Want to learn how to live cheap but don't know where to start? A lot of us have been there. The reality is if you look hard enough, you'll see there are ways on how to live on nothing or next to it.
It's hard to go through day by day and learn how to live on a budget when you don't even know what's going to happen the next day. I know the feeling. Believe it or not, you are not alone.
On the brighter side, there are solutions to these problems, and they're the easy ones you've probably overlooked.
These are some of the things I found, and they're here in this post:
- how one made $615.56 in 10 days by putting in a few minutes every day
- how this meal plan brought down our food budget to $150/mo for a family of 6
- or how switching to another bank makes me $1,800/year without me working hard for it
- and so many more
Now, let's move on to the meat of this post!
How To Live Cheap: 23 Ways To Save Money
Here are some things I do that show and speak of frugality (i.e., live cheap).
Please take a note that this is an ongoing list. Come back from time to time to check for new information.
You'll find this post is categorized into different sections:
- Ways to live frugally (the easiest and most important ways)
- Live cheap by reducing your grocery bills
- Ways to get your entertainment for free
- Other tips to live on the cheap
Note: When I refer “I” in this post, I mostly mean “my wife and me”.
Ways to live frugally (the easiest and most important ways)
Here are the proven ways to execute a frugal living lifestyle and still have the best life you could ever dream of.
1. Let others pay for your bills
No, I'm not talking about scamming or begging other people to pay your bills.
I'm talking about an opportunity to earn extra on the side in your free time for things you normally do. I'm referring to taking paid online surveys.
Here are some of the things you can get from doing it:
- Free gift cards
- Among others
There's even a proof for that:
Tia, a survey taker, sent me a screenshot of her Survey Junkie earning (above image). She said she made it in 10 days when on break from taking care of her little kiddos.
Some of my favorite survey sites are:
- Survey Junkie: Earn up to $75 per survey.
- Survey Club: Earn up to $115/survey. One man even made over $4,000 in a single month.
2. Focus on bills that drive the most costs
When you analyze your finances, pay attention to the expenses that eat up most of your money.
Ask yourself if they can be cut down, cut out, or if you can find alternatives to them.
Find out what those biggest cost drivers in your budget are, and make a move from there.
I hate calling and talking to customer reps. The last thing you want is a nagging customer rep who doesn't get where you at in your life right now.
Here's what I do, and my secret to frugal living:
What I do is use Trim, an app that analyzes my spending, finds subscriptions to cancel, negotiates my bills, finds cash back deals, among others.
To date, Trim cut our Verizon phone bill by $16.75/mo. That's $201/year. Now, it's finding me a better rate for my car insurance.
Trim is a must for those who want to save money fast and still get the same level of benefit from their service providers.
3. Work on your daily tasks and earn money
Would it be nice to do your daily routine and get paid for that? It turns out, there's one app that does that.
Swagbucks is a great site to make money fast with what you already do. Whether it's browsing the net, listening to the radio, etc., you'll get paid.
With the help of Swagbucks, you can save your money, learn how to live cheap, and still live the life you want.
There are so many ways you can earn money (including a $5 bonus just for signing up) and cut your expenses for good.
Other ways you can earn with Swagbucks include:
- search the web (includes $5 bonus)
- make purchases online (includes $5 bonus)
- get paid to watch videos (includes $5 bonus)
To date, I have made over 155,162 SB equal to $1,500 with Swagbucks in 5 months (see image above).
4. Cut down your food and save boatloads
Living cheap starts with saving money on food – food is the third biggest expense for Americans. It's easier to do that when you plan your meals in advance. It's the
How do you save, then?
You can browse the weekly ads for coupons. You can plan your meals based on sale items, and be flexible with what you eat.
You can also follow meal planning services, like PlateJoy plan, which can save you a lot of time and money.
It is a service that sends a plan and shopping list per week for just $7/mo with my coupon. Each meal costs around $2 or less a person. See my PlateJoy review here.
Meal planning is one reason our grocery bill is just $150/mo for a family 6.
It has made a big impact on our food choices, food quality, and food savings. It could do the same for you, too.
5. Stop paying for cable
Having a cable subscription is a waste of money. Cable companies charge a whole lot.
What do I do if I want to watch TV shows? I go to Hulu, Netflix, and even TV/cable networks’ websites to watch the videos.
There are so many free options now that you no longer need a cable.
Here are some of my favorite ones for watching TV shows without having to pay arm and leg:
- Cable Network Channels Online (free)
- Library (absolutely free)
- Hulu ($8/mo)
- Netflix ($8/mo)
- Amazon Prime Video (free, if you're a Prime Member)
- HBO NOW, Showtime, Starz ($9–15 per month)
See, you can have a lot of these, and not pay a single dime. That's how to live cheap and have everything you need.
6. Let these apps run in the background to make you money
If you like to go online and do just about anything, there's a way for you to squeeze some money out of what you're doing.
Believe it or not:
Now, there are four apps that let you earn money and rewards without you doing anything.
Granted you're not going to make $10,000 or $100,000 every single month. If you don't win, then, it's fine because you didn't exert any effort. If you do win, then, it's beyond great.
Imagine winning $100,000 after 15 months of not getting and doing anything, would you feel great? I bet you would.
You literally are not doing anything out of what you normally do. So, you've got nothing to lose and a lot to gain.
Rewards apps and money-making apps you can use now:
- Neilsen Computer and Mobile Panel <— Gives $10,000 per month
- MobileExpression <– Literally, you get a gift card after one week of being an active member
- Opinion Square <–Someone made $100,000 from this
- Survey Savvy <– get $5/mo
7. Get cash back for buying
Even when we don't want to spend money, we still need to spend on on essentials like food, clothing, and the likes.
The best way to live cheap, save money, and still get what you need to use cash back sites that get you some money back.
Cash back apps like Ebates can help you get the products you need at the lowest possible prices and make you extra money, too.
For the most part, these sites can give you as much as 40% in cash back. That's a lot when you have a big purchase you need to do.
Free cash back apps that offer free money, rewards, and so much more:
- Drop: Get cash rewards for whatever you spend on every day online and offline. You never have to look which sites have coupons and deals.
- EBates: Get up to 40% in cash back online plus $10 sign-up bonus
- Affinity: Get up to 30% – 40% in cash back online plus $20 sign-up bonus
Moneymaker tip: You could make more money than what you paid for when you use a combination of these apps. For example, you could get cash back from Ebates or Affinity plus Drop when you shop at Walmart.
8. Switch bank for crying out loud and save more
This is one big elephant in the room: No one makes money from banks.
Let's face it. The bank fees most of us pay are more than what we earn on bank interest. If this is you, then, it's time to switch banks.
Even when you only have a little bit of money saved in the banks, it's best to put it somewhere safe and where interest is astronomically high.
This is my personal experience:
I switched to CIT Bank last year. Now, I earn $1,800/yr on interest alone. It's money I don't have to work hard for.
Granted, I'm not going to be rich off saving money in the bank, but it's still free money that's good enough for a year's worth of grocery.
9. Stop paying off those credit card fees.
This is the biggest elephant in the room that not a lot of people like to talk about.
If you want to live cheap without putting stress in your life, you need to deal with your debt.
There are the interest, penalty, annual fees, and others that come with credit card debt.
Credit card debt is like a disease that doesn't go away easily. It is pure evil even in its simplest state.
So, what's the best way to pay it off?
One of the best ways is to consolidate your debts with a much lower interest rate. There are options like Tally that can help you with your situation.
Tally analyzes your credit cards and credit history to ensure it's a fit for you. Consumers typically need a FICO score of 660+ to qualify.
If you qualify, you'll receive a Tally line of credit to pay off your cards with high APR balances – saving you significant amounts of cash by minimizing interest costs and eliminating all fees.
Tally takes all the burden from you since it makes the right payment to the right card at the right time – no more late fees.
Click here to start using Tally – your credit card debt concierge and your ticket to frugal living.
Other debt consolidators you may consider:
- SoFi: A 100% fee-free loan (i.e., no origination fees, no late, and pre-payment fees). Get rate as low as 5.99% (credit card interest is over 17.99%).
- Prosper: A loan with low, fixed rate that never goes up and is known for its budget-friendly, single monthly payment.
10. Get a free 401(k) audit to start a frugal life
So, you are on your way to saving money for your retirement. But do you know how much fees your retirement fund is getting charged?
If you're trying to live cheap, one lesson is to never overlook at your retirement funds.
Why does it matter? Here's the answer.
Believe it or not, a slight increase in fees could cost you tens of thousands of dollars in the long run.
A friend of mine introduced me to Blooom. It is a product that analyzes your retirement accounts and shows you how much you pay and how much it will cost you in the long run.
Let's say, I saved $3,000 in the first year of using it, and the compounding savings I will get in the future is big (potentially close to $350,000 in 30 years).
11. Get paid to go into your favorite stores
Whether you stop by the stores to buy groceries or for something else and whether it's by purpose or accident, you can be rewarded to go there.
Just recently, I stumbled on an app called Shopkick, and it's easy to use.
Here's how it works:
Every time you walk into a Shopkick partner store (like Walmart and Target), you get kicks AKA points.
You can redeem your points for gift cards or merchandise (see image above for samples). You can also earn extra points by scanning products and shopping in-store and online.
The best part?
If you are like me who goes to stores to buy groceries and other things, you are going to make some good rewards from Shopkick.
Exercise cheap living by cutting your grocery bills
Grocery expenses are a killer in your budget. To reduce your overall expenses, the best route to go is to cut down some of the unnecessary grocery expenses.
Here are ways to do it effectively:
12. Use coupons to cut down grocery down to zero.
I use a lot of coupons. A lot of people call me the “King of Couponers.”
I was once addicted to couponing, but it has gone to a steady level now. But in all seriousness, I use coupons all the time. I get free products just by using coupons.
The best grocery shopping experience I had was when I bought almost $3,000 worth of grocery for $0.00. Yes, I got a lot for zero dollars.
I donated most of the goods, reserved some for my family, and gave the rest to my extended family. Everyone was happy.
Couponing doesn't always equate to having a frugal life. Sometimes, the more you coupon, the more you spend.
Some things to consider when couponing:
- Coupon for what you only need. Don't buy things you don't need. It's a waste of money and time, even when you save money doing it.
- Use coupon apps. There are coupon apps designed to save you time and money on couponing. Use those.
- Spend your time wisely. When couponing, you'll find that you'd be spending a lot of time clipping coupons, matching stores to coupons, etc. Make sure you spend your time effectively.
- Buy healthy foods. A lot of coupons are for those processed, unhealthy foods. As much as possible, stay away from those.
13. Opt for the store brands
One of the frugal living tips that I still adopt up to this day is choosing store brands over branded ones.
Whether I’m buying clothes or foods, I almost always end up buying the non-brand, store brands. They are as good as their branded counterparts, and they are cheaper, too.
For me, I don't need to buy branded ones because the cheaper, non-branded ones provide me the benefits I need.
14. Go back to the basic – use tap water
I only drink tap water.
There have been a lot of studies, which indicate that tap water is healthier, better, or as good as the water products bought in-store.
Tap water is regulated by the EPA to be safe when it's coming from the tap. On the other hand, bottled water is governed by the FDA to be safe when bottled.
Plus, tap water is almost free.
I say practically free because I still get charged for the water, which is included in the water and sewer fees I pay every month.
If you do prefer bottled water, make sure to buy the caseload instead of the individual ones because the individual ones cost a lot more.
15. Do not waste food
I live cheap by not wasting food.
I never waste food not even the tiniest grain of rice on my plate. That's what I learned from the PlateJoy plan.
My plate is always clean, and I like it that way. I learned from my parents to not waste food. As a result, every single meal I have gets devoured completely.
When it comes to parties, I only take what I think I can finish. If I finish the food and my stomach needs some more, then, I would go back. I don’t take a mountain full of food and not finish all of it.
My father-in-law who is absolutely a great chef would re-invent our leftovers into something. Good thing everyone is open to new food and new taste.
As for me, I like to re-invent dessert leftovers.
Ways to get your entertainment for free
We all need some form of entertainment even when we don't have a lot of money. It's our way of de-stressing and putting some peace of mind back in our lives.
Here are some ways you can get your entertainment for cheap (or free):
16. Find free (or cheap) live music
Granted you may not always find the music you want for zero dollars, but if you are open to new artists or music for free or close to it, you will find places to go to.
For example, a quick search on Yelp for “free music” can result in a few music festivals near you.
There are also those bars, restaurants, etc. that always have great music or bands that play. You might want to check those out.
17. Catch free movie screenings
Sure, those movie tickets are so expensive you wish the movies would come sooner on DVDs, Netflix, and Hulu.
That said, you can still get away with watching the latest shows if you know some free movie screenings.
For example, I work for a company that always have advanced screenings of upcoming movies. Literally, I get to watch new movies for FREE even before they come up.
Other sites for scoring free tickets:
Big cities like New York and Los Angeles always have free advanced screenings on new movies. That's how you could save money and live cheap.
18. Play games for free in stores (retail)
When you go to a store, chances are you'll have a chance to try new products.
If you go to a game store, you are, for sure, will be able to get your hands into new products like games and consoles.
Try these products is a good and effective method for stores to entice you to buy what they sell.
Now, that's a cheap way to get your entertainment for free.
Other tips to live on the cheap
Here are some other tips that don't appear above. These are the ones that you would still want to consider since many of them do help out in cutting your expenses, thus, helping you live cheaply.
19. Get expensive clothes for cheap
Check out and be part of these Facebook group communities. They are the frugal-type communities with people sharing their saving hacks and store glitches:
For children clothing, you can look at Amazon deals for Kids and Babies.
If you're an expecting parent, chances are you'd want to buy things for your bundle of joy.
Opening up an Amazon baby registry is good. It's FREE, and it gives you a ton of FREE stuff. As someone who tries to squeeze the most value from even a penny, FREE stuff, especially from Amazon, is divine.
My wife recently opened an account, and these are (see image below) what she got. She got swaddle, diapers, baby wipes, and a lot more. The value of these products is over $30.
They're all FREE. You'd want to get these before buying things in bulk so you don't waste spending money on things you may not like for your newborn.
Open a FREE Amazon Baby Registry and get FREE products.
20. Use one car even when having two cars is possible
I have a car that’s almost ten years old but runs like a new car. My friends told me that I could easily buy a new car especially with my $30,000-monthly blog income, which I work on 5 hrs/mo, and my credit score.
But I chose to stick with what I have. My car runs well. My friends can’t tell if it’s a new or old car once they’re inside and riding in the car.
I make sure all the car maintenance are current and that I drive or whoever drives my car drives sensibly.
21. Resurrect old things as frugal living tips
I live cheap because I make my stuff. It's one of those money savings tips that work like a magic.
I love to DIY. I create things out of other people’s trash (although they’re not trash). I put my creative mind to use and create beautiful pieces of art that my family uses in the house.
If I can get away with re-purposing old stuff, then, I would do it. I don't feel like buying new stuff when I still have those things in my possession that can be re-used for something else.
A couple of months ago, I created a food and DIY blog called The Handy Foodie to showcase all the things DIY-related that I do. The DIY projects and frugal recipes are growing in numbers week by week.
Check it out when you have time.
22. Shower at the gym
I live cheap because I take showers at the gym. It's one of the money saving tips people don't really take seriously, but they should.
It may sound cheapskate, but it’s all about practicality. I don’t pay anything for a gym membership because it is one of my work perks. I use a lot of hot water, and if I did that at home, I’d be paying a lot of money.
Plus, going to the gym has another benefit than having to take a shower, that is, I can work out and keep myself active.
23. Bake, bake, and bake
We live cheap because I bake from scratch.
There are a ton of cake mixes and easy to prepare foods out there. I stay away from them.
I also like baking because food tastes better when done at home.
To start your baking journey (as what my wife called it before), you only need a couple of tools and equipment. No need to buy the fancy ones because you can do the same thing with the manual ones.
Pro Tip: Use Swagbucks to get to the merchant's links. This means you will earn savings. After this, make sure you Paribus account is activated so you can earn money back if the price of the product drops. Cha ching.
How can you live cheaply?
Life can be expensive. It seems that things get pricier and pricier every day and our income can't keep up with those.
That said, there are ways you can adopt to live a cheap life but a rich on.
Here are they:
- Categorize your expenses. Start reviewing your expenses from the past couple of months and find out what those expenses are.
- Analyze your expenses. Know which ones are the biggest cost drivers and find out what can be done with them.
- Create a budget. Create a plan that can work for you.
- Look for ways to save money. Find ways to live cheap, save money, and still live the great life you want.
How can I live good with little money?
Now, this question is very specific, that is, how to live not only cheap but also with little money. There are specific ways you can do that, and here are they:
- Cook at home (never eat out). This may sound dramatic, but cooking at home is way cheaper than eating out. Plus, you exactly know what ingredients you'd use.
- Use alternatives, when applicable. Sometimes, you have to be open to new concepts when it means you can save money. For example, you may entertain using online grocery delivery services to save time, money on transportation, among others.
- Time your visits to the grocery stores. Don't go to the grocery stores just to buy one stuff here and here. When you do that, you'll find yourself buying more than what you need.
- Get a roommate. If you live in an apartment or even a house with more space than you need, find a roommate who can share costs with you.
- Go to the local banks. Local banks provide good food or essentials for daily living. Don't be shy to go there.
- Ask people around. Ask people you know if they have things they want to throw away but you may find a need for. You could get them for a deep discount or even for free. Just ask.
How to live cheap and frugal life: Conclusion
Way back in the days, my family had to be frugal on just about anything because even a small mistake could mean a big impact to and for our family financially.
Though my father and mother didn’t prevent us from doing what we wanted and needed to do, we learned how to be mindful of our situation and learned what we could and could not do.
I carry that lesson even up to this day. Frugal living is doable though it may be difficult for some people. Frugal living is a way of life and it is a choice.
These are the things I have adopted for a very long time. These save my family a lot of money, sometimes, thousands of money every year. What money-saving tips do you know that help you save and/or make money