6 Tips to Live a Frugal Life Without Looking Cheap

March 11, 2014

This guest post was written by Chris Weddle, an online contributor who writes about tips for frugal living, travel, home improvement, and lifestyle. If you'd like to write a guest post for The Dime, email us at dimecontact@copera.org.

There's a fine line between being frugal and being cheap, and it's certainly one you don't want to cross. You should never skimp on a gratuity unless the service was particularly bad, and if you dilute the hand soap around your house too much, your guests may raise an eyebrow. On the other hand, it's important to save as much money as possible considering that many of us are behind on retirement savings and the economy is still on less than solid ground. Here's how you can live a frugal life without looking cheap.

1. Save on Gas
Did you know that unless you drive a high performance vehicle or your owner's manual specifically states it that there's no reason to buy premium gas? You can also save by using the GasBuddy app on your smartphone to locate the cheapest places to fill up near you. This is a great way to save money that many folks don't know about.

2. Buy Quality Clothes at Affordable Prices
Shop the thrift stores near high-end neighborhoods to get quality clothing at drastically reduced prices. You may be able to pick up designer jeans that normally cost over $100 for less than $20.

3. Do Your Own Home Improvements
Start off with some simple DIY projects like painting rooms and replacing door knobs on your own. Then, work your way up to more involved projects as your skill level improves. Once you get your feet wet consider DIY projects like installing hardwood flooring and putting up a privacy fence.

4. Get Free Stuff
Another great way to live frugally without anyone thinking you're cheap is to get everything you can for free. Use free antivirus protection programs like Bitdefender or Avira and go to the website AnnualCreditReport for your free credit report - never pay for it. Enroll in the rewards program at your local office supply retailer and get tons of supplies for free at select times throughout the year. Simply buy the items at full price and you receive a certificate for the amount you paid (minus sales tax) the following quarter. For miscellaneous items like furniture, computer monitors, and really just about anything else, check out the website Freecycle. You have to pick up the goods yourself, but you can't beat free.

5. Micromanage Your Home Energy
Unplug all appliances that you rarely use. Make sure your ceiling fans are rotating in the proper direction - counterclockwise in the summer and clockwise in the winter. Turn off lights and air conditioning in rooms that are empty and flip off the TV if no one is watching it.

6. Learn How to Cook
Improve your culinary expertise and you can save a ton on food. Skip those frozen dinners and preprocessed meals and start buying fresh produce at a farmers market to really rack up the savings. The more you can cut down on trips to restaurants, the more money you can save. Host a dinner party for your friends and family members and not only can you conserve cash, but you just may come off looking like a superstar chef.

In your attempts to avoid looking cheap, be sure you're not putting too much stock in what other people think. Obviously you want to avoid doing anything that blatantly screams "cheapskate," but making smarter choices with your money regardless of the reaction of those around you is nothing to be ashamed of. Further on down the road when you're enjoying a comfortable retirement, you'll have a big smile on your face.

What ways can you think of to live a frugal life without looking cheap?