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Quick notes

  • It’s almost five times more expensive to eat out or order food than it is to eat at home
  • Buying two drinks with your meal can take your tab from $10 to $30
  • If you live in an area that has access to decent public transportation, you can save a lot of money by not driving your car to work

When you think about being frugal, the word “sacrifice” often comes to mind. Whether it’s sacrificing your favorite coffee shop or going out to eat, there are just some habits that aren’t worth the money.

Just because you want to make some financial changes in your life, however, doesn’t mean you have to give up all of your favorite things. Living frugally also doesn’t mean you can’t have any fun.

Here are a few tips to living frugally without giving up the lifestyle you enjoy.

Make it a potluck

Going out to eat a few times a week may not seem like a lot but it can really add up.

Even if it’s just dinner on Friday and Saturday night with a brunch or two over the weekend, you’ll be surprised at how much you’re spending each week on meals out.

If one of the main reasons you go out is to enjoy people’s company, try staying in with friends or family instead. You can still hang out with friends and you won’t have a huge restaurant bill to show for it.

For a dinner in, ask each friend to bring something. Doing a dinner party potluck style means that no one has to pay for the entire dinner party and everyone contributes.

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BYOB whenever you can

Buying alcohol when you’re out to eat can rack up a bill quickly. Your $10 meal can become a $30 meal after two glasses of wine.

Instead of paying for drinks, try to find restaurants that have a bring your own booze policy. BYOB restaurants are great frugal hacks. While there may be a corkage fee, you’ll still be paying far less than you would have if you bought all of your drinks out.

Now instead of paying $10 per glass of wine, you can get an entire bottle for the same price. This is especially great for large groups. Everyone brings their favorite drinks and no one is forced to pay more if they ordered a less expensive drink.

Brown bag it

Spending $5 to $15 dollars a day on lunch can really add up. According to Forbes, it’s almost five times more expensive to eat out than it is to cook at home.

When you prepare a meal at home, the study estimated you’ll spend around $4 per meal on average.

Let’s say you spend $10 per meal on average that you either take-out or have delivered, that’s $50 per week not including your weekend spending.

Kick the $5 a day coffee habit

Going to a local coffee shop is convenient but it’s also costing you a lot of money. Making your own coffee is an easy way to be a little more frugal at home.

You likely spend anywhere from $3 to $7 on a cup of coffee, an espresso drink or a tea. If you frequent this coffee shop every day before work, at $5 a pop, that’s $25 a week.

Think about what you could do with $1,300 a year back in your pocket.

Ditch your car

If you live in an area that has access to decent public transportation, you can save a lot of money by not driving your car to work. This is especially true if you live in an area where parking is at a premium.

If you factor in parking, gas, and the mileage on your car, taking the train, metro, or bus, is likely far less expensive.

If you can walk or ride a bike to work, you’re even better off. Not only will you be getting some exercise in, but you’ll also be able to commute for free.

A long-term play is to actually live as close to work as possible. While it may be more expensive to live in an urban area in terms of housing, the benefits of walkability may balance out.

You also can’t underestimate the price of your time. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), the average commute time for workers over the age of 16 is 26.4 minutes. That’s almost an hour a day when you count traveling both ways.

A deeper dive — Related reading from the 101:

Budgeting is a surefire way to cut costs and save money.

Nothing beats home cooking when you’re trying to save money, but some of the fun recipes have expensive ingredients.