Learning how to live cheap doesn't have to be hard. Living cheap or frugal living is all about having practical money skills. This means making the most of your spending to live on less so you can live within your means and save money. Living cheaply does not mean skipping breakfast to save money, that's not our aim here.
By making some positive changes to your lifestyle, you can cut spending, like taking lunch to work, washing clothes in cold water, cutting the cable, using only cash, and more to live cheap. Or you can take advantage of the internet and a variety of money-making and money-saving apps to live cheap. For example, you can save money by shopping for groceries online, using cash back apps, using online coupons (hello, Kohl's coupons anyone?), and more ways.
There are different reasons for wanting to live cheap and set savings goals – to avoid or get out of debt, build an emergency fund or save for retirement, which all depend on your individual situation. If you are wondering how to live cheap so you can live on less and still have a fulfilling life, here are 56 ways to live cheap and save money.
How to Live Cheap to Save Money in Your Daily Life
Learn how to start saving to grow your money and live within your means in your daily life.
1. Create a Budget
Creating a realistic monthly budget is probably the most important thing you can do to learn how to live cheap and save money each month. A budget allows you to identify non-essential items you can cut back on or cut out completely to live as cheaply as possible. Overall, creating a budget is the first step to learn how to live cheap, and it also leads to other ways to live cheap that you will learn below in this article.
2. Track Your Spending
Once you have set up a spending plan, make sure you check in your spending daily, weekly or eventually monthly to see if you are spending your money according to your budget. By tracking your expenses, you can be aware of where your money is going. It allows you to identify expenses you can cut back on or cut out completely. There are several ways you can track your spendings, such as using budgeting tools, creating an Excel Spreadsheet, or even using a pen and paper.
3. Pay Yourself First
If you are struggling for money, set aside a specific amount of your earnings as savings every time you get paid. It can be as little as those 50 extra dollars that you made from side hustles, just make sure to pay yourself first and automate your savings. You can work with your bank to set up automated transfers between your checking and saving accounts.
Do not leave it until the end of the month because you may be left with nothing at the end of the month. Saving money regularly is one of the best ways to live cheap because you can avoid getting into a credit card debt if an emergency pops up.
4. Do a No-Spend Challenge
A no-spend challenge is when you do not spend any money for a specific period of time. But it does not prevent you from spending money on essentials (e.g. bills).
Depending on your specific money goal, you can have a no-spend weekend, week or month challenge. Doing a no-spend challenge is a great way to learn how to live cheap and save money. It can be also a great way to find free entertainment and activities.
5. Use Only Cash
By using only cash for your everyday purchases, you cannot spend money you do not have. When you know you only have a certain amount of money available until next payday, you become more aware of your needs rather than your wants. This means you can live within your means and save money.
6. Make Coffee at Home
If you like coffee, one of the best ways to start living cheaply is by making your own coffee. Instead of spending $3-$5 every morning at your local coffee shop for a cup of coffee, brew your own coffee at home. You could save over $1,000 per year on takeout coffees by making your own coffee.
7. Renegotiate Your Bills
You could contact your cable, internet, car insurance, landline phone, or other service providers to negotiate a better rate on your contract. I know it is going to be time-consuming to contact each and every provider by calling them, you can use an awesome app called Rocket Money to do it for you! You could easily make $10 fast in the next 5 minutes by using this free app.
8. Learn to Sew
You can save a lot of money on buying new clothes, coats, curtains, etc. household items if you learn how to sew on buttons and patches, fix zippers, and repair clothing, coats, curtains, etc. household items.
9. Downgrade Your Services
One of the best ways to live cheap and save money every month is by downgrading your services like cable subscription and Internet services. If you are not really watching all the channels on your TV, consider downgrading your cable package or look for cheaper cable alternatives.
Are you currently paying for unlimited internet service but you use it only a few hours a week? Then downgrade your Internet service to save some money each month.
10. Use Public Transportation
Public transportation is less expensive than using a car. If your city or town has good public transportation, then you will be able to save a lot of money on gas, parking, and car maintenance. Try walking where possible.
11. Buy Cheaper Gas
Negotiate a lower rate with your current energy supplier, or shop around to find a new energy supplier that offers you a cheaper deal. You can use real apps that pay like Upside to find the lowest gas prices in your area. You can save even more if you have a credit card that offers rewards if you pay with them for gas.
12. Pay Auto Insurance Annually in Full
Some auto insurance companies offer discounts if you pay your car insurance annually in full. Find a reputable auto insurance company that will give you a discount if you pay your auto insurance upfront annually in full.
13. DIY Car Maintenance
You can save lots of money on car repair and maintenance if you learn to do basic car maintenance work yourself like changing the engine oil, changing an air filter, replacing wiper blades, washing your car, etc. basic car maintenance tasks.
Ways to Live Cheap to Save Money on Banking, Credit Cards, and Investing
14. Check Your Credit Report and Score
Your credit score has a significant impact on saving money long term because when you have a good credit score you can request your credit card provider(s) to lower your interest rates.
You can save thousands of dollars in interest payments over the course of your current loans if you qualify for lower interest rates from your borrowers.
15. Make Your Payments on Time, Every Time
If you want to live cheap, do not miss your credit card payments because your credit card company will probably charge you late fees plus interest fees. Furthermore, your lender may also increase your interest rate because you are a higher risk to them. So make your credit card payments on time, every time to save money on penalty plus interest fees.
16. Set Aside Money for Taxes First
If you are self-employed, then set aside money for taxes first because if you cannot pay the taxes you owe, you might have to pay penalty fees or you might be tempted to pay them with a high-interest credit card come tax season. By saving money aside each month for taxes, you can avoid paying hefty fees.
17. Save for Retirement
One of the reasons for many people wanting to live cheap is to save for retirement. If money is tight and you want to save money for retirement, you will have to cut spending in an area or more in your budget to live cheap and save for your retirement.
If you work a full-time job, your employer may offer a 401(k) plan. And if your employer offers a match to your 401(k) contributions, make the maximum contribution to your 401(k) account so you can save even more for retirement.
If you are self-employed, there are retirement savings plans for self-employed individuals. Choose a plan that best fits your needs.
How to Live Cheap to Save Money on Buying a Car
18. Buy a Used Car
Did you know that new cars lose 10% of their value in the first month of their ownership? Buy a used car to save money.
If you get pre-approved for a car loan, this can also help you save money because it gives you many more lending options than what a car dealer can offer you. It's possible to get a car loan even if you have poor credit.
20. Buy a Car in Cash
You can save money on interest when you buy a car in cash. While car dealers make money off of financing cars, they still like getting cash payments for cars.
21. Refinance While You Can
For many car owners, it's still a good time to refinance. Current auto loan rates are no longer at record lows. But they're still relatively low by historical standards. And, depending on when you closed on your current loan, you may be paying a higher interest rate than what you could lock in today.
For example, Upstart's auto refinancing has a 4.9/5.0 rating on TrustPilot and car loan customers save an average of $1045 per year on their loan.
Check out Upstart which uses nontraditional criteria for loan approval, giving bad and fair credit applicants a better chance of qualifying.
21. Shop Around for Car Insurance
When it comes to getting car insurance, shop around for car insurance to get the best deal. Many car insurance providers offer lower introductory rates but raise the rates after the first year, so make sure to shop around for car insurance to make sure you are getting the best deal to save money.
How to Live Cheap to Save Money on Traveling
22. Be Flexible
You can save a lot of money if you are flexible with your travel dates. Travel during the offseason to save money on a cruise, airfare and accommodations.
23. Use Credit Card Rewards
Credit card rewards might be financially rewarding (you can make $100 fast with bonuses) if you know how to use a credit card responsibly. I would recommend you use a rewards credit card to pay for travel-related products and services and then pay off your credit card balances in full on time, each month to get benefit from credit card rewards.
How to Live Cheap to Save Money Around Your Home
24. Switch to Energy-Efficient LED Light Bulbs
LED bulbs do cost a little bit more initially but they use 75% less energy and last longer than old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs. Replacing your traditional light bulbs with energy-efficient LED light bulbs can save you money on your electricity bills.
While you're at it, consider turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. One of the best ways to cut your electricity bill is to turn off your lights when they are not in use. It may sound simple but you can really lower your electricity bills by turning out the lights when you leave a room or when not in use. Those little savings can really add up.
25. Summer-Proof Your Home
Keeping your blinds closed in your home will make your home feel cooler and save money on your energy bills as your air conditioner unit or system will not have to work as hard.
Put on fewer clothes to stay cool, turn the thermostat up by a few degrees to save on energy during the hot months.
26. Winter-Proof Your Home
Your heating system does not have to work as hard to reduce your energy bills and still keep your home warm if you keep your blinds and curtains open during the day to let the sunlight enter your home and prevent heat loss from your home by fixing drafty doors and windows, leaky foundations, etc; closing the vents and doors in rooms you do not use frequently; and sealing up an open fireplace.
You can turn your thermostat down but still stay warm if you wear an extra layer of clothing such as a blanket or sweater to save on energy bills.
27. Use a Programmable Thermostat
If you use a smart programmable thermostat, it allows you to adjust the temperature of your home while you are asleep or away from home.
By turning it up in the summer and down in the winter by just 1°C, you could cut the cost of your heating bill by 10%.
28. Choose Energy-Efficient Appliances
One of the best ways to learn how to live cheap is to get energy-efficient appliances. When you need to buy new appliances, I recommend that you purchase an Energy Star model for each appliance to save money on energy costs in your home.
You can save hundreds or thousands of dollars on energy bills over time if you get energy-efficient appliances as these use less energy.
29. Unplug Everything
Did you know that even when electronics and appliances like TVs, laptops, cell phone chargers, coffee makers, and more are turned off, they continue to use energy? The energy lost even when you turn off your electronics and appliances is called vampire energy, also called standby power and the phantom load. In order to maintain a connection to servers, enable data recording, and perform any system updates, devices must continue to use electricity. This also occurs due to the fact that devices essentially “wait” on users to power them on.
Vampire energy affects a number of our everyday appliances including televisions, microwaves, desktop computers, and even garage door openers. Other electronics that are affected by the phantom load but may not be quite as obvious include air conditioner units, gas ranges, and even the household furnace. As a whole, vampire energy costs Americans about $19 billion each year and can account for as much as twenty percent of the energy used within homes. It’s one of the reasons for an unusually high electric bill. That number is likely to increase as more and more people are making smart technology part of their household appliances.
To cut off vampire energy’s drain, electronic devices can be unplugged after use to immediately stop their energy consumption. This is not always possible for devices and in those cases, it is important to employ the use of other energy-saving tips. Using energy-efficient appliances reduces the total amount of energy used by electronic devices, saving both energy and money. Power strips can also be used as a central hub for electronics and allow for one concise power down. The list goes on, as the many methods put the power back in the hands of device users. Ultimately, finishing off vampire energy will pay off in more ways than one. The bottom line is that the energy lost adds to your energy bills. So, unplug everything to save money on energy bills.
30. Get Cheaper Renters or Homeowners Insurance
Many people don’t bother looking into the cheapest and best renters insurance because they think it’s too expensive. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, renter’s insurance and homeowners' insurance is very affordable.
According to the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, you can obtain $30,000 of property coverage and $100,000 of liability coverage for just $12 a month. That’s less than many pay for a movie ticket. Some companies have even more competitive prices, you can protect your stuff for as little as $5/month with Lemonade Insurance, for example.
31. Cut Your Water Bill
You could cut your water costs and save money every month by using water more efficiently in your house. There are many ways to save money on your water bill. Take shorter and slightly cooler showers, lower the temperature of your hot water heater, wash clothes or dishes in cold water, install low flow showerheads, and fix water leaks to cut your water bill. There are more ways to reduce your water usage and water costs.
32. Pay Off Your Mortgage Faster
Making extra repayments on your mortgage will reduce your loan faster. You can save tens of thousands of dollars on interest payments by making extra repayments, occasional lump-sum amounts, or making repayments more frequently on your mortgage.
33. Cut the Cable
Cutting the cable is one of the best ways to live cheaply. If you do not watch TV much anyway, you can ditch the expensive cable subscription service in favor of one of the many cheaper online live TV streaming services and on-demand streaming services available out there these days. You could save hundreds of dollars annually by choosing cheaper alternatives like Sling TV, Netflix, Hulu and more and still watch your favorite TV shows and movies.
34. Refinance Your Mortgage
Shop around to see if you can refinance your mortgage to get a better interest rate and reduce your monthly repayments. Calculate how much you will save each month on interest payments and monthly repayments then put that amount aside as savings.
How to Live Cheap to Save Money on Entertainment
35. Save on Kids Entertainment
If you want to live cheaply to save money, cut down on your kids entertainment. You could save thousands of dollars every year by cutting down on activities like going to movie theaters, expensive game centers, and restaurants to entertain your kids.
Instead, find free or cheap activities like playing games with your kids at home, playing outside, going to festivals and other events, going to your local library or a museum, and more for your kids.
36. Use Your Local Library
You could save a lot of money on buying books and eBooks, and subscribing to magazines and daily newspapers if you visit your local library to read for free. You will need a library card to read books online. You can also save money on buying DVDs and movies because you can rent them from your local library.
Are you self-employed? Then you can work at the library not at coffee shops to save money on buying expensive coffees and food at the coffee shops.
37. Invite Friends Over for Homemade Dinner
Eating out with friends on the weekend costs money that can add up over time. If you are trying to save money, do not eat out at expensive or fancy restaurants on the weekend. Instead, invite friends over for homemade dinner. This will save you money on eating out expensive restaurant meals.
You can do the potluck style dinner as well, where everyone will bring a dish of food. This will allow you to have more fun with your friends, and save more money.
38. Entertain at Home
Find something to do at home to save money on entertainment expenses like going out for lunch, going out for shopping, going to the theaters or movies, etc. Instead, staying home to spend quality time with your family, dining at home with your family and friends, or having a game night at home with friends are inexpensive and entertaining.
How to Live Cheap to Save Money Groceries and Other Shopping
Just because you want to spend less money doesn't mean you can't eat good. It's all about learning how to save money on groceries with new creative ways that you may have not considered before.
39. Make a Shopping List and Stick to It
If you make a shopping list, it helps curb impulse purchases. It will save both time and money. When you bring a list to the grocery store, you are less likely to buy anything that is not on your list. So, do not go to the grocery store without a list if you want to live cheap and save money on groceries.
40. Do Not Shop Hungry
Eat a snack or something else before you go to the grocery store or go shopping for groceries after a meal. When you go shopping with an empty stomach, you might end up making impulse purchases.
41. Use Grocery Apps to Get Cash Back
One of the easiest ways to live cheap and save money is when you purchase groceries in-store or online through a variety of grocery apps such as Ibotta. Ibotta gives you cash back on groceries. To get cash back, add the offers on items you are going to buy anyway to the app, purchase the items, take a photo of your receipt using the app and upload it to the app. Ibotta then gives you cash back on your grocery purchases in your account within 24-48 hours.
If you have a store loyalty card from a store that is supported by Ibotta, then you can link it to your Ibotta account and earn cash back automatically when you buy anything that offers cash back at that particular store. No receipts are required. You can also get cash back when you shop online at retailer apps or websites via the Ibotta app.
42. Buy Used Items
These days, you can buy just about anything that is used but still in perfect condition to save money. You can buy used, or second-hand clothes, books, games, toys, pre-owned gift cards, CDs, DVDs, jewelry, furniture, home decorations, kitchen appliances/items, bikes, cars, workout equipment, accessories, and more items.
Selling apps like eBay, Amazon, Craigslist, Etsy, thredUp, Poshmark, etc. are some of the best places to look for used items online. You can get some killer deals on secondhand clothes on Facebook. And you can also buy used items at a thrift or consignment shop or yard sales to save money.
43. Earn Cashback Online
Online cash back apps like Rakuten (formerly Ebates) give you a percentage of your purchase as cash back when you shop online via these apps. Currently, Rakuten is one of the most popular cashback apps on the market.
Once you have signed up for it, you can search for the stores you want to shop for. When you make a purchase, Rakuten will give you a percentage of your purchase as cash back. It also gives you a $10 sign-up bonus just for signing up.
44. Buy Generic Products
Often the quality of generic products is similar to that of brand products but generic items are much cheaper. You will save a lot of money by buying store brands or generic brands instead of brands.
Ways to Live Cheap to Save Money on Food
45. Prevent Food Waste
Before you go shopping for groceries, go through your refrigerator and pantry to see what you have on hand to make breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. This will help you prevent food waste and save money on your grocery bill.
46. Meal Plan
Meal planning helps you save money because once you know what you will have for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks each day, you can use what ingredients you already have on hand plus shop for groceries accordingly.
It helps prevent food waste in addition to saving you money on grocery shopping. If you plan your meals ahead, you are also less likely to order takeout meals.
47. Eat at Home
One of the best ways to eat well for less and live cheap is by eating at home. Eating out or buying already prepared food is expensive. Instead, cook your own food to live cheap and save money on food.
If you are eating out several times a week at a fancy or expensive restaurant for dinner, it is an expense you should cut back on or cut out completely if you want to live cheap and save money. Instead, cook at home to eat homemade meals that are much healthier and cheaper than eating out.
48. Go Meatless Once a Week
One of the best ways to live cheap is by going meatless at least once a week. Eating less meat also lowers the risk of certain diseases. So save money by going meatless once a week. Instead, eat vegetables, beans, lentils and whole grains that are good for both your health and wallet.
49. Drink More Water
Drinking plenty of water throughout the day will keep you hydrated and save money on unhealthy and expensive beverages. Do not drink bottled water, though. Instead, invest in a good water filter and get a reusable water bottle so you can drink filtered water anytime.
50. Do Not Buy Bottled Water
An easy way to live cheap and save money is to stop buying bottled water. Those expenses can really add up. Instead, use a water filter and carry around a refillable water bottle so that you can drink water on the go. Your wallet and the planet will thank you.
How to Live Cheap by Saving Money on Your Health
51. Buy Generic Medications
Generic medications contain the same active ingredients as their brand name equivalents and are generally much cheaper than their counterparts. If any coupons are available for your medications, or if buy generic medications on sale, you can save more money. But always ask your doctor or pharmacist if you can buy a generic version of the drug you are prescribed.
52. Quit Smoking
One of the best ways to live cheap and save money is by stopping smoking. Smoking is not only bad for your health but it is also bad for your wallet. By stopping smoking, you can save thousands of dollars every year.
53. Do Not Buy Sodas and Alcohol
Like smoking, sodas and alcohol are not only bad for your health, but they also cost you lots of money. You can save thousands of dollars every year plus live a healthy life if you quit drinking alcohol.
54. Exercise Regularly
By exercising regularly you can maintain good physical and mental health. When you exercise regularly, you can lower the likelihood of developing various types of diseases that could be expensive.
55. Get Annual Checkups
Even if you feel you are healthy, getting an annual checkup can help detect potential health problems early, which can save you a lot of money on medications, hospital bills, and more. Most healthcare plans typically include annual checkups so it is worth knowing if yours include it as well.
56. Cut Your Own Hair
It’s true how cutting your own hair can save you thousands of dollars. It’s not a new practice, and it doesn’t have to be difficult. There are sites devoted to various techniques on how you can learn how to cut your own hair by just buying a pair of clippers. In this article, we explain how much money you can save by cutting your own hair.
Final Thoughts on How to Live Cheap
With these ways to live cheap, you can live within your means to save $1,000 this month. When you know why you want to live cheaply and how to live cheaply, you can achieve your money goals faster. It all depends on your lifestyle and your spending habits. All of these ideas on how to live cheap can help you live a more frugal lifestyle.