How I Lived a Year on Just a Pound a day: Book Review

Another one for My Frugal Bookshelf! I have just finished re-reading Kath Kelly’s wonderful book, How I Lived a Year on Just a Pound a Day. It was just as inspiring as the first time around! She is my kind of woman.

Could you live a year on a pound a day?

The book tells the story of an English teacher living in Bristol who made the drastic decision to live on a pound a day to save money for her brother’s wedding present. Her friends thought she was crazy and that she could only achieve this if she became a vegetarian, travelled nowhere and used old rags instead of tampons! She proved them wrong.

During the course of her year living on a pound a day,  she became a yellow sticker officianado, organised  a clothes swapping party, hitchhiked and cycled everywhere and camped for free. She did a WOOFing holiday (where, incidentally, she met her future husband), discovered just how cheaply she could purchase clothes if she turned up at jumble sales just before closing and found a vast number of free events in Bristol, some rewarding her with refreshments just for turning up. She also collected over £100 in money from the pavements on her travels – what a careless bunch we are!

Super frugal

It became more than just a quest to get her brother a decent wedding present, however. She became much fitter from all of the walking and cycling she did (once she had curbed her liking for too many reduced cakes and pies!). She realised how much money she used to fritter and how much we waste as a society. Her super frugal lifestyle revealed our consumerist society to be hugely wasteful and damaging to the environment, as well as people’s bank balances. When Kath Kelly’s year came to an end she knew she couldn’t go back to her previous ways.

She has written a couple of other books since, which I intend to explore. I have just downloaded a sample to my Kindle app of Doing the Right Thing. If I enjoy this I will buy the book.

I purchased my copy of How I Lived a Year on Just a Pound a Day for the Kindle too, although if you prefer an actual paper book you can pick them up second hand on Amazon (my link: How I Lived a Year on Just a Pound a Day by Kath Kelly ( 2008 ). Please note  if you purchase anything through either of my links I will receive a small commission. The Kindle version is a bargain at only £2.08.


16 thoughts on “How I Lived a Year on Just a Pound a day: Book Review

  1. I am always sceptical of such claims as living on a £1 a day, but I don’t dispute that this particular person achieved this, and now she can make money from a book on the subject to boost her coffers, so good luck to her.
    However, how would someone be able to afford certain things such as lavatory paper, soap, shampoo, the very basics of healthy living, not to mention food which they couldn’t grow themselves, on £1 a day, or £7 a week? No, I shan’t be buying the book as I don’t feel any reason to live on £1 a day, I am just not spendthrift by nature, but neither am I a total frugal person, either.
    We need to keep things in proportion, we need to buy things in order to balance the economy. It wouldn’t be very good if everyone lived totally frugally, or on £1 a day; there would be no trade, companies would lose money, jobs would be lost. I know I’m taking things to the extreme but this is basic economics, surely? Balancing spending to suit income is what is needed, i.e. living within one’s means.

    • It was 2006, by the way, so it might be harder now. Toiletries were all Asda Smartprice plus free samples from various places. Food was mostly reduced or free at the various events she attended. She doesn’t live that cheaply now but has continued to avoid the crazy excesses of our throwaway society. It was an challenge rather than a call for everyone to do the same. A very interesting read, even if you don’t fancy trying it

  2. PS I forgot to mention did the £1 a day include her council tax, electricity, gas, water, insurances, car tax, car insurance, petrol, etc, if she indeed drives a car? If no, then this isn’t living on £1 a day, is it?

  3. I really enjoyed this book. It was one of our core reading books for the life writing module at uni. I re-read it quite recently. I loved the way she looked for any free events where they offered refreshments!

  4. I read her story when it was serialised in a magazine and I have now doubt she achieved everything she said she did. I think we all have the ability to live on far less without too many compromises.

  5. I had this book – it went off to ziffit recently.It was OK but only for someone living in a city! Free events are a rare bird in the country as is finding money on the pavements, I count myself lucky to find 1p and I always Look! Mind you we are a careful lot in Suffolk!
    I didn’t know she’d done other books I shall check the library. Wouldn’t buy them though

    • I found a few free events in Colchester – the book inspired me to look. In the countryside there are some fab free or very cheap community events though! We have found village shows really enjoyable. Also reading and crafting groups are everywhere it seems

  6. This woman did not live on £1 a day.
    Mortgage, electric, gas , council tax, insurance were paid as usual.
    She got others to pay/subsidise her.
    Hitch hiked using her blonde hair dangerous!.
    Met friends in a park in Dec with snow on the ground, offering them flask of coffee n stale donuts,they then took her for food .
    Gate crashed conferences and seminars she had no interest in to eat then steal food.
    She said she had a huge wardrobe of designer clothes so had no need to buy more.
    All just a headline scam to make money!.
    She said it was to buy her brother a fabulous wedding present, erm no she spent £1300 on his gift.
    Whole intention was to write and publish a book to the gullible to make lots of money!.
    Prob have guessed I,m not a fan

    • I do agree with you Kirrie. It’s often the case that ‘frugality’ is one-sided with gifts and handouts readily and greedily received while not reciprocated. The point made earlier in comments about the economy needing money going around is also true and why austerity ultimately punishes but has little effect. Cutting back on spending and second hand buying is often only made possible by the greater spending habits of others. I.e. my charity shop clothing is only available to me because other people give away decent utility clothing and don’t need or want to sell it for their own financial gain.

      By the way last year I was living on £8 a week for everything other than bills, so food, cleaning materials, clothes, shoes (neither of those actually as couldn’t afford them), travel etc. It was a necessity, not fun, not a hobby and I didn’t get any freebies either! It’s doable only over very short term periods because things wear out, you have places you need to go and health to look after. I wouldn’t recommend genuine low income; there is nothing to save for a rainy day and it isn’t a fun thing. Genuine frugality is not a hobby or a lifestyle choice but hard reality.

      There are lots of reports showing money doesn’t make you happy, oh yes it does! It frees you from abject misery and exclusion from society – you can’t get to free events or have suitable clothing to wear to them . The library that needs a bus fare, the park that is not within walking distance are not available to all, the flask to take a drink with you not free. Money past the point of what you need to pay bills etc is not necessary for happiness but I assure anyone that unless you can cover all your basic needs, then it is a miserable existence.

      • I tend to take people at face value, but have to defend the author. She was very careful not to sponge off her friends and if she ate with them she provided some or all of the food. She also wasn’t espousing living on a pound a day as something we should all be doing; rather making a point that we live excessively as a society and waste a lot.

        • Agreed, Jane. Several times in the book she specifically refuses to compromise her objective. She almost always refuses others offer of food.

  7. I read this book when it first came out and I was then starting on my money-saving attempts. For me, the book was encouragement to keep going and useful for ideas of saving money. I do agree that she did have the luxury which most of us don’t have – ie being able to save enough to prepay utilities. mortgage and council tax for the year – just not realistic for most of us. Also nowadays, a lot of her ideas are well-known and published all over the internet. That aside though, I would recommend borrowing a copy from the library (do not buy); it’s an easy, positive read written by someone who has clearly embraced a refreshing change in lifestyle. Enjoy!

  8. I loved the book – it was the kind of escapism this mum of 5 kids aged 5-12 could only dream of!
    For us £1 a day for 7 people, times 7 days a week became my challenge – could I feed my family for £49 a week?
    Most of what we did for leisure was free anyway and clothes for the eldest boy and the only girl were mostly 2nd hand and then the boy’s clothes were passed down to his bothers. Also where we were living, one store had a policy of replacing kids clothes if they wore out before they grew out of them, same size, same brand. We certainly took advantage of that offer with jeans for 4 boys, because even if one had finally grown out of their size, there was another waiting to grow into it!! 😀

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