Inside: This is my ultimate list of frugal living tips for families. Learn the go-to tricks I use to save money on meals, travel and everything in between.
I have vivid memories of coupon inserts spread all over our kitchen table because my mom was clipping out the best ones and stuffing them in her red plastic organizer.
I also have memories of her bragging about how much she had saved on her grocery trips while she waved the long white receipt in the air.
We all learn lessons from our parents.
For me, it was the money-saving tips I observed from my mom as she grew our family’s food storage and fed a family of 6 during my dad’s unemployment.
I also learned several lessons from them on what NOT to do with money.
More on that below.
Our Financial Story
I became an expert at finding ways to save early in our marriage.
We had no money, so I kind of had too.
My scrappy habits combined with my husband’s knack for saving has helped us reach our financial goals quicker than I thought we would.
We recently put 20% down on our new home, paid for a new vehicle in cash, and have 5 months of expenses in our savings.
I don’t say this to brag.
We’ve definitely had times where we struggled financially. But, we made wise decisions then that led to where we are today.
We are now living completely debt-free (besides our mortgage).
I want you to learn how to save money and enjoy the same financial freedom we’ve worked so hard for, so I’ve compiled all of my best frugal living tips in one spot.
These tips will help you make smart financial decisions, save on everyday purchases, make frugal meals, and employ easy budget tactics.
I’m lucky to have a husband who works in a budgeting department so we’ve always had a big focus on keeping a family budget.
Keeping a budget may sound boring and tedious, but it’s necessary if you want to keep tabs on where your money is going every month.
You can download the family budget template we use in my post about tips to be frugal with money.
Here are some of my easy-to-follow pointers for setting a budget:
- Use Google sheets. We use Google Sheets to manage our budget and expenses. It’s nice because we can both access it from our computers or phones whenever we need to.
- Record your expenses weekly. We try to sit down and track our expenses once a week, but we’re not always perfect. Speaking from experience, it’s a lot easier to remember what you bought if you only have to go back seven days.
- Track your expenses for one month before creating your actual budget numbers. This will give you a good idea of what you’re spending and where you can cut back. You obviously can’t change certain expenses like your mortgage or utilities, but you can definitely adjust items like eating out, clothing, and hair/beauty.
How can I be frugal with money?
Remember those lessons I learned from my parents? Some of those were what NOT to do with money.
Things like not using a credit card to buy everything, and the importance of preventative maintenance on cars and appliances, and the principle of not leaving outside your means.
Here are a few other frugal living principles I follow:
- Pay With Cash. I don’t mean literally hand over $1000 in cash for your next purchase (or you can if that sounds fun to you!) but I mean only buy things you can pay for right away, especially big-ticket items like cars, electronics, vacations, etc.
- Pay Off Debt ASAP! If you do have to take out a loan or put a purchase on a credit card, you need to make paying it off your highest priority. Any extra income you get should be put toward your debt.
- Don’t Forget to Pay Yourself. This is easier said than done, but saving some of your monthly income should be your first priority once you’ve paid off your debt. Even if you’re only able to save $10 a month, that’s better than nothing and will turn into $120 in a year.
To improve your finances, the bottom line is you need to either remove expenses or find ways to make more money.
Working from home is a great way for moms to help improve their family finances.
Here are several REAL stay at home jobs you can do with the skills you probably already have.
Becoming a frugal shopper can be as simple as substituting brand items for non-brand and changing where you shop to find those items.
Would you be surprised to know I frequently shop at the dollar store?
The dollar store has become a great resource for me and is a big win for the frugal shopper.
If you’re used to shopping at the supermarket, you may be unsure about switching over to the dollar store for some of your essentials. But, it’s so worth it if you know what to look for and what to avoid.
I have several dollar store finds I use on a regular basis. These are the items you’d have to be crazy to buy anywhere else! My favorites include:
- Seasonal Decor
- Party Supplies
- School Supplies
- Pregnancy Tests (well not on a regular basis, but whenever I’ve needed one lol)
Here are a few of the items I list to avoid:
- Batteries – I’ve tried these before and they don’t last. You’re better off investing in the name brand version.
- Most Cleaning Supplies – A lot of the cleaners are off-brand and not great quality. (You can check out how I’ve eliminated almost all harmful cleaners and just use water here!)
- Razors – Not great quality.
- Hair Dye – I hope you can figure out why you shouldn’t buy $1 hair dye…
Why are things at the dollar store so cheap?
I’ve been shopping at the dollar store for years to save money on our monthly expenses, but I often wonder how they can get those items for so dang cheap.
My fellow blogger Jordan Page explains it perfectly:
- Their products are many times the same products you will find in other stores.
- Sometimes products hit the dollar stores because of damage or lack of freshness.
- BUT they are often offered cheaper because they operate on slimmer margins than grocery stores.
- Many items were surplus/overstock items from a company. That company might even sell their items at a loss to the dollar store, but it’s cheaper than paying taxes, paying for warehousing to hold the items, and frees up their warehouse space for items that will make them profit.
- Many times the surplus items they buy are surplus because it was last season’s color, or an old style of something.
- Dollar stores will often buy and sell anything cheap. They will buy entire containers of goods at auction from China, without knowing what’s in them, and will sell whatever ends up in that container. Surprise!
- Sometimes their products are name-brand products that don’t advertise any more, such as Bon-Ami Cleanser.
- Sometimes dollar store products are name-brand products, only smaller. Irish Spring soap, for example, is the exact same bar you’d find in the grocery store, only smaller. Same with their ziplock bags. The box will only cost you $1 (rather than $2 or $3), but you might only have 7 or 10 bags, versus 20.
- Dollar stores can sell the SAME items as grocery stores for cheaper because they have class-B or C locations, so they pay a much lower rent than class-A locations.
- They also have a small, low-wage staff, that’s usually only about 10 employees per store.
So there ya go!
I hope this convinces you to try switching some of your shopping basics for items at the dollar store. You’ll be surprised at the monthly savings.
I’ve even used their products for fun DIY projects like this Dollar Tree sprinkles costume.
Food is often the biggest non-fixed expense for families, so I’ve worked hard over the years to come up with inexpensive meals I (and my kids) will want to eat.
Here are some of the tricks I use to make frugal meals and save on our monthly grocery budget:
- Go meatless. Meat is usually the most expensive component of a dish. Try designating 1 or 2 nights a week for meatless meals.
- If you must use meat, find cheaper options. I use lots of cheaper meat options like kielbasa, Spam and chunk chicken.
- Follow a meal plan. If you have a plan with set dinner ideas for the week or month, you will be less tempted to buy things you don’t need at the grocery store or end up eating out.
To help with meal planning, I’ve put together an ebook with a full year of my favorite frugal meals for families. Here’s a peek at some of my recipes inside:
- Chicken Enchiladas with Sour Cream White Sauce
- Zucchini Black Bean and Rice Skillet
- Lasagna made with Cottage Cheese
- Chicken and Broccoli Casserole with Mayo
What are good dinner ideas?
If you’ve asked yourself this question more than once, then it may be time to try my eBook! I have 50 weeks of meals that your family will love.
I love how easy it is for me to pull up the week I’m on and then create my grocery list from those meals. It saves me so. much. time. And I know it will for you too.
You can also sign up for my newsletter down below for a FREE 4-week meal plan.
HOW TO SAVE MONEY ON TRAVEL
I make sure to plan all of our family trips with a budget in mind. This allows us to take vacations as often as we want and get the most out of each trip.
Since Disneyland is one of our favorite family vacation spots, I’ve learned lots of tricks on how to save money at Disneyland so we can keep going back for more!
These are some of my best secrets:
- Utilize Fastpasses. They are 100% free and will save you SO. MUCH. TIME! All of the major rides at Disneyland have them so we are able to ride most of the best rides the first day.
- Fastpass planning and getting around in the park is made much easier with the Disneyland App. It’s a great tool to maximize your time at Disneyland and is 100% free.
- Bring your own lunch and snacks. Disneyland allows outside food in the park, so you need to take advantage! Between getting free breakfast at our hotel and packing our own lunch and snacks, we only spent money on dinner and treats in the park.
- Skip the expensive Disneyland glow sticks and get similar items for cheaper at the dollar store. I visited my local Dollar Tree before we left for vacation and found tons of Disney themed items, including glow sticks, that would be great to take on your trip. Use them as small gifts for your children each day or as distractions while you wait in line.
What is the best month to go to Disneyland?
According to Disneyland’s official website, the best time to book your trip is mid-week (Tuesday-Thursday) during these months:
- mid-September through mid-November
- mid-January through mid-March
- mid-April through mid-May
You can always check Is It Packed to see what the expected crowds are supposed to be when you want to go.
For my husband’s 30th birthday I surprised him with a trip to San Francisco!
He’s a big SF Giants fan and I had been wanting to take him to a game for a long time, so I was thrilled I pulled off a weekend getaway.
Is San Francisco expensive to visit?
It depends. San Franciso is one of the most expensive cities in the country, but there are definitely ways to visit San Francisco on a Budget.
Here’s a peek at some of the tricks I used to make it work:
- Don’t fly direct to San Francisco. It’s much cheaper to get flights into Oakland.
- Don’t be too picky about where you stay. You’ll be spending most of your time outside of your hotel, so try to find less expensive options like a boutique hotel.
- If you go to the Pier (which you should!), pick up a savings book. Go to the California Welcome Center on the second floor of the pier and ask for a savings book. They had awesome coupons for a ton of the restaurants and we were able to use them on our afternoon ice cream cone.
San Francisco is not cheap, but these money-saving tips can make it affordable.
You can apply many of these principles to other vacation destinations as well!
How can I live a more frugal lifestyle?
If you follow these tried and true frugal living tips, before you know it, you’ll be making smart financial decisions, saving on everyday purchases, mastering frugal meals and employing the best budget basics!
For more helpful resources, I’ve created several printables for you. These include my budget template, a sample 4-week meal plan from my year of dinner ideas and a stain removal guide to save money on your laundry.
As a bonus for joining my weekly-ish newsletter, you’ll get access to each of these printables (plus several more!) Click here to download and subscribe or you can use the nifty box below.