50 Frugal Life Hacks to Save Money and Live Better
Living frugally doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, there are many simple tips and tricks that can help you save money and live better. Below you’ll find 50 – yes, 50! – frugal life hacks that anyone can use.
These tips will help you save money on groceries, utilities, transportation, and more. Whether you’re looking to get out of debt or just want to live a little bit more comfortably, these tips will help you do it.
Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as financial advice.
Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links and other affiliate links. I earn a commission on qualifying purchases.
Frugal Food Hacks
1. Meal plan.
Planning ahead can help you save money on groceries. When you know what you’re going to eat for the week, you can make a list and stick to it. This will help you avoid buying unnecessary items.
When it comes to meal planning, try using a mixture of new and tried and true recipes. For example, maybe you include two new recipes that you can’t wait to try, plus a few simple recipes that your family always loves.
You don’t always need full recipes either. A box of pasta with a jar of sauce and a bag of frozen veggies makes a cheap no-fuss dinner, as does instant brown rice with a can of beans, can of tomatoes with green chiles, and avocado.
[Related: Find great frugal breakfast ideas to help you meal plan!]
2. Always pack snacks.
Packing snacks with you can help you save money and avoid hangry meltdowns. Keep some non-perishable items in your purse or gym bag so you’ve always got something on hand.
Here are some reasonably priced ideas:
- Dried fruit
- Peanut butter or almond butter packets (these can be a little expensive but you can sometimes stock up on sale)
- Trail mix
- Canned fruit
- Packets of seasoned tuna
- Granola bars
- Protein bars (stock up on sale)
- Beef jerky (store bought can be pricey but look for cheaper brands or make your own)
This has been clutch for our family more times than we can count! For example, recently I was traveling for work and got delayed. Luckily, I had a big ‘ol bag of trail mix in my purse to stave off those crazy expensive airport purchases.
3. Try Flashfood.
Flashfood is one of my absolute apps for saving money on food! They partner with grocery stores in certain areas of the United States and Canada. The stores use it as a way to reduce food waste, posting discounted items in the app. Think foods that they have excess stock of, foods that are close to expiration, or foods that maybe have a slight imperfection (for example, we often buy 18-packs of eggs that have one egg missing).
My favorite part of the app is that they frequently post $5 produce boxes. You can buy these and try to meal plan around what you get. Below is an example of what I received in two of these boxes recently ($10 total). [See more sample orders in my Flashfood review.]
Not using Flashfood yet? Download the app and use my referral code CHRI2VVQP. You’ll get a $5 reward when you make your first $10 purchase on the app.
4. Embrace the freezer section.
The freezer section is your friend! Frozen veggies are just as nutritious as fresh, but often less expensive. Frozen fish is also a great buy – did you know most “fresh” fish at the seafood counter was previously frozen anyway?
5. Bulk cook.
Another great way to save money (and time) is to bulk cook. When you make a big batch of something, you can freeze portions for later use. A few weeks down the road when you don’t feel like cooking, pop out one of these pre-made meals and you’ve got an easy dinner.
6. Make your own coffee.
As much as I hate people saying “quit your latte!” and acting like that’s the one piece of financial advice that’s going to make us rich – making your own coffee at home can save you money. Investing in a good coffee maker and some quality beans will pay off in the long run.
In fact, you may not even need a coffee maker. I recently discovered making homemade cold brew and it is so easy! All you need to do is soak the ground coffee with water overnight, then strain and use the concentrated cold brew as you’d like.
7. Bring your lunch to work.
This is an easy way to save money – and it’s usually healthier, too! Cooking in bulk on the weekends or using leftovers for lunch can help you save money and time during the week.
We also like to always keep a few cheaper frozen meals in the freezer to grab on days where we didn’t prep anything for lunch. Aldi has some great frozen meals under their “Whole and Simple” line that usually cost about $3 each. We love the Mediterranean and Southwestern style chicken quinoa bowls. It may not be as cheap as making food from scratch, but it’s certainly less expensive than ordering takeout and the dishes are quite nutritious.
8. Check out discount grocers.
There are many discount grocers in the United States, such as Aldi and Lidl. They are far smaller than normal grocery stores and don’t keep many brand-name items in stock – but the tradeoff is you get much better prices.
Some locations have different types of discount grocers or food outlets, which tend to carry foods close to expiration. You can score great deals here as long as you are comfortable preparing food quickly or freezing it.
9. Try Too Good to Go.
Craving takeout? The Too Good to Go app partners with local restaurants to help them reduce food waste. You can find cheap deals on “surprise” takeout bags.
We use this all the time for a few local spots. At a local donut shop, our surprise bags are often a dozen donuts and several bagels/muffins for $4. At a local restaurant, we’re often treated to healthy grain and veggie bowls topped with chicken or falafel for $5. (Sometimes that location will even throw in an extra rotisserie chicken on top of the other items if they have too many on hand!)
10. Start a garden.
Gardening is a great way to save money on groceries and get some exercise outdoors. If you have the space in your backyard, you can start a traditional garden – but don’t rule out gardening if you’re in a condo or townhouse. Container gardens can grow a surprising amount of fresh produce, and work great on a porch!
When choosing what to grow, prioritize things you eat frequently or produce that tends to be more expensive at the store.
You can also use your garden to potentially exchange food with other people in your town. For example, if you’ve got a surplus of zucchini, maybe you trade a few of those with someone else that has extra tomatoes.
11. Join a CSA.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is another great way to get fresh, locally-grown produce. With a CSA, you pay upfront for a share of the season’s harvest. This allows farmers to plan their production and helps to support local agriculture. In return, you get access to fresh, seasonal produce that’s typically cheaper than purchasing from farmers markets (and can sometimes be cheaper than big grocery stores, depending on the program).
12. Stretch your meat.
Meat can be expensive, but we love it in our house. Consider ways to stretch your meat so that it goes further. For example, you can add chopped mushrooms or cooked lentils to ground beef for things like burgers or tacos. Rice or oats can be used to stretch beef in meatloaf. You can use half the amount of meat in soups and stews, adding extra veggies or beans to replace the rest.
Here are a few helpful recipes that show you how to stretch meat:
- Blended beef and mushroom burgers
- Beef and lentil soup
- Beef and lentil taco meat
- Lentil turkey meatballs
13. Use food scraps and expiring food.
One of my favorite frugal life hacks that also helps us be more sustainable is to use food scraps that would otherwise be thrown away, or figure out ways to use food that’s about to go bad.
- Save vegetable scraps and beef or chicken bones to make homemade stock.
- Use the stalks of broccoli to make a creamy broccoli cheddar soup.
- Have extra yogurt that’s about to go bad? Freeze extra yogurt in an ice cube tray, then pop that into smoothies.
- Turn over-ripe bananas into banana bread or pancakes.
- Got a bunch of herbs about to go bad? Make a big batch of pesto and freeze it it for future use.
- Top a salad with tortilla chip crumbs.
14. Drink water.
Staying hydrated is crucial for our health, and water is the best (and cheapest) way to do it. Fill up a good quality water bottle throughout the day with tap water, and sip on it regularly.
If your water quality isn’t great at home, consider investing in a good water filter that will be more cost effective (and eco-friendly) over time compared to bottled water.
Frugal Utility Hacks
15. Get a programmable thermostat.
A programmable thermostat can help you save money on your heating and cooling costs. You can set it to lower the temperature when you’re not home, and raise it again shortly before you arrive. This simple hack can help you save a significant amount of money over time!
16. Unplug electronics when you’re not using them.
Did you know that many electronics continue to draw power even when they’re turned off? To save money on your electricity bill, unplug electronics when you’re not using them. This includes things like phone chargers, toasters, and other kitchen appliances.
17. Swap out your light bulbs.
If you haven’t already, swapping out your traditional light bulbs for LED bulbs is a great way to save money on your electricity bill. LED bulbs use less energy and last longer than traditional bulbs – so they’ll save you money in the long run! According to the US Department of Energy, the average household would save about $225 in energy costs each year when they switch to LED lighting.
18. Find new ways to get cozy.
Get creative in the winter months before turning up the thermostat. Layer with long sleeves and a sweatshirt instead of turning on the heat. Grab a few cozy blankets to snuggle under on the couch. Wear fuzzy socks that keep your feet warm, and a knit hat that can keep your head warm.
You don’t want to be uncomfortable of course – but making a few simple changes could help you keep the thermostat a few degrees lower.
19. Hang dry your clothes.
Hanging your clothes to dry instead of using the dryer can save you money on your utility bills. It’s also better for the environment! You can hang them on a line outside or invest in a drying rack to use indoors.
20. Monitor your water bill.
Keep an eye on your water bill each month. If you notice a sudden increase in your usage, there may be a leak somewhere in your home. Fixing a leak can save you money on your water bill and help to prevent costly damage to your property.
21. Wash clothes on cold.
Washing your clothes in cold water can save you money on your utility bills – and gets the job done just fine!
22. Cancel cable.
If you’re paying for cable, it’s time to cancel! With so many streaming options available, there’s no need to pay for an expensive cable package. You can get many of the channels and shows you want for a fraction of the price with a streaming service like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime Video.
Just be careful not to sign up for too many streaming services. If you join every one, your monthly bill could be very similar to cable. Instead, look for one or two options that have a good variety of shows that you enjoy.
You can also consider investing in a digital antenna, which can get you many local channels. (If you live in a rural area though, you may not get much access with a digital antenna.)
23. Switch to a low-cost phone carrier.
There are many low-cost phone carriers available that can save you a lot of money each month. Some of the most popular options include Mint Mobile, Cricket, and Ting.
For the longest time, I hesitated from switching off of Verizon. That bill – just for my phone service! – was $80/month though. I eventually took the plunge and switched to Mint Mobile. The result? Good service with the same amount of data for only $15/month!
Frugal Travel Hacks
24. Walk or bike to run local errands.
Walking or biking is not only good for your health – it’s also good for your wallet! You’ll save money on gas while improving cardiovascular fitness.
Research shows that about 20% of our car trips are one mile or less. Many people think walking or biking will take a ton of extra time, but for these short trips, it’s not much extra time at all. For most people, a mile is only a 20-minute walk, or a 6-8 minute bike ride.
25. Try GasBuddy.
The GasBuddy app can help you find the cheapest gas prices in your area. Simply enter your location and the app will show you a list of nearby gas stations, along with the current prices for each one.
26. Carpool when possible.
Carpooling is a great way to save money on gas and reduce your carbon footprint. If you live close to friends or family, see if you can carpool when running the kids to soccer practice or going grocery shopping. When each person takes a turn, you’re all able to save money over time.
27. Use credit card points to travel cheaply.
If you have a credit card with rewards points, you can use them to travel for free or at a deeply discounted rate. Many cards offer sign-up bonuses that can get you enough points for a free flight or hotel stay. Just be sure to pay off your balance in full each month (and avoid this tip if you struggle with credit card debt).
28. Extend work trips.
If you travel for work and your job is covering flights to/from a certain location, consider extending your stay to add a personal vacation onto the trip. This is a great way to visit new places without having to pay for airfare yourself.
For example, there’s an upcoming work conference that I’ll likely be attending. I’ll personally pay to extend the hotel on that trip so I can enjoy exploring a fun location, but the airfare will be free through that work trip.
29. Evaluate parking options for events.
Taking your family to a sports game or going on a date night to a concert at a stadium? Weigh all your options for parking. Often, local folks may offer cheaper parking at their house or in their yard (in exchange for a short walk over) compared to parking on site.
You can also check apps like Uber to see if getting dropped off and picked up ends up being less than actually parking on site.
30. Visit free attractions.
When traveling, take advantage of free attractions! You may find certain museums with free admission, amazing local hikes, or free concerts and festivals taking place. Check Facebook and Google to search for free events where you’re visiting.
Personal Care Hacks
31. Look for modeling opportunities for haircuts.
No, you don’t have to be a professional model for this! You can often find local hair salons that are training new stylists and looking for new models to practice on. They’ll give you a free or discounted haircut in exchange for being their guinea pig.
Look in the beauty services section of Cragislist as well as local Facebook groups to find opportunities like this. Just be sure to vet them as legit businesses with real locations; there are always sketchy people out there.
32. Check Groupon and other daily deals sites for spa services.
If you’re looking for a massage, manicure/pedicure, or other spa service, check Groupon and similar sites first. You can often find great discounts – just make sure to read the fine print before purchasing anything.
If you choose to use a site like this, try to book your appointment right away. Many Groupons have relatively short expiration dates, and you don’t want to lose the discount you secured.
33. Check your local massage school.
Similar to the hair salon hack, many massage schools allow their students to practice on real clients. It’s a win-win – you get a cheap or free massage, and the student gets some valuable experience!
34. Shop at thrift stores and garage sales.
You can find some amazing deals at thrift stores and garage sales! Think brand-name clothing, furniture, and home decor for a fraction of the retail price. It’s worth taking the time to browse through these spots – you never know what treasures you’ll find.
35. Use Facebook to search for needed items.
Have you ever needed to find a specific item but didn’t want to pay full price? Facebook may be a great place to find it!
The first place to check is a local buy nothing group or local moms group on Facebook. The folks in our town are always so generous giving away free things (our first treadmill came from Facebook for free!).
The second place to check is Facebook marketplace, where you can see people selling items they no longer want. They typically aren’t free, but are usually much cheaper than buying new. You might be surprised at what you can find!
36. Check for coupons and cash-back offers.
If there’s something you must buy, always check for coupons before completing your purchase. There are a ton of sites that offer coupons for online and brick-and-mortar stores, like RetailMeNot.
You can also use cash-back offers from Rakuten. When you visit that site, it will direct you to the retailer’s site. You’ll get a percentage of your purchase back in the form of a rebate, which you can then use for future shopping trips.
Not on Rakuten yet? Join here! If you sign up using that link and make an online purchase of $30, you’ll earn a bonus $30 cash back to your account.
37. Stock up off-season.
This is a great frugal life hack for clothes shopping. When an item goes on clearance at the end of the season, grab them now for the next season. For kids, this often means buying a size up. This is one way we keep our kids’ closets stocked with clothes – and it doesn’t break the bank!
38. Check your receipts.
When you’re at the store, take a quick glance at your receipt to make sure everything scanned correctly. We’ve all had items scan for the wrong price – and it’s usually only a few minutes to get it corrected.
Bonus – some states actually have pricing laws that offer additional incentives. For example, in Massachusetts we have a pricing law for grocery stores. Food must ring up correctly at grocery stores. If it doesn’t and the item costs less than $10, the store is supposed to give you the item for free!
39. Make your own cleaning supplies.
You can save a lot of money by using a frugal hack of making your own household cleaners. For example, vinegar and baking soda are two inexpensive ingredients that can be used for everything from cleaning drains to scrubbing toilets. There are many recipes online for DIY cleaners – just make sure you’re using safe ingredients!
40. Use washable cloths for cleaning instead of paper towels.
This frugal life hack will help you save money and be more eco-friendly. Instead of using paper towels to clean up messes, use washable cloths instead. You can even make your own out of old t-shirts or towels.
41. Use YouTube videos for simple home repairs.
If you’re not handy, it can be tempting to call a professional for every little repair around the house. But YouTube is a great resource for learning how to do simple repairs yourself! With a little time and effort, you may learn how to do tasks like fix broken grout or replace a broken appliance.
Example: Last year, the oven portion of our stove stopped working. While we could have payed several hundred dollars to get a local company to repair it, we did a quick Google search and found out the most likely cause was a faulty igniter. It only cost us about $60 to get the necessary part, and a YouTube video taught us how to fix it in ten minutes.
Family Fun Hacks
42. Use the library.
The library is a great resource for all families. You can check out books, movies, and video games for free! Many libraries also offer free programs and events for children and adults, like craft nights or book clubs.
I made a resolution last year to not purchase any brand new books this year, and to instead use the library (or very rarely, buy a book at the thrift store to bring along while traveling). It’s great because it also helps reduce unnecessary clutter in the house.
43. Have a game night.
Game nights are a great way to have fun with family or friends without spending any money. Pull out some of your favorite board games or cards and enjoy an evening together. If you don’t have any board games at home, see if you can borrow some from a neighbor.
44. Get outside.
There are so many ways to have fun outdoors – and most of them are free! Go for a hike, explore a new park, go on a nature scavenger hunt, or have a picnic in your backyard.
45. Drink at home instead of at a bar.
Love craft beer? Crave a good glass of wine with dinner? If you’re trying to save money, it’s cheaper to drink at home instead of going out.
You can usually buy a good bottle of wine or four-pack of craft beer for about $15 – often the cost of just one fancy cocktail at a restaurant.
46. Call and negotiate charges.
Got a late charge on a credit card bill? Accidentally overdraft your account? Call and ask for them to waive the fee. If you’ve been a good customer without a history of late payments, most companies are likely to do this.
47. Do a subscription audit.
How many monthly subscriptions do you have? If you’re like most people, the answer is probably “too many!” From TV streaming services to gym memberships to music subscriptions, it’s easy to let those little charges add up.
Take a look at all the subscriptions you’re currently paying for and see if there are any that you can cancel. You might be surprised at how much money you could save each month!
48. Check your credit card for offers.
Many credit cards have special offers for customers. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has previously offered perks like a free 6-month Instacart membership and a $50 hotel credit statement. Check out what your card offers to see if there’s any benefits that make sense for your family.
(Bonus – that card offers an amazing points incentive when you spend a certain amount of money in three months. Those points can be used to fund a vacation!)
49. Review insurance.
You can look at saving on insurance two ways:
- Compare the cost of policies among carriers
- See if a plan with a higher deductible is a considerably cheaper policy (so long as you could afford the deductible).
These can apply to home, car, and health insurance.
50. Get a side hustle.
Maxed out on all the savings ideas? If you’re looking for ways to make some extra money, consider getting a side hustle. With the rise of the gig economy, there are many opportunities to make money from home – or even while you’re out and about.
There are a number of ways to get started with a side hustle, depending on your interests and skills. You could start dog walking, become a driver for Uber or Lyft, deliver food with DoorDash or Postmates, or even start your own small business.
(You can also find some lazy money making ideas in this post, which are pretty low effort but provide a decent payout.)
Finally, remember that frugal living is all about balance. You don’t have to deprive yourself of everything in order to save money. Just make sure that you’re spending wisely in a way that aligns with your values!