7 Habits of Highly Effective Frugalists

By Noah Henry  •  October 23, 2013

Why am I a credentialed source? Well, I’m a cheapskate. Everything I do directly revolves around whether it’ll cost me an arm and a leg. I don’t reject consumerism; I simply acknowledge consumerism with a bit of skepticism. Money can’t buy happiness. Spend less than you earn. Why eat P.F. Chang’s when there’s a Lee’s Chinese Fast Food down the street? You know—the clichés. I absorb them, I live them, I watch my accounts grow.  

Why is frugality good? You can save for the important things, like a family trip, a child’s education, an unanticipated disaster. You never know when you might need some spare change. That’s why we’ve come up with seven habits of highly effective frugalists:


They discern what’s excessive. You must separate your needs vs. your wants. Ask yourself whether something is truly necessary to buy. Do you really need two cars? Do you need a big house? Is it absolutely necessary to have 500 channels, 495 of which you don't watch?



We’ve been subject to aggressive advertising since birth. Recognizing true value through the chicanery is the first step. We’ve not saying you have to give up your possessions and live in the mountains somewhere with a horse. Know what’s of good use and turn a blind eye to the rest.


They make stuff instead of buy stuff. Embrace a DIY lifestyle. Did you know you can make laundry detergent with soap, washing soda, borax, and citric acid? Did you know you can make plant insecticide using garlic and red pepper flakes? Frugal people do.



When’s the last time you created a gift for someone? When’s the last time you grew your own food or made your own meals for a week? The average person spends $2,000 a year eating out. It’s high time you bought some seeds.


They’re not too good to buy used. There’s no shame in it. My neighbor is the director of a major ecommerce site and still hits the Salvation Army on the weekends. Roughly 37 percent of self-made millionaires buy used cars—without leasing.

Craigslist, Freecycle.org, and Backpage.com are just a few of the many sites you can buy cheap used goods from. You should also ask around to see if anyone has what you need. Recently, I was in need of a new printer so I posted a plea on Facebook. My brother came to the rescue and gave me his, saving me $50.


They’re deliberate decision-makers. Impulse buying is the bane of many-a-wallet. The average person spends $114,293 on impulse buys in their lifetime. I won’t even attempt to illustrate that amount with an analogy. The single biggest motivating factor for impulse buying is the sale price, but does the sale price mean you should suddenly drop everything and spend?



A 30-day list is a great way to end impulse buying. If something isn’t an absolute necessity, add it to the list and wait 30 days. More often than not, that portable back-scratcher with heated tentacles will go un-bought after some perspective. We spend too much money on so many things we barely need. Frugal people take their time, weigh and assess, and decide whether to buy.


They know comparison is futile. This country is all about competition—in the workplace, among peers, even among spouses. This concept subtly influences materialism. Your friend bought a new laptop, and now you have to too. Your cousin bought a new car that makes your Acura look like a Hyundai. Heck, even your kid has a more respectable collection of DVDs.



There will always be someone with more than you. It doesn’t mean you have to empty your bank account to compare. Material inadequacy is an illusion.  


They talk with other frugalists. Pick the brains of savvy consumers. There are thousands of websites centered on frugal living. If you’ve felt the doldrums of debt and need a support group, the Internet is your salvation. Visit communities that share personal finance advice, lifehacks, and shopping deals. Or—a better route—subscribe to our newsletter.


They use coupons. According to a survey promocodes.com released not too long ago, wealthy Americans use the most coupons. In fact, 74 percent of U.S. adult online shoppers with household incomes of $75,000 or more use online coupons. Rich people live frugally, save money, and invest wisely.

Noah Henry Noah Henry Noah Henry is an amateur movie critic, foodie, bowler, and beer reviewer. But he's no amateur when it comes to saving money, so listen up!

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