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Since having children frugal living has become much more of a priority for us a family.
As well as making it easier financially for me to stay home with our children while they’re small, it’s also helping us to save more money, which will help pay off debt quicker, which in turn will improve our finances in the long term.
Dropping down completely to living off one income makes budgeting and being a bit more careful with money more important, and probably one of the easiest ways to live on less is to start making more frugal choices.
How do you live a frugal lifestyle?
The Oxford dictionary defines frugal as:
- sparing or economical as regards money or food.
- simple and plain and costing little.
So frugal living is simply about being careful with your money, knowing where it goes, and finding ways to spend less.
But isn’t frugal living boring and only for cheapskates?
When I used to think of frugal living I would imagine used teabags drying on little washing lines ready to reuse later. You don’t have to go that far though; it’s perfectly possible to be frugal without being cheap.
It took me a while to realise that you don’t have to compromise on every little thing just to be frugal – I still buy my favourite tea bags – I just make sure to buy in bulk whenever they’re on offer.
And actually, it can be pretty simple to just change a few habits or products -once you’ve got into the swing of it, living frugally wont even seem like a challenge anymore , it becomes second nature. Some people have even used frugality to help them reach financial freedom!
And the best part?
Those savings that you make by using these frugal living ideas all add up over time and can be used to fund things that might not have been affordable before, like days out or even a holiday. Another great way to use frugal savings is to put them towards paying off debt faster.
Why live frugally?
There are so many benefits of choosing to live a frugal lifestyle:
- It gives you more appreciation and value for what’s important to you
- Helps you save money to achieve financial goals faster
- Helps to reduce stress over money matters
- Encourages you to make the most of what you have
- Frugal living is often more environmentally friendly
There are so many ways you can be a little more frugal in order to make some extra savings; here are some of the easiest and best frugal living tips that provide simple ways to save money at home, on the move and with your grocery shopping.
1. Give your home a frugal makeover
There are so many things you can make some easy changes to that will make your home more frugal. Here’s where to start:
- Replace your light bulbs with LED bulbs
Assuming the lights are on for about 4 hours per day, you’ll save about £11 per light bulb per year. My kitchen has 10 spotlights – that’s £132 saved in my kitchen alone!
- Turn off the lights when you’re not using them.
This sounds so simple, but if you have kids anything like mine, you’ll know it’s near on impossible to get them to remember to switch off the lights! We’ve got a timer on some of our lights now, so they go off automatically.
- Replace baths with showers or take shorter showers
You could try using a shower timer or choose a water saving shower head.
- Turn off the radiators in rooms that aren’t used
If you have thermostatic radiator valves you can set the desired temperature for each radiator, but it’s also easy to just switch off the radiators in rooms not being used to save wasting heat.
- Wear a jumper
This one sounds pretty obvious but it’s surprising how many people don’t do this. Put on a jumper or layer up before turning up the heating.
- Get one of these squeezing tools to make sure you use up all the product in tubes such as toothpaste.
- Give up your TV licence
You don’t have to give up TV entirely to give up your licence. Other options such as Now TV or Netflix may work out cheaper and still give you all the TV you want.Check out my post here about living without your TV licence and if you actually need one.
- Go energy efficient on appliances
Whilst this frugal living tip isn’t one that you can implement straight away – it wouldn’t be practical to rush out and replace all your appliances – it is one that can make a difference long-term. When it’s time to replace appliances, choose ones with the best energy efficiency ratings. The price is usually only slightly higher, but the cost of energy you will save over the years of use make it a good money saving investment.
- Always check whether it’s worth switching energy or broadband and telephone provider
I find that a quick check each year when it’s time to renew usually means it’s cheaper to switch. You can often find good cashback deals for these kinds of providers too. If you’re not signed up to cashback sites, check out this post about using cashback sites. I’ve had hundreds of pounds in cashback over the years, most recently we got £40 cashback just by switching our home insurance. We would have switched anyway as it was the cheapest policy available – so the £40 was a fab bonus just for a quick 5 second check on Quidco.
2. Get Crafty With Your Cleaning
Save money on expensive cleaning products by simply making your own – it works out cheaper and uses less chemicals too!
3. Become a frugal grocery shopper
Grocery shopping is one of the biggest expenditures for any household. Choose to be more frugal in your shopping and eating habits and you can easily cut down on your grocery spend.
- Make a meal plan each week
Create a meal plan, to avoid food going to waste and not buying unnecessary extras in the supermarket. See this post for easy ways to get started with meal planning.
You don’t save to compromise on your diet either – it’s possible to still live frugally and eat well while spending less.
- Don’t buy bags at the supermarket
Avoid the plastic bag charge by remembering to take bags with you when you go shopping. Keep some in your handbag or the boot of your car so you’ve always got some handy.
- Use supermarket cashback apps
There are lots of apps you can add to your phone which give you freebies and cashback when you shop.
- Buy bigger tubs/packets/tubes of things
Buying in bulk is usually cheaper, so if you’ve got space, it’s definitely worth it. Things like toilet rolls, washing powder and other household essentials are often work out costing much less when you buy in bulk.
4. Experiment with the brands you buy
Take a look at shopping and see what brands you buy. Then buy the next brand that’s less expensive and see if you either notice the difference, or are bothered by it. For example, we were buying Weetabix, and now buy supermarket brands ‘Wheat biscuits’. There’s not much difference in taste, but there’s a lot of difference in price.
However, we tried buying supermarket brand baked beans, and I decided that the difference in taste wasn’t worth the saving in price, so I don’t compromise and carry on buying Heinz. Cola is definitely not the same as Coke or Pepsi, but my children don’t notice a difference between Robinson’s squash and supermarket own brand.
Here are some examples of the difference in prices of branded vs non branded items at one supermarket:
Heinz baked beans tin – 75p
Weetabix 24 pk – £2.50
Hovis wholemeal bread – £1.05
Heinz Tomato Ketchup – £1.50
Birdseye Fishfingers 10 pk – £2
Total – £7.80
Tesco bakes beans tin – 32p
Wheat Biscuits 24 pk = £1.30
Tesco Wholemeal bread – 75p
Tesco Tomato Ketchup – 65p
Tesco Fishfingers 10 pk – £1.20
Total – £4.22
This is just a quick example of 5 branded products, the more brands you switch out, the more significant your overall saving will be. Start off by just switching one brand/price down – if it works out, you can always then repeat the process switching down again to the Smartprice/Everyday value etc ranges.
If you properly give this a go for all the branded products you buy, there’ll probably be at least a few things you’ll be happy with the downgrade on, and this could make a great saving on your grocery shopping month by month. Even basic foods like pasta come in a variety of brands and pricing. Give it a try and see what savings you can make – I’d love to hear how you get on.
5. Don’t buy what you can get for free
Before you spend your hard earned money, think about whether there’s a cheaper or free option. For example:
- Don’t buy newspapers and magazines
If you have access to the internet, you can read the news on various websites for free.
- Use your library
Similarly, live frugally by not spending money on books. You can make good use of your local library to borrow books for free. If you like reading eBooks, some libraries also have a eBook selection to borrow from, or you can get plenty of eBooks for free on Amazon Kindle books too.
6. Travel frugally
Travel and transport can be pretty expensive, so here are some options to lower the costs:
- Walk or cycle where possible. This has the added bonus of keeping you fit and well as saving money.
- Take your own water bottle or even hot drinks flask with you when out and about to avoid getting tempted to buy expensive drinks.Avoid using motorway service stations for food, drink and fuel – you pay a premium.
- Drive economically
Try to avoid unnecessary braking, keep car tyres inflated to the required levels. This will save (only a little, but it all helps, right?!) on fuel costs. Also, don’t leave it until the last minute to fill up for fuel. If you’re desperate, you’re more likely to fill up somewhere more expensive.
- Look into multi travel and discount cards.
If you use public transport a lot, it’s worth looking into what discounts are available for frequent users. Bus services usually offer cheaper multi-trip tickets and you can get Rail Cards to save on train travel.
- Be a one car family
Consider if you could save the the cost of running an extra car by walking, using public transport or even living closer to your work.
- Don’t pay for things you don’t need to such as toll roads.
Example: Avoid paying the expensive toll charge (£5.50!) to drive on the M6 toll. If the traffic is clear -ie no accidents etc, the toll road is likely to save you only one minute! You can look on Google maps (if you’ve got someone with you!) to check the time of the journey with and without the toll.Think about it in terms of how much your time is worth – at a 1-minute time saving, your time is equated at being worth £330 an hour! A ten minute delay values your time at £66 an hour. At the National living wage, you’d need there to be more than a 42-minute delay to make taking the toll a cost effective choice.
7. Give your finances a frugal overhaul
Frugal living means taking control of your finances and making sure your your income, spending and frugal mindset are all aligned. Here are some of the key things you should do to have healthy frugal finances:
Budgeting is key, both to living frugally and managing your money in general. If you want to be in control of your money you need to make a budget. This is where you can work out the best places to make savings and adjustments and keep on top of your finances.
- Build an emergency fund
Saving an emergency fund means you don’t have to panic and stress when things go wrong. Being prepared in advance for emergency boiler breakdowns, car repairs or needing a new washing machine, helps give peace of mind, as well as meaning you wont need to take on debt if that situation arises.
- Pay off debt
Make paying off debt a priority. Living frugally is a great way to try and reach financial freedom, so if you have debt, the best and most frugal advice is to pay it off as soon as you can. The earlier you repay debt (in most circumstances) the less interest you’ll pay, so the more money you’ll save in the long term.
- Always live within your means
Living frugally means living within your means. Use your budget to work out what you can afford, but if you don’t have the budget and can’t make room in the budget with a bit of rearranging, don’t spend what you don’t have.
Living Frugal Without Being Tight
So can you be frugal without being cheap?
Hopefully from the tips above you can see that you don’t have to be a cheapskate or tightwad to live frugally. You just have to be more intentional with your finances.
For example, being frugal wouldn’t necessarily mean you stop donating to a charity you support – if you decide that giving is a priority, then you might look for an area that’s less important and make savings there, perhaps cancelling a gym subscription or buying less take out.
It doesn’t mean not being able to do anything or having to say no all the time either – if a friend invites you to go out for a meal you could still go but be a bit more frugal about it – perhaps suggest a less expensive restaurant, or even just buy a starter. Or if finances are really too tight for that right how, how about inviting them to your home for a meal instead?
Trying to find a frugal alternative usually means you can still enjoy the things you want to, just by being a bit more creative about it.I’m sure there are many, many, more frugal living tips out there, from the simple to the much more extreme (family cloth anyone?!) Do you have any other tips for frugal living that help save money?
A frugal lifestyle involves being careful with money, spending less where possible and making economical choices.
You can become frugal simply by deciding to make more cost effective choices in the way you live, shop, eat and spend money.
Being cheap is about always choosing the cheapest option, whereas being frugal means spending intentionally, considering quality, value and time alongside price.