People argue all the time about what being frugal really means. While I don’t rely on a formal definition, when I speak of being frugal, it is very different from being cheap.
What is being frugal?
Frugality in my mind is being smart with your money. It is getting the best bang for your buck.
What frugality isn’t is being cheap. Splitting plies of toilet paper to make it go further, not tipping waiters, or dumpster diving for your meals is being cheap.
Let’s not be cheap. Being frugal and savvy with your money…that is something that shouldn’t have any negative connotations.
20 Perfectly Normal Things Frugal People Don’t Do
1. Always pay full price
Frugal spending habits include not paying full price if at all possible.
So what does this mean? It means using different resources for saving money such as cash back apps or even coupons.
Bonus points if you can wait for a sale, add a coupon code AND use a cash back app.
2. Ignore maintenance
Yep, when it comes to maintenance, a frugal person will not look to save a buck by skipping car maintenance, neglecting upkeep of the house, or even ignoring medical issues.
Spending a bit of time and money on maintenance can prevent expensive repairs down the road.
3. Pay late fees
Have you ever been a bit late paying a bill or returning something? Ouch. Those fees add up.
After all, do you really want to pay even more for your electric bill or that Redbox rental? Not me. Why waste your money on fees when you can pay bills as they come in or set up calendar reminders.
4. Skip credit card payments
You know who has high interest rates? Credit card companies do. If you miss a payment, that high interest accrues on your balance.
Even worse, missing a payment dings your credit report, likely lowering your credit score.
5. Ignore clearance racks
Sometimes, things are on clearance racks for a reason. I mean, hello, what kind of trip were some of these designers on?
But other times, maybe a certain size doesn’t sell well or the store overbought. In those cases, you can find some pretty sweet deals as the stores try and clear their stock to make room for in-season products.
6. Think bigger means better
Buy now! Get a new 75” TV!
You see the ads like that all the time. But stop and think. Unless you have a ginormous TV room, the 75” TV is way too big to watch comfortably. After checking recommendations based on room size, you may find that a 42” set is the perfect size and has even better picture quality.
And what about warehouse clubs? The gallon of mayo at the warehouse store may be a great deal when priced per ounce. But exactly how long will it take you to get through that and how much room will the jar take up?
Bigger isn’t always better.
7. Not stock the freezer
Because food is a huge household expense, it makes sense to try and save money on food. One way to do so is to stock up (within reason) on a good deal when you see it.
If there are good deals on meats and some produce, you can buy a bit extra to freeze for use later. Walk past that gallon of mayo.
Another way to fill up the freezer is to use it to stock freezer meals. A frugal person may come home tired from work but know she can pull a meal from the freezer and have dinner ready in a jiffy. A non-frugal person would dial the phone for take-out and it will happen several times a month.
8. Waste food
Yep, still on the food thing. How much food do you throw out each week (or that has spawned new lifeforms in your refrigerator)?
It can happen to the best of us.
To cut food waste, frugal people won’t throw out leftovers. Leftovers are tomorrow’s lunch! They also shop with a grocery list to minimize buying too much in the first place.
9. Buy the latest gadgets
It’s amazing how many people line up outside Apple stores every time a new product comes out.
People that stay on trend tend to buy first and spend the most.
You know what? Those gadgets will likely go on sale, retailers may offer additional incentives, or the fad will pass. By not buying right away, frugal people can wait for deals and check reviews. Sometimes the urge to splurge will pass if you give it a bit of time.
10. Have cable
Why spend money on 100 channels when you only watch maybe, what, four on a regular basis? It is easy to get sucked into DIY shows and cooking competitions and fall asleep to the sound of sports in the background. But would you rather do that, or eliminate that bill and use a good antenna with a couple select subscriptions?
It is easy to drop cable and there are better things you can do with the money you were spending.
Related post: Drop Cable TV for Good with These 3 Easy Steps
11. Get food from a vending machine
Have you ever had kids nag, beg, whine, and plead with you to puh-leeeze get a candy bar/pop/chips/sandwich from the vending machine? Vending machine food is notoriously overpriced. Save your money (and your gut).
12. Spending money vs. time with kids
We all know that one family where the parents buy the kids expensive toys, whether it’s the latest game console, smartphone or drone.
Then there are the families where the kids may not have pricey gadgets, but the family goes on bike rides, plays games, and the parents show up to the kids’ events. You can create good memories with your kids without having to spend a lot of money.
13. Buy brand name for perceived quality
Whether it is a can of beans, a purse or a shirt, frugal people are not brand snobs. Give store brands a try, as many are very good quality as well. With clothes, you can learn to spot a good seam and feel a better quality fabric.
Sometimes it is more frugal to spend a few more dollars on a shirt that will last 5 years than one that will need to be replaced in less than a year.
14. Forget to comparison shop
When shopping, it pays to compare. Have you tried comparing prices at different grocery stores in your area? There can be a wide range of prices.
How about the same pair of jeans sold at different stores? One might be on sale for 40% less, and it’s the same pair of jeans!
15. Improvise meals every night
There is nothing quite like getting random groceries, then coming home most nights and not being able to figure out what to make for dinner. Half the time (not an official statistic), people that do that end up getting take-out.
By taking time to plan meals even a week ahead of time, you can save money by not wasting food and not spend money on expensive take-out.
16. Always call the repairman
If you have ever had to have a plumber or appliance repair person come to your home, you know how steep their hourly rate is. In some cases when the appliance needs extensive or expert repair, this may make sense.
But if you have a leaky faucet that only needs a washer costing less than a $1 and 5 minutes of repair time? Then it is crazy to call out a professional. There are even other repairs you may be able to diagnose and even fix on your own by checking appliance repair forums or watching YouTube videos (really). Use your best judgment here.
17. Have expensive gym memberships
Do you have a gym membership? Do you use it enough to justify the cost? If so, good!
If you aren’t using the membership, then you are paying too much. See about dropping it (or actually going), then shop around for less expensive options. Sometimes local community centers, colleges or neighborhood gyms are as good for a fraction of the price.
18. Window shop with money
It can be fun to go window shopping. But if you bring money or credit cards along, chances are good that you will succumb to spending. Leave the money and cards at home and you’ll be fine.
19. Delay investing
If you want to make the most of your money, it is wise to start investing early rather than wait until later. Why? Compound interest. Frugal people know that by starting early, they’ll put less money into retirement savings.
20. Forget to have fun
Handling your money wisely doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun. There are plenty of free or inexpensive concerts, festivals, hikes and more. Grab your family or a friend and enjoy.
Frugal people are don’t take extreme measures to save money. Once you create new habits of trying to make your money work better for you, it becomes a lifestyle. Your new frugality will free up money to use toward debt payment, retirement, a vacation or, yes, even a large latte with a friend at the coffee shop. You’ll have more wiggle room in your budget for the things that are important to you.