Have you ever had anyone call you “cheap”? Yeap, it’s happened to me. But here’s the thing – I’m not cheap, I’m frugal. And yes, there is a difference!

Frugal living doesn’t mean that you’re cheap. Cheap means always buying the cheapest product and doing whatever you can to save even a dollar. A frugal lifestyle means being intentional with your money. It’s when you prioritize what is important to you in life and then you choose to spend your money on those items. For example, it means you choose to live in a smaller house, so you can be closer to work or closer to an area with lots of parks and nature trails.


Here are some tips for frugal living that you can incorporate into different areas in your life.

Frugal Living Tips: Save Money by Planning

Tip #1: Create a budget – and stick to it. Budgets are an important tool that help you to control where your money goes. It helps you to figure out how you are going to reach your financial goals and still be able to pay all your bills. Learn more about how to create a zero-based budget today!

Tip #2: Save your tax refund. Don’t look at your tax refund as if it is extra money that you can spend on anything you want. Instead, look at it as the opportunity that it really is. Put that money towards your financial goals of paying off debt, building up your emergency fund or reaching any of your other goals that much faster.

Tip #3: Avoid lifestyle creep. What is lifestyle creep? It’s when you automatically start spending more money, just because you got a raise. So, avoid thinking, “I’m making more, so I can spend more” and start by putting your raise towards your financial goals. Your future self will thank you!


Frugal Living Tips: Save Money on Housing and Transportation

Tip #4: Downsize your living space. Go for a smaller house or apartment. In the era of “bigger is better”, it’s easy to feel pressured into buying a bigger house. Nope – you don’t “need” that. Find a place with enough space. Bonus: you’ll save money on property taxes, utility bills and even on house maintenance.

Tip #5: Create a maintenance schedule. When items (appliances, cars, house, etc.) are kept up in good shape, they last longer. Sometimes, I can get frustrated with my husband – I feel like he’s always coming up with a project or repairs that need to be done around the house. But then I push that frustration aside because I know our belongings will last longer with all the maintenance he does. Woo hoo!

Tip #6: Buy a smaller, fuel-efficient car. I’m often surprised when people buy big gas guzzling cars, trucks or SUVs. Often the explanation is that the car or truck can carry more people or that they feel a bigger SUV is safer. But in reality, those same people rarely, if ever, have more than 5 people in the car. And smaller SUVs or cars can actually be safer. So, stick with the smaller car – because it’s really all you need.

Tip #7: Take public transportation. Skip buying a second car (or even a first car, if you live in a large city) and take public transportation instead. It’s always cheaper than having to buy another car, because you will save on a car lease or loan, car insurance, maintenance and gas. The best part – more time to read during your commute.

Tip #8: Get a roommate or tenant. A roommate is an excellent way to earn a little extra to money. If you like having your own space, and can easily update part of your house with a separate entrance (for example, your basement), think about renting it out to a tenant. The extra money can be used towards your mortgage.


Frugal Living Tips: Save Money on Eating Out

Tip #9: When eating out, keep it simple and only order a main meal. Ask for water, instead of ordering a drink. And skip the appetizer and dessert. Don’t worry about looking “cheap” – your wallet will thank you in the long run!

Tip #10: Consider sharing a meal. In some restaurants, the portions are huge! In this case, there’s plenty of food for two people – so go ahead and share with your dining partner. If the main dish isn’t quite enough for two people, then add in an appetizer, instead of a second main meal. My husband and I do this often in order to take advantage of large portions.

Tip #11: Look for daily specials. I’m not talking about the meal of the day – I mean the ones offering a discount, such as 50% off of your appetizer or a second main meal. They usually happen on Monday to Thursday (when people are less likely to dine out), or when a restaurant has just opened up.

Tip #12: Buy coffee as a treat, instead of everyday. When you buy something every day, it becomes ordinary and you take it for granted. But when buy something occasionally, even if it is once a week, then it becomes a treat to be enjoyed.

Tip #13: Bring your own lunch to work. Instead of eating lunch out at work, bring your own food from home. Encourage your co-workers to do the same, so that you can eat together and socialize. By bringing your own lunch, you can easily save $2,000 a year!


Frugal Living Tips: Save Money on Entertainment

Tip #14: Use the library. Yes, libraries have books, but they have so much more to offer. You can borrow Blu-rays, games and even tools for free, plus computers for people to use. There are clubs you can join and special programs that are free or at a reduced cost. So, if you haven’t been to your local library in a while, go check it out (pun intended)!

Tip #15: Look for free events or low-cost community events. Find out what events are taking place on your town or city’s website – things like free concerts, festivals, parades or even fireworks. The upside: you’ll feel more involved and connected to your community.

Tip #16: Be a frugal traveler. Wait, what does that look like? A frugal traveler is someone who travels during off-peak season or travels locally – in order to save money. Travelling locally allows you to save money by not having to pay for airfare, because you can drive to a town or city close to your house. Don’t have a car? Then take the train or bus to a nearby city and explore around that area. Better yet – make it a day trip and save on hotel costs. Want to know more? Check out my article on how to live below your means and still enjoy life.

Tip #17: Host a dinner party at home. Forget about always going out to an expensive restaurant. Instead, host a dinner party, or even a pot luck dinner, at your house. Not only will you save money, but you won’t feel rushed to leave as soon as the meal is over. Take your time to eat, listen to some great music and talk! Tip: spice things up by having a theme, where everyone dresses up in costumes (i.e.: characters from a tv show or clothes from the 20’s).

Tip #18: Entertain your children without spending a lot of money. Of course, it’s fun to always buy new stuff, but what children really want is to spend time with you. Make their childhood about experiences and doing things together as a family, rather than about stuff. Experiences are what children will remember, and talk about, when they are adults. So, give them stories, not stuff.


Frugal Living Tips: Save Money on Shopping

Tip #19: Avoid extended warranties. If a product is going to break, it will most likely be either during the warranty period or near the end of the life expectancy of that product. So, save yourself some money and skip paying for an extended warranty.

Tip #20: Wait until after the holidays to buy. It’s best to buy seasonal or holiday items at the end of the season, when they are heavily discounted. For example, buy your Christmas decorations after December 25th. Why? Because retailers would rather sell an item at cost, or below cost, so that they won’t have to store it for a year.

Tip #21: Avoid impulse purchases. Before you go shopping, have a clear idea of what you are looking to buy. Then, when you are at the store, stay focused on what you came there for. It’s okay to look around. But if you see something that you really like, wait a few days. If you still want it (and you have the money in your budget), then go ahead and buy it.

I like to use this trick with my son, because he thinks he should buy something every time he goes to a store. So, before we go to a store, I tell him, “We are buying you some pants and you can have popcorn, but no toys.”. Then, when we are in the store and he wants a toy, I can say, “No, we came here for pants, remember?”. This trick really does help to stop all the impulse purchases.

Tip #22: Buy quality over quantity. You know that saying, “You get what you pay for”? Well, it’s true. Cheap products break quickly and usually can’t be fixed or repaired. The only thing you can do is throw them in the garbage. Instead, look for quality products that will last longer.

Tip #23: Look for price matching. There are two types of price match policies that retailers will have. The first type is where a retailer will match the price of a competitor. However, there is usually one catch – it has to be the exact same product and not a slightly different model. The second type is where a retailer will match the price of the product in their store if it goes on sale within the next 30 days. A little bit of extra time to keep an eye out for sales, or on competitor prices, is definitely worth it to save some extra money!


Frugal living doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy life. It just means that you are prioritizing where you are spending your money. To get started, pick two or three of the tips above and see if they work for you.


Until my next blog post, here’s wishing you lots of joy and happiness!
With love,


Hi! I'm Joanne. I’m a Canadian Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA, CMA). Money management is a life skill that I passionately believe all people need to learn. As an accountant, I love helping people understand numbers and money. At BuildingJoyAndHappiness, I share my tips to money management and make understanding finances simple.

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