Reader Chad asked the following question, looking for advice:

It seems a lot of the advice to be frugal involves a lot of time we can't find or space we don't have, such as gardening or making cookies for gifts. Any good advice to staying frugal for a couple that works over 40 hours a week, lives in the city and is not a D-I-Y type person? 

There can be a few things to try since you live in the city.  Sometimes saving money is going to be about the big ticket items when you don't have time for the smaller savings. But, you would be surprised at what you can fit into your schedule and it doesn't take a whole lot of time to do.

Flickr/CC - wonderferret

These are my ideas for the non-DIY urbanite who works too much:

Have a Goal -
First of all, as a couple it is good to be on the same track for spending and saving and working toward a common goal. Nothing hurts a relationship like one half of the couple feeling like they are doing all the saving and cost cutting and the other half doesn't see the need.

Transportation - 
If you are within the city limits, then public transit or a bike will save you the most amount of money. No more car payments or insurance payments. And if your downtown is like Denver, there is always a car rental place around the corner if you do grocery shopping once month.

Spending List - 
Keep track of your spending for a good month, whether it's cash, check or charge and find out what you are spending your money on. This may help you see that too much is going towards clothes shopping or impulse buys. Your main goal is to find a pattern on what you spend and how much and then you can cut back where needed.

Shopping Around- 
Overpriced is the name of the game in the city, so keep your eyes peeled for 2nd hand stores that sell clothes, housewares and check the back of grocery stores for marked down food. Shopping online through Craig's List is also handy for your 2nd hand furniture - set up a time to rent a truck or borrow one.

Gift Giving - 
I know from experience that living downtown can really cut into your daily budget. Planning ahead to save a specific amount from each paycheck during the year will help cut down on the worry when the holidays come. Take a look at what you spend your money on for gifts, are they to impress and make you the "best relative" in the family or are you giving gifts to people you hardly know, but don't have the money for? Perhaps there are some creative ways you can give by way of a personal hobby or just spending time with them that will save some money.

Cleaning Up -
My most expensive cost at the store is buying cleaning supplies. Try cleaning with baking soda, vinegar and soap and water to clean instead of the expensive stuff. Dusting with a lightly damp cloth and a dry rag will work just as good too.

Cleaning Out - 
If you haven't already gone through your drawers, closets, and shelves to sell what isn't nailed down that you want to sell, do that now as well. Getting some extra money for the emergency fund or the holiday gift fund is always a good idea and why not sell what you don't use.

Eat Up -
If the vending machine is a temptation, don't keep spare change on you if possible. Take your lunch to work and a snack to keep at your desk. Bring in your leftovers from your home-cooked meal the night before. Simple stuff really but many people forget how much eating out sucks up our money faster than a tornado.

Free Entertainment - 
When I lived downtown, it seemed like there was always something going on that was free in the park or the at the nearby museums. Check online or in those free newspapers to see what is going on in your area that will entertain you both for free. There are ways to see free or cheap movies as well.

Overall, I think that you are on the right track since you have already been searching the web for ways to stay frugal. Glean what you can from the information out there, use your head and try to challenge yourself on new things. As long as you both are walking down the same road together it will be a better journey and who cares what others may think or say.

Ok Readers, Jump in with your thoughts on how to stay frugal in the city? What are your experiences?


  1. Chris at // Monday, June 28, 2010 8:22:00 AM  

    Sometimes I wished I lived in a big city to get all the good deals I see in my Groupon emails. Groupon seems to only offer deals for people who live in, or very close to, big cities.

  2. Eran Davidov // Thursday, July 08, 2010 7:36:00 PM  

    You can always get those deals just before you travel to the city. See sites like

    I get the frugality in the city problem though. I just moved to New York about 6 months ago and was not prepared for the costs of everything (from rent to food). In California, even in high rent areas, it was still cheaper.

    I started cooking more. Less eating out, more doing my own. Also I found websites that compare your rent so that you'd know how much you should be paying. Found them too late unfortunately :) - the one I know of is rent-o-meter