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4 Creative Ways to Be Frugal

by Miranda Marquit

I’m not really into frugal living. However, there are times when I want to save a little money – or at least get the best value for my dollar.

While I don’t really consider myself overly frugal, I am careful not to spend money on things that aren’t important to me. If I think it’s important, or interesting, or enjoyable, I’m willing to spend.

But, in order to have the money to spend on the things I want, it sometimes means spending less on other items. Here are some creative ways to be frugal and save money.

1. Preserve your produce.

One of the biggest money leaks is in eating out for convenience. If you don’t have what you need for a meal, it can be tempting to just get takeout, or to go out to eat. You can cut back on this impulse by preserving your produce.

Whether you buy produce at a farmer’s market, at the grocery store, or grow it yourself, it’s possible to preserve it. You can freeze or bottle a number of produce items. This can provide you with a quick meal idea later on.

You can also use a cookbook that features six ingredients or less, or use a food substitutions bible to help you make dinner using what you already have in the house. This can save you time and money over going out to eat.

2. Change your home entertainment sources.

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You don’t have to throw your cable TV out the window to save money – but you can still get creative!

My husband and I are in serious talks to get rid of satellite (finally!). You can get creative with your home entertainment by using streaming sources like Amazon Prime ($79 a year, instead of paying that a month), Netflix, Hulu, and more. You can also get a device like Roku to help you stream. Many recent TVs include HD tuners that allow you to get local broadcast channels in high definition.

Another creative way to save money on home entertainment is to do something else. Find other activities to do instead of watching TV, whether it’s playing a game, doing a puzzle, or even just having a conversation. Anymore, doing anything other than watching TV is considered “creative.”

3. Track your credit card spending in your checking account.

One way to earn more cash back, and to save money over time, is to use your cash back credit cards for most of your purchases, including utility bills. However, this only works if you pay off your bill each month.

Sometimes, when you use a credit card, your spending can get out of hand. It’s difficult to keep up with the spending sometimes, and studies indicate that we spend more when we have plastic. One creative way to stay on track of your credit card spending, and avoid spending more than you intend, is to deduct the money from your checking account. That way, you know that you will have enough to pay off the credit card at the end of the month, since you will be consciously keeping track of your spending. (And the best way to save money is not to spend it in the first place!)

4. Think of your spending in different terms.

If you want to curb your spending and save more money, think about your money in different terms. Some people think of an expenditure in terms of hours worked. Think of how much you earn in an hour. Then convert your spending into hours it would take to “pay off” the cost.

If you make $25 an hour, and something costs $75, you have to work three hours to pay that expenditure off. Is it worth it? If it’s not, save the money rather than spend it.

You can also use another price anchor. Think of something that you like to do. Maybe you get a great deal of enjoyment out of going to the movies and having popcorn. When I go to the movies, I spend about $20 for my ticket and concessions. I can use that as a price anchor. If something costs $100, I can ask myself this question: Do I want to give up five trips to the movies for this item or experience?

Put your spending in other terms. It’s difficult for us to really grasp money and costs. Connecting spending to more concrete situations can help you truly understand how you are impacted, and help you make better spending and saving decisions.

What are some other creative ways to save money? Leave a comment!

Photo credit: schmilblick


Published or updated May 19, 2013.
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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Michelle

I always like to think about how long something takes me to earn. Do I really want that dress if I had to work hours for it?!

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2 Jake Erickson

I like your final tip to put a purchase in terms of hours you would have to work. That helps put a purchase into perspective and most of the time would make me shy away from buying the item.

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3 Mark

This article was great especially the 4th tip. I never heard of that way before, I think time and money are somewhat related to one another and that tip helped me a lot. Thanks for that, I wish I can save more money myself.

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4 krantcents

When I replaced my 17 year old car, I bought a much more gas efficient car. Unfortunately, I also reduced my cashback savings on the gas I used to buy. I am saving much more in gas!

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5 Joshua Rodriguez

I enjoyed reading your article! Keeping a close eye on the checking account definitely helps the ‘Should I?’ confusion at the store. Thinking of an expenditure in terms of hours worked is also a great tip.

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6 KC @ genxfinance

We’ve replaced some of our appliances with new energy-saving ones. We are looking about what we can save in the long run. And keeping track of your expenses is really helpful.

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7 Melissa

Tip #4 is the one that has made the most impact on my family. It especially has been helpful when I tried to explain to my husband why thrift shopping was better. We can get really nice name brand clothes in great condition there and they don’t cause him to work for multiple hours to pay for just one shirt like it would from a department store. We dress better and it’s cheaper than the cheapest retail clothing anywhere.

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