Budget Series: Frugal Living

Debt Reduction Series Budget Tips

I’ve already shared how we save money on groceries, today I’m going to touch on a few of the other ways we save money to stretch our meager budget:

Buy Used
Nearly everything we purchase is used.  Our entire family wears clothing from yard sales and thrift stores.  If we need something, we try to get it used before looking elsewhere.  Craigslist is a great resource.  If you have safety concerns, meet sellers (or buyers) in a public place and take someone with you.

With the cost of gas increasing, I have learned not to take driving around for granted.  For driving around town, I try to combine trips as much as possible, and I count the cost of gasoline.  It’s so easy to fill up the tank and drive around without thinking about the cost.  Now, I estimate the cost of trips based on gas mileage to be sure that whatever I’m doing is “worth it.”  I live in a small, rural area, so this problem might look different for people in cities, but I still think it’s important to consider.

Most of our entertainment is free. The boys and I go to storytime at the library each week, usually followed by a picnic at the park. They look forward to it, and it’s completely free. If you’re in a larger area, you probably have lots more free entertainment options than you realize.  Even if you’ve lived in your area forever, check out visitors centers, etc.  You might find things you didn’t even know were offered. Otherwise, we just try to plan fun activities for them at home, Pinterest is full of great ideas for kids’ activities.  You can also easily start your own playgroup.  Social media (like facebook) makes it easy to connect with local moms. 

Make Do
My number one frugal tip is to make do with what you have.  When you’re trying to live on a tight budget, either by necessity or by design, you need to reconsider your “wants” and your “needs.” For most things, we make do with what we have until we can’t.  Then, if it’s not a need, it doesn’t get replaced. My father-in-law doesn’t understand this and really gives my husband a hard time about it, but if you’re on a tight budget, you have to really count the cost of everything, against the basic necessities like food and shelter.

Basically the way we save money is that we don’t spend it. I’ve already shared that we stopped eating out, but we also just generally don’t spend money. And we’re okay with that. I won’t say that there are never moments of wishing things were different, but for the most part, we are content, even without the ability to buy stuff. Imagine that :)

I will admit that I stressed a bit over this post. We’ve made so many steps in this frugal lifestyle that I couldn’t possibly think of everything that we’re doing.  If you’re looking for more frgual ideas, feel free to ask specific questions, or check out some of these resources (I haven’t read all of these, but they turned up in a quick search)

The Peaceful Mom
Money Saving Mom
50 Ways to Save Money
100 Ways to Save Money

What are some ways that you save money and stretch a meager budget?


Other topics in this series:

~Debt Discouragement
~Why Debt-free? (What the Bible says about debt)
~Our Budget (Frugality is necessary)

~Frugal Living (The Grocery Budget)
-Poor is in the attitude, not the bank account.
~Frugal Living (Saving on other expenses)
~Create Your Own Budget
~Our plan to be debt free (including our mortgage!) in about 6-7 years.

(Disclaimer: I am NOT a financial advisor. I am just a mom with a family living on a single income and I want to encourage others that it is possible to live on a tight budget and still have your needs met and be content…and get out of debt! I really hope that our personal budget information will help someone.)


  1. says

    Do you make your laundry detergent, fabric softener, etc? I have read and pinned your Get Out of Debt articles. They've encouraged me to press on with this "living on one income so I can homeschool my children" thing.

    • Crystal says

      I was getting laundry detergent at much better prices when I was couponing, and I had a bit of a stock built up (probably 6 months worth or so)…I’ve also read mixed reviews about homemade detergent, but it’s probably something that I will try at some point.

  2. says

    Our family, too, is on a super-tight budget. We would be naked without clothes we've bought at thrift stores! : ) When cooking, I try to make casseroles or pastas and use like one pound of the meat to two pounds of pasta. So everyone is full and satisfied and healthy! We also drink decaf iced tea we brew ourselves. I am enjoying your posts and do subscribe to your blog!

    • Crystal says

      Thanks for stopping by :) I shared a ton of grocery tips on a previous post in the series, not sure if you saw that one or not. I don’t make a lot of casseroles, but I am a big fan of things like a whole chicken and roasts that you can use to create several different meals with just a small amount of meat. Thanks for sharing your tips!

  3. says

    Gas is still an issue for those of us in cities, especially when the shopping is spread out all over town. For example, the Sam’s Club we prefer is thirty minutes away. My husband has always been careful about gas, and I never really appreciated it until the gas prices got so high!

    I’m new to Craigslist, but so far I love it!

    • Crystal says

      Meghan, I know it’s still an issue, just different…Although, it sounds like it’s maybe not that much different after all :) Living in a small town, that’s kind of my problem as well…nearly everything is 20 miles away/30 minutes away, so we have to be really intentional about our driving. I’m with you–I never really thought about it much until recently.

  4. says

    Another great way to save a bit on gas is to use the app. called gas buddy, on your smart phone or i-touch (I use my i-touch) to help you find the gas station with the cheapest gas in your area. Also at some stations you get 5 cents off per gallon if you pay cash.

    • Crystal says

      Victoria, thanks for sharing. I live in a town with only a handful of gas stations (and, unfortunately none that offer savings when you pay cash), but I know your tip will probably help other readers.

      Also, can’t believe I didn’t mention Kroger points. We have to travel to the next town over for a Kroger, but they have 2x rewards on gift cards every day, and a few times a year they have 4x the reward points. So, since one of the few gas station in my town is Shell Mart, I can get my $150 in monthly gas cards at Kroger and get 300-600 points, which equals $.30-$.60 per gallon saved on a fill up. Not a huge amount of savings, but I did that for our trip to Illinois (about a 6 hour drive, and an extra fill up each way)…so I ended up saving $.80/gallon at the kroger fuel center once we got there :)

  5. ninabean says

    Great post ty! One of the ways I save money is by using my public library for our entertainment. I get books, dvd’s, workout dvd’s, and music cd’s. They’re also a great resource for homeschooling. I also use the meeting room for birthday parties and any large gatherings.

    • Crystal says

      Great tips! We also use our public library a lot :) The boys and I attend story time each week, where we also check out a DVD and books for the week. They love it :)

  6. Susanne says

    Hi Crystal. Until I read your series I thought I was cutting back. Oh my gosh, I need to pay more attention. The money amount of money I waste, makes me ashamed. Thank you for raising my awareness.

  7. Ally Peterson says

    my fiance and I have a tight budget and were finally getting out of debt and getting some savings. were both the spending personality but I grew up with a single mom and an older sister. I'm used to going without things I want. doesn't mean I stop wanting it but I can deal without it. my fiance on the other hand grew up with comfort money. he and his parents went on vacations every month all over the place. he got whatever he wanted. there was a couple months this past year when neither of us had a job and we had to use our backup money to pay rent and everything. we didn't get food because rent smud and pg&e took all our money. we were hungry for a while. he now works two jobs and one job can pay all our bills plus food and the other is going towards our debt and savings. by next jan we will be totally debt free and be able to move to a nicer apartment where I don't have to worry about the drug dealers living above me. and still have savings. I will still keep the budget tight though because he tends to see that we have money then suddenly he has to buy something we don't need or will even use.

    • Crystal says

      Ally, this does make it more difficult. My husband and I are kind of the same way–I was raised extremely poor while he was more middle class. It has been an adjustment for him to live on a budget, but we both agree it’s much better than being in debt. That’s great that you’ll be debt-free by next January!

  8. Michele says

    Great tips! My family has been on a money saving mission ofr about a year now. We cut utility billsby 1) calling all utilities and asking for plans that were cheaper and that we could still live with (like phone, cable, etc.). We have 3 cell lines an 2 had smart phone plans which we no longer have. Now we all have basic phones. 2) taking measures to lower other utilities, like water and power, by using less and making adjustments tohelp lower the bills (insulated curtains, a 64 oz. bottle filled with water in the toilet tanks, rainwater barrels for watering plants, CFL bulbs as the incandescants “go out”, etc.). 3)I make almost all of our cleaning products now like all purpose cleaner, “ajax”, laundry detergent, fabric softener, baby-, blach-, glass-, and hand sanitizing- wipes. I coupon through Swagbucks.com to save money and earn mone towards Christmas shopping. We buy generics too. We save aluminum cans and earn money recycling them. We are planning a yard sale for May or June to earn a little too. We have a change bucket (Folger’s can with X cut in lid) for everyone to deposit change and ones in toward something special for the family. We started using a budget that is a mixture of several budget ideas I found and works for us. We cut WAY back on eating out and buying anything extra. We upcycle and make do. I can and freeze food. I use our clothesline in the yard when weather permits for drying clothes, and we have a line strung on our deck, one in our laundry room, and a drying rack, for use when weather is bad. I still use the dryer, but I try to use the other options as much as possible and just toss loads in the dryer for 5 minutes after line drying to “fluff” them. I make our dryer sheets. We paid our way out of credit debt and only owe for 1 vehicle and our home, both of which will be paid off in 2014. Thank you for your tips and I hope some of mine help someone too!

    • Crystal says

      Thanks for sharing your strategies as well :) How exciting that your home and vehicle will be paid off next year! That’s the home stretch :)

  9. Faye says

    I just found your blog and LOVE it!!!
    There are soo many ways to save money and I have employed many. I live in the South and therefore don’t own a clothes dryer ( I use thermal heat=THE SUN) and don’t wash clothes when it is rainy. I do not have central air conditioning and instead use fans as well as stay hydrated. I wear thrift store clothes and mend instead of buying new clothes. I spend very little on entertainment ( I own to many books which I can read). I don’t own a television which assists me in NOT seeing all those ads for all those things I really do not need. I pray for ways to be more frugal in my daily life.

    • Crystal Brothers says

      Love hearing from someone like-minded! Thanks for taking the time to share your own frugal ways :) You’re right…there are just so many ways to save money!

  10. Amanda says

    Hi I came across your blog when trying to find ways to save money on one income. I stay at home with my two boys and my husband gets paid twice a month and we have racked up ALOT of debt. Thanks for
    your post it gave me some ideas to use. Every time my husband gets paid its a stressful time. Then things come up like running out of oil and then not having A/c for our van. Then dishing out rent. Any encouraging advice?

    • Crystal Brothers says

      Amanda, my biggest advice for now is just to create a budget. It changed my life! Yes, it can take some getting used to the “restriction” of it, but it is so freeing to know that normal expenses are covered. We also keep a $1,000 “emergency fund” for those unexpected things that come up. We would save what we could and/or completely fund this each year at tax time. Good luck. I know it can be very discouraging, but if you work hard and start taking steps in the right direction, you will see results. And it is so worth the peace of mind :)

  11. says

    Just found your blog…signed up. I try to be as thrifty as I can. I check books and such from the library, we have ONE cell phone with the basic plan that we use if we leave the house to use in case of emergencies. Our land line is tied in with our cable and internet that we have because my children go to college on line. My husband is disable so we don’t get out much anyway and our treat when we do is to eat out. But they are few and far between. I am trying to get my crafts in order and start re-listing on my etsy store to make a little income as it is hard for me to work outside the home right now. But God is with us I know and I am always amazed when “special” things fall our way. Thanks for the blog and keep up the good work!

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