8 Frugal Living Habits I Learned From My Grandmothers

See, grandmoms, they know things. Sometimes they tell us all the details, and sometimes you just have to trust that they know what they are doing and find out the reasons later.

I have been so blessed to have both of my grandmothers around for all 47 years of my life. This gave me the opportunity to learn so many things from them, including frugal living habits and ways to make, spend and invest money.

Today, I want to share those frugal habits so that even more people can benefit from my grandmothers’ wisdom.


1. Investing in real estate

My mother's parents owned an apartment building in addition to their own house. Over the course of my life, my grandma owned at least four properties simultaneously. Both of my grandmothers have properties they will pass on to their children and then their grandchildren, primarily real estate.

Even though it is debated whether real estate is a good investment, it is a great start, and has potential to grow your money significantly over time if it suits your lifestyle.

You could have purchased a house at $35,000 in 1975 that would be worth well over $200,000 right now. Frugal living is not just about not spending money, but about using your money to facilitate the life that you actually want.

2. Diversifying your income streams

My maternal grandmother always had multiple ways of making money, and at least two at any one time that I knew of.

One was always through real estate, whether by selling a house, or renting houses or rooms out, which was somewhat of a passive income as it did not require daily or hourly work.

This gave her the time for other sources of income, such as domestic care: she would take on people who were unable to live independently and take care of them in her house.

This was an additional stream of income for both my grandmothers, and it gave them some flexibility to serve in the church, to travel and just enjoy themselves.


3. Hang drying your clothes

My paternal grandmother never owned a clothes dryer. Instead, she used an old-school vinyl cord stapled to the ceiling beams in the basement, probably about six rows deep.

When the clothes came out of the washer, I had to hang them up on the lines with clothes pins. This helped her save tons of money on electricity, and also prolonged the clothes’ life, as they shrank less and there was less wear and tear.

4. Using window air conditioners instead of central air conditioning

My grandmother’s house was built in 1925, so she never had a central AC unit installed anyway, but she was never concerned with making the whole house cold in the summertime.

Most of the time you are only using one or two rooms, so using a window air conditioner makes much more sense, as it uses about 500-1,400 watts versus 3,500 watts for a central AC system.

She would run AC in her bedroom and open the doors so the cold air came out. Cooling only the areas you are using is definitely a great frugal habit to save money.

5. Keeping the heating temperature low in the winter

This one you have probably heard of before. I grew up in a house where my parents kept the heat at 78-80 degrees, and then moved in with my grandmother who had it down to 65 degrees. This was a tremendous change for me.

Her house ran on oil, which was more expensive, so keeping the temperature down was her way of reducing those costs. She would also reduce the thermostat temperature whenever she was going to use her oven, since the oven was already putting out extra heat.

It was cold there a lot of times, but I learned to survive it. We would crochet blankets, put on cozy socks and warm sweaters and go on about our business.


6. Not letting any food go to waste

My grandmoms always used up all of their food scraps. My one grandma would make collard greens, season them up real good, and save the seasoned water that was left. She called it pot liquor, and she would either save it and use it to cook rice the next day, or drink it down hot.

Only later did I look it up and find out that because of the dark leafy greens the pot liquor was rich in nutrients such as vitamin C, K, A and iron.

Sometimes their frugality would cross my personal line, and she would make me use the milk that was left in my brother’s bowl after he had his cereal. I would definitely not do that at my own house, but it just comes to show how serious she was about not wasting food.

7. Keeping your house up to date

If you own your own house, you want to protect your investment as much as possible. Sometimes in this quest to spend less money, we forget that there are things you really should be spending good money on, and taking care of your house is one of those.

Both of my grandmothers kept their houses up really well. Both had their kitchens, bathrooms and living rooms updated several times throughout the years, had the outsides painted, and installed new windows.

Those types of improvements not only maximize the value of your house when it comes to selling it, but also it helps to save money on heating and cooling your home.

8. Creating savings plans for trips and for traveling

My grandmothers did not just sit at home, they went on cruises and various trips and loved traveling. They reserved portions of their income to do it, and sometimes they would save enough to be able to bless somebody else with a trip as well.

My first trip to Florida at age 17 was a gift from my grandmother. She did not have a whole lot of money, but when she wanted to go on a trip she would plan in advance, calculate the cost and figure out how much she would need to put aside every couple of weeks.

Frugal living habits

I think that is the beauty of a frugal lifestyle. It is far from being cheap. It is about purposefully allocating the money you make, however much it may be, to the things, causes and people that matter to you the most.

What are the habits you learned from your grandparents or parents? Share their wisest advice in the comments!

Next, check out my 8 Simple Tips for Grocery Shopping on a Budget.

Join the conversation
  • S S on Apr 13, 2024
    My grandmother wanted me to use my aunt's bath water, but my aunt saved me from that.
    • Kesselring1966 Kesselring1966 on Apr 15, 2024
      Well, she didn't say all of Grandma's advice stood the test of time. 😁