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Frugal Living - How To Live on the Cheap

Updated on February 1, 2016

Simple Steps to Save Money

When times get tough, knowing how to stretch your dollar can help to get you through until the good times roll again. This lens will give you some ideas how you can change your lifestyle a little to save money. I promise it won't hurt much. You'd be surprised at how just a few minor changes can save you hundreds of dollars over the course of a year.

Read on if you would like to find some easy ways to save cash.

Why Be Frugal?

We all get a little spoiled when times are good and we have a growing economy and prosperity. Then when the economy goes south, we all panic a little but the truth is, we have had tough economic times before, the dot com crash in 2001, the recessions of the 80's and 90's and the oil crisis in the 70's and we've gotten through ok. It takes a little belt tightening and changing one's lifestyle until the economy recovers but it can be done without too much inconvenience.

If you have lost your job or had your hours cut back or otherwise had your household income lowered, you'll need to cut back on your spending so you won't go further into debt. Here are a few ideas to help you stretch your dollars a bit.

The first thing you need to do is take a look at your lifestyle and consider what you can give up. In other words, take a hard look at what your necessities are and consider cutting back the rest. If you've never done so, make yourself a budget. Write down your income and then list all your expenses in order of importance. The items toward the bottom of that list are the ones you can live without if you have to.

Here's a list of ideas to help you spend less each month.

* Eat out less often - This will not only save you the cost of that expensive meal, you'll also save the gas it would have taken to drive there. If you are still working, don't forget to apply this principal during the day as well. Brown bagging it for lunch can save a lot of money over eating out every day.

* Entertainment - Nights out on the town, going to movies, concerts or sporting events, etc., you may have to cut back on or eliminate entirely depending on your income. Again, you not only save the cost of the event but you save on gas as well. Consider a membership to Netflix or Blockbuster online. They have plans that are about the cost of one trip for two to the theater and you get movies in your mailbox for a nice evening at home.

* Frugal grocery shopping - When you go to the grocery store, try the generic brands. They are sometimes just as good as the brand name but can save you 30% or more on cost.

Watch for sales and stock up on non-perishables when they are on sale. Many stores have "buy one, get one free" items every week. Take advantage whenever you can.

Buy less steak and more hamburger. You can actually do a lot with cheaper cuts of meat. Experiment a little and you can save a bunch.

Use coupons. It sometimes doesn't seem that cents off coupons save very much but they add up. You can save several dollars every trip to the store by using every coupon you can.

Consider alternatives to expensive beverages like soda, energy drinks, bottled teas and even bottled water. Buy a filter pitcher and filter your tap water. You'll save a lot and keep a load of plastic bottles out of the landfill.

Reduce the amount of pre-packaged foods you buy. It's cheaper to buy raw ingredients and cook than it is to buy pre-packaged frozen meals. Fresher always tastes better too and is healthier without all the additives and preservatives.

* Save on gas - Keep that car in tune and the tires up to pressure. Drive slower and go easy on the throttle. Plan ahead and if you have to use the car, consolidate all of your errands into one trip. Don't take unnecessary trips, for instance if you eat in instead of going out, you not only save on the cost of food, you save gas and put less miles on the car which saves on maintenance costs. It adds up over time.

* Get a Bicycle - A lot of errands can be done without the car at all. Need one thing from the corner drug store? Take the bike. Dropping that birthday card or Netflix movie at the post office? Take the bike. You'll save on gas, car maintenance costs and get some exercise too.

* Have a yard sale - Get rid of all that stuff you don't use or need anymore and pick up some extra cash in the process.

* Subscriptions - Do you really read all those magazines you've subscribed to over the years? Don't renew the ones you can do without. You'll also cut back on your clutter around the house!

* Credit cards - Quit using them! They're not bad if you pay them off every month but if you're paying interest by carrying a balance, you're throwing money down the drain. Quit using them until you can get them paid off. Work on the highest interest rate card first and then the next one, etc. and you'll save big every month. Be sure and pay them on time to avoid those huge late payment fees.

* Cell phone - If you're out of work, do you really need a cell phone? If you're not under a contract, cancel it for now. If you are maybe you can lower your bill by not using it as much or switching to a cheaper plan.

* Utilities - You can save money on your utility bills just by cutting back a little. Dial up the thermostat a couple of degrees in the summer and down a couple in winter will save on both your fuel and electric bill. Likewise, dialing down your water heater a bit too.

Water the lawn a little less. Many people over-water and that just runs up the water bill or electric if you're on a well.

Consider canceling your landline phone. If you have a cell and don't use all of your minutes, you could probably shed the landline phone and just keep the cell.

* Cut back on laundry - Wait until you have a full load to do laundry. It's more efficient to do one large load than two small. In summer, you can save a bunch by drying your clothes outside on a clothesline. Remember when your mom used to do that?

Use cold water unless your clothes are really soiled. Most times, your clothes aren't really that dirty and will wash fine in cold water saving your water heater from running more.

Another way to cut down on laundry is by wearing your clothes a little longer before you wash them. Do you come home from work and change clothes? Do you throw on a T shirt and shorts for the evening around the house, then throw them in the hamper when you go to bed? You only wore them about half the time you had on your work clothes and you didn't do anything to get them dirty. Set them aside and wear them again the next evening. You can cut your weekly laundry in half or more by doing this.

* Clothes - Quit wearing them. No, just kidding. I'd bet most people have more clothing than they ever wear though. Don't go buy more clothes unless you really need them. You have clothes in your closet that you never wear, right? Wear it when you're doing yard work or changing the oil in the car. You'll get more mileage out of the clothes you do wear when you go out and you won't have to buy new as often. When you do need them, buy during clearance sales. You can save 50% or more.

* Dishwasher - Don't run it until you have a full load. You use hot water, electricity and soap every time you run it so you'll save on all 3 if you make sure you only use it when it's full.

* Books - Do you like to read? Instead of buying books, go to the library and borrow them. It's free, the selection is great and most libraries nowadays also have DVD movies you can check out, also for free.

* Cancel the gym membership - So many of us avoid any physical activity in our everyday lives but pay for a gym membership. Save the gym dues and park further away when you go to the store. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk instead of drive. Buy a couple of inexpensive dumbbells and workout at home. Simple calisthenics will do the same thing all those fancy machines do.

* Cancel the lawn service - Do it yourself and save money and get some more exercise. If you don't have the lawn equipment, check the classifieds, ebay or the local hardware store for a used mower, trimmer and blower. If you have a small lawn, get electric lawn equipment. They're cheaper to buy and you don't have to have gas cans, oil, tune-ups, etc.

* Cut Down on Vehicles - Do you have a big luxury car or SUV that you're paying a hefty monthly payment for? Get rid of it and get a cheaper, smaller, more fuel efficient car. You'll save on both the monthly payment and operating and maintenance costs. If you are a two or three car family, consider cutting the fleet down by one vehicle. Getting rid of a whole monthly payment can go a long way.

* Shop online - For those items you do need to buy, try shopping ahead of time online. You can save a lot of driving around if you do your research ahead of time so you know exactly what you want and which store has it in stock before you ever get in the car. You may even be able to buy it cheaper online and get it shipped right to your door. A lot of places will even give you free shipping over a certain dollar amount.

* Pay Your Bills Online - Do you mail all your bills? How much do you spend in postage every month? Do you drive to the post office to mail them? Stop buying all those stamps and wasting gas driving around and pay your bills online. It's ultimate in convenience and saves you money as well.

* Get Free Stuff - Have you ever gotten a free sample in the mail? Well you can get more just by asking. A lot of companies will send you a free sample of their products if you tell them you would like to try them. You can get samples of personal hygiene products, household cleaners, laundry products, etc., even some food items and you can contact the companies online through their website. Once you get on their mailing list, you will periodically receive more free samples.

Simply cutting back a bit can save you lots of money. Don't think about it as being cheap, think of it as being fiscally responsible. By using less and not being wasteful, you not only save money but are living a greener lifestyle.

There are many, many more ways you can really get frugal and save money in your everyday living if you really take a close look at the way you live. I challenge you to invent new ways to save money and submit them below.

Add your frugal tips.

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    • Happymommy2520 profile image

      Amy 19 months ago from East Coast

      Great advice and a beautifully outlined and written article. I love your idea of letting your clothes dry on a clothesline. I remember that tactic when I was a child. There was nothing like sheets that were hung outside to dry. They had such a wonderful scent. I also like your point on researching and doing on-line shopping rather than wasting time and gas driving from one store to the next. I look forward to reading more of your work!

    • profile image

      Teri Stohlberg 3 years ago

      Great advice, thanks!

    • Millertime LM profile image

      Millertime LM 5 years ago

      Hi kathy. Yes, using coupons is a good way to save, as it stocking up on items you know you'll use when they are on sale. I do it all the time. Thanks for stopping by and leaving comments.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I have being using coupons. I have learned that u need to buy only what u need and only buy what on sale and when it is on sale stock up! example if u use 2 boxes of cereal a week and it is on sale for 1.99 then buy 12 boxes. i say this because the sales usually go in cycles every 6 weeks!

    • AppalachianCoun profile image

      AppalachianCoun 8 years ago

      Wow, great tips. We could save big by cutting back on the diet soda. Thank-you.

      5 stars*****

    • michellepatelle profile image

      michellepatelle 8 years ago

      Make up a menu for the week and base your shopping list on it before you go grocery shopping. But set aside a little grocery money for stocking up on some nonperishables on sale.

    • profile image

      momof7 8 years ago

      My favorite frugal saying: "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without." Oh, and I sometimes find myself having to remind family members who cannot resist a sale, "a bargain is not a bargain if it's not something you needed badly enough to buy without a sale on it." Also, how about considering water as your beverage of preference... it is superior to any other beverage out there.

    • profile image

      NC Shepherd 8 years ago

      Some people ride a bike to save the expense of a car....some people live in a car to save the expense of a house! I've been a frugalist all my life. Good tips here.