10 Frugal People On The Not-Obvious Ways They Save Extra Money

Some people don’t have a latte habit.

Crazy, but true. These days, I’m one of them. I definitely used to grab a coffee out every day, and sometimes a snack to go with it. Then, per the advice of every single personal finance article ever, I was told it was a terrible waste of money, and with that, I cut the habit. And I have saved money, and I don’t necessarily miss the fancy coffees, so I guess it was a win-win.

But as I’ve gone deeper into adulthood, developed bigger financial goals, and begun budgeting and shaping my life, it has become increasingly difficult to figure out where to cut corners during times when I feel like I need to.

Since working full-time after graduation, I haven’t experienced any lifestyle inflation in the slightest. I lived a lot better before, and if anything, we’ve tightened up a lot even though my new job came with a new paycheck. The apartment we moved to costs less than the one we were in before (although my personal half of the rent is higher than it was before since I split 50/50 with Drew now). The “extra” money I earn now that I didn’t before goes straight to savings, because buying nice things doesn’t feel like it can be a priority for at least a few more years. We budget, meal plan, clip grocery coupons, shop around for everything we need, and generally stay extremely frugal. We don’t get weird about spending money on a meal out with friends (I’m not one to give my friends a Venmo-shakedown for the $4 I feel they owe me — I never mind paying for it), but other than that, we keep things pretty financially tight over here. We have to. Drew’s loans cost more than most people spend on rent and utilities combined, and while I make enough money to survive, I’m certainly not a Rockefeller.

And now, we’ve been hit with quite the unexpected bill. My puppy ended up in emergency surgery yesterday (he ate a cork coaster — I’m still fucking reeling), and even with my ~blessed~ emergency fund, it put us a tiny bit in the hole.

And the truth is, a lot of the financial advice I read yesterday after anxiously swiping the card on little Gaston’s surgery bill didn’t give me what I needed. I needed more. I needed advice on how to be frugal even though I’m already frugal. (I.e. don’t tell me to stop buying coffee! I’m already not buying coffee!!!!)

So, I decided to take to my best method again. I went around and asked my most frugal friends to give me some tips on the most recent ways they’ve furthered their money-saving while already being generally careful frugal-as-hell people.

I asked ten people to tell me how they save extra money while already being super-freaking-frugal. Here is what they had to say.

1. “This sounds extreme, but I portion out all of my food — even snack foods — into little reusable containers. It sort of almost sounds disordered, but the thing is, it isn’t so much about portion control for health reasons as it is about portion control in the interest of saving money by not going through food too quickly. To be honest, we’re not destitute, and I probably could eat as much as I want for dinner and be able to afford the necessary ingredients to cook all other nights of the week, but it is a little extra step I took recently because we’re trying to pay back our student debt before our wedding next year. If I buy a bag of chips, I’ll literally portion them out into small containers to make sure the bag doesn’t get eaten in one or two sittings prompting me to purchase another bag. If I cook a meal for dinner, I’ll portion out Tupperware containers of equal-sized portions for us to eat for dinner, lunch the next day, and sometimes a second dinner if there are a lot of leftovers. It is extra work, but it really does ensure that nothing goes to waste and that nothing is blown through and replaced the next day.” — Hailey

2. “This is mom-specific, but I have to say: cloth diapers. They’re a little gross but wow they save me so much money. I’ve always been frugal, especially as a single mom, and with my first, I used regular disposable diapers because I felt like only weird hippies used cloth. But I switched to them because money felt so tight right after I had my son, and it is amazing how much I save.” — Ashlee

3. “Cut out waste wherever possible. Even if this has an upfront cost sometimes, waste is just the worst thing for you — environmentally and financially. Buying and preparing tons of food wastes food and your money. I don’t know the exact statistics, but I am pretty sure Americans on average throw away close to half of the food they buy, which is so fucking bad for the world in addition to being terrible financially. I’ve found that things that produce garbage always tend to cost more money. It takes me a little longer to travel to the grocery store further away where I can just buy what I need and scoop it all into my own reusable containers, but it feels worth it. When you buy prepackaged things, you’re paying for all of the packaging too, and then just throwing it away.” — Jennie

4. “100% bathe less. Our bodies are not necessarily meant to be soaked with hot water every day. It is bad for our skin, and makes us need more products to return moisture to the skin we’re ruining. I wipe off areas that feel like they require extra cleaning (you know exactly where I am referring to) daily, but otherwise, I full-on shower once or twice per week. I know people who do it even less — they don’t smell, they aren’t filthy. It is personal preference, if you feel like you need to every day to feel clean then go for it. But some people notice that their bodies simply feel better from bathing less, and I’m one of those people. And it does save a lot on the utility bill.” — Alicia

5. “Most every container can be reused. Jars from pasta sauces/pickles/jam/peanut butter/anything you purchase jarred can turn into drinking glasses, food storage, and even flower vases, so you’ll never need to purchase those things. Takeout containers can be kept as Tupperware storage for leftovers and meal prep. I kept one tissue box I purchased once and started buying bulk tissues in no packaging to just put into the box I kept (and you can obviously just get a reusable one instead of keeping a cardboard one if you want).” — Joanne

6. “I don’t know if this is extremely childish, but I am addicted to collecting spare change, and it has made me hundreds over the past few years. I’m not being dramatic — just pick up pennies, quarters, nickels, wherever and whenever you see them. Unless they’re like… someone’s. I just pocket them and at the end of the day dump them into a huge box. I used to keep them in a jar, but when you really keep your eye out for it, it starts to pile up fast. Also, aside from just searching for it on the ground or wherever, I think people underestimate the amount of change they just toss into their bag or on the floor of their car after getting change when purchasing something with cash. I save it all and bring it home to put in the jar — it is obviously hard to spend money that is in change, and it doesn’t feel like money since you can’t really buy anything with a little bit at once, but it adds up so quickly and really just saves a lot.” — Taylor

7. “I’m focused on saving on utilities a lot lately, so I do a lot of keeping the heat low in the cold months (of course I keep it just as high as I need to in order to prevent any problems) and just layering up to stay warm, doing more cold showering/cold water washing of things like clothes/my hands, keeping lights off all day until it is nighttime, and trying to just keep one or two lamps on in the house once it is dark. Generally unplugging things does wonders. Microwaves and coffee makers have little lights and clocks on them that waste power all day long. It seems negligible, but if you have small things like that sucking energy in your home all day, it adds up over time for sure. Also, in regard to laundry, I don’t wash things that aren’t towels/linens of sorts regularly. Minus underwear, my clothes (especially shirts and jeans) are not washed after every use. I live alone, I don’t have a ton of clothes, I don’t want to run the washing machine with such little laundry so often. Once every few weeks, I’ll run a load of laundry and wash all of my clothes. But I will re-wear the same things many times before I do that. And no, I don’t smell. ” — Matt

8. “Expired things aren’t expired unless they really seem expired. Like, if something smells or has shit growing on it, throw it away, sure. But most expiration dates are on food/meds just to a) save their asses in case something makes you sick, and b) make you buy more stuff. I keep things way past their expiration date unless they are obviously spoiled or bad, and it really saves me so much money I would spend replacing a tub of hummus the second it says it has expired. No. It hasn’t. The system is manipulating you into buying more hummus. Also, if something does have mold growing on it, I sometimes just cut that part off and use the good part. I’ve never had a problem.” — Kris

9. “Always use less dish soap and laundry detergent than recommended. I don’t think it needs as much as they say, and it saves you a lot. I use half the recommended amount for both of these things and my bottles last so long, and my clothes and dishes are always perfectly clean.” — Mackenzie

10. “I switched to reusable things like dishcloths and handkerchiefs instead of tissue and paper towels. It is an adjustment to get used to that instead of ripping a tissue or paper towels, but it saves a ton of waste and money. Would not recommend reusable toilet paper, though.” — Brendan

Mary writes every day for TFD, and tweets every day for her own personal fulfillment. Talk to her about money and life at mary@thefinancialdiet.com

Image via Unsplash

  • jdub

    #8 is very accurate — I work in the food industry and unless something is clearly spoiled, then that date really doesn’t mean anything. Trust your judgement!

  • Amanda L.

    #6! I just turned in all of my collected coins this weekend and had $176 (plus some random international coinage the machine wouldn’t accept). Redeemed it as an Amazon gift card (no fee) and will be using it for Christmas presents.

    • Rebecca Ann

      That’s a fantastic idea! I’ve got to do that soon, and am hoping to have a decent amount.

    • Wolf

      That bit always confuses me a bit. Who doesn’t just put the change into their wallet and use it at the next purchase? Is this some kind of difference between US and Europe?
      I’ve never had coins accumulate, I use them every day.

      • Joy

        It’s a personality thing I think. My husband collects all his change and thinks of it as his “savings” for a special occasion. Whereas I always spend my change but have automatic withdrawals from my chequing account into my “savings” account instead.

      • Amanda L.

        I think it’s just personal preference. I basically don’t use cash and use debit cards almost exclusively. On occasions when I receive cash, I’ll spend it and put the change in a piggy bank rather than trying to use it the next day. Overwhelmingly though, the coins I exchanged are ones I’ve found because I use cash so infrequently.

      • Tina Morris

        I think people do use coins more outside of the US. I remember buying a coin purse when I was backpacking through Europe 20 years ago because I was getting & spending a lot more coins than I’m used to. We only have coins for $1 and less, and we don’t really use the $1 coins, 50 cent coins are pretty uncommon & when I get one I save it, which brings us to typically only carrying coins that are worth 25 cents or less. I occasionally use mine during transactions, but usually I just save them for vending machines and panhandlers.

    • Monica

      Out of curiosity, how did you redeem it for an Amazon gift card?! I’ve collected quite a bit of change over the last few months, and I hate having that fee taken out of it. I use Amazon frequently and it would be nice to be able to transfer the money to that instead.

      • Amanda L.

        With a Coinstar machine in a grocery store. I’m not sure if all of them allow you to, but at least certain ones allow you to pick from a few e-gift cards that take out no fee, Amazon being one of them. On the receipt slip it just prints a code for you to reload your gift card balance. I think their website has a list of locations and e-gift card options available.

  • Along similar lines to the infrequent showering thing, I would also add infrequent haircuts. And when you do get a haircut, as long as you aren’t too particular, you can go to a beauty school and have the students cut your hair for very little money. Last year, I went to the Empire Beauty School in my town and got a $9 haircut (plus tip). I let my hair go for a year before accepting that it was looking rough and I took the plunge and trimmed it myself. The $2.75 I spent on hair shears will hopefully buy me many more months before I cave and go have a professional do it.

    • Court E. Thompson

      I don’t go quite that far, but only get mine cut twice a year. I pay more ($80) but for a good cut that will grow out well. I did try a beauty school and the girl did a horrible job.

      • I was fortunate and got a student who was just about graduate from the program, so it worked out alright for me. Also I asked for a super simple cut which probably didn’t hurt either.

        • Court E. Thompson

          Oh totally, but who would have thought layers on super straight hair were considered complicated? It really depends on who you get.

          • Tina Morris

            I think it depends on your hair type. I also get mine cut twice a year (paying around $40) and ask for ‘light layering’ at the ends. My hair is fine, and somewhere between red, blond & brown, but the tips glint & shimmer in the light. It really shows the cuts, so if the layers don’t lay right it looks raggedy as hell!

  • Anon

    Piling on with Rachel, dental schools. It can take agonizingly long, but you can get a pretty serious discount if you let dental students work on you. (Their teachers check their work).

    • Mary Parisi

      Excellent tip — this is how I get my teeth cleaned for free once a year!

  • Jack

    Re: #10. I feel like I go through so many tissues at work just wiping my mouth after having snacks etc and have been debating if I should just get a handkerchief. I’m going to go it! It will remind me of my Grandpa too <3

    • Charlie

      I would recommend at 12 pack of more casual cloth napkins. I have black ones and they stand up to a lot of abuse. My family has like 50 in various colors and five years later they’re still going strong (besides being a touch faded)

      • Jack

        Thanks for the suggestion!!

  • Lauren O.

    I like to cycle through my streaming services. I’m a big TV watcher, so I used to have Hulu, Netflix, and HBO all at once. Then it hit me that I was only watching 1 show at a time (usually), so I could switch streaming services month by month. So I went from spending ~$35 a month to ~$8-$15/month.

    And now my boyfriend qualifies for the $5/month Hulu/Spotify bundle, so I’m gonna split that with him and cancel other services (uhh…after stranger things !😀)

    Also! Cutting back on meat saves a lot at the grocery store. The only meat I buy at the moment is bacon for my weekend breakfasts, but I’m trying to incorporate more veggie-based meals. Good for my health, good for my wallet, good for the environment!

  • phillyyogibear

    My biggest savings…use your damn products. I moved to a new state last year and I felt the physical weight of all the “extras”. Specifically for bathroom products, but I saw the issue in other places, why did I have 5 different containers of dish soap for the in sink dispenser?
    For me, it was the gift kits of curly hair specific products that I keep meaning to use but would forget about when I ran out of styling product or shampoo. I went through it all, picked some travel sizes to keep in a “just in case” basket in the guest room, threw out anything that had a weird texture, then put all of it in a basket in my bathroom.
    It didn’t look great, but it reminded me to take a look for a replacement every time I finished something. You know what, I still haven’t bough another body wash, lotion, hair product, tooth paste, floss, chapstick since I made that basket.
    I probably have another year of products in the basket, and will keep to the idea of one in use and one in the basket. If I find a new conditioner, I don’t buy it until I don’t have any conditioner left in the basket.

  • miss y

    #4 is freakin’ nasty. I wonder if OTHER people have noticed if she smells or not…

  • miss y

    #4 is freakin’ nasty. I wonder if OTHER people would agree that she doesn’t smell…?

  • miss y

    #4 is freaking nasty. I wonder if OTHER people would agree that she doesn’t smell….?

  • Amy

    Matt, you only THINK you don’t smell

    • Amy

      And you too Alicia.

  • Monty Majeed

    #5 and #6 are such easy ways to save without feeling the pinch of it. Growing up in a middle class household, these were part of our lifestyle and not done with a conscious effort at all. Here are some more tips that might be useful for those who want to save mindlessly : https://goo.gl/57fuWY

  • Lisa Rowan

    I’m a big fan of cloth napkins and hankies. Guests are always confused when I hand them a cloth napkin, or when we have a spill and I grab a dish towel or rag instead of paper towels. I bought two rolls of paper towels when I moved into my apartment last year, and I haven’t gone through the second one yet. (Plus, cloth napkins are pretty!)