18 Frugal Living Tips Plus How to Beat Frugality Fatigue

Frugal Living Tips

It’s important to live a frugal life. Why? Because we can always find a way to spend the money we earn or save.

Unless we make a lifestyle change and start implementing some frugal living tips we are ultimately going to miss the mark. Remember, Michael Jackson? The poor guy owned the Beatles’ collection and still had financial trouble.

Living frugally means making intentional choices with your everyday spending. Decide your own financial goals and then plan your spending so you can meet those goals. You may find places to cut back that don’t impact your happiness very much, such as canceling that subscription you don’t use or getting books from the library.

What do I mean by intentional?

Decide on your goals: Do you want to make a large purchase, such as a vacation? Do you want to buy a house or pay for your kid’s college? Do you want to retire? Figure out how much money you need to set aside each month to reach those goals, then be intentional about doing it.

The majority of your spending choices should be planned with your financial goals in mind. Before each purchase, ask yourself: Is this choice harming or helping my chances of meeting my goals?

Here’s a table of contents to guide you through our frugal living tips:

Table of Contents

Hardcore Frugal Living Tips

Alright, I’m going to start with some extreme ideas. These are frugal tips to use if you are serious about reducing your spending. These are great to implement temporarily just to make some initial gains.

Most of us are probably blessed to be at a point in our lives where hardcore frugal tactics aren’t necessary. But if you’re having trouble paying your mortgage or putting food on the table, it’s simply time for you to cut costs and get hardcore frugal.

These tactics aren’t just for the desperate, however. If you find yourself struggling to pay off that last bit of unwanted debt, or lacking the extra savings to secure you in these uncertain times, maybe it’s time for you to take your frugality up a notch!

Wherever you find yourself across this spectrum, here are some ideas to get hardcore frugal (not for the faint of heart).

1. Cancel All Your Subscriptions and Services

“Seriously?” Yep. Any type of monthly service or subscription needs to go. Examples: cable TV (which we recently cut for lack of use), internet, maid service, gym memberships, dry cleaning. You get the point. Basically, any monthly expense that doesn’t fall under the category of life-sustaining utility–get rid of it.

Trim will do this for you. Check out our full review of Trim here.

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Other companies that can help cancel your unwanted subscriptions include:

BillBargain: They negotiate on your behalf to lower your wireless, internet, cable TV, Satellite TV, Satellite Radio and home alarm. You could save up to 30% on your bills every month.

BillShark: They boast an 85% success rate in lowering bills for their customers. To use BillShark’s service, simply send them your wireless, internet, cable TV, Satellite TV, Satellite Radio and home alarm bills and they will negotiate on your behalf.

Check out BillShark here.

2. Only Dine-Out When it’s Free

Monthly expenses for eating outside the house at a restaurant or fast food joint are huge.

My suggestion is to only go out to eat if you have a coupon or gift card that will pay for the entire meal. Otherwise, stick to eating food from the grocery store. Also, if grocery shopping online is an option, often this can save money because you are more likely to stick to your shopping list and avoid impulse purchases.

It’s way less expensive and you can buy in bulk. This is kind of understood, but make sure you’re bringing a lunch to work too.

Simple stuff, I know. But this is a huge struggle for our “gotta have it now” society, myself included.

3. Use Parks, Museums, and the Library for Entertainment

Avoid the mall and the movie theater. Head to your local library to get your entertainment fix. These days, most modern libraries come well equipped with free internet service and loads of free DVDs to rent.

You can also find free entertainment at your local parks and museums. Nothing wrong with a game night at home either. You don’t have to spend to be entertained.

Read: 5 Ways the Library can Save You Money

4. Don’t Buy any Clothes or Stuff

Just stop buying stuff in general. Don’t spend any of your money on clothes or furniture or stuff for your house or car or collection. Just say no to consuming things! I promise that you will keep your money if you don’t spend it. This sounds like an SNL skit I once saw.

Perspective on the Hardcore Ideas

Making serious progress towards your debt reduction and savings goals may require some serious sacrifice with how you spend your money. Most likely not for a long period of time though.

Maybe you only need a couple of months to get where you want to be.

Frugal Living Tips for Parents

Before marriage, the thought of having kids meant giving up on my savings goals and spending money on activities and toys for them. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Of course, raising children is expensive. The cost of food, diapers, insurance, and daycare can be very expensive for families. But, children can lead you to find some wonderful money-saving opportunities that you might have missed.

5. Take the Kids to the Park

Disneyland is fun, but public parks can offer some incredible opportunities for families to relax and enjoy nature. Bring a soccer ball or just play on the jungle gym.

Kids need exercise too, and you don’t need to join an expensive gym for family exercise.

If you visit your local park several times a week, you could save hundreds or thousands by not having a gym membership. Grab a stroller and start jogging to your local park.

6. Use the Library

Kids love to hear stories and your local library is probably your best frugal deal around. Get a free library card and start reading to your kids.

Check your local library for special reading events and activities. The library has probably saved my family hundreds of dollars on books.

7. Eat at Home

Having kids actually improved our grocery budget. Instead of eating out several times a week, our kids enjoy simple meals like mac and cheese and pizza. Homemade pizza is a big hit with the kids as they enjoy selecting favorite toppings for the pies.

Making a healthy salad together as a family can also be a fun activity for the kids.

8. Have Game Nights

Grab one of your favorite games and take the time to teach your children how to play.

If they are still young, try kid-friendly versions of Yahtzee or Old Maid. If they are over five years old, you can teach them checkers or introduce some fun board games. Puzzles are also fun for kids of all ages.

9. Have a Date Night

You can still go out on a date without breaking the bank. Offer to watch your friends kids one night of the week in exchange for them doing the same.

A frugal date idea: rent a movie and make your wife her favorite meal at home. No parking issues, no tip for the waiter, and you can sneak treats into your home movie theater.

10. Start a Savings Fund Together

Before children, I was fascinated with finding high growth technology companies that were poised to be the next Apple or Tesla. Now I still enjoy investing, but I gain far more joy finding ways to teach my children to save money for a special event.

Maybe your kids would like a new baseball glove or a new pair of shoes. Start a savings fund for them and help them find ways to achieve that goal. Educate your children on the benefits of saving money and waiting to buy an item when they have cash in hand.

Take the piggy bank to your local bank or roll your coins and allow them to see how much money they have saved.

My children have certainly taught me how to find more ways to live frugally and look for savings in ordinary things.

Related: Teaching Kids About Money [The Complete Guide]

11. Switch to Clean Energy and Save Money

Want to save money and teach your kids how to save the planet at the same time? Check out Arcadia Power!

Arcadia Power helps customers save money on energy bills and use greener energy sources. Arcadia Power sends you price alerts to help you find a lower energy rate plan in your area. Sign up for a free account, link your current utility account to their platform, and you are on your way to saving money. Savings may depend on where you live and the availability of clean energy sources.

Frugal Clothes Shopping for Kids

Budgeting for family clothing purchases can be tricky. They are either outgrowing the clothes you just bought them last week or they’re wearing them faster than you can keep up.

Or worse, they’re insisting that the icky old off-brand sweater isn’t good enough because they must have a Hollister sweater. Never fear, just follow these tips to dress your kids well without taking out a second mortgage:

12. Clothing Swaps

This is a fun update to the age-old practice of hand-me-downs. To organize a clothing swap party, invite families with children of various ages to bring gently used clothing to trade. Everyone will go home with new pieces to add to their wardrobes, and any unwanted items can be donated.

This can also be a fun way for Mom to update her look if you’d like to do a swap just for women’s clothing. Search for a clothing swap group on Meetup, this can help you find an existing group of clothing swappers near you.

13. Buy Secondhand

We all know that it’s possible to find great clothes for tiny prices at thrift stores and consignment shops. If you’re looking for particular name brands, however, it’s important to know which bargain shops to go to.

The consignment and thrift stores in the most affluent areas of town will often have barely worn or brand new name brand clothing only a season “behind.” If your child is a budding fashionista, this is an excellent way to show her dressing well does not necessarily mean spending a fortune.

14. Buy Oversized

We all remember the clothing that we were supposed to “grow” into. While some clothes, like smock style dresses, two-piece pajamas, tube socks, and lace-up or Velcro shoes, lend themselves to grow, others just make your child look like he’s playing dress-up in Daddy’s clothes.

The solution? Learn your way around a sewing machine.

Hemming durable pants and skirts with a hem that can be let down will buy you multiple seasons from a single item. And while you’ve got the sewing materials out, reinforce the knees and elbows of play clothes with patches ironed on the inside.

Even if you’ve got two left thumbs when it comes to sewing, the tutorials on youtube can get you started.

15. Shop Clearance Racks

At the end of the season, you can pick up clothes for bargain prices. You just need to plan ahead in terms of how big your child will be once that season comes around again.

And you might not even have to do that. Spring and fall clothing can often be worn year-round.

16. Invest in Unisex Clothing

If you have multiple children, it’s a good idea to keep your clothing purchases simple, easy to care for, and unisex. That way you can pass clothing down from one child to the next without anyone objecting to aggressive pink frills or super masculine camouflage.

17. Buy on Thursday

Retail clothing stores often put out their newest stock on Thursdays in order to prepare for the weekend sales. Go in on a Thursday morning, and you may be able to find “current” clothing that is now discounted in order to make room for the new merchandise coming in.

18. Use the Clothing Budget as a Teachable Moment

It can be difficult for a child to understand why she can’t have the name brand clothes her friends and classmates wear. So use budgeting as a means to help her understand.

Let her know that she may spend the budgeted money where she wants, but when it’s gone, it’s gone. So if she uses the entire $50 budget on one pair of jeans, that will be an important lesson for her about the cost of name brands.

Automate your Frugality

Being frugal doesn’t always require tons of extra work. There are new services that use your “loose change” to accomplish important money goals. Let’s look at two of them:


Digit is a service that helps you automate and separate your savings. You link Digit to your checking account. Through an algorithm, Digit withdraws small amounts of money every few days and deposits the funds in a separate, but non-interest bearing savings account. How much Digit pulls depends on the balance and your spending habits. Check out our review of Digit here.


Qoins is a penny rounding app, like Acorns, except instead of investing your loose change, Qoins uses it to pay down debt. They help speed up the process of paying off debt, which will save you money in interest charges. Qoins charges a small fee for their service. Saving money by being frugal is great, but getting out from under the weight of debt is even better. Qoins helps you do just that!

Qoins Price: $1.99/monthly Qoins rounds up your spare change and automatically sends it as an extra payment to your debt. Learn More Qoins Qoins is the first financial app that makes extra monthly payments towards your debt for you! Select from round ups, smart-savings and more! Pay off credit cards, student loans, auto loans, or mortgages using only your spare change.

How to Deal with Frugal Fatigue

One of the issues that have arisen with past economic troubles is that of frugal fatigue.

Many people began living more frugally after the global financial crisis and continue making efforts to live frugally in the face of further economic uncertainty.

However, after a while, it can wear you down to sacrifice too much for too long. We make restrictive budgets, and we try to avoid spending money. Over time, all this restrictiveness can result in a condition known as “frugal fatigue,” in which you simply get tired of always pinching pennies and trying to deny yourself.

In some cases, frugal fatigue can result in getting a little crazy with the spending in order to “make up” for all of the ways you have denied yourself.

Before you let frugal fatigue get the best of you, here are some things you can try to combat the feeling:

Focus on What You Already Have

Take a look at what you already have. In many cases, frugal fatigue comes from wishing you had something else.

Before you get too wrapped up in what you have been denying yourself, take a look at the good things in your life. Some of these might include:

  • Good food to eat
  • A few comforts at home
  • Family
  • Good friends
  • Your health
  • A roof over your head
  • Good books to read
  • The park nearby
  • Family game night
  • The occasional treat

In many cases, you might have more than you thought. Focusing your energy on being grateful for what you have, rather than always pining for what you don’t have, can really help you get over frugal fatigue.

Splurge on Something Small

Another great way to avoid falling prey to frugal fatigue is to plan small splurges. You can set money aside each month in a “splurge fund.” This will allow you to get something fun, and keep you going.

Rather than just getting sick of it all and splurging big, a few small splurges, when they make sense for your budget, can help you feel as though you are enjoying life without breaking the bank or sacrificing your frugal lifestyle.

Some small splurges might include getting ice cream, buying a new book, visiting the cheap theater, buying a piece of sports equipment, or getting an inexpensive used video game. And if you are shopping online, using a service like Wikibuy can help you find the best prices and available coupon codes. When you take the time to enjoy yourself and use some of your money for “fun,” you will be less inclined to give up your frugal habits altogether.

Look for Discounts on Things You Like to Do

You can also enjoy yourself, and avoid frugal fatigue, by looking for discounted activities. Look for discount passes to amusement parks, or join a daily deal site to help you get access to great deals. (Just make sure you are careful of what you buy.)

You can also look for discounted activities around town, such as summer concerts in the park, sledding at a local hill, camping, bike riding, and checking out books and movies at your local library. Keep an eye out for free museum days, or kids eat free days at local restaurants.

This will help you stay on top of your frugal budget, while still ensure that you have some fun and avoid frugal fatigue.

My Personal Frugal Living Practices

  • Look for sales, discounts, coupons on items we intend to buy.
  • We don’t shop for entertainment purposes.
  • Cook at home often.
  • Find projects we can do ourselves vs. buy.
  • We don’t buy expensive, trendy clothes. We buy expensive classic looks.
  • Find ways to experience entertainment at a reduced cost. $1 second-run movie theaters.
  • Find 2 for 1 specials or split meals at large portion restaurants.

All the while, we try and evaluate purchases based on the need for high or low quality.

Take a recent example: When we bought a new home and needed a dining table. This is our first home and table. We plan on keeping this particular dining table for as long as we can. We talk about having our grandkids sit at this table. Is this the time to buy low quality? No.

It’s best to spend the extra money to get a solid, classic piece of furniture that we’ll never have to replace.

Now as for the centerpiece we will put on this table, we decided to buy lower quality at a discount store. Why? Because the centerpiece will go out of style and we will want to change it more often.

We don’t need to put our retirement at risk just to have an expensive centerpiece that we will want to replace in two years.

These are just a few of the ways you can live a frugal life. I think it’s important that you discover the ways that work for you. Everyone has their own frugality meter, so to speak.

Frugality Doesn’t Come Natural

It didn’t for me, at least. You need to educate yourself on how to live frugally.

Every day we are bombarded with a thousand different messages of what we should do with our money. It’s up to us to learn to block and filter those messages so that we achieve the desired result either short-term or long.

Frugal vs Cheap

This is a highly debated topic, but I like to keep this pretty simple. I ask myself two questions:

  1. Is it worth the extra time/money to make the less expensive choice? In other words, if getting the less expensive item will require me to drive all the way across town and spend more in gas and time value then it probably isn’t the frugal choice. It’s just being cheap.
  2. Is the less expensive item such poor quality that it will not render any value and possibly reduce my happiness? If so, skip it. You’re just being cheap.

Also, any time you have to lie to save money is cheap–not frugal. For example, saying your teenager is 12 to get the child discount crosses the frugality line in my mind.

Benefits of a Frugal Life

  • The satisfaction of knowing you are achieving your goals
  • Getting the best value
  • Enjoying and honoring the things you own

Keep in Mind that Frugality is Your Choice

Frugal living isn’t always easy. Sooner or later your attempts at living the frugal lifestyle are going to be shot down.

The other day a reader posed the question,

“How do you deal with friends and family that like to spend more frivolously than you, and sometimes put pressure on you to spend more, or worse…they make fun of your lifestyle?”

Example scenarios that come to mind: dinner and a movie out with friends, multi-family vacations, and neighborhood parties. These are all times when the pressure for you to “keep up” is very high. Constantly dealing with these situations and trying to live frugal at the same time can be challenging.

Life is worth living to its fullest and becoming a hermit is not the answer so I’ve got a few guidelines for you to consider:

One of the great things about this country of ours is the notion that (for the most part) you can make your life what you want it, increase your earnings, and spend your money on whatever you like. It’s a great freedom we have.

That being the case, you’re not responsible for the way others live their lives. If they want to spend wastefully all the time (or just sometimes), it’s their right. It’s not your place to tell them how to spend. You don’t like their comments about your choices, and neither do they.

Like a reader once said, the only time you should tell someone to quit spending wastefully is if they’re involving you (i.e. asking you for money). So keep the focus on what you can control: your own spending.

Additionally, remember that one person’s idea of frugal is not another’s.

That friend’s purchase that you’re questioning might be the only thing they’re splurging on at the time. Or, they may have all their other financial goals met, so they are free to spend how they please.

The take away here is that if someone is pressuring you to spend, don’t look down on them. Instead, have confidence enough in yourself and your goals to do what’s best for you at the time. If you’re friends and family are half-way reasonable, they’ll understand and take note.

You Don’t Always Have to Make the Frugal Choice

I see frugality as finding a balance across three spectra: high quality/high price vs low quality/low price; needs vs wants; and consumerism vs minimalism.

But you don’t always have to live right down the center of each of these. It’s okay to be cheap sometimes and it’s okay to splurge on the ultra-expensive.

The goal should be to see yourself continually trending in the more frugal direction.

I certainly don’t always make the smart, frugal choice with my spending. Sometimes I’m in a rush or I just give in to my wants.

It happens. That’s okay. As long as I’m meeting my savings goals and not carrying too much debt I know I’m going to be alright.

Again, I’m looking for a frugal trend in my life, not perfection.

Avoid these 5 Frugal Spending Traps

If you’re reading this then you probably have a desire to live a more frugal life. But developing a finely-tuned frugal mindset can take some time. It’s not easy.

When you first start trying to spend less on things your eye catches every potential deal that’s out there. However, there are a few traps that can end up hurting your chances of success. 

I offer up a few that I’ve seen trick me in the past.

1. Buying the Wrong Products in Bulk

This is the classic trap. You see a crate full of something and look at the total price. In your mind, you quickly calculate the per-item cost and you are blown away at the savings. You buy it.

Three months later you still have two-thirds of the product left and no desire to use it, or even worse, it’s expired. If you’re a regular Sam’s or Costco user you know what I’m talking about.

2. Free Trials Turn into (Oops!) Credit Card Charges

We’ve all signed up for a free trial and accidentally forgot to cancel after the trial period. It happens. You end up paying an extra month of something that you stopped using after the first free week. If you use free trials, please make sure you set yourself a reminder to cancel the subscription.

3. Chasing the After-Purchase Rebates

With a little work, the after-purchase rebate can work out great. Mostly though, we get a product home and never take the time to mail in the forms to get the rebate.

You’re too busy using whatever it is you bought, right? Also, if the rebate is a reward instead of money, make sure it’s a reward you want.

Bottom line: try to buy products with in-store rebates and get all your money up-front.

4. Not Reading the Fine Print

You mean I have to buy two? You mean I have to dine-in to get the deal? Take the time to read the small print on all your coupons, as they will inform you of what kind of deal you are really getting.

5. Confusing Cheap for Frugal

Lastly, don’t ever confuse frugality with being cheap. There’s a big difference, in my opinion. Find the balance between sacrificing your time/effort and the price you are paying.

Also, try to avoid sacrificing quality if it’s a product that you will be sitting on, sleeping on, or depending on in some way.

Make Frugality Cool

Maybe it’s not your lifestyle that your friends or family don’t agree with, it’s the way you present it. When presenting your frugal lifestyle to others, do it in a positive way.

Make frugal cool. Like a good politician, put your best spin on your spending choices.

The way I see it, the choice for a life of frugality can be presented (to friends and family) in one of two ways:

1. With phrases like, “that’s too expensive for us”, “we can’t afford that, so we have to do this”, “who would ever pay that much for that?”, “that’s a wasteful choice, so we’ll do this”.

This person, although probably correct in their statements, is not very fun to be around. And their certainly not making the frugal lifestyle look cool. They’re focusing in on the negative aspects of their spending choices.


2. With phrases like, “check out how much we’ll save,” “we got so much more because we bought this instead of this,” “coupon’s and shopping around are awesome because it means we get to save that extra money, or give it away,” “doing it myself was more rewarding,” “I feel like I got the best value for my dollar.”

That’s the kind of person that seems to have it all figured out and is pleasant to be around. Now, I know I’ve been a victim of the first mentality myself at times, but isn’t the second choice such a better route to take with how you present your frugal life?

What’s Next?

As I mentioned, living frugally is about making intentional spending choices. Hopefully, you have financial goals in place already. Implementing the tips mentioned above will help you get closer to your financial goals. what steps are you taking to live a more frugal lifestyle? Let us know in the comments below!

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About Philip Taylor, CPA

Philip Taylor, aka "PT", is a CPA, blogger, podcaster, husband, and father of three. PT is also the founder and CEO of the personal finance industry conference and trade show, FinCon.

He created Part-Time Money® back in 2007 to share his advice on money, hold himself accountable (while paying off over $75k in debt), and to meet others passionate about moving toward financial independence.

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