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 frugal living tips.
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…
Use all the water you boil
If you’re boiling the kettle to make a brew, make sure any water you don’t use for your tea or coffee gets put to good use. Members suggest filling a flask with any spare water so you can use it for washing up, to boil eggs, or to make hot drinks later in the day.
If you’ve used a hot water bottle to keep you warm at night, in the morning use the water from that to water indoor plants or top up car radiators.
Make oven heat go further
If you’re turning on the oven to cook a roast, think about any other meals you might be able to cook at the same time to make the most of having the oven on for a while. This could be something like a lasagne which you freeze and use later.
If you are cooking a roast and are using meat from your freezer, always take it out the day before to defrost so you don’t have to use the microwave to thaw it out.
Consider cheaper ways to cook
Air fryers are one of the cheapest ways to cook food, costing anywhere from around 11p to 28p to run for 20 minutes, which is long enough to cook most things that could take up to 45 minutes in a standard oven. The cost of using your oven for this length of time could be as much as 87p, according to Utilita, more than triple the cost of an air fryer. You can find some of the best air fryers which use the least amount of energy in our guide 13 best air fryers 2022.
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. Find out other ways you might be able to keep clothing costs down in our guide 19 ways to cut clothing costs.
Soak pasta before cooking
Put dry pasta to soak in water for an hour or two before boiling. It will then only need a couple of minutes of cooking time, because it’s absorbed the water it needs, and only has to heat through.
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.
Furnish your home for free
If you need an item of furniture, see if you can find it for free rather than buying everything new. There are plenty of websites where people are giving away items they no longer need, and you won’t have to pay a penny for them. Sites worth checking out include Freecycle, Freegle, and the Latest Freebies and Free Stuff section of Gumtree.
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.” Learn about other ways to keep beauty spending down in our guide 21 ways to cut the cost of your beauty routine.
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 and Renting out a room – What you need to know.
Check your mortgage
Your mortgage is likely to be your biggest monthly outgoing, so make sure you aren’t paying more than you need to. This free mortgage comparison service allows you to compare mortgage deals from the whole of the market and find out how much they could save you. Alternatively, if you know when your current deal finishes, set up a free reminder and we’ll let you know when it’s time to search for a better deal.
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.
…or use e-cards
You could always send e-cards rather than Christmas cards instead of paper ones. Some of the best sites for e-cards include Paperless Post, which offers a number of templates that you can customise and send for free, and Blue Mountain, which offers a one-week free trial which you could use to get your cards sent out for the 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.
Get free plants
If you’re looking to spruce up your garden, but don’t want to spend a fortune on new plants, why not start propagating your own for free? If you don’t currently have any plants at all, ask friends with gardens whether you might be able to take a few cuttings from them which you can grow from. There are plenty of YouTube videos available showing you how to propagate various different types of plants, and it’s often easier than you might think.
Cancel subscriptions you don’t use
Lots of us have regular subscriptions that we’ve lost track of or no longer use. It’s worth sitting down with your latest bank statement so you can write a list of these. Once you’ve identified all of your regular subscription charges, think about how many of these services you really take advantage of and whether there’s any that you could live without. Learn more about how to whittle down your subscriptions to save money in our guide Are you losing money on subscriptions you don’t need?
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, 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. Discover other ways you might be able to reduce food costs in our guide 21 ways to save money on your food bills.
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.
Save on prescription costs
If you pay for your prescriptions, a single prescription will cost you £9.65, but if you need more than one some months, you might be able to save by buying a prescription ‘season ticket’. There is a three month certificate costing £31.25, or a 12 month one that costs £111.60. There’s also an HRT certificate which costs £19.30 and will cover you for an unlimited number of HRT medicines over the year. You can buy them on the NHS website or by calling 0300 330 1341.
Lower insurance costs
When your car or home insurance is up for renewal, don’t be tempted to automatically accept the quote offered by your existing providers. Insurance renewal premiums have a habit of increasing every year, even if you haven’t made a claim, so there is little reward for staying loyal to the same providers. To keep costs low, it’s essential to shop around for cover.
If your car insurance is coming up for renewal soon, you can compare car insurance quotes from over 110 UK providers using this car insurance comparison tool.
And if your current buildings and contents cover is soon up for renewal soon, you can compare quotes from over 50 UK providers and switch online using the following home insurance comparison tool.
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.
Reduce water bills with free water-saving devices
If you’re looking to reduce your water bills, see if you might be eligible to claim any free water-saving devices from the Save Water Save Money website, which was set up to encourage people to use less water at home. Simply enter your postcode and the site will let you know whether your water company provides any free products to help you keep your water usage to a minimum. Items offered will vary depending on which water provider you’re with, but may include regulated showers heads, shower timers, cistern bags and universal sink plugs.
Keep heating bills down
Soaring energy bills are a real worry for millions of people this winter, so you might want to think about some of the ways you might be able to reduce costs. One of our members said that he uses pet heating pads to help him stay warm, which are gel-filled pads for animals that can be heated up in the microwave. They stay hot for up to 10 hours and can be used to warm your bed or put under your feet when you’re at a desk, or they can be slipped into a jacket to keep you warm when you’re outside.
You should also avoid using the appliances that use the most energy, such as the tumble drier. One resourceful member says she uses a flannel to mop the water off herself before she uses a towel, as it means she no longer has wet towels hanging around the house that need to be tumble-dried.
Keep lights off whenever possible
Make sure you always turn lights off to help keep your electricity costs down, and if you’re prone to forgetting to switch off lamps, you might want to think about using plug in timers so they go off automatically at a set time.
One of our members suggests putting small battery-operated, portable, sensor lights in the house in areas where you are temporarily ‘passing through’ such as your hallway/stairs/cloakroom. These automatically light up only when needed, so you don’t need to turn on all the lights every time you go upstairs, for example.
Insulate your home
Make sure your home is as well insulated as possible to help you stay warm during the winter months. Don’t hang curtains over the radiators under windows as this will stop heat circulating, and use a hippo-type balloon in unused chimneys to stop heat escaping. Have thick curtains and blinds on the windows to retain heat at night. Draught excluders around door frames and snakes for the floor can also make a big difference.
If your home is poorly insulated or doesn’t have a working central heating system, there may be improvements that can be made to your home via insulation and heating schemes which provide funding to make properties more energy efficient.
You can use the links below to find out more about schemes that may be available to you depending on where you live:
Upcycle unwanted furniture
Before chucking out unwanted furniture, see if you might be able to give items a new lease of life, perhaps by giving them a lick of paint.
Even if you’re certain you no longer want a particular piece of furniture, there’s always demand for painted items in particular, so you might be able to net yourself a decent profit if you give them a new lease of life and then sell them online.