There are many methods for saving money. You can find big ways to save big bucks (like dramatically downsizing to a smaller house or one car), or take on some smaller temporary changes (like trying a no-spend challenge). There’s a penny-pinching strategy to match any personality style or savings goal.
But the most impactful way to improve your financial outlook isn’t a one-time, band-aid type solution. It’s the slow fix of adopting more frugal lifestyle habits. You’re not going to save a fortune—at least not right away—but if you take on a few small changes, you’ll rack up a snowball of savings that will set you up for life.
Here is a mega list of specific, actionable changes you can put into practice when you’re committed to saving even the cents that add up over time:
In the Kitchen
- Cook a meal instead of going out.
- Double a meal you’re cooking and freeze half.
- Save chicken scraps and vegetable scraps so you can make your own chicken stock.
- Make your own salad dressing.
- Make your own iced tea.
- Make your own lemonade.
- Make your own popsicles.
- Don’t buy pre-packaged snacks; apportion them yourself.
- Use a reusable lunch box rather than plastic baggies.
- Invest in a quality water bottle instead of buying bottled water.
- Swirl out the extra sauce with a bit of water to get out every last drop when you’re cooking.
- Go through your fridge weekly to use up or freeze anything that might be going bad.
- Get comfortable with inexpensive vegetarian meals to save on the cost of meat.
- Meal plan.
- Grow your own herbs.
- Grow your own vegetables.
- Bake and decorate your own cakes or cupcakes for celebrations.
- Wash your own lettuce (rather than buying pre-washed).
- Cut your own veggies (rather than buying pre-cut).
- Cook whole chickens rather than buying chicken parts.
- Stretch meat by making soups, pastas, and bowls with it.
- Protect your phone with a good case.
- Mend your socks.
- Sew the button back on.
- Refinish leather purses, wallets, shoes, etc.
- Repair the broken shoes.
- Deep clean the carpet you’re ready to toss.
- Re-cover the upholstery.
- Use a de-piller to make clothes look new.
- Clean out your drains to avoid costly plumbing issues.
- Refinish your ruined table.
- Polish and clean your leather shoes.
- Re-sole your worn shoes.
- Buy new inserts for your shoes.
- Dye faded or stained clothing rather than tossing it.
- Learn new skills so you can do your own simple car and home repairs and maintenance tasks.
Recycle & Repurpose
- Use boxes (shoe, cereal, etc.) for storage rather than buying containers.
- Use water from washing the lettuce to water your plants.
- Repurpose sauce or condiment jars for storage.
- Save leftover coffee for making iced coffee.
- Compost to make your own fertile soil.
- Use coffee grounds as fertilizer.
- Use distilled white vinegar to clean.
- Use baking soda to clean.
- Use dish soap to clean.
- Use rags—made from old clothes or linens—rather than paper towels.
Find Frugal Alternatives
- Use the library for books, movies, e-books, and audio books.
- Make wall art out of book pages.
- Make plant babies instead of buying new plants.
- Make plant babies as gifts.
- Use spray paint to change the color of your frames/lamps/small furniture/plant pots.
- Give yourself a pedicure rather than going to the salon.
- Swap babysitting with a friend rather than paying for child care.
- Make your own glass cleaner.
- Plan a staycation rather than a vacation this year.
- Take your own “school pictures” rather than paying for the package.
- Take a road trip instead of flying.
- Split a meal rather than buying two entrees when eating out.
- Don’t order drinks if you’re eating out.
- Always find a “kids eat free” promotion when dining out with your children.
- Start your plants from seed.
- Save seeds from your flowers for planting next year.
- Wash the car at home.
- Exercise at home rather than the gym.
- Make friends with your neighbors and help each other by lending and borrowing tools, watching each other’s pets when you’re out of town, etc.
- Take advantage of free community programs such as outdoor movie nights, library book clubs, etc.
- Consider a capsule wardrobe.
- Turn off the lights.
- Unplug unused appliances.
- Turn down the heat.
- Turn down the A/C.
- Run your appliances at night.
- Wash your clothes in cold water.
- Use a turbo cycle on your washer whenever you can.
- Hang dry as much as possible to avoid dryer costs.
- Set a timer for your showers.
- Hand wash delicates to preserve their life.
- Cut the tubes of sunscreen, makeup, and lotion in order to use every single bit.
- Drive the speed limit to save on fuel and avoid costly speeding tickets.
- Keep your tires properly inflated to maximize fuel efficiency.
- Switch to LED light bulbs.
- Make sure your home is energy efficient by checking the air seals around windows and doors.
Spend and Shop Smart
- Shop only when you have a list of things in mind and don’t stray from the list.
- Buy used clothing when possible.
- Use shopping portals to accrue extra mileage points.
- Always pay off the balance on your credit cards.
- Budget, budget, budget.
- Cancel all unnecessary subscriptions, digital and physical.
- Check rotating cash back categories on your credit cards.
- Use the cash envelope system.
- Make your returns ASAP so you don’t forget about them.
- Always ask for a price match, when applicable.
- Check for coupons before buying something.
- Bundle your errands to eliminate unnecessary driving.
- Buy used cars.
- Whenever possible, invest in quality products that last.
- Consider buying refurbished items. For example, a refurbished laptop, stand mixer, coffee maker, vacuum cleaner, etc.
- Buy in bulk when it makes sense (sales, cost is actually cheaper, you have the storage space, etc.)
- Use cash back companies like Ebates or Ibotta.
- Have and maintain an emergency fund for unexpected expenses.
Shifrah Combiths has been writing professionally for twenty years. She loves lifestyle photography, memory keeping, gardening, reading, and going to the beach with her husband and children.