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15 Frugal Hacks to Live Below Your Means

Struggling to balance your budget? These frugal hacks are clever ways you can cut back on your spending without sacrificing everything that you enjoy.

These are the frugal living hacks I use to save us thousands as a family and ensure we are spending below our means. 

1. Give something up or downsize

If you are on a tight budget and struggling against the tide of rising prices, something has to give. Either you need to find a way to up your income, which may be tricky when you’re a  parent and there’s little extra time in the day around work and family life, or ditch things from your budget. 

For me this year that has been haircuts and colouring at the salon. I’m doing it all at home this year and so far I’ve saved over $200, by the end of the year I’ll have saved over $700. I’ve also been doing my children’s hair the last couple of years and that’s now saved me well over $150. 

What you choose to sacrifice will be personal to you, but you don’t have to give whatever it is up altogether. I still colour my hair, I’ve just found a way to do it for a fraction of the price myself. If you love getting your nails done, can you find some tutorials so you can do it better yourself at home? 

2 $1/use rule 

This rule has helped to curb my unnecessary spending on stuff like clothes and things for the home and seek better value for my money. 

Whenever you are looking to buy something new, think about the cost and how many times you will use the thing. Divide the cost by the number of times you will use it, and you get the dollar or pound per use. 

So if I buy a new dress costing $50 and I will wear it once, the cost per use is $50. Whereas if I buy a pair of jeans I know I will wear at least once a week for a year then the cost per use is less than $1. 

Strive for a low cost per use with everything you buy. If you have a wedding or day out, shop your wardrobe first. I bet there’s something there you could use. Or consider organising an outfit swap with friends who are a similar clothing size to you. 

3. Reusable period products

I’ve been using mine for over four years. Buy a menstrual cup and it should last for 10 years.

They cost around £10 and will definitely save you money once you’ve broken even on the cost of the cup after about four to six months.

If you don’t like the idea of a cup, try period underwear, which last for around 100 washes and can now be bought cheaply from supermarkets with a variety of absorbency levels. 

4. Get it free or cheap 

Join communities in your area that swap or give away unwanted stuff. There is a goldmine of free stuff out there that people are desperate for you to take off their hands, as long as you can pick it up you can get it either free or cheap in community Facebook groups. 

There’s also an app called Olio in the UK where people give away unwanted food to avoid waste. 

If you are not a fussy eater then try Too Good To Go which has huge restaurant, supermarket and cafe brands that give away bags of cheap food every day that’s about to go out of date. Make sure you freeze it or have a plan to use it. 

5. Face your nice-to-haves budget 

Sometimes it can help to come face to face with the reality of your spending. A lot of people don’t like to sit down and set a budget, or have a vague idea of their spending in their head. And if you know you’re not overspending every month maybe you don’t stop to analyse it all that much.

But there’s a huge amount of value in sitting down and really understanding how much you spend a year on nice-to-haves like take-out coffee, takeaways, subscriptions, home decor, hair and beauty treatments, gym membership, car finance payments, nights out, and home decor.

Once you face the number, you may well be more motivated to make changes that will allow you to save more. You’ll do them less frequently or search for a cheaper option. 

6. Cut your Amazon spend 

Buying junk on Amazon is so easy to do especially when you are a Prime member and you know you’ll get the free fast postage. 

To stop yourself shopping for stuff you don’t really need, try to check out just once a week. Add stuff to your cart, and then review that at the end of the week and decide if you really need it – you’ll probably happily delete at least a couple of items. 

7. Boring dinners 

Not every meal has to be exciting, unless you run a cookery Instagram account in which case you must really love cooking or be so sick of it by now. 

It’s great to find a new recipe, but plenty of times we have cooked something because we wanted something exciting and the ingredients cost £25. 

It’s OK to have scrambled eggs on toast for dinner or some soup made out of leftovers in the fridge. Embrace a boring dinner at least one night a week. 

8. Make your own cook book 

Stop buying new cook books. 

I read an article the other week that blew my mind. It was by a recipe ghost writer who works for some of the biggest names in food. 

It wasn’t surprising to me that some big chefs get help with writing recipes – writing 100 recipes for a cook book is a lot of work. 

But what did surprise me is the copying that goes on. As long as their recipe is 20% different to the one they’re copying, it’s ok. So what you have is a lot of cook books featuring recipes similar to ones you already have in another cook book. 

Plus there’s so many free recipes on line nowadays. Get your food inspo from TikTok, Facebook groups specific to the cuisine you love and Insta. 

Either write out the recipe from the video or screen shot the recipe in the caption, print it off and add to a folder. You can organise your fave recipes by cuisine or whether it’s a weekday or weekend meal. 

9. Use AI to avoid food waste

Save money on food by not going to the supermarket until you have used up the food in your fridge and cupboards. 

If you are staring at what is there with no ideas for what to make then use ChatGPT to get ideas. This AI chatbot can be used as a giant search engine.

Just tell it what ingredients you have and it will give you recipes. 

10. Make simple changes to save on energy bills 

You can shave pounds off your energy bills every year by making small changes like these: 

  • Wash clothes on cooler washes – keep it at 30C
  • Turn the thermostat down one degree
  • Turn the heating off overnight and layer up in bed with extra blankets
  • Switch to LED bulbs which consume less electricity. 
  • Don’t tumble dry, air dry clothes outside or use a heated airer which runs much cheaper 

11. Split cost of streaming services 

You can use more than one device at a time to watch certain streaming services. Some of them are trying to crack down on you doing this when you don’t live together, but there are ways around this. 

Netflix charges less to add an extra member to your account, someone who doesn’t live with you, than the cost of their Standard membership. 

Other subscription services like Paramount+ haven’t cracked down on password sharing just yet. 

12. Don’t pay for insurance monthly 

You pay extra for things like house and car insurance when you opt to pay monthly. Make sure you set aside money every month so you can afford to pay the bill in a lump sum annually, and you will pay less overall. 

13. Find cheaper fuel

You can use websites or apps to find the cheapest fuelling station in your area. Make sure you plan your week around when you’ll need to fill up so you can get there, and not end up somewhere really expensive. 

While we’re on the subject, you should always be trying to get the best price for stuff you have to buy regularly. You can compare supermarket prices on sites like trolley.co.uk to see if you could save a lot by swapping to another supermarket. 

14. Rotate kids toys 

Hide away some of your kids toys, rather than having everything out all at once. 

Then rotate every three months or so. This way they feel like they have brand new stuff, their interest is renewed, they will play way more enthusiastically with stuff they have basically forgotten about and you’ll be able to avoid buying new things to keep them entertained. 

15. Embrace sustainable living 

There is a huge overlap between frugal living and sustainable living. It’s all about wasting less and making the most of what you have, which mean you’re not spending as much on new stuff. 

Here are some great sustainable living ideas that also save you money:

Learn how to repair your clothes, use as many reusable products as you can, for example cut back on kitchen paper towel usage and use cloth towels instead, always bring your own snacks everywhere you go, try cycling or walking to where you need to go, go to the library instead of buying new books, always use a reusable shopping bag, Using reusable face wipes, look after your stuff. I have saved so much money on kids school shoes because we looked after my eldest’s shoes and passed them down to her sister. 

Check out my sustainable swaps that can save you money.

16. Put your money somewhere smart 

Where your savings should be depends on a huge variety of factors like your age, how much longer you’ll be working and your earnings. But whatever you do with your money, make sure you have a savings plan and that you’re putting your money somewhere it will work hard for you. 

Keeping savings somewhere like a virtual jar on one of those savings apps or stuck in your current account means the value of your money erodes because you’re not getting as much interest on it as you should be. 

Take a step back and consider not only what you can afford to save but also where you could be in 10 years if you find a way to get the most interest out of your money so that you are beating the rate of inflation. 

Best frugal living hacks