Living a frugal life as a new adult is an awesome way to build positive spending habits, increase your understanding of money and yourself, and help set up a healthy financial foundation for your future self. Below are 13 frugal habits to master as you start adulting and start building the life you want to live. Enjoy!
Pay Yourself First
This is arguably one of the most important frugal habits to master.
When you get income, always always always pay yourself first. It is the responsible thing to do. It does not matter if it is just $1. Pay yourself first. As you continue to grow your income, increase the amount that you pay yourself. Now this money isn’t for spending.
Use this money to grow your savings and set yourself up for retirement.
You could start off by paying yourself 10% of any income that you receive. As you become comfortable doing that, try and up that 10% to 20%. If you couple this with increasing your actual income, you are increasing the amount you can pay yourself even further.
Over time that means you are growing the income that you can use to save and invest.
Repair and Reuse When Possible
Become the repair person you want to hire! Yes, I said it. Learning to repair things will not only save you money but also help you become more self-sufficient. Isn’t that what being an adult is all about – learning to become more self-sufficient?
Let’s talk about an example. While I was home visiting family, a part of the water heater broke. A repair person would have charged $300 to fix the issue. I fixed the issue by going to Home Depot and spending $75. We saved $225 just by being our own repair person.
Now of course there are some instances where it’s always best to call someone – like when you are dealing with electrical wires. I would rather pay money than risk an electrical fire or my life.
Other things, however, are totally within our control to fix. It just takes a little research, some youtube videos, courage, and luck. But you can get it done. And here is the best part. Once you learn how to do it once, you are now able to do it again and probably better next time.
Now for reusing, try and buy things that have a long usable life. A simple example is buying a good water bottle and filter instead of buying cases of bottled water. Over time you are saving money by using a reusable water bottle and decreasing the amount of plastic that you are using. It’s a win-win.
Use Coupons and Shop For Deals
Shopping for deals is a great way to help yourself live a frugal life. Depending on how serious you want to get about couponing, you can land a lot for a little. Remember though, the goal is to live a frugal life and frugality is not just about saving money. It also means practicing a little minimalism as well. So don’t buy just because you can.
Also, shop at local consignment stores for things like clothes and accessories. Often these stores have top-quality clothing that is gently used for a very low or reasonable price. If you are in a more urban area that doesn’t have local consignment shops, seek out a Marshalls or T.J.Maxx. They are essentially a consignment store except that they get the excess of clothes from other stores.
Pro-tip: Marshalls and T.J.Maxx usually have health and beauty items of higher quality for a much cheaper price. They also can have a very nice spice collection on the cheap.
Quality Instead of Quantity
Realize that quality is better than quantity. This rings true in so many different aspects of life from clothes to friends. Find those high-quality, high-value things and focus on them. It could be as simple as paying a little extra for better quality underwear or as complex as finding better friends.
In my current case, it is paying more money to get waterproof shoes since none of my shoes ever last long after they have been drenched repeatedly.
It is very rare that people regret spending more on quality items in exchange for quantity.
Another area where considering quality over quantity might be beneficial is when it comes to the food that we buy. Healthier food is more expensive. However, when you buy healthier food you are improving your long-term health since your body is ingesting less unnecessary stuff.
That more expensive organic broccoli might be the way to go. Or not, you decide.
Have Things To Do At Home That Are Free Or Low Cost
There’s nothing like watching something on the TV that you already paid off. Now, granted you might be paying a subscription fee, so be sure to not have too many of those where it gets away from you. But you should have things at your home that you can do for little to no cost.
Another example would be cards or board games if you want to play something. They are one-time costs that give you something to play with forever.
Seek Out Affordable Hobbies
Depending on where you are you will have various options for affordable hobbies. Try to find hobbies that either (1) allow you to create something or (2) get you out of the house. Be sure to choose activities that help you relax or serve as a release.
Living in an expensive city I had to get a little creative to keep my frugal habits intact. I ended up discovering a love for the movies and with AMC A-List I have an affordable way to go see it. Now, this activity is a pretty loner activity, however, it helps me relax and recharge.
I recently discovered an enjoyment of indoor rock climbing, so I think I might make this another hobby for myself. It is a hobby that’s good for my health and I get to meet new people.
Regardless of whatever you might want to do as a hobby, try and go for an affordable hobby.
Live Below Your Means (At least early on)
I know you have probably heard this one before and if you haven’t well keep reading. It is of the utmost importance that as a new adult you actively work to live below your means.
What does this mean?
It means avoiding going out and buying things just because you can. It is one of the most impactful frugal habits to master early on.
When you get your first job try to avoid lifestyle creep with things like buying that new car to match your new job.
It is so easy to succumb to lifestyle creep and they want to accumulate things, but in the long-term, it is better that you practice some delayed gratification with a pinch of minimalism as you transition into full-fledged adulthood.
Future you will be thankful that you didn’t accumulate unnecessary things or get into debt.
Create And Stick To A Budget
The best budget is the one that you will actually stick to. Simple as that. Create a budget where you detail your needs and responsibilities and stick to them. But the numbers in the budget are not set in stone. They will change as you re-evaluate your finances periodically and understand how you truly spend your money.
Plus as you mature and your frugal habits become more defined so will your budget.
Recognize that your budget is a reflection of your current state in life, and as you progress throughout the months and years, your budget should be changing to meet your needs. However, this does not mean that you should be breaking that budget every month with the excuse of “things change.” Remember, your budget is a spending plan that you create for yourself. You should actively work not to go outside of the budgetary parameters that you create. It would only hinder your financial development and not help you live below your means.
Now, there are plenty of ways to budget. You can do it by hand with paper and pencil, use excel, or whatever else suits the way you operate. You just have to choose a budgeting method that you will actively use.
If you are like me and want to use software to budget, I use You Need A Budget (YNAB). It is an intuitive and thorough budgeting software that has helped me greatly improve my financial life and develop healthy frugal habits.
If interested, I have a referral link for a 34-day free trial of YNAB. Yes, it is worth every penny.
No matter, what you decide to use to budget, the most important step is building one. Of course, the second step is following it!
Control Your Impulse Buying
Just how it is important to budget it is also important to resist impulse buying especially at the expense of your budget. Impulse buying if left unchecked can really wreck your financial standings and destroy any shot you have at building sustainable frugal habits.
A tip I have been following for a while now to help myself resist impulse buying is waiting 24 hours and saving up twice the cost. Once I do both those things and I still want the item then I will buy it. Often though, I no longer want the item. Unless it is dealing with food… I love my food. It is my undeniable weak spot and I am working on it.
If interested, I wrote a detailed article linked below about how to control and stop your impulse buying. Definitely give it a read if impulse buying is something you see yourself struggling with. I outline different helpful techniques to help you mitigate how often you impulse buy.
Don’t Waste, Use It All And Then Some
Do you think you are out of soap? No, you aren’t. Twist off that cap, add some water in there, shake it up, and voila… that’s another week of soap right there.
If you want to become more frugal, two things to always remember are (1) do not waste and (2) use it all and then some. That means you have to make the most of everything you have whether that is your hand soap or leftover food.
If you have leftover ground beef, turn it into sloppy joe with a few added ingredients and then freeze it for when you need it. Make the most of everything that you have before buying more.
Cook At Home
Learning to cook meals at home is an essential skill for both frugal living and just living life. When you start cooking meals at home you have more control over what types of food enter your body. When you can control what food goes into your body, you can more easily eat healthily and reach your body goals. Plus, eating home-cooked meals usually means that you are eating fewer calories to get full without even realizing it.
You can save a ton of money with homecooked meals too – hence the frugal aspect.
Now there are a ton of recipes and cookbooks out there on the internet to help you learn to cook at home. If you are a terrible cook, well now is the time to improve. The life skills that you build now are skills you can take with you wherever you go. So, go crack an egg, thaw some meat, or do whatever you need to do to get your first self-made meal going.
Build An Emergency Fund
Building up strong emergency savings is a must for anyone who wants to be a responsible adult. The earlier you start, the better and easier it will be. Waiting until later in life to develop this fund means you will need to save more because you will probably have more responsibilities as you grow older. As a young adult though, you probably only have to take care of yourself, so your expenses won’t be as high compared to when you have a mortgage and a family. So start building now little by little.
If you do not know anything about emergency funds, I wrote a detailed article linked below explaining how to get started developing your emergency savings account. Check it out!
As young adults, we are about to hit that time in our life when we are expected to have some type of plan for ourselves. While there is no need to have our life figured out immediately, it is important to have some goals set for yourself. So, take the time to reflect on where you are in life and where you want to be. Then start planning your next steps to close that gap.
Remember that it is the consistent small moments of progress that later turn into major developments. Plan, begin, adjust, and stay committed.
What are your thoughts? Are there any important frugal habits to master that I did not talk about? Share them in the comments below!
Best of luck adulting!
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About The Author
Donald Williams, Jr.
Donald is an avid believer in helping young people prepare for adulthood. He spends his time working on Adulting Starts Here and helping new adults plan for the future. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his family and going to the beach.