Ease Into Frugality With These 3 Easy R’s

by Andrea Norris-McKnight
Ease Into Frugality photo photo

Living more frugally can require a mindset change. These three R’s can help you ease into frugality with small, simple, money-saving changes.

There is a well-known saying that came about during The Great Depression: “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without!” Today, frugal folks commonly say, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” These basic tenets of frugality can not only help you get through tough financial times but also help ensure the next tough financial times aren’t quite so tough.

Even if you’re comfortably getting by right now, a frugal lifestyle can help you live a more enjoyable life. It can enable you to spend less of your hard-earned cash on “needs,” so you have more for “wants.” And it doesn’t require that you cut out the fun stuff.

If you’re looking to live more frugally, following three simple rules can help you ease into frugality without feeling like you’re giving up life’s little luxuries you’ve grown to love.

3 Simple Rules for Easing Into Frugality

The thought of adopting a frugal lifestyle makes some folks panic because they only focus on what they might have to give up. But these three “R’s” — reduce, reuse, replace/recycle — can make frugal lifestyle changes simple and relatively painless.


If you look closely at your household habits, you may be surprised at how many ways you can find to reduce the amount of what you use daily and weekly. Consider the following:

  • Toiletries such as hair care products, soap, and even toothpaste
  • Cleaning products such as dish and laundry detergents, air fresheners and other cleaners
  • Paper products such as paper towels, napkins and plastic bags

Also, look at things such as streaming services and other memberships, food consumption, gasoline, and other regular budget items. Could you lose one of those streaming services? Could better portion control help you trim dollars from the food budget? Do you really need to spend the gas for that trip to the store, or can it wait until you have other places you need to go?

The idea isn’t to completely cut out anything. Just find simple ways to reduce your use or need for everyday items we often give little thought to.

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How many things do you toss out that still have more life or that can be used again?

Reuse glass jars in the kitchen for storage. Plastic bags and aluminum foil can be well-washed for another use unless, perhaps, first used for raw meats. An old pair of athletic shoes can become new yard work shoes. Reuse an old kitchen canister for bathroom storage. And keep all those gift bags you get each year, and you’ll never have to buy another one again.

If you use a lot of disposable products, consider swapping them out for reusable alternatives — swap paper napkins for cloth, stop cleaning with paper and use cleaning cloths instead, preferably cut from an old bath towel you were tossing out.

Start paying attention to all the things you throw out that you can reuse. And consider all of the money this one simple change in mindset can help you save.


Recycling items — reusing them for another purpose — sometimes takes some creative thought. But once you get used to thinking about how you can repurpose various things, you might surprise yourself with the things you won’t have to buy because you can transform another item into a replacement.

Turn an old entertainment center into that bookcase you need for your home office. Cut the legs from old jeans to make tug toys for your dog, and keep the jeans as a “new” old pair of shorts, of course. Turn a large plastic storage bin into a garden planter.

The next time you need a new piece of furniture, storage containers, pots for patio plants or any “thing” you think you need, first see if you already own something that can be transformed to fill the need.

The Frugal Takeaway

These three “R’s” can undoubtedly help you ease into frugality. If you want to jump in, thinking in terms of that slogan from The Great Depression, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without!” can launch you into the frugal life. Not replacing an item until it has absolutely no life left or doing without are not things many people practice today, but maybe we should. Given the uncertain economy, we could be in for a bumpy financial ride this coming year.

Living more frugally often requires a change in mindset. Keeping the three R’s in mind can help. When it comes to paying for “things,” these simple rules can help you see significant savings — savings that can help you survive tough financial times and improve your financial future.

Reviewed January 2024

About the Author

Andrea Norris-McKnight took over as the editor of The Dollar Stretcher and After 50 Finances after working under the site founder and previous editor for almost 15 years. She has also written for Money.com, GOBankingRates.com, HavenLife.com and The Sacramento Bee.

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