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15 Frugal Living Tips to Save £5000 a Year

Jennifer Birtles 18th Jun 2020 7 Comments

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Frugal living tips sound like a lot of sacrifice needs to be made. It’s not true! But it could be very necessary.

As a nation we overspend massively and often beyond our budgets. More than a third of all Brits spent more than they received in income in April 2019. Continuing spending habits like this can lead you into debt and cause other troubling financial problems. Taking a more frugal approach to spending and your finances can help you save thousands!

Frugal living sometimes comes with negative connotations but it doesn’t mean you have to miss out on things. Instead, it’s an attempt to make more sensible and informed choices in your day-to-day spending to minimise unnecessary costs and save yourself cash in the long-term. Living more frugally can cut your monthly spending back by at least a third, so we’ve put together 15 tips to guide you towards a thrifty lifestyle.

Holiday at Home

Go camping instead of international holidays for frugal living

Instead of flying, holiday at home this year to keep costs low. The UK has beautiful countryside worth exploring and embracing the outdoors by camping or caravanning gives you a break from the norm while maintaining a sense of adventure without breaking the bank. If the countryside isn’t your thing you can take a city break instead. Ditch popular tourist destinations like London and head further North to visit Manchester or Leeds for a cheaper trip.

For more ideas read our full article How to Have a Cheap Holiday in the UK.

You can also save big on your holiday accommodation by house swapping. Stay in someone else’s home on holiday whilst they stay in yours. It may not be for everyone but means you have the option of free accommodation around the world whilst still having home comforts and facilities not provided by hotels during your stay.

Buying in Bulk

Whilst you shouldn’t let the appeal of grabbing a bargain tempt you into buying things unnecessarily, purchasing non-perishable items while they are on special will save you money in the long-run. When everyday items like toilet paper, toothpaste, pasta, or tinned foods are discounted, picking up a few extra for the store cupboard isn’t a bad idea.

Check out our supermarket tips to help you be a savvy shopper.

Renewing Insurance

Never automatically renew your insurance policy without shopping around first as your chances of finding a better deal are pretty high. Insurance is an extremely competitive business and unfortunately your loyalty means nothing to insurers.

Shop around using a comparison tool to find the best quotes. Take the cheapest like-for-like quote back to your current provider – they’ll often match or offer a lower rate to retain your custom.

Keep Your Utility Bills Low

Switch off unused lights and appliances for frugal living

Don’t spend any more money than you have to on bills! First, make sure you’re getting a good rate. Switching suppliers is easy and free with Energy Helpline. You can also look for switching introductory deals. For example, Bulb offers between £25 and £75 credit to existing customers AND the person they sign up. The rate varies depending on seasonal promotions, so look out for the good rates.

Unplugging appliances instead of leaving them on standby can save you up to £50 a year.

Fix water drips as soon as you find them – leaving a dripping tap for a year could cost you an extra £100 on your water bill. You could also look at getting a water meter installed if you’re single or in a couple. It’s not cost-effective for large properties or families, but could save single people a fortune!

Being one of the 4.7 million people in the UK leaving lights on overnight can cost you an extra £281.05 a year. If you like to leave an outside light on in your porch or garden, consider installing a solar-powered security light. This won’t use any electricity and switches on when there’s movement – so you can always see your way to the door.

Make sure your house is insulated properly. Not only does it massively cut energy bills during the winter months but it helps keep the heat out during summer as well. Homeowners on a low income could qualify for boiler grants and insulation grants to help improve the energy efficacy of their home, too.

Minimise Food Waste and Plan Ahead

Shockingly, on average each year in the UK we throw away 6.6 million tonnes of household food. Instead of leftovers and scraps, use it as an excuse to get creative in the kitchen and come up with new dishes. BBC Good Food’s 25 Ways to Use Up Leftover Ingredients provides plenty of inspiration to get started.

One of the best ways to minimise waste is to plan ahead. Check what you’ve already got in and plan the meals you’re going to eat that week accordingly. Write a shopping list before you go and then stick to it, avoid picking up extra items and definitely don’t go to the shops hungry.

If you can, go to the shops later in the day. It usually means more items will have been reduced which you can use immediately or freeze down.

Read even more ideas to Save Money on Food Shopping.

Go Vegetarian

Frugal living is easier if you're vegetarian or flexitarian

Meat and dairy are the most costly parts of a grocery shop. Reducing how much you consume, or cutting them out altogether, will save you hundreds every year. Whether you start by having a couple of vegetarian and vegan meals every week or bulk out meat dishes with beans and pulses, you’ll notice the difference on your bank account. These meals don’t have to be boring either – there are plenty of recipes and inspiration out there to get you started.

You don’t need to cut meat and dairy out of your diet altogether – but even a couple of veggie days a week will slash your monthly food costs.

Use vegetables and pulses to bulk out meat-based dishes, too. It’s easy to double a recipe simply by adding some lentils, potato, or kidney beans. They’re filling, healthy, and mean you can make extra portions to freeze for later.

Grow Your Own

Switching to a veg-based diet gets even cheaper when it’s your own produce! Growing your own produce is a simple way to save on groceries and can become a fun hobby at the same time. You don’t need much to get started – just a few seeds, soil, and basic gardening tools. Even if you are limited on space growing fresh herbs and smaller vegetables like chillies, tomatoes, and peppers is easy enough. If you’ve only got a balcony or a windowsill, you can still grow your own! Here’s how to get started gardening in small spaces.

If you have a large garden or unused space why not consider renting it out as allotments to make some extra money. Read our full article here for more information.

Cut Back on Subscriptions

Do you know how many of your monthly direct debits you’re actually using? The typical adult in the UK spends £39 a month on unused direct debits and standing orders every month.

Sift through your bank statements to find all of your subscriptions.  Things like TV and music streaming services, sports channels, gym memberships, and newspaper and magazine subscriptions are easily forgotten. If you are not using the product or service enough, or it is now out of your budget, then cancel it immediately.

Wine and Dine at Home

Cook at home to save money

Swap a night out for a night in with friends and family instead! Team together so that everyone brings an item to share to spread the cost. Not only will it be much cheaper than a night out but you’ll have a great selection of food and drink to enjoy together as well.

A pot luck, where everyone brings a dish, can be great fun. Alternatively, each take it in turns to host once a month. Meals like curries and stews are very cheap to make in bulk, and will always go down a treat!

Make Your Own Cleaning Products

If you’re tired of forking out hard-earned cash to spend on cleaning products then why not make your own instead? It’s actually really simple to do and they mostly use products that you already have in your cupboards like bicarbonate of soda, white vinegar, and lemons so no need to spend anything!

Read our full guide on Old-School Cleaning Tips That’ll Save You Hundreds.

Make Your Own Beauty Treatments

Instead of splurging on expensive beauty products and treatments, consider making your own at home from natural ingredients. They’re easy to make and you don’t need any fancy equipment – just ingredients you’ll already find in your kitchen like sugars and salts, oil, honey, and yoghurt.

If you want to make more of an event out of it, invite a few friends over for an evening to make body scrubs and face masks together and enjoy the benefits of a spa day without reeling from the cost.

Looking for more ideas? Check out How to Make and Save Money by Making Your Own Beauty Products and Save Money With a Home Spa Day.

Buy Second Hand

Buying second hand is excellent for the planet as well as your wallet. Charity shops are always worth browsing, particularly in wealthier areas where there’s usually a larger selection of items and you have a better chance of finding a great bargain. It’s also a great way to flex your creative skills: pick up clothes that need some TLC and make them your own with embroidery, patches, or a total redesign!

You can find items on Oxfam’s online fashion shop from as little as £1 which makes it the best place to do your online shopping. Plus, you get the added bonus of knowing every purchase gives to charity at the same time.

It is also well worth trawling through eBay to see what you can find as it’s where most people tend to sell their second-hand items and there are plenty of gems to be found. Check on NextDoor, Gumtree, and local Facebook groups too – you could even find people giving away good stuff for free!

Cut Car Costs

Cut car costs

If you live near colleagues or other families attending the same school or clubs then reach out to them and ask if they would be interested in sharing lifts. It’s such an easy way to immediately cut back on fuel costs that whoever you ask will no doubt be delighted and grateful that you got in touch.

Another big way to cut car costs is by paying attention to how you can drive and trying to make it as economical as possible – this is known as hypermiling. Find out about this and more in Money-Saving Tips For Your Car This Summer.

Think about whether you actually NEED a car, too. If you only use it once every few weeks, a car hire club like Enterprise Club or Zipcar could be what you need instead. You’ll save several hundreds (if not thousands) on insurance, tax, MOT, and repair costs!

Exercise for Free

Gym memberships are costly (on average around £40 a month) so why not ditch it altogether and exercise for free instead? Cutting a £40-a-month gym membership saves you £480 a year! There are plenty of ways to access exercise routines at home, including signing up for free trials. Look on YouTube, too, for free exercise videos for all types of workout.

Check out the NHS for their free exercise classes and programmes to help get you started. Also, if you’re interested in improving cardio or jogging their Couch to 5k programme is designed for complete beginners and eases you into a regular exercise routine.

Take another step by incorporating exercise into your daily routine by walking or cycling to work. If you take public transport, get off one or two stops early and walk the rest of the way. It’ll quickly become part of your routine and you won’t even realise you’re exercising.

Use Loyalty Schemes and Vouchers

If you use a particular supermarket regularly then make sure you’re signed up for their loyalty scheme so you can collect points for discounts on future purchases. With Tesco Clubcard and Sainsbury’s Nectar Points you don’t have to use the points in store, you can put them towards a day out or use with one of their reward partners instead. Using them this way actually increases the points’ value – for example, 100 points equates to £1 when spent back in store but 100 points with some of their partners is worth £3.

Check out these frugal living tips to save extra money for big purchases like Christmas.

When shopping online, use cashback sites. You can often combine these with voucher codes, too. A common one is 10% off your first order when you sign up so it may be worth your while to set up an email address that is used solely for this so you’re not clogging up your regular inbox. Otherwise, VoucherCodes is always a good place to find yourself a discount on purchases.

Share your frugal living tips

Do you have more ways to save? Our Magpie community would love to hear about them! Jump over to our Magpie Messsageboard to share your ideas and tips on frugal living and all things money.

More Useful Reading

Find even more of our articles on frugal living and money-saving tips below.

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1 year ago

Very useful. Very interested in the make-your-own cleaning products

3 years ago

I’ve just gone 2 weeks without spending anything!

3 years ago

I use the Tesco Clubcard and Nectar cards while shopping; if I find any discarded receipts with points on them I’ll add them to my cards. I found 71 Tesco points in one day last week!
I also earn extra Tesco points by taking the customer surveys to get an extra 25 points per month.
Boots Advantage Card often has extra points coupons such as 200 extra points; there’s no minimum spend so even if you spend less than £2 you still get the 200 points bonus!

3 years ago

I always stock up when I get money off vouchers (e.g. Lidl Plus app); I bought a load of Cien toiletries and W5 cleaning products on offer.
I remember getting some Halloween buns reduced after the day that had a long date on them and some Easter lambs reduced after Easter!

3 years ago

Travel and that too by car is one of the most expensive items in my list and always looking to cut this cost. thanks for some pointers.

3 years ago

Completely agree with never renewing insurance. Always cancel and even if you go to the same provider as a new customer it will still be cheaper.

3 years ago

Some great tips. Even the small savings add up over the year and can be a considerable amount.

Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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