How To Become Frugal

Courtesy of Flickr – Pictures of Money

The word frugal seems to have a negative connotation. A lot of people think frugal is the same as cheap. I disagree. To me, frugal means you’re smart with your money and tend not to waste it where most people will. It’s learning how to hack shopping and showing patience and restraint and spotting good deals. There’s only two ways to become wealthier. Earn more or spend less. Choosing the latter is the easier of the two and really doesn’t take much effort to adopt frugal habits. Along with starting a budget, becoming frugal should be one of the first things you do to take control of your finances. I GUARANTEE you if you follow some of these steps below to becoming frugal you’ll see INSTANT savings $$$.

  1. First thing’s first. Treat yourself but within reason. It’s a great feeling buying something you want but don’t need. Shopping releases dopamine and is a reason why some people are shopping addicts. If you start becoming frugal, you can’t go 100%. You’ll burn out. Similar to when people diet and cut out everything bad for them. Sure, they’ll lose some weight, but they won’t be able to sustain it and within weeks the pounds will be put back on. It’s all about moderation. Learning to save here and there but also rewarding yourself as well. Every payday I usually splurge and treat myself. Nothing crazy but something within my budget that allows me to stay on track of my finance goals.
  2. If you’re purchasing something that you want, do not buy it immediately. Don’t buy on impulse and try to avoid instant gratification. If you take a day to think about it, you may decide that you don’t really want that item. And if you do still want it, do your research. If you’re physically in the store, take pictures of barcodes and search online for cheaper items. Take a few mins and read reviews. Weed out the inferior products. I saved $24 last weekend by being patient! And also a little bit of luck. I was in American Eagle buying shorts and one color had my size and the other color didn’t. While I was in the store I searched their website on my phone to see if they had the other color in my size. It turned out there was an online sale and the shorts were $12 cheaper. I immediately left the store and went to my car where I purchased the shorts online. BOOM. $24 richer.
  3. Add the Honey browser extension to your desktop. It automatically finds and applies coupon codes to your online shopping carts.
  4. Buy discounted gift cards from Cardpool.com and Raise.com for companies you regularly shop at. Typically you can save 2-10%.
  5. This is one of my favorite ways to save a few bucks per month. Get in with some friends and share memberships. I pay for Netflix (Netflix actually doesn’t discourage sharing but this might not last for much longer) and let a couple of friends use my login and in return they pay for my Spotify (Family Plan). Saves me $10 per month!
  6. Do you really need that unlimited data package? I thought I did at first. Couple of months in I realized I never used more than 10 GB. I was wasting $30 per month for data I wasn’t using. Chances are you normally don’t need that much data either if you’re on Wifi at home and pay for offline services. Then I realized I was overpaying for my AT&T plan and switched to Verizon. If you want to take it one step further like me, switch to a Verizon Pre-Paid plan. I pay $64 per month for my cell phone plan (Phone is paid for) and get 10 GB of data per month. There is no contract, you pay as you go. As long as you set up autopay and don’t forget to pay your bill you will be fine. However, if you pay manually every month and miss a payment your service will be turned off. Instant monthly savings of $40+!
  7. Ditch the $40+ monthly gym memberships and work out at Planet Fitness. They have 2 memberships, $10 / month allows you access to just one location and $20 / months allows you access to any of their locations plus you can bring a workout partner for free, anytime. This no contract gym provides the best value. Monthly savings of $10+
  8. This tip might not apply to the ladies but have your friend cut your hair. I was paying $25 every 4-5 weeks for a haircut. Decided to switch up my look and go with a buzz cut. My friend offered to do it so why not save a little quiche. Monthly savings of $25
  9. Ditch paying for overpriced oil changes at your car dealership and opt for going to Jiffy Lube instead. They send coupons every month ($5-$8 off) and even if the coupon’s expired they’ll usually help you out and apply a coupon anyway.
  10. Buy all of your toiletries in bulk: toothpaste (6 (6 oz) Colgate for $8.88 on Amazon versus $1.75 per tube at Dollar General), body wash, shampoo, deodorant (6 pack of Degree 2.7 oz deodorant for $14.94 on Amazon versus $8.49 for a 2 pack at Walmart). You could save anywhere from $0.50 – a couple of bucks per item and if you have Amazon Prime, you don’t have to pay for shipping. This also leads to less trips to the store and saving on gas as well.
  11. If premium gas is only recommended for your car and not required, fill up with unleaded and save $0.20 – $0.50 per gallon. Most cars these days can run on regular without causing any issues and damaging the engine. While using premium gas in certain vehicles can increase fuel economy, most likely it’s not enough to warrant paying the extra $0.20-$0.50 per gallon. If you fill up once a week like me and have a 17 gallon tank, that’s a weekly savings of $3.40 – $8.50 per week!
  12. Speaking of paying less for gas, download the Gas Buddy app. Shows you the cheapest gas prices within a city, state, or zip code. If you live in the South, fill up at RaceTrac. They typically are the cheapest.
  13. Cut the cord. Seriously, it’s 2019. Why are you still paying over $100 per month for cable? How many of those channels do you even watch bro? The average monthly cable bill is a little over $100. That’s absurd. There are so many cordless options to choose from. Netflix ($9, $13, & $16 options), Amazon Prime Video (Included in Prime membership, $99 per year), Hulu (Free with Spotify Premium), Hulu + Live TV ($45 per month), Sling TV ($25 & $40 options, plus free Roku Express w/ subscription), YouTube TV ($50 per month, includes unlimited DVR and 3 simultaneous streams), PlayStation Vue ($45 per month), AT&T WatchTV ($15 per month), etc. For in depth reviews check this website. All you need is a decent internet connection and if you don’t have a smart tv, a streaming device such as a Roku, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, or Amazon Firestick. Most of these streaming devices run less than $100. If you’re like me and have to read a review for everything you buy, check this website for a comparison of the streaming devices. And if you also want access to CBS, ABC, NBC, & Fox, you can get some bunny ears. No, they’re not as ugly as they used to be. You can get this sweet one that mounts onto the wall for only $28. Any of these options can save you at least $50 per month. If you want to be ultra-frugal, you can buy the antenna for $28 so you’ll have your local channels. Buy a streaming device so you can download the cable website apps and watch recent shows for free (<$100). And if you want access to movies and great original content, purchase the $16 per month Netflix subscription that allows streaming on 4 devices simultaneously. Up front cost is ~$100 but you only pay $16 per month. Instant savings of $84+ per month!!
  14. Shop around for insurance. Whether it is car insurance or home owner’s insurance, you should try to get as many quotes as you can. You’d be surprised how much of a difference there can be among quotes. When my friend was in the process of purchasing a house for the first time, he got 8 home owner’s insurance quotes, ranging from $840 per year to $1600 per year! And don’t just stick with one insurance company forever. You should compare prices annually as well. Geico’s actually not full of shit. “15 minutes can really save you 15% or more.” TheZebra.com is a great site to help you obtain multiple quotes in minutes.
  15. Sell clutter on eBay. I read on a few personal finance blogs about selling your unused belongings on eBay to make a few extra bucks. It actually works. I sold a Fitbit I never wore, a Garmin watch with a heart rate monitor, a couple of Invicta watches, a Mini iPad, an Asus Tablet, and a couple of other items for around $500 total! No point in keeping old electronics around that you’ll never use. And it’s very little time involved.
  16. Get rid of your landline phone. They typically cost anywhere from $15-40 per month. My family hasn’t had one in almost 10 years. We don’t miss it. With cellphones, tablets, Facebook messenger, and WhatsApp, there are just so many ways to be able to contact someone. If you’re hesitant to ditch your landline because you want a phone for emergency purposes, look into Google Fiber. It’s only offered in select cities but they’re expanding. Their landline service is only $10 per month. And offers some pretty sweet services: 911 support, caller ID, and voicemail—which is transcribed and emailed like Google Voice – and allows people to have calls automatically forwarded to their cell phone.
  17. Don’t buy a new cell phone after every contract ends. I know it’s tempting. I used to be an Apple hype beast and would HAVE to have the latest model iPhone after my contract was up. But then after my last contract was up, I wanted to experience what it was like not having to pay for a phone installment plan every month. It’s refreshing. I haven’t paid for a phone in over a year. Saves me $30+ per month. I’m still rocking an iPhone 6s and it’s good enough for me. I did take advantage of Apple’s battery replacement plan last year where you could replace the battery for only $30. It was a godsend and now it works like a new phone. And if your phone’s getting long in the tooth and you need an upgrade, sell your phone on Gazelle (Don’t forget to wipe your phone of your personal data before selling) and use that money to buy a used one on Amazon or eBay. Pre-owned iPhones for sale on Amazon are not Apple certified but have been inspected and tested by Amazon-qualified suppliers and include a 90 day guarantee. You can also check this site for the best deals on cell phones (Thanks How to Money!).
  18. Brew your own coffee. Average cost for a trip to a coffeehouse is $3.25. If you do that 5x a week that’s $16.25 per week. $65 per month. $780 per year. Instead, buy a Keurig. You can get 3 months’ worth of K-cups on Amazon for $30! That’s only $120 per year plus the cost of the Keurig ($90) itself. Or do your own cold brew. A great option when the weather’s warm and only runs me ~$15 per month for coffee grinds, and $30 for the cold brew kit itself. That’s a monthly savings of $50 per month!
  19. One of my favorite tips for living frugally and one of the most recent ones I have learned and implemented. Avoid using your own money whenever possible and pay for gifts with gift cards. Every year I receive American Express gift cards, whether it’s a Christmas gift from my work or a gift from a relative. Instead of using the gift card on frivolous things that I don’t need, I use them to purchase Christmas or birthday gifts for relatives.
  20. Cancel subscriptions. With automatic payments, it’s easy to lose track on how much you’re spending every month on subscriptions. If you haven’t used it in over 30 days, cancel it. Eliminate redundant subscriptions too. Are you paying for Sirius XM or Pandora in addition to Spotify or Apple Music? Keep one and get rid of the other. Paying for multiple TV streaming services? Decide which one you can’t live without and cancel the others. Not suing your gym membership every month? Pause it until you actually use it. Still paying for newspapers? There are plenty of resources online where you can get your news for free. I use Twitter and follow local reporters. Ditch magazines and see if your local library has the ones you were paying for. Paying the $100 monthly average for a storage unit to store junk you don’t even use? Sell or get rid of the items and ditch the monthly storage cost. Try the free app Truebill. It automatically analyzes your credit card account and will show you all of the subscriptions you pay for and will cancel the unwanted ones.
  21. Stop paying fees and interest. Pay your credit cards in full. There’s no reason to pay minimum balance fees. Switch to a bank account that doesn’t charge them (Ally). And stop paying ATM fees. Switch to a bank that reimburses you for them (Also Ally).
  22. Use free software and apps. There are plenty of free products that work just as good as the paid versions. I used to pay $8 per month for Microsoft Office 365 until I discovered the free WPS Office. I barely notice a difference between the software. If you’re looking for a cloud service but don’t have a ton of data you want to save, most cloud services have free versions. I utilize Dropbox’s free 2GB service. Don’t fork over money for Anti-Virus software. There’s some really good ones that are free such as AVG. Always look to see if there is a free, comparable version of an app or software.
  23. Pay more towards principle by making extra mortgage payments to reduce the amount of interest paid over the life of a loan. Making one extra payment per year can cut years off of a 30 year mortgage. Use an amortization chart to see what payment system works best for you. And if possible, put 20% down on buying a house to avoid PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance).
  24. Eat out less. I’m guilty of one of my biggest expenses being food. You don’t have to be drastic to reduce your food budget. Utilize leftovers for lunch a couple of days during the week. Meal prep. Use generic over brand names. Don’t buy bottled water. Instead, buy a water filter. Purchase groceries online and pickup in person to avoid impulse shopping. Earn cash back on your groceries using the Checkout 51 app. Check out the Lunch Savings Calculator at 360FinancialLiteracy.org
  25. DIY home repairs. Instead of immediately calling a repairman, check out Youtube’s many DIY channels (HouseImprovements, FIX IT Home Improvement) and see if you can fix the issue yourself (Fixing a running toilet, leaking sink, patching holes in drywall). You can find videos from showing you how to do small repairs to large scale renovations.
  26. Download the CloudLibrary app to read books for free. All that’s required is a library card.
  27. Cut down on your energy bills. According to the Energy Department, the typical family spends an annual average of $2200 on utilities. This doesn’t require a huge sacrifice to see savings. It’s not about being drastic and picking everything in this list at first. You can choose a few tips and start off with some small adjustments and see what only requires minimal cost, time, and effort. You just need to start somewhere and start cutting away at that electric bill:
  • Set your thermostat 10 degrees warmer when it’s hot or 10 degrees cooler when it’s cold when you’re not home. Doing this while you’re away at work can lower your annual heating and cooling costs by 10%. And if you invest in a programmable thermostat like the Nest, you can set the thermostat back to the temperature you want just before you leave work and by the time you get home you won’t even notice a difference.
  • Purchase Energy Star appliances. These appliances are certified by the federal government to consume less energy than standard appliances and typically cost 9-25% less to operate. They reduce energy usage by reducing the amount of water or electricity needed to operate. For example, an Energy Star dishwasher is required to use 5.8 gallons of water at most during a cycle, compared to 10 gallons or more that are used by non-Energy Star appliances.
  • Upgrade your incandescent light bulbs to LED light bulbs. Incandescent light bulbs typically last for 1000-2000 hours whereas LEDs last on average for 10000-25000 hours, with some being able to last up to 50000 hours. While LEDs are more expensive per bulb (upwards of $4-5 per LED bulb versus $1 per incandescent bulb), they are cheaper in the long run. You would need to replace an incandescent 12-25 times over 25000 hours versus only needing to buy an LED once. That’s $12.50-25 worth of incandescent bulbs versus $4-5 of LED light bulbs needed. This website does a great job of comparing incandescent to LED. Not only would you save money on buying LEDs over time, but they use 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs. That’s just good business.
  • Weatherize your home. Look for air leaks around doors, windows, and electrical outlets, which can greatly increase the energy needed to keep your home heated or cooled. You can easily reduce air leakage by caulking and weatherstripping, which are both simple and effective techniques.
  • Turn off your lights. Probably the easiest and cheapest tip in this list but when you leave a room, remember to turn off the lights. Why pay for energy that you’re not using?
  • Retrofit your shower with a WaterSense labeled showerhead. These are certified to meet efficiency criteria set by the Environmental Protection Agency and can reduce a household’s water usage by 2700 gallons per year.
  • Set your refrigerator temperature to 38 degrees Fahrenheit and your freezer temperature to 5 degrees Fahrenheit. These temperatures prevent them from overworking. If you’re building a new home or renovating a kitchen, optimal placement of your refrigerator should be away from the stove and windows. Basically in the coolest spot in your kitchen so it won’t have to use more energy to keep cool.
  • If you have a tank based water heater, set the temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The default setting for most manufacturers is 140 degrees Fahrenheit but the ideal temperature the Department of Energy recommends is 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Essentially 140 degrees is turning on the hot water as high as you can go. I doubt anyone takes scalding hot showers so this is basically a waste of energy. Turning the temperature down 120 degrees can save you 6-10%. If you want to take it a step further, replace your tank based water heater with a tankless water heater. They use 30-50% less energy than tank based heaters. Really the only disadvantage is the upfront cost, which has gotten cheaper in recent years.
  • Wash clothes in cold water, if clothing label permits you to do so. Your washer machine uses an estimated 75-90% of its total energy to warm up the water.
  • Combat “Vampire Drain” with a smart power strip. Some electronic devices with a remote control, like tvs and speakers never truly power off. The remote sensors needs constant power while it waits for a user’s input, which causes your device to be in standby mode, using a constant small amount of power (Vampire Drain). This can add up over time. You can either physically unplug these devices when they’re not is use, or you can plug them once into a smart power strip, which cuts off the current completely when the devices are not is use, and be done with it. I vote for the latter. These smart strips also have “Master”, “Energy Saving”, and “Always On” outlets. For example, you would plug a computer in the master outlet, printers, monitors, and speakers into the energy saving outlets, and a router into the always on outlet. When the master outlet detects low power consumption, it cuts power to the energy-saving outlets, while still powering the always-on outlets.
  • Replace your air filter once per month. A dirty filter causes your AC to do more work, decreasing its efficiency and increasing energy costs.
  • Remove the lint from your dryer trap after each load. This helps to maximize your dryer’s efficiency and as a result, decreases its energy consumption.
  • Turn off the heat cycle on your dish washer and air dry instead. Most of the energy consumed by your dishwasher goes towards heating the water.
  • Do your laundry and dishes at night. A lot of power companies offer discounted rates during non-peak hours (Typically after 8pm). Just call your power company to find out.
  • Switch ceiling fans to the correct seasonal setting. They should spin counterclockwise in the spring and summer and clockwise in the fall and winter. Counterclockwise allows the cool air to be blown straight down. When it’s cold, the blades should spin clockwise to help pull cool air up forcing warm air down. This could save on your heating costs by up to 10%. Locate the switch on the ceiling fan (Make sure the fan is turned off first) and flip up for clockwise and down for counterclockwise.