Five Real Frugal Living Ideas to Help you Save Money

Looking for frugal living ideas? Well then hopefully this post will be pay dirt for you cause that’s what’s here.

To get started, there’s a bit of a misconception of what frugality actually is. Rather than do the cliche’ dictionary definition, I’ll give you the thesaurus entry for frugal:

  • Entry Word: frugal
  • Function: adjective
  • Meaning: careful in the management of money or resources
  • Synonyms: economical, economizing, provident, scrimping, sparing, thrifty
  • Related Words: conserving, preserving, saving; forehanded, foresighted, prudent; penny-wise; cheap, close, closefisted, miserly, niggardly, parsimonious, stingy, stinting, tight, tightfisted
  • Near Antonyms: improvident, shortsighted; freehanded, generous, liberal, openhanded, unsparing; extravagant, indulgent, lavish
  • Antonyms prodigal, wasteful
  • Source Merriam Webster Online Dictionary

That’s interesting to me because a couple years ago,while watching Money Matters on ABC, they were interviewing Ramit Sethi about frugality and he says, “Frugality is about spending money extravagantly on the things you love but cutting costs mercilessly on the things you don’t.

” The news piece, which starts out by putting thriftiness in a negative light, goes on to say that spending $3.00 on a latte every day is frugal. One look in a thesaurus however and you’ll see that extravagance is a near opposite to frugality.

Why we listen to psudeo-intellectual bull crap like this is beyond me.

The guy who’s frugal doesn’t buy a $3.00 latte but instead gets coffee on sale or in bulk and makes it at home for $0.10 a serving.

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So rather than give you some yuppie-feel-good advice like, buying a Mercedes and a Louis Vuitton purse is the way to save money, here are some real frugal ideas.

1. Get out of the hobby mentality

To explain this idea, I’m going to use commuting by bicycle as an example.

If you leave this page right now, and google bicycle commuting, you’ll find millions of pages, giving you tons of information on things like how to choose the bike, what to wear while commuting, how to deal with the weather, what to tell people who think you’ve gone off the deep end etc.

You’d think you’re doing something so radical, you have to talk yourself into it. Getting from point A to point B doesn’t require that much thought.

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If you didn’t have a car or a lot of money, you’d walk or take a bus. I call this the hobby mentality because, you take some mundane non-event and turn it into something “different,” requiring a bunch of specialized equipment and “things,” you have to learn to do it properly.

The reality is, the best bike for commuting is the one you already own, you can wear anything you want while cycling, if it rains, use an umbrella.

I know because I do this everyday rain or shine and so do millions of other people all around the world.

2. Stop being a sucker for the loss leader

Loss leader marketing means giving something away for free or at a huge reduction in price, in hopes that your customer will make up for it with other purchases.

Razors are probably the most infamous example of this.

Gillette mails you the handle and a couple razor cartridges for free, it’s when it comes time to buy those refill cartridges that they really get you and make their money.

Another example, my sister received a letter saying that she had won some free garbage bags from an “upscale,” (if they’re so upscale why are they giving garbage bags as prizes?) department store.

To claim her prize, all she had to do was bring her ticket to the seventh floor of the store.

On the way up, next to the escalator landings on each floor, they had huge “For Sale,” signs and had I not gone with my sister and physically steered her back on course, she would have easily spent $100 while getting her “free” prize.

3. Cut back on disposables

These little things add up over time. Going back to razors as an example, the cost of Gillette Mach III replacement cartridges is practically robbery.

On amazon, 5 cartridges costs $11.00 or about $2.20 a cartridge on something you’re going to throw away. Realizing this, I’ve switched over to one of the old fashioned razors, that uses the dual edge razors.

For $4.00, you get 10 in a pack or $0.40 a razor. This lasts around 3 months. If you decide that this is for you though, you have to be careful to not get sucked into the hobby mentality.

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As you learn more, people will try to convince you that you need a badger-hair brush, expensive soaps etc. Another example of disposables killing your budget can be seen in computer printers.

I have an HP all-in-one printer that I use only for scanning now. The reason I don’t print or copy with it anymore, is the replacement ink cartridges cost $90 for black and color.

After about the third time of going through sticker shock at the electronics store, I realized I had almost spent as much money on cartridges as what it would cost to buy the Canon a3 printer I have now.

The Canon printer’s cartridges cost $28 for color and black. And to save even more money, you can refill your cartridges. It’s those reoccurring things we buy where we can look to save money.

4. Go Dumpster Diving

Why people are afraid to take home other people’s garbage is beyond me.

Some of the things I like the most were found before the trash-man came to pick them up.

I have for example, a ficus plant but the really nifty part is the container it was in. It’s in a metal well bucket, you know the little bucket on the rope that you lower into a well for water.

Really neat and you’d never know I found it in the trash.

Other good finds are, three piano chairs ($400 a piece) which we use as dining room chairs. They’re solid wood and have a really nice look.

I’ve also found a video projector. Of course it’s an old one so it’s pretty big and heavy but with a dvd player hooked up it plays movies all the same.

An A-Bike copy, that just needed a chain, 2 Yamaha G-350 Guitars, replacement blades for fans, a huge chunk of obsidian (found but not in the garbage), a nice basket, and a like-new pet carrier are also recent scores.

A friend of mine found a microwave—the only thing wrong was a knob had come off and it was inside the machine—and a vacuum cleaner that only needed a new bag.

The point is that a lot of stuff ends up in the dump well before its usefulness is up.

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It’s not yucky, dangerous or self-debasing but rather just plain good common sense. If it’s something you need why pass it up?

5. Repair and Repurpose

Another good frugal idea is to get in the habit of repairing things or repurposing them.

A little plastic tab on the film back of a camera can be repaired with epoxy which has nearly unlimited uses.

If you can repair it, you not only save the money needed to replace that item, but you’re also already familiar with how to use what you’ve got.

Repurposing is taking something that on the surface has one use, and then find a new way to use it.

An empty tissue box can hold loose plastic bags. Sometimes what you create is even better than the device made for that specific purpose.

In Japan, it’s no secret that people live in high-rise buildings but what you might not have known is that most people don’t own a dryer but instead do all their drying on their balcony.

One of the devices used for drying clothes, is a hanging loop that has a bunch of clothes pins hanging from it. They’re made from plastic and don’t usually hold up very long because of UV damage from the sun.

Using two 16 inch bicycle rims bolted together through the valve stem hole, I was able to create a hanger that would not only never break, but the weight of the bicycle rims makes the hanger easier to load because it doesn’t tip when the load isn’t distributed equally.


Hopefully, this post has given you some frugal living ideas and tips, that you can really use to save money. Some of these ideas may require you to change the way you think about things, but at the heart of it, that’s what frugality is all about—it’s a conscious mindset of trying to minimize costs and live within your means.

So even if the main-stream media’s got it wrong, with a little resourcefulness, living frugally can become a way of life.

Image: Minimalism Vs. Frugality