Fifty shades of frugal

Fifty shades of frugal? Bet that got your attention. I’m not saying being frugal is as titillating as the Fifty Shades series, but it is probably just as satisfying!

Off the top of my head, here is my fifty shades of frugal list. How many do you do?

fifty shades of frugalFifty shades of frugal

1. Budget

Look at your weekly or monthly income and outgoings and set a budget accordingly.

2. Cancel unused insurances 

So many of us get conned into taking out expensive insurances on various appliances. The appliances come and go, but how often do we forget to cancel them when they are no longer needed?

3. Cut back 

Ask yourself what you can cut out to help you save money. Do you use all those TV channels? What about that gym membership – when did you last go? 

4. Haggle your bills down

Haggle down your utility bills, phone and broadband contracts, etc. A couple of hours on the phone when you come to renew can save hundreds of pounds.

5. Shop around for everything

From appliances to furniture, from cars to shoes. The internet makes it easy to research your best possible price. This also applies to using trades people to do jobs on your house.

6. Increase your income 

Easier said than done? You could sell on eBay, turn your hobby into a way to make money or become a freelance writer. How about taking in a lodger or a foreign student? There are so many potential side hustles to supplement your regular salary.

7. Do a larder stock take 

Pull everything out of your food cupboards, fridge and freezer and make a list. This saves money because you don’t waste food and you don’t keep buying items you already have.

8. Meal plan 

There are so many benefits to meal planning, and money saving is just one.

9. Write a shopping list

Write a list based on your meal plan, then stick to it. Don’t get drawn into BOGOFs and special offers unless you can build them into your plan.

10. Stop wasting food.

So much of our food is wasted. This has implications for the environment as well as your wallet.

11. Cook from scratch.

It may seem time consuming, but making dishes from scratch is much cheaper than spending on convenience food. There are lots of ideas here.

12. Batch cook

This leads on from cooking from scratch. Make several batches of the same thing for the freezer. This saves time and you have your own healthy ready meals. Chilli, Bolognese, shepherd’s pie and soups are favourites.

13. Find those yellow stickers

Shop in the evenings for yellow stickered reductions. You have to time it just right, but if you shop when staff are going round for a second or third time with the yellow sticker gun you can save a lot of money.

14. Eat less meat and more veggie food 

Meat is dearer than vegetables and pulses. Even if you don’t want to eat vegetarian, you can pad out some dishes such as curries and pasta sauces with a few lentils or beans. I have some ideas for dishes with pulses here.

15. Stop buying branded food 

Try the supermarket own brands or even their value stuff. Most of the time you really can’t tell the difference.

16. Avoid designer goods

Stop buying designer clothes and other items. Occasionally, designer brands seem better quality, but a lot of the time you seem to be paying for the name and the brand’s advertising budget.

17. Decrease your energy consumption 

Turn lights off, move the thermostat down a notch, wear a jumper, don’t boil more water in the kettle than you need, hang heavy curtains, etc. It’s all common sense.

18. Decrease your water consumption 

Take showers rather than baths, wear clothes more than once to reduce laundry loads, install water butts in your garden.

19. Decrease your motoring costs

Small things matter: remove roof boxes, keep your tyres at the correct pressure and drive more slowly. Drive less if you can walk or cycle instead.

20. Get the best deals on the trains

You can save loads if you purchase train tickets in advance, or if you buy season tickets rather than daily ones. There is some fantastic advice on MoneySavingExpert about saving money on rail fares.

21. Invest in a bike

You can usually find decent bikes second hand. Cycling can save loads of money on buses and motoring if your journeys aren’t too long. You can find out about cycle paths at Sustrans.

22. Make do and mend

‘Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without’. Develop a more thrifty and creative mindset. See what you already have or can repair before buying something new.

23. Buy second hand furniture

Sometimes solid, old pieces of furniture are much better quality than new, cheap ones. You can even upcycle them if you are feeling creative. Personally, I would go for a nice 1930s wardrobe over a flat pack job.

24. Buy second hand clothing

Since we live in an era of throw away fashion, there are always plenty of good quality items to be found in great used condition at boot sales, in charity shops, on Facebook, on Mercari, eBay, Depop, and so on.

25. Get your hair cut by a student

Hairdressing colleges – and even salons sometimes – are always looking for people for their students to practice on. I have done it many times – it’s not as scary as it sounds! If you are really skint, you could try cutting your own hair….

26. Exercise for free

There are so many ways you can do this. Walk, cycle, run, or use You Tube to find exercise classes on anything from kickboxing to yoga.

27. Grow your own food

If you have a little garden space you can grow some fruit and vegetables very easily. The BBC Gardener’s World website is an excellent source of advice and inspiration.

28. Grow your own plants and flowers

Plants can cost a fortune but you can easily grow your own flowers and shrubs from seeds and cuttings. There are so many ways to save money in the garden.

29. Take food and drink when you are out

Pack a picnic and flask when you are out for the day and even take food and drink if you are heading into town. Our £15 flask saves us so much cash and is very well used. Ditto our reusable water bottles.

30. Keep a present box

This is an especially good tip if you have children, but works for everyone else too. Whenever you see little generic gifts in the sales or on offer snap them up and keep them safe. At Christmas or when somebody has a birthday you can raid your present box for a suitable gift. Buy cards when you see them cheaply too. I find the Card Factory excellent value.

31. Sell your unwanted stuff

Personally, I find little more therapeutic than a good declutter. If you can make some extra cash by selling the stuff you no longer need, then even better!

32. Go camping

Family holidays don’t have to involve Micky Mouse. Camping holidays are incredibly cheap and lots of fun. Kids love sleeping in a tent! Try the concept first by borrowing some gear. If you love it, you can invest. Camping gear will pay for itself in no time.

33. Do a house swap

If you don’t fancy life under canvas you can have a cheap holiday by organising a house swap. There are loads of agencies on the internet. I have done this several times in France and Spain and it was great!

34. Compare Prices

Always research and compare prices on everything before making purchases. This is where the internet comes into its own!

35. Forget about keeping up with the Jones’s

Just don’t bother. The Jones’s may have a fancy car and expensive holidays, but as far as you know they also might have huge debts and nights of worry about how to pay for it all. Be yourself. Enjoy what you have and focus on the really important things in life, like family and relationships.

36. Send an email instead of a letter or card 

If you do prefer to send items through the post, make it second class. You can make e-cards for free here.

37. Use the library

You can read books and magazines for free and hire films for a tiny fee. Many library services also offer online magazine and books for free as well.

38. Cheap play

Give your kids the box to play with instead of the toy! It’s a cliché, of course, but in reality kids need very little. A box, some sand and water, a couple of bats and balls and a bit of occasional adult intervention will keep them happy. I made a dressing up box with charity shop clothes, which my children loved.

39. Make a craft box

Keep bits of fabric, string, foil, sweet wrappers, cotton reels, loo roll tubes, etc in  your craft box with some cheap PVA glue for those rainy days.

40. Teach your kids to swim

You don’t need to pay for lessons if you can swim yourself. With three daughters of different ages, I soon got sick of sitting poolside trying to entertain whichever ones weren’t swimming! Instead of paying for lessons, we took them ourselves early on a Sunday morning. Cheaper and less stressful 40.

41. Old fashioned cleaning

Make your own cleaning spray or use good, old fashioned bicarbonate of soda and vinegar for your cleaning.

42. What can you find for free in your community?

Check out Freegle and Freecycle to find useful stuff for free. Don’t be too proud to do a bit of skip surfing if you see the opportunity, either.  Ask permission before you remove anything from a skip, though.

43. Use less of everything

A bit less washing up liquid, half a dishwasher tablet instead of a whole one, just a small amount of shampoo or conditioner. It all adds up!

44. Dilute stuff!

Juice, shampoo or washing liquid. If you dilute it just a little, it will go further and last longer.

45. Free stuff to do

A quick internet search will help you find free or very cheap events in your local area. From exhibitions and museums to free gigs and talks, you don’t have to spend a lot when you go out.

46. Become a coupon champion

Learn how to make the best of coupons. Jordon Cox’s book the Coupon Kid is a mine of useful information from the expert.

47. Read online

You can find most newspapers online to read for free these days. In addition, as I mentioned previously, many library services use companies like Zinio to offer members completely free magazines online.

48. Borrow rather than buy

Consider borrowing items you will rarely use rather than buying them. Maybe club together with family? It seems a waste of money to purchase items like a steam wallpaper stripper that you might use once in a blue moon! I bet someone has one lurking in the back of the shed….

49. Free stuff online 

You can get all kinds of free stuff at and also at Shopmium. Be prepared for some junk emails when you sign up though! I have an old Hotmail account for this so I don’t get bombarded.

50. Just say no!

It’s a hard habit to get out of, but saying yes all the time often costs money. Try to learn to say no. This includes saying no to friends wanting you to go to the pub, to the kids wanting whatever they have just set eyes on and need and to yourself!

I am sure I could think of another fifty shades of frugal if I tried. What about you? I would love to hear your tips on frugality.

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8 thoughts on “Fifty shades of frugal

  1. My goodness, what a list! I agree with 99% of it except the “send an email, not a card.” There is nothing as nice as receiving a card on one’s birthday, a real one in the post, or a lovely letter which has been hand-written or even typed, which is more personal than an email. Surely we can afford a 2nd class stamp if we do all the other 49 things you suggest. But that is some list!
    Margaret P

  2. Great ideas Jane. So many here in New Zealand, use eco-friendly cleaners. Or make their own. And we are having a plastic rebellion. People refusing to have plastic around their food, for example.

  3. Wow – what a comprehensive list! I can certainly relate to many of these. I once asked my Dad to cut my hair for me to save on salon costs! It was ok actually. Another thing I do (and maybe this is taking it a step too far?) is making 2 cups of tea from one tea bag. I find that 1 tea bag will easily stretch for 2 cups, so why not! I’ve got a few extra ideas now from your list, so thank you.

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