14 frugal living ideas

Lots of us are looking to tighten our belts during these difficult times, and the good news is there are plenty of simple steps we can take towards living a more frugal lifestyle.

We asked our brilliant Rest Less Community for frugal living ideas, and received some fantastic and creative responses.

Here’s our round up of some of the best.

Upsize your shopping

It’s worth stocking up on the larger sizes of household goods where possible as these tend to be much cheaper than smaller sizes. If you live alone, you could still buy larger sizes and share them with family, splitting the cost between you all. One of our members reported buying a 32 pack of toilet paper earlier this year for just £10 (32p per roll), when a four-pack usually costs around £2 or 50p per roll – a saving of more than a third.

Reuse plastic rather than buying storage containers

When freezing food, instead of buying plastic containers, use empty margarine tubs (500g size) as these are a good ‘one’ portion size. Old takeaway pots can also make great tupperware alternatives…

Cut clothing costs

Before buying new clothes, go through your wardrobe and see which items you really need. Often we get into the habit of buying the same items again and again because we know they will suit us, forgetting that we might already have several of these garments already tucked away in drawers. See if you can sell clothing you no longer use, either on auction sites or at a car boot sale, and then put the proceeds towards new clothes. One of our members says she never buys new clothes except for underwear. The vast majority of her clothes are several years old, and bought pre-retirement or from charity shops.

Save on cleaning products

Rather than splashing out on expensive cleaning products, often things you already have in your store cupboard will do the job just as well. For example, if you use tablets to clean your washing machine, baking soda is a cheaper alternative and does a great job of preventing limescale build up. Similarly, if you need to clean your windows, you can do so using a mixture of one part vinegar and one part water in a spray bottle. This not only helps you avoid the use of harsh chemicals, but also saves you the cost of buying a special window cleaning product. Using newspaper to clean windows is also effective.

Reduce mobile phone bills

A few of our members say that giving up their mobile phone contracts and replacing them with SIM-only deals has made a big difference to their monthly mobile phone bills, with some reporting costs as low as £6-£8 a month. You can compare the costs of SIM-only deals using this SIM only comparison tool. Check that you’re out of contract with your existing provider before switching to a SIM-only deal, as if you leave early there may be charges to pay.

Eke out beauty products

Rather than simply binning plastic tubes of finished hand cream, face cream, or sun cream, cut them open with scissors at the bottom so you can be certain you’ve used everything up. One of our Rest Less members said: “My mother in law told me to try it and it’s amazing how much product you can still access, even when I thought the packaging was empty.”

Get your property to work for you

If you’ve got a spare room sitting empty, and once lockdown restrictions have been lifted, you might want to consider renting out a room to give your income a boost. One of our frugal members says she was able to avoid getting into debt even after she was made redundant by letting out her spare bedroom to a lodger. You can also benefit from tax relief on this income. Find out more in our article Five ways your home could make you money.

Recycle birthday and Christmas cards

Don’t throw this year’s birthday and Christmas cards away as they can be re-used as gift tags next year. All you need is a pair of scissors, a hole punch and some string. Cut the images on each card out, make a hole and thread the string through and there you go – gift tags ready to go for next year.

Make do and mend

Many of us just throw away items when they are broken, even though there might be a way to fix them easily. Before you throw something out and buy a new replacement, see if you might be able to repair the item. You can usually find tips on how to repair pretty much anything online, with YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest all great for providing inspiration and advice on fixing things, or recycling them to use as something else.  

Be comfortable with the difference between ‘use by’ and ‘best before’

Some of our members say that they eat food that’s past its sell-by date to reduce food wastage, but if you’re planning to do this you must be careful and make sure you don’t give yourself food poisoning. If a product has a ‘use by’ date shown on it then you really must consume it by this date, as after this it may not be safe to eat or freeze, even if it smells and looks okay. If however, a product shows a ‘best before’ date this usually means the food will be at its best if eaten before this date, but not that it will be unsafe to eat afterwards.

Write a menu plan

Writing a meal plan each week can really help cut down on food waste. Work out what you’re going to have for every meal and only buy these items – that way you won’t end up having to throw anything out at the end of the week because it’s gone off.

Grow your own food

If you have access to a garden or an allotment, consider growing some of your own fruit and vegetables to keep your food costs down. One of our enterprising Community members says she approached a local landowner who owns a paddock next to her house and agreed with him that in return for her mowing the plot and keeping it tidy, she could grow vegetables, and put a greenhouse and shed on it. The paddock now has three apple and three pear trees from which our member has preserved jars and jars of different jams and pickles. She’ll also be picking some rosehips to make rosehip syrup which has massive amounts of vitamin C and so is very useful for winter. Another of our members suggests that if you live in the countryside, rather than buying potatoes and carrots at the supermarket go to a local farm where you can often buy a huge sack of veg for a few pounds. 

Cut transport costs

If you regularly use your car to travel short distances, see if you can walk instead of driving. Not only will this help improve your fitness, but it will also reduce the amount you spend on fuel too. Of course, this won’t be practical for everyone, so if you do need your car to get around, make sure you don’t spend more than you need to filling it up by seeking out the garages offering the best deals on fuel. You can search for the cheapest fuel prices in your area at Petrolprices.com, which has data for nearly 8,500 petrol stations across the UK. Find out more about some of the different ways you can keep transport costs down here.

Use store loyalty points wisely

Many of us collect supermarket loyalty points when we shop, but rather than using them to get money off your shopping, they might be worth more if you use them for other rewards. One of our members says she uses her Tesco club card points to pay for her Tesco mobile bill, as this means her points are worth double the value they would be if she put them towards her grocery shopping.

We plan to regularly update this article, so if you have any of your own frugal living ideas, we’d love to hear them. You can join the conversation here or post a comment below.

Links with an * by them are affiliate links which help Rest Less stay free to use as they can result in a payment or benefit to us. You can read more on how we make money here.

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