People Might Call Me Cheap, But I Live a Rich Life. Here’s How I Do It

frugal living
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My wife and I use paper towels for napkins, and tear them in half to make them go further. It’s a habit we maintained even when we made six figures.

Dinner out is often an appetizer at a bar with happy hour specials, and we sometimes pay with discounted gift cards. We buy cheap new furniture or high-quality used furniture to keep costs down.

What do we lose because of our frugality? Not much.

Paper towels work fine as napkins, it’s more interesting to sit at the bar in a restaurant, cheap couches are comfortable and a new table or bookcase is technically “used” furniture once you’ve had it for a day anyway.

But what do we gain by being “cheap?”

We live without debt. Even our home is paid off.

Our savings accounts and low cost of living let us comfortably survive the loss of any job or business we have, which makes life less stressful.

Most importantly, being frugal with things of less importance frees up money for more important goals — like travel, movies and simply enjoying more time together.

In other words, “being cheap” is a way to live with more freedom.

How Little Can You Live On?

Our expenses aren’t anywhere near as low as they could be, because spending less is not a goal in itself.

We spend much of our income, but thanks to our frugal living strategies and tactics, we have the freedom to spend more of it how we want.

For an idea of how well you can live on less, consider the Wagasky family in Henderson, Nevada.

They live on an annual income of $14,000, far below the poverty level of $23,550 a year for their family of four.

They have everything they need, including a 1,400-square-foot house they bought for $28,000 as a foreclosure. Danielle Wagasky details how they live on so little at

But why take the Wagasky family’s story as a lesson in being satisfied with a small income?

Instead, consider the freedom you’d have if you made the U.S. median household income of $52,250, while covering all of your basic needs with the first $14,000.

What could you do with all that extra money? Your options would be wide open.

With that in mind, here are some ways to get there…

Frugal Living Tips, Strategies and Tactics

It makes sense to find ways to save money on everything you buy, but the large expenses matter most. These include housing, cars and food, so we’ll start with those…

Your Home

If you own, consider downsizing your home to save thousands of dollars each year.

Otherwise, check out our list of ways to save on rent. Also see our list of home improvements to save you hundreds of dollars per year.

Even better, do what I did and pay off your mortgage by renting out rooms in your house.

Your Car

If you have two cars, try getting by with one, or even save money living without a car.

But if you must have a vehicle, at least find cheaper car insurance and look at our list of 23 ways to save money on gas.

If you’re really committed to spending less, learn to do basic car maintenance, or at least use these strategies to save money on car repairs.


The many ways to save money on groceries include couponing strategies and taking advantage of Walmart’s ad-match guarantee.

With the right recipes, your affordable meals can be both healthy and convenient.

Health Care

Don’t automatically accept a health problem’s recommended treatment — a second opinion saved me $6,000.

Look at all the options.

You can sometimes fix your teeth for free, and if you have a medical condition that’s being studied, you might even make money participating in a clinical trial.


We routinely take under $500 vacations using the best travel credit cards to get free hotel rooms and other benefits.

Look for ways to arrange affordable adventure travel and consider free summer activities.

You might even make money traveling, beachcombing for fun and profit.

Everything Else

Here are a ton of posts to help you save big on most of the things you buy:

Once you’ve used a few of these money-saving strategies, you’ll have freed up some cash to spend on…

Well, that’s where the freedom part comes in. The choice is yours!

Steve Gillman is the author of “101 Weird Ways to Make Money” and creator of He’s been a repo-man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror and roulette croupier, but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).