am going to have to save this post for all the tips!

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