Welcome to your "Ultimate Frugal Living Guide". If you use this list to its fullest intent, you'll be able to save money, eliminate debt and move toward financial independence all in a relatively short period of time.
Let's face it, getting control of your money and getting out of debt can be two overwhelming steps in a new and challenging process for most of us (me included).
In fact, most of our students need a little starter list (or 100) to help them reduce their sense of overwhelm and get the money-saving idea juices flowing.
Then, once you've gotten the process started, it's a little easier to think about getting your finances, getting on a written budget and eliminating debt.
Even an elephant can be eaten in small bites. Not that it would be all that tasty, but it can be done. :)
The overarching goal of this list is to give you ideas and encouragement about what to stop spending money on by elimination or substitution. In order to change your financial situation, you have to start thinking about how every penny that comes into your household is spent.
Keep in mind that this is really a list of “tactics” and not necessarily “strategy”. The strategy piece can be summed up in my “8 Steps To Erase Debt” guide. This list is meant to get the creative juices flowing more than it’s meant to be an exhaustive list.
So, just have fun with it and feel free to add to it as you go.
Do you "get down" with Pinterest? Would you consider saving this image to one of your favorite boards?
"Retail therapy" is part of the war on your money.
In order to win in the world’s war on your money, you must get better at both economic offense (earning money) and economic defense (keeping as much of it as you can, legally). This list is meant to help you by giving you ideas to buttress your defensive posture.
And I’ll be honest here, in our hyper-consumer oriented culture, a lot of these ideas are likely going to feel somewhere in the range of “very uncomfortable” to “completely ridiculous” at first read.
Don’t worry, it’s normal.
I just encourage you to consider them. Some will be palatable now, others not so much. Just keep in mind that you want to keep coming back to this list as you move through the process.
The more success you have at getting control over your money, the more willing you’ll be to embrace what seems radical in this moment.
Progress tends to breed deeper commitment and motivation. Trust me, I know. It's precisely how I eliminated $43,000+ of debt in 2.5 years.
Again, small bites.
Okay, we're at the starting block. Let's see what happens next...
1. Start practicing saying, “I can’t afford it”. It’s probably true, at least for now. Just look at it like you’re practicing for when you can afford it, but you just don’t “want to” afford it. :)
2. As a general rule, always look for bargains/options that cost less than you can actually afford to buy.
3. Tell friends and family that you’re saving money and getting out of debt. They will more than likely try to find ways to support you in your efforts (hopefully). If not, stay the course and stick to your plan.
4. Stop all “autopay” bills for 6 months. You want to start actively paying your bills, even if it is online by calendaring and being more mindful of what is due and when it’s due.
10. Stop buying music. You can stream for free from YouTube and Pandora.
She's thinking about her budget as she's tempted to click "download track". :)
11. Stop buying bottled water. Get a good water filtration system instead.
12. Cancel your gym membership. Get some used equipment form Goodwill or off of Craigslist.
13. Use coupons as often as you can, especially for name brands.
14. Switch to using generic or store brands.
15. Establish a home food pantry, compare prices and buy in bulk when reasonable.
16.Use the dollar store (Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, Dollar General, Big Lots, etc.). Try to substitute as many products as you can, where you would normally buy from Target, Walmart, etc.
Ready to start getting out of debt? Check out this free guide:
17. If you have recurring prescriptions, call your insurance company and ask for prices for “RX by mail”.
18. Stop paying for lawn care. Get a used mower and start cutting it yourself or put those teens to work. :)
19. Don’t pay for credit reports. Go to annualcreditreport.com instead. It’s free.
20. Stop paying for hair care. Cuts, color, etc. Someone in the household can at least cut all the males’ hair with some clippers.
He's like, "dude, I could totally stop paying all that money for my haircuts and "product"...
21. Dye your hair or do your own highlights at home.
22. Stop paying for manicures and pedicures. DIY instead.
23. Bank/ATM fees. If your bank still charges for those, you might want to look around for another bank.
24. Cell phone insurance. Instead invest a few bucks in a hard case like an Otterbox.
25. Smartphone apps. This can add to budget “leakage” rather quickly. There are TONS of free apps that will likely substitute.
26. New Cars/Leased Cars/Financed Cars. If you have to borrow money, just eliminate it from your thought process.
27. Say no to home warranties. I can’t remember the last time I heard anyone say anything good about them.
28. Don’t pay for computer antivirus software.
29. Utilize discount grocers like Aldi. We switched from Kroger to Aldi and it’s meant about $100+ reduction in our monthly grocery spending.
30. Avoid membership clubs like, Costco, Sam’s and BJ’s. I’ve run the numbers and they don’t really work for us. Caveat emptor (buyer beware).
Drink a couple cups of coffee before you enter into ANY memberships. You've got to do your research here.
31. If you’re looking to buy a home or to rent a different place, always try to keep your rent/mortgage under 25% of your monthly take home pay. Always go for the least expensive option, except for if it involves living in a war zone.
32. Buy discount Greeting cards at Dollar Tree has 2 for $1 and have some of the funniest cards I’ve ever seen.
33. Christmas gifts. Talk with family about setting spending limits, particularly while you’re eliminating debt. As minimalists, we do a lot of “regifting” as well.
34. Skip the $10+ per person skating or ice skating fee this season and go for a family hike in a state park.
35. Stop paying retail for jeans. This is a great opportunity to try out thrift store shopping. Jeans are very resilient and thrift stores typically have a TON of them.
36. Implement quarterly spending freezes for two weeks. Don’t purchase anything unless it’s absolutely necessary.
37. Look into refinancing your home mortgage to a lower interest rate and moving from a 30 year fixed to a 15 year fixed. Yes, the monthly payment will be higher, but it could save you tens to hundreds of thousands in interest charges over the life of the loan.
38. If you have a car payment, sell your car and look for a cheaper alternative. If you get a tax refund, this is a potentially great use of that money.
39. If you’re a two car household, consider paring down to one car. Consider the overall expense of: payment, gas, insurance and maintenance and see if it warrants the conveniences it provides.
40. Try batch or freezer cooking. You can save a ton on your grocery bill as well as time in the kitchen.
She's researching meal planning and counting the "benjamins" she's going to save.
41. Only buy produce that is in season.
42. Visit farmers markets right before closing to grab discounts on produce.
43. Stretch your ground beef with oatmeal or beans.
44. Plant a small garden. Tomatoes and herbs are a great starting point.
45. Look into buying a share of a cow to reduce the cost of high quality beef.
46. Don’t waste food. Freeze leftovers for easy meals later.
47. Cancel your landline phone and use cell phones only.
48. Turn your thermostat up 2-3 degrees down in the winter and 2-3 degrees up in the summer.
49. Switch to an alternative, lower cost cell phone carrier like: Mint, Ting, FreedomPop.
50. Turn off the water while brushing your teeth, washing your hair, shaving, etc. Take “navy showers”. That is, turn off the water except when you’re wetting or rinsing.
Happiness is water conservation and dental care products from Dollar Tree.
51. Switch to cloth diapers.
52. Cover drafts in the house with a door snake or other protective coverings.
53. Put infrequently used appliances on a power strip to easily unplug.
54. Shop your insurance and switch carriers if the prices are lower and the coverages are comparable.
55. Quit paper towels and start using hand towels and cleaning rags.
56. Change your own oil. There are tons of car-specific YouTube videos for this.
57. Purchase your own parts for car repairs. YouTube some basic repairs and try DIY, at least for the minor stuff.
58. Preventive maintenance on your car and home can save you TONS on the back end. Make a list of the preventives and see what you can DIY.
59. Try ditching the dishwasher. Wash dishes by hand.
They were able to get more tats with all the money they saved on water. :)
60. Use cloth baby wipes cut out of old white t-shirts.
61.If you plan on having more than one child, buy neutral baby stuff so they’re transferable.
62. Buy gift wrap, tags and tape at the dollar store.
63. Use this opportunity to become debt free and promise to never borrow money ever again for any reason whatsoever.
64. Eliminate processed snacks, cookies, chips, goodies.
65. Get a large water bottle and carry it with you instead of paying over $1 for bottled water.
66. Search through weekly ads and, when you see a good price, stock up on staples.
67. When you find yourself in need of a certain product, go to this list to learn the optimal yearly time to buy: Lifehacker's "Best Time To Buy" List.
68. Also, always check Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist and eBay to see if you can find a used/discounted version of what you need.
69. Check around the outside of your home for any leaks to make sure you’re not “leaking” any heating or cooling.
This what I think of when I hear the term "leakage". No bueno.
70. Call all the companies you get bills from and see if there’s any way you can lower your bill.
71. When your regular light bulbs expire, replace them with CFLs or LEDs. WAY more energy efficient.
72. Switch to a low flow shower head.
73. Stop buying and drinking soft drinks. It’s better for your money and your health.
74. Make your own coffee at home instead of buying at a coffee shop.
75. Don’t eat out except for VERY special occasions.
76. Try doing your own home maintenance using YouTube as a resource.
77. Try doing a “staycation” instead of traveling and spending tons of cash.
78. When you’re “out and about”, pack your own snacks so you’re not tempted to buy overpriced ones.
79. If possible, stop buying clothing that requires dry cleaning.
Dry cleaning is a budget item that's usually pretty easy to reduce.
80. Stop buying and drinking alcohol. If you can’t, that might be an issue to look into. :)
81.Stop using credit and debit cards and use the cash envelope system instead. It hurts more to spend cash, so hopefully you reduce your spend.
82. Stop spending money on entertainment (at least temporarily). Utilize (free) local, state and national parks and other types of free entertainment.
83. Shop for back to school bargains. Sometimes these happen after the actual season, so start trying to think a year ahead.
84. Build a written budget, on paper for the first 90 days. This is Step 1 in our “8 Steps” system. Reach out for help if/when you get stuck.
85. Have money directly transferred out of your paycheck into a separate, more difficult to access, savings account.
86. At the end of every shopping trip, remove 2-3 items from the cart that you know you can live without.
87. Limit your kids’ extracurricular activities. These can be a major (not so) hidden expense. And, even when they’re free, they cost you time, gas and stress. Give your family the gift of a little less stress.
88. I’m a huge fan of and wrote a post about HSAs (Health Savings Accounts). They lower your health insurance premiums and offer an attached savings account that can actually be a phenomenal retirement savings vehicle down the road.
89. Once you’ve passed Step 4 (your fully funded 3-6 month emergency fund) raise the deductibles on all of your insurance policies. This will reduce your premium payments.
90. Do free trials of apps, services or programs before you purchase. Set a calendar reminder so that you remember to cancel before it hits your debit card, so you don’t make an “accidental” purchase.
Free is your friend. Just always remember to cancel before they hit that debit card.
91. Call your creditors and ask for a reduction in interest rate.
92. Always go grocery shopping with a list.
93. Never go grocery shopping when you’re hungry.
94. Get your free credit report annually and review to make sure there are no surprises.
95. Make sure your tires have the appropriate amount of air in them. This will improve your gas mileage.
96. Use your crock pot for inexpensive meals.
97. If you don’t have a pet already, really consider the financial aspect of feeding, caring for and potentially boarding them before you adopt one.
98. Scale down birthday parties. Have them at home with snacks and games. The dollar store is a great resource for getting creative here.
99. Make a filing system for your receipts and categorize them for tax deductible items.
100. Come up with a plan for any and every purchase, especially over $10. Whether it’s decorating your home, buying clothes or food, it will greatly accelerate your time to the “debt-freedom” finish line.
So, now that we've gone through the list, here are my two recommendations:
1. Pick 3-5 (or more) of these tips and start working on them.
2. Now go ahead and plug into a proven debt-elimination system to help move you ever-closer to the finish line.
Here's a free 30 day "Debt Elimination Quick Start Challenge" video course that will get you started very strongly:
Additionally, here's the full system we use to lead our students through the debt-elimination process and exactly what I used to eliminate over $43,000+ of debt in 2.5 years.
0. Stop All Retirement Investing (Until Step 4)2. Starter Emergency Fund of $10003. Eliminate Debts Smallest To Largest (a.k.a The Debt Snowball)4. Full Emergency Fund of 3-6+ Months’ Expenses5. Invest A Minimum of 15% Income Into Retirement Accounts (and increase savings rate to 50%+ if possible)6. College Funding (if applicable)7. Pay Off The Home Mortgage8. Build Wealth, Serve, Be Ridiculously Generous And Go FI (Financial Independence)!
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