POPSUGAR Smart Living

66 Tried-and-Tested Tips For a Frugal Life

May 28 2014 - 2:00am

It's easy to say that you want to save more money. It's harder to actually implement that. Living a frugal life calls for a lifestyle change and a conscious awareness of how you're spending and saving. It also requires a certain know-how. Learn these tried-and-tested frugal tips from fellow scrimpers cited in Reddit's subsection for frugal people [1].

Source: Shutterstock [2]

Get a Deep Freezer (If You Have the Space For It)

Reddit user omegaphora [3] says:

"That thing has been incredible. Budgets ebb and flow. In lean times, it has been great comfort to me knowing that I have "fresh" fruits/veggies in the freezer, for all sorts of uses. Dry goods/pantry items alone get very tiring and redundant. We have at least a few months of food now in the fridge/freezer, deep freezer, and pantry.

"Our tactic now is to buy in bulk and buy on sale. Many fresh foods can be frozen on a cookie sheet, then transferred into a container (diced fruit for smoothies, diced veggies for soups). I usually bake two loaves of bread at a time — freezing the extra one."

Buy Whole Hams and Have the Deli Guy Slice It

Reddit user Hamsterdam [4] says:

"Deli sliced ham cost two or three times as much as a whole ham. Most grocery store delis will slice a whole ham for you.

"A local store had a sale on deli sliced ham for $4 a pound. They were also having a sale on whole hams, $0.99 a pound. The ham weighed about 10 pounds, and I knew we wouldn't be able to eat it all at once. That's OK because cold cuts freeze really well.

"You might consider asking the deli to slice some of the meat into thicker slices for variety. (The ham steaks are great on the grill with some sliced pineapples, half peaches, and bell peppers.)

"If you have a good relationship with the store you could call ahead and have them slice the meat for you for pick up later."

Get Your Over-the-Counter Meds From Amazon

Reddit user POTATO_IN_MY_OVEN [5] says:

"Before you buy something at a brick-and-mortar store, check Amazon! You can usually find a generic version for much cheaper. The markup for name brands is ridiculous. For instance, I take Loratadine for my allergies. The name brand Claritin costs anywhere from $5 to $10 for 10 pills at my local grocery stores. On Amazon, you can get a bottle of generic Loratadine containing 400 pills for $18! Same active ingredient, for 10 times cheaper."

Automate It

Reddit user professional_slacker [6] says:

"Ever since I bought my house and took on a mortgage payment of $800 a month, I have had my bank take $400 out of my paycheck every other week and put it into a separate savings account. Then at the end of the month, I make my mortgage payment directly from that account. I never see the money, so I don't miss it, and there's no way for me to run out of money for my house payment. It makes things so much easier, especially for a habitual overspender like me.

"I've decided to start doing the same for all my bills — figure up how much I pay per month for all my bills, add in some savings, then take half of that amount out of every check so that my entire net salary is 'my' money. Hardly a new and exciting idea, but as somebody who has gotten into trouble in the past by spending money irresponsibly, this has been a great way to keep me from overspending (or at the very least keep me from defaulting on my bills by overspending)."

Pick Your Own Fruits From a Local Orchard

i_forget_my_userids [7] spent $32 to pick her own fruit from a local orchard and managed to get a lot of bang for her buck. The user picked 10 ears of corn, about four pounds of jalapeños, eight poblanos, and approximately 170 peaches.

The user obviously can't finish the produce before it goes bad, so she will can most of the fruit to use later.

Know What the Average Price For Common Goods Are

Reddit user manbeef [8] says:

"Hit up a couple of grocery stores in your area or look at flyers. Compare your food staples and see which store is cheaper. Hopefully you'll notice a trend. In my area, I have three grocery stores to choose from: one is overall a lot more expensive, but has a lot of unique and hard-to-find items; the second is expensive, but has a good selection of produce and meats; the third one is cheaper overall, but lacks some items. I usually shop on my way home from work, hitting the cheap store first, getting everything I can, then hitting the midpriced store the next day on my way home for the odd item I can't get.

"What you should be able to do is walk into a store, look at a product, and know what a good price for that product is. If it's a deal, buy it, or buy some extra. I still get caught buying something at one store when I don't know the average price, then realizing at the next store that it's half the price there."

Reddit user seriouslyjessie [9] shared a listing [10] of national averages for various grocery staples.

Find Affordable Recipes

Reddit user Cheesy_bacon [11] says:

"The blog Budget Bytes [12] is quite useful for money minded meals I particularly love her taco bowl [13]slow cooker recipe, it can makes a chicken breast (bone-in is best bang for your buck) last 4 meals "

Skip the Laptop

Reddit user wallplant [14] says:

"Instead of spending $500 dollars or more on a new laptop, I bought a Bluetooth keyboard that I can use with my Android smartphone for taking notes. I really have no need for a laptop right now because I can do basically everything on my phone so this is a great money-saver. Also all I have to carry around is a keyboard and maybe some batteries.

" . . . I also have Google drive, so it syncs up to my desktop computer at home just in case I lose my phone or it breaks."

Print at Work

Reddit user Jasonrj [15] says:

"If you don't need it, don't own a printer. I print event tickets, directions, etc., all at work."

Check Your Bills

Reddit user ErinfromAlbany [16] says:

"Verizon botched my bill. It was $190 and it should have been $90. This is a really obvious overage, but saved me $100 by just looking at the amount and picking up the phone for a 25-minute phone call."

Insulate Your Home to Save on Energy Bills

A commenter on this Reddit thread [17] says:

"You can get space blankets cheap on Amazon [18]. Cheap like maybe a buck and change, and each one will cover two windows.

"Mist the window lightly with plain water on the inside of the glass. Cut a piece of space blanket Mylar maybe a wee bit big and press it against the glass. Work out the wrinkles to your satisfaction and optionally run a box cutter around the edges for a neat fit.

"When Winter comes and you need the solar gain, just peel off the space blanket and fold them for later use.

". . . I can't remember where the heck I got the Bubble Wrap trick [19], but it's totally awesome, and it is actually the genesis of this tip. Kept me toasty warm last Winter."

Shave Your Old Woolen Clothing to Renew It

Reddit user punkfluff [20] says:

"Resurrect old woolen clothes using only the power of a cheap disposable razor.

"The razor will rid the pilling from clothes when you run it over them."

Use the Stranger Test When Shopping

Reddit user imanimpostor [21] says:

"Use the stranger test to reduce impulse purchases: when considering a purchase, picture a stranger offering you [the cash value of the purchase] or the item in question. Which is of greater value you? Which would you choose?"

Keep Your Home Clean

Reddit user ukulelechica [22] says:

"It saves money on cleaning products, because if you keep it clean, you don't have to buy expensive products to cut through all the grime. A simple wipe down with a wet rag will do.

"It saves money at the store, because when my home is clean and organized, I know exactly what I have and don't have so I stopped buying duplicates."

Try Ethnic Supermarkets

Shop in the ethnic aisle of your supermarket or in ethnic supermarkets — you'll find cheaper fresh produce and meats. Reddit user nickplosion [23] explains why the goods are cheaper:

"Ethnic markets sell way more raw produce and meats than your local chain grocery store does. Most grocery stores in America make their money on prepackaged stuff and use their produce departments to "prime" you into feeling hungry and buying something easier. Ethnic markets, on the other hand, serve a clientele that usually have a tighter budget and more mouths to feed. They'll buy more raw ingredients and they'll buy them more often. Therefore, ethnic marts can order more from the supplier and usually get a much better price, since he's got to sell it before it goes bad too."

Maintain Your Clothes to Reduce Visits to the Dry Cleaner

Reddit user fatrob [24] says:

"Every day when you take off your suit, put the jacket on a hanger and place the trousers on the clamp-style hanger (the type that allows you to clamp the bottom and the whole pant hangs down with no fold). This will ensure that you never have to press your trousers between cleanings. Do not wear the garment for at least a day: it will allow for any creases to fall out on their own. Invest in a good umbrella and overcoat, keep your suit dry, you will not get the puckering at the seams.

"Depending on the season, either weekly or every two weeks, I will freshen the suits with Dryel (Walmart sells it at less than $11 for a six pack). Dryel works by 'steaming' the clothes in a nylon bag, leaves a light scent, and removes 99 percent of the stains I have thrown toward it. I will steam no more than two garments at a time (instructions say you can do four). Before steaming, I will use the Dryel sheet and go over any stains I notice to pretreat."

Grow Your Own Food

Reddit user YYYY [25] says:

"Learn to grow . . . food. It is not hard, and you don't need a lot of tools, either. I mostly use a shovel and five-tine fork. I don't plow, till, or weed — because I don't have many weeds."

And if growing your own food seems intimidating or if you don't have a garden, start by growing herbs in your kitchen.

Make Your Own Detergent

Reddit user thefingolfin [26] says:

"It only took me about an hour to make a powdered detergent from Borax, washing soda, and bar soap (one cup, one cup, and ½ bar respectively). There are tons of recipes. This is the one I used [27]. The rough cost estimates for me were 900 loads for about $20. Cheapest equivalent was Aldi's detergent at 360 loads for $25."

Check out our simple recipe [28] for DIY [29] detergent.

Photo: Emily Co

Brew Your Own Alcohol

Reddit user thefingolfin [30] says:

"I've just started testing the waters of brewing with some one-gallon test batches of apfelwein (apple wine). Ciders and meads don't usually require boiling, so there is less initial equipment to purchase, but even for making beer, after the about $150 initial purchase, your batches will run between $20 and $40 for 50 to 60 bottles of beer that's better than from the store. It's not for everyone, but it's a hobby I'm interested in and will save money in the long run."

Cut Cable TV

Reddit user thefingolfin [31] says:

"Instead of a cable package get a Roku player (about $50 to $60 if you look for a cheap model refurbished or on sale — there are plenty of similar items you could get instead) with your choice of Hulu Plus, Netflix, Amazon prime video . . . I will also buy a HDTV antenna."

Manage Your Personal Finances

Reddit user thefingolfin [32] says:

"Get out of debt, save up a six-month emergency fund, max out an employer-matched 401K plan, then start investing in indexed mutual funds. Make the money you've saved work for you. I think Scott Adam's (Dilbert cartoonist) nine-point plan to personal finance [33] is an easy and clear way that explained the basics tenets of personal finance."

Restore or Build Your Own Furniture

Reddit user thefingolfin [34] says:

"I've recently started getting my feet wet in some DIY [35] projects . . . I build a headboard for our bed for under $50. A friend gave us a large wooden spool that my wife and I are going to convert into a table/bookshelf combo. With a few tools and some time, you can save hundreds of dollars and have the satisfaction of building things yourself."

Exercise Outside of a Gym

Reddit user thefingolfin [36] says:

"Paying for a gym membership, in my opinion, can be a frugal option if it makes you exercise (so many benefits from exercising . . . I need to do it more), but it's very easy and totally free to go for a walk/job/run outside, and from just a monetary perspective, it will save you tons of health care money down the road."

Use a Rewards Credit Card Instead of a Debit Card

Reddit user thefingolfin [37] says:

For those who have a good handle on their spending, "use a rewards credit card instead of a debit card. I fully understand this is not a good idea for some people. I could tell you several of my friends who I would specifically recommend to not use a credit card. However, in my situation, where I have great mutual accountability between me and my wife, the $300 sign-up bonus and the one to five percent cash back on purchases has been a nice source of extra money and hasn't increased our spending at all."

Don't Rent a Modem

Reddit user thefingolfin [38] says:

"I will definitely buy a modem (it will cost about $40) instead of renting one for $5 a month."

Use OpenOffice and Google Docs instead of Microsoft Office

Reddit user thefingolfin [39] says:

"While some people need the extra features that Microsoft Office provides (such as Excel . . . can't really get a comparable substitute), it amazes me that many people I know do not take advantage of these free and powerful alternatives to a $100 software package."

Learn How to DIY

Reddit user theinfamousj [40] says:

"Take every single (free or low-cost) class that you can find in your area that offers DIY [41] repair skills. Hit up Home Depot or Lowe's to learn how to tile, so that when that one tile inevitably cracks, you will know exactly how to repair it. Ditto plumbing. Learn to solder so you can fix your electronics. Take a basic sewing course so that you can do basic mending. Bump it up a notch and learn to do your own basic alterations, too, so you can get more use out of a trip to Goodwill. Machines may make sewing easier, but they aren't necessary."

Only Drink Water

Reddit user 4n7h0ny [42] says:

"Only drink water — this is especially true if you are out to eat."

Treat Yourself Once in a While

Reddit user dahvzombie [43] says:

"On the other hand, saving money is kind of like losing weight — if you don't treat yourself occasionally, you're likely to binge and destroy all your hard work. Once you're sure you want/need something and you find a good price, get it!"

Wait Out Luxury Purchases

Reddit user dahvzombie [44] says:

"Sit on all luxury purchases for at least two weeks. Do research, price comparisons, and think heavily about whether you need the thing. People are emotional, and most of us are guilty of impulse buying — wait it out!"

Scour Craigslist

Reddit user boojieboy [45] says:

"Lots of great cheap/free stuff to be found in there. Have a working list of things you're looking for, then continually scan for them. Smartphone CL apps are great for this.

"Then, continually turn over your unnecessary stuff on CL as well. Quickest way to get rid of something large and slightly valuable (like an old chair or something): post it for free on there."

Make a Lifestyle Change

Reddit user poorsoi [46] says:

"I'd like to first say that frugality is a lifestyle, like vegetarianism. The best thing you can do is get used to small adjustments like turning off lights that aren't being used, carpool when possible, compare before buying, and so on."

Use Vinegar

Reddit user WindyJane [47] says:

"Vinegar . . . vinegar everywhere! This is my main thing. Between Murphy's Oil Soap, dish soap, baking soda, and vinegar, I spend less than $10 a year to keep a clean house. Also has laundry uses, as hair treatment, and so much more. Frugal and the air quality in your house improves."

Here are 23 handy uses [48] for vinegar.

Buy Quality Clothes

Reddit user 50missioncap [49] says:

"It's often frugal to spend more money on better quality clothing (which isn't necessarily designer!). I bought some expensive work pants, and they still haven't frayed or faded much after seven-plus years of very regular use."

And as for buying quality clothing, here are more tips from 50missioncap [50]:

"I wouldn't really recommend brands or stores, because they can be hit or miss. But here are some tips:

Be Honest With Friends About Your Budget

Reddit user hntingbears [51] says:

"It's OK to say I can't afford to go/do/see______ to friends/coworkers/family, etc. Be honest about your budget as people will understand. I do it all the time now, and it really helps me to keep from overspending on frivolous things."

Use Less

Reddit user coffeeshopgirl7 [52] says:

"Use less of everything. It's terribly wasteful how much product we as Americans use for everyday tasks. The toothpaste doesn't have to be running down your arm to get your teeth clean. One tablespoon of liquid laundry detergent is sufficient for an average load (or you could make your own for a lot less)."

Start Looking Well in Advance For Big Purchases

Reddit user QueenPigeon [53] says:

"When it comes to big purchases — say, a new car or a big piece of furniture — start looking well in advance. As an example . . . we decided to start the search for a new car. We tossed around all sorts of ideas, colors, makes, models. We scoured Craigslist and talked to friends and family about what they drove. In the end, after taking our sweet time and having extreme patience we found an 4x4 Escape worth over $6,000 and paid $2,000 for it 'cause someone just wanted rid of it."

Look For Cheaper Means of Transportation

Reddit user thesecretofjoy [54] says:

"I got rid of my car five years ago. I did it when I was still living outside of the city I worked in. My cost to own and operate a vehicle was over $600 a month with car payment, gas, insurance, and maintenance. Now I live in the city and use transit, my bike, and my feet. If I need a car and can't borrow one from a friend, I rent one and still save thousands of dollars a year. Not having a car makes it harder to hop in the car and go spend money when I'm bored."

Focus on Preventative Care

Reddit user thesecretofjoy [55] says:

"I pay for health insurance and use it to get all the preventative care I'm entitled to. Poor health can bankrupt, so I intend to stay as healthy as possible."

Never Buy Things Full Price

Reddit user WindyJane [56] says:

"Also never pay full price for anything. If you need something, first research the "normal" price then figure out how to get it on sale, coupon, discount store, etc. After researching and taking time on a few things, eventually you'll learn which stores are best for some items, which for others, which to get online vs. in person, etc. Even when grocery shopping, arrange your menu planning around what's in season (it's always cheaper then) and what's on sale. For big-ticket items or planned things like birthday gifts, plan ahead and aim for sale times. You can find lists online of the times of year different things (clothes, electronics) go on their biggest sales and buy them then."

Adjust Your Thermostat

Reddit user coffeeshopgirl7 [57] says:

"One thing that has saved us a lot on our electric bill is to bump the thermostat two or three degrees in either direction depending on the season. It's a bit uncomfortable at first, but with a sweater or a glass of ice water, your body can learn to adjust and your pocketbook will thank you."

Dry Your Clothes on a Clothesline

Reddit user coffeeshopgirl7 [58] says:

"Get a clothesline if you don't already have one."

Extend the Life of Your Disposable Razor

Reddit user willco17 [59] says:

"You can extend the life of disposables using your arm. It's like using a strop to smooth out imperfections. More details here [60]."

Take Baby Steps

Reddit user TrekMadone [61] says:

"When I started, I made small changes monthly and added them in. I think that was the major reason for my success. The best advice I would give to anyone is take two pieces of advice from this topic and add them to your frugal ritual monthly!"

Visit a "Pick Your Own" Farm

Redditor fyrie managed to score all this produce [62] for just $9 at a pick-your-own-vegetables farm.

Source: Imgur [63]

Guide to Making Cheap but Good Food

This guide shares awesome recipes and the affordable ingredients you need to make them. Check out this version [64] of the graphic that lets you zoom in and read.

Source: Facebook user Cressida Bell [65]

Mio Sauce Bottles

Use a mio energy drink bottle for the sauces and salad dressings you want to pack with your lunch.

Source: Imgur [66]

Take Advantage of Price Matching

Many retailers, like Target, have a price-match policy [67] in which they will match the price of the competitor. Oftentimes, this includes Amazon products, which you can quickly look up with ease on your smartphone. 

Source: Imgur [68]

Truly Use It to the Last Drop

We all know that it's good to use everything to the last drop, but cutting up tubes before throwing them away takes it a step further and ensures that you're really using up every last bit.

Source: Imgur [69]

Regrow Vegetables

Plenty of vegetables can be regrown from scraps [70]. It's a great way to save money and make the most out of food. 

Source: Imgur [71]

Make Your Own Bread

Making your own bread can save you a lot of money. A Redditor user says the cost of making this loaf of bread is less than $1. POPSUGAR Food has plenty of bread recipes [72] for any level of baker.

Source: Imgur [73]

Check Out Misspelled Items on eBay

You can use this site [74] to find misspelled items on eBay that no one else is bidding on. The only caveat is that sometimes sellers who misspell the names can be careless and unreliable in the transactions as well, so you may run the risk of dealing with a difficult seller. 

Take Free Classes Online

Knowledge is priceless, which is why you should take advantage of free online classes. This site [75] offers up links to over 800 free online courses at schools like MIT, NYU, and Harvard.

Discounts on Medication

The site GoodRX.com [76] has coupons and discounts on common medication. One Redditor saved up to $65 [77] on a three-month supply of blood pressure medication. 

Ask For Returned Paint

Save by buying returned paint. This Redditor paid $5 [78] for paint worth $70. Be aware, though, that returned paint is usually tinted a different shade than the original by the store. If you need to get a second can of paint, you should be able to have it color-matched. 

Get the House You Need, Not the One You Want

Although this couple [79] got approved for a home of up to $230,000, they ended up going with a $70,000 house that suits their needs. This turned out to be a great decision as they have a lot of money left over to pad up their savings every month because they pay less for their monthly mortgage, home upkeep, utilities, property taxes, and more. 

Get $5 Christmas Trees

Lowe's marks down Christmas trees with brown spots to $5, according to Redditor FriedPorkchop [80]. These can generally be found in the back.

Participate in a No-Spend Month

Redditor acts541 [81] gives the lowdown on how you can start a no-spend month: "Pay all the bills at the beginning of the month, set aside your 15% savings (or more), and only spend money on gasoline & groceries. That means no eating out, no alcohol, no renting movies, no shopping, etc."

This plan enabled him and his wife to become debt-free in three years with six months' worth of savings. They would participate in a no-spend month every other month. If this sounds too extreme, you can always tweak it to suit your lifestyle, for example, having a no-spend month once a year or a no-spend week every month.

A Great Use For Low Balances on Prepaid Gift Cards

Instead of forgetting about your gift card with low balances, use whatever is left to purchase an Amazon gift card [82]. You won't have to worry about the gift card expiring.

Get Creative When Maintaining Clothes

To make your clothes look the way you want them to look after a period of using them, perhaps you need to get creative. You can do things like use a shaver to shave off the pilling [83] or redye items like what this Redditor did with her faded blue jeans [84].

Source: Imgur [85]

Drop Your Contract

Although you can save up to hundreds on a new smartphone if you sign up for a contract deal, you can actually save more if you opt for a no-contract deal and pay full price for the phone. One Redditor recommends checking out Ting.com [86]. The Reddit user managed to reduce a $160 phone bill to $25 using this strategy [87]. 

Make Food Items Yourself

There are plenty of food items you can make yourself, such as this almond milk a Redditor made from crushing almonds [88]. Here are more foods you should DIY [89] and not buy. 

Source: Imgur [90]

Pick Up the Phone and Negotiate

There is no harm in calling a service provider to see if they can lower the bill or drop some fees. Some Redditors claim [91] you shouldn't be afraid to threaten to cancel your service (in a nice way of course), which sometimes will reduce your bill.

Shop at Ethnic Markets

You can get cheaper prices at ethnic supermarkets, as evidenced by this ad posted by a Redditor.

Source: Imgur [92]

Buy Generic Drugs at Costco

A Consumer Reports survey released this year found that people can pay up to 447 percent [93] or $749 more on generic medicine at the highest-priced pharmacy, compared to the lowest. Costco had the cheapest prices, while CVS, Rite Aid, and Target had the most expensive prices for generic drugs.

Make Your Own Cleaning Products

Why pay for brand-name items filled with chemicals when you can make your own cleaning products that are eco-friendly and cost almost nothing to make? We have a whole list of DIY cleaners [94] you can make on your own.

Photo: Sarah Lipoff


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