43 Super-Frugal Tips for Cutting Down on Household Expenses

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Home is where the heart is, but for too many of us, it’s also where the debt is and where paychecks go to die. It’s also one area in which small savings steps can really add up and where everyday spending decisions can make a big difference.

cutting down household expenses Here are a few tips that have helped my family get out of debt and stay out for the past 8 years. You can save money on household expenses starting today.

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    1. Buy used furniture, but make sure it’s great quality. You’ll have a much better chance of finding high quality furniture at resale and consignment stores. Once you get used to older, well-made furniture, you’ll be shocked by the low quality stuff found at new furniture stores, and the prices will leave you gasping for breath!
    2. Find out when the best discount days are at Goodwill and thrift stores and shop on those days. Ask about discounts for veterans and senior citizens, too. You’ll soon find your own set of favorite thrift stores — those with good prices and excellent quality, gently used clothing and other goods. I also recommend seeking out specialty thrift stores. When you’re in need of baby furniture and kids clothes, a kids-only resale shop will make your shopping easier since you won’t be wading through every other type of merchandise out there.
    3. Before calling a repairman to fix an appliance or a car, look for YouTube videos and do it yourself. Repairclinic.com is a site that sells thousands of parts for such things as lawn mowers, power tools, appliances, and much more. Between the easy ability to get the necessary parts and training videos online, you can save yourself hundreds of dollars in repair bills every year.
    4. Your insurance agent won’t thank me for this, but each year, try to get better prices on all your insurance policies. In fact, mark “Insurance Review” on your calendar. Review coverage, deductibles, and ask about discounts you might qualify for. Compare companies, and don’t limit your shopping around to only the Big Names in the insurance business, such as State Farm and Allstate.
    5. Do the same thing with all your other bills: internet/phone packages, cell phone packages, electricity, etc. Be sure to compare not only prices, but features and benefits.
    6. Kids grow quickly, so organize a toy and kid clothing swaps with other moms. This is a true win-win scenario: moms get to socialize, kids get new stuff, and everyone is saving money!
    7. Depending on where you live, this might be tough, but if you can postpone using the air conditioning or heater for as long as possible, you could save a good amount of money in a very short time. Growing up in Phoenix, I know a few tricks about staying cool in hot weather (read my tips here) and staying warm on a cold day requires layers of warm clothing and, perhaps, shutting off rooms that aren’t being used.
    8. Use a space heater and keep the central heat turned down to utilize heat in a way that continues to save money. There’s no need to warm up an entire house when you typically spend most of your daylight hours in just 2 or 3 rooms. Those are the rooms to keep warm.
    9. Consider extreme changes to your lifestyle, such as moving to a much cheaper neighborhood, city, or state. Other extreme steps: selling an expensive house and renting for a while, living with relatives for a while, or in an apartment with utilities included in the rent. Very often, these moves help a family rebound financially, save money, and prepare for moving on with their lives.
    10. Use a magicJack in place of a landline phone and continue to use your landline phone number. You’ll need to buy the magicJack device itself and pay a year’s service fee. Combined, this is under $60, and you can do away with any other landline phone service. Reader, Denise, recommends checking out the Straight Talk wireless phone, which isn’t dependent on the internet. Before jumping into the no-landline trend, though, you should know that a power outage will disable all types of plug-in phones, including cordless.
    11. Use plastic grocery bags as liners for small size trash cans. These bags can also be placed over ripening fruit and vegetables to keep the birds away, used as a type of “glove” for picking up dog poop, or as packing material. They’re also handy as a daily compost collector. Just remember to empty the contents each day in your outdoor compost pile!
    12. Stay home more. Every time you go out there are temptations to spend money, but this doesn’t have to mean life becomes unbearably boring. Here’s a list of more than 100 things to do that are free and fun.
    13. Be a one-car family. It will take some getting used to and juggling of schedules sometimes but the savings in insurance, vehicle wear and tear, gas, repairs, etc. will add up. However, before you sell that extra vehicle, park it for a week or two to get an idea of what life will be like once it’s gone forever. How will its loss impact doctor and dentist appointments, school and sports activities, etc.? It’s better to find out now, while you still have that second car!
    14. Begin using cloth diapers, if you have a baby in the family. New styles are easy to use and most moms who make the switch from disposables say they’ll never go back. If you have an adult family member who may need incontinence pads, use baby diapers for their super-absorbency.
    15. Become familiar with what your dollar stores usually stock and when you need those items, go there rather than other retail stores where you’ll pay full price.
    16. Start drying your clothes on a clothesline and wash them cold water.
    17. Unplug electric items when not in use. One homeowner told me that he saved a few hundred dollars per year doing this.
    18. Weatherstrip doors and windows. For just the low cost of some new weatherstripping, you can keep your house cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. If you’re not sure if a particular window or exterior door needs new weatherstripping, hold a lit candle near its edges. If you see the flame flicker, air is coming through the cracks around the door or window.
    19. Buy next year’s clothing at end of the year clearance sales. This is particularly helpful with higher priced items like winter coats and cold-weather boots.
    20. Gradually replace lightbulbs with LEDs. My electrician husband swears by LED bulbs.
    21. Run the dishwasher right after dinner and set a timer for when the washing cycle has ended and the drying begins. When the timer goes off, open the dishwasher door and let the dishes dry overnight.
    22. Go for long hairstyles and get a trim twice a year. Some stylists claim that a long hairstyle is more youthful!
    23. While your kids are young, learn how to cut their hair. If you mess up a bit, hey, they won’t even notice, and by the time they’re old enough to care, your skills will be advanced!
    24. Cut back or eliminate expensive activities for kids. Find cheaper or free alternatives – classes at Home Depot, REI, Cabela’s, Minecraft classes online, the library, and so much more. Remember what your own childhood was like, with far fewer extracurricular activities, lessons, and busy schedules? There’s a good chance that your imagination thrived and you turned out okay. So will your kids.
    25. Gas prices go up and down, but try to get in the habit of walking or riding a bike on nearby errands. Carpool when you can. Not only will this save on gas but also on the wear and tear of your vehicle. Add the health benefits of walking or bicycling, and it’s a winning combination.
    26. Stay away from stores that tempt you most. They have such an enormous variety of products that you’re bound to find something you absolutely need — or do you??
    27. If you need money in a hurry, go through one or two rooms of your house, garage, and/or attic, and look for items you no longer need, want, can’t wear, etc and sell them on a local Facebook page, Craigslist, etc. This is quicker than a garage sale, with no need to set up or price items.
    28. Grow a garden. Even an herb garden is a huge, frugal help if you regularly buy fresh herbs for recipes. Watch your expenses, though, because store-bought mulch, fertilizer, seeds, supplies to build boxes, etc. add up quickly.
    29. Begin your own compost pile out in the backyard. It’s a great way to enrich your soil, with no expense at all.
    30. Knit dish cloths from inexpensive cotton yarn (or yarn you spin yourself). You can make several from just one large ball of yarn. These make great gifts as well, and it’s a great way for kids to learn this useful skill.
    31. Don’t know how to knit? Learn this skill and hundreds of others on YouTube! Free training and, in many cases, even the supplies are extremely cheap.
    32. Ditch napkins and paper towels Use small washcloths for napkins instead. You’ll be using these for years, versus continually buying the paper products.
    33. Make inexpensive homemade cleaning solutions from vinegar, baking soda, small amounts of liquid soap, and so on. For years, I used just vinegar and water to clean my stained concrete floors. You can’t beat that for being frugal!
    34. Cut up old t-shirts for cleaning cloths and save old, worn-out towels for really messy jobs, such as cleaning up after pet accidents or wiping up anything that might stain one of your nicer towels. I keep a large stack of these towels in a cabinet in my laundry room, handy for all the uh-ohs that occur on a regular basis.
    35. During cold weather, wear layers around the house, socks, and turn the heat down.
    36. Collect blankets and use them to cover windows, doorways, and add triple and quadruple layers of warmth to beds! I always keep blankets handy in our living and family rooms.
    37. Never buy new vehicles. Ever. Let someone else drive that brand new car or truck out of the dealer’s showroom and enjoy the quick depreciation in value! You can lurk in the background, waiting for them to grow tired of their shiny new toy, either sell it or trade it in, and then you can leap into action, grabbing that vehicle at a huge discount.
    38. Maintain your vehicles with regular oil changes, keep the tires inflated, and take care of minor issues before they become budget-destroying expenses. This becomes especially important when you want to sell your used vehicle.
    39. Don’t postpone visits to the dentist and taking care of small cavities. Dental problems can become very expensive if ignored.
    40. Do your workouts at home, not a gym. Sooner or later, you’ll grow tired of the trips to the gym but will probably forget to cancel your membership. This will result in paying for something you aren’t using.
    41. If you have pets, find the best priced pet insurance. It may make the difference between saying goodbye too soon to a beloved pet and being able to afford expensive medical treatment.
    42. Ask doctors for samples of pharmaceutical medicines. Many are willing to do this — no problem at all. Not only will it help you to know if you’ll have any negative reactions to the medication before buying it, you’ll also save money. Years ago when we didn’t have health insurance, my husband’s doctor gave him a supply of one prescription for over a year.
    43. Do your own yard work and housecleaning, or pay the kids to do it. Be sure to thoroughly teach them how you want the job to be done. This is vital to developing their work ethic, attention to detail, and ability to follow directions. If you don’t believe in paying kids to do household chores (above and beyond their typical duties), then don’t!

Here are even more resources to help you save money!

cutting down household expenses

20 thoughts on “43 Super-Frugal Tips for Cutting Down on Household Expenses”

  1. These are great suggestions. Here is something I would suggest about running the dishwasher or other big power using appliances ( e.g., the clothes dryer). The cost of electricity varies during the day. It is most expensive from about 7 or 8 a.m. to about 6 or 7 in the evening. It is in a medium range from then until about 11 p.m. I try to run my dishwasher after 11 (I’m usually about to go bed then). If you have a programmable dishwasher, you can set it to run after you go to bed. Also, most dishwashers have an option for unheated drying.

    1. This isn’t necessarily true. I’m in Texas and with our electricity provider, that type of plan is something you have to choose. (We aren’t on it because it works out cheaper for us to be on a different one – so our electricity price is the same 24 hours per day.) If it’s something your electric provider offers, however, it’s definitely worth looking into!

    2. Do not run your dw during the night when sleeping in case of a minor fire that could turn major with no one around to monitor it. I have seen it happen. Turn all appliances off when leaving home too. (dw, washer, dryer, coffee pots, etc)

      1. I have a friend whose house burned down when an air conditioning unit that was plugged in but not in use caught fire in the middle of the night. Luckily her two little dogs woke her up with their barking and she smelled the smoke. Also luckily, her two twin sons had fallen asleep in the living room watching TV since the fire started in their bedroom. They all barely got out of the house on time. The fire marshal told them that there apparently had been a short circuit in the AC unit, which was practically brand new, and that any appliance can catch on fire if it is plugged in, even if turned off, if it has a short circuit. He told her to unplug any appliance you are not using, and I now do the same, and try to warn other people. She literally lost everything. And had no renter’s insurance either. They were lucky to get out with their lives. She didn’t even have time to grab her dentures and lost them as well. All she and her sons had left was the night clothes they had on. And their lives, thank God for that. Her daughter had been going to bring over four of the grandchildren that night but had had a flat tire near her own home so had not brought them over. One of them was a new born at the time. I think God was watching over them, as it would have been very difficult to get all those little kids out of the house as quickly as the fire was moving.

  2. This is a great list, and I do most of them already. I have issues with # 4: I have discovered, the hard way, that most insurers ask for your current company. (Even if they DON’T get it from you, they have ways to find out the cost you are paying) Then they give you a GREAT figure to save money, but within a year, they have bumped it up to OVER what you were paying. I have stayed with the same insurer for years, and avoid this!
    # 16: I have a well, so in the winter my cold water is VERY cold! I also have issues with my pipes getting filled with gunk, making the cold water fill SOOOO SLOW! There really isn’t a way to wash this out of the washer, as there is no filter for it, so using warm works better for me. I wish I COULD use cold water more often.
    Just FYI about drying: I LOVE the idea of using the sun to dry clothes, but am a bit OCD about dust from the road right by my house. I have found a wonderful way to use the dryer for less than 1/3 of the normal time: I have 9 wool dryer balls! I put my clothes through 2 TWO cycles of extra spin cycles, after adding in an extra spin with the wash. I then put them in the dryer, and almost ALL laundry, including blankets, and heavy items are dry with only 9-11 minutes of drying time!!!!
    And # 30/31: I’m left handed, so trying to find someone to teach me knitting is very difficult. Grammie tried to teach me decades ago, but I couldn’t seem to learn. I have purchased knitting needles and yarn anyway, just in case!!!
    Thanks again for great ways to save money.

    1. Regarding left handed knitting… find a you tube or knit shop that will teach you “continental style” knitting. It is more two handed than right or left handed, is fast and for me far more even in appearance. I actually use both, but give it a try. I have also heard that knitting in front of a mirror helps lefties to “translate” the stitches. Good Luck, knitting is a wonderful, versatile skill.

    2. I am a left handed knitter! And I have a master knitters certification from The Knitters Guild Association (TKGA.com). I can help you learn to knit left handed.

  3. Don’t buy new clothes. For years the only new items i’ve purchased were underclothes, sock, stockings + shoes (better if you set the pattern on shoes). I’ve found some awesome clothes – even the dress I wore to my son’s wedding (and was equally as fancy as the bride’s mom who got her dress at the bridal boutique) at thrift or consignment stores. I have found that it’s hard to find jeans for active boys because they all blow out the knees before anything else. But just for around the house or office (I am a professional + must dress appropriately) I look at my favorite stores + always look for color first then size + style.

    1. The Survival Mom

      I agree! Consignment stores can be a goldmine. When my son was little, the only jeans that had any real staying power were from Gymboree. I hated dishing out the money, they weren’t cheap, but I don’t think they ever wore through the knees.

      1. I get my sons jeans from a farm and home store. They have reinforced knees. They are little more pricier then I would normally pay for them, around $10 to $15, but I am able to pass SOME of them down to his sister. (My son can blow out the knees of the reinforced knees, too.) They are noting fancy but hold up to a 5, now 6, year old boy who thinks it’s fun to knee slide in pea gravel. I buy his dress pants and most of his other clothes at yard sales.

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  5. I have an Amazon wish list for stuff I need to buy/would like to buy for our home And homestead. Most of the stuff isn’t pressing, time wise so I am patient and give this list to people when they ask what I want for my birthday/Christmas. I’m a practical person anyway and like useful gifts and the idea of someone else getting me what I would have bought anyway is very appealing, and frugal! 😉 (especially if I go through a lot of it)

  6. Our energy company said not to use space heaters, just turn your furnace up. We had been using one and I did notice a decrease in cost when we stopped.

  7. Pingback: 43 Frugal Tips for Cutting Down on Expenses | Urban Survival Site

  8. Thise are great tips. One word of warning on buying used furniture. Watch out for bedbugs on anything with a fabric covering. Outside of that caveat, buying used furniture is a great idea to get amazing wood pieces for cheap!

  9. Great tips – love the one about kids’ haircuts (which I did, oldest is now 22, but didn’t work out with my son whose hair I constantly mess up – and now he cares! but two kids out of 3 is still a huge saving).

    A few to add:
    – develop hobbies that either save you money or are free. Cooking gourmet meal will save you in the long run since you won’t crave restaurant food; knitting and sewing save you in gifts.
    – find a side job: I hem dresses during prom season; babysit on days I take off from work for PA days. Even adults can babysit in the evenings!
    – when considering sports, there are three types: those who are cheap always (running, swimming, etc.); those with initial cost but free or cheap afterwards (kayaking; cross-country skiing, tennis); and those who are always expensive, both initial cost and running cost (downhill skiing, horseback riding); choose well.

  10. This was a good read! Changing up hobbies and habits can be difficult, but rewarding since you’l save money!

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  12. We are just really trying to economise and get on a budget. And start budgeting and do what you good people call budgeting journaling and start planning and saving money for that rainy day fund and for our future.

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