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9+ Ways To Live More Frugally — From People Who've Lived It

Sheryl Nance-Nash
Contributing writer
Older woman handling finances Wellth Check
Image by Elena Kharichkina x mbg creative / Stocksy
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Invest in your well-being: In this financial wellness series, we're diving into how to better budget for your physical, mental, and emotional health. Welcome to Wellth Check.

What you do day in and day out determines your path. The sooner you develop good habits, the better. That's certainly the case when it comes to your financial life. When you decide to live within your means and stick to it, you're headed in the right direction toward financial freedom.

In an age of instant gratification, the notion of restraint seems old-fashioned. But learning to hit the pause button before purchasing, questioning whether you're satisfying a need or a want has a big payoff. You're likely to spend less frivolously and stay within your budget. Nobody says learning this lesson is easy, but it's key to your financial well-being. 

Listen to some of those who have spent years mastering the art of frugality and offer advice to younger folks.

"Explore & learn who you are, but avoid crippling debt"

Edmund Moore, Ph.D., 62, just retired in September. The former senior materials engineer is set to enjoy the golden years. He's learned a thing or two about managing money. "I was fortunate to be in a position to misuse resources at an early age before coming to my senses and shepherding those resources as I matured," he says.

Moore says that by default, his first year in college he got serious about budgeting. "I wanted to move out of a dorm room (required to live in for the first year of college at Florida A&M University) to a rental house or apartment. I produced a budget that revealed that it was cheaper to live off campus than on campus."

Since then, it's been all about a budget. He's never used a budgeting app, relying on pen, paper, or an Excel spreadsheet. He credits his father for being an example: "His philosophy was to be happy, do not want so much, set goals, live within your budget, and do not owe anyone any debt," says Moore, author of Financial Freedom.

He offers three pieces of advice:

  • "In your 20s, explore, learn who you are, but avoid crippling debt."
  • "Set goals, create a budget, and begin planning for your financial future sooner rather than later."
  • "In your 30s, continue educating yourself and your family about finances and include end-of-life matters, trust, wills, funeral plans, long-term care, and more."

"Start early & set clear goals"

Pinky Chong, 54, says she grew up with parents who were frugal, but it was when she started her own family that financial stability and setting a good example for her children became more important. 

"The key to sticking with a budget is finding a balance between practicality and personal enjoyment. Budgeting shouldn't mean depriving oneself but making conscious choices about spending and saving," says the physical therapist.

The rewards are huge: "Living within my means has given me financial security and reduced stress."

She admits sticking to a budget can have challenges. She came up with a way to make extra income to meet goals, like reselling items she owned. That worked out so well, she is also a resale consultant.

Chong shares her thoughts for the younger generation:

  • "Start early and set clear goals. Whether you want to buy a home, retire early, or start a business, having specific objectives will motivate you to stick to your budget."
  • "Unexpected expenses can derail your financial plans. Aim to build an emergency fund that covers at least three to six months' worth of living expenses. This cushion will prevent you from going into debt in times of crisis. To help make this happen, set up automatic transfers to your savings and investment accounts."
  • "Shop smart. Look for deals, use coupons, and compare prices. Avoid impulsive buying, and give yourself time to think about nonessential purchases. You might find that you don't really need them. If you do and it's a good price, resell it for a profit."

"Save, spend & give in an intentional way"

Jessi Fearon says she failed with money early in her adult life. But she and her husband paid off over $55,000 in debt in 17 months and in January of 2019 became debt free when they paid off their mortgage. She shares her story in her book, Getting Good With Money.

In 2012 when they started the year with a pregnancy and ended it with another, they realized they would not be able to afford two kids under 2 in day care. They got serious about budgeting and living within their means.

"The key to sticking to a budget is knowing why you want to manage your money well. A budget is permission to spend, save, and give. It's not a restriction," says the 37-year-old.

Fearon gives guidance:

  • "Stop looking at a budget as a jail sentence, and see it as a permission slip."
  • "Avoid relying on debt. Remember that debt eats your income."
  • "Save, spend, and give in an intentional way."

The takeaway

Developing habits that improve your financial well-being doesn't happen overnight—it takes intentionality and work. Take it from experts who have overcome their own financial hurdles and lived a life of frugality.

Sheryl Nance-Nash author page.
Sheryl Nance-Nash
Contributing writer

Sheryl Nance-Nash is a freelance writer specializing in travel, personal finance and business. She enjoys sharing smart money strategies and loves writing about the intersection of travel, history, wellness, art and culture. Her work has appeared on, Fodors, Afar, The Daily Beast,, TravelAwaits, Global Traveler Magazine, among others. Her business writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine, Newsday, among others. Follow her on Twitter @NanceNash or Instagram @snntravels.