When Being Frugal Isn’t Enough

Living well on less is a popular concept these days. And it makes sense why people try to live more frugally. Being frugal means you need less; when you need less, you spend less. When you reduce your expenses, you have more money left over in your own pocket. Getting frugal is the easiest way…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: June 5, 2023

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When Being Frugal Isn’t EnoughLiving well on less is a popular concept these days. And it makes sense why people try to live more frugally.

Being frugal means you need less; when you need less, you spend less.

When you reduce your expenses, you have more money left over in your own pocket. Getting frugal is the easiest way to free up your income to save for a house, pay off debt, or invest in your retirement.

When you do begin to cut expenses, you’re taking advantage of the first and easiest way to build wealth. If what you spend is less than what you earn, you will have a surplus.

The simplicity of this equation may help to explain why there is so much great information out there on how to be frugal, how to save money on this, that, and the other, and how to pinch pennies without driving yourself (or your family) crazy. All you have to do is reduce your spending, and just like that, you’ve increased your wealth!

But if you’ve started out attempting to maximize your wealth by creating a surplus in your budget, you’ll get to a point where there are no more expenses to cut.

You’ll become such an amazing budgeter that the only things you spend money on are things that are truly important and meaningful to you. Being frugal and mindful about how much money you spend won’t be enough to create the kind of significant wealth that allows for financial independence. So what’s a smart, sensible, and frugal individual to do when you’ve squeezed every last “extra” dollar from your budget?

At this point, it’s time to focus on increasing your income.

This can seem challenging, but don’t worry. You simply need to think about the opportunities that may already be at your fingertips and how you can create money-making situations from them.


Earn Yourself a Raise.

If you currently have a job, this may be the first place to look to get an income boost. Ask to take on new tasks, an additional role, or more responsibility at work. When it comes time for annual reviews, this hard work may just result in a bigger paycheck.

If your company doesn’t have annual reviews, you’ll still benefit from taking on new things and showing some drive and initiative; when you go to superiors to ask for a raise, you’ll be able to show them exactly why you deserve it.


Pick Up a Side Gig.

A side gig, or hustle, is a bit of work you pick up and take on in your time off from your full-time day job. The best way to determine where to start in finding and aquiring a side gig is to analyze your skill set. Are you a talented writer?

Start a blog, do some freelance writing, or produce content for websites. Does your day job provide you with unique knowledge, or do you know of something like a second language that you readily understand and could pass on to others? Teach a class or tutor students and share that knowledge. Do you enjoy DIY projects or getting crafty and have an eye for diamonds in the rough?

Try scouring thift shops or yard sales for furniture that has the potential to be “flipped” – refurbish pieces and sell them yourself at a profit. Love animals and have busy, pet-owning neighbors? Offer to pet sit or start dog walking.


Monetize Your Hobbies.

Many people produce brilliant products or works of art as a result of an activity they enjoy, like photography or pottery, as a hobby. And there are plenty of people who appreciate niche items and artwork and would be willing to pay for what you create.

Lots of people also enjoy learning new things just for fun, like app development, and even this can be turned into a money-making endeavor if what you learn translates into a product or service. If you already do something that you love, consider if there is a market for what you make.


Rent Out a Room.

If you have extra space in your home, put it to use! Rent out a spare bedroom to a friend, family member, or aquantaince. If you don’t have room to rent, consider if your car could make a little money for you. If you’re often on the road, some companies will pay you to have your car wrapped with their company name and logo.

Reach out to local companies to see if they would be interested in paying you a small fee to use your car for additional advertising. It could be easy marketing for the company, and an easy way for you to make some more cash.


Declutter and Profit.

If you don’t have enough space in your home, it might be time to start going through all your possessions and determining what can be thrown out, what can be given away or repurposed, and what can be sold. Old furniture, appliances, clothes, collectables – these are all items that can be sold on sites like Ebay or Craigslist. You’ll not only clear out a bunch of stuff you don’t want, need, or use anymore, but you’ll also make some cash to add to your monthly income.

When you find there are just no more expenses to cut out of your budget, don’t despair. There’s still money to be found to add to your monthly surplus: you simply have to take the initiative to go after it and make it yours!

What would you need to do to if you needed to find an extra $500 in your budget?


About the Author: When Kali isn’t working her 9-to-5 office job, expanding on her experience as a living Dilbert cartoon, she is blogging about common-sense financial advice at Common Sense Millennial. She’s passionate about helping fellow millennials figure out how to make the most of their money and how to live well on less, and is currently working on turning the ultimate dream of self-employment into reality.

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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. Excellent write-up, Kali! I do most of these things. My wife and I bought a house last year with the intention of renting out half the basement, which we do. Additionally I work on my blog pretty much nonstop and also try to do my best at work and create value so that I can get paid more.

    1. Thanks DC! Creating rental income from your basement is a MUCH better use of space than most people put it to – in my experience basements often turn into giant stuff-collectors. Glad you’re making some extra cash that way! And I need to make a plan to monetize my own site.. it’s definitely something I’m thinking about for the future, but I don’t think I’m quite at the point where I could make money just yet. One day!

  2. This is the situation we’re in right now, Kali. My favorite thing about increasing your income is that there are no limits on it! You can always find a way to make another buck, thereby speeding up your road to debt free, or to financial independence, or wherever you’re headed. 🙂

    1. So true, Laurie! There really is a practical limit on how much you can save in most situations. How much you can earn, though, is much more flexible – your imagination really is the limit here!

  3. Kelsie

    Great post! We squeezed our budget as tight as it will go, so I picked up one freelance writing gig. But, I don’t make much from it–maybe it’s time it look for some new opportunities.

    1. Thanks Kelsie! We were in the same position a few months ago. Our budget was as stripped down as it could really get without flat-out depriving ourselves, so I looked into what I could do about making more. I do freelance writing, too, and I love it! Definitely look for more opportunities with writing if you enjoy doing it 🙂

  4. Good post Kali! I agree that being frugal will only take you so far. That said, if you can be frugal and bring in more money then even better. 🙂 If we needed to find $500, then we’d likely sell some stuff on CL as we do that several times a year. We run a pretty bare bones budget as it is.

    1. Couldn’t agree more – making a little more AND being frugal is a seriously awesome financial combination!

  5. Great idea! And if you can’t find some stuff to sell, you friends or family may have something – you could offer to sell it for them and split the profit. I have a coworker who does this for her mom and it’s beneficial to them both. Her mom doesn’t have to deal with listing items and selling (she’s not very computer savvy), and she makes a little profit for her work.

  6. MonicaOnMoney

    This post is great timing for me because I recently started looking for way to increase my income. Blogging and teaching classes are two side incomes that I’m currenly using but I’m always looking for more creative ways too.

    1. I hope this post helps you brainstorm some new ideas, then! Congrats on already establishing some extra income through blogging and teaching.

  7. When I need more money I try to look for my freelance writing jobs as well. There’s pretty much nothing I can do to get my budget any lower so the option is always work more and try harder.

    1. I’m right there with you, Alexa. Our budget is pretty darn tight as it is; we’ve squeezed just about every penny we can out of it! I’m attempting to make a little side income via freelancing. It’s been slow to start but I’ve finally picked up a small job or two. Hoping I can do as you said – work more, try harder!

  8. I agree that you have to increase your income. I have cut expenses every way imaginable. That is simply not enough. I’m on the pt job search right now.

    1. That’s great that you’ve trimmed your expenses – and good luck with the job search! Hope you find a great one soon 🙂

  9. I’ve had a bit of lifestyle inflation since getting my job, but before I had zero expenses to cut. No car, no insurance, no pets, a shared studio apartment…my only option was to make more money. And for now it still is, though I could cut out going out to eat altogether 🙂 Great article.

    1. Thank you! Sounds like you keep a very minimal budget, which is great. You could cut going out to eat entirely, but don’t deprive yourself! Frugal is good, but we definitely have to toe a fine line between saving and feeling like we’re missing out.

  10. I’m at the point where I don’t have much more “fat” I can trim from the budget. It’s all about earning more income at this point. Freelance writing is starting to pick up and help me get there.

    1. Congrats on your freelancing providing a little extra income! I’m trying to work on the same thing myself 🙂 It’s hard work, but so worth it to have a bit more cash coming in.

  11. This is a great list – lots of ideas for me to take a look at! I live on a Caribbean island where I make ‘island’ wages (ie. really, really low) but pay ‘tourist’ prices (ie. really, really high) for things like rent, food, utilities, etc. Right now I’m saving money by housesitting at the resort I work at! It’s a win-win for both me and the homeowner.

    1. I’m so excited to see a comment from you, Rika – I just spent about 30 minutes last night discovering and reading your blog!! That’s great that you’ve been able to make housesitting work for you to cut down on expenses. I want to try that myself one day 🙂 Thanks again for your comment!

  12. Great point, Kelly – growing income can really be fun, especially when you start seeing that extra cash come in!

  13. Thanks, Catherine! We were in the same boat – I spent a few months feeling stressed and confused over our budget, because I had trimmed it back so much and I felt like we STILL weren’t able to save enough. When I realized I could solve this problem with a little hustle, it was like a light bulb moment!

  14. Great list. I’ve been thinking about this lately as well. I’m pretty frugal and there isn’t much fat to cut out of my budget so the only way to have more money is to make more of it. I work in government so raises are basically based on seniority. I’ll have to look into side gigs and monetizing my blog or something.

    1. Thanks, Andrew! I’m the same way as you – very frugal, not much to cut out of my budget, so increasing income was the next step for me, too. Good luck with finding a lucrative side hustle, or monetizing your site! That’s something I’d like to do in the future, as well.

  15. This is a great list. I am at a point where I don’t WANT to cut my budget anymore and looking to increase my income to achieve some of my financial goals. I’ve started off with selling things. Some extra income AND less declutter- two birds with one stone!

    1. Nice! Less clutter and more money is a hard combination to beat 🙂

  16. Stu @ Poor Student

    I do a lot of these things, like have a room mate (not the same as renting a room but still) and work a side gig, because I don’t really think being frugal is every really enough

    1. Couldn’t agree more, Stu. Frugal is a great first step – but increasing your income is important, too!

  17. Great topic and discussion! My budget is tighter since I’m paying extra eveyr month on my loans, but I’m also finding ways to increase my income. I’ve been selling stuff to some success and freelancing as well. I’ve always been frugal, but sometimes you need an extra boost in your income.

    1. That’s great you’ve been able to make some extra cash and had success with freelancing!

  18. So true! I’ve made money garbage picking furniture, fixing it up and selling it at local consignment shops. Bigger ticket items like furniture can net a decent profit – and to your point, it’s fun!

    1. Awesome! I’ve been wanting to try something like that myself 🙂 Great to hear that you’ve been doing it successfully!

  19. Great post Kali! Increasing your income is great fun once you’ve decided on what you want to do (especially if you’re a certified workaholic!). I’ve already negotiated my second raise this year before my review; I think the trick is to agree on specific goals with your employer that will really benefit your company, if you can achieve them they often have no choice but to bump you up!

    1. Thanks Joe! Congratulations on your raise 🙂 I agree, once you figure out how you can increase your income, it really does become fun – doing things on the side somehow feels less like work than a normal 9 to 5 in my experience!

  20. Thanks, Dee! That’s awesome that you guys have been able to make those sites work for you!

  21. The First Million is the Hardest

    I totally agree. Frugality only goes so far, making more money through any number of ways should be just as big of a focus in order to improve your financial life.

    1. Exactly! It took me a little while to realize this, but as soon as I did I went to work on making more 🙂 I think if you can balance being frugal AND increasing income, you’re well on your way to financial success.