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How To Be Frugal: A Guide for Beginners

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Learning how to be frugal is one of the best things you can do for your finances – and your life! By making a little shift in your perspective, you can realize big savings.

Being frugal doesn’t have to be difficult; it is actually easy once you get the hang of it. To help you get started on how to live frugally and save money, I am highlighting 6 essential tips for becoming frugal – plus, I’m providing 6 actionable tips that you can put to use today.

What Does Frugal Mean?

Before we jump into how to live simply and frugally, let’s cover the basics and talk about what frugal means.

Often people are paralyzed in fear at the mere mention of the word frugal. Without having a firm grasp on what being frugal means, the concept can be overwhelming.

Being frugal means different things to different people, so let’s start with actually defining the word.

Frugal Definition

According to the Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Frugal is defined as “characterized by or reflecting economy in the use of resources.”

The definition, while useful, doesn’t shed a lot of light on exactly how to be frugal with your money. So, what does being frugal mean in day-to-day life?

Frugal Lifestyle Meaning

Frugal means being mindful of your money and putting an end to frivolous spending. It means being intentional with your spending and carefully considering the value of something before you reach for your wallet. Being frugal means eliminating wastefulness and – ultimately – living a fuller life.

So, what does it mean to be frugal wrapped up in one sentence? Put simply: Learning how to be frugal with money means that you save where you can so that you can spend where you want.

How To Be Frugal Beginner's Guide by PositivelyFrugal.com

Why Becoming Frugal Is Difficult

There are several factors that keep people from learning how to become frugal. From getting started to breaking from the norm, being frugal has its challenges.

How To Get Started with Daily Frugal Living

The first major hurdle is figuring out where to start. Before you can create frugal habits to save money, you need a solid starting point.

I think the best place to begin to be more frugal is with a goal! If this is your first go at setting goals, use my Tips for Setting Financial Goals.

Adopt Good Habits to Save Money

Another reason many people are hesitant to fully embrace frugal living is because it requires a change in behavior. Making changes can make anyone uncomfortable – and adapting to frugal spending habits can be particularly painful. My tips on being frugal can help ease the discomfort.

Learn How To Be Frugal but Not Cheap

The biggest deterrent to being frugal, however, is the common misconception that being frugal means being cheap – which carries a very negative connotation. No one wants to be labeled as cheap – which is why it is important to understand what frugal means (and to learn the difference between Frugal and Cheap!).

Change Your Ways to Be Frugal and Save Money

As humans, we have a tendency to fear the unknown, we are reluctant to change and we desire acceptance from our peers. The path to becoming a frugal person challenges each of these instincts.

How To Start Being Frugal

Although being frugal has its challenges, don’t fret! With a clear vision and a little perseverance, you can easily learn ways to be frugal. I am helping make it simple with my 6 steps on How To Live Frugal.

Six Steps to Being Frugal by PositivelyFrugal.com

6 Steps of How To Be Frugal

Now that covered the meaning of the word frugal and you are aware of a few obstacles one might encounter, let’s dig into How To Become Frugal. At the end of this Frugal Living Guide, I share actionable steps that you can take today to start being frugal and thrifty.

We think it is best to develop frugal habits over time; if you dive in headfirst, you will likely come up gasping for air and eager to get out of the water. If, instead, you ease in and make financial resolutions that guide you toward learning to be frugal, you are more likely to realize the benefits of being frugal – and stick to it.

#1 Determine Wants and Needs to Shape Up Your Spending Habits

Topping my list of Frugal Living Tips is shaping up your spending habits. It is nearly impossible to learn how to be frugal and happy without first analyzing your expenditures.

Develop a Frugal Mindset for Needs vs Wants

The first step in how to live more frugally is to define your needs versus your wants. Your needs are vital to living; your wants are the little bonuses that make life more enjoyable.

For example, clothing is a need; a pair of $150 name brand designer jeans is a want.

(And when you eventually do have to replace some of your clothes, be sure to read my Frugal Fashion Tips before going to any store!)

Separating your needs and wants is a crucial step in how to live a frugal lifestyle. The experience, when done honestly, can be very eye-opening and help shape better – and more frugal – spending habits.

Learn How To Save Money by Tracking Your Spending

One of the good money saving habits is to track what you spend. In fact, it is one of the top frugal tips for saving money – because how can you save if you don’t have a clear view of what you spend? Use my tips for How To Save Money to get started.

Let Your Budget Be Your Guide to Frugal Living

People who are not frugal tend to spend their money flippantly, not really paying attention to where their money goes or why. Therefore, if you want to learn ways to be more frugal, then you need to start with a budget.

In fact, one of the best tips on being frugal with money is to create a budget every single month.

Going through the process of creating a monthly budget is invaluable when becoming frugal – which is why I give you a FREE Budget Worksheet – get yours here!

Pro Tip: Get your finances in order with Budget Printables! From goal setting to bill tracking, everything you need is in my Budget Bundle!

Budget Bundle Printables by PositivelyFrugal.com

#2 Put an End to Instant Gratification

One of the top tips on living a frugal life is to put a stop to instant gratification.

Spending money has never been easier. We live in a society where instant gratification is just one click away. However, in order to learn how to become frugal with money, you need to end the cycle of satiating yourself with items that cost money. I call this, Breaking Up With Stuff.

We are taught from a young age that we can sooth our displeasures with rewards, which are most often materialistic possessions. As we get older, we retain that theory and seek happiness in buying things. This is how people overspend, get into debt and often go broke.

The trick to how to live frugally and happy is to find alternate sources of pleasure…ones that don’t cost a dime. When you shift your rewards from materialistic purchases to free alternatives, you are adapting a frugal mindset.

Challenge yourself to find ways to reward yourself without spending and seek out fun and free entertainment.

That said, being frugal does not mean never spending money. It just means spending money on the right things – ones that will truly fulfill you, not just instantly gratify you.

Pro Tip: One of the top tips on how to be frugal is to take stock in what you already have…before you buy more. This little pause before purchasing allows you to decide if you really need to spend the money. On many occasions you will find that you can make do without making a purchase.

#3 Master How To Be Frugal with Food

Food tends to be one of the biggest line items in most people’s budgets. Therefore, one of the best ways to be frugal is to cut your food expenditures, especially when dining out or even getting food to go.

We’re not suggesting that you stop eating! We do recommend, however, that you analyze your food spending, limit your ‘eating out’ expenditures and learn how to use a concise meal plan.

Take a few tips from the pros when planning your Frugal Meals. People who are living thrifty and frugal lifestyles rarely eat out, opting instead to cook at home. Addtionally, they tend to be very conscious of not wasting any food.

They clip coupons, shop sales at the grocery story and stay prepared with Frugal Snacks and Cheap Appetizer Ideas. They bypass the coffeeshop in favor of brewing at home along with eating a at-home Frugal Breakfast. They go food shopping ahead of time and plan and prep for Frugal Dinners.

We have so many tips on how to be more frugal with money when it comes to food – and you can find them all on our Frugal Food blog page.

Pro Tip: Organization is essential when learning how to be frugal with food – and Meal Planner Printables can help.

Meal Planner Kit printables by PositivelyFrugal.com

#4 Get Creative with How To Live Thrifty

Getting creative and thinking outside the box is an integral part of how to be more frugal with your money – especially when it comes to your home and entertainment.

How To Become More Frugal at Home

There are common ways of how to be thrifty at home, like reducing your water usage by taking shorter showers or lowering your electricity bill by slightly adjusting your thermostat.

However, you can find unique ways to be frugal at home, too. With a frugal mindset, seek out products to buy that will save you money in the long run. For instance, you can switch from paper towels to reusable rags, swap out resealable baggies for longer-lasting silicone ones and you can even learn how to make your own cleaners.

You can take it a step further and try ditching your car. We all know that cars are expensive, so seek out alternative transportation that will save you money.

Pro Tip: Looking to make even bigger changes at home? Learning how to be extremely frugal can be beneficial if you are intent on saving every cent possible. Find top tips for slashing your spending at home in my blog post, Extreme Frugality. Just be aware that not all frugal habits pay off. For example, buying cheap toilet paper likely won’t save you money in the long run!

Tips for Being Frugal with Money while Being Entertained

Did you know that it is possible to be thrifty and save money and still have fun?! Believe me, it is…when you seek out affordable entertainment.

Ditch your gym pass and hit the local trails or find other free fitness options. Plan a frugal picnic lunch with friends instead of eating at a restaurant. Seek out free museums, movie showings and community activities for a Frugal Date Night.

Finding frugal entertainment is easy when you know where to look. For a little inspiration, take a look at these articles; my favorite Frugal Hobbies and my massive list of 98 Free Activities!

When you are ready for a vacation – because we all need a break sometime! – plan ahead for a frugal vacation rather than overspending…or worse, going into debt.

Pro Tip: Need help getting your someone special onboard with a frugal lifestyle? Check out my tips for how to Get your Spouse to be Frugal!

Get Started Now with a Free Budget Worksheet PositivelyFrugal.com

#5 Focus on Yourself

Learning how to be frugal involves a lot of self-introspection, positive affirmation and commitment to making changes. However, there are external obstacles, as well. For many people, the biggest barriers to becoming frugal are peer pressure, competition and the “Keeping Up with The Joneses” stigma.

If you want to become frugal, you need to focus on yourself – not what everyone else is doing. Be strong in your conviction to spend money frugally. Ignore the quips from your friends. Don’t compete with materialist possessions. Forget about what The Joneses are doing (because they are likely going into debt to do it) and you’ll be on your way to achieving your money goals!

Pro Tip: You can kick start changes and focus on your behaviors by taking on challenges. Institute a No Spend challenge, have fun with savings games – or join my $5 Frugal Food Challenge to learn how to spend less on food.

Sign Up for the $5 Food Challenge Lead Magnet by PositivelyFrugal.com

#6 Commit To Living a Frugal Life

The last step to becoming frugal is to create frugal living habits – and, eventually, transform completely to a frugal life!

Continually set and adjust your finance goals so that you stay motivated and focused. Get control over your debt and get rid of your credit cards’ balance once and for all. Learn how to make a budget – and keep it! Get into the habit of saving by setting up a sinking fund.

The more you practice how to be more frugal, the easier it becomes. The small changes and money-saving chores become second nature. You will develop frugal habits and your relationship with money will change.

Pro Tip: This step doesn’t happen overnight; it takes time to master your money numbers. You can’t just magically snap your fingers and instantly be relieved of temptation. All of our lives we’ve been conditioned into believing what success looks like and what should bring us happiness. The path to a frugal life will take some time but will be absolutely fulfilling in the end!

Debt Payoff Trackers and Debt Free Charts by PositivelyFrugal.com

Get Started with How To Become More Frugal

My top tip on how to live a frugal life is to get started…today! First and foremost, set your goals. Then, start today with these 6 frugal actionable items.

#1 Track Spending and Create Your Budget

From this moment forward, start tracking your expenditures. Do it the rest of today, all day tomorrow, for the next week and the next month. You can track your expenses digitally or the old fashioned way with a pen and paper. I share exactly how to Track Spending here.

Complete or revive your budget. If you don’t have one get your FREE Budget Worksheet and complete it before the day is over. Find more specific tips on my Budget and Goals blog page.

#2 Set a No Spend Day

To become more mindful of your spending habits and in an effort to brush of instant gratification, institute a No Spend Day. Chose one day in the upcoming week when you commit to spending Zero Dollars – it’s a challenging savings game that pays off!

#3 Make a Meal Plan

Sketch out an affordable meal plan for the next week. Decide what you will eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day – and write it down! Use my tips for Meal Planning to get started.

#4 Commit to Making a Money Saving Change at Home

Commit to doing one thing – just one – at home that will help you to save money. For example, push down the thermostat to save money on your electric bill. This is not one of the unusual frugal tips, but one that is often overlooked. Little changes can add up to extra money faster than you think.

#5 Get Outside the Box

Push your boundaries and do something today to save money that is a little outside of your normal routine. For example, instead of going to a bookstore or ordering a new book online, go to your local library to see if they have the item you want. Rather than accepting an invite to go out to eat with a friend, suggest you make a meal at home together.

Whatever you are thinking about spending money on, come up with a less expensive alternative…even if it goes against the grain of what your friends are doing. This is one of the top tips to living a frugal life.

#6 Start a Sinking Fund

One of the best ways to save cash is to set up a specific savings account – or a sinking fund. The dedicated fund is one of the ways that being frugal to save money is actually fun. As you pull back your spending on the things that don’t matter and save your money for the thing (or things) you actually want in your Sinking Fund, it quickly becomes clear that learning to be frugal is a better way to live!

Subscribe to become PFF Budget Worksheet with Categories by PositivelyFrugal.com

Interested in more of my Life and Entertainment Tips? I round them all up on the Frugal Lifestyle blog page!

We Want To Know: How frugal are you? What are your best hacks for how to be frugal and organizing your finances to save money?


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