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How to Cut Costs-The Best Ideas for Frugal Living

Updated on September 5, 2012

Frugal Living does not mean 'cheap'

My father was a very frugal man. Born in 1930, he was a product of the Great Depression, and told stories of those memories; hence he never threw a thing away that could be used for future use. Growing up with him was infuriating at times; my siblings and me calling him cheap, and miserly. What do teenagers know?

Wake up people, the definition of frugal is not ‘cheap’, but ‘thrifty’. In our currently disappointing economy, it is the smart thing to re-evaluate our spending habits and apply new strategies to cut costs wherever we can. Frugal living is not about deprivation, it is about choice.

Here are some frugal living ideas to get you started:

Saving tips for automobiles

Shop around to get the best deal for auto insurance.

Maintain your vehicle properly. Also, drive carefully to avoid undue maintenance expenses; and speeding tickets that could raise your insurance.

Keep one car only and use public transport or car pooling.

Save on car wash fees by washing your own.

Save on gas by properly maintaining tire inflation and alignment.

Save on gas by limiting the number of trips to the store that you take.

Coordinate all of your trips in sequence to avoid driving back and forth.

Keep all appointments to one day, if possible, for another gas saving tip.

Do your own basic car services, such as oil and brake changes.

How to save money on utilities and insurance policies

Examine your mortgage payment to find out if you are eligible for refinancing.

Downsize your home, or consider renting instead of owning.

Evaluate your insurance policies: life, health, homeowners, etc. to note if there are any reductions you are eligible for; either stay with the same company or shop around for a better deal.

Review your utility bills. Can you remove a land line and use a family cell phone package?

Is it necessary to keep a television cable company? Some options for news are the National Public Radio program and newspaper coverage.

Lower your thermostat at nighttime to 68 and add more blankets to your bed for energy and monetary savings.

Keep lights and other electrical connections off when not in use. Evaluate the effectiveness of old appliances such as refrigerator, freezer, washer, dryer and dishwasher and replace for energy efficient models.

If paying for your water, limit the use of water by taking less showers or baths. You can still freshen up using a sink full of water daily.

Don’t run the dishwasher if you have one. Opt instead for hand washing.

Hang your clothes up to dry instead of running the dryer.

Keep curtains and shades drawn and windows open during the summer to keep out the sun.

Frugal living tips for food

Buy in bulk whenever possible.

Limit the number of trips to the grocery store to avoid impulse shopping.

Use less desirable cuts of meat for stews, soups, or other dishes that would be less noticeable.

Utilize vegetarian recipes to supplement an all meat diet.

Substitute turkey for beef; it’s usually less expensive and healthier.

Make a conscious effort to cook at home, limiting your restaurant visits to monthly.

Buy 2% or skim milk in place of whole milk.

Coupons are essential cost cutters. Better yet, find the local store that doubles your coupons.

Look for freebies and follow the criteria for obtaining free food that you will use.

Monitor the amount of food ‘gone bad’ that occurs in your home and either utilize leftovers in a creative manner, or cook smaller portions so there is no left over toss out.

Drink water, instead of expensive beverages, and make it tap water. Keep a pitcher in the refrigerator for an instant cold glass.

When dining out, order one meal to share. Or, order an appetizer and entrée and split it.

When dining out, choose water as your drink instead of sodas or alcohol.

When dining out, eat a luncheon where the prices are reduced, instead of a dinner.

When dining with kids, check with your local restaurants; many offer free kids nights.

Check with restaurants to find out if they offer a free birthday meal.

Keep household cleansers to a few basic ones- discover the magic of vinegar and ammonia.

Keep over the counter medicine to two basics: pain reliever and anti-acid.

Fire any housecleaning service and use one day for a team family cleaning.

Use cloth napkins and place mats instead of paper.

Use plates and utensils instead of paper and plastic.

Reuse aluminum foil that has no sign of wear.

Use lidded storage containers to save on plastic wrap.

Frugal Living Poll

Do you feel you use cost saving tips to help your budget?

See results

How to save money and have fun, too!

Get library membership cards for family members and use the great free services they offer.

Inquire whether your library participates in the free museum pass project.

Have your child participate in story hour and summer reading programs for freebies.

Check Barnes & Noble; Borders; and Chuckie Cheese for more summer reading awards.

Watch for free movie coupons through products from the Kellogg’s company.

Check online for free summer movie festival offered through Regal, Carmike, and AMC.

Know when the discount shows are such as early bird, midweek, or matinees.

For plays or symphonies, check if there is an ‘open to the public’ rehearsal policy.

Support local community theatre or high school theatre and Christmas productions.

Eliminate the gym membership and exercise at home via walking and hand weights.

Exercise as a family and buy bikes and helmets for a daily ride around the neighborhood.

Have a family ‘fun night’ and bring out the jigsaw puzzles or board games.

Take the kids to the local nature center; science museum; zoo; or aquarium. Watch for special day discounts or check with your employer for a company discount.

Check into the local craft and sewing stores, like Michaels’ and Joanne Fabrics, along with the Lowe’s store which offer free projects for kids. At Lowe’s kids get a free work apron, goggles and project kit when they sign up. Go online to get registration details.

Access free books from online sites such as: Kindle’s out of copyright books, Project Gutenberg which claims to have over 33,000 public domain eBooks; and

Find free music from online sites such as:;;; and

A free weekend get-away can be snagged with a time share company in exchange for your consideration of purchase into their company.

How to budget and save for clothes

Pay for nothing full price. Watch sales, use in-store or online coupons; check clearance racks.

Shop at consignment stores; second hand shops, garage sales and charity organizations for savings on clothes and household items.

Swap with other moms for more clothes savings; or Google ‘mom to mom' and find an event in your area.

Eliminate dry cleaning bills by buying clothing that does not require this service.

Avoid shopping malls, the QVC or other televised shopping programs, or online impulse buying.

Repair and mend when possible. Take clothing to a tailor for repair when needed.

Sell your unused items on EBay or

Look for free items at

Easy gift giving savings

Encourage simplicity in gift giving, allowing for children to create gifts from their own talents.

Re-gift an unused gift you’ve received.

Go online to buy discounted gift cards at and Plastic jungle will also buy or trade gift cards you are not interested in.

Open an account for your child at TD Bank and teach them the value of finance and literacy. By participating in their summer reading program, TD will add $10 to their account.

Create coupon books for family and friends offering services in lieu of a tangible gift.


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