Inside: These are easy, proven tips to be frugal with money and live within your means. Check out all of my secrets and don’t forget to snag your free budget template at the end!
I‘m no money expert, but…
My husband and I have no debt (except for our mortgage).
We have more than 3 months of expenses in our savings.
And we’ve paid cash for some big-ticket items over the last few years.
So with that said, I’m excited to share the tricks we use to save money and the monthly budget strategy that ensures our financial freedom.
RELATED: The Ultimate List of frugal living tips for Families
The Best Way To Save Money
You can find plenty of money-saving strategies out there that teach great fundamentals. Things like:
- Build an emergency fund
- Pay off debt
- Have 3+ months of expenses saved
What isn’t often mentioned with these tips, is that to SAVE that money and pay off DEBT, you either need to STOP spending how you’re spending or MAKE MORE MONEY.
You can’t build up your savings account if don’t cut costs or increase your income.
This post offers tangible ways to be frugal with money (cut your household costs) and easy options to supplement your monthly income.
But before we get to that, the best general advice I can give is to LIVE WITHIN YOUR MEANS!
Financial circumstances can easily and even frequently change throughout your life.
My husband and I have experienced times when money was tight and times with much more financial freedom.
In whatever circumstance you’re in, it’s so important to adjust your mindset, habits, and budget to fit within those perimeters.
How to be Frugal with Money
1. Pay With Cash
You don’t have to hand over $1000 in cash for your next purchase (or you can if that sounds fun to you!), this means you only buy things you have the funds for right now, especially big-ticket items like cars, electronics, vacations, etc.
If you don’t have the money to purchase the item in your bank account, that’s a good sign you shouldn’t buy it.
I realize this isn’t always possible, but it should be the goal. You will save so much money on interest if you pay off your purchase right away.
Most of us don’t walk around with wads of cash in our wallet, so it’s smart to carry credit cards with good rewards programs and pay off the balance in full every week.
2. Pay Off Debt ASAP
If you do have to take out a loan or put a purchase on a credit card, pay off that debt as your highest priority.
Any extra income you get should be put toward your debt.
It’s not easy to sacrifice your extra money to pay off debt instead of buy fun things, but it will save money in the long run by minimizing interest.
The snowball method is one of the most popular strategies to pay off debt.
Pay off your smallest debt first.
Then once that’s paid off, take the money that went toward that smallest debt and apply it to the next larger debt.
Follow this pattern until all the debt is paid off.
A mortgage is often a person’s largest debt, and there are ways to pay it off sooner.
You can also put extra payments toward the principal amount every year. This is what my husband and I choose to do and we also plan to refinance in the future as well.
3. Don’t Forget To Pay Yourself
This is easier said than done, but your first priority once you’ve paid off your debt should be to save some of your monthly income.
Even if you’re only able to save $10 a month, that’s better than nothing and will turn into $120 in a year!
When your debt is paid off, set up a $1000 emergency fund as soon as you can and work toward saving up 3 months of expenses after that.
Those two different funds will give you the security you need in case of an emergency or unexpected event.
My husband and I don’t have a set amount we save every month, but we have all of our income go into our checking account. When we have a large amount of money come in (from bonuses, extra work, gifts, etc.) we move that money into savings.
We now have 3 months of expenses in our savings account that we don’t ever touch and is there for emergencies.
4. Save on your Car
You can use smart choices to save money on your car and the first is to pay in cash like I mentioned earlier.
We bought a van this summer and paid in cash. It took a few years of saving to get there, but it was worth it. We will not pay any interest which saves thousands!
Get the most use out of the cars you purchase and drive them until they die.
My husband drove a 2004 Ford Taurus until a few months ago. It had 160k miles on it and looked like crap! Was it embarrassing that he drove that car to work every day? For me, yes! (He could have cared less).
But the car was paid off and we weren’t ready to buy a new car, so he drove it until we were.
Save money on your cars with yearly preventative maintenance checks.
Stay on top of oil changes and tire rotations and before you go on a big vacation, always have your car checked.
Most auto shops will do a maintenance check for you for a small fee. This helps catch repairs before they turn into bigger problems.
When you’re ready to buy a car, take it to a mechanic you trust to have it checked out.
We’ve done this with every car we’ve purchased (only 2 so far) except for the Taurus my husband drove. And guess what?? That car had A TON of problems!
Our other two cars have only needed basic maintenance because we had them checked for serious problems before we bought them.
Dealerships should let you take the car to get checked, and if they don’t, it’s time to walk!
5. Make Smart Choices at the Grocery Store
Groceries are the second largest expense for most families (behind a mortgage/rent) so it’s crucial to find ways to save.
Your grocery bill will vary by where you live and how big your household is, but I follow the rule of $100 per person per month. Our current grocery budget is $400 a month.
Try to stick to this $100 every week. If the bill comes in less than that, great! If you go over, plan to make up for it the next week.
Meal planning keeps your grocery bill in check and helps you use up the food you have on hand before buying more perishables.
If you need help getting started with meal planning, you can check out my favorite method here.
And if you’d like to have the meal planning done for you, check out my full year frugal meals here!
If your grocery store offers it, use their grocery pick-up.
I save the most money every week with grocery pick-up. It cuts down on impulse buys and allows you to see your grocery bill before you check out.
If you’re over the $100 budget, you can do a quick inventory to see if there’s anything you don’t need that week.
RELATED: 60+ Dollar Store Finds That Will Make You A Frugal Shopper (Instantly)
6. Pair down or Eliminate your Subscriptions
When you audit your expenses, you should look at your subscriptions first.
My husband and I have two subscriptions: Amazon Prime and a quarterly beauty box for me.
We’ve never paid for cable, we don’t pay for any monthly boxes, we don’t have monthly software subscriptions and we’ve been just fine without them!
Subscriptions services have a time and place (I use a lot for my business, for example). If you have the extra money and find one that’s a great value, then go for it!
But for families that need to save more money every month, subscriptions should go.
When your finances are in order and there’s extra money, feel free to start those up again!
And if there’s a subscription you can’t live without, try to split the cost with family or friends.
We do this with our Netflix and Hulu accounts. This is a great way to cut the cost of the subscription in half or thirds every month and still get the benefits.
7. Find Cell Phone Savings
Cell phones are another HUGE expense for families every month, and we can’t live without them!
But is it necessary to have the newest edition of the iPhone and a plan with every extra add-on possible?
I say no!
My husband and I were with one of the “big 4” networks for a long time. We got brand new phones every two years and paid for them monthly. But, our bill become too expensive so we looked into other options.
Chose a network outside of the “big 4”!
We decided to try a service outside of the big 4, and this worked great for us for almost two years! We got new phones for free when we switched and had unlimited data with a bill of just $80 a month!
If you choose this option you may not always have top of the line phones, but the trade off comes with big monthly savings.
Team up with friends or family to take advantage of great deals.
We recently switched to Verizon because of an amazing BOGO deal.
We joined with my brother and sister-in-law and we each got iPhone 11’s for the price of 2 and a gift card for switching.
Our new bill will be around $110 every month. It’s more than what we we paid before, but still within our means.
Purchase an unlocked phone and take it to your provider.
Best Buy sells these and they are worth looking into. You can also try a pre-paid phone for a few months to save some money.
8. Look For Financial Aid
When my husband and I were only a few years into our marriage, we were hit with some large and unexpected expenses with our car and our baby’s medical bills.
We were in no place to pay. Thankfully our hospital had an amazing financial aid program that forgave almost all the charges. It was a huge blessing in a difficult financial (and emotional) time.
We’ve used financial aid a few other times with my husband’s schooling, but only when we’ve needed it.
If you’re in a tight spot with some unexpected expenses, contact the debtor to see if they offer any financial aid or payment plan options.
We’ve also used a payment plan for car expenses several times and are currently on one to pay medical bills from 2019.
9. Sell Un-Used Items
Unused items are a quick way to earn money! I’ve sold several items over the course of our marriage including:
- Home decor
- A couch
- Baby gear
- Robot vacuum
- Washer and dryer
- Our old car
My favorite way to sell items is on Facebook marketplace, but you can also use your local classifieds.
Go through your house and grab gently used items that are taking up space and see how much money you can make.
You may not think you have anything worth selling, but you never know until you list something!
10. Work From Home
This is my favorite way to make money, but it can be difficult to know where to look for work or how to get started.
I’ve listed several great options for real stay at home jobs here!
Some of the ideas are:
- Virtual assistant work (bloggers are always looking to hire!)
- Online surveys
- Turn your hobby into a business (if you craft, do photography, do handyman work, etc.)
- Become a nanny
You can also ask your friends and on social media if anyone is hiring work-from-home positions. You never know who has the right connection unless you ask!
11. Donate Plasma
My husband donated plasma throughout college for grocery money. This is a good option for anyone that needs an extra $100 or so a week.
You do have to be 18 years old to donate and in good health, so be sure to research the qualifications with your local donation center.
12. Be Patient
In reality, most financial goals take a lot of patience.
Large sums of money are difficult to come up with in a short amount of time (unless you take out a loan or win the lottery).
My husband and I worked for seven years to reach our desired income. I also blogged for 7 years (3 years professionally) before I made a full-time income.
We had to exercise a lot of patience to save for our first house and even more patience to stay in that first home as our family and needs grew, until we could afford the one we’re in now.
We had a lot of patience driving a run-down car while we saved for a new one.
None of these things happened overnight!
Patience WILL pay off as you reach your financial goals and move toward becoming debt-free!
How do you manage a monthly budget?
We’ve used a formal budget since 2016. My husband works in a budget department, so he’s all about keeping track of our numbers!
Try Google Sheets to manage our budget and expenses.
I love Google Sheets because we can both access the budget from our computers or phones whenever we need to.
We also 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. Anything beyond that and I just put it in the other category, haha!
Here’s how to use our monthly budget template.
The first tab of the budget is for yearly income. To customize this for your family, you’ll need to enter your current hourly wage for your first income in cell E3. Then if you get a raise throughout the year, you can enter the percentage in H3.
If you have a second income, you’ll enter the hourly wage in cell L3 and the hours worked in P8. All of the formulas have already been set up, so you just need to plug in your numbers!
On the month tabs, you’ll see a “big picture” table in the top left corner with your income (pulled from the income tab), budget, expense, and variance line, and a beginning and ending amount for your checking account.
Most of the amounts will change as you enter your expenses in, but you will need to enter in the amounts for your checking account manually.
When you scroll through the tables on the left you’ll see lots of categories and line items. We’ve left almost all the exact amounts for our expenses so you have an idea of which categories to use.
I recommend you track your expenses for one month before you create your actual budget numbers. This will give you a good idea of what you spend and where you can cut back.
You can’t change certain expenses like your mortgage or utilities, but you can adjust items like eating out, clothing, and hair/beauty.
To enter an expense, you’ll use the table on the right. Enter the date, category 1, category 2, and the amount. We left an example so you can see how to enter each transaction.
The spreadsheet is set up to track your gross income. You’ll need to enter anything subtracted from your paycheck as an expense. Things like insurance, 401k, and HSA contributions.
If I’m being honest, I don’t always stick to our budget every month.
I try hard to only spend $400 on groceries ($100 per person), but that’s about it.
I know what our fixed expenses are and I know how much we have in our checking account so I spend based on that, always following the rule to live within our means.
But we continue to track our expenses each month because it helps us see what we spend and keeps us accountable.
Free Family Budget Template
Enter the information below to download the family budget template we use every month!
Principles vs. Circumstances
With anyone who teaches tips on how to be frugal with money, be sure to pay attention to the principles vs. the circumstances.
For example, a couple who makes 6 figures and doesn’t have kids will have a lot more money to throw around than a family of 5 who only makes $60k a year.
You may look at people who have saved a lot and have their house paid off and wonder why it hasn’t happened for you, but you don’t know what’s gone on behind the scenes.
Maybe they sold their first house for a huge profit and made a large downpayment on their current house. Maybe they got a huge inheritance from a relative. Maybe they work 3 jobs. You just never know.
In addition, maybe you’ve done all you can to save and cut spending and you get hit with an unexpected medical expense or your spouse loses their job and can’t find work for several months.
Those are tough situations and can halt your financial goals for a time.
One of my best household money saving tips is to not compare your situation to anyone else. Pay attention to the principles of saving money I shared in this post and do the best you can for your circumstances.
RELATED: 6 Secrets To Visiting San Francisco On A Budget
This ultimate list of frugal living tips gives even more ways to be frugal with money! Consult this page for advice on ways to save for a home, improve your finances, plan frugal meals, shop for less and more.
Do you have any great tips to be frugal with money? I’d love to hear them in the comments.
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