The 10 Daily Habits of Frugal People

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Author of Be Ready for Anything and Bloom Where You’re Planted online course

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There’s a big movement towards frugality afoot these days. It probably has something to do with our declining economy, record unemployment levels, and the increasing price of food, but only the wisest families are paying attention to these things. The rest of the folks are blithely going on as they always have, wondering why on earth they keep spending more money each week at the store.

If you are just beginning to move towards a thriftier lifestyle, you might be looking at the big picture. You could be asking yourself things like, “How can I save money on my car?” or “How can I pay less for that new laptop?” These are all fine things to do – paying less is great, but shopping for a bargain is actually not the key to a frugal lifestyle.

Living a life of thrift and frugality is all about the little habits. It’s about your mindset. Saving money on enormous expenditures is great, but it is the small daily actions that add up and change your life. Truly frugal people absolutely LOVE saving money. Embrace these daily habits and make them your own. You’ll soon see an incredible difference in the way you look at pretty much everything.

  1. Frugal people use everything right to the last drop. If you go to someone’s home and notice that their ketchup bottles are upside-down in the refrigerator, their toothpaste tube on the bathroom counter is tightly rolled and held in place with a clothespin, and the contents of the liquid soap pump look mysteriously watery, you may be visiting a fellow frugal person. We don’t like to waste stuff, so we use things right to the last drop until there is absolutely no life left in it. We use rubber spatulas to get one more sandwich from the peanut butter jar. (I even have a special skinny rubber spatula that I purchased for the express purpose of scraping out containers in the kitchen.) We extend our dish soap with a little bit of water. What others throw away, we see as a personal challenge. I don’t know about you, but I get a little rush seeing how many more bangs I can get for my buck when using things that most folks would consider empty.
  2. Frugal people like to stay home. Going out costs money. I’m lucky enough to work from home, so I don’t have the daily temptations that folks do who go out to work. First, there’s the peer pressure. In my old workplace, I was one of the few people who brought my lunch.  Each day, the other ladies would spend half an hour deciding where they were going to go for lunch together. Then there are transportation costs and incidentals. Thirsty? A bottle of water is just $1. I’m not saying that you need to be a hermit on a mountaintop, trekking into the village on foot once a year for salt, sugar, and a box of oranges to offset scurvy, but you don’t have to go out every single day. If you have the day off, why not enjoy your home and your family instead of heading out to an activity that is going to cost for admission, refreshments, and a snazzy item from the gift shop?
  3. Frugal people don’t spoil their children. This may not make you popular now, but later, your kids just might appreciate it. When my kids were in public school, I was astonished at the cost of various activities and events. There were $40 field trips, $5 “pizza days”, and special $50 hoodies with the school emblem. As a single mom with two kids in school, there was no way I was just forking out the money for this stuff. So, when the girls came home with forms and asked for money, I made a list of extra chores they could do around the house to earn the money for the activity. If they didn’t feel it was worth a little extra work for them, I certainly wasn’t going to hand them my hard-earned cash for it. They learned the value of work, the relationship between work and getting stuff, and that sometimes, what they paid for just wasn’t worth the effort of earning the money for it. As well, they came to appreciate special meals and activities more. I recently took them on a vacation for Christmas and splurged a little. I was touched by how appreciative they were and delighted as I saw them take steps to keep expenses down, like packing a picnic in our little hotel kitchenette instead of planning to eat out all day. When a child is constantly given everything, they grow up to be less satisfied, and they’re a lot harder to make happy. Those are the kids who grow up to be the adults that trade their cars in every two years and keep remortgaging their homes for things like pools and pricey vacations. It is far more loving to raise your children in an atmosphere that encourages thrift, productivity, and personal accomplishment instead of a silver platter environment.
  4. Frugal people have productive hobbies. What do you like to do for fun? Does it use up resources or produce them? Productive hobbies should teach something, create something, repair something, or improve something. Think back to the days before television. People worked hard all day long, producing food, cutting wood, cooking, hunting, building…it was a full-time job to survive and thrive. In the evenings, by candlelight, they could stop and put their feet up for a while. Books were not widely available like they are now, so families passed the time by performing stitchery, carving, making furniture, mending things, and creating items that made their lives more pleasant and beautiful. Sometimes a family member would read aloud, play an instrument, or sing.  Time was of value and not to be wasted. Most of my hobbies are relatively productive.  Sure, I’ll watch a movie on Amazon, but while I do, I’m crocheting a Christmas present, mending clothes, or making some small item for our home. I like to grow vegetables and flowers. Chickens make me happy.
  5. Frugal people don’t shop as a form of entertainment. When you shop as “something to do” you are bound to spend money on something you don’t need. I have daughters, and they really don’t love my theory on this, but we shop when we need to get something. We don’t just go hang out at the mall. If it’s time to buy some school clothes, I allot a certain amount of money and time, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. I do the same thing with Christmas shopping. The mall is fraught with ways to drain your money – you get thirsty and buy a bottle of water or another drink. You weren’t hungry but the smells from the food court are so tantalizing you can’t resist.  That display in front of the store has doohickeys that are ONLY a dollar.
  6. Frugal people save pennies throughout every single day.. Frugality is a way of life for us. It isn’t saving money on the big things. It is eagerly grasping hold of the challenge of doing everything less expensively. It’s automatically calculating the lowest unit price. It’s making things instead of buying them. It’s choosing to use your own creativity instead of the party supply store’s when throwing a birthday party for your child. It’s putting on a sweater instead of turning up the heat. These small daily actions add up to enormous savings and allow you, unlike the greater majority of our society, to live within your means.
  7. Frugal people put aside emergency funds. When times are tight, being taken by surprise over a sudden necessity is sure to turn your budget upside down if you haven’t prepared for it. This is why frugal people keep a rainy day fund and a fully-stocked pantry. Then, if the refrigerator groans and breathes its last, if the car grinds to a halt 50 miles from home, or if a family member needs to go to the doctor, it doesn’t put you in a situation where you must be faced with deciding whether to deal with the emergency or keep your electricity on.
  8. Frugal people cook from scratch. One of the most certain ways to destroy your budget is to eat food prepared by other people. Think about it: whether you buy it from a restaurant or from a box on the grocery store shelf, someone spent time making that food. And you are paying for that! Those pouches of pre-cooked rice, those rotisserie chickens, that bag of take-out food, or that just-add-water and heat for 10 minutes meal from a box all include the cost of someone else’s labor. If you don’t know how to cook from scratch, there are simple foods you can start with, like soup, steamed vegetables, baked potatoes, and chicken breast. Get an old-fashioned cookbook for simple instructions to make basic foods.
  9. Frugal people do things the low-tech way. There are simple ways to save money that don’t show you an immediate return. Things like hanging your laundry instead of using your dryer. Things like putting on a sweater instead of turning up the heat. Things like taking it easy in the hottest part of a summer afternoon instead of cranking up the air conditioner. Things like using solar lights as night lights. The list could go on and on, but by reducing your dependence on electricity and natural gas (or whatever your heat source is) you can save hundreds of dollars per year.
  10. Frugal people repair things. We live in a society of planned obsolescence. Most things aren’t made to last a lifetime anymore, and our society is happy to just toss their doo-dads in a landfill and go get new ones. Frugal people fix things. We mend our clothes, we repair our appliances, we fix broken furniture, and some of us even do unheard of things like darning our socks. We don’t immediately think about replacement. Our first step is always repair.

Real frugality is all in your head.

Hard-core frugality is not just making a choice to buy the generic brand of laundry soap instead of a jug of Tide with scent beads. Hard-core frugality is buying the ingredients to make 5 times the amount of laundry soap for half the price of that name-brand detergent, all the while LOVING the fact that Proctor and Gamble are not getting your money.

Being a black belt in frugality takes creativity and an optimistic outlook. It should never be some grim, sad thing that you have to do. It should be something that you choose to do. By finding joy in your non-consumerism, you will be far more successful at it. It becomes a game that you win if you can do something for free that others spend money on.

When you feel like you require less, then you are happy with less. This means that you have to spend less time working at things you may not truly enjoy to pay for the things that you never actually needed in the first place. This means that the money that you have goes a lot further and that your life feels a lot more satisfying.

When you finally cross that line between resenting the fact that you have to strictly budget to embracing the fact that by being as thrifty as possible, you have achieved freedom you never dreamed of before, you’ve made the conversion. You aren’t just acting with thrift until things get better. You, my friend, are one of those truly joyous frugal people that others look to for inspiration.

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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  • This is exactly how I grew up in South Dakota-and I still have the same habits! Thanks for sharingt these tips; I know they will help those just getting started.

  • I nodded at every one as I went through your list. The only part was at the bottom regarding laundry soap. I’ve tried the homemade laundry soap many different times, with both hard and soft water, and I’ve always had grimy, smelly clothes. There are two ways to be rich – have lots of money or few needs. Being frugal allows my family to be rich. 🙂

  • Excellent article! One more: frugal people are not fashion mavens. They have a good basic wardrobe and ‘update it’ with an occasional new shirt or accessory. They wear simple, low maintenance hairstyles and do their own nails. Being trendy or keeping up with the lastest fashions are just unnecessary ways to part with your money!

  • Daisy,
    Once again you have outdone yourself. Well done!
    The unexpected blessing from this article was reading through the list and thinking that reminds me of my dad, or my father in law.

  • Have you ever considered that frugal people are trying to do their part in slaying the ” Beast ?”

    An economic system base on the ” Fractional Banking System of Debt ” and it’s enslavement of Americans can only be defeated through individuals withdrawing from the system !

  • I think I was into frugality before it was cool. It was more based on necessity…I had all of the tightwad gazette books and actually saved a lot of money. I am somewhat less frugal today but I still try to save money where it makes sense.

  • Your new blog look works terribly on my Firefox browser. It’s hard to navigate and word wrap doesn’t. I hope you revamp soon.

  • You have a garden, and you can and freeze the produce. You have your own beef and pork in the freezer. Then you prepare it and eat it all thru the year. You carry your lunch. Do we still grocery shop? Yes. The difference is that when I went thru the grocery line last week my ticket was $47 for 6 bags, but the fellow in front of me who bought the same volume (6 bags) had meat and other items that we had at home. His ticket was $125. I noticed that he also fell prey to some of the enticing high profit items they stack along the checkout lane that are high on sugar and low on nutritional value.

    We have been doing this for over 50 years together, and we have built a house and paid for it and educated four children with college degrees (2 with advanced degrees) and it was all paid for over 20 years ago. We also contributed to our church and charities. We still give away much excess garden produce every summer. If fact we raise it with the intention of giving it away. Happily ride around in a 10 year old truck and a 13 year old SUV both paid for at purchase or shortly thereafter. We never made a lot of money, but we tried to spend what we had wisely.

  • I grew up with family that lived through the war eras and before. I love seeing what I can live with/without. My husband didn’t grow up without so it is inspiring to hear him with the “aw hah” moment when he realizes that he can get the same things without having to spend big or just by going about it other ways. Thanks for the great article

  • My daughter had learned to be careful with her money. She was working at a fancy girls camp in North Carolina and most of the girls working there were from well to do families or so it seemed. One night they were comparing their clothing and bragging about the cost,then turned to my girl and said “you always have the cutest clothes. Where did you get them?” She replied–Goodwill. And she had money to spend on things she needed or wanted when she wanted them and didn’t come asking us for a handout.

    The other thing is how much money you can save making your own soap. My wife and I make our own soap. It is so good for your skin, smells great, cleans wonderfully and costs a fraction of what dove or other bar soaps cost. Lotion is easy to do as well. We spend an afternoon and make a years supply of those products, have fun doing it and loving the process and the savings. Way to go Daisy.

  • Hi Daisy! As usual you are spot on when it comes to being frugal yet living well.

    I have had a real eye opener on frugality this year. I quit a high paying job that I’d held for 7 years. After 24 years in the same business I just got frustrated and tired of the fast paced back stabbing, unethical and screw them til they bleed mentality. So my plan to escape began a year ago. I began to pay more attention to how much I paid for groceries, utilities and vacations ( including sporting events ) and started to list how much bottom line cost I was accruing on a monthly and daily basis. I was shocked at how much I spent on frivolous ‘ stuff ‘.

    I have always been somewhat conservative in my spending and savings or so i thought.

    I began to reduce and reuse more carefully. I sold the BMW, dropped cable, re negotiated my cell phone payments and shop for clothes at Goodwill and I ENJOY these activities. I have liability insurance on my F 150 and the Tahoe and no car payment or mortgage.

    I have a 800 dollar a month ( including food )allowance that I adhere to and will soon be starting at Lowe’s in the hardware department and I’m very happy to be helping people find what they need and far, far removed from the corporate BS and stress. I go in, work hard and enjoy myself.

    At the end of the day I work in my gardens, practice guitar and have a bunch of projects in the works that will save me money or because of my skill set ( carpenter ) pick off a few jobs outside of work.

    My Dad, brother and sister think I’m insane. They don’t understand that I have dedicated myself to simplifying my life to it’s bare essence….freedom and joy. They think my soul has been invaded by a demonic hippie! 🙂 That’s OK with me.

    However, to be comfortable and live well in frugality it does take some extra work and a completely different mind set. Be happy with less, live closer to the earth and pick up hobbies that satisfy you.

    Blessings to all!

    Snake Plisken

  • I am glad that being frugal is not the same as being stingy. i appreciate that someone else can stand up and commit to this kind of sense without feeling bad about it. It’s the right thing for all around financial peace. It always brings out creativity in having things you cannot buy but can learn to make yourself. I never thought I would be doing stained glass, carpentry, oil painting, copper plumbing, light electrical, self taught studying these things in educational books. I don’t like some of the things I done, like changing oil in car, or digging long trenches for water lines, but I can do it. Better than I can pay someone else. Thanks for shoulder to shoulder lets do do this!

  • When I have a little extra “money” I like to get rid of it and buy silver and gold coins because I know before I am eldery a dollar won’t buy a lump of mud. Whereas silver and gold will always buy a lot of food clothing and shelter.

  • Hi Daisy. “Will this expenditure further me in reaching my financial goal.” I read this years ago. The author (I don’t remember the name of the book.) said to decide on your goal, and ask yourself that question every time you were tempted to spend any sum of money–even for a cup of coffee.

    The “financial goal” part was too obscure for me. It seemed like deprivation with no pleasure to offset the drudgery of working all your life.

    But I like the concept and I remember it now and then. Thanks for the post.

  • I think all people who made themselves rich are frugal. Frugal means you get the best deal. My friend’s family owned a Chinese restaurant in Omaha. Not many other Chinese there. So, every week or so this older guy and his wife always came in and the guy bought the cheapest thing on the men. So, one day my friend’s uncle gives him a free item. Welp, next person in line asked the uncle why he did that. Turned out the old guy was Warren Buffet! I understand Sam Walton and Warren Buffet drove/drive old cars. Maybe that’s just for show in public; but even that says something that they would try to portray the image of frugality!

    • I admired/admire both those men. The Waltons and Wal-Mart of today are not those of the Sam Walton era. It makes a difference when you were raised once the money was made I guess. Now it is an empire, and the roots of the man are all but forgotten.

  • I too am old school kinda guy and a lot of us mr fix it guys are becoming a dying breed, ya know the way folks in the past took a little pride in our work but you are like a breath of fresh air and thanks for reminding me of areas I need to improve in as well. Thank You.

  • I forgot to add, Great Article!
    And, some mightily fine comments, too!
    It’s all so Very inspirational.
    I’ll have to try and remember this line the next time I’m out on the town with friends, or on lunch break, and I get grief for not spending money like I’m a Rockerfeller:

    “being frugal is not the same as being stingy”!!!

  • I was so encouraged to read this article and then read the comments!!
    Sometimes, I feel like my husband and I are the only ones that are not into “stuff” and a simple way of life. Thanks all

  • New visitor. The last paragraph made me smile 🙂

    I’m about 80% frugal I would say. And debt free as a result!!

    Gary.

  • Frugal people don’t buy bottled water, even if it’s only $1. They turn on the tap and get water that way, and when they go out they fill a bottle with water to take with them.

  • Daisy’s article is excellent coverage of the frugality side of conserving cash, repairing and repurposing goods, etc. I do understand it is not intended to address part of the value-added side of benefits of frugality. What I mean is this:

    The more cash you can conserve, the more you’ll have to be available when opportunities come along to learn how to create profitable value for people. Courses, mentors, gurus, and networking opportunities abound these days. Ranging from free to cheap to pricey, many of these opportunities to learn are online. Books on “side hustles” (the pop term today for extra money-making work, whether as employee or entrepreneur) are all over Amazon. However, crafty frugalists know that once a book is older than six months past the publisher’s release date, it is fair game for a free interlibrary loan via your neighborhood library.

    Compare the vastly more profitable approach of selling your value-added skills, products or whatever … to merely parking that conserved cash in a bank (aka Stingy 1st National) that might pay you 2% (at best) on your money, while Chapwoodindex.com reveals that actual inflation, city by city, ranges anywhere from 8 to about 12% PER YEAR. You can mark up your price on your own value-add skills, in contrast to NOT being able to mark up what the bank pays you for your cash on deposit. Yes, you need some cash there to pay bills, plus having an emergency fund. Think of the remainder as your entrepreneurial learning and opportunity fund — and thank the understanding of Daisy’s article for this enormous benefit that frugality makes possible.

    –Lewis

  • You forgot one thing, the pride of workmanship when you’ve done repairs.

    There’s also the quiet confidence that you can do the repairs.

    Some years back, I had four mouths to feed, and could budget all of four dollars a day. The food was plain with an eye to as nutritious as possible within budget, cooked from scratch. I went so far as to grind my own grains (I bought a second hand grain grinder at Goodwill for $10). By the way, freshly ground wheat tastes sweeter than whole wheat flour bought in the store. With the inflation since then one would need to budget $1.50 / day / person.

    I didn’t go into debt.

    Now I have the income I wish I had then with fewer expenses. The frugality bug, once bitten, sticks. I can pay cash. When a business project didn’t pan out, I was out some cash, but not hurting.

    Frugality really pays off.

  • Why are so few preppers vegan? It seems shocking to me because being vegan is SO much easier than consuming animal products and eating vegan is by far the cheapest diet in the world, not even close. My diet consists of beans and grains and small amounts of fruit, potatoes, vegetables, spices, herbs, honey and nuts. So easy. Preparing my own food is so easy it is ridiculous. If you have a homestead, having animals is just disgusting, they produce so much waste. Totally don’t understand it.

  • Very good list, along with repairing things I would throw in “do their own maintenance when practicable”, mow – trim and fertilize lawn, fix your own sprinklers, and appliances, stain your own deck and caulk your own windows – touch up the exterior paint while your out there and correct any negative grading around the exterior of house, clean your gutter (if it can be done safely). Do your own nails, color your own hair, clean your own house, change your own toilet flapper, replace a broken tile – think before making purchases about a. need b. durability c. ease of maintenance. Sometimes it is worth paying more to enjoy something for a longer period of time so let’s add buy furniture 2nd hand (lots of people have hardly used quality items they are tired of, you can have fabric cleaned and polish wood.

    I just cut my own firewood this past weekend – not doing that again but hey – live and learn.

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