168 Frugal Living Tips to Help You Spend Less Money

A few weeks ago I was lamenting about the high prices on everything lately. Recession or not, it’s getting harder to afford the increased cost of living. I asked Being Frugal readers for help, and the readers came through in a big way!

This post is a compilation of comments and emails I received when I asked my readers how they deal with high prices and what things they do to make their money stretch further.

I’ve separated the tips into categories to make it easier to find what you’re looking for. I’ve credited each reader once throughout the article, though many submitted ideas in multiple categories.

Please consider visiting the websites of those who contributed to this project! They gave great advice here, and I’m sure they each have a lot more to offer on their individual blogs!

Now…what you’ve been waiting for. How to save money on just about everything.

Save Money Grocery Shopping

Including tips from Diana, Emily, FrugalWannabe, LJ, Allison, JenMarie, and several more.

  • Shop for produce at a local farm stand.
  • Never buy coffee, soda, or other drinks or snacks out.
  • Always grocery shop with a list.
  • Take advantage of sales on items that you would normally buy.
  • Only shop once a month.
  • Keep a price book and track prices by unit cost.
  • Stockpile staples when prices are low.
  • Buy generic items.
  • Use the Grocery Game.
  • Plan meals according to what is on sale that week.
  • Take advantage of rainchecks if the store doesn’t have a sale item that you need.
  • Take advantage of rebates at Walgreens, CVS, and Rite Aid…but only if you’ll use the item and will follow through on the rebate.
  • Buy enough of a sale item to last 12 weeks. That’s about how long sales take to cycle.
  • Shop at discount marts: Grocery Outlet, The Dollar Store, etc.
  • Bring your own bags to the grocery store. Many stores offer a small discount per bag.
  • Take advantage of stores that double coupons.
  • Watch out for deals on things that your friends need, and have them do the same for you.

Save Money on Cooking and Eating

Including tips from Bellen, Lisa, David, Paidtwice, Boomeyers, Jackie Star, Georgia Hawkins, Lisa K, fathersez, MoneyBlogga, Sarah, and several more.

  • Eat less meat.
  • Become a vegetarian.
  • Eat leftovers.
  • Cook large amounts and freeze extra for busy nights.
  • Scrape out food jars to use the last little bit.
  • Cook from scratch.
  • Never eat out.
  • Eat from your stocked pantry.
  • Bring lunch from home (it’s worth it to invest in proper containers).
  • Eat less. The average American eats too much.
  • Don’t use the vending machines at work.
  • Always have a meal plan. Always.
  • Use the Once a Month Cooking system.
  • Keep soup starter jars in the freezer. A little leftover this, a little leftover that. Nothing is wasted.
  • Get creative with leftovers. Concoct new recipes, so nothing is wasted.
  • Base most of your meals on rice or beans to cut down on meat consumption.
  • Look for events that entertain and feed you at the same time. Church socials, shopping at Sam’s (think about those free samples)…
  • Don’t drink soda. Drink water!
  • Make your own jello cups (or applesauce cups, or pudding cups) for lunches and snacks.
  • If your kids complain about generic cereal, put the generic in a name-brand box. They’ll never know the difference!
  • Rear your own chickens.
  • Join a freezer club. Get together with like-minded people to exchange meals for your freezers. It’s cheaper to prepare a lot of one meal and split it up, than to prepare a bunch of different meals.
  • Make your own baby food.
  • Always take a snack and bottle of water wherever you go. You won’t be tempted to stop for expensive fast food or drinks.
  • Grow your own produce. No room? Try a square foot garden! Or use pots on the patio.
  • Freeze, can, or dehydrate your produce.
  • Cook with the crockpot to avoid using the oven, which warms up the house.
  • Use a convection oven to accomplish the same purpose.

Save Money on Cars and Gas

Including tips from Alicia, Heather, Bibi, Working Rachel, Christian PF, Rob Madrid, Mark, and several more.

  • Run errands once a week and use the most efficient route.
  • Walk as much as you can.
  • Stay home as often as possible.
  • Keep tires filled to their proper pressure.
  • Don’t suddenly stop or accelerate.
  • Carpool.
  • Bum a ride with friends and chip in for gas.
  • Ride your bike.
  • Use a diesel car if you have one.
  • Coast when you see a red light ahead, instead of hitting the brakes.
  • Use public transportation.
  • Try to get by with one car if you have two.
  • If you have one car that you only drive a couple of times a week, consider getting rid of it and using cabs.
  • Drive your car until it’s old. This works really well when you buy a car that will run for 200,000 miles.
  • Keep up on your car’s maintenance.
  • Turn your car off at lights.
  • Coast when you can.
  • Limit city driving.
  • Turn off the engine and coast to a stop. (Only do this if you know your car and know what you’re doing. It could be unsafe, depending on the car)
  • On a long trip, keep a steady foot.
  • Make it a challenge to see how far you can go on a tank of gas.
  • Use a discount card to buy gas. (Many grocery stores offer them, as well as Costco).
  • Fill up early in the morning when the air is cool, and the gas is dense. You’ll get more gas and less air.
  • Fill up when your tank is half empty.
  • Shop around for insurance. The rates can vary a lot!
  • Use gasbuddy.com to find the lowest price on gas.

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Author

By , on Apr 3, 2008
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.

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{135 Comments}

  1. Leo:

    I happen to agree with your suggestion of buying generic items particularly with food and drug products. As someone who worked in a big pharma company for many years, I can attest that generic and branded products have the same effect on human body. Otherwise, US FDA or equivalent regulatory agencies in other countries will not allow marketing of these products.

    The only difference is price and that what matters most in this bad economy.

  2. The Prudent Planner:

    I find that when I’m planning meals for the week I’m less likely to buy on impulse at the grocery store. I usually eat the same thing for lunch every day (boring i know) but dinners are where we get creative. We know exactly what we need for each night, talk about a stress reliever. When you’re scrambling at the last minute to make dinner that’s when things get unhealthy.

  3. Our local tip gives away free mulch if you’re prepared to shove it. They also have a trash and tresure section which is great, I just got a bunch of free pavers for my vege garden from there.

  4. Awesome tips. Will definitely share this on my fb wall. If you get the chance, feel free to visit my site for helpful finance tips.

  5. Well, the cultural differences between my Chinese wife and I seem to extend into the shower.

    I like to use a soap with a pleasant fragrance to it. However my wife and her mother insist on a cake of soap with an odour resembling some kind of harsh industrialised detergent.

    I don’t know where they find this soap, but it certainly wouldn’t sell in a Coles or a Woolworths.

    Every time I get near it I get an idea of what life would have been like in those concentration camps in China during the cultural revolution. This is really harsh soap that leaves one feeling that their body has been stripped of all vital moisture. It is certainly not a luxury item.

    In any case, its always there in the shower, whether I like it or not.

    In order to get around this, I recently purchased a bottle of body shampoo, as something that I could use and at least feel like I had a real showever.

    The day after I purchased it, the bottle went missing.

    When I asked my wife what happened to it, she quickly ran to the bathroom. She returned with an old handwash bottle.

    She then proudly stated that her mother diluted the contents of my bottle, and got to fill four old handwash bottles.

    When I told her that it was for me to use in the shower, she looked at me strangely and said, “why would you use that in the shower? We already have soap!”

  6. frugal gal:

    If your doctor wants to write you a prescription, even better than using generics is using free samples that your doctor has. Just ask if he/she has any samples. Doctors get them from pharmaceutical sales reps.

    Oh, and be sure to understand your medical benefits. For instance, if you have managed care (and most of us do), make sure to go to an in-network provider.

  7. Really wonderful post Lynnae – such useful information!
    Buy condiments and oils in bulk as well. A tiny jar of olive oil is pricey but a big jug – while maybe not quite as special – is much cheaper. You can keep the tiny jar for entertaining and appetizers.
    Thank you.

  8. C J:

    Awesome list. I am a sahm, homeschooler, student and wife. With one income the budget can get tight at times. These are some great tips.
    One thing our family does, is turn something old into something new. We take old t- shirts and make reuseable grocery bags. With old jeans- we make purses (and sell),reusable grocery bags and jean skirts.
    Personaly- I am enjoying the recession. As a buddhist living in american society I am glad to see many more going to more simple ways of living. Life should be about great conversation, friends, family, memories.Not so much about materialist things.

  9. Antares:

    You should probably remove “turn car off at lights”: starting a car requires far more energy than the minute or so of idling at a light. Otherwise, what an awesome list!

  10. Anoma:

    Lynnae, I think your website is great, it offers awesome tips on saving which work well when you have a family to feed and buy clothes for. I am single, working with no children and I find that gives no reason to go out and squander money. I noticed a comment from Ellen Moans who obviously doesn’t have children to look out for. Ellen dear, its not always about sacrificing or doing without, its about being able to do the same things you are doing now for less. Its about shopping smart and finding bargains for everything you buy.

  11. Ellen Moans:

    Why don’t people just bury yourselves in the ground now and be done with it. Tips such as ‘don’t go’ out are great money savers, great for the planet, not so great for having fun. Don’t forget to have a life! :)

  12. Ima:

    After doing all of these tips for years and still having trouble making the ends meet, buy a black market counterfeiting machine and make your own money. Much simpler, and your social life will improve.

  13. Konini:

    Here you go http://solarcooking.wikia.com/wiki/CooKit

    Google solar cooking Zimbabwe. It is widespread there. Basically you are slow cooking. Start everything off then put in a pot that has sun light focused on it. Depending on the sun, it may boil very hard and fast so it is good for beans.

    You might also want a “hay box”. Just start off your casserole and put it in a box surrounded by non inflammable insulation (search maybe and as a rule of thumb use nothing “modern”). Leave it and come back in the evening. Done. You can also do porridge overnight.

    Or just invest in a slow cooker and a simple rice cooker. You have power and you should remember all the hassle of cleaning up might cost you more. Solar power is good in countries like Zimbabwe where the the power supply has become erratic.

    Equally, as you have fridges and freezers, just cook one big casserole and freeze portions. I only cook once a week in the Uk and I know many people without children who do the same. I know some people who have grown children who still host a family dinner weekly then send their adult children off with sufficient cooked food to last the week.

    Don’t make your lives hard! You should be enjoying your infrastructure and using it wisely!

  14. Juanita:

    Dear Lynnae and Readers,

    Use a Solar Cooker to prepare your food. The library and websites have information on how to make one or where to buy Solar Cookers. There are even recipes and baking in a solar oven is possible, I’ve read. I hope to learn how to bake in one this year.

    Juanita

  15. mommy247365:

    I think this is a great list.
    I think that a lot of people really appreciate this information including me and the rude posts are from peope who shouldn’t be reading the tips anyway.
    My husband has a good job and I am a stay at home mom.
    Our income is in the top 20% in our area but like many Young married folks we have a lot of debt, mostly from fertility procedures which did not work. I feel like any money I can save by being frugal is money gained for our family. I also would rather save on what we need to buy or pay for what we want. Such as deals on cleaning supplies= extra money for clothes,vacation, etc.
    Also,
    Be frugal by adopting. Fertiity, cost $$$,$$$.$$ results nothingbut debt.
    Local Children Service Adoption, cost lawyer fees..results The most wonderful boys in the world.(at least in our case).
    The money we could have saved had we adopted without the fertility treatments would pay for their college educations.
    And don’t tel me to get a job, My job is raising my family like the Bible says and The only things that matter to me are My Faith, My Family, And my Friends. Oh, and it kills me that my baby is starting school this year I will miss him sooooooo much.

  16. Lily:

    HELLOOOO, MIKE. People maybe need to save because they do NOT find a job – or they are underpaid.

  17. Free Rider:

    Excuse my grammar, I’m still learning English…
    Great tips there. The bottom line is learning to manage your spending before it’s going out of control. My hubby and I both have decent job making a decent living. If we make less money in a giving month, we spend less, but we would still contribute a fixed amount to a saving account every month.
    Here’s how we have been saving:
    We eat out once a week, but mostly during lunchtime when the menu prices are cheaper than during dinner time. We only ask for water.
    At home, we tear napkins in half so two persons will use only 1 napkin.
    Once in a while when we go out for a movie, we would sneak in snacks and water so we’d only have to pay for the tickets. We choose showtimes before 6pm, when the price is slighty less than peak time.
    We rent newly released movies at redbox, where it only costs $1/night. Rarely do we keep a movie for more than 1 night.
    We check store circulars to see what’s on sale. We clip coupons and use them on sale items to save more. We buy “generics” whenever we can.
    We swap/share things with family and friends so we don’t have to buy everything.
    We have a vegetable garden.
    We shop at thrift stores/garage sales. We buy seasonal items when it’s out-season and save them for the following year when it’s in-season.
    Our list can go on and on. What is important is trying to turn money-saving techniques into habits, and you’ll realize how much you can save each month!

  18. Felicia:

    A couple more entertainment tips:

    Instead of spending money to entertain yourselves, go for a hike or bike ride. Also, go outside and play some catch. A game of frisbee is fun too! Even if you don’t have kids you will be surprised how much free fun you can have when you play your old childhood games.

    No one can argue that any of this is bad for you health. Fresh air is cheap and healthy!!

  19. c. sten:

    The person who said” become a vegetarian and eat less meat should be one” is wrong! I like meat and am not interested in eating just veggies. You may get your protein from soy-based items but I get it from meat. It depends on the cuts of meat you use and how you marinate it. The two are VERY separate items.

  20. TJ:

    I grew up on a ranch with a septic. We flushed at # 2, but not #1 (or the men went outside). The vinagar at the end of the day kept the toilet clean.

    My kids are all in their early 20’s. They grew up with hand-me-downs, leftovers etc. They all love board and card games. They are well-rounded, responsible, educated, and healthy young adults. It’s about relationships, not ‘things’ that bring happiness.

  21. pat johnson/jacpinemagnolia:

    I can stillhear my grandfather telling me ” use it up, wear it out, make do or do without”. This saying has saved me a bundle over the years. I’m one of those who recycled before it was the in thing to do. It’s gotten my family through some very tight times.

    jacpinemagnolia/Pat Johnson

  22. Munchies:

    Crap people!!! Flush the toilet when you use it.. That’s just nasty when you have dogs, cats, guests or what have you. When pee sits in there, you need to clean the bowl more often and the stains are more difficult. More chemicals too!

    I got a nice 1.6 gallon toilet with a Sink-positive that we installed. This sink on top runs when you flush so that you can wash your hands with the clean water than fills the bowl. People often use as much water washing hands.

    This will keep kids from playing too long in the regular sink. You’ll hear em if they keep flushing the bowl! he he he!

    It’s automatically “on” when it’s flushed so your hands aren’t nasty from someone gross touching the bathroom faucets. If you have a leak, the faucet will be where you see the leak so no more “secret leaks.”

    If you don’t wash your hands after every use, then shame on you. Gentle reminder for the old man and the kids and guests. And, like a fountain, it’s also clean enough to drink from… I know that’s probably too weird for most people.

  23. Marisa:

    Don’t forget about breastfeeding if you can. Even the cost of generic formula can be about 30 dollars a week.

  24. Les:

    There is no way I could become a vegetarian. Beans and grains have too many carbs and don’t provide enough protein for me. I have discovered that the local meat market sells beef hearts for $0.99/lb. The heart is very low in fat once the fat is cut off and is tender if you prepare it correctly. I usually simmer or grill it. Tongue and liver are also good alternatives to more expensive cuts. Pork is much cheaper than beef or even chicken if you like it. I guess cooking offal has become a lost art or maybe people are too squeamish to try it. I like to look in old recipie books that are posted online (gutenburg.org has several) or may be available in libaries. They usually have some very good recipies that use cheaper ingredients but they do often take a little more time in the kitchen.

  25. ultimatemizer:

    Save Money on Utilities
    Here are some things that even renters can do to save energy in the home during the heating season. Close heat registers and close doors in unused rooms over the winter.Just beware of the possibility of frozen water pipes during subzero temperatures if pipes run through unheated areas. If the room doesn’t have a door that can be closed, purchase clear vinyl film (Wal-mart sells this on a roll)and hang it over the entrance. If your kitchen has an outside wall and can be closed off, do this to your kitchen too when not in use, it will reduce your refrigerator’s electricity use substantially. Build insider storms for your windows using clear vinyl film attached to a thin wood frame that you custom build to fit the inside of your windows. Attach a rubber or foam seal around the outer edges of the wood frame to tightly seal against the window frame. A double layer of vinyl film (with a one inch dead space between layers) is better than one layer, but follows the law of diminishing returns. Simply remove the insider storm when sun is available to increase radiant heating into the room. I’ve saved 30% on my natural gas and 25% on my electric so far this winter using these techniques.

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