Frugal Living – Extremely Frugal Tips and Tricks
Need more frugal tips to help you get by on the budget that you have? Whether you need basic frugal tips or extremely frugal tips, this is the place to find them.
Frugal Living Tips
Do you want or need to live a more frugal life? Perhaps you are where my husband and I were at when we were starting out. Empty cupboards and no money to fill them. Or perhaps frugality is a choice for you. You don’t feel the need to waste your hard-earned money on things that you would rather get by without.
Over the years I’ve gathered so many frugal tips that I wanted to put the best ones in one place. Some of these frugal tips are rather “mild” and some others are extremely frugal tips. A good balance of both can keep you from becoming too burned out on your frugal journey and can also help to make frugality a habit in your life. Not something that you have to struggle to do on a daily basis.
Let’s dive right into these frugal tips today!
Freeze the credit cards.
Yes, I mean all of them. (And I mean literally freezing them in a chunk of frozen water in the freezer!) Freezing them allows us to keep them on hand but makes them not easily accessible. For me, it’s tempting to use that card when it’s in my wallet and I know there isn’t much left in my checking account.
We chose to get rid of all credit cards so we couldn’t be tempted at all, but to each their own. At least by freezing them, you won’t have easy access and might think about any purchases that would put you in debt.
Write Down Every Expense
Everything. Write it down. Keep a journal, notebook, anything will work. Write down when you pay a bill, write down when you buy sour cream, write down when you buy socks. Write it all down! Before we can start saving money we have to see where it’s all going.
Turn Your Water Heater Down to 120F or Lower
For every 10F you turn down your water heater, you will save 3-5% on energy costs. Plus it slows mineral buildup in your pipes and in your heater. Slowing mineral buildup will help your water heater last longer, in the long run, saving you the expense of having to put in a new one sooner!
If you aren’t sure how to turn down the heat you can follow these instructions.
Start a Winter Garden
I believe that everyone can have a garden no matter where you live! I want to challenge you to grow at least one thing. I like to grow at least lettuce year around.
Check out my post about my winter garden here. If it’s summer, there are so many vegetables that you can grow in pots even if you don’t have much space.
Get more tips on having a Frugal Garden here.
Start running the dishwasher on the short cycle
It will save electricity for not having to run as long and it will save water. It also saves electricity because the water heater won’t have to heat up as much water.
You won’t even notice the difference and bonus(!) it will take less time to get your dishes clean and then you can have a more organized kitchen. Extremely frugal tip…don’t run the dishwasher at all. Stick with hand washing! (for energy savings, not necessarily for water savings)
Here are some tips to save money on washing the dishes.
Use rags instead of paper towels
You can get free rags from Menards all the time with rebates or you can just cut up old clothes or sheets to use. You can even make fancy Un-Paper Towels if you wish! I keep them right under the sink so I’m not tempted to grab the paper towels. Not only are we saving money but we are recycling!
If you go through one roll of paper towels a week and you pay $1 per roll, that’s $52 a year. What could you do for an extra $52 a year?
Make one freezer meal per week.
When I told my husband this frugal tip he asked me how this would save money. Here are my thoughts…
There are some nights when I finish working and I’m just too tired to cook. Those are the nights when it’s tempting to have my husband grab something fast from the store to make for supper.
By putting away a meal I have the option of having a lazy night during the week and I don’t have to compromise my diet or my budget. And I’m not saying that you have to make a special time during the week to create that meal for the freezer. One evening while you are preparing supper just make a double batch, and stick part of it in the freezer for later. So simple!
Find lots of yummy Make Ahead Meals here.
Make sure appliances and electronics are turned off at night.
Even if your appliances and electronics look like they are shut off, if they are still plugged in they are still sucking electricity. For us, I think one of the biggest things we leave on is the computer.
Look around your home before you go to bed. Does anything have a light or a clock on? Then it’s still using some kind of electricity, even if it’s a small amount. Turn it off or unplug it if you can.
Here are more tips on saving money on electricity.
Switch to cloth napkins.
Paper napkins can be expensive and there are rarely coupons out for them. We made the switch to cloth napkins years ago and haven’t looked back.
I toss them in with our regular laundry loads every other day and it barely causes me any extra work. You can make your own cloth napkins if you like. We use these napkins from World Market. They have lasted us many years so far and are a perfect size.
Don’t throw away any food.
This will be a challenging one. The average family of four throws away 122 pounds of food each month! That’s a lot of wasted money that we are literally throwing in the garbage.
An easy way to use up all the leftovers from the week is to have at least one designated leftover day each week. Once (or twice) each week get out all the leftovers and set them up buffet style. That way things get eaten up instead of hanging out in the back of the fridge until it gets moldy…
Get lots of creative tips for using up leftovers here.
Unplug 2 things that you aren’t using.
Not everything that’s plugged in draws power when it’s off. For example, when a lamp is off, it’s off, it has no standby power and so it won’t draw electricity when it’s not turned on.
Unplug things like the coffee maker, the bread machine, even your phone charger left plugged in will use power. Use a Kill-A-Watt to find out what is using power and unplug at least 2 things that rarely need to be plugged in. Unplug more if you can!
Check out this post for ideas on how you can conserve energy.
Go meatless 2 days per week.
We try to eat meatless at least one day a week. Meat is one of the most expensive proteins per pound that you can buy. If your husband is like mine, he may be a little resistant to this idea so try and find some hearty meals to make up for it.
Filling vegetable stews are a great way to do this as are most Potato Dinner Recipes.
Find meatless meal ideas on this page.
Turn the heat down 5 degrees.
For every one degree that you turn down your heat and leave it down for at least 8 hours, you will save about 1% – 3% off your heating bill. This week try and turn the heat down 5 degrees. If you don’t want to do it all at once, just turn it down one degree every day.
Of course, if you have a wood stove, don’t worry about this one.
Find more tips for saving on Heating Expenses here.
Make sure you are turning off the lights in unused rooms.
I’m pretty good at remembering to do this but my hubby and kids aren’t great about turning off lights when they leave a room. If there is no one in it, the lights really don’t need to be on. It’s good to just pay more attention and only have the lights on in the room that we are in.
This really seems like a simple thing but how often do we leave the lights on in the kitchen when we are only in the living room? It happens!
Shampoo hair every other day.
If you currently shampoo your hair every day, try it for this week and see if you notice a difference. This is something I already do. I still wash my hair with water but I don’t always shampoo it. (I need that morning shower to wake up!)
I have long hair and when I go to get it cut (which is very rare, only about twice a year) the ladies always tell me how healthy my hair looks.
Extra frugal tip, Make Your Own Shampoo.
Sell 3 things on Craigslist/Facebook/Newspaper each week.
This week find at least 3 things that you don’t need and list them for sale where ever your local free ads can be listed. Craigslist is always free, Facebook is free, and some newspapers allow you to list free items if they are under a certain dollar amount.
A goal that you might want to reach is to sell 3 things each week that you don’t need. A little extra money and you get rid of things that you don’t really need around your house!
Get tips for having a good online “garage sale” here.
Replace 1 bulb with a LED Bulb as you can.
If you run a single incandescent bulb 5 hours a day for two years, it will cost you around $32 (depending on your energy rates). Most of that money is spent on electricity. If you run a single LED bulb 5 hours a day for two years, it will cost you $3. Invest in one this week and one next week and one the week after….until your whole house is changed over.
Since LED bulbs are common now, watch for sales or for bulk packs to get them for less money upfront.
Use 1/4 less laundry detergent.
Instead of filling up that detergent lid to the fill line, add a little less. That means if your bottle of detergent usually does 32 loads of laundry it will now do 40 loads. If your goal price is to pay $0.06 per load or about $1.99 per 32 load bottle that you buy, then reducing your detergent use to 75% off what you normally use brings it down to $0.05 per load, per my little example above.
In the end, it will save you from buying about 1 bottle of detergent per year(if you do an average of 5 loads per week). You can possibly even reduce the amount of detergent you use by 60%.
See my comprehensive post on Frugal Laundry Strategies.
Instead of buying something you need right away, post for it on Facebook or Barter for it.
Try this for just one thing this week. If you can barter for it or if someone has it for free on Facebook, you saved that much money on something that you would have boughten anyway!
Not confident about your bartering skills? Learn more here.
Line dry your clothes.
Here it costs $0.12 per kWh for electricity(check your local bill for your cost per kilowatt hour) that means each time you run the dryer it costs $0.40. That may not seem like much but that means if you are doing 5 loads of laundry per week, it’s costing you an extra $8.58 per month on your electric bill. If you are doing 8 loads of laundry a week, it’s costing you $13.75 per month on your electric bill. If you don’t have to spend that extra $100 – $200 a year, why would you? Line-dry your clothes!
Even if you don’t have enough room to put up a big clothesline in the backyard you could use one of these Clothesline Trees or you can get a single clothesline in the camping section of Walmart that you can easily take down and put up. If it’s winter, or you can’t line dry because of allergies or restrictions in your neighborhood, get an indoor drying rack. That’s what we have!
Frugal Drying Strategies are covered in my comprehensive post onFrugal Laundry Strategies. Or check out my post on How We Live Without a Dryer.
Make a bills checklist.
My husband started doing this several years ago. We are both pretty good at remembering dates but occasionally when you get busy, something can slip your mind, like a bill payment. And even though you still remember and get it paid they tack on a late fee. The average credit card late fee is $39. That’s a lot! If you are late on your payment just 3 times in one year that’s over $100.
What my husband did was type up a list of the bills that need to be paid each month in the order they need to be paid. If the date of one changed each month, he would leave that blank, and as soon as we know we fill it in. Each time we pay a bill we cross it off on the list. Don’t forget to put the list somewhere you can easily find it and it’s easily seen.
Clean out your clothing.
Every time we clean out and I start going through our clothes closet I am amazed at all the clothes I’d been keeping around that either didn’t fit anymore or were really yucky, didn’t fit, and all stained up. After going through the closet we seem to have boxes and boxes of clothes to sell on a rummage sale.
Consider creating a Minimalist Wardrobe.
Give gifts the frugal way.
I love giving presents! For any reason or any occasion. I’m not sure why, but I’ve always been that way. I used to try and get my family to open the gifts from me last because I loved the suspense up til they opened my gift and then I loved to be able to focus on the joy on their faces when they opened it.
But as I’m sure you know, cost doesn’t have to matter when you are gift-giving. I never really understood the meaning of “It’s the thought that counts” until I started to get extremely frugal.
When I ask for gifts, I almost always want something useful and practical instead of something expensive and shiny. I would be thrilled to get a coupon from my hubby for a night off from cooking, or for him to do laundry! So think about that when you are giving gifts.
Does that grad really need a fancy new tv for their dorm? Or would they also use a basket full of cleaning supplies or quick fix cooking things? The first may be shinier and I’m sure it would be enjoyed but the second will also be very much appreciated as well.
You should also consider Experience Gifts.
Consider a lifestyle change.
This is one of the more extremely frugal tips and it’s not for everyone but it’s something to think about. We’ve done fulltime RV living 4 times over the course of our marriage so far and never regretted it. Each time was a great way to prepare for our next adventure and to help give our family a fresh start, not to mention it’s how we got out of debt.
Read all about Fulltime RV Living here.
Cut your own hair.
I’ve been cutting the hubby’s hair for about 10 years now and I’ve been cutting my own for several years. I started cutting the hubby’s hair because we couldn’t afford to pay $15 for a haircut every other month. Especially when a decent razor costs $20 or less.
I also use the same method to cut my boys’ hair and cut my daughter’s hair myself when it’s long enough to need a trim. By cutting our own hair, we save at least $450 a year.
Here’s a very basic How to Cut Men’s Hair tutorial.
Use Swagbucks to make Amazon or Paypal money.
I still love Swagbucks. All you do is do a couple of simple searches using the Swagbucks search bar each day and collect your Swagbucks. Once you get to 500 Swagbucks you can cash them in for a $5 Amazon gift card! I use mine to get books or good deals in the organic grocery section. It’s easy and takes just seconds each day.
I also use Ibotta to get cash back when I’m grocery shopping and I always cash out for an Amazon gift card. I like to save these up and use them to buy gifts.
Find extra ways to save money at the grocery store here.
Buy in bulk.
If you are serious about saving money on groceries and you want to eat as healthy and natural as possible, buying in bulk is the way to go. Since we’ve started switching over to organic, bulk is the way I buy almost everything. I buy through a co-op(the one that we own and also Azure Standard) and I buy in bulk on Amazon, and I buy in bulk at Sam’s Club. (Only occasionally at Sam’s and only for a few items I can’t get elsewhere and that we go through too fast to only get once a month)
Even though we buy natural and organic I’m still able to keep our monthly grocery budget very low and that’s due to buying in bulk.
Read more about Buying in Bulk here and learn how to shop at a bulk coop here.
Make homemade cleaners.
It’s so easy and inexpensive to make your own homemade cleaners. Not to mention it’s better for the environment and it’s better for your health to not have to breathe in all those chemicals.
Here is a post with several different super easy homemade cleaner recipes.
Have a no-spend weekend.
It seems like we spend the most money on the weekends. We have time to go out and shop and occasionally it’s a cure for boredom. Have the challenge to have a no spend weekend. I’m not saying you have to do it every weekend but have one weekend once in a while where you stay home and try to spend no extra money.
Start a change jar.
If you haven’t already, start a change jar. Put in any extra change that you find around the house, in your pockets, or leftover from a shopping trip. Maybe save the money in the change drawer up for something special or just save it up and when it gets full take it and put it in savings.
We have a change jar that I keep next to my washer and dryer, I use some of the change to pay the kid’s commission for extra jobs around the house and the rest we save for vacations.
Pretend when you get extra money that it didn’t really happen.
We all get extra money here and there, a bonus check, a gift, little things here and there. Since it was extra and you weren’t counting on it anyways, put it in savings right away and forget about it. You will be surprised at how fast it builds up without you even noticing!
Put a brick in your toilet tank.
Adding something heavy into your toilet tank will reduce the amount of water it has to fill up with when you flush. Instead of putting a brick directly into your tank (which can dissolve and possibly create drainage issues), here’s what you can do. Grab a plastic jug (1/2 gallon milk or something similar) and fill it partially with pebbles, sand, or whatever stones you have handy. Fill it the rest of the way with water. Place the container into the toilet tank and replace the lid. This should save you 1/2 gallon of water with each flush.
Since the average American flushes the toilet 5 times each day, each person in your family will save an average of 75 gallons of water per month.
Do timed showers.
When I was growing up I can’t tell you how many times my parents yelled at me that I was taking way too long in the shower. Now that I’m an adult I can understand the fact that it not only wastes water that you have to pay for, but it also wastes electricity to heat up all the warm water you are using.
As far as electricity goes (based on an electric hot water heater) 30 showers a month at 5 minutes each will cost $10.06 vs 30 showers a month at 10 minutes each would cost $20.11 each month. And as far as water goes, a 5-minute shower will use 12.5 gallons of water vs a 10-minute shower which will use 25 gallons.
If your children are still young, try to make this a game that they have to be done in the shower by the time the timer goes off.
Write to companies for coupons.
Sometimes the best place to find coupons isn’t the internet or the newspaper. It’s right from the company. Find the contact email for a company and write them a note on how you enjoy or how you are disappointed with their products. Most of the time they will send you some coupons for more of their products!
I’ve written to many companies that our family enjoys and have been sent some wonderful high-value coupons, even coupons for free products.
Make bread at home.
I always make bread at home. If you don’t think you have enough time to make bread I highly recommend you invest in a bread machine, it will be worth it in the long run. All you have to do is add about 5-6 ingredients, push a few buttons and let it go!
I don’t bake in my bread machine much since we like a regular-shaped loaf, but I enjoy making dough in it, especially pizza dough. I can throw a few ingredients in it and leave it go for an hour, then I take out the dough, divide it in half and freeze it in plastic bags for future meals.
I have a recipe for Bread Machine Bread Mix here and this is my recipe for Basic White Bread. You can also check out my Gluten Free Bread Machine Bread recipe too!
Stick to the food basics.
Next time you head to grocery store walk around the perimeter. You will see the basics, bread, produce, meat. When you are trying to stretch a buck when it comes to your groceries, it’s good to try and avoid those middle aisles filled with pretty packaging and all kinds of foods we really don’t need. A person really only needs fruits, vegetables, proteins, and healthy fats.
Consider this the next time you are grocery shopping before you put something into your cart. Do you really need that box of sugary cereal for $2? Or can it be replaced with a container of oats for less than $1/lb?
Learnhow to save money on healthy foods here, plus here’s 12 More Tips for Saving Money at the Grocery Store.
Reuse and repurpose plastic grocery bags.
As many times as I try and remember to take my reusable bags, I still end up having a big pile of plastic grocery bags at home. Here are some ideas of what you can do with them:
- Garbage can liner
- Cat pan liner
- Car trash sacks for road trips
- Doggie clean up bags
- Garage sale customer bags
- Packing material
- Line paint trays
- Lunch bags
- Diaper pail liner
- Toiletries holder
Find more uses for Plastic Bags here and more uses for other household items here.
Think outside the box when it comes to shopping.
I love shopping at our local surplus grocery store because I can find excellent deals on products that I would otherwise never be able to afford to buy. They even have crazy discounts on natural and organic products. Some surplus grocery stores even have refrigerated and frozen goods!
Learn how to shop at a surplus grocery store here.
Keep those glass jars.
I love glass jars of any shape or form and I almost never throw them away. I reuse the smaller ones for my homemade mixes, I store spices in them, I store dehydrated food in them, I store craft items in them, I use them to hold grease until I can dump it out. They just have so many uses!
Some are even the perfect shape to keep for “Tupperware containers” and since we store all our food in some kind of glass or Pyrex container, this can be a real money saver since glass containers are much more expensive than plastic.
Find more uses for glass jars here.
We’ve finally made it to the end of this massive list of frugal tips. Did you see anything that you aren’t already doing? If you need even more ways to save money you can find a huge list of frugal living tips on my Frugal Living Tips page here on Little House Living.
Which of these frugal tips are you going to do next? Which frugal tips are you already doing?
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These tips were originally published on Little House Living in January, February, and March of 2011. This post has been updated in January 2023.