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How to Live Frugal In An Apartment

Updated on February 9, 2013

A Minimalistic, Apartment Life Style

Apartment life in the city can be fun and interesting.
Apartment life in the city can be fun and interesting. | Source

Choosing the Right Apartment

Categories of Expenses - First, the absolute necessities!

Apartment life can be pretty expensive. Each new month it's back to square one, so theoretically, it's wise to pay no more than 25% of total income on an apartment. Pretty aggravating when you think that all that rent money is just being evaporating into thin air.

When You Live Downtown

Does your flat have a downstairs garage or something that you can rent out? Think - think - think. If you are in a well trafficked area, your downstairs window could be used for advertising for a local business. If you have kids, they may want to set up a lemonade stand in the summer time or creative concoctions.

I once sold homemade cookies from such a location and in a months' time saved enough to buy my son a good (used) bicycle which he is still using.

Hidden Costs and Savings Opportunities

Compare the expense of living downstairs and living in the suburbs. Location a bit farther than downtown may be cheaper than right in the center. See what connecting bus and tramways can get you to your school, work and activity locations and see if the difference in rent justifies moving to the suburbs. Sometimes it's more economical to live close, if that means eliminating the use of a car or paying for a monthly bus pass, which can sometimes be expensive. So compare and decide.

Pocket the difference

Try to get the best deal on rent that you can. An apartment for 1200 can be just as nice as one for 2000, with a few adjustments. Think about it. Wouldn't you rather pocket the extra 800? I know I would.

Middle of the Road

When it comes to location sometimes the best spot is a distance not in the center but not too far from town, either. This allows you the option of biking to work or shops and keeping your car at home, again saving money. Look around and compare before making a life altering decision.

Frugal Interior Decorating Tips

These fancifully painted refrigerators add a warm touch to a white and wood decor.
These fancifully painted refrigerators add a warm touch to a white and wood decor. | Source

Utilities Management

Keeping the Heat Bill Manageable

Wear a sweater around the house. Even a light, knitted vest without sleeves can keep you feeling warm so that the furnace isn't on constantly. Even air conditioning is not cheap so switch it on after you've tried other no-cost alternatives.

Apartments are notorious for being poorly insulated - put a cushion under the door, check for cracks around windows and seal them up as best you can. There are plenty of How-to's on the Internet. Even stuffing wads of paper between cracks in the warped window pane helps a lot. A small metal flap can help secure a poorly closing window to keep warm air from escaping and cold drafts from ruining your home's cozy ambiance.


Many people can get by with just a cell phone these days. See what your options are for fast internet connections and go cheap. Ask around. Students at the universities usually know the latest trends. Consider installing a Skype phone.

You can use Skype on your cellular phone or I-Pad, too. Some prefer a prepaid plan, others pay as you go. The main things is - call less - make arrangements in advance, make your connections on time and use brief SMS to avoid unnecessary calling. Another great trick is to time your calls so they don't exceed a minute. Just doing this can nearly cut your phone bill in half.

Good Vibrations

Crochet bedspreads and pillows add a warm and home-y touch to any apartment.
Crochet bedspreads and pillows add a warm and home-y touch to any apartment. | Source

Open Air Market in Salzburg

Selling on the street has been an important part of trade for centuries.  Fresh fruits and vegetables, cheeses, eggs and more may be found at an open air, or Farmers'  - Market.
Selling on the street has been an important part of trade for centuries. Fresh fruits and vegetables, cheeses, eggs and more may be found at an open air, or Farmers' - Market. | Source

Good Eating for Less!

Cook and Pack a Lunch Whenever Possible

Cooking and being creative can really be fun. Food expenses are a bit less than overseas. Some say (I know I could) get by with 25% of my income on food (25% - rent, 25% - food) but not all places are the same. There are still plenty of ways to save money on food.

Buy Fresh

Going to open air markets for same day produce an hour or two before closing (the vendors usually sell at a bargain at day end, they'd rather not take it back home with them). The same is true of fresh fish sold outdoors. Make sure that what you're buying is fresh - then clean and freeze for another day. There are lots of bargains out there!

Use two for one coupons, consider buying in bulk (if you have room in your kitchen). If the food item will likely spoil before you get around to using, nix - it's no bargain!

Finding out what days meat, chicken and fish and frozen foods are on sale is also wise idea. Buy a whole chicken, clean and put half in the freezer for next time. Cooking plenty of foods with water in them - soup, stew, rice, polenta and other types of filler foods are other good ways to save on the food bill. Chinese Food, Italian and Mexican are usually relatively low cost, so consider a theme night!

Since we eat too much meat anyway, but the kids need good nutrition, they take a children's multivitamin. I usually work it out that we eat meat twice a week - once on a weekend night, the other mid-week.

Low Cost, Home Cooked Recipes Save the Day

Delicious meat and bean stew, also known as Chili - warms the bones and fills the tummy on a low budget.
Delicious meat and bean stew, also known as Chili - warms the bones and fills the tummy on a low budget. | Source

Grocery Bill Part 2

Good Cooking Habits to Save!

A whole chicken always costs less than the "best of the fryer" picks. Buy the whole bird and cook soup with the boney back and wings, removing the breasts for breaded and fried specialties. The legs are great in peas and carrot stew with a little pig meat in it for gusto. One chicken, three meals - try it!

Cheap and Healthy Snacks

Home-brewed iced tea, cookies, popcorn and fruit wedges

Water based foods

Soups, stews and vegetables will help even teenagers fill up. Bread is a great filler, too, and is not high fat - it's what you put on it that is fattening!

Stretching Things Out

By cooking a chicken soup first, before putting the chicken into the oven to bake, you will stretch your food budget out a bit further. Try to have soup as an appetizer to the main entrée at least twice a week.

Mexican food - Baked beans! Baked beans are great as an economic meal that can really fill you up. There are all types - great northern white beans, dark kidney beans, little brown pinto beans, a combination. There are also "cousins" like lentils, split peas, and barley. They require soaking several hours before cooking on a low flame over 2-3 hours. Cook in a pot with onion, smoked ham hocks or ribs, with garlic and carrots depending upon the recipe you follow.

Austrian Flavor Left over baked beans can be combined with smoked meat or sausages. This meal can be great garnished with sauerkraut for an Austrian - German type flavor. Delicious!

Polenta is another great Mexican - Mediterranean type filler-upper. (See link below).

Fresh Fish If you live near a fish market, any good fresh fish will be delicious in a fish stew, or cleaned, dusted in flour and fried in oil in a skillet with french fries and salad on the side. Even some frozen types are fine for frying.

Home Made Pizza. This is a fun project for kids. Depending on what's going on, we do a pizza night every ten days or so. Served with fresh salad, it's a great meal.

Basically speaking, I try to make low cost meals on weekdays and splurge on a nice cut of meat on the weekends.

Save Quarters - Cash on Hand

This little piggy had roast beef, this little piggy had none.  This little piggy went to market, this little piggy went wee-wee-wee all the way home!
This little piggy had roast beef, this little piggy had none. This little piggy went to market, this little piggy went wee-wee-wee all the way home! | Source

Saving is not an Option

Not a matter of IF - but WHEN!!

Apartment living means - you pay for almost everything. A water leak? The landlord may pay - but then again, maybe not. Painting the interior? Minor repairs? All this is a touch and go type of thing. Savings 10% right off the top. 15% to 20% is even better - so gear up to be forewarned and forearmed. It's not a matter of If - but "when".

Extra Income

If, after scrutinizing your expenses, you are still completely strapped for money, try to find an extra source of income by moonlighting a little. You will need it! Once night a week catering, helping out a local restaurant job or picking up an Elance / Odesk job can help you save a few hundred a month on the side. Be disciplined and put it away, don't blow it.

If your current apartment becomes unbearable to live in, for whatever reason, this side stash will be the cushion you need for a deposit on a new apartment. Just do it.

Get your kids involved, too. Let them know you are selling Avon on the side, they can help you spread the word around to their friends' mothers. The object of the game is to put more away than you take out. The habit becomes more natural as time goes on.

Books, CDs, Tapes, DVDs and More

A public library can be a treasure!
A public library can be a treasure! | Source

Besides the Basics

Clothing For Kids - hand me downs rule. Try to find a moms in your neighborhood with a child slightly older and younger than your own.

Make sure the clothes are clean, mended and in good condition before passing them along. I don't buy many new clothes for my kids for two big reasons - they are active and tend to be rough on clothes AND, they are constantly growing. One or two new items a season can be bought - but check the discount rack.

Shoes must be purchased new. There are plenty of sales, look around. Buy quality for 50% off. More than one dress up and one sports shoe is too much. They should wear our their shoes if possible, since they will be growing out of them in about 4 months, anyway.

Quick Change When arriving home, change into "home clothes". I have an old workout suit that I wear around the house - ideal for cooking, cleaning, working on the computer... who cares! This keeps my nice stuff looking fresh, clean, and unstained. Saves me money on the laundry, too.

Education The public library is a great resource for books, DVDs, films, and story hour. Go see what is available. Some libraries have their own websites.

Sports Activities Depending on your town, there may be organized sports like basketball, soccer, dance, even drama. The Sports and Rec department usually provides low cost activities worth looking into. These types of activities are great for helping kids (and adults') physical coordination, development, team-playing and leadership skills. Go watch your kids compete, and get to know other families in your area who have the same interests.

Transportation Walk and bike if you can. Use the bus. Offer to help fill the gas tank with a friend and go to a common destination together - outing, field trip, mall, whatever. Think green * 2 - environmentally and financially.

Rewards for Good Behavior, Grads, and other Positives

Instead of buying them something I like to take them on an outing. Simple pleasures are the best. Take photos on your camera or cellular phone - these are the things that memories are made of!

The Side Benefits of Living Frugal

There are many!!! Self esteem, a feeling of control and security, and a sense of appreciation are a few.

It helps kids get perspective on reality. First of all, mommy and daddy aren't an ATM in the Sky. They see and understand much more than we can comprehend. If we say "no" to ourselves but enjoy the frugal alternative, they learn first hand what it means to live within reality - not hope and pray that Rich Uncle Waldo, the Lottery or some other non-natural force will come along to bail them out later. All great lessons to learn!

Special Occasion Splurges Things like eating out or a visit to a carnival take on a whole new meaning. No one likes a spoiled brat. By paying yourself first, safeguarding your assets and watching the expenses, everyone wins.

Whether you are a Single Mom or a Family -



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    • EuroCafeAuLait profile imageAUTHOR

      Anastasia Kingsley 

      6 years ago from Croatia, Europe

      Thanks carozy for the Up Vote, I love it! Yes, it was a subject dear to my heart so I kept thinking of more things to add. San Francisco is a great town but known for its high rents so I hope some things were able to help lighten the load. Best to you, ECAL.

    • EuroCafeAuLait profile imageAUTHOR

      Anastasia Kingsley 

      6 years ago from Croatia, Europe

      Hi collegedad - all because of me, lol? Well - if you are doing better now I am very happy for you! Money is like a game. Just like energy so if it's not working in one place, convert it and use it in another way. Living on one salary is another game - how far can it stretch? Thanks for reading and commenting, ECAL.

    • carozy profile image


      6 years ago from San Francisco

      Wow, this is loaded with good info. Voted UP :)

    • EuroCafeAuLait profile imageAUTHOR

      Anastasia Kingsley 

      6 years ago from Croatia, Europe

      Thanks, Denisemai. The 25% rent rule is not always possible, but it's something to shoot for. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

    • collegedad profile image


      6 years ago from The Upper Peninsula

      Great Hub! We've incorporated many of the things on your list. Now we live on one salary and pocket the rest. We also have a lot more time for family!

    • denisemai profile image

      Denise Mai 

      6 years ago from Idaho

      Great tips. I think we all would love a sense of control in this crazy economy. I especially like your point about only allowing your rent to be 25% of your salary. Very useful.


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