6 Ways To Be More Frugal and Save Thousands

Sometimes I’m called cheap, other times I’m called frugal, and occasionally I am called a frivolous spender. It’s funny how different my spending habits appear to others, but for the most part I consider myself fairly frugal and I live frugal. I don’t spend money on things I don’t care for, but I will spend…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: May 25, 2023

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you decide to make a purchase via my links, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. See my disclosure for more info.

6 Ways To Be More Frugal and Save ThousandsSometimes I’m called cheap, other times I’m called frugal, and occasionally I am called a frivolous spender.

It’s funny how different my spending habits appear to others, but for the most part I consider myself fairly frugal and I live frugal.

I don’t spend money on things I don’t care for, but I will spend money if it means I will enjoy life more (such as moving to a new place).

There are certain areas which I know others think I’m crazy for spending money on, such as new cars and traveling, and there are other areas I don’t really care about, such as electronics and gadgets. I don’t care about waiting in line for the iPhone 6, and I think people who camp out are CRAZY.

This is what’s great about personal finance blogging – it’s personal and there is no correct way for anyone/everyone.

I haven’t always been a frugal person though.

Now, I cringe whenever I think about all the money I wasted. We would spend over $1,000 a month on food, thousands of dollars each year on car insurance, thousands of dollars on clothing (I used to work as a retail manager and it fueled a bad habit), and the list goes on and on.

We were spending beyond our means, and we were NOT happy.

Not even close to happy.

We were spending money because we thought we “deserved” it since we weren’t happy with our jobs. We thought buying these material items would make us happier.

Once we left our jobs, we decided to stop buying things we didn’t need. Thing is, we’ve been happier than ever and don’t even think about buying useless products.

We are more frugal and saving more money than ever, and it’s actually been a lot of fun. For some reason, there is this “myth” out there that being frugal and saving money means you MUST hate your life. I definitely do not hate my life (I’m fairly positive that Wes does not either), and I still spend money on things and experiences I enjoy.

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If you are interested in learning how to be more frugal with your money, here are some of my tips:

 

1. Think about the value an item brings.

I know many people hate this debate, but I think there is a clear difference between frugal living and being cheap. Being cheap means you just choose the lowest price no matter what, whereas living frugally means you are choosing the best value for your money.

Living frugally means you are not wasting money on things you do not need or things that may break within seconds of using it.

Buying the same item over and over again because you only buy cheap products may mean that you are spending more money over time because of having to replace it so often.

An example from just the other day when it comes to frugal living: We used to always buy cheap can openers and not really think anything of it. Then, our can opener broke the other day (it’s probably been the fifth one we’ve bought so far). We went to the store and looked for higher quality can openers and have been using one that is about triple the price of the cheap ones but I can already tell that it will last a lot longer. Also, it doesn’t hurt my hands to use it!

 

2. Utilize any extra space is a great money saving tip.

If you are like most of America, then you probably have some extra space in your home. For us, we have a four bedroom home yet only use two. One is our bedroom and the other is my office. We also have a finished basement. This is not frugal at all and it’s a lot of wasted space.

Technically, we could rent out all the rooms in our home. However, our last renter just moved out (my sister) and I think we are done renting out our personal space to others for now. In the past, we have done it because friends and/or family needed a place to live.

Another way to utilize extra space would be to use any space in your front or backyard by starting a garden. You could plant some of your favorite fruits and vegetables and start eating more healthy meals.

 

3. Sell your home and get a cheaper one.

If you have a lot of extra space in your home but don’t want to rent out any of your rooms, then you may want to consider downsizing. If you’re not using the extra rooms, then what’s the point of having them anyways?

Downsizing may mean a cheaper home, less money spent on utility bills, less money spent on furniture, and a better use of space.

 

4. Quit expensive and unhealthy habits.

My dad passed away from both lung cancer and brain cancer. His lung cancer was due to his insane smoking habit. He was a great man, but he was a heavy smoker. It cost him a lot of money in terms of both buying the actual cigarettes and paying for his expensive medical care when he got sick.

Other expensive unhealthy habits you may want to quit or cut back include: fast food; drinking an insane amount of soda (I do not like soda, so thankfully I can always skip it); drinking too much alcohol; and more. Sure, all of this can be fine in small quantities, but I know people who get way ahead of themselves and ruin their health by partaking too much in these unhealthy activities.

If you smoke two $5 packs of cigarettes a week, that is $520 a year, or $5,200 every 10 years. If your cigarettes are $10 a pack, then your cost will be $10,400 every 10 years. That doesn’t even include the higher costs you are paying for health insurance or life insurance, and it doesn’t include any medical problem that may happen years later.

Also, if you drink $1 worth of soda each day, then that equals $365 a year, or $3,650 every 10 years. Don’t forget about how much you are probably harming your teeth as well.

I consider myself to be the frugal queen in this category because I don’t really have any expensive or unhealthy habits. WOOHOO!

 

5. Start couponing.

Okay, we do not coupon very much and I am definitely not a frugal queen in this area. I will be honest and say that right away. I just do not have the patience to do it, and I am not organized enough so I will just be wasting everyone’s time by doing it.

I did do a little bit of couponing a few years ago, but I didn’t do anything too, too crazy. I still have about 10 shampoo and conditioner bottles leftover from those days, so that’s pretty nice! They were all FREE too.

I do search for coupon codes before I buy something online, and I do use Restaurant.com gift certificates a few times a year. Other than that, this is an area I slack in.

Even though I don’t coupon as much as I possibly could, I know many others who are great with couponing and save their families a decent amount of cash each year.

Also, if you are going to buy anything online, I highly recommend Ebates.com as you can earn FREE cash back for doing your normal shopping. You can also get a free $10 gift card to Target or Walmart if you sign up under my link.

 

6. Find frugal entertainment.

We used to spend too much money on entertainment. Now, we invest money in items that we know will bring fun for years to come.

These items include bikes, camping and hiking gear, and more. Even though the upfront cost is high, we will be able enjoy these items without spending much more money well into the future.

There are plenty of ways to have fun without spending a ton of money. Below are some examples:

  • Go to the library.
  • Go for a hike. I recently hiked my first mountain when we were in Colorado two weeks ago and it was amazing! REI is my favorite store to buy all of my outdoorsy items. Everything is high quality and they have a great return policy if something doesn’t end up working out correctly.
  • Cancel cable and buy Netflix (or go completely without TV).
  • Have a bonfire.
  • Visit a park.
  • Throw a potluck dinner for friends and family.
  • Look for free events in your area. What I really love about St. Louis is that this is a very cheap city to have fun in. Many museums are free, the zoo is free, there are free festivals, and free concerts at Fair St. Louis (some free concerts include The Fray, Maroon 5, Steve Miller Band, and others).
  • Volunteer to gain free entry to events and festivals. There are many events and festivals out there that will allow you to volunteer in order to gain free entry. So, for a few hours of work you can have some fun for free.

What do you do to save money each month? How much do you think you save? What’s TOO frugal for you? What would you never do to save money?

 

If you are new to my blog, I am all about finding ways to make and save more money. Here are some of my favorite sites and products that may help you out:

  • Start a blog. Blogging is how I make a living and just a few years ago I never thought it would be possible. You can create your own blog here with my easy-to-use tutorial. You can start your blog for as low as $2.95 per month plus you get a free domain if you sign-up through my tutorial.
  • Answer surveys. Survey companies I recommend include Survey JunkieSwagbucksAmerican Consumer Opinion, and Pinecone Research. They’re free to join and free to use! You get paid to answer surveys and to test products. It’s best to sign up for as many as you can as that way you can receive the most surveys and make the most money.
  • Save money on food. I recently joined $5 Meal Plan in order to help me eat at home more and cut my food spending. It’s only $5 a month (the first two weeks are free too) and you get meal plans sent straight to you along with the exact shopping list you need in order to create the meals. Each meal costs around $2 per person or less. This allows you to save time because you won’t have to meal plan anymore, and it will save you money as well!
  • Cut your TV bill. Cut your cable, satellite, etc. Even go as far to go without Netflix or Hulu as well. Buy a digital antenna (this is the one we have) and enjoy free TV for life.
  • Try InboxDollars. InboxDollars is an online rewards website I recommend. You can earn cash by taking surveys, playing games, shopping online, searching the web, redeeming grocery coupons, and more. Also, by signing up through my link, you will receive $5.00 for free just for signing up!
  • Lower your cell phone bill. Instead of paying the $150 or more that you spend on your cell phone bill, there are companies out there like Republic Wireless that offer cell phone service starting at $10. YES, I SAID $10! If you use my Republic Wireless affiliate link, you can change your life and start saving thousands of dollars a year on your cell phone service. I created a full review on Republic Wireless as well if you are interested in hearing more. I’ve been using them for over a year and they are great.
  • Shopping around for car insurance is something that most people do not do, and it can cost you tens of thousands of dollars over your lifetime. You can shop car insurance rates through Get Jerry here.

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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. kammi

    I don’t have friends who feel the need to spend a lot of money. So for example, I don’t have friends who feel the need to go out drinking every other night. We like reading and recommend books to each other instead, or hang out in places like the 1.50 theatre sometimes (movies take up too much of my time though, and we’re busy so we don’t watch a lot of that either; I get reimbursed for mine so it ends up being free anyways). I had a roommate who drank every day a long time ago and she was always broke!
    I agree with you on the gadget stuff. I like making and building stuff on my own (I see it as a challenge), so that ends up saving me a tonne of money. It’s funny how just fixing something instead of tossing it and buying a new one or learning how to make something can save you money. My parents have been building their own furniture, for example and they cut the lawn themselves and my mom has forever been cutting my dad’s hair. It brings them closer and it saves money. I shop at “ethnic” markets, or smaller stores where the prices can be cheaper. I save a lot of money and like the people more there, but that’s just me. My grocery bill dropped by $200 that way.
    Haha I would NEVER skimp on toilet paper. I think that’s just gross. There are certain things I won’t bat an eye about spending money on.

    1. Haha I would never skimp on toilet paper either. I know everyone is their own person, but I’d rather just spend the money on it.

      1. LYN SHEPPARD

        You’re knocking down 70k a month and worried about eating out?

        You should be ashamed of yourself telling people how to live.

        1. This blog post was originally written in 2014. I was not earning $70,000 a month back then.

          Anyways, why can’t a person still be frugal?

  2. I agree with you. My officemates are really crazy about the Iphone 6. They would buy it even though they haven’t used their iphone for a year. Me? I would stick to my iphone 5 because I wouldn’t waste my money for a minimal upgrade and am really frugal wholeheartedly.

    1. Yeah, I just don’t really get it. Someone needs to explain this craze to me…

  3. Yes! We too are vastly happier people now that we’ve completely accepted our ultra frugality–it’s honestly freeing! And, I agree on buying quality items and not always the “cheapest” thing. We look for stuff that’s going to save us money/facilitate other frugal activities. The best example is our set of glass food storage containers. More expensive than plastic, but longer lasting and not leaching chemicals. This way, we can cook in bulk and store it safely.

    P.S. Mr. FW and I had our first real date at Fair St. Louis 11 years ago πŸ™‚

    1. Fair St. Louis is amazing! πŸ™‚

    2. Regina

      Totally agree on glassware versus platic. The only plastic containers we have are tupperware & containers to gift cookies/candy in that bought on sale few years ago. Last few years gave apple pie in pie pan & homemade bread wrapped in new towel with homemade jam in canning jar.

  4. All great points, especially #1 and #4. Sometimes buying the slightly more expensive tool can save more in the long run, and small daily/weekly expenses quickly compound! Sorry to hear about your father.

  5. We do a little bit of all of those things, but we don’t take any one thing to the extreme. I don’t mind spending on things we find value in. Of course, those things are different for everyone.

    1. Yes, everyone is different. If we were all the same life would be boring!

  6. Oh, AMEN! Totally agree with you on all of these. We’ve been able to cut our food budget to about $60/month without that much effort (or starvation!). For us it’s these recurring expenses that we find save us a lot.

    1. $60 a MONTH? Do you have a blog post about this? πŸ™‚

      1. Yes, we actually did a little series about our food budget. (I don’t usually promote my posts on other people’s blogs, but since you asked I will this time, hope you don’t mind!) Here’s the first one where we break down the numbers if you ever want to check it out: http://www.savingthecrumbs.com/eat-for-less-than-60-a-month-food-budget/

        1. Awesome! Thanks for that. And I’m always fine with people sharing their blogs here. No problem at all as long as it relates to the content πŸ™‚

  7. Good tips, especially SELL YOUR HOME.

    That is a major point that could make you tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousand of dollars in just one transaction but most people are completely blind to it as an opportunity. Chances are you don’t need all the space you claim to, and this is a major shortcut to freeing up money and your life (smaller houses mean less cleaning amirite haha)

  8. Amy

    I’m willing to spend money on good quality winter clothing. I don’t have much, but It gets cold here in the Northeast, so I have some great wool socks and sweaters and a down coat, that really make a difference. I feel the same way about winter clothing for my daughter, who defuses to wear sweaters. I’ll pay more for durable, higher-quality fabric clothes for her, so she stays warm.

    I’ve gone a little overboard with couponing in the past, but I’m more of a dabbler now. I think I can save more money (and eat healthier foods) if I meal plan and shop wisely.

    Oh, and you’re right on that the library is a big money-saver! We go through tons of DVDs and books, all for free!

    1. Thanks Amy! Quality clothing is important. However, it is an area where I sometimes don’t even follow my own advice πŸ™

  9. Robin

    We downsized our home and it really does save tons of money! I wish I could get my husband to stop smoking. I HATE that he spends money on that on top of it just being downright disgusting. Ugh!

    1. Good job on downsizing!

  10. Oh, boy if being frugal meant I had to hate life I would definitely become a spendthrift! πŸ™‚

  11. I’m with you! I was spending a lot in the past and totally unhappy so I’ve cut back a lot lately. It helps that I don’t get crazy over things like new iphones and the latest tech. I also have a lot of frugal hobbies like visiting dog parks, playing sports with friends, and watching stuff on Netflix. It’s a simple and frugal life but I am so much happier when I’m not overspending!

    1. Good job on cutting back!

  12. Michael

    I think of you as just being money-conscious. I’m moving next month which is going to save me a significant amount of money right off the bat. I coupon but nothing more than just clipping and using them, and I always search out codes if shopping online. I also use subscribe & save with Amazon for things I know are good in bulk (TP, paper towels, fish supplies, etc.) This way I’m only buying these items quarterly.

    1. Good job saving money!

  13. I preordered the iPhone 6 (upgrading from a 4S I’ve been using the past three years) and I don’t feel guilty about it because I love my iPhones! But that’s why I budget: so I can splurge on the things I love. However, I agree that waiting in line for a gadget is rather crazy (mine will be delivered to my home on Friday). If I had to buy the phone in store I’d definitely be waiting awhile until all the craziness died down. I can’t stand crowds or waiting in line (Black Friday? Oh heck no!)

    I can completely relate to the can opener portion of your post because we have been in the same boat. I love my more expensive can opener. It works better and it doesn’t hurt my hands. The purchase was totally worth it.

    We strive extremely hard to not buy anything we’d regret later. There’s no worse feeling in my eyes than wasting money. A common mantra of mine is “I don’t mind SPENDING money, I just don’t like WASTING it”. So we think long and hard before buying something and I’m happy to report we’ve had very few regrets. And that iPhone 6? I know it was well worth it and I’ll be enjoying it for years.

    1. I think there’s nothing wrong with buying an iPhone 6. I have a 5 and my husband has a 5s πŸ™‚

  14. Brad @ How To Save Money

    Can you imagine waiting on line for some silly electronic device? I agree with you. It is beyond me. Not only is it a waste of time, but new items seem always to have bugs. I’ll wait for the second generation, with no lines, thank you.

    1. Yeah I’m not a fan of lines at all!

  15. I’m learning how to be more frugal each and every day. There are days that I fall of the wagon and spend money on things I don’t need, but for the most part I’ve been doing pretty good.

  16. I’m much happier now knowing I’m not wasting my money on “things” that I think make me happy – they don’t! I sometimes fall off the wagon, but on the whole, I enjoy my frugal lifestyle πŸ™‚

    1. I enjoy my frugal lifestyle as well πŸ™‚

  17. I agree different people can see your spending habits in totally different ways. But that doesn’t matter in the end because only you know yourself best. My “thing” is iced coffees from dunkin donuts and starbucks. I used to get them almost every day. Now I’ve completely cut out Starbucks since they’re so overpriced (I worked there for 6 years you think I would know!) and only go a couple of times a week to Dunkin. Not only has this helped my finances a little but I generally feel better as well. Maybe because those delicious frozen drinks are spiked with an unholy amount of sugar. Love the post!

  18. I try to do as much free things as possible to save money. I also don’t eat out as much.

    1. Sounds like a good plan πŸ™‚

  19. Alison

    I totally agree, there is such a difference between cheap and frugal. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said “think about the value something brings.” So very true. I think frugality is about discernment, thought and care. Cheapness is about cost.

    Also–I am a couponer (not extreme) but save nearly 2,000 a year on groceries. If you want a guest post about couponing, I would love to do one.
    Let me know. πŸ™‚

    1. I think that would be a great guest post. I would love to have you! Send me an email πŸ™‚

    2. Tanea

      Never thought of it like that. You’re so right.

    3. Regina

      Not only coupong but also signing up for store rewards. We usually shop certain stores regularly (best prices in our area) & signed up for all that offer store rewards (though some have cut back). They send me free items & specialized coupons for what I buy regularly in addition to rewarding me for just shopping. Spend $____ get $____ reward off next purchase. Of course I usually only huy what we use that is on sale that week (if needed). I have found that if I dont continue to (digitally) clip coupons that they stop offering some–been buying less & using up what we have preparing for selling house to move.

  20. Victoria Virgo

    I save money by making sure to use coupons whenever I can. There are not that many deals in the UK but I am always on the look-out.

  21. Tanea

    “We were spending money because we thought we ‘deserved’ it since we weren’t happy with our jobs.”

    This is exactly me right now. Being unhappy with my job and having to spend about 12 hours a day on it (getting ready, commuting 1 hour, 9 hour work day, then commuting 1 hour back) makes me want to just buy things and eat out all the time. It also makes me desperate to make money from my side hustles (so I can quit), which causes me to make frivolous purchases on advertising, digital products, etc. Before I know it I’ve spent hundreds of dollars and I have nothing to show for it. I’ve been trying for a long time to make money with side hustles so I can leave my job but unfortunately it hasn’t worked out for me. I’m glad you were able to get out of your rut!

    1. Thank you! I’m very grateful and happy that things turned out well for me. I hope things improve for you πŸ™‚

  22. Jen @ Save to Splurge

    Haha I am with you on the couponing! I’ve tried it a few times and just don’t have the patience for it. I love the easy deals though! But the more complicated transactions are way over my head!

    1. Yes, the complicated transactions just stress me out!

  23. I used to spend $600-$1000 eating out every month. I ran up my credit cards to a ridiculous amount (it could be worse, but it was a number that I wasn’t proud of considering what I was when I first moved out of my own). I have nothing to show for it. The past year or two, I’ve become really frugal… If I want to buy something (like clothes or whatever), if it is over $20, I probably won’t buy it. If it is over $20, I’ll have to consider what it is, its value, and whatnot. We still go on vacations because that is something we value. I am not a huge shopper, so I don’t have to worry about that. When I do shop, it is at Goodwill, Target, clearance racks, etc. Eating out was my hugest killer and even when I got married it was, because we would do it all the time. It’s so great to cook at home, save money, and just eat out 1-2 a week if that (think of it as a special treat).

    1. Good job Whitney on changing things around!

  24. Myles Money

    My favourite way to be frugal is cooking my own food rather than eating out. Not only is it cheaper, but I actually enjoy cooking and I can have my steak / fish / pizza however I want it.

    1. Yes, I’m the same way! I enjoy it much more now.

  25. Lisa

    As a former smoker, giving up cigarettes was one of the best financial decisions I’ve ever made! Over here in SF, packs are AT LEAST $6. Not only was I saving money from all the cigarettes i wasn’t buying, but my health has greatly improved and I’ve cut back on a ton of doctors visits.

  26. I totally agree about the electronics, I probably don’t utilize all the functions my phone has now, why would I upgrade?
    A favourite way that I save is menu planning, shopping the flyers, and using coupons. We used to waste so much food, and it was so frustrating!

  27. Veronica Lee

    I do not follow the latest fashion and buy only discounted clothes. Sometimes you can save as much as 70% off the original price. I would NEVER skimp on toilet paper!

  28. Heather in VA

    Oh would I love to sell my house! We bought it just 1.5 years ago but it is WAY too big for us. However, the market where we live is still really really bad. At any one time there are 5 houses or more for sale in our neighborhood. We would almost certainly loose money even though we bought at what was supposed to be the all time low. I am considering taking in a renter but I’m scared to take in a stranger when it is just me and my children (my spouse will begin working in another state soon).

    I agree toilet paper is something I just can’t skimp on. I have enough flannel to make us “family wipes” to last a year but just can’t bring myself to do it.

    1. Haha “family wipes.” Yeah, I’m good when it comes to that as well πŸ™‚

  29. Fantastic ideas! I know that downsizing your home can be a hard idea for some to swallow, but it definitely pays off.

  30. kim

    I LOVE being money minded. I find it challenging and rewarding in alot of ways. I use my cereal bags as baggies to put my children”s lunches in. I also use my taco bags to use as leftover bags.
    I believe in coupons and money back apps. I like to find neat ways to recycle old items and find ways to reuse. Which to me is a win win situation. I am constantly on the look out for new ideas to save money and time. I grew up with the saying money does not grow on trees. My main goal is to have my home paid off in three years, This will allow me to live debt free. Hopefully someone out there will have other ideas or hacks that could help me find other ways to save. Thank you for your posts. Glad to know that i am not the only person in this world that takes money for granted. A penny saved is a penny earned,