Ask the Readers: What Is Your Favorite Frugality Tip?

By Ashley Jacobs on 23 April 2013 (Updated 30 April 2013) 94 comments

Editor's Note: Congratulations to Karen, Ria, and Vickie for winning this week's contest!

There are tons of frugal living tips out there. TONS. Some make a lot of sense, others make you think "Huh. That's...interesting." Then there are tips that cause you to jump up and go, "Wow! I can't wait to try it out!" and it turns out that the tip is, indeed, as great as you thought it might be.

What is your favorite frugality tip? How did you learn about it — from family or friends, a blog, a book? How often do you share this tip with others?

Tell us about your favorite frugality tip and we'll enter you in a drawing to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

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Tina in NJ

My favorite frugal tip is "sleep on it." If I absolutely have to buy something, it's worth coming back for. Guess how often I actually go back? It happens, but not often. If I'm at a flea market or craft fair, I go through the whole show, then decide what to buy. If I can find it again.

Guest's picture
Joe

Cooking your own food! It is healthier, tastes better, and is far cheaper than eating out.

Guest's picture
Alicia

My favorite frugality tip is something my grandmother always said, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without." While she took this to the extreme, saving every scrap of garbage (seriously, every) and repurposing it, I just try to make it about mindfulness about using what I have at hand before going out to buy bigger, better and newer.

Guest's picture
Tabathia B

I guess clipping coupons to save money which I learned about from a popular blogger/couponer about 8 years ago who had a yahoo subscriber club and hosted classes here in NC or unplugging small appliances to reduce electricity bills which is something I saw on television

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Mary Happymommy

Frugality tip: I buy my cars certified pre-owned.

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Linda

Shopping the bulk bins at the natural food store: helps me buy just what I need, at a lower cost, and without packaging. That's the zero waste trifecta.

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Patty

Using the library is my favorite frugality tip. It is so easy to put books on hold, check out DVDs, participate in a book club and other free events, borrow free magazines, and buy some very nice used books at monthly book sales! I worked in a library and have shared many cost-saving ideas with others. Since I am an avid reader, I know I save hundreds of dollars every year. Libraries offer so much for all ages and interests!

Guest's picture
David

In DC, anytime you go shopping, you need to pay 5 cents per bag. I live nearby a trader Joes and always pay for the double bags whenever I go shopping. The reason is that the double bag also serves as a garbage for me in my apartment. I calculated that 20 garbage bags costs $5.50, which means that each garbage bag costs roughly $0.25. This way I am saving money each time by only paying a dime and getting a convenient way to carry my groceries.

Guest's picture

making my own cleaning products. found on a blog and have been using this product since.

Guest's picture
Toco

Frugal tip would be research before you buy it.
Food, clothing, decoration almost what ever you are looking for.

Check the weekly circular before going super market.
Plan meal from what's on the sale. Not plan the meal first and go buy ingredients.
Check the shelf or clearance corner.
Think about the item from clelance , what can I do with this.
My local super markets keep items on regular shelf but soe are marked 'close down'
Price is depend but sometime 75-90% off.

Make everything at home as much as you can.
This apply to many thing but I'm talking about food.
Growing is even better.
Bread, pizza, pie crust,pot sticker,all sweet etc.
It is time consuming so it not possible to everybody.
But making it on your own certenly saves lot of money.

Look for thrift store.
I don't know this apply to any city,
But my local goodwill have many brand new sometime even stil with tag items.
over stock or what ever the reason , if thos are fits what I am looking for.
Its just amazing deal.

Guest's picture
Christie

My favorite frugality tip? Don't spend it if you don't have it; save up for something first. If you're buying something just because you want it, that is not a good enough reason to go into debt for it.

Guest's picture
Amy

Ooh tough one, there are so many!
Mine would be meal planning, it stops panic dinners where you spend too much and you can also use leftovers for packed lunch and freezer supplies for when you haven't got time to cook properly.

Guest's picture
Sweta

I like to book big meals at home and then take leftovers to work. It's healthier and cheaper than going out to eat. I find most of my recipes on Pinterest.

Guest's picture
Guest

Only one?!

Learn how to be content.

Guest's picture

Buying giftcards at a discount to buy what I need and want.

Guest's picture
Cate Taylor

i find with young kids in the house, we have a regular influx of new things: clothes they require (which are usually gifts) as well as toys (also gifts). i stopped geting frustrated at the amount of "stuff" coming in and started actively purging what we no longer need/use on a regular basis. i sell the items to local friends and neighbors through a local kids swap/sell facebook page. i put those funds aside for activities or items the kids REQUIRE or for adventures (which we prefer to spend our money on, over STUFF!) i think the tip though is removing sentimentality from objects, and moving along on things you no longer need or do not use, but specifically for kids, it's a non-stop task.

Guest's picture
CINDY

Stopping lawn service. We purchased a good lawnmower and will now mow our own lawn.

Guest's picture

I think the best frugal tip that I can follow is to plan out meals based on the sales. Before you go grocery shopping, look at what's on sale and what you have in the pantry and try to plan a week of dinners using those things.

Guest's picture
NJ

My favorite frugality tips are: always use a coupon when you can, almost anything is negotiable when it comes to making a good deal and always keep a spare change account to keep your financial ducks in a row.

Guest's picture
ria rowan

I love shopping and stocking up on great sales and using coupons.

Guest's picture
Jenifer

I bought a Nalgene bottle. Now I never buy water bottles....and I can use them for more than just water if I want! I have saved hundres of dollars after the purchase of that $10 water bottle. I love that!

Guest's picture
Joey

Break the soda habit! I drink water to hydrate (which I always have with me in my mason jar water bottle), homemade coffee to wake up, and the occasional adult beverage. Not ever buying a beverage while out and about helps me save money.

Guest's picture
Jim Pryde

Shop your local grocery store sales. Though it may take time, it saves us a ton. Also, utilize other stores' price matching guarantees. I take advantage of this at our local Wal-Mart all the time.

Guest's picture
Guest

I compare the price to how much I earned per hour and then get the ## of hours I would have to work
We eat "in" and at times invite friends (if we want company)
We refuse to pay full price for certain item and stock up on manager' specials and outdated items that are still safe to consume.

Guest's picture
Shari C

I save on laundry be using dryer sheets twice and using less soap per load. Still gets clean, but doesn't use as much as the manufacturer tries to insist!

Guest's picture
Roxanne Mitchell

My favorite frugality tip is ALWAYS find a way somehow to pay for several items that are on sale if the product is something you are going to have to buy anyway in the next three to four months. Even if you think you cannot afford it. Buy them anyway and save yourself thirty to forty percent off on your grocery or household purchases over the next three months. And use the money you save then to take advantage of MORE bargains. You can really lower your overall cost of living if you simply always try to NEVER PAY RETAIL.

Guest's picture
Corinne

Plan your meals in advance before going food shopping. That way you'll spend less time in the store and less time making your meals, and you'll have everything you'll need for your meals during the week. No more wasting $ at the local fast food joint/

Guest's picture
David

I like to record my transactions into my smartphone's financial app- it makes me more thoughtful about where my money is going, plus I can see how much I've spent on what at the end of each month.

Guest's picture
Dom

My favortie tip is: Only buy it if it: increases your health, wealth, or life experiences!

Guest's picture
Elena

I use coupons and shop on sales

Guest's picture
Diane

I have a long list... 2 of my favorite frugality tips involve Amazon~ Research before you buy & get free books on the Kindle from Amazon (check out bookbub.com!) Another favorite is to have a cooling off period before buying anything, to determine if I REALLY need or want it.

Guest's picture
Therese

My favorite frugal tip is to wait before making a major purchase to be sure that you still want it and are not caught up in buying at the spur of the moment.

Donna Freedman's picture

My favorite frugality tip is my Frugal Filter. Whenever I want to buy something I run the potential purchase through the filter:
--Do I really need it?
--Do I have something already that might suffice?
--If I really do need it, is there a way to get it cheaply (thrift store, yard sale) or free (Freecycle, borrowing it from someone)?
--If it's not available the cheap/free way, how else can I bring the price down (cash in some rewards points, use an online price comparison tool, order through a cash-back shopping site)?
This sounds unwieldy but it isn't. Takes only a minute or so, and can be done while looking closely at the item to be purchased.

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Karen L.

I like to try (and buy if pleased) generic or store brand products. Generics are often times just as good for groceries, health and beauty products, and medications

Guest's picture
Sally

My favorite frugal tip is to clean and reuse the glass and plastic containers some items come in.

Guest's picture
Nicole

Wait for it and do your research to get the best deal! If it is just an impulse buy than the impulse will pass and you will have saved your money for something more important. I also never buy anything anymore without doing research on quality and to compare prices.

Guest's picture
OFG

Keep a gratitude journal. If you are thankful for everything you already have you will find less need to buy excess items.

Guest's picture
AW

My tip is $10 buying fruits and vegetables at the farmers' market can feed a person for a 4-7 days whereas $10 at a fast food join will feed a person for one day. Not only that, by eating fresh fruits and veggies, you'll reap the added benefits of keeping your body healthy. And what's more important in life than that?

Guest's picture

Buy a used car with a good repair record, and then keep it. Repair it. Rebuild the engine, if needed, but don't trade it in because you think you'll save money--EVER. Because you won't.

If you trade it in, do it because you want a new car. It is extremely unlikely, however, that your old car will ever become more expensive than buying a newer one.

Guest's picture
Catherine

Creating and sticking to a budget. This has helped me enormously to realize the areas I could cut back on spending and helped increase my savings.

Guest's picture
Kymm

I use sites such as My Points, Swagbucks, and Bing Rewards to earn points which I can then redeem for gift cards. I've used those gift cards to give as gifts to others, to donate to the Red Cross in times of crisis (Hurricane Sandy is one example), and to purchase items I need or want myself. These are free programs and it only takes a few minutes each day to earn some points. You're going to be online anyway, so why not get something in return that can help stretch your dollars?

Guest's picture
Cliff Wrangler

I learned how to be more of a DIY person. From growing our own herbs, to fixing our car, I just read up on it, talked to a few people, and saved lots of money.

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vickie m

Seems like a hear about a new books a lot on blogs (like yesterday -a new cookbook) - I check our library's website where if they have it available I'm able to request it and borrow it for free. Garage sales are also a great way to find books. I known this all my life but it seems like I've just become more diligent about not buying it new till I have checked.

Guest's picture
Jody Keene-Walter

From chicken bones, I can get two pots of chicken stock. After I make the first batch, I start another one right up by reusing the bones a second time. Just as good. Makes a lot and we love soup at our house.

Guest's picture
Melissa Miller

I like to buy passes to fun places for the summer in the winter when prices are low.

Guest's picture
KelR1

My favorite frugality tip is to always do a little research before you buy something and see if there's a coupon/code/some way to get it for less (or even free!). Try to spend as little as possible on things.

Guest's picture
Betty D.

I stockpile items when they are on sale if it is a household staple. For instance, my can of coffee went on sale for $2.49. I bought 10 coupons on ebay for .50; coupons were faced .75, which my store doubles. I got 10 cans of my coffee for $.99.

Guest's picture
Guest

Always check the unit price at the grocery. More times than not, the big bottle or jar is NOT the best deal. This is very common at my local store for things like peanut butter and catsup.

Guest's picture
S K

One great frugal tip is to pack your own lunches if you are away from home. You can select the foods that you like to eat, and save a lot of money if you cook them yourself. Bake twice as many chicken or other meat pieces than you need and save them for lunches. There is a lot of advice for an inexperienced cook on the internet, too. I have saved beaucoup bucks by packing lunches for years, and it's a lot better for you than buying the cheapest lunches at the cheapest joints.

Guest's picture
MELISSA HANSSON

Buy the things you need when they are on sale. If you wait until the need is urgent, you'll pay full price and you won't have a choice.

Guest's picture
Bethany

Budget...it's a lifesaver!

Guest's picture
Julie

Don't mindlessly buy one particular brand of a product just because that's the brand you always use. You can save tons if you'll buy whatever brand is on sale or the store brand. (One thing that is great about the store brand products is that I don't have to spend time clipping coupons to get the low price - it's just that low price all the time.)

I think one thing that consumers were taught during the Coke and Pepsi 'wars' of the '80s is that we're supposed to pick a brand for something and stick with it no matter what. This is just a marketing thing. In almost all cases, I find that it's not worth it to pay twice as much - or more - for one particular brand of things. It just doesn't matter, and the differences are insignificant.

Guest's picture
Traci

I always have snacks and drinks in the car for the kids even on short trips. They always get hungry and stopping at a convenient mart is time consuming and too expensive.

Guest's picture
Kay

Wear clothing at least twice before washing. Not only does this cut down on detergent and water, but also on wear and tear of both the clothes and the washer. Since I am able to hang my stuff outside to dry, I don't have to worry about dryer costs. Also keep in mind that if you have a water softener, using the washer also requires more frequent cycling of the water softener which uses both water and softener salt.

Guest's picture
Caroline

Honestly, my tip is pausing. I just make myself pause, take a few breaths, and allow myself that moment to question whether I need to make a particular purchase. That pause has saved me quite a few pennies.

Guest's picture
Meaghan

My favorite frugal tip is to bring flats everywhere (in DC). I end up walking or biking lots more as opposed to taking cabs and I don't look ridiculous wearing heels, waking super slow on the metro!

Guest's picture
Stefanie

Coupons! Be on the lookout everywhere for coupons - your grocery store, newspaper, your email, online - you can almost always find a way to save on your purchases and experiences with a discount. Never pay full price!

Guest's picture
Jose

I make my own detergent and dry my clothes on a close line

Guest's picture
Ben

Don't eat out.

Guest's picture
Guest

Eat at home! We eat so well at home and don't spend more than $75 a week. We eat out once a week and rarely even buy things like coffee outside of the house.

Guest's picture
Guest

Use human-powered gardening tools and properly maintain them. Who needs a gym when you have a people - powered reel mower, edger, hedge clippers and aerator? No gas to buy and they last forever if you clean and oil them. Plus, it is nice to do yard work and still hear the birds chirping and people talking. This is a free stress reliever and stress relief=health care savings.

Guest's picture
diana

shop at the thrift store during the 50% off sell

Guest's picture
Monique

I try to be thoughtful about about my spending and consumption and buy used, borrow from the library, or make it myself whenever possible. I'm always surprised how many things I can do myself or wait just a little bit for.

Guest's picture
de

Before buying anything, consider whether there is something you already have that could fill the need, and before deciding a frugal idea is not worth the time, multiply out the savings per hour.

Guest's picture
Audrey H.

My favorite frugal tip is to pay with cash, meaning save for purchases so you don' have to borrow on credit.

Guest's picture
ashley

My favorite frugal tip is don't spend money on anything you don't need for a month. Eat out of your pantry and freezer as much as you can so you'll spend less. No magazines at the checkout, anything. After a month you will hate the feeling of money leaving your hand because you've become used to not giving it up. I know we have some needs but we also know what are wants disguised as needs. When you first spend on wants after that month you'll really dislike the feeling.

Guest's picture
Lokaty

My favorite frugality tip? Well - BUY IN BULK. Why is that?
Four points:
* you will save some money- items packed in bulk are often cheaper (per unit)
* you will go to market less often and thus your spendings on gasoline will reduce
* you will save environment (you know that CO2 pollution that melts the glaciers)
* you will save your time - remember: your time is your money!
so remember the BIN rule: Buy In Bulk ;)

Nice blog BTW :)

Guest's picture
Carol

"The internet is your friend"! If I something isn't working right, use Google before you call the repairman. If I'm not sure if I'm buying the best coffeemaker for my money, I can look at online reviews to see what others thought of it. Lots of home remedies, frugal recipes, ways to make money (ebay, craigslist etc).....the internet has saved me hundreds!

Guest's picture

Before shopping, I research coupon codes via Retailmenot.com. It's saved me a lot of money! I learned of this site via Twitter!

Guest's picture
Karl

We have a large family so my tip would be to buy gifts ahead of time on sale/clearance. I use my promo coupons I get (like $10 off) to pickup gifts and then I have items on hand for Birthdays ect. I also buy cards at the dollar store for anniversaries and special occasions!

Guest's picture
Lynda

my favorite tip is to combine sales with coupons. i figured it out on my own but i also see it on all the blogs!

Guest's picture
MotherLodeBeth

My favorite tip is the word REFUSE. When I refuse to buy in the first place or even refuse to take something free it makes my life easier and my lifestyle simpler.

Guest's picture
Scott

I call it "Endowment Theory". Calculate how much you need in your permanent endowment (like a college foundation, or church does) in order to afford something.

Let's say you want to add HBO to your cable. It's $15 a month, right? That's $180 a year. Endowments are currently running a 4% annual spend rate. So, you need $4,500 ($180 / 4%) in your "endowment" (or savings) in order to afford HBO. $4,500!

That's a lot of money you need to save to enjoy HBO. When you start to think this way about cable, cell phones, lattes, gym memberships, etc. you really start to look for alternatives.

Guest's picture

My best frugal tip is PLAN.

Plan your grocery list so you buy what you need and have what you need to make economical and healthy meals instead of going out to eat.

Buy greeting cards, note cards when they go on sale and you'll avoid paying $5 for one card.

Buy during the off season. Last year's wool blazers are 75% off in August.

Set your goals annually and review them monthly to make sure you're reaching them.
Set up an emergency fund.

A little planning in all aspects of your life will make reaching your goals much easier.

Guest's picture
Jessica

My favorite frugal tip is: I live in NYC and in cafe shops and the local community college there are always postcards exhibiting the latest art work either of the school, local artist or event going on in the city. Well if you look closely on the back of these postcards it has written "Pre-paid postage" on it. So no need to buy a stamp, write a quick note to someone and put it in the mailbox. Nice way to keep in touch instead of the impersonal email.

Guest's picture

Make choices that allow you to live car-free. My bike costs me about $100 a year to maintain and my fuel costs are covered in my groceries.

Guest's picture
prathee chandar

There are lots. My favorite one is to attack the big expenses and go down. For example, we look for ways to reduce our electricity expenses, rent (mortgage), utilities, phone etc. From there, we'll look for the next biggest and next biggest.. That way, we'll save high dollar when we start frugality, which is another way of motivation.

Guest's picture
Holly S

Eating out has become a luxury in our house lately between having two teenagers who have become very expensive to feed and just rising costs in general. On the occasions we do choose to eat out now I make sure that everyone selects water to drink (since soft drinks are often over $2 apiece now) and for me I will request a small to-go box when the food comes so I can automatically box up half my meal for lunch the next day. it's easier to justify the cost when I know I can normally get two servings out of my meal.

Guest's picture
Mindy

My best tip is to have FREE hobbies. I enjoy surfing which after buying a used surfboard around $300 you never have to pay again. Public beach parking is free and the ocean is free. I enjoy hiking and exercising which are both free using public parks and the outdoors. Playing basketball or tennis on public courts also free. Compared to most of people my age (early 20's) who's idea of a hobby is spending $60+ on drinks and appetizers every weekend... I'd rather do something free and fun outdoors!

-Mindy

Guest's picture
Guest

Save time and money by cutting your own hair. You can save well over $200 a year, not to mention the saved time and travel expense.

Guest's picture
Michelle

Periodically evaluate your daily/monthly/weekly habits. Do you need to wash your hair twice, or will one time do? Do you really need a handful of shampoo, or will a dime size dollop work? Must you stop for coffee, or could you make it at home? Do you automatically squirt a huge glob of toothpaste on the toothbrush then spit half of it out, or would a pea-size spot work? Rather than using a whole fabric softener sheet, will half of one work?

Expand out the savings. An example is the daily coffee. If you drop by a convenience store and spend $1/day on a cup of coffee, that adds up to $30 a month, and multiplied over a year is $360 a year. Stop doing that, and it's that much more back in your pocket.

These are but a few examples that, if you look closely at what you're doing, you'll find ways to cut back and save yourself money in the long run.

Guest's picture

I always make comparisons to things that i actually need to do with my money. I can easily go to the mall and spend a $100, but I say to myself, wait, that's my cable and Internet bill. works every time.

Guest's picture
Raina

I'd say living within one's means is the most important tip of all. People who live beyond their means end up paying interest and fees, and that's just a waste.

Guest's picture
DeeDee

I have two - packing my own lunch for work and not eating out.

Guest's picture
Liisa

Determine what is "enough" and stay there when considering new purchases. Things we add beyond our "enough" usually DECREASE our happiness in the end! Essentials and a few luxuries are all any of us need, although I think it does look a little different from person to person.

Guest's picture

Buy children's clothes used (if you can't get hand-me-downs)! Especially shoes! I'm able to get pairs of sneakers for my kids at 50 cents, and they look brand new. In the store, those same shoes were $35. I kid you not. My kids grow out of them so quickly, it just seems irresponsible NOT to buy them used!

I had heard about a local consignment shop from my mom. I tell everyone I know!

Guest's picture
Margaret Davis

My best frugal tip is to think - don't me mindless or operate on auto-pilot. Since I've quit mindlessly shopping for groceries, I've found several less expensive options on nearby shelves from my old go-to brands. Since I'm trying to quit mindlessly eating/snacking I've reduced food portions and now have leftovers to pack for lunch PLUS I'm buying fewer groceries. I think ahead - I've not yet mastered a menu plan but I do plan at least a few days out so I can blend what I have in my pantry with what is on sale. I think about what errands I have to run, put them in shortest driving order then put a cooler with chill packs, library books I'm returning, grocery list with coupons and sales marked, etc. in the car and do all my errands in one run out - I can even plan ahead and eat a treat with a coupon!

Guest's picture
Rebecca B. A. R.

By far my favorite frugality tip is making homemade laundry detergent. I learned it either in one of my frugality books or blogs. It has saved us a ton on money!

Guest's picture
Debra K

I love using the library and getting free Kindle books to support my reading habit instead of buying books. I also love the library for music CDs and DVDs. We've saved a bunch of money this way and get to meet our entertainment needs at a fraction of the cost we used to spend.

Guest's picture
J. Pario

My favorite frugal tip:

Use my hobbies to save money. For example, I like to sew, and so I made a dress out of sweaters destined for the thrift-store. (http://paintingontheceiling.blogspot.com/2013/01/snow-day-dress.html)

We like to garden, so we grow some of our own food.

We like to bike, so we save on transportation.

The fun kind of frugality is the kind that you keep doing! Happy saving, everyone!

Guest's picture
Alissa A

Always use coupons!

Guest's picture
Happy Love

The tips that I learned from my father are "don't carry debt" and "buy quality, but buy it on sale".

Guest's picture
Laura Jacobson

My favorite tip is to use Koolaid Lemonade packet mix to clean the dishwasher! So cheap and works so good!

Guest's picture
Carmen

My favorite tip is to not go grocery shopping when you're hungry. I've often found myself putting items in the cart only to realize that I was hungry - and then put them back