How to Get Out of Debt - Embrace Frugality

How to get out of debt

Often times frugality has a negative connotation. Personally, I think the negative vibes should be directed towards the $90,460 of debt the average American carries with them. But there is a light amidst this darkness. It is possible to get out of debt. One of the first steps (among many) to achieve this goal is to embrace frugality. 

There’s no shame in being frugal when you’re working towards a goal. I’ll explain how you can slow your spending without feeling like you’re a pompous penny pincher or that you’ll pass away from a severe case of boredom. 

The suggestions below are stepping stones. They’re not meant to wipe out your debt over night. The goal is to shift into a mindset that embraces frugality so you can apply that frugal mindset during your debt-free journey, which will ultimately speed up the process and allow you to become debt free sooner rather than later.


I’ll die on this hill. The most important tool for managing your money is keeping a budget. This is the script that shows you what you can comfortably and responsibly spend your money on. 

I recommend using the zero-based budget. I wrote an article about this and offer some free tools here. This method of budgeting requires you to allocate your money to certain spending categories (or just allocate the money in general) prior to you actually spending the money. You designate a certain amount of money to each category until you theoretically have zero dollars left to budget. Now you know exactly what you can spend your money on and you can do so comfortably. 

Look for cash-back opportunities

If you’re going to be spending money, you might as well get a little kickback in return. Often times when cash-back opportunities are legitimate, you’ll find that you won’t be raking in dollars, but when you’re working towards your goal of getting out of debt, every little bit counts. I’ll get you started with some cash-back opportunities below.

Credit Cards

First, I recommend using a credit card that offers cash back when you use it. The Discover it card earns 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different establishments each quarter. Amazon, grocery stores, restaurants, and gas stations are included in this list. You also earn 1% cash back on all other purchases when using the card. And to top it off, Discover matches the cash back you’ve earned dollar for dollar for the first year. 

I currently use this card for most of my everyday purchases and so far I have earned about $156.00 (which Discover will match, giving me an additional $156.00).

Note: Credit cards are a great tool only if you use them responsibly. I explain how to use credit cards with your budget here: A simple strategy to manage your credit cards and avoid debt.


One app in particular that I like to recommend is GetUpside. This app gives you cash back when you purchase gas, go out to eat or get groceries in select areas and at select establishments. You’re going to be getting gas no matter what. You might as well get money back for doing it. Also, I use my Discover it card when getting gas so I get cash back from the card and from the app. Double dipping in some free money. 

Here’s my in-depth look at GetUpside: How to earn cash back when you get gas, go out to eat or get groceries.


I’m giving food it’s own section because it’s easy to go overboard here, especially when you’re hungry. 

Grocery shopping

I’ve gotten a fair share of WTFs when telling people that I used to only allow myself to spend about $25 on groceries every two weeks. It seems impossible, sure. But I did it. 

Where you shop is important. Aldi is wonderful place for budget-conscious folks. It’s a grocery store that sells mostly “exclusive brand” items. The prices are so much lower than the standard stores like Giant Eagle or Wal-Mart. And to boot, they claim to have “removed certified synthetic colors, added MSG, and partially hydrogenated oils from all of our exclusive brand food products”.

If you don’t have an Aldi in your area, check to see if there’s a similar budget-friendly store.

My strategy for grocery shopping on a tight budget was to only purchase food that I could eat for more than one meal. For example, I would often make chili, make multiple meals from ground turkey, quinoa bowls, pasta, snack on fruits and veggies, etc. You can get creative with your recipes and make some great-tasting and healthy meals that you can eat more than once.


I had no shame in scanning the menu for a low-priced meal when I was out to eat. I kept my ear to the ground for specials on certain days like half-off sushi day. If I wanted a beer with my meal, I didn’t go for the specialty craft beers. I was fine with the domestic that was the beer of the day. When I was finished eating and I had food left over, you know I was gettin’ myself a box to take that food home so I could eat it later. 

The point is — you can get a satisfying and healthy meal at a restaurant without breaking the budget. Have fun and have sense/cents about it.


You don’t need a new car. You don’t need a new car payment. You’ve heard it before but it’s true — once you drive off the lot, you now have a used car. 

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with driving an older, used car. Even if it’s a little beat up. That’s character. As long as it’s getting you where you need to go then that’s all that matters. You can save so much money when you shop for used cars vs new cars. Just do the research to find a solid, affordable used vehicle. 

Where you live

I understand that adjusting your living situation can be hard. However, if you can do it, it’s worth it. I currently live with two roommates (I used to have three) in a not-so-expensive part of town that’s still safe. So rent and utilities are cut into thirds. With this combo, I’m saving a lot of money. And the kicker — part of the money I make from the band that I’m in pays for my rent. So in essence, I live rent free. 

I don’t plan to have roommates forever. But for now, there’s no reason for me to triple (or more) my monthly spending just so I can live alone.

Again, I understand that this isn’t possible for everyone. But living expenses are a big expense. If you can find ways to lower these expenses, it is absolutely worth it monetarily. 


I love a good thrift store. I go thrifting a couple times a week. I’ve found so many good pieces of clothing while thrifting. Aside from the price difference when buying used clothing vs new, thrifting has sustainability and environmental perks. You’re not contributing to resources required to make and ship new clothes, potentially reducing clothes that will end up in a landfill, etc. I also recommend checking out estate sales for good deals on clothing and household items. Check out

Another perk of spending time in thrift stores is that you can find items that you can flip. Which can be a great side hustle to earn some extra money.

Save your spare change

This is a slow but sure way build a little money reserve. I always save my spare change. I have jar on my dresser that I plop the change into whenever I get home. You’d be surprised how much you can accumulate over time.

When my jar is full, I take it to a Coinstar machine and it counts my change for me and gives me a receipt with a dollar amount. Then I take that receipt to the customer service desk in the store that the Coinstar machine is in and they give me cash in return.

Coinstar does charge a fee for processing the money but it’s not much. It beats having to roll the change manually.

Entertain yourself for free

You don’t have to throw down serious cash to have a good time. There is plenty fun to be had at little to no cost to you. Here are some things that I enjoy doing that are completely free or close to it:

  • Hiking — explore new parks and trails
  • Open mics
  • Learning a new skill for a side hustle or to create something
  • Go to the movies (look for special prices during the week)
  • Visit family
  • Simply driving around and exploring aimlessly
  • Watch YouTube videos to learn something new
  • Listen to audiobooks and podcasts
  • Find new music
  • Attend a class
  • Volunteer

The list goes on. If you know how to use Google the possibilities are endless.

Getting out of debt isn’t glamourous. It’s a mental challenge more than anything. Learning to appreciate living with less is a great quality to posses. It’s going to work in your favor even after you’re debt free. The journey to becoming deb free doesn’t have to be agonizing. 

If you have any questions or just want to talk about your efforts to become debt free, just shoot me a message. Always happy to chat! 

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