Spending money as soon as you earn it may feel good in the moment. But in the long run, it’s not the best move. Instead, you need to manage your money wisely so that it goes further. One way you can do that is by becoming more frugal.
If you want to get your finances in shape, here are some ways you can be more frugal and start saving money. With these 11 tips, you’ll be in a much better position with your finances now and in the future.
1. Create a Budget
Creating a budget may not be fun, but the benefits you will reap are worth it. And thankfully, because of technology, it’s easier than ever to create your budget. Apps like Intuit Mint and YNAB will connect to your bank account, monitor your spending and help you generate a budget—all from the comfort of your smartphone.
50/30/20 Budget Method
An easy way to budget is by allocating 50% of your money to your needs, 30% to wants and 20% to savings and debt. Simply figure out how much you make after taxes and then determine how you’ll spend your paycheck when it comes in.
Zero-Based Budget Method
Another way to budget is by using zero-based budgeting, where you need to justify all of your expenses for the month. You cannot spend $1 without knowing where it’s going.
2. Use Coupons When You Can
You can be frugal and start saving money by using coupons when you can. Sometimes, if you sign up for a company’s newsletter, you can receive coupons from them. You can also check on their website in the coupons or deals section. The website Coupons.com features coupons and promo codes, while Valpak has printable grocery coupons for the next time you go food shopping.
An even easier way to find coupons is to use Slickdeals’ browser extension, which automatically finds you coupons while you shop so you don’t have to spend time searching. You can download it for free and start saving today.
3. Save on Groceries
Food has become very expensive, but there are many ways you can be frugal while grocery shopping. For instance, if you have food in your fridge or pantry, don’t get rid of it just because you haven’t eaten it by the expiration date. Nutrition expert and cookbook author Toby Amidor says that baby food, baby formula and milk are the only three food products with true expiration dates.
The “use by” date that you see is about the quality of the food, not the safety of it. If you examine the food and it seems fine, then you should still be able to consume it. For instance, if beef is still bright red (unless it’s been vacuum packed) and you’ve used raw eggs within three to five weeks, you should be fine. You can always sauté wilted vegetables and eat pasta, rice and canned goods several month after the “use by” date. Just make sure you store these goods in a cool and dark place so they last longer.
If you use grocery delivery services, then you can compare how much the service fees are for different companies and look at how much they charge for the food itself. For example, Instacart sometimes marks up items 15% to 23%.
You’ll also save money by buying store brands instead of brand-name items and buying in bulk when possible. One option for saving money on grocery delivery is to sign up for Walmart+, which charges a flat rate for deliveries per year.
4. Lower Your Monthly Bills
Your bills may cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars each month, but there are little tricks you can use to lower your costs. You could raise the temperature of your refrigerator, install a Nest device in your home, utilize dimmer switches for lights, turn off your coffee maker when you’re not using it, install solar panels, turn lights off when you leave a room and run appliances like your dishwasher and washer and dryer at night in order to save on your electric bill.
When it comes to your internet bill, you could ask your provider if you can take advantage of a current promotion or switch to a provider that’s offering one. For your auto, home and renter’s insurance, compare quotes from different providers and ask if they are offering discounts for good drivers or for customers who purchase bundle their insurance.
There are also apps that automate the hard work of lowering your monthly bills.
5. Cut Down on Subscriptions
It’s possible that you’re spending hundreds of dollars every month on recurring subscriptions like Netflix, Spotify, subscription boxes and meal delivery services. You can determine which subscriptions you really need, and cut the ones you don’t. If you aren’t sure how many subscriptions you have, you could sign up for Truebill, a service that connects to your bank account and will cancel unwanted subscriptions.
6. Meal Prep at Home
When you go out to eat, you could easily spend $20 per meal, if not more. Add in delivery costs and fees, and you could double the cost of your meal. You’ll be much less likely to eat out if you know there is food in the fridge for you to eat when you’re too tired to cook. You could pick a day of the week and then spend a few hours preparing meals to store for the rest of the week.
An easy way to meal prep is to make food from all the food groups like grains, vegetables, fruits and protein and keep them in separate containers in the refrigerator. Then, you can grab them and create different meals for each day of the week. This will ensure you won’t get bored of what you’ve made.
7. Buy Used Goods
You don’t need to buy everything new. For instance, instead of buying new clothes, you can find plenty of decent pieces for your wardrobe at your local thrift store or Goodwill, or on used clothing sites like Poshmark or thredUP. If you need some furniture, check out Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist and OfferUp. You can find more unique used items like memorabilia and jewelry on sites like Etsy and eBay.
8. Swap With Friends
If you need to buy something, you could always post on social media or reach out to friends who may be willing to swap with you or give you something for free. For instance, if you’re looking for baby goods, your friends who are not having more children would likely be happy to give you things like strollers and toys. If you have things you’re not using anymore, then you could swap for their stuff.
9. Find Free Activities
Going to the movies or out to a restaurant is fun, but it can be quite expensive. Instead, look up free activities you can partake in around your town. This could include going to museums on free days, checking out local parks, beaches and hikes and walking around botanical gardens.
10. Use Rewards Credit Cards
If you have rewards credit cards, you could get cash back every time you make certain purchases. You could get a percentage back on groceries, travel, dining out and more. Some cards will have rotating categories while others will offer a flat cash back rate on a number of different categories so you don’t have to track your spending. Once you get your cash back, don’t spend it. Instead, apply it to your bill to lower your monthly payment.
11. Go to the Library
While it’s easy to order books on Amazon, the library is a completely free option where you can probably find what you’re looking for. The library also has magazines, comic books and DVDs, so you can save money on all of these things as well.
The Bottom Line
You can be frugal and start saving money by using all of these suggestions. Though it can be tough to form new habits, you’re going to thank yourself for having some self-control and getting your personal finances in order.