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You’re finally ready to trim that budget so that you can pay down debt! But after all the “no brainer” ways to save, you’re ready for some serious savings ideas! How is frugal living accomplished? Here’s “50 Frugal Living Hacks to Pay off Debt”!
What’s Your “Why”?
We all need motivation in order to stay dedicated to something.
That motivation differs from person to person, however, it’s important to establish your “why”!
“Why” do you want to save money? “Why” is frugal living important to you?
For us, it’s two kids in college. It’s our goal to put our children through college without any student debt. This goal is very important to us, making me willing to cut corners and save money anywhere I can. Frugal living will get us to our goal.
Live Below Your Means
When we decide to lose weight, we all know that we need to eat fewer calories than we burn. Simple, but not always easy.
The same is true with our finances.
I remember the shock, 28 years ago, when my husband and I realized that we were spending at least 20% more than we earned! Funny thing was, I felt as though we lived fairly frugally! We didn’t drive new cars, we lived in an average home and made well pretty good money because we both worked full-time.
But on paper, we were broke.
If you’re interested in how we paid off over $100K of debt in 3 1/2 year, you can read our story here.
You won’t ever know for sure if you’re living below your means until you track your expenses for a couple of months and compare it to what your income is.
Everydollar.com is a free budgeting tool that can help you get on track. You can set up a budget and track spending on your phone and computer! I’ve recommended it to my adult children.
Become a Producer
Rather than purchase everything you need, look for ways to make things yourself to fill those needs.
This change will take you from being a “consumer” to being a “producer”.
This is life-changing!
Becoming a Producer can Become a Reality just by Practicing Hobbies that Produce Something Useful!
Ask yourself what your skill-set is and look for ways to “produce”. Do you…
- Enjoy working on cars?
- Like to sew?
- Can or dehydrate food?
- Keep bees?
- Knit or crochet?
All of these hobbies/skills produce something that is not only useful for your family, but will cut your overall living expenses!
Studies show that we see over 3,000 images a day to consume.
Much of what we see is from our screens: TV, tablets, laptops and phones.
By taking periodic “Electronic Fasts”, we can “unplug” from the noise and materialism and focus on what’s really important.
Another take on “unplugging” is to unplug items that aren’t in service around your home!
You would be shocked to know the amount of electricity that’s used for what’s called “vampire load”! It’s the small amount of electricity that’s needed to turn your lights/appliances on.
But think about everything you have plugged in the walls, using that “vampire load”, everyday 24/7!
It adds up, believe me! Consider either unplugging lamps and small appliances when not in use OR invest in electrical strips to manage your power usage.
Use the 24-hour Rule
It would be impossible to quantify the amount of money we’ve saved in 28 years of marriage by practicing this rule.
If one of us sees a good deal on something, that wasn’t previously budgeted for, we discipline ourselves to walk out of the store and wait for at least 24 hours. We also share what we saw with the other spouse and get some feedback.
99 times out of 100, we don’t go back to purchase that item.
With a little thought, away from the “moment”, we usually realize that we either didn’t really need it or couldn’t really spare the funds at the time.
Repair, Don’t Replace
Keep repairing, even when you’re tempted to replace an item.
Most of us don’t care to take the time to figure out how to fix something. We’ve been convinced that it’s just cheaper to “buy another one”.
Maybe that’s true, but not always. Why not get on “YouTube” and try to find a way to repair what you already own.
ALWAYS Carry a Water Bottle (and a snack!)
I carry a water bottle with me all the time.
It’s just a habit to fill up my bottle (with water or coffee) as I’m heading out the door. You can do the same and never be thirsty, OR tempted to stop for something when you’re away from home.
Buy in Bulk Only When it Saves You Money
I enjoy buying bulk and have done it for many years! Feeding a large family really benefits from buying very large bags and packages of food!
However, when you bring “warehouse clubs” into the conversation, you’ve got to do a little more thinking.
Clubs like Costco and Sam’s are wonderful, but you have to ask yourself how much you really save AFTER the membership fee.
According to their website, Gold Star Costco memberships will cost $60 in 2020 and Executive memberships will cost $120. We have the Gold Star membership and I know that we save at least $200 by shopping there.
We don’t buy everything at Costco, otherwise we wouldn’t save much. Some of their prices are on the high side, other items are great deals.
You’ve got to know your unit prices before you shop at a warehouse club, or any store for that matter. Making a “Price Book” is the only way to know for sure.
Make a Price Book
Taking the time to make a price book will pay benefits for a long time!
To make a price book, you will first need to identify 3-4 local stores that you either shop at currently or have access to.
Next, you need to make a list of the top 20 products you eat the most.
Then, visit each store and look for all of your 20 items, writing down the unit price of the size you usually buy. Once you have this information in your hands, you now have the power to truly recognize a “good deal”!
Pack Lunches and Snacks
My kids have always packed their school lunches. This alone saves us a tremendous amount of money! School lunches cost $5-6 dollars, if you multiply that by our 9 children…yeah.
I frequently pack a sandwich when I know that I’m going to be out for a while on errands. It’s a good idea to pack a little something for anyone who’s joining you.
Taking leftovers to work with you is a wonderful use of the food you’ve already paid for! It’s healthier too!
I’ll admit that it’s one of my greatest temptations to just drive through Chick Fila and get a beverage,
Create Simple Meal Plans and Freeze Future Meals
The best way to find yourself ordering pizza is when you’re hungry and have nothing planned for dinner.
Do some batch cooking for the coming week on Sunday. Cut up things like cooked chicken, meatloaf or roast, vegetables, salad, etc. and put them in clear containers in the frig. Family members can make themselves a plate or sandwich easily, whether the entire family is at home for dinner or not.
Make a couple of casseroles that you can put in the freezer and just pop in the oven for dinner!
Dinner doesn’t have to be rigid or fancy. Our family loves soup and sandwich! Breakfast is another fast and easy dinner idea! (When you have chickens, there’s always plenty of eggs!)
ALWAYS Eat Your Leftovers
Meal planning, to include your leftovers, will go a long way to save money! Frugal gurus always eat their leftovers!
Studies say that Americans throw out 40% of their food! That’s a lot of waste, and MONEY wasted.
If they aren’t already, get your family comfortable with eating leftovers. As I write this, we are having a “leftovers night” at our house.
Dinner will consist of some combination of one chicken breast saved from another meal, leftover chili, cooked carrots (that I canned) and pumpkin bread (that is in the oven now!). The pumpkin bread used up canned pumpkin and fresh (but on their way out!) cranberries from the holidays!
To avoid food waste in general, buy less but more often. Fresh foods and produce can go bad before they are consumed! That’s money down the drain!
Avoid Bank Fees at All Costs
Bank fees are one of those things in life that I just avoid like the plague. What a waste of money!
Only bank where they offer free checking.
Ask questions about what’s required. You may need to keep a minimum balance or consent to direct deposit. Sometimes opening a savings account at the same institution works to your advantage. Don’t be afraid to question the details at your bank!
If you find that you can’t avoid fees where you currently bank, look elsewhere.
Skip the Gym
I’m not a fan of the gym.
Let me clarify. I don’t like the idea of paying to exercise.
Frugal living would include natural exercise, like walking, jogging or biking. Second-hand weights can be used easily at home to strengthen your body, on your own terms and time. There are zillions of videos on YouTube ranging from yoga to aerobic exercise.
No reason to spend a dime.
Use Loyalty Programs Wisely
Loyalty programs are offered by many stores these days.
While some loyalty programs can truly save you money, beware of ones that require more of you than they give back.
Any amount of food that you grow is money saved directly to your bottom line.
Regardless of where you live, including an apartment, you can grow something. From lettuce grown in a pot near a window to sprouts grown in a jar, having a source of fresh food saves a lot of money!
If you have even a small lot, grow something! Easy crops include lettuces, kale, spinach, green beans, radishes, but there are so many more!
Use Less Than Directed
Do you usually use the recommended amount of toothpaste, detergent or shampoo?
This is almost never necessary.
Even though the toothpaste commercials show a toothbrush with toothpaste all the way across it, you only need about a pea-sized dot to get your teeth clean.
The full amount of detergent recommended isn’t usually necessary, unless you have a very muddy load of laundry. If you use a store brand of detergent on your clothes regularly, there is likely a residue on your clothing. This residue would allow your clothes to suds up in the washer, even without adding more detergent.
Shampoo makers want you to run out of their product just as soon as possible, so you’ll buy more. Keep using a little less, gradually, until the desired result is achieved.
Use LED Bulbs
I love Simple Dollar’s explanation of the comparison between LED bulbs and CFL’s. We converted last year and have totally saved money with LED’s. The price has gone down considerably for LED’s, ranging around $7 for two bulbs.
Change over as finances allow, this is a long-term effort, but well worth the time!
Off-season travel is far less expensive than on-season.
Look for ways to take your vacation days when the rates are cheapest!
When we homeschooled our children, we loved taking them to the beach off-season! It was less expensive so we could stay longer!
Buy Meat in Bulk
Before we started raising our own, we purchased a whole beef every year from an organic farmer. The price per pound was significantly lower, as well as better quality, than anything I could buy at the store.
You don’t have to buy a whole beef, you can usually buy as little as a quarter of a beef. Check out localharvest.org to find a farmer in your area.
With 9 children in our home, I made my own detergent.
This decision alone saved us so much money! We literally saved thousands over the years!
Our recipe, that I share here, made 10 gallons of detergent for under $4!
Create a Paper-Free Kitchen
When I was growing up, there wasn’t much in the way of paper products in our kitchen.
I’m so glad to see that folks are headed back to “paper-free”, but I must admit, using cloth towels, wash rags and cloth napkins just seems so natural.
How did we get so far away from using fabric?
I totally love my cloth napkins!
Cloth napkins are incredibly easy to make and use very little fabric. As a matter of fact, you can almost make them from scrap fabric!
Check out my tutorial!
Once again, we always had a clothes line growing up.
You may not realize it, but the US is one of the only countries where most homes have a washer and dryer.
It’s quite uncommon to even own a dryer abroad. Europeans are quite comfortable with hanging out their clothes, with only 56% of the population owning a clothes dryer. Those who have one don’t use it regularly.
Not only do I love the smell of air-dried clothing, but not using the dryer really saves your clothes!
Cut Your Own Hair
There are hundreds of dollars every year waiting to be saved by not paying for haircuts! I am quite sure that we have saved thousands of dollars over the years, by cutting our kid’s hair at home.
Cutting one’s own hair is quite common these days, whether you are a man or a woman or have long or short hair!
Here again, YouTube to the rescue!
Do Your Own Dog Grooming
Our sweet little Havenese, Remi, requires grooming. Frankly, I’ve never owned a dog that required grooming.
I’ll admit that I took Remi for grooming for a while, but then I realized that I was spending more to get him clipped than I paid for my own hair to be done! That’s just TOO much money to spend!
After purchasing a grooming table and a better quality pair of clippers, I groom Remi myself. Oh! Not to mention, quite a few Youtube videos were watched.
The table and clippers paid for themselves after 2 clippings! I didn’t have to leave the house (always a bonus!) and Remi got to enjoy time with “Mommy” instead of a stranger.
Use Wool Dryer Balls
I use and love wool dryer balls!
They help with static and make your load dry faster! They are inexpensive to purchase but you can make your own very easily.
Either way, get some dryer balls!
Save For Christmas
Remember the days of the Christmas Club at the local banks? Whatever happened to that?
I keep a personal checking account, separate from our joint checking where all the bills are paid from.
Within that account, I have several “pockets” of money for different needs. One of them is my Christmas fund.
Another one is for college tuition payments.
I distribute money every 2 weeks to these funds. When Christmas comes, I’m fully “funded”. We can pay cash and stay on budget. Same for the college tuition payment.
Regardless of where you find yourself in the year, start now to save for the holidays, weddings, etc. You can set the money aside in an envelope or in a bank account, just make sure you don’t touch it!
Make your own reusable cloth gift bags to use over and over again!
With fabric purchased off-season or at a garage sale, your cloth gift bags will last for many years and you won’t have to buy wrapping paper!
Right after Christmas and right after July 4, retailers switch seasons and begin to buy for the next season. Retailers must get rid of what they have in order to make room for new inventory.
Buy next year’s Christmas decorations, coats, boots, etc. after Christmas and get next year’s bathing suite and summer apparel right after the 4th.
These “after season” sales offer 50-75% off retail prices!
Buy Used Clothing
I prefer to buy good quality, used clothing.
Many reasons. I like the fact that “what you see is what you get”.
When you buy used, the garment has usually been worn and washed several times. It’s not going to shrink or fade, it is what it is.
Keeping clothing out of the landfills is also important to me. If you’ve never watched the documentary “The True Cost”, it’s a game changer. It exposes “fast fashion” for what it is.
Learn How to Repair Clothing
Many of us didn’t grow up mending socks and patching jeans.
We’ve been sold the lie that it’s just cheaper to “pitch it” and buy another one. And perhaps that’s true.
However, “fast fashion” is killing the planet. Most of what’s made in the way of clothing and shoes isn’t bio-degradable. So, it never. Goes. Away.
I really love the Love Your Clothes website as a resource to help you keep the clothes you have!
Only Shop at Discount Stores
Why go to the over-priced “snooty” stores when you know you’ll spend more than is necessary.
Stick to the discount stores in your area, personally, I’m an Aldi fan! Explore the cheaper stores in your area, including ethnic shops. You just might find great deals that you didn’t know about!
Create a Zero-Waste Bathroom
Going zero-waste in the bathroom with some quick swaps is easier than you think! You’ll save a ton of money when you don’t buy all the toiletries that we’ve been “sold” we need.
I make my own powder toothpaste (this is the one I use!), use a bamboo toothbrush (lasts way longer than the plastic ones!), make my own facial moisturizer, use bar soap (lasts far longer than body wash) and use a safety razor (I only change blades every 9-10 months!).
I’m still wrestling with the bar shampoo idea, I just haven’t found one that performs well for me.
Make Your Own Cleaners
Another great frugal living habit to acquire is to make your own cleaners!
Making your own household cleaners is not only ridiculously simple, its less toxic and FAR LESS expensive!
My basic household and surface cleaner consists of 1/2 water, 1/2 vinegar and 20 drops of lavender or tea tree essential oil, all in a glass spray bottle. Shake and spray.
My shower cleaner consists of 1/2 vinegar and 1/2 Dawn dishwashing liquid, again in a glass spray bottle. I spray it on, wait 10 minutes and rinse with hot water – all scum is gone!
Do a little research on Pinterest and find some recipes that suit you and your home!
Minimalism has taken this country by storm in the last decade.
While you may not subscribe to a perfect-minimalist template for your life, don’t cast minimalism aside too quickly.
Separating yourself from items that you no longer need or use can bring some hard cash to your bottom line, enabling you to pay down debt faster!
Drive Old Cars that You Paid Cash For
There was a time when we had two car payments…oh, the misery.
Not only did we make the payments on the cars, but we had to carry full-coverage insurance as well. Even though we didn’t drive anything fancy (Chrysler and Toyota), we were “car poor”.
Today, we drive older, but quality cars that we pay cash for. This is what most “frugal living” people do. Even Warren Buffet drives an old car!
Getting to the point where you can pay cash for cars takes some time, especially if you are “upside-down” on your loans.
We’ve been there, done that. It’s hard to get out of those payments! But if you’re determined to save for a “different” car while paying off the old one, you CAN do it!
The joy of driving older cars is that you can just carry liability insurance! You also don’t worry about someone nicking your paint! You just don’t care!
Reduce Water Usage
Even the smallest leak somewhere in your house can cause your water bill to skyrocket!
Depending upon where you live, the cost of municipal water can cost a bundle.
Here are a few ways to save:
- Get low-flow shower heads and toilets, as funds permit.
- Don’t run the water while you shave or brush your teeth.
- Put a brick or a bottle in your toilet tank to save on water.
- Don’t use your toilet as a trash can, you lose 5-7 gallons of water every time you flush.
- Take shorter showers.
- Do less laundry and do full loads only. (We accomplish this by wearing clothes 2-3 times before washing. Many times, clothes just need to be hung up, not washed.)
- Grow native plants so that you don’t waste water trying to keep something alive.
- Harvest rainwater if possible.
Create Income from Your Home
With all of the corporate downsizing and layoffs, it’s not unusual to hear about folks who work at home…full-time.
Millennials are all into it as well, preferring to have “location less” employment.
If you can find a way to work at home, at least some of the time, you can save a tremendous amount of money! You won’t need things like a work wardrobe, a car/insurance or even day care!
That’s one of the perks of blogging, but there are so many ways to work from home! You could generate income so many different ways, take a look.
Rent Out a Room or Be an Air BNB
You might have an extra room or entire house that you might want to make some money from by creating an Air BNB! Of course, check out all of the details.
Turn the Thermostat Down
The Department of Energy estimates that for every degree, you save 1%, per 8 hours. When your thermostat is turned down 7-10 degrees from their normal setting for at least 8 hours a day, you can achieve an annual savings rate of 10%! Now that’s a great frugal living habit!
That’s also a lot of money!
Are you completely aware of all the automatic withdrawals that are taken out your accounts each month?
Many of us lose track of subscriptions we agreed to at some point in the past. But those little leaks can be losing you money each and every month!
There are a number of ways to find those “forgotten” subscription fees.
- Get a hard copy of your credit card bills and pour over each and every line to make sure you’re paying for what you want.
- You can check from your iPhone. If you have an iPhone or other iOS device, you can go to the “App Store” to manage your subscriptions. Once you’re there, click on your Apple ID profile, where you’ll see a “Settings” screen. Scroll down a bit until you see “Manage Subscriptions”.
- You can also check from your Android phone. Simply click on the “Google Playstore App” and then click on “My Apps”. There you should see “My Subscriptions” where you can manage them.
There are also several reputable apps that will help you find your forgotten subscriptions. As always, do your due diligence before submitting account information.
SubscribeMe (for iOS)
Here’s a great article on the subject!
Be a Frequent Patron of Your Local Library
Becoming a library regular will benefit you more than you might realize! Frugal living at it’s best!
Local libraries not only provide free materials, i.e. books, CD’s, magazines, DVD’s and video games to check out and use anytime you want to, but they offer valuable services to your community as well!
They also offer free adult classes, Summer Book Clubs for children and teens and so much more.
Did you ever think you could find so much enrichment and entertainment for FREE?
Use Cloth Diapers
I am a huge cloth diaper advocate and used them with my children.
Cloth diaper options have improved exponentially in the last 20 years! Diapers today perform so much better than the old square ones ever could! It’s so much easier to be frugal!
If you haven’t looked into cloth diapers lately, you haven’t seen them at all.
We saved thousands of dollars using cloth diapers, and I felt great about the fact that I didn’t contribute to the landfill.
Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Last and Do Without
This mantra from The Great Depression, when frugal living wasn’t optional, is making a come back!
It’s a timeless truth that we should all implement! Here’s how to save a ton of money with “Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Last and Do Without“.
Move Back Home
If you are lucky enough to have parents who would welcome you, moving home for a period of time will help you save a ton of money! This is the ultimate in frugal living!
Make sure you treat your parents well, pay some rent and for your own food. Establish a set period of time that you’ll be there, don’t assume parents want you back forever.
However, if you are behind on bills or want to get your debt paid off, this could definitely be part of the game plan!
I encourage you to dig into your financial situation and really take a hard look at where your money is going! I promise you, you’ll find money that you never knew you had!