5 Money-Saving Swaps for the Newly Frugal

My philosophy on frugality has always been that slow and steady wins the race. This is especially true if you’re in the beginning stages of trying to live a more frugal life. Radically changing your lifestyle overnight may actually backfire in the long run by making you feel deprived, and therefore causing you to quit before you’ve had the chance to reap the benefits of living frugally. Incorporating small, doable changes into your lifestyle is a simple and non-scary way to ease yourself into the frugal waters. These five frugal swaps help you do just that.
Are you new to frugal living? These easy money-saving swaps will help you save money without making radical changes to your lifestyle. Perfect tips for beginners!

Note: this post is aimed at beginners, but I hope everyone can get a tip or two out of this. 

1. Swap Disposable Paper Towels for Reusable Cloths. Swapping disposable paper towels for reusable cleaning cloths is an easy way to save money. If you keep a large stash of cleaning cloths on-hand you’ll barely notice the difference. Simply toss them in the wash along with your towels and you’ll always have a stash that’s ready to handle almost any mess.

2. Swap fast food for homemade convenience meals. The key to preventing yourself from running to fast food as a dinner option is to keep a stash of ready-to-go meals in the freezer; make it even easier to eat from your freezer than to order fast food. Focus on creating a stash of freezer meals that simply require you to transfer them from the freezer directly to the oven.  Or, if lunch-time-takeout is your budgeting nemesis, focus on stocking your freezer with homemade microwavable meals like these or these. I have a free printable grocery list if you’re hoping to save money on groceries.

3. Swap store-bought cleaning products for homemade solutions. It may come as a surprise to see just how simple and inexpensive it is to make your own cleaning solutions. You likely have many of the items already needed that most recipes require such as vinegar, baking soda or rubbing alcohol. If you don’t like a recipe you try, don’t swear off of homemade cleaning products forever – just move onto a different recipe until you find something that works for you. I cleaned my drip pans (one of the toughest jobs in the kitchen) with a homemade solution of baking soda and dish soap and I was quite happy with the results.

4. Swap contract phones for low-fee plans. The allure of getting a shiny, new smart phone at a discount can be enough to make you sign a contract that you don’t need (it has happened to me). However, if you’re willing to pay cash for a less expensive phone, you can slash your $100+ per month contract phone bill in half. Several companies offer cellphone service with unlimited plans at $50 or less per month. This way you can still get all the functionality of a smart phone with the added bonus of an instant 50% discount each month.

5. Swap body wash for bar soap. As much as I love body wash, I consider it to be a huge money-waster. While both tend to provide a similar number of uses, bar soap can cost less than $1 for a pack of three to four bars for the low-end and store brands. Body wash, however, can typically cost $3.50 to $5 for just one bottle.  So, your cost-per-use is automatically lower when using an inexpensive bar of soap vs. an inexpensive body wash.

What did you wish you would’ve known when you began your frugal journey? If you have any money saving tips for beginners, please share them below in the comments.


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  1. says

    Holy cow, we’re super frugal over here- didn’t really realize it haha. We use a lot of these tips in our everyday lives.

    Here’s a tip: for those of us who tried a ‘dumb phone’ but just couldn’t give up the convenience- scour your local craigslist and purchase a slightly used model of your dreams- no contract extension required! Lock yourself into a really, really good plan (mines $60 for unlimited everything) and resist the urge to purchase the latest and greatest phone (since craigslist will have them in 3-4 months anyway).

    • says

      be careful with this though. I did this and it happened the person I bought the phone from stole the phone. I don’t use craigslist for phones anymore. Bad experience. 🙁

    • Trudy says

      You won’t believe it but Istill have the old “flip ” phone, $32.00, this includes tax for 60 days and all minutes are rolled over. I love all the tips on this blog—-I try to be frugal because I feel it brings back memories of the “good oldd days”—-I don’t use paper towels and domy own sewing and have incorporated many other sugguestions from Living on a Dime.

    • bethel says

      We also cut out paper table napkins. You can find them at thrift stores (like Goodwill) for just a few cents apiece, and so what if they don’t match the dishes? They can be washed in whatever load of clothes you are laundering (except underwear!) and can be used over and over. We only use paper if we are having a picnic where we use all paper products.

  2. says

    stopping over from Wined Down Wednesday. Great tips. My husband is obsessed with paper towels. We do use reuseable cloths too. I am going to be more mindful going forward.

  3. says

    Know when it’s good to be namebrand loyal and when being less picky will do. Example, for me, I hate generic soda so it’s real Coke and real Mountain Dew for me. If I drank 5 cans a day, this would really get expensive. But I only drink one can every 3-4 days so spending the extra money is worth it.

    On the flip side, I need to wash dishes several times a day, every day. I’ve found about 5 different brands of dish soap that I think all work work well so I buy whatever’s at the best price at the time. No sense spending more to stay loyal to one brand when several all work well and it’s a product I use so often.

  4. says

    This may be slightly off-topic, but there are simple steps anyone who enjoys gardening can do to cut related expenses. Used coffee grounds and egg shells make great soil conditioners. Layers of newspaper are also a good substitute for landscape fabric.Trellises can be easily built, too.

  5. says

    Congrats on being in the top 10 posts on Thrifty Thursday! Stopping by to check it out. We do most of these – still on contract phones, although my husband as a smart phone and I still use a dumb phone.

  6. says

    My tips are to only run the dishwasher when it’s full and the same with washing clothes. We have a dehumidifier in our basement and are able to hang a lot of our clothing to dry which saves on electricity. We both pack our lunches and try to eat in over eating out.

    • Anonymous says

      I was always very proud that my sons knew how to do housekeeping as well as my daughters. One rule was only wash clothes when you have a full load. I didn’t realize that I had not explained this rule very well when we moved to a new house after 10 years. As I cleaned out closets I found a laundry bag of jeans in my 17 year old’s closet that he had worn in 3rd or 4th grade. When I asked about these, he said they were his “washer jeans” He explained that I had always said to run the washer only when it was full. So, if he had only one or two pairs of jeans to wash; he added these old ones so the washer would wash most efficiently.

  7. says

    Great tips! I have such a hard time taking it slow…I’m so bad about being all or nothing, especially with my budget. I feel like the more I try to save, the more I end up rebelling and spending more. Really helpful tips to stay on track! Thanks for linking up at Thursday STYLE!

  8. says

    Great tips. I’d like to add that hanging laundry instead of using the dryer is a huge money saver, especially down here in the south where sunshine is never in short supply. And also growing a garden, even a small one or container gardening can give you fresh organic produce and a little exercise & fresh air as well. Win/Win!

    ~Taylor-Made Ranch~
    Wolfe City, Texas

    • Stephanie dewitz says

      I only use the dryer once or twice a year. If the weather doesn’t permit you to hang outside, string clothesline in the back room of your basement. Not only does this save on electricity/gas, it saves wear and tear on your clothes as they stay in better shape!

  9. Anonymous says

    I find that crockpot meals are a great way to save time and money! There are a lot of recipes you can find online with just a hand full of ingredients, take little to no prep time, is ready by the time you get home from a busy day, and cooks a large portion. Eat leftovers for lunch during the week or just stick it in the freezer for another time. 🙂

  10. says

    I love using cloths and hate when we have visitors who use lots of paper towels because we usually only use one roll every month or two. We also use fabric napkins instead of paper which goes hand in hand with the paper towel. I can’t make the jump away from tissues. I use bar soap too which was actually the recommendation of my OBGYN and the added bonus that it is cheap is great. I hope that some people take these easy frugal tips. Thanks for the great post.

    • Sarah says

      I actually must use the gel type body wash. I am allergic to several bar soaps and when my OBGYN was out of the office my family doctor had to see more of me than I ever wanted him to after a reaction once. To add to the frugal ideas though, I always use more shampoo than conditioner so I use my left over hair conditioner as shave gel. Haven’t bought the real stuff in a long time. I never wash with anything but cold water except for towels. And I coupon… Not like the TV show, I just don’t buy laundry or dish detergent without a sale AND coupon.

  11. says

    For a few years now, I have been cutting open bottles and tubes of lotion to get the bit left in the bottom. In pump lotion bottles there is sometimes 2-3 ounces left that the stem can’t reach.

    • says

      I just did this in a pinch the other day! Why didn’t I think of it before, LOL! I used the tip of a small pairing knife to make the initial “hole”, then used my heavy duty scissors to cut around. I also wrapped the container in plastic wrap until I used all the product. I couldn’t believe how much was in the container that I would’ve previously thrown away!

      • dONNA cLOUD says

        If you want to use everything that is in a container (shampoo, conditioner, lotion, etc.) place the almost empty container in a bowl of very hot water, let it sit long enough to liquefy the contents, then pour what is left into the new container that has some room in it. This may require that you put the old one away for a few weeks until there is enough room in the new one, but it makes a huge difference on how much you can get out of the old container. Once you do this, there may be one or two uses left in the old bottle if any.

        I have found a wonderful funnel that is available in many food stores as well as the “Super-Marts” (not wanting to name specific ones). At the top and the bottom are clips that hold onto the neck of the appropriate bottle so you can let them stay together to drain for an extended time without the concern that they will topple over. Here is a website you can see the funnel. I found it in the stores for about half the cost on this site:

  12. says

    Hi there! I found your blog on Pinterest, where I am a new follower. I’m always trying to save money so I love these posts. I’m also following on Facebook & Bloglovin.

  13. says

    I was just going to say you can make your own bodywash USING the bar soap and I noticed the last comment says that! Great minds think alike. To make body wash, grate the soap, put it in the the bottle and add some water. Shake it up or just let the water dissolve the soap by itself. If it’s too thick, add some more water.

  14. says

    I was also going to comment that you can make your own body wash using the inexpensive bar soap – great minds think alike.
    Another tip – my mom dyes her hair every month and never uses up those little conditioner tubes she gets. One day she had an empty conditioner bottle so she squirted ALL the little hair dye conditioner tubes into the big bottle.
    I rarely dye my hair but when I do, I use the conditioner tubes for shaving 😀

  15. says

    Instead of paper napkins, I buy the packages of ‘wash cloths’ at Walmart for $4-5 for a set of 20 or so. I sort out the whites to use for dish cloths/rags, and use the colored ones for napkins. Toss them in laundry and you will be surprised how quickly you realize paper napkins are such a waste of money! Store them on your table in a pretty basket and you will never go back!

    • says

      Cossondra, I do this too! And you can alternate your “napkins” for the seasons as well, as Walmart varies the colors they carry throughout the year. I consider it “practical and useful decorating”:)

    • says

      You can also attach plastic snaps to those wash clothes and wrap them around your paper towel holder (may have to use an old paper towel tube). Most people will grab for the paper towel holder before a drawer. And that will encourage visitors (and kids/husbands) to use the wash clothes instead of paper towels. Also, keep a small plastic basket (from the dollar tree) in the kitchen to use as a wash cloth hamper.

  16. says

    A super money saver is to follow the care instructions when washing/drying your clothes. Wash all “undermentionables” cold water, delicate cycle and never buy anything labeled “Dry Clean Only”. Your clothes will be cleaner, fade less, keep their shape longer and shrinkage will be minimal.
    One thing I wish I learned earlier is: Square Foot Gardening. It is amazing how much time I don’t spend gardening. For years I did traditional gardening and spent hours & hours in the garden. Now I spend so little time gardening DH thinks I stopped all together. Yet I have been harvesting lettuce & spinach since Oct. Just finished up the broccoli & the snap peas have been giving about 5 qts a week since end of Jan (with about 2 weeks left). I live in So California so I have a long growing season–but most areas can have an extended growing season by choosing the right crop,

  17. says

    Make bar soap into bodywash. I use caress it cost me about .50 a bottle. 3 1/3 cups of water and grated bar soap. Bring to a boil until soap dissolves then refridgerate 1 hr. take out add 2 table spoons coconut oil and whip in the blender should be creamy. Easy and saves a tone of $$$ may vary if using different soap

  18. says

    My only hang up right now as far as using cloth instead of disposable paper towels is that I live in an apartment and it costs $1.50 to wash and $1.50 to dry laundry. I am not completely convinced this would work for my family seeing as we go through so many paper towels with the kids and all. Any other suggestions?

    • Anonymous says

      you can also wash them buy hand and hang dry. on hangers in your shower. I have enough cloth napkins to last all week. If you wash your dish towels separate from your clothes as I do you can wash them with those items.

  19. Stephanie dewitz says

    Getting rid of your cable TV will save you a bundle as well. We get over 12 channels just with the air waves which provides us with plenty to watch …or it makes us be more productive with our time:)

  20. says

    Eating out is the number 1 budget killer. Food prices are quadrupled or tripled compared to making your own food at home. Try eating out once in a while and always cook your own food this really helps with the saving plus it will also make you aware what and where the ingredients of your food coming from.

  21. says

    We use cloth rags instead of paper towels, and usually throw them away–so there is no washing involved. Any type of worn clothing will do, except heavy denim or similar fabrics. Sheets, shirts, pjs, socks, even underwear after discarding elastic and crotch areas,lol–old T shirts are great. Just cut or rip to the size you find useful. I stuff them into an empty tissue box and place in the kitchen. We only use paper towels for cooking in the microwave, mostly baking potatoes or yams or hot dogs.

  22. Dawn says

    I work in an office and have tons of clothing that says “Dry Clean Only” . . . which I never do. A friend who worked for a dry cleaner told me that unless it states “Professional Dry Clean Only” that I can actually wash them myself. So I wash my “Dry Clean Only” clothing in the washer on cold and I hang almost all of my dress clothes to dry. When drying what I do put in the dryer, I use the minimum heat setting and hang them up as soon as the dryer goes off. I haven’t dry cleaned anything in YEARS!

    Also, to discourage myself from spending on unnecessary items (just because there is extra money in my checking account), I have a substantial amount of my paycheck automatically withdrawn every payday and sent to a separate bank where I have a savings account. It is so much easier than having to take the time to go to my primary bank and withdraw the money that I thought I would save and take to a different bank. That rarely happened. But now that I know that money is not really there, it has substantially reduced my shopping splurges (lunches out, a starbucks coffee, etc.).

    • Jazmin Rode says

      So smart, Dawn. I know a lot of people spend considerable amounts of money on dry cleaning and your tips will help them put some money back into their pockets!

  23. says

    Superb post but I was wanting to know if you could write a litte more on this subject?
    I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit further.
    Bless you!

    • Jazmin Rode says

      Sure thing! I have some similar future posts planned. Please do let me know if there’s anything specifically you’d like to learn more on.

  24. amber says

    Buying take out coffee! some people spend close to 10 bucks a day on their specialty coffees. But even if you’re spending 2 bucks a day that 60 bucks a month. It’s a lot cheaper to make it at home and bring it in a travel mug!☺

  25. tammy says

    Shopping around for car insurance saved me about half what I was paying. Things do change–for years I checked prices every year, but after a whilel I just assumed our company would stay the cheapest–I was wrong. Going to a prepaid cell phone reduced our bill by $100/mo. And getting out of debt saves us hundreds of dollars per year in interest–it’s worth it to sell off what you can to pay off those credit cards.

  26. Kristy says

    I like how you mentioned reusing your cleaning cloths and not using paper towels. I did this with paper plates. My fiancé wanted me to keep purchasing paper plates because he gets lazy doing dishes all the time, but I refused to do it once I got ahold of some reusable plates. Buying paper plates is a waste of money. Yes they are convenient, but way spend $3-$5 on paper plates once/twice a month when you can rewash reusable plates and use them forever until one breaks or you decide to replace your dishes. You spend money once this way and it’s another way to save. I would rather use that money for more important things like bills, or lower the amount of debt I have.


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