Frugal living in the UK
Being frugal is often misconstrued as being ‘cheap’. But this is not the case. It’s perfectly possible to enjoy life and still live frugally – you just need to make smart, cost-effective choices.
Whether you’re on a low income or you want to achieve a specific savings goal, frugal living can make your money go further. On this page you’ll find plenty of frugal money-saving tips to help you get started. Of course, you don’t have to follow all these tips, but the more mindful you are of your spending, the greater the financial gain.
What is frugal living?
Frugal living is the practice of being careful with your money and being conscious of every spending decision. However, a frugal lifestyle doesn’t mean you have to go without. Rather, it’s about making smart decisions about the way you live, eat, shop and spend money.
Frugal living is not the same as penny-pinching, where you always opt for the lowest-priced option regardless of quality, and are reluctant to spend money at all. Living frugally is about being economical and prioritising your spending so you can afford the things that matter most to you.
Why live frugally?
Living frugally has many benefits, with saving money being the most obvious advantage. When you’re on a tight budget, every penny matters. A frugal lifestyle will help you to make your money last longer, meaning you’re less likely to go into your overdraft or run up costly debts, which can be very stressful.
But living frugally isn’t just for those on a low income. If you’re saving for something specific, such as a new car or a deposit on a house, being frugal will allow you to reach this goal faster. Ultimately, frugal living puts you in control of your finances and spending and helps you clarify what’s important to you and your family.
What’s more, a frugal lifestyle is usually better for the environment. As you’ll see below, many of our frugal ideas have the added benefit of being eco-friendly and sustainable. Whether it’s reducing food waste or using less energy, frugal living can be good for your pocket and the planet.
How to live frugally in the UK
Frugal living is as much a state of mind as it is about actions. To be successful, you’ll need to change your attitude to spending and the way you think about money. Learn to recognise the difference between buying the things you want and the things you actually need. This is key when it comes to cutting down on non-essential spending.
You’ll also need to have a good understanding of your priorities. Only by identifying the things that matter most can you plan to reduce spending in other, less important, areas.
So how does it work in practice? If you enjoy fitness, it might mean foregoing your Netflix subscription to pay for a gym membership. Or if you love dining out, you might want to swap your usual pricey restaurant for a cheaper alternative.
Frugal living looks different for everyone and can be tailored to suit your own wants and needs.
Are you looking for ways to save money on a tight budget? Read our guide for some easy tips to help you save for the future and meet your financial goals.Read more
In this article, we outline some key strategies to help you live well on a small income. From money-saving tips to ideas to boost your income, we cover everything you need to know to live cheaply and stay within budget.Read more
50 frugal money-saving tips
There are plenty of ways you can be frugal without sacrificing your happiness and enjoyment – you just need to think creatively. Yes, you may need to make a few compromises but many people find these sacrifices are worth the benefits that come with a frugal lifestyle.
Not sure where to start? Here are our top 50 tips on how to live frugally in the UK.
1. Plan meals
Meal planning is essential if you want to spend less money on your food shop. Not only will it help you to avoid making unnecessary purchases, but it will also reduce the amount of food you waste.
2. Choose cheaper recipes
We’re not suggesting that you eat beans on toast every day, but following budget recipes is a great way to live frugally and save money. There are plenty of money-saving meal ideas available online. You may even want to plan your meals around current supermarket offers.
3. Make a shopping list
Once you’ve planned your meals, make a shopping list and stick to it. Be sure to check your cupboards thoroughly before visiting the supermarket to ensure you don’t double up on items you already have.
4. Don’t shop when you’re hungry
Never go shopping on an empty stomach or without a list. Not only will you want to buy everything in sight but you’re more likely to make unhealthy food choices.
5. Visit cheaper supermarkets
If you usually shop in a premium supermarket such as Waitrose, consider changing to a budget chain like Lidl or Aldi. You might be surprised by just how much you can save without compromising on quality or taste.
6. Buy supermarket own-label products
A popular strategy among people who want to live frugally is to swap expensive big brand names for supermarket own-label alternatives. They are commonly made by the same manufacturer as branded goods, and can save you several pounds per shop.
7. Eat less meat
As well as being good for the environment, reducing your meat intake can shave several pounds off your weekly food shop bill. If you do buy meat, consider getting cheaper cuts – they can still taste great when cooked in a slow cooker.
8. Buy in bulk – but only if you’ll use it
It can sometimes work out cheaper to buy products in bulk. Just make sure you calculate whether or not it is cheaper and if you will use all of the products.
9. Make your own hot drinks/packed lunch
Barista-prepared beverages might be convenient (and delicious), but they’re an easy way to spend more money. If you want to live frugally, forgo your coffee shop trips and prepare your own drink at home.
The same goes for lunch. A daily meal deal usually costs around £3, but making your lunch at home is cheaper and often healthier. It might mean getting out of bed five minutes earlier, but your bank balance will thank you for it.
10. Grow your own fruit and veg
Save money at the supermarket and try growing herbs and vegetables at home. If you don’t have green fingers, you can start with something simple like coriander or basil.
11. Love your leftovers
Freeze leftovers for a speedy weeknight meal later in the month. Using up leftover food will save you both time and money while reducing waste. Likewise, fruit and vegetables that are nearing their use-by date can be chopped, frozen and added to smoothies, soups and stews another day.
12. Download loyalty apps
Don’t forget to take advantage of loyalty schemes such as Tesco Clubcard, Nectar and Boots Advantage card. They will often give you money-off vouchers or discounts, but be mindful that these savings aren’t cancelled out if the shop is more expensive than a competitor. Many companies will also offer you an introductory discount when you sign up to their email newsletter.
13. Use cashback sites
If you buy a lot of goods or financial products online, you might want to use a cashback site. These companies receive a commission for any purchase you make via their site, which they then share with you. The amount of cash you receive depends on what you buy, with long-term subscriptions such as broadband and phone contracts offering some of the best financial rewards.
14. Buy second-hand
Charity shops are a great place to buy clothes and household goods. As well as being very affordable, they often offer a quirk you won’t find on the high street. Pre-owned clothing apps also allow you to shop sustainably and buy items cheaply.
15. Research the best price
Before heading to the shops or buying online, it’s a good idea to do some research to find the best price. This is especially important when making an expensive purchase such as a new television or kitchen appliance. Shopping comparison sites allow you to compare the prices of millions of products across thousands of UK stores.
16. Take advantage of free trial periods
Sign up for free trials but don’t forget to cancel before you get charged. Amazon Prime, for example, offers a 30-day free trial, while Apple TV gives new users a free seven-day trial. Use this window of opportunity to stream films for free and then cancel once the trial period is over. A good way to do this is by setting a reminder on your phone.
17. Borrow/rent rather than buy
If you’re looking to buy something for a one-off event or short-term use, see if you can borrow the item from a friend or family member instead. Failing that, you might be able to rent it from somewhere for a small fee.
18. Sell unused items before buying something new
If you do need to buy something, you could sell your unwanted items and use the money raised to fund your new purchase. A lot of companies also provide cash in return for clothes, which increases in amount depending on how much it weighs.
19. Choose classic designs
If you’re treating yourself to a new piece of clothing, consider choosing something with a classic cut that will stand the test of time. The same principle applies to bigger purchases such as a new bathroom or kitchen. Classic styles with a modern twist can still look contemporary but won’t date too quickly.
20. Shop around for the best deal
Whenever your gas, electricity, phone and broadband are due for renewal, be sure to shop around to find the best deal. There are various comparison websites that make it easy to compare prices from a range of providers.
21. Get a smart meter
Smart meters are a must-have for anyone who wants to embrace frugal living in the UK. They allow you to see how much gas and electricity you’re using and what it’s costing you, almost in real-time. Not only is this a real eye-opener, but it also means you can take control of your energy consumption.
22. Turn down the thermostat
According to Uswitch, lowering your thermostat by just 1°C could save you up to £80 per year. While you’re unlikely to notice the slight reduction in temperature, you could notice a difference in your energy bills.
23. Insulate your home
It’s a good idea to improve the insulation in your home to help keep the heat in and reduce your energy bills. Draught excluders and heavy curtains can also help to keep out the cold. And don’t forget to shut doors to prevent heat from escaping.
24. Conserve water
If you want to embrace frugal living, there are plenty of ways you can save money on your water bill. Taking shorter showers and turning off the tap when brushing your teeth might not seem like big changes, but they could make a real difference over the year.
25. Save electricity
With energy prices at an all-time high, it’s more important than ever to save electricity. Replace inefficient halogen light bulbs with LED versions and get into the habit of turning off lights when you leave a room. And remember to switch your appliances off standby – it could save you around £35 a year.
Household bills and expenses
26. Never auto-renew
Auto-renew may be convenient, but it’s an easy way to waste money. If your insurance policy is due for renewal, be sure to shop around – loyalty rarely pays in this case.
27. Review your subscriptions
Review all of your subscriptions every three months to identify areas where you can stop wasting money. You might find you’re paying for memberships that you rarely use. You can find out more about cancelling recurring payments on our website.
28. Pay bills annually
If you can afford to, pay bills yearly rather than monthly. In many cases you can avoid paying extra in interest.
29. Fix it yourself
Toilet broken or the shower tray leaking? Before calling in the experts, try tackling relatively simple fixes yourself. There are plenty of tutorials on YouTube to guide you through basic DIY repairs and you could potentially save a lot of money. However, there are certain jobs, such as those involving gas and electricity, that are best left to the professionals.
Banking and finance
30. Set a spending budget
Set yourself a weekly or monthly budget and review it before each payday. If you’ve overspent in a certain area, try to identify ways to reduce your expenditure in this category. Use our free budget planner to help you get started.
31. Establish some savings goals
If you’re worried about maintaining your new frugal way of living, set yourself some savings goals. Saving money for a specific purpose, for example a holiday abroad, will help you to stay motivated and make those frugal sacrifices all the more worthwhile.
32. Create an emergency fund
Creating an emergency fund, or rainy day pot, should be one of your first savings goals. It will help you to cover unexpected large expenses, such as a pricey vets bill or major car repairs, without having to dip into your overdraft. Read more about starting an emergency fund here.
33. Use online banking
Online banking allows you to monitor your outgoings quickly and easily. While you don’t want to become obsessed with checking your balance, it can make you more mindful of your spending.
34. Pay off high-interest loans
Paying off high-interest debts should be near the top of your list of spending priorities, especially if you’re embracing a frugal lifestyle. With some credit cards charging as much as 18.9% APR, paying off your credit card could save you a significant amount of money in the long run.
35. Switch your bank account
Consider switching bank accounts to get a better interest and take advantage of cashback incentives. Don’t be afraid to look beyond the main high street banks in search of the best deal. Although relatively new, challenger banks have recently scored higher in terms of customer satisfaction and can even offer higher interest rates.
36. Follow the seven-day spending rule
If you’re tempted to make an impulse purchase, wait at least seven days before buying. Take some time to think about your prospective purchase and ask yourself some key questions: “do I really need it?”, “will I use it?”, and “can I afford it?”. Once the rush of impulse shopping has worn off, you might decide you no longer need the item.
37. Minimise credit card spending
If you want to embrace frugal living, try to limit spending on your credit card. It’s easy for spending to snowball, which often leads to expensive interest payments and debts.
That said, paying on your credit card can be beneficial when buying big-ticket items. Credit card payments over £100 are protected, meaning you can get your money back if something goes wrong. Plus, some credit card companies also offer vouchers or air miles as a reward for spending. Just be sure to pay the balance in full every month to avoid incurring interest.
38. Keep a loose change jar
A classic frugal tip is to throw any spare change in a designated jar. While the odd 50p here or there might not seem much, it’s surprising how quickly it mounts up over the year.
39. Take on a money-saving challenge
Spending challenges can be a fun way to stay motivated and keep your spending under control. One of the most well-known challenges is the 365-Day Money Challenge, which requires you to save a set amount each day.
It typically starts with saving with 1p on the 1st January, 2p on the 2nd and so on until you save £3.65 on the last day. The easiest way to do this is to transfer the specified amount into an online savings account. Done correctly, you should save £667.35 by the end of the year.
40. Drive more economically
There are plenty of frugal tips to help you save money on travel. Driving economically is a good place to start. Empty your car boot to remove any unnecessary load and make sure your tyres are inflated to the right pressure. Extra weight and underinflated tyres will cause your car to use more fuel.
41. Go down to a one-car family
Ask yourself whether your family really needs two cars. The pandemic means more people are now working from home than ever before. If you no longer need to commute, you might find you can drop down to one car. With the average cost of running a car in the UK thought to be around £162 a month, you could save a substantial sum of money over the year.
42. Share lifts
If you do need to drive to work, arrange to car share with a friend or colleague. If you are both travelling the same way, you can split the cost of the petrol. Not only will you both save money, but you’ll be doing your bit for the planet too.
43. Combine journeys
You can also reduce fuel costs by consolidating journeys. If you have several errands to run, combine them into one car journey, especially if they’re en route or in roughly the same area.
44. Walk or cycle more
Living frugally may also mean ditching car journeys altogether and walking or cycling instead.
Leisure and entertainment
45. Find free places to visit
Whether it’s a walk in the woods, a trip to the museum or a day at the beach, there are plenty of fun, free things to do – you just need to think creatively.
46. Research offers before you visit
If you are planning a special day out, for example, to the zoo or a theme park, make sure you do your research before booking your tickets. You never know, you might be able to find some special offers or vouchers to reduce your admission cost.
47. Host dinner parties
Love dining out with friends? While it’s good to socialise, meals out can prove costly. Instead, think about hosting a dinner party at home.
48. Watch films at home instead of going to the cinema
Regular trips to the cinema can prove costly, so consider streaming a film at home instead. Stock up on popcorn and other treats and enjoy a cosy film night with friends or family.
49. Exercise at home
Save money on a monthly gym membership by exercising at home. There are some great free workouts online, many of which don’t require equipment. If you’re worried about staying motivated, get an exercise partner and commit to regular workout sessions together.
50. Use the library
There’s no need to buy new books when you can borrow them for free from your local library. You may also be able to find free ebooks online.
If you’re new to frugal living, you may just want to try a few of these ideas and see what works. Once you’re happy with a particular change, you can progressively adopt more ideas. If something doesn’t work for you and your family, find another strategy that does.
Start saving with Raisin UK
Once you find a combination of strategies that work well, the pounds will soon mount up. If you haven’t already done so, this is the perfect time to open a savings account and start working to achieve your savings goals.
Saving money with Raisin UK is easy. Simply register for a Raisin UK Account and choose from a range of competitive savings accounts from our UK partner banks. For more information read our quick start guide here.
Hopefully we’ve shown you that it is possible to live frugally and enjoy a fun life. So what are you waiting for? Adopt a few simple changes today and start saving your way to financial freedom.