The ULTIMATE GUIDE to saving money for beginners! These 100 simple frugal living tips and ideas will teach you how to save money on everything in 2021-including groceries, car expenses, entertainment, utilities, and more!
Getting ahead, paying off debt, and building savings may all be part of your financial goals. But how can you get ahead when you are just making ends meet? Or maybe not really making ends meet?
This list includes 100 of my best frugal living tips so you can start saving money now! Not all tips will work for everyone, but start with one tips that applies to your particular situation. Then try adding another one next week. You’d be surprised how much you can save as you start implementing multiple money savings tips throughout your life.
Note: Some links in this post are affiliate links, which means I receive a commission if you make a purchase.
How To Be Frugal With Utility Costs
1. Use a programmable thermostat. Program it to keep your house cool (in the summer) or warm (in the winter) only at times when you are home and need temperature to be comfortable. When you are at work or asleep you can probably set it to higher (or lower)
2. Use curtains. Keep curtains closed to keep the sun from heating up rooms in the summer.
3. Use fans. Skip the A/C and make due with fans to cool off.
4. Change rooms. Spend more time in more comfortable areas of your home. In the summer, enjoy the coolness of the basement. In the winter, enjoy a sunny room.
5. Dress warmer. In cooler temps, dress warmer and use blanket and keep your thermostat lower. (Just make sure it is okay for everyone is your family. Elderly or small children may need the home warmer)
6. Check utility rates. Some states are deregulated and you can choose your supplier. Shop around and see if you can find a better rate.
7. Swap light bulbs. CFL and LED bulbs use much less electricity and last longer too.
8. Use cold water. Whenever possible, use cold water to wash your clothes and save on costs to heat your water.
9. Turn it off. Turn off lights, televisions, and fans when you leave the room. Consider using a surge protector and turn it off to avoid drains when items are not being used.
10. Use only what you need. Don’t let the water run too long to warm up before getting in the shower. Fill the tub up less when bathing kids. Don’t let the water run while brushing your teeth.
11. Buy energy efficient appliances. If you are in the market for a new appliances, find ones that are most energy efficient to save on your utility bills.
12. Plan meals around the weather. Try not to use the oven on a very hot day so you don’t have to use the air conditioner more to cool the house down after cooking. Likewise, having dinner in the oven on a cold day gives you some freebie heat.
13. Use a toaster oven. If you are heating a small amount of food, try using a toaster oven instead of the oven. It’s also great for reheating food like pizza!
14. Get rid of the landline. Consider how often you use your home phone and if your family can do with just cell phones. Many people get by without a landline now.
15. Check your cell phone package. Make sure you are in the best package for your usage. Cell phone companies regularly change their pricing and offerings so there may be different options available.
Saving Money on Auto Expenses
16. Carpool to work. If your co-workers live nearby, take turns driving to save on gas.
17. Get a toll transponder. If you live in an area with toll roads that you use regularly, see if there’s a discount for using the electronic toll transponder. Here in Pennsylvania, we get a 30% discount for going electronic instead of paying cash.
18. Carpool the kids. Trade off with the other parents on taking the kids to school, sports, and events.
19. Sign up for mail from auto shops. Getting on the mailing list at your local auto service shops can save money. They regularly mail out discounts for oil changes, mileage related tune-ups and regular repair work.
20. Plan your outings. When running errands or shopping, plan to keep the stops in the same general area. Also, consider trying to keep them on the same day instead of making several trips during the week.
21. Wash your own car. Skip the car wash and do it yourself and save $8 or more each time.
22. Shop around for car insurance. When was the last time you got a rate quote for car insurance? Try switching companies for a better rate.
Spending Less Money On Food
23. Sign up for the rewards/club card. Many chains offer a rewards card at no cost. These usually entitle you to special savings throughout the store. Many also now offer gas discounts based on total grocery purchases during a specified time.
24. Check your cabinets/fridge/freezer. Check what you have at home so you don’t buy a duplicate of an item that’s hiding in the back of the cabinet.
25. Shop your cabinets/fridge/freezer. What can you make with what you already have?
26. Plan your meals. Determine what meals you will be making during the week. Having a plan avoids the extra trips to the store (which tend to result in impulse buys) and spending money on dining out because you can’t decide on dinner.
27. Leave everyone else at home. Less people shopping means less chance for extra impulse buys and less distraction while you are shopping for the best deals.
28. Stock up on sale items. When an item you regularly consume is on sale, stock up to make the most of the sale. This is best for non-perishable items, but if you have the proper storage, you can stock up on meat and produce by freezing.
29. Make a list and stick to it. Creating a list will help you remember everything you need to purchase and avoid trips in the middle of the week for forgotten items. Keeping away from impulse buys will help the total bill.
30. Buy in bulk. If a larger quantity gives you a better price, then buy the bigger package. Some stores figure the unit price for you on the price tag, others you will have to do the math yourself. Don’t buy in bulk if you won’t use it or don’t have the room to store it.
31. Go vegetarian. Meat is expensive-eat a meatless meal at least once a week.
32. Check out the manager’s specials. Meat that has a sell by date within the next day or two is usually marked down significantly which is great if you are using it that day or have the means to store it.
33. Skip the baked goods. You can make cupcakes, muffins, and cookies at home for less and you end up with more. A boxed cake mix and frosting might run you about $2 and make about 24 cupcakes as opposed to getting 6-8 cupcakes for $4 or more.
34. Eat leftovers. Instead of throwing away the last of dinner, save it. It might not be enough for another dinner, but could be lunch the next day.
35. Make your own seasoning mixes. Instead of paying $1 each time you want to make tacos, search online for a taco seasoning mix. You probably already have all the spices you need on hand to create your own mix!
36. Transform leftovers. Take last night’s dinner and turn it into a different meal the next day. Baked chicken could turn into chicken alfredo or a chicken salad.
37. Brown bag your lunch. Skip the fast food and lunches out. Spending $5-10 a day can add up fast. That same $5-10 on one lunch out could buy enough food to make lunch for the week.
38. Avoid convenience packaging. Buying the single serving bags of chips is a much higher cost for the amount of food you get compared to buying a big bag and separating it yourself. Pre-cut vegetables and salad are other great examples of the higher cost of
39. Grow your own. If you have room, grow your own herbs and vegetables. Plenty of veggies can even be grown in containers on a patio if you don’t have a yard and herbs can be grown in the windowsill!
Saving Money on Bathroom Supplies
40. Stock up. Buy medications that you use regularly (such as allergy or pain medication) in bulk.
41. Buy store brand. Consider the generic for over the counter medications, vitamins, and supplements-they are often a fraction of the cost of name brand medications.
42. Get a 90 day prescription. If you take any maintenance medications, see if your doctor will write you a prescription for a 90 day supply instead of a 30 day supply. Copays for a 90 day supply are usually less than what you would pay for three 30-day supply
prescriptions. (Check with your insurance company first)
43. Ask for samples. See if your doctor has any samples of your medication. This is especially helpful if you have a medication that does not have a generic equivalent.
44. Use less. Pay attention to everything you are using in the bathroom-can you get by with a little less? Next time you are in the shower, try using half as much and see if you can get by with that. The same goes for other items too-toothpaste, toilet paper, and more!
45. Consider the store brand. There are plenty of items you can get in a store brand version in the bathroom: Shampoo, conditioner, body wash, hand soap, feminine products, cotton balls, contact solution and mouth wash.
46. Do your own manicures/pedicures. Skip the salon pedicures/manicures and do them at home instead. You may pay a little up front for your supplies, but once you’ve purchased supplies, the manicures are free!
47. Compare Unit Prices. Trying to find the best deals on toilet paper drives me crazy! There’s big packages, double rolls, mega rolls, and it can be hard to figure out which one is the best deal. Each package should indicate how many sheets per roll, and the number you want to look for: total square feet. When looking for the best deal, look at total square feet on the package.
Be Thrifty With Cleaning Supplies
48. Buy generic. Instead of expensive name brand cleaners, give the store brand cleaners a try. You’ll likely find they do just as good a job at cleaning.
49. Simplify. Stick with a couple multi-purpose cleaners instead of several specific cleaners.
50. Make your own cleaners. Vinegar and baking soda work wonders.
51. Use reusable products. Instead of paper towels, use washcloths and towels for cleaning.
Find Ways To Have Frugal Fun
52. Check out the library. You can find books, magazines, DVDs, CDs and more. Mine even has video games!
53. Consider cable alternatives. Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon have plenty of watching options and are easier on the budget. How much could you save by cutting cable out?
54. Cut back on cable/satellite. See if there’s a cheaper plan with less channels that still satisfies your watching needs. Can you cut any specialty subscriptions like movie channels or sports?
55. Use Redbox. Instead of paying $4+ for a movie rental through your cable provider, Amazon or iTunes, rent from your local Redbox kiosk for just over $1.
56. Cancel magazine subscriptions. If you don’t really read it, stop paying money for magazine subscriptions.
57. Subscribe to must-have magazines. If you have a magazine you can’t do without, subscribe instead of picking it up at the checkout counter. Rates for subscribers are much less than cover prices.
58. Get ebooks instead of print books. They are typically cheaper and often can be read with an app on your phone/tablet or even on your computer if you don’t have an e-reader like the Kindle or Nook.
59. Get ebooks from the library. Your local library probably offers ebooks as well as print books. Free is even better than cheap.
60. Have movie night at home. Rent a movie (or watch one you already have) and pop your own popcorn.
61. Cook a fancy dinner at home. Pick up some steaks (or your favorite food) and cook them yourself. The cost of the food will be much less than what you would have spent out at a restaurant.
62. Get outdoors. Go for a walk or hike at your favorite park or hiking trail.
63. Buy a membership. Does your family have a place you visit multiple times a year such as the zoo or a museum? Usually the cost of a membership pays for itself after a couple of visits.
64. Check out Groupon. Local businesses use Groupon deals to get people to check them out. Groupon offers deals on restaurants, spas, local entertainment, and more. It’s a great way to find new things to do without breaking the bank!
Saving Money on Dining Out
65. Go on Family Night. Many restaurants offer specials for kids. Dining out on a specific night (usually a weeknight) might earn you a free kid’s meal with each adult meal purchased. Others offer discounted kid’s meals on Family Nights.
66. Drink water. Skip the soda (and alcoholic beverages). At $2-$3 per soda, you can cut $5-10 off your family’s bill by choosing water instead.
67. Skip the appetizer and dessert. You probably won’t finish the entree anyway, so do you really need more food?
68. Follow your favorite places on social media. Many chains regularly post offers on social media channels. Don’t forget to follow smaller places too! Our local frozen yogurt shop and cupcake shop both post daily deals.
69. Sign up for the rewards club or email list. You might get discounts after so many visits with a rewards program and discounts emailed to you.
70. Order curbside and take it home instead. Provide your drinks at home and you won’t be tempted to add on dessert when you’re done. I am more tempted to save some as leftovers when I eat at home too. When I’m at a restaurant, the leftovers don’t seem to be enough to save or I forget the take-home box on the table.
71. Check the website for specials. Pizza places always have special deals on their website that you can order.
72. Take home the extra for another meal. Restaurant portions tend to be much larger than we can really eat. Eat half and take the other half home for a lunch or dinner meal. We also order extra when we order pizza-we find a deal when buying two or more pizzas (even though we only need one) that usually ends up the same price as a single pizza. Then we have another pizza for lunch or dinner the next day.
73. Instead of delivery, go pick up the order. This saves the delivery charge and a tip–a few extra dollars adds up over time.
74. Look for gift card purchase deals. I see these everywhere around the holidays, but they pop up at other times too. I recently received an email about getting a free $5 gift card with the purchase of a $25 gift card.
75. Complete the survey on your receipt. A couple minutes of your time might earn a $5 discount next time.
76. Keep an eye out for coupons. The newspaper inserts, local mailers, and fundraising books (like Entertainment Books) can all be great sources.
How To Spend Less Money on Clothes
77. Shop the clearance racks. When shopping for clothes towards the end of the season, you can save 50% or more. If you have kids, you can buy clothes ahead a year for a fraction of the cost. You can also find clothing items that are not season specific on the clearance racks.
78. Check out the loyalty program. Many clothing stores offer some sort of Bucks, Cash, or Reward dollars. If your favorite store has a program, check out the details to take the best advantage of it. For example, Kohl’s offers cash rewards based on $50 increments. To get the best value of rewards, you’d want to keep your purchases as close to the $50 mark. Then when you get your reward dollars, try to keep your purchase to as close to the reward dollars. Each program is different, so you’ll have to read the details for your favorite store.
79. Shop discount stores. Ross, Marshalls, and TJ Maxx have great prices on clothes. It may take a little digging through the racks to find what you need, but your wallet will thank you! I have had great luck finding nicer clothes for work at a fraction of the price.
80. Check for coupons. Before heading out, be sure to check the store’s website. Many stores offer coupons through their website.
81. Check out Retail Me Not. If you are shopping online, look for coupon codes on Retail Me Not before making an online purchase.
82. Shop thrift or second-hand stores. It may take a little looking, but you can find clothes in great condition at a great price.
83. Keep your wardrobe to a minimum. Purchase flexible pieces that can be worn in different ways.
84. Utilize hand-me-downs for kids. Kids go through clothes fast. If you have kids that are the same sex, you can save clothes for the next one to grow into. You can also see about getting clothes from relatives or neighbors and then pass the clothes on to someone else when your kids have outgrown them.
85. Sign up for the mailing list. Stores are hungry for your business and regular send out discounts for percentage off or free items.
Ideas For Frugality Around the House
87. Skip color printing. When printing at home, print in black and white and in draft mode to use less ink.
88. Recycle store bags. Instead of buying small trash bags, reuse the plastic grocery store bags in your small trash cans. They are also great for cleaning up after your dog or taking out the litter box trash.
89. Make it yourself. Are you handy? Use your skills to build what you need instead of buying it (such as a bookshelf, table, etc).
90. Upcycle and repurpose items. Instead of throwing something away, see if you can reuse it for another purpose. Get creative!
91. Buy it used. Check out thrift stores, consignment shops, Craigslist, or Facebook buy/sell groups for items like furniture, tools, and yard supplies.
Frugal Financial Services
92. Pay cash. Paying cash is a great way to keep your spending in check.
93. Don’t pay account maintenance fees. Find a checking account that you can meet the requirements to avoid any monthly fees. Find a new bank (or credit union) if your bank doesn’t offer an account that meets your needs.
94. Avoid ATM fees. Stick to your bank for ATM withdrawals. Otherwise, you’ll pay $2-3 from the other bank plus $2-3 from your bank. If you can’t avoid using another bank, limit your withdrawals by making one or two larger withdrawals instead of several smaller withdrawals.
95. Pay off debt. Less debt equals more money in your pocket each month. Try the snowball method to get started.
96. Make your payments on time. Late fees of $25+ at a time make it hard to ever get ahead on your loan payments.
97. Ditch annual fees. If your credit card has an annual fee, consider if it is worth it. Even if the card has rewards, how much do you have to charge to get rewards? Also, if you carry a balance, reward cards tend to have higher interest rates.
98. Use the bank’s bill-pay service. The service is typically free so you’ll save on stamps and envelopes. Plus, you’ll avoid those pesky “convenience fees” charged by the cable company, utilities, etc.
99. Save up for big purchases. Instead of using a credit card for a larger purchase, save up until you can actually afford it and avoid interest charges.
100. Wait to buy. Before making a purchase, wait a few days to see if the impulse passes. Too often we give in to impulses for things we don’t really need.
Best Money Saving Tips
These simple frugal living tips are easy to weave into your everyday life. Start with one tip and add more as you get used to being frugal!