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Hey, Picky peeps!
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I wanted to compile an updated list of Frugal Living Tips that I love (see what I did there?).
The internet contains a plethora of frugal living ideas, but it can often be tough to know what tips are, y’know, actually worth it. Here’s a list of the best Frugal Living tips that I’ve tried and love.
Add yours in the comments!
Frugal Living Tips I Love
Reusable air filters
It’s a little more expensive to buy a reusable air filter for our vehicles, but these suckers should last a lifetime. Better yet, it only costs us about $5 per cleaning. We don’t make out like bandits here or anything, but every ounce of savings counts.
You can check out a K&N air filter here on Amazon if you’re curious.
A few months ago we were gifted fresh turmeric root from one of Mr. Picky Pincher’s coworkers. I tried several ways to use up the turmeric, including making my own gummies.
These particular gummies didn’t taste awesome, but it’s really gotten me thinking about the world of DIY gummies. I plan to start making our own collagen-heavy gummies using our Vital Proteins collagen (Amazon link here).
It’s a great way to get a few extra vitamins in your diet. Better yet, it keeps you from buying pricey vitamins at the store. Just make sure the recipe is legit!
I’ve always liked the idea of dryer balls, but never pulled the trigger on purchasing them. They went for $10 – $15 at the store, and I just couldn’t spend the money.
Back in January I decided, “To hell with it!”, and made my own dryer balls, for a total of $7. Not a big savings, but I like the idea of making them myself.
Now I add a few drops of orange essential oil to the dryer balls before tossing them in the dryer. They help our clothes dry faster (saving on energy costs) and give them a pleasant, fresh-from-the-dryer scent.
I mean, who doesn’t want their home to smell great? The downside is that many of the storebought candles, wax melts, air sprays, and air fresheners contain ingredients that are quite dubious.
If you want to limit suspicious chemical exposure and save money, you can make your own gel air fresheners in five minutes and they’ll last you a month. Better yet, you can choose whatever essential oil you want for the scent. Check out the tutorial I used here.
Y’all know how much I adore the thrift store. You can snag gently used (and sometimes brand new) items for pennies compared to full-price retail. However, know what you should and shouldn’t buy used from the thrift store!
I like to go to the thrift store for:
- Materials for random craft projects. They have a huge amount of vases, fake flowers, mirrors, frames, etc.
- Metal cooking utensils
- Necklaces and bracelets
- Sometimes clothes
On the low end gym memberships start at $10 a month. At a minimum, that means people spend $120 a year for rights to a gym. And you know what? Many times they don’t even get their money’s worth! And this is coming from a person who also used to have a gym membership.
If I want to get in shape, I have to create as few barriers as possible to actually exercising. Packing gym clothes, driving to the gym, working out, and coming home are all too much for me to handle.
Instead, I’ve opted for a very cheap workout setup in our converted garage. I lift hand-me-down weights and work out on an elliptical we bought as a floor model at Walmart for $120.
If you’re on a super-low budget, check out YouTube for free fitness videos. You can try pilates, yoga, HIIT, Zumba, and nearly any other workout you could dream of.
We’ve been trying to be more conscious about food waste now that we live in a house. One of the best ways to use every bit of food is to start composting. Leftover bits of lettuce, strawberry tops, eggshells, coffee grounds – they can all be turned into high quality soil for gardening.
Mr. Picky Pincher threw together our compost bins with wire from Home Depot. He layers the scraps in leaves, which fall freely from our neighbor’s tree. It uses up scraps, cleans up our yard, and will eventually yield great soil for gardening.
In the last year I’ve changed my tune about buying thrifted clothing. I wear yoga pants 95% of the time (thanks, remote job!). The yoga pants at the thrift store simply are not built to last. They’ve already been through one owner and last one month, tops.
For this reason, I’m opting to spend more money on quality clothing. I define frugality not as buying the cheapest stuff, but buying what you need at a higher quality. I’ve decided it’s worth the money to buy pants that last four years instead of four weeks.
My favorite pants-stores are REI and Prana if you’re also looking! Their pants would survive a freakin’ nuclear blast.
Rewards credit card
I remember one Christmas that we were shocked at how much money we’d spent. We started off the New Year with $700 in debt on our credit card!
Horrified, we crafted a plan. We started putting all of our monthly purchases on a 2.5% cashback rewards card (which means we get rewards on literally everything we buy). We pay off the card each month and earn bookoo rewards for very little effort.
We hoard the rewards all year like little squirrels, and then bust ’em out when it’s time to do Christmas shopping. We had about $650 for our 2017 Christmas shopping and it was awesome!
Roku + Hulu
I’ve grown to hate cable companies. Their packages are overpriced and generally ridiculous. We decided to cut the cord at the beginning of our FIRE journey and haven’t looked back.
We’ve tweaked our system over the years and we stay perfectly entertained. We purchased a Roku system, which hooks up to your Netflix, Hulu, Sling, and numerous other streaming services.
We rotate between Netflix, Hulu, and Sling with our monthly memberships, but we never spend more than $15 a month on streaming services. It’s much cheaper than cable.
Homemade beer and wine
We Picky Pinchers love our alcohol. However, alcohol is very expensive and eats into our budget easily. For that reason, we’ve decided to make the bulk of the alcohol that we consume.
Mr. Picky Pincher has turned into our resident brewmaster with a crazy setup for brewing, fermenting, and even kegging beer. Fancy!
I’ve been making homemade wine for the last six months or so, and it’s been really rewarding. I pay $10 for a gallon of wine, which lasts me more than a month. The only storebought wine I could find that was comparable in price tasted like cough medicine.
If you want to make your own drinks, I recommend starting with this wine recipe. It’s one of the simplest recipe we use and it makes great wine.
I used to toss all of our veggie scraps without a care in the world. But since our mission is combating food waste, I had to get more creative. Now I freeze all of our veggie scraps in a giant freezer bag.
Onion tops, carrot peels, celery ends, bell pepper cores – they all get tossed in the bag! Once the bag is full, I add all the scraps to a giant pot, pour water, and let it simmer for three hours.
At the end of it all I get several pints of homemade veggie stock that I freeze and use for cooking. I can’t tell you the last time we actually bought stock at the store.
Last year I received a gift card to Hobby Lobby for my birthday. I decided to use the funds to buy soy wax and try my hand at candle-making. I ordered 100 candle wicks from Amazon and set to work!
I hot-glued the wick in the bottom of a tin can I saved just for the occasion. I melted the wax down in a non-fancy double boiler made from another dented tin can. Once it melted, I poured the wax into the candle and stirred in essential oil.
You have to add a lot of essential oil if you’re looking for a pungent candle scent. I like to buy citronella essential oil to make our own mosquito-repelling candles for the hot summer months.
Bulk cooking / freezing
Once upon a time we used to blow over $1,000 a month on food. We’ve come a long way since then, folks! We did more home cooking, meal planning, and couponing, but there was still something missing for us.
I hated when a meal didn’t work out – that meant we had to go buy food at a restaurant. I was sick of this, so I started buying frozen pizzas as dinner backups.
Then a lightbulb turned on in my head!
What if I made homemade food and froze it in bulk for later? I could have tons of homemade food on hand without all the effort. And it would deter us from eating out when a meal didn’t work out.
Bam! Now we do more freezer and bulk cooking to save money. Although it costs more upfront to buy, say, a $15 pork shoulder, I save money in the long run by cooking and freezing it for later use.
If you’d like to start bulk cooking but don’t have the time, start by making extra portions of your dinners and freezing them. You’ll build up a freezer stock in no time with little extra effort.
Homemade pantry staples
The key to frugal living is substituting some homemade items for things you used to buy. For us, that’s taken the form of pantry staples in our kitchen. There’s nothing wrong with storebought staples, but if you’re looking to save more money, it’s better to make your own.
And psssst! Did you know that homemade usually tastes better and costs less?
We’ve started making our own homemade:
- Yeast rolls
The library is a frugal treasure trove of entertainment options. Seriously, if you don’t have a library card, go down there TODAY and snag one. Libraries are such a good deal that I’m amazed they’re even real.
I like to check out cookbooks from our local library, which I use for new meal ideas. I like this better than, say, Googling new recipes. Cookbooks go through a review process and tend to have more well thought-out recipes. And that saves me money.
My library also has an option that allows me to download eBooks, too. If you don’t feel like physically going to the library, this is another great option.
The library also has tons of DVDs that you can check out for a home movie night. No more Redbox fees, y’all!
Vinegar really is an all-purpose cleaner. It helps that vinegar is pretty damn cheap and you can find it in any store.
Keep in mind that vinegar can be harsh, so it’s wise to dilute it before use. I’ve also heard that vinegar can be harmful to some people with allergies or breathing problems like asthma, so use with caution!
I like to use vinegar to:
- Soak our shower heads and faucets. We have hard water and vinegar takes the scale right off, improving the function of our appliances.
- Clean the dishwasher. Our dishwasher collects soap scum and hard water like crazy. Now we like to add one cup of vinegar to every load of dishes to keep everything nice ‘n’ clean.
- Wash produce. I fill a large bowl with cold water and add a few splashes of vinegar. I let our produce soak in the vinegar mixture for at least one minute, dry them off, and store them. Unwashed produce is icky!
- Clean! I don’t use vinegar to clean absolutely everything, but I like it for wiping down sinks, counters, and tables. I go over our cleaning process more in depth here if you’re curious.
- Kill weeds. Why buy the pricey and chemical-laden Roundup when you can pour vinegar on a thistle and kill it?
At-home hair trims
I’m still not brave enough to cut my own hair at home, but I do trim my own bangs. This keeps me from visiting the salon each month for a trim. I pay $20 (after tip) once a year to get my hair reshaped, and that’s it.
I used to be TERRIFIED of trimming my own bangs, but I’ve gotten it down to a science. Here’s one of my vids explaining how to cut your own bangs. You can do it!
Mr. Picky Pincher is our resident green thumb at the Picky Palace. Our winter garden has been a little lacking, but last summer’s harvest was oh-so-bountiful! We grew tomatoes, cucumbers, greens, beans, and more.
Seriously, we had cucumbers coming out of our ears. I don’t think we had to buy cucumbers for six months.
Gardening has its upfront costs, but when you grow foods that you can eat, it saves lots of money. Particularly if you like eating organic produce.
Stinky shoe spray / room spray
I’m a weirdo that likes to buy shoes at the thrift store. To sanitize these shoes, I made my own stinky shoe spray. It kills germs and makes shoes smell nice ‘n’ fresh.
I can also use the spray as a room spray, too! I love hacks that pull double duty to save on moolah and space. Here’s the recipe I use.
I had to hunt around for ideas that didn’t tell me to put fabric softener in an air spray. Y’all crazy, spraying fabric softener into your lungs. Dang.
Trash to treasure
This is a controversial topic in the Picky house, y’all. Maybe I’m just a product of my raising, but I like looking through people’s (publicly accessible and clearly marked) trash before bulk pickup days.
You never know what you might find!
Mr. Picky Pincher thinks it’s weird, but I don’t care. We found a hanging planter in our neighbor’s trash. This thing retails for $40 at our local nursery, so I had to scoop it up. I also retrieved a truck tire, which I converted into this handy dandy meditation tuffet.
Mr. Picky Pincher received a meat grinder for his birthday. Since then, he’s been trying all sorts of variations to make his own homemade sausage. We did the math, and it typically breaks down in favor of grinding your own meat. (I’ve found that storebought ground chicken tends to be the same cost as doing homemade).
Grinding your own meat is a great way to know what’s in your ground meats. You can ensure quality, freshness, and save a buck or two doing something fun.
I used to be REALLY into coupons. Like, to the extreme. While I think couponing is a good way to save money, it has to be done correctly. Nowadays I’ve cooled it on the couponing. I make my shopping list first, and then find coupons for the items that we’re already buying.
Smart couponing helps shave about $10 – $50 off our grocery bill each month.
Okay, this doesn’t seem like a true frugal living tip, but hear me out. I work remotely and have the freedom to use my standing desk all day. My happiness level has shot through the roof thanks to this standing desk.
Sitting all day is horrible for your body and for your mind. I remember at my old desk job I had to sit for 9+ hours a day. My back hurt, my legs ached to move, and I felt exhausted at the end of the day.
Standing helps me stay more energized throughout the day. It’s awesome. So often we try medications, crazy remedies, or turn to drinking to feel better about our lives (not that I’m saying medication isn’t necessary). It’s much more frugal to implement positive, healthy habits, like standing for most of the day, to feel better.
This is the standing desk I have if you want to check it out.
The bottom line
I really could go on here. There are so many ways that you can implement frugality into your life to save more money. The end goal is to save this “found” money and apply it towards debt, savings, or a retirement fund.
It also helps that these frugal living tips are fun! Why not have a blast on your journey to financial betterment?
We want to know: What frugal tips do you love?
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