This one is fun! 😉 Frugal people rarely need a checklist for what they do naturally but it could help someone wondering if they are frugal enough with their lifestyle.
Now not everyone is naturally frugal with their money. Some people are spenders and prefer to be big moneymakers than savers. But if money is tight, frugaling it up would help the bottom line. Some people are naturally frugal while others just need a little kick in the jumper, so let’s get started!
Everyone knows the general definition of frugality but not everyone can agree on the exact principles of frugality. Frugality is not simply a word tossed around to prove monetary responsibility. It is a set group of small behaviors that need to be brought to attention in order to challenge spending habits.
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Is frugality necessary to becoming financially independent?
Saving enough money is necessary for becoming financially independent. The answer will depend highly on your income and what you want out of life. Typically, unless you are the wife of an NBA superstar, Stan Lee, or a key cast member to Games of Thrones – banging down 20 million dollars a year salary – frugality is an absolute must. Of course, we all have heard of celebrities and sports stars going broke mismanaging their finances.
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More importantly, frugality is also a less selfish way to live life.
Ever heard of “waste not, want not?” You can spend $1,000 to upgrade an economy flight to first-class – but the ticket itself was only $800. Would you spend more than twice as much just for extra pillows and a few hours of extra legroom? Would that $1,000 dollar not look better in your bank account? Or donated to a local charity to do more “overall good?”
There is a point of declining return when it comes to luxury. Frugal people want to find the best value for their dollar and when you have a declining point of return, natural savers will consider it to be a waste.
1. Contribute to a retirement account
Phew boy, this is important! Do you or your spouse have a 401k, HSA, or IRA? A frugal person is also smart with their money. A person with the frugal genes knows that contributing 401k, HSAs, and IRAs means it’s free money! Some companies with 401k plans even also come with employer matches.
2. Know their budget numbers
Everyone needs a budget, or at the very least, rough numbers to live in. It’s not just a frugal thing to do but it’s the smart thing to do. Budgets are, in fact, very important and the first time we did our budget as an official couple, I was surprised to see where my money was going.
Now I’m addicted to it. We made our own budget template in Google (the same one that we use ourselves) that you can download for free if you sign up to our mailing list. Just like any decent human being, we won’t spam and you can unsubscribe anytime 😉
3. Shop mainly at discounted stores
I love a great deal and pretty much all frugal people LOVE to scavenge hunt for a deal. I’ve gotten countless compliments from my kitchenware set to my collection of throw pillows – and my guests think I traded my wallet for them when they were literally fractions of retail.
A good price at the thrift store is usually just 10% of the full retail price. $20 new spanking throw pillow will be brought down to $2 at a secondhand shop.
Bonus, we make donations regularly to our Goodwill store so we can recycle back what we don’t use. Extra frugal bonus: the items we donate can count as tax deductions! You can find the official tax form here.
4. Your phone is more than 2 years old
This is the nail in the coffin for if you want to know if someone is frugal. When I smashed the glass screen on my Galaxy phone, I kept it for 3 more years. Smartphones are expensive! People who trade up annually are simply wasting their money pursuing slightly new technology.
If you have the money on hand, get an unlocked smartphone is what’s recommended. You will pay less in the long run by a few hundred dollars with an affordable unlocked cell phone plan.
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5. You buy generic brand groceries
We used to live near a Whole Foods (before it was purchased by Amazon) and that’s where we went shopping because we didn’t have a car. Everything was indeed more expensive at “Whole Paycheck.” We opted to shop smart at their less expensive Whole Food brand which was called Whole 365 but it was still expensive. Now that we moved homes, I’m happy to say the less expensive Costco bulk buys and Trader Joes is the majority of our grocery spending.
6. Vacation budget is less than 10% of salary
Dave Ramsey ordains a vacation be nothing higher than 10%-15% of your salary but we all know the extra frugal people tend to shoot even lower than that! Especially with credit card reward hacking!
I mean, it’s not a vacation if you come back with a heap load of debts and bills to pay – that’s not a vacation – that’s just called putting off your problems.
7. You have trouble throwing away things
Eh, I can admit this might be a gray area – I’m don’t want every hoarder out there to think they’re being frugal. But I do think I’m frugal because I grow my own green onions, make my own taco seasoning, and recycle tin cans/scrap metals. But I don’t onto an egg-shell container for 3 years hoping I’ll find a use for it someday (now that’s hoarding.)
8. Keep food costs low
Thrifty minded shoppers can enter into a store and not be distracted by the other twenty shiny things for sale. Frugal people don’t typically fall for splurges or go beyond their required itemized grocery list for the week.
9. Cooks food in batches
A meal plan also enables cooking in batches which is a great way to save money and time. What makes a meal plan a must for frugal people is how it makes cooking go so much smoother. You can plan for bulk cost and bring the overall total down. Cooking food in batches and storing them in the ref will save you time, effort, and convenience, which is what everybody loves!
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10. Will pick up that penny
You may have a friend that will embarrass you by picking that lonely penny in the sidewalk. For frugal people, a penny is still money! And every penny is worth saving!
11. Tracking spending trends
Tracing every dollar of your hard-earned money is a good way to control your finances. If you are tracking consistently you will be able to see your spending patterns and trends over time. Doing this will help set your focus on more important things and budget accordingly. If you find that you tend to overspend in a certain category then focus on controlling it or adjust your budgeted expectations.
12. Frugal people have financial plans
A frugal person always has a plan B when it comes to their finances. Emergency fund? Yes! HSA? Of course. Financially smart people are usually careful by nature. There is no such thing as “uhh, we will just see what happens.”
13. Not embarrassed to bargain
You’ll spot a frugal one when they try to pinch a few pennies in some embarrassing ways. That includes bargaining with a sales clerk or speaking up when the price that rings out at check out is higher than the expected sales price. You are not afraid to fight for that coupon to work!
(Keep in mind what differentiates a frugal and a cheapskate is a frugal person will know when to stop bargaining before it becomes too petty! Like you shouldn’t bargain if you’re buying from a charity church sale, for example. It’s for charity after all.)
14. Focuses on long-term financial peace
Frugal people usually make sure that their whole month or their whole year is all accounted for financially. They have plans for retirement, unexpected emergencies, and other financial surprises. They know how much they earn, spend, and save always!
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15. Says “no” to unnecessary expenses
Peer pressure can be very destructive on personal finances. About 20% of the neighbors on our block have upgraded to a shiny, new Tesla. Even though my husband and I can afford a Tesla upgrade – we have no interest in following the trend. A frugal person will always have a nerve of steel to say no to unnecessary new purchases Mr. and Mrs. Jones bring home.
16. …But can spend on worthy things
A frugal person can easily spend on things that are deemed worthy. After all, all of their purchases are often planned, so they will have the cash to buy things when they do need it. Our family will need to upgrade eventually to another car but it will only be worthy to upgrade when our car can no longer operate or keep us safe. We do not need a new car right now.
17. Enjoys free entertainment
Entertainment is better when free, so expect that a frugal person knows different ways to pass the time. If you invite them to see the Avengers: Endgame, chances are, you’ll receive a counter-invite that costs less.
A frugal person will usually use community resources. An excellent example is the Illinois State Fair which offers free stages for entertainments.
Besides sharing accounts of Netflix and Hulu with friends, I personally feel YouTube has truly everything you need – and besides ads, YouTube is 100% free.
18. Avoids malls
The only reason to be inside a store is if there’s a need to purchase something important. Unless you’re window shopping (without cash, of course), it is better to be somewhere else where unnecessary spendings could happen. Malls and naturally frugal people don’t usually coexist together compare to people who love mall shopping.
19. Uses coupons and cashback on each purchase
Just like what was mentioned earlier, frugal people will cut their spendings and save every single penny. Using coupons and cashback is a part of the planning and shopping challenge, the bigger the savings, the better.
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20. Salvage everything
When appliances and other household items break down or retire themselves, instead of throwing these things out, a wise move is to go to a scrap yard to recycle this stuff as scrap metal for cash.
21. Would rather Netflix and Hulu than have a cable
Cables usually cost $100 a month, while streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu usually costs about $10 to $15 per month. There won’t be as many selection or channels but you can save 80% off the price of cable entertainment.
22. Ignores the latest tech
Why would you replace something if it’s still working? A naturally frugal person usually ignores the latest tech and is happy with their old laptop, old phone, old gym equipment that still works just fine after all these years.
23. Can make something out of leftovers
Cooking for a hearty meal should not cost a lot. You can make good fried rice out of the leftovers from your last meal. A frugal person uses everything from the last piece of ham to the last drop to orange juice to save money.
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24. Use every inch of your fridge
It would be a waste of money and energy if the refrigerator’s job is only to cool down bottles of water. According to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, empty space in a refrigerator is inefficient. Frugal people even stuff their unused clothes in the fridge or freezer to conserve electricity.
25. Visit the clearance racks first
Purchasing something you need only when you need it is a practical behavior. But go one step further and drop a visit to the check clearance racks first to see if the thing you need is available at a clearance price.
26. Never skip a credit card payment
Accumulating interests in debt will cost you extra money. A frugal person will always pay it off in time and never carry a balance. According to Consumer, paying credit card bills late will affect your credit history. One way to avoid paying late fees is to stick in your budget and make sure to account for everything.
27. Accounts for everything
A frugal person who budgets the traditional way will account for every dollar that is spent.
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28. Avoids paying someone to do something
Unless it is wiser to do so, avoid paying someone to do a task that you can do given your time availability. The reason for this is that these spendings are actually “unnecessary” if you have the time and capability to do them. If you can do tasks like mowing your lawn during your free time, give yourself motivation and do so.
29. Double checks supplies before shopping
You don’t want to over purchase and waste your money. As a frugal person, I picked up the habit of checking our pantry staples like garlic, oil, and onions so when I see something perishable I won’t feel tempted to purchase it because I can’t remember how much is left at home.
30. Ignores brand names
Frugal people disregard the emphasis of brand names while focusing more on the function and price. A Gucci bag, however expensive it can be, has the main function of holding objects such as phones and makeups. To naturally frugal people, there is no significant reason why they should overpay an object just because of the brand name.
31. Simplicity is key when it comes to clothes
One trait that most frugal people share is that they opt to stay inside their homes if there’s no reason to be outside. We tend to be homebodies. Naturally, frugal people usually opt for simpler comfortable clothes. They have smaller closets overall. They understand that they don’t always have to look like a fashion model.
32. Likes their houses smaller
A smaller house means lesser maintenance and energy usage, not to mention the cost of the mortgage. Bigger houses don’t always offer comfort and practicability. If a smaller house fits all your needs, go and grab it.
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33. Few or no memberships
Monthly memberships for services that you seldom use, even if these services only cost a few dollars in a month, are still unnecessary expenses. Examples are gym memberships or streaming memberships.
34. Will never buy bottled water
It always surprises me when I see people buying a drink of water or sweet tea when they are easily 5 minutes from home, a Starbucks, or anywhere that has free water. Instead of buying water bottles bring along a water bottle or ask for a water cup from any nearby restaurant.
35. Buying in bulk
Do you pay attention to the ounces per price of a product? You just may be a smart frugal shopper then! At stores like Costco, we always check the per once price if it’s available. It’s a good way to price compare dog food and laundry detergent.
36. Friends with other frugal people
Birds of a feather flocks together! It’s the same value system as anything and having similarly frugal friends can be a great benefit. Money savvy friends can help each other by sharing frugal ideas, recipes, coupons, and deals.
My Favorite Money Saving Tools:
- Personal Capital: Sign up and use their net worth calculator for FREE. They are a free financial service platform that helps you analyze your portfolio, retirement, and financial health all on one simple & secure account.
- Ibotta: I thought this app was overrated before trying it myself. The “any item” promos instantly save you money after scanning your grocery receipt. Ibotta also hosts promos and contests for your team to save more by working together. One of the guys on my Ibotta team list has earned and saved over $100,000 using Ibotta. You can get $10 if you sign up.
- ThredUp: The only online recycle clothing store I currently shop and sell with. Great mission statement, company model, customer service, prices, and selection. Sign up with our invite link and you can get $10 free in ThredUP credit.
- $5 Meal Plan: Grocery shopping gets out of hand quickly. Meal planning can take loads of time, stress, and money you shouldn’t be spending. That’s where $5 meal plan comes in. They will give you a customization meal plan, recipes, and grocery list to take the headaches out of meal planning. They have a free 14-day trial, risk-free and you can cancel anytime.
- Honey: An add-on button you can use on your browser that helps you automatically find coupon codes and apply them when you shop online. You can use the button to shop on Amazon to find the best time to buy your favorite products. The app automatically applies the code to your shopping cart.