Frugal Living Guide: How to Have Less Stuff and Save Money

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Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on Living on the Cheap.

Frugal living means you buy and use less, saving money and time. Happily, these are also basic tenets of minimalism, which is quite trendy right now so if you like living with less, you’re in style!

On the other hand, if you are a spendthrift used to buying out of want rather than need, we’re here to help.

Read on for the many ways you can reduce consumption, shop more thoughtfully, limit the amount of stuff you have, and painlessly adopt a happier, healthier and more frugal living style.

Don’t buy books and magazines

College student at library
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To save money, don’t buy books. Instead, borrow reading material from the library. Public libraries have more than just books available now; read our post about how your library card is the most valuable card in your wallet.

If you’re a book lover who just must buy books, buy second-hand and limit purchases to what only one bookcase will hold. Routinely sell back books to keep your collection to a minimum.

For truly frugal living, read magazines and newspapers online; some content is limited without a paid subscription, but there is plenty of free reading material.

If you don’t own a computer, most libraries offer free computer access. Free computer access is popular, so plan ahead if there is a waiting list.

Build an essential wardrobe

young man choosing between to shirts to wear while looking through his closet
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Build an essential, well-balanced wardrobe using these recommendations by Real Simple magazine:

  • Buy mostly washable, classic pieces of clothing in solid colors. Indulge occasionally in trendy or patterned pieces.
  • Always shop for sales, and don’t overlook bargain, second-hand, and thrift stores.

It takes more time to shop thoughtfully and practice frugal living, but the result is clothing you really need and love. You can apply these principles to every member of your family.

Save on cosmetics and toiletries

Woman applying cosmetics to her face
Rade Kovac /

Ditch expensive cosmetics from department stores and salon hair products.

Good Housekeeping magazine tells you which drugstore classics can help keep you fresh, coifed, polished and smelling great for a lot less.

Or you can even make your own. Start here with our article:

Ditch expensive fitness and exercise

Senior Woman Exercise
Monkey Business Images /

Save money by skipping a gym membership and opting instead for exercise that costs little or no money.

Calisthenics are body-weight exercises that have kept the military and many other organizations fit and healthy. By design these simple but very effective exercises require no equipment.

Calisthenics are perfect for frugal living and can be done anywhere by anyone. They are an easy way to for you to enjoy cheap and time-saving home fitness workouts. With just three exercises you can get a full body workout in just minutes a day.

Try alternating a warm-up exercise with upper and lower body exercises. Be sure to work out according to your fitness level. Try up to 10 reps each of jumping jacks or jump rope, push-ups or planks plus squats or lunges. Repeat the cycle five to 10 times. Most people can achieve good results in as little as 10 minutes of exercise a day.

Find a walking, hiking, bicycling, rollerblading or running group in your city, or organize one at Join a league to play basketball, bowling, soccer, softball, volleyball or other active team sports. A few sports leagues and games are free (especially at local parks).

Even those that charge a fee usually cost far less than gym memberships. Or locate a nearby community center and find out if they have pickup games.

Save on groceries and food

Shopper buying produce at a grocery store
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The biggest way to save on groceries is to stop buying — or at least severely limit — purchases that aren’t food. This includes soda, snack foods like chips, and desserts or other sweets.

Avoid prepared foods including chicken stock, bread crumbs, packaged mixes, canned soups and bottled condiments.

Get started with our frugal living food ideas:

Buy less kitchen equipment

Woman chopping vegetables and following a recipe while cooking in the kitchen
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Famed New York Times columnist Mark Bittman’s no-frills kitchen equipment list completely stocks a kitchen from scratch for $200 to $300.

What’s his secret? Visit a restaurant supply store in your city or nearest metropolitan area and buy functional, inexpensive essentials.

Pair your equipment with 10 basic recipes and tips for beginning cooks from These frugal living tips will help you save even more money by cooking at home, and you’ll eat better, too.

Check out our list of kitchen essentials for any home:

Get rid of toy clutter

Toys in a toy box
Ms Maria /

If your home is knee deep in plastic kids toys, maybe it’s time to corral the mess.

Establish a toy box or toy shelf and ask your child to put away toys when they’re not in use. Then limit the number of toys to whatever can fit on the shelf or in the toy box.

In other words, after every birthday and Christmas holiday, it’s time to sort through the toys and donate or recycle any that are no longer in use.

These lessons are good for your child in many other areas of life, as they get older and move on to games, phones, music, clothes, and more. Come to think of it, this is a good frugal living lesson for adults, too.

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