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Frugal Living Hacks

With a little creativity, you can do the same things you’ve always done…for less.

Ah, this is 30, where my goals for the foreseeable future are 1) start wearing my retainers again and 2) find ways to make my money last so I can finally start saving up to buy a home. When it comes to the latter, I’m taking a hard look in the mirror about needs versus wants. I’m thrifting instead of online shopping. And I’m getting extra clever with my budget by scouting out frugal living hacks.

Sure, there’s money coming in…but is it just me, or does it seem to go right back out at a faster rate these days? Considering rising costs, it never hurts to save where you can while you Age Your Money (which just so happens to be Rule Four of YNAB). 

All it takes to stretch your dollars further—being purposeful in your spending and spending less than you earn—is looking around you. Lest we forget, local resources like public libraries and Parks and Rec departments exist to help you save, get involved, stay healthy, and build community. Isn’t that the definition of thriving? 

So open your arms, do a little Sound-of-Music-spin, and start Googling! I bet you’ll find many of these money-saving resources and possibilities in your town. Not only will these frugal living hacks help you battle rising costs, they’re…well, fun. 

1. Public Libraries 

Arthur said it best, and it bears repeating: “Having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got your library card.” Not only do you get free access to books (because reading), you get the extra satisfaction of seeing how much money you’ve saved on buying said books off the shelf. Take it from these YNAB employees, who have mastered the art of having fun with their library cards.

“My library has a “money you've saved by borrowing rather than buying” section on the check out receipt. I've saved $670 this year and plan to put it into retirement savings!” -Shannon 

“My family tries to hit $10,000 in library savings a year. One year we “saved” $14,000. Our library rents toy kits and parachutes, plus we get tons of audiobooks (my kids love Playaways) and DVDs.” -Chrissy

Your local library may even host free community events, live music nights, author talks, and classes for kids. They also make a great alternative to co-working spaces and cafes—there’s no pressure to talk to anyone (unless you want to whisper) and no guilt around feeling like you should buy a coffee every time you go there. Spending less on lattes is frugal living at its finest.

Doesn’t it feel good to use your library card more than your credit card?

2. Parks and Rec 

Revisit the good ol’ days of your youth as an adult! Parks and Rec departments have plenty of low-cost or free events, especially in the summer. Take Minneapolis for example, where movies in the park are offered almost every night. Finally, a good alternative to Netflix. Your local Parks and Rec is also a wonderful source for outdoor, low-cost fitness activities. Ahem, pickleball lessons anyone?

3. Rummage Sales, Yard Sales, and Thrift Stores, Oh My! 

There’s nothing like it: seeing a yard sale sign when you’re hot on the trail. Not only is yard, garage, rummage, or estate sailing a fun weekend activity, it’s rewarding when you find something you need with less money spent. That's frugal living in a nutshell! For me, yard sailing has become my favorite competitive sport for the summer season. Look up “yard sales” on Facebook Marketplace…you might just find it brings out your inner athlete, too. 

If you prefer to get the same rush with one stop-shopping, find a second hand store near you. Thrifting is basically like hiking, but instead of mountain views you get discounts. It takes a little time to train your eye to find “new with tags on” and name-brand items, but you’ll be a super saver in no time. Your budget will be so relieved when you save a ton of money and do less impulse buying at your favorite online shop. I see you, Amazon.

4. Clothing Swaps

New season, new wardrobe! New you, new wardrobe! New job, new wardrobe! There are all kinds of reasons you may be feeling that shopping itch. You don’t have to change your spending habits altogether—simply adjust them to live a more frugal lifestyle.

Consider organizing a clothing swap or finding one locally. Seasonally, you might just find ski or sports swaps too. You’ll come away with all kinds of brand name goodies without the big spend. Plus, a clothing swap is great motivation to finally Marie Kondo (declutter) your closet. And oh yeah—you’ve been meaning to check out The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up from your local library. 

5. Meal Exchanges

This idea takes a little lifting on your part, but it’s worth it when you save money on grocery shopping and your mind is blown with delicious veggies! Try this life hack: make soup exchanges part of your meal plan. It just takes a text thread with your friends or loved ones:

Hey, wanna to do a soup exchange?
Let’s meet at my house on October 10 at 5 p.m.
Bring (# of attendees) mason jars of your favorite soup and the recipe to share! Yum.

6. Service Trades

Maybe you’re a hair stylist who loves getting regular massages, but you don’t love paying for them. Well hey, your massage therapist might also love getting regular haircuts without paying for those either. One of the best money saving hacks out there is trading services. Whatever your strengths, from accounting to fitness coaching to financial planning, you can find someone who needs your skills and offers something awesome to you in return! Bet.

7. Little Free Libraries 

One of the best ways to make your money last is to replace paying for things with finding free things. Genius! Little Free Libraries were created to encourage book exchanges among neighbors, inspire readers, and expand book access for all. Isn’t that a lovely thought? Find a Little Free Library in your community to take a book, share a book, and save a lot of money! Emphasis on the word free

8. Little Free…Other Things 

The Little Free Library concept has been widely embraced and adapted for other artistic interests, like little free museums and poetry boxes. In some cities, community organizations have started small appliance and tool libraries. After all, who wants to buy a miter saw when you only need it once every 10 years? (Especially if you don’t really know what it is or how to use it?)

9. Buy/Sell Groups 

Most communities have buy/sell groups tucked away in the depths of Facebook or other social media outlets. If you are looking for something specific (or even looking to be surprised), these groups offer a convenient way to find resources, used items, child care, community services, and local goods. Plus, they’re the internet version of exceptional people watching. You never know what little treasures or bizarre finds will be posted…

10. Community Gardens

Part of thriving—no matter your resources—is eating healthy, vibrant foods. It’s much easier to fit organic foods into your grocery budget when you grow your own! When you’re looking to stretch your paycheck instead of breaking the bank, find a community garden provider near you. Most cities have multiple community gardens run by churches, non profit organizations, and garden clubs that rent plots to local residents. Wouldn’t tending to your little plot be a healthy, family-friendly activity? If sowing home-grown potatoes and meeting a gardening new friend isn’t Sound-of-Music-spin-worthy, I don’t know what is. 

Living a more frugal lifestyle doesn’t mean giving up on the things you love doing. Giving every dollar a job (Rule One of YNAB) simply means prioritizing where you’re spending money. With a little DIY creativity, utilizing local services, and these frugal living hacks, you can do the same things you’ve always done…for less.

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