You want to be frugal, but you can’t seem to pull it off. You set your goals and stick to them for a while. But before you know it, you start to lose your willpower.

You know what’s more effective than setting goals? Developing habits. Goals are great things to aspire to reach. But habits require action, and action is your best friend in the financial world.

Here are the 10 things frugal people act upon and understand that help them with their finances.

Frugal Habit # 1: Create A To Buy Waiting List

Instead of announcing you’ll never make an unnecessary purchase again, give yourself permission to dream. Never say never – just say not right now.

Create a waiting list of the things you want to buy at some point. By putting it on the list, you won’t feel so deprived. It will be there waiting for you should you decide to purchase it later.

But you’ll likely resist that urge – either permanently or for quite a while.

Frugal Habit # 2: They Know and Manage Their Credit Score

Just as your weight matters to your health, your credit score matters to your finances. Most people know that the better their credit score, the better the interest rates they can receive.

Having a high credit score keeps more cash in your pocket in other ways too. You can land savings on car insurance if you have a high credit score, for instance.

One great way you can check your credit score and get recommendations on how to improve it is by signing up with Credit Sesame.

This is the site I use to keep an eye on my score and get recommendations to improve it. When you sign up, you’ll get a very handy Credit Report Card which will tell you exactly what you need to do to improve your score.

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Frugal Habit # 3: Take Advantage of Easy Wins

Frugal people know that there’s certain personal finance actions that take little time and effort but offer tremendous rewards. For example, taking ten minutes to optimize their 401K investments (see habit # 9) allows frugal people to potentially cut years off their working life.

Other examples of actions that have a high return on investment include:

# 1 – They’ll shop their insurance with high rated insurers at least once every two years

  • Quick Action: Use a site like Esurance, which takes only a few minutes to get a quote, to see if you can save. Why Esurance? Esurance offers Express Lane quoting, which looks up your vehicles information automatically, saving you tons of time and hassle. All you need to get a quote is your name, date of birth, and address.

# 2 – They earn cash back on all their online purchases

  • Quick Action: Sign up for Swagbucks, which allows you to earn up to 20% cash back from your favorite online stores (including Amazon).

Frugal Habit # 4: Know When Refinancing Makes Sense

A study by the Journal of Financial Economics found 20% of homeowners who could have benefited from refinancing didn’t. As such, Americans paid an extra $5.4 billion in interest payments then they had to.

A mortgage is likely the largest debt you’ll have. A frugal person knows this and understands how much they can save by refinancing.

As interest rates are trending up, time may be running out to save money. Take a few minutes now to make sure you’re not giving more money to a bank than required.

Head over to LendingTree to compare rates from up to 5 lenders in minutes in 3 minutes.

Don’t have a mortgage?

Look to see if you can save money refinancing other debts. LendingTree also allows you to compare auto loan rates from multiple lenders in minutes as well.

Lendingtree quick summary

  • Compare offers from competing lenders to get your best deal
  • Get rates on new home purchases, refinances, or home equity loans
  • Only takes 3 minutes to discover if you have the lowest rate


Frugal Habit # 5: Continuous Optimization

Frugal people are constantly optimizing their finances. It’s these little optimizations that may seem insignificant at the time, which compound over time to yield very big results.

As Darren Hardy explains in his best selling book The Compound Effect, ‘’Small, seemingly insignificant steps completed consistently over time will create a radical difference.’’

When it comes to your finances, here’s three small steps you can take today which down the road will mean a big difference.

  • Save more the easy way. Increase your 401(k) contribution percentage by 1% every six months (set a calendar alert if your company doesn’t offer automatic increases).
  • Change where you buy groceries. Write down the ten most common items you buy at the grocery store. Then, compare the prices of these items at different stores. Shop at the store that saves you the most money.
  • Earn passive income with Paribus. Paribus is a free tool that gets you money back for your online purchases. How it works is you sign up, then Paribus will scan your email archives for any receipts. If Paribus finds you’ve purchased something from one of its monitored retailers, it tracks the price and helps you get a refund when it drops (you keep 100% of the savings).

Frugal Habit # 6: Understand Opportunity Cost

Frugal people don’t look at a price tag and take it at face value. They dig deeper than that. They know everything comes at a price and sometimes that cost isn’t apparent on the price tag.

For every dollar they spend, they’re trading something that’s far more valuable than paper money. They’re giving up their time, effort, and energy to buy that item. So they do their best to evaluate that it’s fully worth it to them.

There are multiple ways of doing that, including calculating how many hours it would take to earn the money to make that purchase. But when you do it that way, you’re not considering the true loss – what would happen if you saved that money instead.

For that, you can use the rule of 184.

Here’s how it works.

Let’s say you’re thinking about joining a fancy gym. Let’s pretend that will cost you $100 a month.

If you saved that $100 every month and invested it instead, you might reasonably expect to earn 8% a year on average with a stock market index fund. In 10 years, that $100 a month could grow to $18,444 instead.

With the rule of 184, you can take any monthly expense and determine how much money you’d have after 10 years. You do that by multiplying the monthly cost by 184.

This trick is just one way frugal people look at every expense, at more than just a price they pay today.

Frugal Habit # 7:. They Know Where Their Money Is Going

What frugal people excel at is making the most of the money they have. To do that, they have a plan for where they want their money to go. Then, they track their income and expenses to ensure they’re on target.

In the landmark book The Millionaire Next Door, authors Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko spent 20 years studying who the real millionaires were in America. To their surprise, they found that the majority of millionnaires were quite frugal. When describing the traits of a typical millionaire, the authors explained:

They know that planning, budgeting, and being frugal are essential parts of building wealth, even for very high-income producers. Even high-income producers must live below their means if they intend to become financially independent. And if you’re not financially independent, you will spend an increasing amount of your time and energy worrying about your socioeconomic future.

Their research also revealed that the majority of millionaires can answer “yes” to these two questions.

  1. Does your household operate on an annual budget?
  2. Do you know how much your family spends each year on food, clothing and shelter?

In fact, they found that for every 100 millionaires who don’t budget, there are 120 who do. But what comes as an even bigger surprise, the higher the net worth, the higher the percentage of budgeters.

“Only those clients with considerable wealth want to know exactly how much their family spends on each and every category.”

What’s the best way to track your expenses AND create a budget you can stick to? Check out Tiller. Tiller makes budgeting with a spreadsheet easier than ever by automatically importing your transactions and balances. This gives you more control over your budget as you can customize the spreadsheet how you like (or use their pre-built templates). Try it free for 30 days here.

Frugal Habit # 8: Ask the Right Questions before Making a Big Purchase

When it comes to buying a car, frugal people are not asking, “How much car can I afford?” or “What’s the monthly payment?

Instead, they’re asking a totally different set of questions, such as:

  • What is it that I actually want by buying this car and is there a better way to get that?
  • What is the total cost of ownership including gas, parking, insurance, maintenance, etc…
  • What will happen if I don’t buy this car right now?

The questions will change depending on what you’re buying, e.g. a car vs. clothes online. The principle, however, of asking better questions is what’s important.

A personal example, here’s what I try to ask myself each time I buy something online.

  • What will actually happen if I don’t buy this item right now?
  • What is it that I actually want by buying this item and is there a better way to get that?
  • Can I buy it through Swagbucks to save money?
  • Can I find a used one on Craigslist?

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Frugal Habit # 9: They Don’t Tolerate Hidden Fees

Nothing can eat into your money quite like hidden fees.

Frugal people know to always read the fine print. They know where hidden fees are and are doing what they can to control them.

Hidden fees can be found everywhere. Credit cards have them and so do 401(k)s. Even your checking account might charge you hidden fees if you drop below an average daily balance for the month.

One simple trick to reducing hidden fees in your 401(k), which average over 1.5% and are often hard to spot, is to get a free analysis of your 401(k) with Blooom.

Blooom is an SEC-registered investment advisory firm, that the Wall Street Journal called, “one of the best online tools for retirement planning.” To get your free analysis, all you have to do is enter your name, birthday, and estimated retirement date. Then, let Blooom link up to your 401(k).

Blooom then uncovers any and all 401(k) fees, plus tells you if you have the right mix of stocks and bonds.

Frugal Habit # 10: They Protect What’s Important

What frugal people understand well is using insurance for what it’s meant for–to guard against true financial catastrophes, not minor inconveniences.

Frugal people don’t pay for cell phone insurance or warranties on appliances. These “risks” are covered by a fully-funded emergency fund. Instead, frugal people protect themselves with the type of insurance that guards against TRUE financial catastrophe.

A good example of insurance frugal people buy is term life insurance. Term protects your loved ones in the event of your death. There’s no gimmicks or bells and whistles. It’s simply protects against financial catastrophe.

It’s also super-cheap compared to other types of insurance (no-kidding, I pay $12.25 a month for my wife’s $250K policy, which is cheaper than many cell phone insurance plans). Your rate will vary by age and health but most people are surprised at how affordable term is. You can get a free life insurance quote here (it only takes 2 minutes) with A++ Rated Haven Life Insurance.

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10 Tiny Frugal Habits That Will Make A Big Difference In Your Life

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