35 Frugal Living Tips with a Big Impact
With the hot mess that was 2020, we’re all looking for the easiest frugal living tips with a big impact. Whether you’ve lost your job, finding yourself saying “I’m broke” too often, or are building an emergency fund, these thrifty tips and tricks will help.
Frugal living in 2020 doesn’t mean giving up everything you love. It’s just learning to trim your monthly expenses (and even using services like Truebill or Trim) so that you can make your money stretch further.
How to Be More Frugal with Money
During the past two years of budgeting, we’ve found a lot of frugal tips to trim down our monthly expenses list. There’s no lack of ways to save money on a tight budget. Finding smart money saving tips is the easy part.
The hard part about budgeting is really about making the mental adjustment to changing your spending and to consistently use those personal expense tracker app or monthly budget worksheet.
On the surface, it can feel like being deprived. But when you stop and really think about why you’re doing it, you’ll realize that it’s just about deciding what’s really important to you. Is it owning a house? Getting a cleaning service to come once a week? Or having a cushy emergency fund just in case your employer’s check doesn’t deposit on time?
No matter what your “why” is, just identifying it helps with prioritizing what’s important.
If you don’t have a budget, you need to create one as soon as possible. Whether you use paper, an app, or cash envelopes, it’s the only way you’ll learn how to how to save money quickly and manage it long term. Without one, you’ll never know where you money is going, and you won’t know where you can cut extra expenses.
The best way to budget is to use a monthly household budget template of some sort, or a monthly expenses app. Without something to reference throughout the month, you’ll never know if you’re on track with staying within your budget.
If you’re following a 50/30/20 budget, that means that 50% goes to fixed expenses. Your fixed expenses list should include items that are fixed costs: your rent/mortgage, insurance, car payment, etc.
30% in this budget should go to variable expenses. Those are items with variable costs every month, like utilities, groceries, gas, clothing and entertainment.
The last 20% of the budget should go into savings. While these are not concrete, this can be a good rule of thumb to get you on track.
So what you do you if your expenses are out of whack?
Chances are, if you’re like 99.6% of people out there, your variable expenses are more than 30%. Which means, you’ll need to cut them down as much as possible. And that’s where these frugal living tips with a big impact come into play.
Can Being Frugal Make You Rich?
This is a really good question, and it just depends. My grandmother was all about living below her means to the point that she’d use cereal no one would eat to make bread. (Lucky Charms bread is NOT good, fyi.) Was she rich? No. But then again, there’s a lot of factors that play into it.
How much you make and what you do with the money you save are both key factors in if you’ll end up rich. Using extreme frugal living tips does not equate to understanding how to spend and save money. (Though using frugal living tips from the Great Depression won’t hurt and will help you learn to live within your means!)
A really interesting book to dig into is The Millionaire Next Door. It talks about how the average millionaire spends their money – and you’re gonna be very surprised. Just because someone makes millions of dollars a year, doesn’t mean they have a decent net worth. It’s the millionaires who live frugally that truly are sitting on a stack of dough.
How do You Live a Frugal but Great Life?
This is the million dollar question! (See what I did there?) The key to living frugally – but still great – is to cut spending on the things that don’t matter to you, but spend on the things that do.
For example, if you’re into cars, but not clothes, spend your money on a sweet ride, but not designer duds. If you love baking, get yourself that sweet Kitchenaid mixer that you know you’ll use every week, and cut back on brand name cell phone service.
The beauty of modern frugal living is that you get to call the shots on what to cut back on. It’s up to you – keep what you love, lose what you don’t!
Frugal Living Tips with a Huge Impact
Ok, now that we have our budget in place – let’s get my favorite frugal living tips! To start cutting down on your living expenses, review your budget. Pick the three highest costs to analyze, and we’ll talk about how to trim each of them.
Chances are, they include (in no particular order): housing, transportation, and food costs. (I’m not a psychic – it’s just that tends to be the highest costs for everyone!)
Now that we know where to cut, let’s talk about how to be more frugal with money. Because there are so many variables, there is no average household monthly expense example that will apply perfectly to everyone’s situation.
Instead, take a look at your monthly expenses spreadsheet and aim to cut 10% to start. Start by listing typical monthly expenses that could be an easy win for reducing their cost.
Each person’s budget changes will vary, considering we all have very different obligations in life. However, these frugal living tips with a big impact can work for anyone – young couples, seniors, single folks – anyone!
Below are 14 ways we were able to learn how to live on a budget and save money. We were able to trim over $750 a month to put towards debt repayment with these frugal living tips:
1. We switched our cellphone from Verizon to StraightTalk.
Savings: $102 a month
Generally, the savings on your cell phone bill will not be this huge for everyone. However, at the time, my husband had a work cellphone. When we switched to StraightTalk, we just dropped his line altogether and just moved my existing line (and phone) to StraightTalk.
It was really simple to get switched over and running, and they even handled letting Verizon know that we were done using them, which was great. They use the same cell phone towers as other companies, but don’t own them – which is why they’re so much cheaper.
Even better? I’m not locked into a contract AND I can purchase a new or refurbished phone on my own to use, rather than paying them $30+ a month for 2 years like other phone companies.
My husband recently picked up an $80 Samsung phone at Walmart to use with StraightTalk, and it works great! In fact, it takes better pictures than my Galaxy S5, which is several years old now.
Another great cheaper alternative is Mint Mobile. They sell unlimited talk, text and data in 3, 6 or 12 month chunks. The bigger chunk you purchase, the cheaper it is. It’s essentially the Sams or Costco of cell plans, since it’s giving you a discount for buying in bulk. Plans start at just $15 per month. Find out more about Mint Mobile here.
2. We contacted our car/home insurance provider about additional discounts.
$10 a month $62 a month
We were already saving a lot with our insurance because it was bundled and we have multiple discounts, including one for being a credit union member.
We also checked with an independent insurance broker to see if another company might be cheaper, since we’d been with Liberty Mutual for 9 years. However, he could only save us $5 – $10 a year, at most, so it wasn’t worth the switch.
We did call our company and did a review with their customer service rep, and we were able to adjust our coverage and premiums, which brought the monthly cost down $10 a month.
It’s important to review your policies yearly to make sure you’re getting the best deal. I suggest finding an independent insurance broker. You just answer a couple of questions, email them a copy of your coverage, and they have results in about a week!
Update: Another great place to check for savings is seeing if your employer offers any group discounts on insurance. My husband works as a manager for a large nationwide retailer, and they offered discounts on auto and home insurance.
Figuring that they wouldn’t be able to give us much of a savings, we called and spent 45 minutes going through all of the questions and paperwork. Turns out they are able to save us over $750 for the year on both home and auto insurance. And this is with the same (and even better in some instances) coverage! Amazing!
Don’t overlook opportunities to save through work. Make a note to check with your employer for group discounts. If you belong to any associations, groups, or memberships, check to see what they can offer as well. You might be pleasantly surprised!
3. We asked our daycare provider (and any other service providers) if there were any additional discounts we were missing.
Savings: $20 a month
Listen, I’m not above just asking for a discount from just about anyone. The tire store, the dentist, even daycare. While we were already getting the sibling discount, they were able to move my daughter up a class, saving us $20 a month.
It’s worth taking a shot and asking for a discount on just about anything. You never know what you might get!
4. We cut the cord, for good.
Savings: $52 a month
At first, my husband was very reluctant to cut cable. I told him it’d just be for a couple of months, as a trial run. Turns out, we have plenty of other things to keep us busy (when we actually have not so much time to sit down in front of the TV). Plus, he gets more time to play his Xbox, so it’s a win-win!
If you’re looking to cut the cord, start by getting some hardware that you can stream with. We use an Xbox or our Roku, or you can use an Amazon Firestick, among other options.
Then, we signed up for Netflix, Hulu and CBS All Access. Between the three, we’re able to get everything that we like to watch. We specifically sign up for CBS All Access so that my husband could watch football games. You can get a one week free trial of CBS All Access here.
If you want to watch local channels you can get a digital antenna like this one which is easy to hook up, and works with both newer HDTVs and older TVs as well. This is great for haivng access to the local news and PBS, as well as other local channels.
5. We bought our own modem.
Savings: $10 a month
Our internet cost went up just a bit because each product is cheaper when you bundle them (such as internet, phone and cable). To make up the difference, we reviewed all of the charges on our internet bill with customer service. They pointed out that we can purchase our own modem for about $60, which would take a $10 rental fee off our monthly bill.
Time Warner provided us with a list of modems to purchase, and we snagged a good deal on one from Best Buy. Even better, if we cancel our service, we don’t have to fuss with sending them back any equipment!
If you’re really tired of paying for internet, there are a lot of different ways to get free internet – legally, of course. Click here to read more about how to get free internet.
6. We used Trim to save an additional $20 on our internet every month.
Savings: $20 a month
A perfect way to save extra money for the ultra busy folks, Trim is a great way to find those small leaks in your budget and easily plug them. For example, we had cut down on our internet, and thought we couldn’t get it any lower. However, Trim was able to negotiate with Spectrum on our behalf and save us $240 a year. And all for 5 minutes worth of work on my end.
Trim also catches those subscriptions you forget that you have and keep paying for every month. They let you know what you’re still paying for, and cancel them on your behalf. Again – saving money without lifting a finger? Sign me up!
7. We reviewed and trimmed life and disability coverage.
Savings: $69 a month
When I was pregnant with our first child, I was determined to get our finances in order, once and for all (ha!). So we went to go see a financial adviser. While the advice given was solid, I somehow didn’t realize that his goal was to make a commission off of us. And boy – did he ever!
Since I’m self employed, I needed life insurance and disability. Once again – this was solid advice, but we were just presented with one plan (which was the Cadillac of all plans). And we took it without questioning the amount of coverage and cost.
6 years later, it dawns on me that maybe this coverage is…over the top. So we reviewed the policies, the same way we reviewed our car and home insurance. We chose to trim some of the coverage, which saved us $69 a month.
While it’s important to make sure you have enough coverage, especially if self employed, make sure to review your coverage yearly. Circumstances change, and there’s no point in paying for something that you don’t need anymore.
8. We began buying groceries at Aldis / online grocery ordering and pickup.
Savings: $80 a month
Our switch to Aldi’s saved us a lot of money monthly, and I will always recommend it if you have one nearby. However – for the sake of my sanity and NOT having to wrestle two kids while grocery shopping, I have switched to ordering groceries online and picking them up.
True, it’s not as cheap as Aldi’s (or price comparing items at the grocery store myself), however, it’s worth that extra $20 to me if it means that I don’t have to waste an entire morning getting kids ready, shopping, wrangling, and putting things away – all while hollering at them to “put it down” and “keep your hands to yourself”! Not to mention all the “extras” that’d end up in our cart by walking up and down every aisle. (Don’t forget, it’s important to make a cheap grocery list to stick to, otherwise, you’ll spend even more!)
My latest grocery budget win from ordering groceries online? I ordered 6 navel oranges at 68 cents a piece, which is what they charged me. What we got was 6 bags of oranges instead! That’s a total budgeting win, right? Now, to break out the juicer…
If you want to learn more about how to rework your grocery budget, check out my Grocery Budget Makeover review.
9. We paid off our credit card with a 9.75% interest rate.
Savings: $35+ in interest every month
Enough said. It’s silly to throw away at least $30 on interest every month. That’s a meal out or an awful lot of toilet paper!
10. We dropped our kid’s Tumbling Class.
Savings: $39 a month
Our daughter participated in a tumbling class through daycare every week. Sometimes she refused to go (who knows why). Since she was transferring from daycare to kindergarten soon, and it was summer and she got plenty of activity outside, we chose to remove her from the last three months of class.
While I think that kids need activities to help them learn different skillsets, it doesn’t hurt to question if it’s beneficial or not. Are they even going? Do they want to? Or, maybe it’s worth a temporary pause if you know you’ll be missing classes due to holidays or traveling during summer break anyway.
11. My husband started packing lunches for work.
Savings: $240 a month
My husband works outside the home and is not a planner (putting it lightly – but I still love you, dearest!). Convincing him to take his lunch to work every day was a good idea was hard at first, but once we saw the financial benefits and the waistline benefits, he (somewhat) happily jumped on the bandwagon.
He still goes out to lunch, or forgets to pack. But now that’s part of his monthly fun money that’s part of our planned budget, rather than just a bunch of charges getting racked up on the credit card.
12. We Used iBotta, Ebates, TopCashBack, and Checkout 51, MobiSave, Savings Star to maximize rebates on purchases.
Savings: $10+ a month
I’ve tried just about every rebate app there is, and while they all work differently, it’s worth the time and effort to incorporate them into your shopping routine.
The best rebate apps to try out are:
- Ibotta (read my Ibotta review here)
- Checkout 51
- Savings Star
- Receipt Hog
- Walmart Savings Catcher
Click here to read more on how I triple stacking my savings while shopping.
13. We used couponing websites to get the best deals on necessities, such as cat litter, toilet paper, and groceries.
Savings: Average about $20 a month
We’ve saved over $1000 just by using some simple cashback apps. My favorites are:
For couponing tips and tricks, these bloggers know their stuff! These blogs and websites are where I learned to stack my coupons and discounts and look for the best deals every week.
One of the best things about these types of websites is that they stay on top of the latest updates to stores’ couponing policies, app updates, and changes to all things sales based. These are the best of the best couponing sites to check out (in no particular order):
Learn more about beginner couponing mistakes and how to avoid them.
14. We started using the library to rent movies and check out books.
Savings: $15 a month
If you haven’t checked out your local library in a while, you need to ASAP! Ours not only has books and DVDs to check out, but you can rent tons of digital items.
I can easily log in to the library website with my library card number, check out the books I want, download them from Amazon to my Kindle, and enjoy. Or, there’s even a streaming service now for movies as well. Now you don’t even have to hit a library to enjoy all of the benefits they have to offer. Even better, you’ll save a ton of books and movies in the long run!
Don’t forget to pick up frugal living books, like this one about a year of frugal living.
Total Monthly Savings: $774
Additional Frugal Living Tips to Try
Just because these frugal living tips with a big impact worked for me doesn’t mean they apply to everyone. There are still a ton of other creative ways that we can try to save with some time and effort.
Even though this is a frugal living blog, not every frugal family tip will work for you. However, you should always be on the lookout for new ways to save money (and get down with your super frugal self!). Whether it is reviewing your insurance policies once a year, or contacting customer service to see where you can cut costs, it’s not a “once and done” kind of thing.
For us, I have some new year goals set to find additional ways to save money. Some of them include:
- Test out the Paribus app, which that automatically finds lower pricing on purchased items and files price adjustment claims for me.
- Use Erin Chase’s My Freezeasy freezer meal planning program to save more on groceries (and on time!)
- Prepare for birthdays and holidays by creating a gift closet. We purchase toys and gifts on sale or clearance and save them for holidays.
- Start planning inexpensive birthday parties with these cheap birthday ideas.
- Budget for after-holiday sales to pick up items we need at a discount.
- Research additional summer daycare options to compare pricing.
- Test out the Mint app versus Personal Capital and see which helps me save more money by keeping better track of it!
- Try using frugal cleaning hacks to save money on cleaning supplies while sparing every family member from unwanted chemicals.
- Use these cheap date ideas or at home date night ideas to spend time with the one you love (but without much money being spent).
- Check out my Arcadia Power review on how we’ve saved on eletricity with community clean energy.
- Drop your gym membership for working out at home.
- Buy gift cards for the stores you shop at the most to get points or cash back.
- Buy second hand clothes or furniture at thrift stores.
- Skip the coffee shop and opt to make your own coffee at home.
- Make sure you’re not paying any fees on your savings account or bank account. If so, switch ASAP!
- Take the kids to one of your local parks for a hike instead of going out to eat or to the movies.
- Consider downsizing to a smaller house that uses less utilities, less insurance, and less mortgage payments.
- Learn to fix items rather than replacing them.
- Make your own pantry items from scratch, and do all meal prep yourself. Don’t pay extra for things like chopped vegetables and fruit.
- Use public transportation, a bike, or try downsizing to one car.
- Dump any subscription services you aren’t using regularly, but are still getting charged for.
- Skip buying paper towels and purchase reuseable microfiber cloths instead.
- Try dumpster diving to get everything from electronics to clothing to food for free!
- Try a money savings challenge:
Figuring out how to save a little money each month doesn’t mean going crazy with the frugal lifestyle and having to eat rice and beans for the rest of your life. What it does mean is that you get to decide what’s important to you, and focus spending your money on that.
Then, find easy ways to cut back on things that aren’t as important. Get those basics as low as possible and free up money so you can do things like pay off debt, invest, and save for retirement and college.
Do you have any great frugal living tips with a big impact or tricks up your sleeve? Share them below!
Want to save even more? Check out these great money saving resources!
A forty-ish web designer/developer by day, a budget & financial fanatic by night. I’m a mom, wife, avid reader, and DIY enthusiast who’s tracking our journey to debt freedom. Read More