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7 Habits of Highly Frugal People

by Debra L. Karplus, MS, OTR/L

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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Dr. Stephen Covey was first published in 1989 and has sold over fifteen 15 millions books since then, in 38 languages. Covey has since co-authored similar books targeted to highly effective teens, families, and marriage. His writing is positive and inspiring.

In one of his books, the late Dr. Covey stated, "If you want to make minor, incremental changes and improvements, work on practices, behavior or attitude. But if you want to make significant, quantum improvement, work on paradigms." Taking Dr. Covey's advice we offer these habits of highly frugal people.

1. Frugal people save dollars by saving pennies.

Frugal people know that frugality applies to both big and small issues. Frugal people are able to enjoy a ten dollar restaurant lunch occasionally, but are fully aware that a daily routine of that same lunch amounts to nearly four thousand dollars a year. They organize potlucks instead of meals out. They do simple, small things like use a tea bag more than once, empty and re-use a vacuum cleaner bag, and clip coupons to save a buck on a jar of peanut butter. However, they also save in much larger ways like trading in their minivan or SUV (sport utility vehicle) for a more economical vehicle.

2. Frugal people are deliberate about making decisions.

Frugal people have a good sense of perspective and are able to see the big picture; they don't always choose the cheaper option simply because it appears less expensive. They take their time and explore many options before making a decision. They plan and are generally well organized. Frugal people typically don't seek immediate gratification. And, they try to go green whenever possible.

Organization tips to save time and money

3. Frugal people are good managers of both time and money.

Frugal people organize their errands for optimal efficiency. They place value on their time; they know how to recognize when saving money just isn't worth the time. They know better than to drive across town to save a quarter on a gallon of milk. They are disciplined and work before play. Frugal people know that how wealthy you are is not about your income, but rather about how you use your financial and intangible resources.

4. Frugal people embrace a do-it-yourself lifestyle.

Frugal people are proactive and anticipate and perform maintenance and repairs without procrastination. Before hiring a professional for doing household repairs, a frugal person performs research on the internet and confers with an expert at the home improvement center to determine if a repair person even needs to be hired. Frugal people have made an investment in owning high quality tools to tackle most simple repairs at home. They barter with friends and neighbors to get the job done.

Is It a DIY Job?

5. Frugal people see opportunities where others don't.

Frugal people are intuitive and trust their gut feeling when an opportunity presents itself. School supplies at an April rummage sale or a pile of free firewood on a nearby parkway are true finds for the frugal person, requiring little speculation. Frugal people are contrarians who don't go along with the crowd for the purpose of conformity; they are not mainstream shoppers. They don't own the newest and fastest electronic gadgets that everyone else is purchasing; they have adopted the Rule of One, owning no more than one of anything non-essential including televisions, cell phones, computers, electronics, and cars.

6. Frugal people find new uses for old items.

A container of brown shoe polish doubles as a quick fix for blemishes on woodwork in the house or furniture. Steel wool plugs holes to keep away household pests. Frugal people find free pallets from local stores and use them creatively in the backyard, garage, and basement, such as for storage. Frugal people devise uses for duct tape that you'd never imagine. To be frugal, means to be creative.

Taking recycling beyond cans and bottles

7. Frugal people are proud of their frugal lifestyle.

Frugal people have transformed their home into a haven where they can have fun while saving money. They have devised creative ways for their family to reduce house, food, transportation, insurance, entertainment, utilities, and other costs. They have turned household tasks into fun family activities, such as gardening or bicycling as a mode of in-town travel.

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Frugal people reuse, recycle, barter, and share and use the library for books and other materials. They don't need to purchase items such as DVDs, clothes, tools, and yard equipment. Frugal people raise money-savvy kids who learn to respect money and material objects. And they are always open to the possibility of discovering new ways to be a more frugal person.

Can you rework your own paradigm, as Dr. Covey suggested, to become a more frugal person?

updated: December, 2014

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Debra is an occupational therapist, accountant, teacher and freelance writer. She is a writer for Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. She also writes for Grand Magazine, has some items (fiction and non fiction) selling on (kindle), has written several travel articles for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and several articles for Learn more about her at

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