Frugal Living: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide

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Are you wondering how to start living more frugally so you can get control of your finances and save more money every month?  

Maybe you are just starting to realize you have been spending too much money on things that don’t really matter to you. And the things you have been buying are not giving you any enjoyment. You might even be thinking, “What was I thinking when I bought this?”

Or maybe you have been having a hard time paying your bills every month and are tired of living paycheck to paycheck?

Or perhaps you just want to be able to save a little more money every month because you are working toward financial wellness or even financial independence?  

Whatever your reason for trying to live more frugally, I want to help you learn all about it so you can start saving money today.

There is no time like the present to start living a more frugal lifestyle.  Frugality can help you achieve your personal finance goals more quickly.  It can even help you to lead a more intentional life, and not just when it comes to your money.

I have created a Frugal Living Workbook to go along with this post. It includes questions to help guide you when creating your frugal living action plan, a frugal living checklist to give you tons of ideas you could apply to your life (99 ideas to be exact!), and a monthly tracker so you can write down your frugal wins.

You can download my Frugal Living Workbook here to help guide you on your journey.

Frugal Living Beginner's Guide

Frugal Living: The Ultimate Beginners Guide

What is frugal living?

Frugality is about making decisions on how you will spend your money based on what matters most to you.  It involves being intentional when spending your money.  

Determining what to spend money on and what not to spend money on when practicing frugality is based on your own personal values and beliefs.  This is the reason frugal living for you is going to look different than the way I live frugally.

According to dictionary.com, frugal means, “economical in use or expenditure; prudently saving or sparing; not wasteful.”

Notice how there is no reference to being cheap or stingy in this definition?

Many people assume individuals that are frugal or are just being cheap or stingy.  This is absolutely not true.  When someone chooses to live frugally, they are putting their values first and making financial decisions based on those values.  

For example, let’s just say you want to start a family and be able to stay home with your babies. But you know in order to do that, you will have to get rid of debt, cut expenses to be able to live off one income, and save money in an emergency fund.

You value being able to raise your children and spend time with them when they are babies. You don’t want to have to put them in day care or pay someone else to watch them while you are at work.

Changing your lifestyle to a more frugal one could help you reach this goal of staying home with your children. By being proactive with finding ways to save money and cut expenses you are increasing the likelihood of being able to live off one income.

This is just one example.  There are so many other reasons that people choose to live frugally.  If you are brand new to the concept of frugality, keep reading to learn about how you can be successful with transitioning to a more frugal lifestyle. 

Frugal Living: how to start to save money

Frugal Living: Steps to a Successful Lifestyle Change

Step 1: Decide why you want to live more frugally

The first thing you want to do when you decide to transition to a frugal lifestyle is to figure out your why.  Why do you want to start living more frugally? 

Determining why you want to live more frugally will help you follow through with it.  Just saying you want to adopt a frugal lifestyle is so much easier than actually living frugally.  

Since frugality is about making intentional decisions with your money, you will need to make some lifestyle changes. And as you already know, change does not come easy to many people.

As I said earlier, your reasons for making lifestyle changes to live frugally will be different from other people’s reasons.  Here are some reasons why someone would want to start being more intentional with their spending and saving habits:

  • Save money for a big purchase, like a house or car
  • Feel less stressed about money
  • Decrease hours at work
  • Stay home with a new baby
  • Pay off debt
  • Plan more family vacations
  • Work toward financial wellness
  • Achieve financial independence

So think about your why and write it down.  Keep it handy and look at it often.  This will help you stay motivated as you begin your frugal lifestyle. 

Side Note: I have created a Frugal Living Workbook to help you start adapting your lifestyle to a more frugal one. The workbook includes worksheets with questions to help guide you in the right direction as you start making changes.

You can download my free Frugal Living Workbook here to help you!   

Step 2: Develop a frugal mindset

As I said above, saying you want to live frugally is much easier than actually doing it.  People that live frugally think differently about money than people that do not.  Shifting your mindset to that of a frugal mindset will take time and patience with yourself.

After all, change is not easy and does not happen overnight.  

To help shift your mindset to a frugal mindset, brainstorm other ways living frugally will help improve your overall life (keep reading below to see the ways I think frugality improves someone’s life). Write them down and read them often.

Step 3: Recruit family

Make living frugally a family affair.  Frugal living needs to be a team effort.  It will be quite difficult to change your lifestyle if you are trying to live frugally and your partner or husband is not.  

Tell your spouse or partner about your “why” for wanting to live a frugal lifestyle.  It works best when the whole family understands the reasons behind the changes.  

Get your kids involved in the conversation if they are old enough to understand.  Let them know they will soon have a frugal mom and why!

Getting them started with being intentional with their spending and saving habits early on in life will set them up for financial success as they grow up.

Step 4: Decide on your priorities

By now you know that living a frugal lifestyle is about spending your money intentionally.  Making decisions about what is important to spend your money on and what you would prefer not to spend your money on is key to developing a plan of action.

Start by asking yourself the following questions to help you make some decisions:

  • What will you keep spending money on? 
  • What will you stop spending money on? 
  • Are there ways to save money on the things you want to continue to spend money on? 
  • How will you stop or significantly decrease your spending on the other things?

Answering these questions will help you tease out a plan for decreasing your spending and for saving more money.  

Helpful Tip: Try using the checklist of frugal living tips I provided for you in my Frugal Living Workbook.  I have included 99 ways to live more frugally on this list to help you come up with a few that you could apply to your life.

Frugal Living Tips for Success

Start slow

Even though you may have a large list of things you want to cut your spending on, it is important to start slow! The last thing you want to do is get overwhelmed or drive yourself crazy trying to change too many things at once. 

Track your progress

If you are only working on saving money on a few things at a time, it will be much easier to keep track of how it is going.  You can use the monthly tracker included in my Frugal Living Workbook to help you keep track of your progress.  

Each month, just write down your frugal wins and check it off on the checklist.       

Common questions about frugal living

Here are answers to some questions many people seem to have when making the decision to start living more frugally.  

Will I be considered a cheap skate?

I’m not going to lie or sugar coat this, some people that find out you are changing and tightening up your spending habits may joke with you about being a tightwad or may outright call you cheap. 

But that’s because they do not understand the principles behind frugal living.  

Chances are someone that calls you cheap is most likely not in the best financial situation themselves.  So the way I see it, you could respond in 1 of 2 ways.

You could try to educate the person on what frugal living is about.  If he or she is really a friend of yours (a friend should not be calling a friend a cheap skate, in my honest opinion), perhaps they would like to hear what you have to say about your new money-saving lifestyle.  

Who knows, maybe criticizing or making fun of someone else’s spending habits is actually a sad cry for help.  Take the opportunity to try to help a friend get on the right track.

The other thing you can do is just ignore the comments.  Let those comments roll right off your back.  Don’t let the comments get to you.  

YOU know the reasons you are trying to live a more frugal lifestyle.  It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.   

Can I spend money on things I want?

Yes!  But you have to pick and choose what you are going to spend your money on.  That is the whole principle of frugal living.  You decrease or eliminate spending money on things that don’t matter to you so you can spend money on things that are meaningful to you. 

That being said, when you are in the frugal mindset and really in your frugal groove, you will consciously (or subconsciously) try to save money on the things that you don’t even mind spending money on. 

That’s the beauty of a frugal mindset.  It carries over to all of your spending.  You start to never want to pay full price for anything!  

It turns into a game and then into somewhat of an obsession.  An obsession that is good for your bank account!  

A personal example of this for my family is traveling and taking vacations.  One of our priorities is taking our kids to the beach for a week in the summer. 

We want them to have memories from our family beach vacations to reminisce about when they are older.  With me (and my husband) being the frugal people that we are, we are always looking for ways to save money on our beach vacations.

I wrote a whole post on how to save money on beach vacations if you would like to read about it.  

On a side note, the other vacation I’m working on for my family is a trip to Disney World in Florida.  You are probably aware Disney is crazy-expensive.  

One of my absolute favorite podcasts is ChooseFI.  Brad Barrett, one of the founders of ChooseFI, is a master at travel hacking with credit card reward points.  He helps people take their families to Disney for almost FREE using credit card points. 

Yup, you read that right, FREE! Brad first wrote about using credit card rewards for trips to Disney World on his site, RichmondSavers.com. You should definitely check it out if you are interested in taking your family to Disney in the future.

So I am working on planning an almost free trip to Disney with the help from Brad’s blog and email course.  

See what getting in a frugal mindset can do for you?

jars of coins with plants growing in them

What are the benefits of living frugally?

Living a frugal lifestyle can benefit you in so many ways.  Seriously, it can help to improve your overall quality of life.

But real quick, here are a few of the benefits of living frugally that come to mind:

  • Helps you live a more simple life
  • Helps you find more time in your day (not at stores shopping or shopping online)
  • Helps you feel less stressed about money
  • Helps you feel more in control of your money
  • Helps you live below your means
  • Helps you meet your financial goals quicker
  • Helps you achieve financial wellness and even financial independence sooner
  • Helps you retire earlier
  • Helps you lead a healthier life by eating at home more often
  • Helps you be more intentional in other areas of your life
  • Helps your kids see the importance of intentional spending

These are just a few things that came to mind as I am writing this.  If you can think of any others, please let me know in the comments!

How do I start living frugally?

First of all, understand that it is never too late to change your lifestyle to a more frugal one.  Even finding just a few strategies for saving money is going to help you be in a better financial position.  

But really what you want to do is understand your spending habits.  There is no better way to do this than tracking your spending.  

It is best if you can track your spending for a full month to really understand where your money is going.  Once you know where your money is going, use your priorities list to determine what areas you want to cut back on or eliminate.  

You will also want to look at all your household bills to see where you can save money.  Here are a couple of my posts you may be interested in reading to get some ideas:

As you are trying out and adopting different frugal habits for your lifestyle, don’t forget to write them down so you can track your progress! 

Don’t forget to download my Frugal Living Workbook! It includes questions to help guide you when creating your frugal living action plan, a frugal living checklist to give you tons of ideas you could apply to your life (99 ideas to be exact!), and a monthly tracker so you can write down your frugal wins.

Final Thoughts

Adapting your lifestyle to live more frugally will initially take time, effort, and dedication.  However, as your mindset begins to change, living frugally becomes so much easier.  Like it is second nature to you!

Modifying your spending habits and learning new money-saving strategies go hand in hand when choosing to live more frugally.  

Every small step toward a more frugal lifestyle, whether it is finding a way to cut back on spending or figuring out a new way to save money, should be considered a win.  

Keep stacking up those small frugal wins one by one and you will be well on your way to living the life you have been dreaming of!

You can download my Frugal Living Workbook to get you started with living more frugally!

Do you live a frugal lifestyle?  What is your “why” for living frugally? Did I miss any benefits of frugal living? Let me know in the comments!

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