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Frugal living UK: Tips for living on a tight budget

Frugal living does not have to mean you live life without any frills or fun. 

When I started working for myself one of my biggest concerns, after being able to afford to pay actual bills, was having disposable income. 

Woman looking for ways to save money for frugal living

I have always considered having the freedom to buy – within reason – whatever I want and when I want to be a pretty nice feeling. 

So adopting a more frugal attitude to life felt a bit disappointing at first. Your over-dramatic inner self assumes Christmas will be all about lumps of coal and bad wine on a frugal budget. 

But actually, for me anyway, frugal living has been less about going without what I need and more about making smarter choices. 

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What is frugal living 

Frugal living does not mean you live on butter-less bread and watery soup in a house with no heating or TV.

Its really about a state of mind where you are conscious of your spending and think carefully about your financial priorities as well as saving.

If you want to adopt a frugal lifestyle it doesn’t mean giving up everything you love doing or spending your money on. It’s more about rethinking your priorities and ditching the stuff you can live without, or switching to a slightly different way of doing things that saves you cash.

To get started with frugal living you don’t need to go crazy right away.

Start off by writing down all of your outgoings for the month. You’ll be amazed at how just looking at it all with the costs laid out can lead you to make more frugal choices right away.

If you want help with making a budget and sticking to it then grab my FREE budget bundle. Features a monthly budget tracker, meal planner and savings tracker to help keep you on track!

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Frugal money saving tips UK

Stick to your budget 

Sounds easy right? The biggest mistake I always made was not sitting down and being specific with all the elements of my budget. 

You know what your mortgage will be every month, that’s set in stone. But budgeting successfully involves also thinking about all the variables over the course of a year such as September when you may need to buy the kids new school shoes. 

Sit down and write out all of the costs that you will need to budget for over the course of the year. Include birthdays and Christmas presents as well as purchasing new clothing and holidays. 

Once you’ve done this see if your budget lines up with your income. There should be some room there to save money every month for a pension (which is especially important if you work for yourself) and savings for a rainy day. 

If it’s looking stretched do not panic, this is what the tips in the post are all about. By taking a look at your budget as a whole you can start to see the obvious places where you can cut back, before then getting a little more creative if you need to. 

Once you understand exactly where all of your money is going it becomes way easier to control spending on unnecessary purchases.

Don’t neglect your savings 

Try to treat your savings with the same priority as your monthly bills. You pay money into them first, before you spend on anything that is non-essential

Having that money there for a rainy day, holidays and your retirement needs to be a non-negotiable. 

Some savvy savers swear by placing half of their monthly income into savings. I aim for 20 per cent at present, which includes a monthly payment into my pension plan with Nest as a self-employed worker. This is a great option if you do work for yourself.

I’ve been putting a lot of my savings into Premium Bonds and this has been a really great experience. I went months without winning anything on them, but in the last three months have won over £200! You can purchase Premium Bonds through NS&I.

Meal plan 

I don’t know about you, but our biggest outgoing every month, after we’ve paid for the roof over our head, is the food we eat. 

We always spend more on food in the weeks where we wing it. These are the times when we pop to the supermarket four or five times a week. We always end up buying little extras and treats we don’t really need, then some food ends up going to waste.

The weeks where I do best at sticking to a grocery budget are the ones where I sit down and plan out all seven days of meals.

I tend to do a big weekly shop on a Sunday, so I start with a Sunday roast dinner which I know I can get at least one other dinner out of and possible two days worth of sandwiches for everyone’s lunch. That’s if I buy a larger joint of beef or pork or get a big chicken to roast.

I will choose vegetables that are on offer for that big Sunday roast meal, then be sure to use those as side dishes in my plans for the rest of the week.

There is an entire post with an example shopping list and meal plan to feed a family of four for a week for just £30.

Plus I have another shopping list and meal plan to feed a family of four for a week for less than £20.

Switch your supplier 

Change your gas and electricity supplier every year. Money Saving Expert says you can save £200 a year by doing this!

Shop around for the best price – it’s well worth doing.

It’s a similar story with your mobile phone. If you are out of contract, and have paid off your device fee, then look to see if changing tariff or operator can save you cash every month.

Swap old clothes for new ones 

Need new clothes? Many brands will pay you for bringing them your old clothes. You will either get cash or a store voucher. 

Find out where you can switch your clothes for cash over on this post.

Pay annually 

Most bills such as insurance and car tax have an option to pay the full year or in instalments. You will usually end up paying more overall with the instalments so its best to pay the full amount up front. 

Try to look ahead to these annual bills and save in advance by adding them to your calendar. You could start a separate savings account so that this money is set to one side to make sure you’re prepared when these bills come around.

A way to save up for annual bills is to start a sinking fund.

Haggle with your suppliers 

Most phone, internet, TV and other suppliers will be open to discussion about cutting your monthly bill. 

I’ve had great success with this and Sky TV in the past. You need to do your research first and check out if there are any competitors offering a better deal or if your current supplier is now offering a better deal to new customers. 

Call them and say you are considering cancelling or cutting back to a cheaper subscription because you have seen a better deal elsewhere. You will often find they at least give you a short “grace” period of a few months or even a year of cut price bills.

Change how you think about spending 

There’s a big difference between something you need and something you want. 

Make a conscious effort to change your attitude about spending so that you really think about whether something that’s tempting you to reach for your credit card is actually what you need. 

Something you need is an item that you require. Something you want is an item that you desire – think that pretty dress you just saw on someone on Instagram. 

Once you realise the difference between these two things, cut right back on the “want” purchases. Either limit them with a monthly budget or add those “want” items to your Christmas list to give to family. 


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How to live frugally in the UK

Couple following frugal money saving tips to put away extra cash

One of the best things I have found about living more frugally is that its actually quite fun to get a result from something you are doing to save money. 

Once you’ve identified areas of spending where you could easily cut back then start to incentivise yourself for all the good saving you are doing.

Put away money into a savings account every month and record your progress with a chart that you colour in to represent another chunk of cash you’ve saved. Having a visual representation of what you have been able to save can be really great motivation.

If you want to try frugal living in the UK then there are a few simple things to get you started:

  • Switch grocery stores. If you are shopping at Waitrose every week then try switching to Tesco. You will see a big saving if you give Aldi or Lidl a try.
  • Assess all your outgoings. Look at where your money is going – including how much you spend on takeaway coffees and snacks. Can you start taking your own coffee to work and only buying takeaway coffee a couple of times a month?
  • Find cheap fun. Entertaining the family at weekends can be expensive, so look for cheap or free alternatives in your area.

The best frugal living tips for families 

Look after clothes 

Clothes that you take decent care of can either be handed down to younger members of the family or sold for cash. 

Take good care of your clothes by keeping on top of stains and storing neatly. There are tons of ways you can make extra money by selling your old clothes.

Rethink your holidays 

Try a staycation or research cheaper holiday options.

Is there another family or relative who you could join forces with? If you hire a holiday house together, rather than go to a hotel, and split the bill this will often bring the cost of your holiday right down.

Fix it yourself

Something broken? Don’t reach for the phone yet. See if you can fix it using tutorials on YouTube before you ditch the item or pay someone else to fix it for you. 

Let me tell you a very embarrassing story. Our garage light stopped working one day. We were stumped. We switched the light bulb, we checked the fuse in the switch inside the garage. Nothing seemed to make a difference. 

So we called out an electrician. Within 10 minutes he discovered our toddler had switched off the power to the garage light from a little switch we hadn’t even noticed that was inside the house. That cost us £60. Whoops!

Research loyalty schemes

Some supermarkets have a loyalty scheme that involves collecting points that lead to money off.

The Nectar card scheme at Sainsbury’s can also be used to pay for goods from other brands, giving you money off days out with the family, goods from other stores and much more.

Tesco is now offering special prices for Clubcard customers which get you big discounts as long as you present your card at the checkout. You then also accrue points at the same time.

Get rid of one car

Can you survive with just the one car? Many families find that they actually can, especially if one or both of you is working from home.

The average cost of running a car in the UK is £2,000 a year. That’s a potentially massive saving if you can ditch one of your cars.

Adopt the 7-day rule

Don’t buy anything until you have had seven days to think about it. 

Impulse purchasing is one of the biggest spending drains, believe me I know it! My worst time for spending money on stuff I didn’t need was in the middle of the night when doing night feeds with the kids.

I would describe it as “comfort spending”, because I was exhausted and a little fed up so knowing I could expect something in the post gave me a little boost.

Now I pause for seven days before buying anything new. This means that nine times out of 10 I don’t end up buying the dress, top or shoes.

Do your own decorating

Don’t hire a painter to do up your house. Painting your home may be time consuming but you can easily do it yourself and save hundreds of pounds.

Switch bank accounts

Shop around for the best current and savings accounts. Be prepared to move your money around regularly.

Interest rates change at the drop of the hat. Plus many banks will offer some kind of incentive for switching and becoming a new customer.

Try Too Good To Go

This cool app is adding new brands all the time and it’s a great way to get food from your favourite supermarkets and restaurants with a discount of 50% or more.

The app partners with supermarkets such as Morrisons to reduce food waste. Every day brands offer “Magic Bags” for sale through the app. These contain food that is expiring that day, or very soon.

The big downside is you have no idea what’s in the bag, but some users have had amazing bags of goodies from Morrisons and Co-Op full of fresh veg, fruit and ready meals.

Check out my review of the Too Good to Go app to find out more.

How to live frugally by reducing bills 

Change your electricity and gas supplier every year

Most prices will fluctuate every 12 months. You will save money by switching your supplier every year when your renewal is up. 

Research the best deals for alternative suppliers both on price comparison websites and on brand websites individually. Some do not appear on the comparison sites such as Compare the Market. 

Another option is to contact your supplier and discuss your monthly payment, especially if you are ending the financial year with a surplus in your account. If you think you are paying too much then have a discussion to see if you can reduce the monthly payments.

Cancel your gym membership 

Do you really need your gym membership? Cancelling it does not mean a farewell to all exercise in the future. 

It can actually mean that you can get creative with what you do for exercise. Maybe you could start a running challenge around where you live – trying to cover more ground locally every time you go out for a run. 

You could try free online exercise classes on YouTube. There are some yoga classes that are suitable for the whole family, so you could work out with your kids too. 

Walk don’t drive 

Save money on petrol by walking instead of taking your car whenever you can.

Bin your subscriptions 

Carry out a review of the things you are paying for subscriptions for. Can you live without that magazine subscription? Do you need the full Sky TV package?

If you pay for both Amazon Prime and Netflix can you axe one? I’ve got tips on this post all about how you can get Netflix for free!

Cut back on your energy bills

There are various things you can do to cut back on your annual energy bills. Little actions can add up to make a big difference.

Try the following things to save on your energy bills:

  • Switch off lights in rooms that you are not using.
  • Shut doors in winter so that heat is retained in rooms.
  • Turn down the heating by a couple of degrees. This could save you as much as £80 a year.
  • Put on extra layers before switching on the heating.
  • Switch baths for showers – although a super long shower will still use a lot of water so remember to be efficient.
  • Turn off standby appliances – that little red light showing the TV is off by on standby uses up power.
  • Install a smart thermostat that means you only warm the rooms you are using.
  • Wash clothes at a lower temperature.
  • Monitor your power usage with a Smart meter.
  • Install a new boiler. Getting an energy efficient boiler can save you hundreds a year.
  • Cut back on water usage when washing the dishes. Fill a washing-up bowl and wash dishes with this water rather than having constantly running water to rinse them off.
  • Reduce your shower usage by a minute or two each time.

Look to make energy efficiency improvements

There are a ton of great ways to improve the energy efficiency of your home.

The Energy Saving Trust suggests ideas such as switching to LED bulbs, which use less energy, and improving your home insulation so that less heat escapes.

Limit use of your credit card

I don’t have a credit card. I don’t want to risk having a month where I accidentally forget to pay, I prefer paying for everything upfront from my own money.

But there are big advantages to using a credit card for big ticket items. You get protection when you purchase items worth more than £100 and up to £30,000.

If you are going to use your credit card then be sure to pay off the balance promptly every month to avoid paying any interest.

Pay off debt

Having high interest debt can be a real burden. So sit down and figure out how you can pay it off as quickly as you can, so that the interest rate doesn’t continue to saddle you with a monthly expense.

The first step to figuring out how to pay off your debts is to write down exactly what you owe and to who. Alongside that write down the interest rates for those debts.

Some people like to pay off the smallest debt first, so that they have tackled one part of the problem before moving on to the bigger chunks of debt.

However it makes more practical sense to pay off the highest interest debt first, as this will be costing you the most in the long term.

If you are still struggling then seek advice from a debt advice service, such as Step Change.

How to be frugal with food and shopping 

Bulk buy 

Buying products in bulk can often work out cheaper – but do double check but its not always the case. Check the price tag on the shelves which shows the cost per kg. This will let you know if your bulk purchase really is a saving.

CostCo offers great bulk discounts, although you need to pay an annual membership to shop there. Once you’re in though you can save lots of money on everything from toothpaste to wine and cereals.

Use vouchers 

Use your store loyalty card, which normally leads to you getting vouchers either when you pay for your next shop or in the post.

Be sure to use these before they expire!

Also keep an eye out for any special money off deals you can find elsewhere.

Stop buying branded products

This goes for so many things like cereals, milk and canned goods.

But it also goes for stuff like branded painkillers. You may think the supermarket own brand won’t be as great, but actually they’re generic equivalents, as research by Money Saving Expert found. Sometimes it’s even made in exactly the same factory! So buy the supermarket own stuff when it comes to stocking up your medicine cabinet too.

This also goes for nappies. Pampers new baby Size 1 nappies cost around 11p each (£5 for a pack of 46), however Tesco own brand Fred and Flo are just 4p each (£1.80 for a 50 pack). It’s a similar story with the other own brand supermarket nappies, and their wipes too!

Raid your own cupboards

Ever clear out your cupboards and find tons of out of date tins and sauces? Before you go shopping to a supermarket, try shopping your own kitchen first!

This is a great way to cut back on waste when it comes to your weekly shop. Try to review what you already have in every week when writing up your meal plan.

Learn the art of the fakeaway!

Takeaways drain your bank balance fast! If you’re having them regularly then try adding up how much they have cost you over the last month and you may be a little shocked.

Instead of getting a takeaway, try making your own delicious food at home – or a fakeaway. Making pizza is actually really easy, and there’s a great pizza dough recipe from Jamie Oliver.

I also really rate this chicken jalfrezi recipe, it tastes amazing!

If you are used to having takeaways every week, you could save £80 to £120 a month if you swap them for a delicious alternative you cook yourself.

To help you stick to your weekly meal plan I’ve created a beautiful meal planner, all you need to do is sign up to my mailing list and I will send it over to your inbox to download and print!

Use cashback sites

You can get money back on an absolute ton of stuff via cashback sites. You are literally paid to shop!

These sites are able to pay you to shop because they use affiliate links to connect you with big brands such as John Lewis. They then pass a percentage of the affiliate fee they received back to you.

The best cashback sites are:

Go vegetarian a few nights a week 

Meat is expensive so either bulk out your dishes with tinned beans and lentils so that you use less meat, or go totally vegetarian a few nights a week.

Try vegetarian pasta – use onion, tinned chopped tomatoes, sliced aubergine and peppers to make a delicious sauce – or a veggie risotto.

Choose frozen not fresh

Picking frozen veg and fish options not only save you money but you also save money. They tend to be cheaper, plus with veg like peas the freezing process actually locks the goodness in.

You can also buy frozen fruit to make your own smoothies, which works out way cheaper than buying pre-made smoothies.

Cook from scratch

Make your own pasta sauces, curries and casseroles rather than buying jarred sauces.

I bulk buy tins of chopped tomatoes and passata then add herbs, spices, tomato puree, garlic and whatever vegetables I want to make a meal.

There are 30 ideas for frugal meals over on this post.

Packed lunches for everyone 

Spending cash on expensive takeout sandwiches is a daily cost you can avoid.

Make packed lunches for the entire family to take to school or work. If sandwiches get boring then you can try wraps, cold pasta or cold pizza slices.

Grow your own 

Try growing your own herbs and vegetables to save on buying them at the supermarket.

If you’re not confident with your green thumb then start off small with simple herbs such as basil and parsley.

We’ve been able to grow cherry tomatoes with great success in our garden. I would love to move on to potatoes and carrots at some stage.

Plan meals around special offers 

When you’re planning out your weekly meals try to be a little flexible so that if you see specific meats or vegetables on offer you choose those to benefit from the saving.

Cut back on your beauty spending

The average woman spends more than £480 on beauty products according to this survey. That’s a LOT of cash that could stay in your pocket.

Think about how you could cut back on your beauty spending. Do you have to have your nails done at a salon or could you try doing them yourself a few times a year?

I switched colouring my hair at the salon to doing in myself at home, which saves me hundreds of pounds a year.

When it comes to make-up can you make switches to cheaper brands? Look for recommendations from beauty experts to find products that do the same job without such a steep price tag.

Quit smoking

I get that it’s easier said than done, but the cost of smoking really does add up.

My friend used to smoke a pack a day back when a pack cost £10. It took him four months to quit using vaping to replace the cigarettes but now he’s off the smokes he’s saved £70 a week!

Switch to reusable products 

Not only are you helping the environment but you will be saving money too. 

Renewable products tend to involve a larger investment up front, but will save you money over the course of time. Try these renewable switches: 

  • Baby wipes 
  • Nappies
  • Menstrual cups instead of tampons 
  • Period pants instead of sanitary towels 

Know your spending triggers

What leads you to spend money on stuff that you don’t actually need? Is it emails from your favourite brands or checking out the latest fashion haul from your favourite Instagrammer?

Whatever the trigger is, figure it out and block it. You can unsubscribe from mailing lists and mute or unfollow social media accounts so that the temptation is no longer there.

Frugal tips for laundry and cleaning 

Homemade cleaning products 

You can get a lot done around the house with cheap ingredients such as baking soda, white vinegar and soda crystals.

If you don’t fancy making your own cleaning products, then cut right back on the number of cleaning products you use. You really don’t need to buy a different spray for every mood you have.

One multi-purpose cleaner, bleach and dusting solution is really all that you need to clean your home. Vinegar can be used to get rid of limescale and make your taps shine!

Cut up old clothes to use for cleaning 

Got an old T-shirt with a hole in that you’re about to bin? Cut it into squares and use it for cleaning your home!

Use an airer instead of a tumble dryer

Save on the cost of electricity of running a dryer by using a clothes rack instead to air dry your clothes.

In summer use one outdoors to dry your clothes super fast.

Frugal living tips for entertainment 

Look for fun free places to go 

Your local area will have free things to do, you just need to get creative.

Look for local woods and parks that have free parking or that you can walk to. Take a walk as a family or challenge the kids to a nature treasure hunt where they need to gather up a selection of items.

When going to the park why not take a few toys such as frisbee, bucket and spade if there’s a sandpit, bat and ball and any other outdoor toys your kids love to play with.

Research offers for theme parks 

If your kids are desperate to visit a theme park then research voucher deals. Most places like Merlin-owned theme parks offer a 2-for-1 deal when you have a voucher which are often on the sides of cereal boxes or available online.

Do your research and see how you can get the best price.

Have a jar of fun at-home play ideas

A rainy day jar full of ideas for what to do at home can make for an exciting way to do free fun stuff at home.

You can include things like a movie night, treasure hunt round the house, making something with craft supplies and building a den.

Make use of your local library

Get a library membership and make use of all the free books and DVDs they have to offer.

Join the National Trust

We absolutely love exploring National Trust properties. Having a family membership is cheaper than paying entry costs as a visitor and you can make it worthwhile with just six or seven visits a year.

There are so many different properties you can visit and many have kids’ play areas too.

Final thoughts on frugal living tips

So there you have it, dozens of frugal living tips to help you spend less and save more without sacrificing fun with the family.

If you feel overwhelmed at the idea of changing your lifestyle then just take a few steps at a time – you don’t have to run before you can walk.

Frugality does not mean cutting out the joy from your life, and actually you may well find it fun to see how much you can save with just a few simple steps.

Remember to keep a record of your spending, so that you can see the progress you are making. This will be a great motivator!

If you want to boost your budget then maybe consider starting a side hustle – there are over 60 side hustle ideas in this post.

Money saving frugal living tips