Frugal Living Tips for Absolute Beginners

If you’re new to frugal living it can be hard to know where to start. These frugal lifestyle tips are a great introduction if you’re newly frugal and want to build up your savings and gain more control over your money!

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Starting something new is always a bit scary. And the idea of living more frugally can be intimidating, especially when you don’t know where to start.

But ditching debt and building up your savings is a powerful way to take more control over your life. Because when you’re not stressing out about your money, you’re free to really enjoy what you love and live life on your terms!

Frugal living is different for everyone, but at its core it’s about being more intentional with your money. Understanding the value of every penny gives you the opportunity to spend it wisely and make your money go further.

And that buys you the freedom to spend your money on the things you really want.

Why should you try frugal living?

Living a frugal life has huge benefits.

When you’re not stressing out over your bank balance you have more energy to savour the things that bring you joy. And more money to spend on the things that you really love!

So having a plan for your money allows it to work for you and not against you.

Frugal or Cheap?

There’s a difference between frugal living and being a cheapskate.

The way I like to think of it is that cheap people settle, because they’re only willing to think about the price. But a frugal person thinks about the value.

Just because something is less expensive that doesn’t mean that it’s cheaper in the long run.

So a cheapskate would buy the cheapest shoes they can find, even if they don’t fit well and are so poorly made that they fall apart after a couple of months. And then they’ll go out and replace them with another pair of crappy cheap shoes.

But I’m frugal, so I want the best quality shoes I can afford. I’ll shop around for the best deal, and I’m more than happy to wait for a sale or buy last season’s style so that I can have good quality shoes that last longer and don’t hurt my feet. And bring me a lot more joy than a pair of crappy cheap shoes!

It comes down to mindset. How willing are you to settle and cheat yourself out of something that you’ll truly enjoy?

Being cheap is about spending less. Being frugal is about choice.

Frugal living means choosing to be more intentional with your spending so that you can have more of the things you really care about.

And the best part is that you get to decide what that is.

an open book on a wooden desk with a vase of simple flowers, all against a plain white wall

Top Frugal Living Tips for Beginners

So now we know what it means to be frugal, let’s have a look at these beginner frugal living tips!

Frugal Tip 1: Learn to love your budget

You can’t start to cut down on your expenses without knowing what you’re working with, and that begins with a budget.

So if you really want to embrace frugal living you need to learn to love your budget.

A budget is just a list of money coming in and going out. It doesn’t have to be anything big or complicated. At the very least you can start a quick Google spreadsheet to track your outgoings against your income.

This is the first step in getting control over your money so that you can start working toward your goals. It’ll help you evaluate your spending so that you can figure out which areas you can cut back on.

If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at my Budgeting Methods post to get an idea of the 6 most common budgeting methods so you can find one that works for you.

Frugal Tip 2: Identify your big money drains

Have you ever really looked at what you’re spending your money on? Like, really looked?

Once your budget is in place it can be a little scary to add up all your spending and see exactly where your money’s going, but it’s a really helpful exercise.

For me, my big drain is craft supplies. Knitting yarn, punch needle supplies, sewing fabric, embroidery, watercolour. I just can’t get enough of it.

But when I started tracking how much I was spending on my hobbies it was a real eye opener. I was spending all this money on supplies, but I wasn’t making the time to use them so they were just piling up, gathering dust and creating clutter!

So check your outgoings, and ask yourself whether the money you’re spending is actually adding value to your life.

Are you buying that daily coffee out of habit? Or is it something that you really look forward to and savour on your morning commute?

Once you’ve figured that out you can decide whether that expense is worth it to you. If you can’t live without it, is there something else in your life that you can adjust to create more room for the things you love?

Frugal Tip 3: Figure out your goals

Starting something new is tough.

And if you’re used to spending what you want when you want, a frugal lifestyle can be hard to adjust to.

But being clear on why you’re starting this frugal journey, and what you’re saving for can help you focus and keep things in perspective.

Working towards a goal is always easier. Without knowing your goal you’re just gong to feel like you’re depriving yourself. And when that happens you’re gong to blow your budget at first hurdle.

So do whatever you need to to keep that goal in focus.

Maybe you could make a vision board. Or write that goal on a sticky note and put it on your mirror, or by your desk where you’ll see it every day.

If you’re into journalling then write about it. Often.

Visualise it, and really understand why it’s important to you.

It’ll give you something to aim for, and that is way more powerful than just saving for savings sake!

Frugal Tip 4: Use cash

We’ve all done it: you’ve popped out to get just one thing from the supermarket and come back with bags full of shopping.

It’s so easy to do because you can just whip out your card and all of your money is there at your fingertips!

Using cash removes that temptation. Because if you can only spend what you have in your pocket, it forces you to know your needs from your wants.

You can even take it one step further and try cash envelope budgeting. This can be a really great option if you need more control over your spending. Once you’ve made your budget you give each category an envelope. Withdraw all the cash you need for each category and fill each envelope with your budgeted amount. And when the money is gone, your spending is done!

It’s a very tangible way of tracking where your money is going and exactly how much you have left.

Frugal Tip 5: Learn to say no

Saying no doesn’t come easily to most of us.

We can sometimes feel pressure to spend money based on other people’s opinions.

It’s no fun to feel like the boring one, or the odd one out by not joining our friends for brunch at the weekend, or having drinks with colleagues after work.

But how you spend your money is up to you.

Being able to say no is a powerful thing. It gives you control over your spending and your long term goals.

It’s ok to have fun with friends, and if having that social time is important to you then work it into your budget. Maybe you could do it slightly less often, or you could take it in turns to host a brunch instead?

Do what you need to you can balance your budget and feel good about your spending.

And don’t feel bad about saying no if it’s what you need to do to get your finances under control so that you can achieve your goals.

After all, “no” doesn’t have to mean “never”, it can just mean not right now.

Two bowls of rice and teriyaki beef on a white tablecloth

Frugal Tip 6: Meal plan

How many times have you finished work completely exhausted and too tired to come up with something for dinner, so you pick up the phone and order pizza. Guilty!

But planning out your meals for the week is an easy way to eat healthier and save money on food.

I know what you’re thinking: “I don’t have time for that!”

But it doesn’t have to take you long. Set aside an hour on a Friday night or Saturday morning to decide on your meals for the week, and have a quick look through your cupboards to see what you already have and what you need to buy.

Now your grocery list is sorted, and you know what you’re eating throughout week. Two tasks you can cross off your list!

And planning out your food choices for the week means that you’re less likely to buy more than you need, which helps to cut down on food waste. Globally, we waste a staggering one third to one half of all food produced, so not only is meal planning great for our budget but it helps the environment too.

Still sounds like too much?

If coming up with your own meal plan is too overwhelming right now then get someone else to meal plan for you. Erin’s $5 Meal Plan is PERFECT for this. For just $5 a month Erin will email you a delicious weekly meal plan where each meal will cost about $2 per person or less. She even includes a shopping list, so most of the hard work is done for you. All you’ll have to do is get the ingredients you need and follow the recipe!

You can even find a sample meal plan on her site to get a better idea of the amazing meals that Erin comes up with. Check it out here.

And don’t fret if you’re not in the US – the meal plan is emailed out every week so you can make use of it no matter where you are in the world.

If you’re interested you can sign up for a 14 day free trial here.

Frugal Tip 7: Pack a lunch box

Bringing your own lunch to work can be a huge cost saver, especially if you’re in the habit of buying a meal every day.

And it saves you time too! Instead of having to stand in a queue for 15 minutes you get to relax on your lunch break. And before you say that you like to get out of the office at lunch – you still can! Bring your lunch box out with you and have a little lunch break picnic on a bench or patch of grass. You’ll be saving money AND getting some fresh air. So instead of queuing you can spend more time enjoying your food and will feel more energised for the rest of the afternoon.

Getting into the habit of packing your lunch every day can be hard to get used to at first, but a little planning goes a long way and you’ll soon get used to it.

Check out these awesome lunch box ideas if you need some inspiration!

clothes hanging on a rail

Frugal Tip 8: Declutter

Clutter can be really overwhelming.

The more stuff you have, the more time it takes to find things. And then there’s the time it takes to clean your stuff, to organise it all and tidy it.

Have a look around you. How much stuff do you see that you don’t actually use?

It sounds so obvious, but everything around you used to be money.

When I realised that, it really put into perspective how much money I waste on things I don’t really want or need.

I’m very much a work in progress at this. As much as I aspire to be a minimalist, I have a lot of stuff that I struggle to let go of.

If that sounds familiar, then start small.

At the beginning just try to reduce the amount of clutter that you’re introducing to your space. These days I try to be much more mindful of what I’m bringing into my home. So instead of mindlessly buying something just because I like it, I try to really think about whether I need it. Is it going to add value and joy to my life? Will I use it? Do I already have something like it? Is it going to replace something I already own?

That’s a lot to ask yourself. But once you stop filling up your space with clutter it gives you room to breathe, and that can empower you to start decluttering. Reuse and repurpose what you can. Recycle, donate or sell what you’re not using.

You’ll feel lighter once you get rid of that baggage, and over time you’ll be able to make decluttering a habit in your life.

Frugal Tip 9: Make more money

I’m a big believer in not wasting money.

You’ve worked hard for your money, so you should spend it on what’s important to you and save the rest.

But the amount you can save is pretty fixed. So improve your financial situation is to make more money.

And that can be easier than you think!

Especially these days. The internet has made it easier than ever to make money.

It doesn’t have to be anything complicated or time consuming. You can fit a side hustle like remote tutoring or blogging into a spare couple of hours in the evenings or at weekends.

The Magic of digital products!

Personally, I love creating digital products like digital art prints, digital planners and printables. They’re perfect if you’re like me and don’t want to deal with inventory and shipping! And the best thing is that you create them once and can sell them over and over again, so once everything is set up it can almost completely passive income.

A great place to start is with Michelle and Aimee’s Passive Income Planner Girl Course. I bought it earlier this year, and binged the whole thing within a weekend!

It’s more than just a digital products course, it’s jam packed with insightful and inspiring info that will really motivate and empower you to start your own planner business. Michelle and Aimee each have their own wonderful and successful Etsy businesses, so they really know their stuff! They’re also such warm and genuine people, which makes them really fantastic tutors.

The course has recently been updated to include even more beautiful content, and I can’t wait to dive into it again. They’ve made the first workshop available for free, so if you’re interested then check it out here.

It is an investment (although worth every penny!) so if you’d like to get started with something a little more straightforward then their Canva Template Kit or Digital Planner Template Kit might be for you.

I have the Digital Planner Kit and it is GOLD! The kits make it so easy to customise and sell your own digital products. I’ve only had my Etsy store open for a couple of months and I’m already seeing sales! It’s such a great feeling to wake up and see that you’ve made money while you slept.

a white enamel mug and a book on a white bed with a vase of flowers in the background

Frugal Tip 10: Sleep on it

This is a simple trick to curb your impulse spending.

If there’s something you want to buy, try to sleep on it.

The goal of this isn’t to deprive you. It’s to give you time to reflect on whether you really need it, and whether you can actually afford it.

Shopper’s high is a real thing.

Sometimes we can get caught up in the thrill of the hunt. That’s because our brains are wired to release dopamine when we shop. It’s what gives us that rush at the checkout. And it’s amplified when something’s on sale.

But that rush can make us go a little bit crazy. So to reduce that impulse to spend try pressing pause for a while.

How long for? I think it depends on you and on the purchase.

Sometimes just taking an hour is enough to make me realise that I don’t actually need to spend that money. Sometimes it might take a little longer.

The important thing is to give yourself some breathing space. Removing yourself from that impulse helps you be more intentional about your spending.

Frugal Tip 11: Track your progress

Starting a frugal lifestyle is all about making little lifestyle changes that will all add up and soon become habits.

Trying to do it all at once can be overwhelming. Instead of diving in at the deep end and feeling deprived, break it down into little steps and have fun with it. Make little tweaks to your life and mindset here and there, because they’ll all add up!

And track your progress so you can see how far you’ve come.

Maybe start a habit tracker to track how many times you packed your own lunch and how much money you’ve saved.

Or a savings tracker so you can take note of your growing savings.

Keep noting and reviewing the little changes you’re making so you can see what’s working, what you want to adjust, and how it’s all making a difference to your life.

Above all, have fun with it! Take time to celebrate those little milestones and enjoy your new financial situation!

Embrace the lifestyle

To really make the most of frugal living, don’t just pick it up when you need it and drop it when things seem to be ok again.

You might get some short term wins from doing that, but the real magic is in embracing a frugal lifestyle and mindset, and doing those little things every day.

Because living frugally is a wonderful habit to adopt for peace of mind so that you don’t have to go through tight times and worry about “what if”.

Each little step might not seem like much on its own, but it all adds up and can make a huge difference to your finances.

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