Whether you’re trying to pay off student loans faster, create an emergency fund, or simply beef up your savings, you can turn to these money-saving tips to achieve your goals.
Frugal living can be a challenge (the amount of times I’ve had to turn down ice cream outings this past summer was appalling).
But once you become more accustomed to turning away unnecessary expenses, your frugal lifestyle starts to pay off.
As a product of frugal living, I was able to pay off $10,000 in student loans in just 6 months (and counting!).
Take these money-saving tips (even if you only start with a few), and you, too, will be able to reach your financial goals faster!
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. I ONLY promote products that I would actually recommend to friends. This means that at no cost to you, I will receive compensation if you purchase something through one of those links. Read more about my disclaimer here.
25 Money-Saving Tips for Frugal Living
1. Save money online
There are certain extensions that exist for the sole purpose of finding promo codes and discounts for whatever website you’re on.
I use Honey and Piggy, which have both saved me quite a few dollars for my online purchases.
Simply Google search each extension on your preferred search engine (i.e. open Safari, and type in “Piggy Safari Extension”). Then, follow the instructions to download.
When you go to check out, these extensions should automatically try to find discounts for you, or you can click on the extensions manually.
And if there are no coupons for whatever website you’re on, they will still notify you of cash back opportunities. Which leads me to my next point.
2. Earn cash back online
Going off of my first tip, extensions like Honey and Piggy can also find cash back opportunities in the case that no coupons or promo codes work.
This means that you get a cash refund, usually a certain percentage of the cost of whatever you purchased.
In addition to Honey and Piggy, you can also use the eBates extension for cash back notifications.
3. Sell your old stuff
One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, right?
I have a few different methods when it comes to selling my “trash.”
I first go to Plato’s Closet.
You simply bring in your bags/boxes of clothes, shoes, and jewelry, fill out a form, and come back in 30 minutes or so (during which time a designated employee goes through your bags and boxes, sorting the trash from the treasure).
THEN, they tell you how many items they’d like to buy, and for how much.
I’ve made as little as $2 to as much as $50.
Personally, I think it has a bit to do with the person who’s actually sorting these clothes (along with the consumer demand, the season, etc.), so I make sure to bring back the same bags/boxes at least 3 times throughout the year, just to see if they take anything else (they usually do).
There are several online sites that will pay you for your books.
I use BookScouter, a comparison site that runs each specific book through its database, and determines which websites will buy them.
I then go to the ensuing websites, and follow their instructions to send them my books!
For everything else:
Garage sale it up. You can even make posts on social media to see if anyone’s interested in buying your items.
And once I’ve exhausted my selling options, I bring my remaining treasures to the Salvation Army.
Although you don’t make any money off of this, you can get a signed sheet stating the quantity of items that you dropped off. This can come in handy later on if you itemize your taxes.
And if you don’t itemize your taxes, you should still donate your remaining items, because charity.
4. Shop secondhand first
If you need to buy something, always looked for used items first.
Although Plato’s Closet is obviously a viable option for used clothing, the store makes me feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of clothing that they have.
Instead, I turn to swap.com, an online thrift store that you can sort by brand.
If you’re looking for something other than clothing, for example a bike or a desk, try to find any secondhand stores in the surrounding area, and/or search on Craigslist.
***Be careful with Craigslist. One of my friends recently purchased a bed frame, and it was crawling with bed bugs. Inspect your items before you take them home with you!
5. DIY as much as you can
Before my big move to NYC, I needed a black desk.
My boyfriend, who was also moving to a new apartment, no longer needed his brown desk.
So instead of me buying a whole new desk to fit my room’s aesthetic, I simply took his, and spray painted it black.
Regardless of what’s on your list, try to find secondhand items, and make them work.
6. Earn cash back on groceries
Just like with online shopping, there is also a way to earn cash back on your groceries.
You can try out apps like Checkout 51. Simply take a photo of each receipt after you buy something, and you’ll find out if you’re eligible for cash back!
I found out about these types of apps from my mom, who eventually accrued so much cash back that she was able to cover $40 worth of groceries!
7. Stay in rather than eat out
Restaurants are expensive.
Grocery stores are cheap.
On average, I spend $35-40 for 2 weeks of meals at the grocery store, meaning I spend $2.5-2.8 on 3 meals a day (and some snacks).
On the other hand, I usually spend $10+ on one restaurant meal, meaning that this probably-not-even-super-satisfying meal could’ve funded 12 of my nutritious meals at home.
When I think of it this way, I never want to eat at a restaurant again.
8. Meal prep
An easy way to curb restaurant or takeout cravings is to already have your meals ready to go.
While there is a learning curve to meal prepping, I’ve been using it for 2 years now, and am absolutely obsessed.
I usually make my meals 3-4 days in advance (minus one of my breakfast recipes, which turns out better if you make it the night before).
Meal prepping is so perfect for frugal living because:
- you get your money’s worth, since you use all of the ingredients you buy
- you save tons of money by not eating out
- you also save money on water and cleaning supplies, since you’re not washing all your dishes and utensils and pots and pans every night
The trick is finding foods that have similar ingredients, so that you’re not buying a million and one different items.
For breakfast, I rotate between overnight oats and quinoa breakfast bars every few weeks, and for lunch/dinner, I rotate between stuffed sweet potatoes, stuffed peppers, burrito bowls, and veggie bowls every week.
(Note: I’m a vegetarian, so the majority of my recipes are very veggie-bean-quinoa-based, but there are tons of meal prepping options that include meat.)
9. Keep snacks with you throughout the day
If you find that your weakness comes in the middle of the day, when all you want is a little pick-me-up in the form of anything from the vending machine down the hall, then say no more.
Packing your own snacks will be much cheaper (and probably healthier) than making an impulse buy.
This kind of goes along with meal prepping, but it’s much easier.
Unless you’re making your own snacks, all you really have to do is compartmentalize them so you know how much to take for any one day.
For example, my current snacks consist of apples and grapes. I separate the grapes into little baggies, and on my way out, I simply grab a bag (and an apple), and keep them handy for when I need my before-lunch and after-lunch snacks.
Sorry vending machine, see ya never.
10. Know what’s in your kitchen
Before you go food shopping, take inventory of the ingredients you already have.
This will not only give you a clearer idea of what you need to buy, but it will also help you identify foods that are going to soon expire (which means you should find a way to incorporate them into your meals ASAP).
11. Compare items at the grocery store
Instead of grabbing the food with the prettiest packaging, look at the prices.
We’re often led to believe that the fancier-looking item, or the one with the big name brand is the better option.
This is false.
Just because one can of corn looks plainer than the other doesn’t mean it’s of a lesser quality, and the plainer one will usually be MUCH cheaper.
It can be rather overwhelming to stare at a wall of different brands of corn, trying to compare all the prices.
So, I usually search for the store’s brand (often the cheapest option), and then I skim the shelves to see if there’s anything cheaper than this price.
12. Look for marked down meat
Due to my vegetarian ways, I don’t really have to worry about this one.
But for all you carnivores out there (I guess omnivores would be the correct term), you know that meat is expensive.
Look for marked down prices, and go with it.
13. Eat cheap foods
Again, thanks to my vegetarian-ness, I no longer have to worry about expensive meat.
And since I’m eating tons of fruits and veggies, I’m not really buying processed foods (hint: also expensive).
Of course, you will want to make sure that you’re not sacrificing healthy foods just because they’re not the cheapest options.
For example, I eat a ton of quinoa and chia seeds, which are pretty expensive. But I need to get my protein somehow, and I’d rather splurge on these than on processed food.
Still, I keep my meals cheap by using tons of corn and beans in my lunches and dinners, and overnight oats for breakfast.
14. Take free food (and then take some more)
This is one of my favorite money-saving tips, and is geared more toward college students (with or without a meal plan).
If you have a meal plan, bring tupperware and DISCREETLY fill up on food in the dining halls. This can come in handy for snacks, or if you have a limited meal plan (i.e. not all your meals are covered).
For those of you without a meal plan, take advantage of campus events and club meetings for food.
I always show up to any event advertising free food, bringing my handy dandy tupperware to snag more for later.
Also, make sure you show up to any of your work parties, where there’s sure to be food.
During undergrad, I worked in Career Services, and we had a party almost every month, complete with pizza, salad, wings, etc.
With leftovers for days, I’m pretty sure this office is the reason why I saved so much money senior year.
15. Create a budget
It sorta stings at first, but having a monthly budget is incredibly useful.
With a better awareness of where your money’s going, you can also determine where to cut corners, thereby decreasing your expenses.
If you’re not sure where to start, head over to Budgeting for Beginners: A 7-Step Guide.
16. Opt for reusable items
Whether it’s a water bottle or a grocery bag, invest in reusable versions!
Telling you to buy something may seem counterproductive to frugal living, but I’m looking at the big picture here.
If a plastic water bottle is $1 (and that’s me being generous…and not wanting to do complicated math), and you buy one bottle a day, that’s $7 PER WEEK.
Meanwhile, this Brita water bottle (with a filter, for all you people who don’t trust tap) costs less than $9 on Amazon.
And you can use this for forever! (You’d have to change the filter every 300 or so refills, but this option is still cheaper in the long run.)
17. Reuse plastic items
Even if it’s not meant to be reused, reuse it anyway.
I don’t throw out Ziploc sandwich or freezer bags until I’ve used them at least a few times, and the same goes for empty peanut butter or salsa containers (hello new mason jars).
18. Use coupons
Be careful with this one.
Sometimes coupons convince people to buy something they didn’t even need in the first place, simply because they think they’re getting a good deal.
Know what you need to buy, and search for applicable coupons.
19. Look for discounts
The same goes for discounts.
I needed to buy a new computer, for both blogging and school purposes.
Instead of paying the full price, I looked up Apple’s student discounts, and got a new MacBook Air for a little less than $849, as opposed to its original price of $999 (neither of these including tax).
Even if the company isn’t advertising, search for discounts.
20. Forget about big brand names
If you have any loyalty to a big brand name, let it go.
Just because it’s the #1 trusted brand in the industry doesn’t mean it’s actually any better than the knockoff brand sitting right next to it.
More often than not, big brand names are more expensive because, well, you’re paying for the name.
21. Get rid of cable
Cable is hella expensive.
And I don’t know about you, but I barely even have enough time in a day to watch one episode of Grey’s (although I certainly try).
If you absolutely can’t part with TV, look into cheaper options, like Netflix or streaming devices (i.e. Roku, Chromecast, etc.).
22. Cut the gym membership
I’m not saying you should stop working out.
Living frugally BY NO MEANS warrants an unhealthy lifestyle.
But instead of paying upwards of $50 a month for the gym, use the great outdoors for running.
You can also use FREE apps, like Nike Training Club, which has over 100 workouts you can follow.
The app also offers personalized plans, depending on your goals and current fitness status.
Simply add your info as accurately as possible, and they will generate your workout schedule!
23. Use free trial versions of your favorite apps
I used to pay for Spotify Premium, when I realized that I could instead sign up for their FREE trial version.
At the end of the trial (currently 60 days), I simply created a new account with a different email, and had access to a new trial version of Premium.
Although your listening preferences don’t carry over, you at least get out of paying a monthly fee.
You should do the same for any current apps you pay for.
If these types of hacks aren’t available, I would recommend switching to the app’s corresponding free version (if that exists), and stomaching the non-premium features.
24. Bring cash only on nights out…or don’t go
When you’re out with friends and alcohol is involved, you can start to feel pretty generous.
Instead of buying all your friends shots and royally regretting it the next day, bring only enough cash for your own drinks.
This way, you won’t be able to spend more than what you’ve accounted for, no matter how much your drunk alter ego wants to splurge on your friends.
However, if you don’t even have the cash in your budget to spend on a night out, don’t go.
Yeah, this is one of the more painful money-saving tips.
25. Opt for no-spend activities
Instead of going out to dinner with your partner, bring your meal-prepped lunch for a picnic in the park.
And instead of going on a shopping spree with your friends, window shop for what you want. Then, try to find ways to make these items yourself, or to acquire them secondhand.
You get the gist.
Find no-spend alternatives, and your bank account will thank you.
These money-saving tips are sure to set you on the path to a frugal lifestyle:
- Save money online with extensions like Piggy and Honey
- Earn cash back online, if your extensions can’t find discounts
- Sell your clothing to secondhand stores, your books to online sites, and everything else in a garage sale (either online or in person)
- Shop for secondhand everything at thrift stores and on Craigslist
- DIY instead of purchasing something new
- Earn cash back on groceries with extensions like Checkout 51
- Eat at home rather than at a restaurant
- Meal prep recipes with similar ingredients
- Bring snacks from home to curb those cravings
- Take inventory of your fridge
- Compare prices at the grocery store
- Look for marked down meat
- Eat cheap foods, like rice and beans
- Stock up on food from dining halls, on-campus events, work parties, etc.
- Create a monthly budget
- Opt for reusable items
- Reuse plastic items at least a few times
- Use coupons only for what you already intended to buy
- Search for discounts
- Forget about big brand names
- Opt for Netflix or streaming devices instead of cable
- Run outside and use free workout apps instead of paying for a gym membership
- Use free trial versions (again and again) instead of paying for apps
- Bring cash only on your nights out (or don’t go, if it doesn’t work with your budget)
- Opt for no-spend activities with your loved ones
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