What is Frugal Living?

Sherry Holetzky

Frugal living is a lifestyle that involves careful planning and spending as well as avoiding waste. Some people may choose this lifestyle out of desire and some may incorporate such a lifestyle out of necessity. It’s not about being cheap; it’s really about being practical and making the most of available resources through various methods of saving money, reusing existing items instead of buying new ones, and finding bargains and good deals. The premise is that a person shouldn’t pay more for something if he or she doesn’t have to.

Using coupons is one aspect of frugal living.
Using coupons is one aspect of frugal living.

People who incorporate the concepts of frugal living into their daily lives generally adopt a strict budget and try very hard to stick to it. They tend to purchase the most inexpensive products if those products are a good value. Many frugal families also take advantage of sales and use coupons. They recycle, revamp, trade and find other innovative ways to get as much as possible out of what they have and what they earn.

Frugal living can involve creating a strict budget to cut costs and save money.
Frugal living can involve creating a strict budget to cut costs and save money.

Frugal living and simple living often go hand in hand, although it isn’t necessary to “live off the land” in order to adopt a frugal lifestyle. It may simply be a matter of cutting out excesses and learning to put the extra money away instead of spending it on impulsive or indulgent purchases. Living frugally also means comparison shopping, making smart choices, lowering the cost of bills, and doing what you can to avoid debt.

Daycares can be a huge cost for parents with young children.
Daycares can be a huge cost for parents with young children.

Many people think that frugal living means doing without, but more often than not it entails spending within your means as well as waiting to make large purchases instead of buying on credit. Seasonal sales tend to offer huge savings, which means that big-ticket items can be purchased out of season, often for as much as 50% off. Finance charges are also avoided. Living frugally may require more effort, but it allows many families to live well on less money.

Couples with children frequently adopt frugal living ideas in order to live on one income, so that one parent can be at home with the children. Avoiding the high cost of daycare is a huge money saver but also provides peace of mind. Other families may utilize certain frugal concepts in order to save money for a new car, a new house, or a great vacation. Some will also choose frugal living now so they can save for retirement.

Living frugally often means shopping around for the best bargains on everyday items.
Living frugally often means shopping around for the best bargains on everyday items.

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Discussion Comments


@golf07 - Some people are naturally better at frugal living than others. I think for many people it comes down to planning and discipline.

Like most disciplines and habits, they get easier the more often, and longer you do them. For me, learning to live frugally has become a process.

One of the first things I did was set up a budget. I had always been good at watching for sales and using the occasional coupon, but I wasn't really aware of where my money was going.

I have found that I can still have nice things without paying full price for them. I also belong to a free-cycle program in my community.

This is a place where people list things they have to give away. Then when I am ready to recycle some of my things, I list them on this site as well.

This is just one of the steps I have taken to cut down on the clutter that can take over my house and learn to live a little more simply.


I used to have a problem with spending money and I accrued a lot of debt in the process. It is much easier to get yourself in debt than it is to get out of it.

I finally got tired of living that way and realized that I was tired of all the 'stuff', and barely even used many of the things I had purchased.

I don't know if I would call myself a frugal person, but I have learned to control my spending. One rule I now live by is not to pay for something unless I have the cash to buy it.

Unless it is an emergency situation, I will save up the cash until I can purchase something without making payments.

At first this was hard for me to do and I still find myself tempted to cheat every now and then. Maybe if I joined a forum or read more articles about the advantages of living frugally it would be easier to stay on track.


@John57 - I have never thought about joining a frugal living forum, but that is a great idea. I recently purchased a book called 'The Tightwad Gazette'.

This book is full of short articles and tips on making the most of your money and living frugally. There is really a lot of good information in this book.

Most people certainly won't incorporate everything they read, but it really opens your eyes to how much money you can save. Even if you made only one small change a week in your normal habits, over the course of a year you could save a lot of money.

My parents recycled and reused out of necessity. I used to think that being frugal was just being cheap, and felt 'rich' when I could be wasteful.

Thankfully I have changed my thinking and my ways and see that living frugally is a much simpler and more satisfying lifestyle.


I have always been a frugal person. It was a natural thing for me to save my money and look for the best deal. On the other hand, my sister who was raised the same as me, liked to spend money and usually had it spent before she even received it.

I recently joined a frugal living forum that has not only been a lot of fun, but I have received many great tips and ideas.

It is nice to communicate with other people who have the same mindset you do, and are more than willing to pass on their money-saving tips.

For me, living frugally just makes common sense. I am always asking myself if there is a cheaper way to purchase something or get something done. I work too hard for my money to waste it on foolish or impulse purchases.


I consider myself a pretty frugal person. I like to reuse things instead of tossing them in the trash.

One thing I often reuse is plastic grocery bags. I use them to line the small trash cans in my bathroom and bedrooms, and when they are full, I simply tie the bag shut and throw it out. I also use these bags to carry items with me to the beach, because they are the perfect size for holding sunscreen bottles and snacks.

I also reuse plastic water bottles. I refill them with filtered water and store them in the refrigerator. That way, I don’t have to buy more bottles every time I need to take water in a cooler on a trip.


If you are into the frugal living lifestyle and you marry someone who isn’t, it can be tough to adjust. My husband was a spender, even though he didn’t really have the money to waste. After marrying me, he has become much more frugal, because I showed him that we really needed to be careful with our money.

Before, he was living from paycheck to paycheck. He would spend all his cash on food and other things, and he would not set aside any money for bills. When it came time to pay them, he simply could not do it.

Now, he is much more cautious, because the money isn’t just his anymore. He lets me be in charge of the budget and keeping the books, because he knows that he has a risky streak.


@StarJo - That is a good tip. I have been using coupons for years, but I never knew that stores did that. I will start holding off on using mine for a week or so.

I do have a suggestion for people hoping to save money with coupons. Understand that just because you could save a few cents, a coupon may not always be your best option. For example, if a coupon requires you to buy two items in order to get the discount, and you only need one item, you will actually be spending more than you would have if you had bought only one without the coupon.

Also, if you are happy with the less expensive store brand, but the coupon is for a more expensive name brand, you might save money by purchasing the store brand without the coupon. Some name brands cost so much more that even with the discount, you could pay more.


I recently became more frugal after I got my hours cut at work. I started clipping coupons from the newspaper, which I had never done before.

My mother is a pro at using coupons, and she offered me some tips. She said that it is best to not use them the week that they come out in the paper, because stores will not have the items on sale until one week later. The stores know that people will be coming in with their coupons, so they don’t want to mark items down any further until the mad rush has subsided.

Does anyone else have any good coupon tips? I’m open to suggestions, because I really need to save every cent possible now.


I do some paid work from home while caring for my children, so my style is a little different. Some of the frugal living tips that you come across, like making your own laundry detergent, just don't seem worthwhile for me because they take up time that I could be spending either with my children or doing paid work.

I'm also not a big fan of running around from one thrift store to another looking for bargains. Some people love that - if that's your style, go for it! But instead of shopping for the cheapest prices, I just... buy less stuff. I buy a lot of children's clothes at consignment sales and stores, especially when they have sales. It's not as cheap as yard saling or haunting thrift stores, but it's much faster.

I think the main thing is to find ways to save money that you *enjoy.* I like cooking, so I make a lot of our food from scratch, and I also used cloth diapers because they were so cute. Make it enjoyable for you!


One easy, delicious and fun way to save some money is to start your own garden. Saving money at the grocery stores is one of the best ways how to save money. Growing your own fruits and veggies is a cheap project to start and can deliver hundreds of dollars worth of top quality produce throughout the growing season. You don't even have to be a cheapskate to appreciate that.


My best money saving tip is to always try and buy something used before you buy it new. Check Craigslist, check thrift stores, check e-bay. Be willing to wait a week longer to get something if it means getting a second hand deal.

Some things wear out with use but many things don't, or don't appreciably. We throw away lots of completely useful stuff all the time. If we thought more of recycling the things of use that we no longer want we could go a long way toward fixing some of the environmental problems that plague this world. We could all also save a lot of money.


People think that frugal living will be difficult and will require a lot of sacrifice. But frugality gets a lot easier once you learn to separate your wants from your needs. Focus on your needs for a while and you realize how little you really want the things you thought you wanted. Many of your past purchases will begin to seem useless and frivolous and you will feel free and relieved after removing that commercial strain from your life.

Frugal living and having fun are not mutually exclusive either. There are tons of fun things you can do for free or cheap. Set goals for yourself about how much money you want to spend and really stick to them. The fun will appear out of necessity.

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