12 Months of Frugal Living {Make just one change a month}

It’s a new year, and maybe one of your goals is to finally get a handle on your finances.

12 months of frugal living

If you’ve struggled with your finances it can feel very overwhelming to make the changes you need to.  People tend to give up because they are frustrated with not even knowing where to start or what to do next.

But what if you broke it down into smaller, more manageable chunks?

What if you just took it one step at a time?

What if you made just ONE change every month for the next year?

By the end of 12 months you would have made 12 different changes to your financial life. And I guarantee it wouldn’t feel so overwhelming.

Today I’m going to give you a “12 month plan” on how to do that.

But first, let’s talk about a few ground rules.

If you feel confident enough to make more than one change a month and to speed up your progress, by all means do it.

However, if you do that and then start to backslide, take the extra changes you added and put them aside and focus only on the one change that is meant for that month.

Secondly, if you do backslide even with one change a month, don’t throw the towel in. Just get back to it. We sometimes self-sabotage ourselves by deciding that since we messed up anyways there is no point in even trying anymore. We’re too far gone. We’ll never succeed.

Nothing could be further from the truth. I know this because many times in my life I had to fail dozens and dozens of times to finally get it right. So please, don’t give up.

So, let’s talk about what frugal living change to make every single month.


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Give up your drive thru coffees and snacks. Okay, I’m going to make you cut back on eating out for dinner or lunch quite yet as I want to ease you into it. 🙂 However, you can give up your take out coffee and snacks. If you have kids you may have been guilty like I have been over the year for buying one too many box of Timbits (doughnut holes) through the drive thru (okay, I know that’s a very Canadian thing so I’m wondering what the go-to drive-thru snack is in your country? Comment below!)

To avoid this you will want make sure you make your coffee or tea in the mornings before you leave the house. You can even get a coffeemaker with a timer and set it up the night before so you wake up to coffee already made!

Fill your purse or bag with snacks like granola bars, apples, oranges, bananas, or whatever else you can think of.


Change your grocery shopping habits. Shop the sales, use coupon apps like Checkout51 or Ibotta, and make a stick to a budget for your grocery expenses. Not sure where to start? Read these 15 ways you can save money on your groceries.


Practice the 30 day rule for impulse buying. What is that, you ask? Basically, if you are in a store and you see something you want, wait 30 days before going back to buy it.

The purpose of waiting 30 days is that often while in the store we think we need or just have to have an item. However, when we get home and a few days pass we often forget about it.

For years I would see this red kettle in a store I frequented. Every time I was in the store I suddenly NEEDED this red kettle. But, when I left the store and got back home I always forgot about it.

If it’s really important to you it will stick in your mind. Only buy it if it’s something you are thinking about weeks later (and have the cash for it of course.)


Give up the credit card. Decide to stop charging things to your credit card and only pay cash or debit. And only use debit if you don’t have overdraft on your account as overdraft can get you into a lot of trouble as well!

Decide that if you don’t have the money for it you need to wait to purchase it.


Learn some DIY. Grow a garden, make some food from scratch, wash your car in your yard, cut your family’s hair at home. Start doing some DIY that will save you money in the long run. There may be an initial investment (like clippers for haircuts, and seeds for a garden) but overall it should save you money over time.


Pay some extra money towards debt. Whether you can put an extra 200 to your debt or only an extra 20 dollars per month, do something. Every little bit counts and you will discover over time that this will pay off, literally.

It doesn’t matter how much extra money you put towards, every bit counts. Yes, more money will pay it off faster, but even a little money towards the principle will help you pay it off faster than if you did nothing.

Plus, over time as you practice frugal living on an even deeper level you may discover you can put more down towards your debt.


Cut back on eating out. Okay, we’re halfway through the year. It’s time to cut back on eating out. I’m not saying cut it out completely if that’s something you enjoy, but many people benefit from cutting back significantly.

Decide to eat out only once a month and you will save significantly.


Start meal planning. Planning your meals week by week will help you save when you go grocery shopping. It will make sure you shop for ONLY the ingredients you need, and you will avoid eating out more when you have no idea what you want to make for dinner and just decide eating out is easier.

Not only that, meal planning is a huge time saver and sanity saver! You can check out the ones I use over here.


Shop secondhand. If you are someone who generally avoids the thrift stores can I just say that you are missing out? There are treasures to be found often at ridiculously low prices (though you have to watch which thrift stores you shop at these days for rock bottom prices.)

I have actually grown to prefer shopping at thrift stores for the unique items I can find. We buy our clothes, furniture, books, kitchenware, and so much more there!


Look over your budget and cut out extra expenses. Look at where you are spending your money and see if there is anything you can give up. Subscriptions are a common one these days. With so many video, music and other internet subscriptions it’s easy to end up with a bunch of subscription fees when you could cut one or two of them out to save some money.


Cut costs inside your home. Look around and see what changes you can make to your house to save money. Could you put in a programmable thermostat to pay less on your heat by setting it lower? Could you get in the habit of turning lights off more often and unplugging appliances and electronics you aren’t using? Could you hang your laundry instead of using a dryer?


Scale down Christmas. For our kids we buy “something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.” We keep it manageable and affordable. There are other things you can do as well – draw names for extended family members, make gifts, keep a budget.


Sometimes we try to do too many changes at once and give up. Then we feel disappointed in ourselves because we failed. It doesn’t have to be that way. Take the pressure off and move slowly with changes. While a year seems like a long time at the beginning, at the end you will be amazed at how fast it went by and impressed with all the changes you have made.

You got this, I’m rooting for you!

2 thoughts on “12 Months of Frugal Living {Make just one change a month}”

  1. We actually ditched our debit card because our account was compromised and we had our bank account cleaned out 6 years ago. The criminal was caught since he paid off two personal loans with our debit card number. Not too smart! The employee who handled it at our bank told us that debit cards are not safe and that he does not even have one. (This is US, I don’t know how it is in Canada) We run everything through a credit card that pays us 2% cash back and pay the bill every month in full. We make about $600 a year on the cash back and we have peace of mind. Every charge is written in our check book register just as if the money is gone. When the bill comes I just write the check and pay it because the money has already been accounted for.

    I have come to the conclusion that it is retired people like us who keep the restaurants going! We have a cash budget for eating out each month and when it is gone it is gone. But, with two senior adults it is relatively inexpensive to eat out. When our five kids were still home it was truly once a month or less. I don’t feel guilty about it anymore since it is my husband’s favorite thing to do away from home and I almost lost him 3 years ago. I just roll with it and made it a part of our budget.

    As far as what people with kids go through the drive thru for for snacks in the US I have no idea but I am sure we would love those donut holes! Our daughter who lives in Germany says the kids are thrilled with stopping at a store as they are walking past and getting a 5 cent gummy candy. There are displays of all the gummies and the kids pick one and they get it from the clerk behind the counter. They walk everywhere since they live in the city and if it was me I would want to turn in at every bakery!

    1. You always have so many good stories…truly a life full of adventures. I am like you, I would end up turning into every bakery if I walked everywhere and lived in the city. 🙂 We enjoy eating out too – it’s fun for us, but of course with kids we definitely limit it. We go to a sit down restaurant every couple or few months, but we do get some super cheap pizza at least once a month. At Christmas we always end up buying a little too much pizza because of being so busy so I welcome January and it’s break and no more pizza stops! Only homemade pizza in this house this January. 🙂

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