101 Tips for Frugal Living

This is a compilation based on the discussion on FatWallet Finance Forum. Please feel free to add any additional tips in the comments below. However, I request you to keep the comments short and to the point, so the list just flows into the comment section and the post remains a handy quick reference guide. If you feel strongly about any particular tip and would like to discuss it further, please do it here. Thanks!

  1. Shop wholesale whenever possible. (E.g. Costco, Sams Club etc)

  2. Split membership charges to wholesale clubs. Eg.: Costco, Sams Club etc, allow you to share your membership with another member of your “family”

  3. Buy generic store brand products to shave a few dollars off your grocery bill.

  4. Stock up on non-perishable groceries, if available at discounted prices.

  5. Plan meals out before buying groceries and stick to what you need.

  6. If your grocery store offers loyalty/club cards, use them. Generally, they are free to get, but you will be privy to special savings prices.

  7. Shopping
  8. Avoid buying clothes that require dry cleaning!

  9. Buy at least some of your stuff from garage sales/consignment stores/thrift stores/dollar stores etc.

  10. Buy clothes at the end of season, when they are usually deep discounted.

  11. Never buy anything at full price. Whatever it is you want, it WILL go on sale sometime.

  12. Avoid impulse buying.

  13. Comparison shop. Don’t buy something unless (a) you really need it and (b) you are getting it for the lowest price possible.

  14. Start holiday shopping WAY in advance. Buy gifts whenever you find a good sale. This will prevent you from paying full price at the last minute and also will make sticking to holiday budget easier.

  15. If formal events are rare in your life, rent that tux, prom dress etc.

  16. If you don’t need to, then don’t pay for software. There is a lot of open source software available out there.

  17. Buy “open stock items” for big ticket electronics. They are generally deep discounted.

  18. Auto
  19. Don’t exceed speed limit. Speeding tickets are a luxury for the rich and stupid :)

  20. Find the best speed to drive you car for the best fuel economy. For most sedans it is supposed to be 60mph (Disclaimer: I’m not an automobile engineer)

  21. Slow down if you notice the light turning red instead of speeding to the traffic light and then jamming the breaks.

  22. Buy the lowest octane gasoline recommended for the engine of your car.

  23. Check the pressure in your tires regularly – improves fuel economy.

  24. Buy only how much car you need for your every day use. For those rare occasions of large family get-togethers’, rent! Same for the itch to drive a fancy sports car.

  25. Carpool if/when possible.

  26. Drive your car until the wheels fall off. Then go out and buy another pre-owned car.

  27. Set a rapport with a mechanic. Avoid the big chains (firestone, aamco etc) like the plague.

  28. Utilities and Services
  29. Use a space heater (in winter) and a fan (in summer), if you have a big house but use only few rooms.

  30. Use energy saving bulbs to save electricity.

  31. Check the number of bulbs you have in your bathroom. If you don’t need as many, unscrew some of them and save on electricity.

  32. When not in a room, turn the light and fan off.

  33. When not watching, turn the TV off.

  34. When not using computer turn it off. If not the computer, at least switch off the monitor or put it in auto-power-off setting.

  35. Fix leaky faucets immediately.

  36. Switch off water while brushing teeth, washing face etc.

  37. If using water for a very short time, use the cold water faucet instead of the hot water faucet.

  38. Turn off the automatic settings on your sprinkler system when it rains.

  39. If replacing appliances or windows at home, buy energy-saving appliances (your city council may even give you cash-back rebates for doing this.) If replacing toilets or shower heads, go for low-flow products.

  40. Sign only for one year contracts on cell phones. That way you can get a new phone every year. Try to make some money from cell phone rebates.

  41. If you have a cell phone, get rid of the land line.

  42. Share broadband wireless access with neighbors.

  43. Watch for opportunities to negotiate. Most businesses in the services sector have enough competition, that they will be willing to consider your offer. (Eg. cable, Phone etc)

  44. Periodically revisit your recurring bills such as phone, cable, dvd club membership etc. to find if there are any new deals of competition available.

  45. Food
  46. Pack lunch instead of going out.

  47. Brew your own coffee, unless going to the coffee house helps build your social or career network.

  48. Don’t buy cookbooks. Look up recipes on the net!

  49. Eat out sparingly. (Personal opinion: If you try to completely stop eating out, you might start to hate cooking and end up eating out too much. )

  50. If eating out, share meals if possible. Or doggy bag the leftovers for next days lunch.

  51. If eating out, check if the restaurant has already included “automatic gratuities” in your bill. (If not, please leave a tip – being frugal is NOT the same as being cheap)

  52. If eating out with family, look for places with family meal deals or kids-eat-free etc.

  53. If eating out, try to forego the soda and stick to water.

  54. If eating in, make sure it’s healthy. Cheap frozen/canned alternatives to cooking may save you money now, but will cost you a lot in doctor’s bills in future.

  55. If eating in, plan meals ahead of time to avoid, “What shall I cook… hmmm… hmmm… hmmm….. heck, lemme just eat out”.

  56. Bottle your own water. Invest in a good filter if necessary. If not, buy cheap distilled water at the grocery store by the gallon.

  57. Credit cards and Banking
  58. Don’t use credit cards that charge annual fees. There are more than enough no-fee cards to choose from.

  59. Don’t use bank accounts that charge for checking, monthly fees etc.

  60. Keep only as much as you need (+ a small buffer) in the checking account. Keep the rest in saving accounts (preferably high-yield savings account)

  61. Avoid ATM fees. If the ATM for your bank is not close by, remember, several grocery stores offer cash back if you use debit card for purchase, without extra fees.

  62. Pay your bills on time. Late fees are such a drag!

  63. If you are disciplined, use credit cards for all your purchases. This can give you valuable rewards, and prevent you from wasting those 18 cents after paying for a $2.72 purchase.

  64. Mortgage
  65. If you are still stuck with a high mortgage rate, refinance.

  66. Try to pay 20% down payment for the house and avoid the PMI. If paying PMI keep track of when your equity in the house crosses 20% and call to get the PMI cancelled.

  67. If using bi-weekly mortgage payment, check if you are being charged a fee. You can manually get the benefit of bi-weekly payment without having to pay the fees.

  68. Entertainment
  69. Don’t buy magazines at full price! Search online for free/cheap subscriptions. (Eg. I paid $5 per year average for TIME subscription for past few years).

  70. Lose the news paper. Get your news from TV and Internet.

  71. Look for dollar theatres in your area. They are older cinema halls and usually play around 2 month old movies – but @ $1 - $2.50 a ticket, they are a bargain!

  72. Go to the cinema on a full stomach. You won’t be tempted to buy pop corn, soda etc.

  73. Buy movie tickets ahead of time in Costco for lower than the box office rates.

  74. Buy books at half price. Better still, borrow it from the public library.

  75. Travel
  76. Look for consolidator fares (eg. mobissimo, kayak, etc) while booking airfare, hotel or car rental.

  77. Be flexible with dates, if possible, while traveling. Weekday departure/returns with Saturday night stay could save you a bunch of money.

  78. Never pay for a travel alarm – use your cell phone or wake-up call service.

  79. Don’t buy a travel iron box – some hotels have an iron box in every room and in others, you can request one at the front desk.

  80. DIY
  81. Do your own laundry and ironing.

  82. DIY your lawn care, taxes, house cleaning, car wash etc.

  83. DIY small projects around the house or car maintenance (ex. Fence mending, oil/filter change etc.)

  84. Rent expensive tools for DIY projects instead of purchasing them. Home depot, lowes, autozone all have programs for renting tools.

  85. If you must pay for service, look on your local craigslist or local news paper ads to find individuals rather than bigger companies to do it for you. Companies have higher overhead and tend to charge higher.

  86. Reuse
  87. Use back side of used printouts for “to-do” lists instead of buying post-it notes.

  88. Use old t-shirts as dish rags for mopping, car cleaning etc.

  89. Don’t buy garbage bags. Recycle your grocery bags instead.

  90. Kids
  91. Get baby sitters only if absolutely necessary. Rest of the times, have arrangement with other parents for sharing play dates.

  92. Always carry a kid’s snack bag from home. Vending machines charge you way more than the grocery store.

  93. Set up family game nights to avoid expensive outings.

  94. Pets
  95. Use old comforters for pet beds.

  96. Never pay full price for pet toys. They are after all, chew toys.

  97. Make money on the side
  98. Sell your old books, junk in the attic etc., on ebay.

  99. Alternately, get together with friends to hold periodic yard sales.

  100. See if you can monetize your hobby. Maybe there’s an artist or an entrepreneur hiding in you.

  101. Rent out the basement (or the guest room), if possible.

  102. Sell you old cell phone on ebay or cellforcash.com

  103. Common Sense, Other tricks, etc (a.ka. Things that don’t fall in other categories)
  104. Use coupons if/when possible.

  105. Use public resources (transportation, libraries, wifi hotspots etc.)

  106. Keep a coin jar in your changing room (walk-in closet, dressing room or bathroom etc) and save your pennies. Cash them at coinstar or your local bank.

  107. Share an apartment with a roommate, if possible.

  108. Never pay for a clock – several appliances around the house display time (eg, microwave, tv cable box, thermostat ets), not to forget all computers, laptops, cell phones etc.

  109. Whenever possible, "Fix it" (or get it fixed), instead of "Replace it".

  110. Quit smoking.

  111. Pay your bills online – save on stamps.

  112. If you are going to spend time only on a thread mill anyway, cancel that gym membership and jog around your neighborhood.

  113. If you donate money to charity, get receipts and claim tax break.

  114. Remember, charity does not necessarily mean you have to give money. Consider donating your time instead.

  115. Some outrageous ones: Grow your own vegetables, stay married - alimony is expensive, dont have kids etc :)

Related articles:

If you like this article, you can bookmark it or subscribe to the feed.


Kimber said...

Most clothes "requiring" dry cleaning can be handwashed in cold (I do that with my suits). If the clothes are inexpensive enough, its worth the risk.

dan said...


To find the best air fares you might want to check Trabber. A nice web 2.0 travel search engine. Here is the address: www.trabber.com

Ellen said...

Most of these are great! My one suggested change is to #89. Unless you have a particularly high-end cell (and why would you if you're frugal?) and would net a significant amount of $$$, donate to a battered women's shelter instead. You might save lives instead of money. :) Plus you can deduct that amount off your taxes instead.

(/proselytising) (Sorry, had to say it.)

Plus6 said...

Extensive list! Well done...

Anonymous said...

DON'T DRINK DISTILLED WATER. Drink mineralized or spring water. Distilled water will leech the minerals out of your body. Very, very bad.

Anonymous said...

Thx for the list. Good reminder.

But some points are very irrational and not applicable.

Getting rid of the landline while you have a cellphone? Right... let me know what happens when the battery busts. It's possible if your alone (but, seriously, who stays alone?), not if you have roommates or living with a significant other.

Buying clothes at discount also means (not all the time) not finding your size or something suitable. Ive tried, tried and tried and it's a MIRACLE, a REVELATION, when I find something that fits (32-34). Since im working full-time, I don't necessarily find it "fun" to waste my week-end searching the "pot-of-gold" at the end of the rainbow.

Again, thanks for the list ;)

ispf said...

Anonymous: I agree that not all of these are feasible for everyone. I can't adhere to this list completely either.

That said, getting rid of the land line is not so bad... We haven't had a land line for over 4 years now! Both me and the better half have a habit of charging the battery of our cell phones every night, so we never ran into the problem of battery going bust. But we do have one problem though - we have a few dead spots in our house where we do not receive a very good signal. While talking on the phone if we forget about these spots and walk into them the call gets dropped. It is a bit annoying, but hasn't happened often enough that we miss our land line. And our Internet comes over cable, so we don't need a land line for that either.

About the clothes - I agree with you. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to find the clothes that you like *and* the ones that fit you well, on sale.

Jeremy said...

I haven't had a landline for over a year, and it's going well for me. I haven't had any problems with my phone, the battery lasts 3 to 4 days, and I make sure that I charge it when the battery meter drops below half.

I would also like to add that you can make some extra money on the side by taking advantage of promotions. Check out my website for more financial advice. It is mainly for college students, but everyone can get some useful information from it