20 steps to a frugal lifestyle

Last updated: Jul 14th, 2014
Feature by Hannah Ricci

With the cost of living continuing to rise, now is an ideal time to overhaul your lifestyle for a simpler way of life. In fact, more and more people are shunning the consumerist, spendthrift existence that has developed over the last century or so, and embracing a back-to-basics lifestyle to combat rising prices by saving money and reducing waste.

That’s right: it’s cool to be frugal. Staying in is the new going out, charity is the new designer fashion and saving is the new spending.

So, to assist you on your way to thrifty living, Moneywise has put together 20 top tips to help you transform your lifestyle and fight the recession.

1. Plan your meals

Draw up a weekly menu to help cut back on the huge amount of waste UK households create every week. It will help identify areas where you can use up leftovers, finish half-eaten sauces, use fruit and vegetables before they turn bad and avoid grabbing expensive ready meals.

Remember to factor packed lunches into your shopping list to save on school-dinner costs and expensive take-out lunches. Try to stick to one big weekly shop to help budget and save on petrol.

Plus, never go shopping when you’re hungry - you'll only end up buying snacks you don't really need - and try to shop at the end of the day when many items are reduced.

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2. Make your own

Supermarkets and chemists are lined with rows of expensive cleaning products, but a rummage through your kitchen cupboards could unearth a multitude of products that also do the trick for a fraction of the price.

For household cleaning, a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda on a damp cloth works just as well as expensive brand-name cream cleaners, for example, while vinegar is a great smear-free window and mirror cleaner.

Ideas for homemade beauty products include mixing natural yoghurt and honey for a deep moisturizing face mask and mixing a couple of teaspoons of olive oil with granulated sugar to exfoliate rough hands. An egg yolk will revive dry skin, while the white will leave your skin feeling silky soft.

3. Review your services

If you employ a gardener, window cleaner or dog walker, or use a car wash, for example, consider whether you’re paying for a service you don’t need. In many cases, you can probably do it yourself. If you haven’t already done this, it’s a sure-fire way to make some savings.

4. Go vintage

Raid your parents’ or grandparents’ old wardrobes for original pieces from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s – even 1980s fashion is cool now – for an authentic spin on the retro fashion seen on the high street. Alternatively, push shopping snobbery aside and scout out your local charity shops.

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Head to shops in wealthier areas, where you may stumble upon designer label clothes for a fraction of the retail price. An absolute gem for discovering cheap one-of-a-kind items is eBay.co.uk, and Oxfam’s online fashion shop at oxfam.org.uk/shop, is also worth a visit to find thousands of clothes and accessories for as little as £1.

5. Swap service

With more people staying in nowadays, why not organise a free hire service for books, DVDs, games and CDs with your friends and family.

Get everyone who is interested in taking part to draw up a list of the titles they own, swap lists and borrow items from each other. Keep things organised by arranging it like a library and agree a date by which each item must be returned.

6. Home makeover

Updating your home can seem like an expensive feat when there’s little spare cash for decorating and new furniture, but it is possible to do it on a shoestring.

Wooden furniture, especially oak and pine, can be completely transformed with a lick of varnish or paint and some new handles, for example.

Grab some books on furniture restoration and different painting techniques from the library, and look at interior magazines for ideas on colours. Similarly, old sofas, chairs and cushions can be brought back to life by covering them with new material or adding details such as buttons.

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7. Start a car pool

If you live near your colleagues, suggest starting a car pool where you take it in turns to drive each other to work to save on petrol costs, reducing your carbon footprint at the same time.

8. Grow your own

Fresh fruit and vegetables are an essential part of a healthy balanced diet, but packaged supermarket produce does not come cheap. Instead, buy some seeds, invest in a few gardening tools and grow your own.

Whether you’ve got a huge garden or a little patio, you can grow fruit, vegetables and herbs for a fraction of the price - and it will taste much better too. Team up with friends and family to trade the different items you grow.

9. Revive your wardrobe

Dig out the sewing machine, assuming you can use one, and transform your old clothes instead of buying new ones. Head to markets or haberdashery departments for some cheap artistic supplies.

Use magazines and the internet for ideas and start simply, for instance by replacing buttons or adding a trim to update a tired jacket. This is also a good time to repair any moth-eaten clothes that are unworn due to holes or missing buttons, rather than just throwing them away.

10. Make your own coffee

A cup of fresh coffee is what many people need to function in the morning. But at around £2 for a small cup from cafés such as Starbucks, Prêt a Manger and Costa, takeaway coffees are an expensive luxury, so simply make your own instead.

An electric filter coffee-maker can be picked up for as little £20, and packets of ground coffee can be found in any supermarket for under £2, which means you’ll start saving after just two weeks if you normally buy coffee every weekday. Split the cost with colleagues if you drink your coffee at work, or invest in a flask.

11. Rear chickens

Collecting fresh eggs from your own chickens before breakfast is a little luxury that certainly won’t make you feel like you’re cutting back. Providing you have the time and space, keeping chickens is an inexpensive hobby and will knock eggs off the shopping list for many years to come.

You’ll need to buy or build a decent hen house and run, and provide feed and water for the chickens everyday. However, do your research first. Birds bred to regularly produce eggs, include the Speckeldy, Black Rock or Rhode Island Red, among many others.

Or, you could consider giving a battery hen a new life; according to the Battery Hen Welfare Trust, which re-homes thousands of hens each year, former battery hens still have a 40-50% production rate. So, 10 hens will lay four to five eggs daily.

12. Buy in bulk

Sales and money-saving deals such as buy-one-get-one-free offers can sometimes be deceiving if they lead you to buy something you don’t need, but some items are always worth snapping up. Look out for sales and deals on non-perishable items that you buy regularly, such as toilet paper, shower gel, shampoo, toothpaste, tinned goods, pasta and rice.

13. Entertain at home

Invite your friends for dinner and drinks instead of going out. A fun idea to spread the cost is to organise a ‘bring-and-share’ evening and ask everyone to bring a different dish.

14. Go for own brands

Do you opt for popular brand names over supermarket own-brands during the weekly grocery shop, assuming they are better quality? Many products are made in the same factories, and using the same ingredients, meaning there is often little difference when it comes to taste or quality.

So during your next shop, try opting for the supermarket’s no-frills range for a few of your regular purchases.

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15. Keep-fit for free

The expense of gym membership and exercise classes is an easy area to cut back on, by incorporating exercise into your daily routine instead. Try to walk more, by parking further away from the office or shops, for example, or getting off the bus one stop earlier.

Take the stairs instead of lifts at work and walk across the office to speak to colleagues instead of sending emails. At home, borrow exercise DVDs from the library.

16. Creative cooking

Look back to wartime Britain for tips to cut down on food wastage and find a use for every last morsel. Boil up leftover bones from meat and vegetable peelings to make tasty stocks to be used in stews, soups, sauces and risotto, for example, and make meat go further by bulking out dishes with cheap pulses, such as beans and lentils.

Fill up on cheap, wholesome foods such as porridge, brown rice and pasta, and make use of weighing scales to ensure correct portion sizes and avoid cooking too much food. Visit lovefoodhatewaste.com for recipe ideas on using leftovers and tips to make foods last longer.

17. Use vouchers & coupons

Vouchers and coupons are more valuable than ever: whether it’s a discount on the weekly grocery shop, a two-for-one deal at a restaurant or a few quid off at the petrol pump, it’s really worth the effort.

Scour magazines and newspapers and check out websites such as vouchercodes.co.uk and myvouchercodes.co.uk before hitting the shops. Also make sure you are getting the most out of loyalty cards, such as Tesco’s Clubcard or Boots’ Advantage card.

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18. Become fuel efficient

Many of us are throwing money down the drain by not considering how we use the appliances in our home. Simple ways to cut energy bills include not leaving devices on standby and always turning off lights when you leave a room; draught-proofing windows, doors and floorboards, and fixing dripping taps.

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Other tips include switching to energy-efficient light bulbs and avoiding using high-energy tumble dryers in favour of line-drying your clothes. Visit the Energy Saving Trust's website for more advice.

19. Brew your own booze

While buying your own alcohol is cheaper than drinking out in a pub or bar, brewing your own beer, wine or cider is cheaper still. Home brewing is also a fun hobby, and the final bottled product can be given as an inexpensive gift – if you don’t guzzle it all yourself.

20. Happy holidays

There are lots of options to cut the cost of your annual getaway. If you’re used to two weeks in the sun, consider ways to cut accommodation costs, such as finally visiting those friends or family you’ve been meaning to catch up with, or taking part in a holiday home swap.

While the weak pound may force many of us to remain on UK shores this year, it’s a great excuse for a budget holiday. Exploring the countryside with a tent can be a great adventure.