The 10 Habits of Frugal People

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Frugal people share common traits and habits. From owning used cars to being content with what they have, frugal people seem to be smarter than the rest!

My financial role model is my father in law. He retired in his mid 50’s after working a government job for 20 or so years. Even more impressive, he was making around $50,000/year during his last year of work, and he had four children who were still in school!

So, how was he able to do this? Well, he’s definitely frugal but it’s so much more than that. He has a way of existing, a way of being, where he’s so happy and content with what he has that he doesn’t need to spend money to keep up with others or buy the latest, greatest gadget.

Despite being able to purchase a nice car, he’s quite content with his old truck. In fact, he “needs” his old truck so he can move things around on his property in rural Louisiana. A nice car just wouldn’t be practical.

He’s my hero in so many ways. Not only is he frugal, but he’s generous. He’s very giving to the members of his community. More than once I’ve watched him give cash to a needy family who lives down the street. Every once in a while, he’ll buy something expensive – like a tractor or nice boots – but he’s the least materialistic person I’ve ever met so he’ll never tell you he went and bought it.

Whenever I think of the habits of frugal people, I think of him. However, I’ve noticed that the habits of frugal people tend to be universal. While not every frugal person in the world does the things I’ve listed below, there are some common threads like not being wasteful and not being materialistic.

Ten Habits of Frugal People

1. Frugal people do not waste anything. Whether it’s a ziplock bag or an Amazon box that came in the mail, they keep it and reuse it.

2. Frugal people know the value of a dollar better than most. If they can get a better deal or a better interest rate on their savings, they will spend time shopping around.

3. Frugal people buy used. Rarely will they pay full price for anything.

4. Frugal people rarely upgrade their lives. From living in their childhood homes to driving their cars into the ground, they see no reason to inflate their lifestyles.

5. Frugal people budget and know where their money is going at all times. Depending on the generation, they might have a lifetime of receipts and calculations from the years prior.

6. Frugal people are not “cheap.” Being frugal often goes hand in hand with generosity. Because they don’t spend a lot of money on themselves, they aren’t bothered by parting with their money to help others.

7. When frugal people take vacations, they are content with less expensive hotels. They understand vacations are much more than just the place you put your head at night.

8. Frugal people rarely eat out, preferring home cooked meals above all else. They use the same pots and pans they’ve had for many, many years.

Frugal people share common traits and habits. From owning used cars to being content with what they have, frugal people seem to be smarter than the rest!

9. Frugal people don’t feel pressure to send their children to expensive private schools.

10. Frugal people couldn’t care less about the latest fads and trends. They rarely feel pressure to keep up with the Joneses and are better off for it.

As I said before, this list is not complete. But, it is my best stab at defining a way of life that can be misunderstood by those who don’t describe themselves as frugal. If you want to be frugal, this list is a great place to start!

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Do you have a frugal role model in your life like I do? What did I leave off the list? What does ‘frugal’ mean to you?




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Catherine Alford is the go to personal finance expert for parents who want to better their finances and take on a more active financial role in their families.


  • Taylor Lee says:

    Frugal to me means identifying what provides the greatest value for you and prioritizing your spending accordingly.

    For instance, with food, if my desire is to eat yummy things at a certain price point I might go buy myself an aged gouda to cook in my risotto. What I’m doing is prioritizing the food flavor (which I care deeply about) over the convenience of eating out (which is nice, but less important to me).

    Further, being frugal is about being mindful of your spending and cutting out the waste that doesn’t bring you value and happiness in your life.

  • Clarisse @ Make Money Your Way says:

    While reading this one Cat, I can’t help to smile and said this is me. πŸ™‚ I can relate to number 4, 8, 10 and especially number 7, while on a vacation, I prefer to stay on a less hotel expensive hotels rather than on a luxury one.

  • Kassandra @ More Than Just Money says:

    My first step-dad mirrored this list. He focused on people much more than on possessions and he was very content with his life. He really didn’t need much in order to experience joy.

  • Amy says:

    You’ve just described my parents. πŸ™‚

  • Simon says:

    This describes my parents perfectly as well! I might add:-
    Frugal people also tend to be DIY folks when they can, from growing food in backyard gardens to repairing stuff at home πŸ™‚

  • Deb @ Saving the Crumbs says:

    I love your list! Perhaps one thing that I could add is that frugal people often are content with less, which I guess could be why they do the other things on your list.

  • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says:

    Cat, I’ve SO been waiting for this post!! Your FIL sounds much like the dad of some dear friends of ours. He’s loaded, but you’d never know it. He inspires us in so many ways. He lives in cheap jeans and flannel shirts, drives a comfortable but older, nice car, and is content living the simple life. Thanks for sharing this story – your FIL sounds awesome!

  • Thomas @ i need money ASAP! says:

    You wouldn’t have always described me as frugal but I would like to think that these habits describe me quite well now. Overall I think being frugal is about knowing the value of your purchases and being able to prioritize them. Money isn’t unlimited so you want to get the most value out of it as possible. Those priorities will be different for everyone but the process should be the same.

  • Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life says:

    My father was always frugal too, not to the extent that I am, but still, I found it surprising since he and my mom both made boat loads of money back in the day.

  • Kurt @ Money Counselor says:

    Frugal people don’t replace something only because it’s “dated”! I think you covered that in a couple spots, but it’s one of my pet peeves. Sure, it’s nice to have the latest styles, fads, and trends–but it’s nicer to retire in one’s mid-50s! πŸ™‚

  • Tonya@Budget and the Beach says:

    Yup, that’s pretty much my life right now…even when I had income coming in! πŸ™‚ I am guilty of not keeping amazon boxes though. I just really don’t need them and hate clutter.

  • Practical Cents says:

    Nice list to start off on your frugal journey. I don’t have a frugal role model but I’ve learned a lot from all the blogs I read. So I guess they are my role models.

  • Myles Money says:

    Frugal to me means getting great value for money, not just buying cheap: quality costs more, but sometimes “cheap” can be a false economy.

  • Ben @ The Wealth Gospel says:

    I’m not a Ziploc bag saver, but I always keep my Amazon boxes! πŸ™‚

  • Pauline says:

    It all comes down to being resourceful. Often you just spend extra money for the convenience of not having to DIY or fix things that could work a bit longer.

    • Cat says:

      I agree. I just paid a convenience fee to pay with a credit card over the phone because I know I’m too scattered right now to send a check.

  • Kipp says:

    There are a few areas in which I can do better on. The hard part is buying frugal things and not cheap. The line is blurred something with so many options available.

    I need to do better on used items as well. I have gotten into the habit now of checking craigslist now before purchasing something a bit more expensive like a patio set, and bikes. No luck checking on those items in my area, but I should give it more time as well and browse for some time to see if anything comes up. Not just a check before buying new, because the items that are of great value are probably gone fairly quickly.

  • Froogal Stoodent says:

    These ten habits are insightful–great job Cat! Numbers 2, 3, 5, 6, and 8 are right on point!

    I argue that wealth is a mindset, which I label the “Millionaire Mindset” in my most popular article. The essence is that you minimize your expenses and learn to be happy with a few things, regardless of what others have. I think this article also captures that idea–kudos! πŸ™‚

  • Even Steven says:

    Frugal to me is to make an extra effort to save money in the long run. You list examples of saving boxes and shopping around, these fit right in.

  • Shannon @ Financially Blonde says:

    Great list Cat! Frugal people definitely do not concern themselves with the Joneses and this was something I needed to break free from before I could focus on my frugal self. Since giving up the concern for others, it’s amazing how much I have saved. I wish I didn’t care a long time ago. πŸ™‚

  • Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter says:

    I think these are all definitely behaviours of some frugal people, but not all. I would say that saving a ziplock bag for the sake of it would be either cheap or displaying hoarding behaviour, depending on the situation and whether or not you are actually going to use it or if you have to seek a use for it.. you know what I mean?

  • Ms.LoL says:

    My parents were very good with the frugal thing. My mother actually is still using the same dining table and chairs that she found used before my sister was born. 35 years is a good investment in second hand furniture! lol

  • Kim says:

    When I think of frugal, I always think of my late Grandma. I bet she never had more than a few thousand dollars in the bank, but she and my Grandpa owned lots of land and made, raised, or grew just about everything they had. If they did buy it, it was purchased with cash. I think they probably always had the same truck, at least from when I was born until Grandma passed in 2006. She also never had a bad day. I’m sure her life wasn’t easy, but I never met a person with a more positive attitude. I only wish I could be about a tenth as positive and content as she was.

  • Nik @ Midlife Finance says:

    Great lists you have there! Something that I need to apply in my personal life. I’ve learned a lot and this is what I need right now.

    Thanks much!

  • Travis says:

    It hasn’t always been the case, but I identify with everything on your list. The dining out one is a biggie for me….I hate looking at a restaurant bill and knowing I could have cooked something better at home!

  • lyle @ the Joy of Simple says:

    Great post Cat! And if I may humbly say, your FIL sounds like me…without the truck though πŸ™‚

    I liked your ten habits and while I may struggle with the eating out issue, I still live quite frugally and enjoy doing so…regardless of whether I have the cash or not.

    Those looking to live frugally can definitely benefit from your post.

    Thanks again and take care.


  • Michelle says:

    My grandma’s basement is full of old market day boxes. Every Christmas we would unwrap the presents to see a box of cheese sticks or ravioli from there. Those boxes came in handy.

  • Heather says:

    This is a good list! I can relate to a lot of these habits…others are easier said than done sometimes haha

  • Free to Pursue says:

    I agree that some folks don’t understand the lifestyle and this list might definitely help. A friend of mine even suggested that being called “frugal” was derogatory, saying I should refrain from even using the word. *sigh*

  • Prudence Debtfree says:

    “Frugal people are not ‘cheap.'” This point jumped out at me. I think I used to have a preconceived notion that ‘frugality’ and ‘being cheap’ were the same thing – and it was one of the reasons I didn’t want to be frugal. I love it that your father-in-law is generous. A combination of frugality and generosity really is a great thing.

  • Tamara says:

    I can relate so well to these. I think my Dad has been my strongest frugal role model. Though he does like to have the latest gadgets, you can be sure he has at least shopped around to get the best price possible. Personally, I’ve taken things to the next level, and track spending very closely. Since I travel for both work and leisure, there are many challenges, but not having a permanent home make minimalism much easier!

  • Free to Pursue says:

    I agree with most of the list. I’d also say that frugal people make good use of public spaces and services: parks, library, free museum and zoo days and the like.

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