First of all, let’s start with the definition of frugal living. I know that this will mean different things to different people, but I think that being frugal means living well within your means.
It’s a lifestyle more than just saving money for the sake of it. For me, it’s about saving money on things that are not that important to me, so that I can sensibly spend it on things that will enrich my life and add value to my life.
For me, living frugally also means that I work only when I want to and do the job that I love and find inspiring, even if it means that I’m not earning as much as I used to in my corporate job.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that I make everything from scratch, save every penny without reason for it, buy stuff only from pound shops and spend endless time collection 5p coupons off from tin of beans.
The practical bit, in my frugal living, is deciding on spending my money sensibly, saving where I can, but then spending it on things or experiences that will make my life happier.
So what do I exactly do, to live frugally?
I don’t have a television, only a couple of online streaming apps. We do have a membership to a cinema chain a go at least every week to see a movie. We always joke that our local cinema is our front room!
I don’t have a credit card, don’t have any loans and apart from mortgage I’ve never borrowed money from a bank. If I want something, I save for it, even if it takes a long time, instead of borrowing money and buying it straight away.
I buy clothes in charity shops, shop around for the best value in high street shops and don’t feel embarrassed about buying clothes from supermarkets.
I walk where I can, take a train or bus and plan my car journeys.
I cook at home, swap branded food for supermarket own, use every bit of ingredients I buy and compost the rest.
I monitor what I spend and question every purchase.
And here are some more tips on getting you to start living more frugally.
Start monitoring what you spend
Write down every purchase and start asking yourself whether the purchase was necessary. This will make you more aware of your purchasing habits, and the chances are that you’ll start noticing things that you don’t actually need or want. This will slowly start changing your spending habits.
Set your own budget
Setting your own budget doesn’t need to be complicated; you can start with a simple spreadsheet. Start the spreadsheet by adding your fixed outgoings, house utility bills, then estimate your food expenditure and add something for entertainment.
You should also add a column for savings and leave a little wiggle room so that you don’t end up with a 0 when you take away your total expenditure from your income. This is important, as each month there might be some unexpected expenses, such as broken washing machine, car repairs or similar. You should have an emergency money fund to cover this.
- My top tips on sticking to your budget >>
- How to budget for all your Christmas gifts >>
- 6 simple tips for college students to stay on budget >>
- How to Start Saving when Money is Already Tight >>
Have a No spend day
Have a day a week, when you don’t spend any money, apart from the absolute necessities, such as getting to work or house bills. Try it; it’s quite liberating!
You realise that you don’t need as much stuff to buy as you originally thought. And if you still want it/needed next day go ahead a buy it! But the chances are that the 24 hrs of non-spending pause will change your outlook on what it’s important and what’s not.
start saving money
Buy second hand rather than a brand new stuff
Of course, you need to be selective about this one, but it’s always worth thinking about buying used, but in a good condition item, then brand new one. You need to decide where you want to save money and where the value of a new item is adding to your life more happiness than the money you could save.
For example, when we were buying a car, we decided to buy a second hand one, that was checked over by the local garage but was about 50% cheaper than the brand new version. Eight years on and the car is still running perfectly and I really didn’t mind that it had one previous owner before.
Hence, if you prefer buying a second hand car, it can be an excellent decision to make to help you save more money in the long run. However, purchasing a used car can still require a considerable amount of money. If you don’t have enough cash to cover the expenses, various lenders in your area can offer funding solutions with flexible interest rates and other terms and conditions. All you need to do is find the right finance for used cars that suits your financial situation, and you may be able to buy a second hand car while staying frugal.
I’m also very happy to mix my high street clothes with great bargains from charity shops, but I’d never buy a second hand shoes. I’m happy to invest a little bit more and buy shoes that are comfortable, won’t give me any blisters and will last me much longer time, than cheap shoes from supermarkets or discount shops.
DIY & repairs
Right, approach this one with caution and only take on jobs that you know you can handle! So, whilst I’m perfectly happy to do small home repairs, do any kind of gardening maintenance, painting, and decorating, I draw the line at doing any kind of plumbing or handling electricity.
If something brakes, like a washing machine or small household appliance, I always try to work out first if I can repair it myself. If I can’t (which is quite often…), I’m very happy to call in the experts, like Jim’s Appliance Company, who can repair the appliance or replace it. The frustrations of trying to work out and repair your household appliances that are way over my (or your) expertise, it’s not worth the amount of money or wasted time.
Learn to be resourceful around the house
- 7 Frugal Ways to Use Kitchen Paper Towels >>
- What to Use When you Run out of Toilet Paper >>
- How to Remove Armpit Stains from Clothes >>
- 12 Frugal uses for baking soda >>
Save on electricity & household costs
You can save a lot by just reviewing what you currently have. I’ve written about this topic in detail in my previous blog posts:
- How to save on electricity in your own home >>
- Energy saving ideas for your home >>
- How to save money when several generations live together >>
De-clutter your home
Spend a few days going through your stuff, clothes and kitchen appliances and decide whether you need everything you have in your house. If anything is broken (and can’t be easily repaired), take it to a local recycling centre. If you have stuff that’s in good condition (but you don’t need it), consider selling it on.
You can easily do this through a network of your friends or have a one-off stall at your local brick & brack sale. You never know, you might find some treasures in your possessions and make more money than you think! Everything else can be taken to a local charity shop or donated to a good cause.
Be creative with gifts & presents
In this day and age, when every one has practically everything, it can be quite hard to think of a present that would surprise and make the person happy at the same time.
Rather than spending money on expensive presents, I like to first think about the person itself (their likes, hobbies, dislikes etc.) and then work out what I can buy or make to get a present that’s truly meaningful.
If you are stuck for ideas I have a few simple soap recipes, bath bombs and body scrubs that would make a great present for just about anybody! Once you have your gifts sorted out, you should package them in reusable calico bags. You can leave them as is, adorn them with a bow or buttons, or stamp a fun image or the recipient’s initials. The bag will become part of the gift and add to the fun.
- How to Make Soap – A Beginners Guide >>
- Traditional Soap Recipe – Cold Method >>
- Cocoa Body Butter Recipe >>
- Floral Bath Bombs >>
Edible Gift Ideas to make
Make your own cosmetics
- Natural Lip Balm Recipe >>
- Oatmeal & Brown Sugar Scrub Recipe >>
- Coffee & Hazelnut Soap Recipe >>
- Vegan Lip Balm Recipe >>
- Natural Soapwort Liquid Soap & Shampoo Recipe >>
change your attitude towards Food
There are a few little things, that will make a big difference to your purse and will make you feel happily frugal too!
- Swap brand food items for supermarket’s own
- Eat out less
- Cook more at home
- Make your own packed lunch instead of buying one from the shops every day
- Start your own garden compost to make use of any kitchen waste
- Include foraged food in your diet
Start foraging for wild food & seafood
- How to get started with foraging >>
- Foraging monthly guide – what’s in season now >>
- The best foraging books for beginners >>
- Wild Garlic & Nettle Soup Recipe >>
Easy recipes to make at home
- Delicious Taco Soup >>
- Cream Cheese Chicken Croissants >>
- Apple & Cinnamon Breakfast Porridge >>
- Pineapple Tray Bake >>
- Homemade Bread Recipe >>
Don’t throw away any leftovers or half-opened packs of food
Instead, have a think of how you can turn it into another meal. Sure, you might need to improvise a little, but something like omelettes can be made with leftover vegetables, meat and topped up with any sauce you have left the fridge. You just need to find your creative inner self!
- How to save when dining out >>
- 5 ways to save when food shopping >>
- 10 inspiring ideas to help you with your meal planning and food shopping >>
Walk whenever you can
Instead of taking the car everywhere, try to walk to the shops or work. Learn how to ride a bike. This is not just about saving money; this is also about allowing you to unwind after a long day at work, to have a space where you can think, dream and re-focus on whatever is ahead of you.
Socialising, family & friends
- Frugal tips on how to organise a craft party for your friends >>
- How to organise afternoon tea party >>
- 5 budget friendly hen party ideas >>
Check how much you are paying at the moment and see whether you can reduce or downgrade your mobile plan. To make my mobile charge as affordable as I could make it, I bought my own phone and then went with a phone company purchasing a SIM-card only contract. This way, I can control how much I spend and change up or down my contract as I need.
How much time do you spend watching television? Do you really get full value from all the television subscriptions you have? If yes, great, but if not, consider cancelling your cable television or other subscriptions that you don’t need. Decide what you really use and really need and cancel everything else.
I’m sure there are many other ways of becoming more frugal, so feel free to let me know your favourite tip in the comments below!
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This blog post was originally written on 12 July 2020 and last updated on 11 March 2023.