If you’re not saving like you want to, chances are, there are some things you’re spending money on that you already know you need to cut down, and just don’t want to. I’m telling you (and myself), right now, to just do it! My husband and I recently had that conversation. We are planning to purchase another home in the near future, and I’m becoming a little impatient! We’ve given ourselves a subtle kick in the pants to put our savings into high gear and I’m passing on that extra motivation to you with the frugal living tips in this post!
I thought we’d cut back a lot last year, but I found even more places in our budget to slash so we can boost our savings even faster. If you read my post in January about goal setting, you’ll remember some of the tips I gave there about how to keep your goal setting stamina through the year. This post will get even more specific with tips for exactly where you can cut things from your budget to put towards the financial goals you’ve started.
Convenience items are our biggest drain right now. These are a big frugal living no, no! We have a toddler who likes to wake up super early in the morning before I’m quite ready to make breakfast. I’m still trying to get out of the sleep fog of caring for his baby brother all night to think about putting something wholesome together, so we’ve gotten real used to relying on food pouches. But, this runs us an easy extra $30 a week on groceries. Almost 1/4 of our total weekly shopping budget. We do pretty well otherwise on grocery expenses because of my meal planning strategy that I’ll touch on below.
Convenience items to stop buying right now and what to do instead!
- Pre-cut Veggies & Fruit
- Pre-portioned Snacks & Yogurt
- Bottled Water
- Makeup Remover Wipes
- Individual Drinks (Juice & Soda in general, actually)
Pre-cut veggies & fruit are significantly more expensive than whole veggies & fruits you can chop up and portion yourself (also, they are way more likely to be subject to food recalls, ick!)
Pre-portioned snacks & Yogurt are the same as above. Make your own snacks and try to make them from staple grocery items you’re purchasing anyway, so the expense stays within your existing grocery budget. (You can find my list of the 25+ best healthy, frugal snacks here).
Cutting out Bottled Water is one of the frugal living tips I struggle with. It is so convenient, but it’s not budget friendly when you’re really trying to save as much as you can and it’s a huge waste maker. Use water bottles and get a water filter.
Makeup remover wipes have always been a splurge item for me (even though they’re super cheap if you get an off brand, haha). You can just use good quality soap you already have for hand-washing and water. If you aren’t using a good quality soap, a slight upgrade here will still save you money as you will be able to use one item for more than one purpose. The marginal increase in use for face-washing will not be more then the cost of purchasing the pre-portioned wipes. Just be sure to moisturize.
You don’t need to buy fancy tissue because toilet paper works just fine.
Juice & Soda are a guilty pleasure. Can’t say these will always stay out of my grocery cart, but if you’re over budget and these items are on your list, they should be the first to go. Water is way better for you, anyway, and you just can’t lose weight if you’re drinking these. If you do have to have juice or soda, do not buy individual bottles or cans. Get a large container. It’s cheaper.
Get rid of Subscriptions you rarely use. Or, if you’re doubling up on Hulu & Netflix or Amazon Streaming, just pick one. Or, cut out paying for TV in general. For many, this might be too much of a stretch, but it’s doable, especially if it’s a temporary frugal living boost to your budget.
We do pay for Hulu right now, but we also have a digital antenna. I actually really enjoy watching TV the old fashioned way sometimes. My husband thinks I’m weird, but that’s how we grew up. It makes me nostalgic for that simpler time. On top off that, a lot of the over the air TV channels show reruns of some of my favorite shows growing up, like Home Improvement. I watched it the other day, and it stands the test of time!
PRO TIP: Shop around and see what deals are out there if you’re using a tv provider. They often have great promotional deals. Just be sure to dip out once the promotional period is over. We are switching over to Direct TV soon to take advantage of a promotion that will save us $40 a month. The rep said he can get us that same deal when it expires, but if not, we’ll just switch right back over to Hulu or take advantage of another deal with Direct TV or another provider if the timing works out.
If you absolutely can’t stay way from going out or to the movies, at least take advantage of coupon deals and discounts and savings clubs. My husband has several addictions (red meat, sugar, movie theater popcorn & movie theater cherry icies), so we try to curb that spending habit as much as possible with rewards and membership clubs. Deal sites, like groupon, are a great resource, too.
Of course, again, you can employ a spending freeze on entertainment altogether or cut down your frequency of splurging.
Cell phones and phone plans can take up a huge portion of your budget if you don’t make good decisions. I’m not one who has to have the latest technology or the most expensive phone. If that’s important to you, take advantage of seasonal deals, especially Black Friday. Don’t purchase a phone that needs financing. That’s just not smart. Interest payments are a huge money sucker and for something that’s going to be outdated in ten minutes, it’s not worth it.
Find an affordable phone provider. We do not use a major provider like Verizon or Sprint anymore. We are on Cricket Wireless. Guess what, these providers use the same cell phone towers as the big names and provide the exact same coverage for less. If you can buddy up with friends or family to share a plan, the savings are even greater. We are on a plan with my parents and siblings and I think we have 5 or 6 lines going right now. That breaks down to about $20 per person.
If you love eating out or fast food treats, learn how to make them yourself. There are tons of copycat recipes out there for everybody’s favorites. We’re cutting out fast food milkshakes and making them at home ourselves with cheap bulk ice cream & mix-ins.
If you use food as a reward like we do for making it through the work week or the cheating a little I talk about in my goal setting post, you don’t have to cut it out entirely, just cut back or cut down.
We typically pick up food on Friday’s as our budget cheat day. We’re cutting back to every other week to save an additional $60 a month.
Frugal Living Groceries & Meal Planning
Here’s how I meal plan!
First, Find the Cheapest Meats
Meat, is usually the most expensive component of a meal. I’ve found the cheapest meats my family likes and based all our meals around those items. You can get creative and search for recipes that specifically use these items. Pair your main dish with inexpensive sides like salad, pretty much any veggie, potatoes or pasta. Check out this post for my best, go-to super cheap meals!
- Pepperoni, $2.26 and feeds us 6-8 times.
- 8 oz Ham Steak, $1.98 and feeds us twice.
- Rotisserie Chicken, $7.99 and feeds us 4-6 times.
- Chicken Thighs, $8.19 and feeds us 4-6 times.
- 6 pack Chicken Legs, $3.69 and feeds us twice.
- 12 oz Kielbasa, $2.66 and feeds us 2-3 times.
- 16 oz Ground Sausage, $1.94 and feeds us 2-4 times.
- 4 Pack 12.5 oz Canned Chicken, $7.48 and feeds 8-16 times.
- 4 pack 5 oz Canned Tuna, $2.68 and feeds us 4-6 times.
- Great Value Fully Cooked Bacon, $2.98 and feeds us twice
Buy Online if You Can
Say what you will about Walmart, but it’s super affordable and convenient to shop Walmart online. It saves us money in two important ways. If you shop in store, you are way more likely to fall prey to impulse buys. Online, you can simply search for the specific items you need and add them to your cart. You can also select “favorites” and only shop from those options.
Shopping online, also allows you to see your cart total before you checkout so it’s much easier to remove items that aren’t completely necessary or can wait, if you see that you’re over budget.
I use the online portal as my grocery list, as well. I can easily sign in and add items as I see them run out through the week so I don’t forget.
Buy Bulk When it Makes Sense
Typically, bulk packages cost less overall. For instance, instead of buying 4 individual cans of chicken, it’s less expensive to buy 1 pack of 4.
Pay attention to case lot sales and other deals that make it super affordable to stock up.
Plan on Eating Leftovers
As you can see, the meals I plan from the proteins I purchase, last us at least 2 meals every time. I only cook dinner 2-4 times a week. We plan to eat leftovers so our “cheap meat” meals stretch.
Don’t Buy Name Brand
There are very few things that I feel I MUST buy name brand. Most food items don’t have a noticeable enough difference to warrant paying extra for a name. I really can’t think of any food items that I’m that picky about. I do really hate off brand, cling wrap, though!
Overlooked Money Drainers
These are things we probably know, but don’t fix out of habit (or laziness).
- Long showers.
- Not turning off lights.
- Keeping things plugged in (like your toaster . . . guilty!)
- Charging phones overnight (Guilty again! Charge your phone during the day, so you can stop charging and draining electricity when you’ve got enough power).
- Getting too comfortable temperature wise (always be slightly cold or hot to save on your heating and cooling).
- Using your washer or dryer at the wrong time of day (You can find suggestions for energy savings here).
Frugal Living Tips your Grandparent’s Taught You
Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without. This hung on the wall in our Grandparents’ kitchen. These are frugal living tips to always live by.
Only buy items you know you’ll use and use it all before buying more! If it ain’t broke (or too broke to function), make it work for as long as you can. Before you make a purchase, make sure it’s something you actually need and will serve a long-term purpose.
PRO TIP: For non-essentials, make yourself wait 24-48 hours before buying to avoid impulse buys. If it still feels like a good idea after giving it some time, go for it.
Frugal Living Final Thoughts
Most people in America are not saving enough for retirement and have at least some amount of consumer debt. We can do better! Use these frugal living tips to give your budget the kick in the pants it needs so you can reach your financial goals and make wise investments for bright financial futures!
As always, if you like what you read, please comment and share below!