What does frugal living look like? Well, it’s not living miserably, being poor or malnourished, walking round in rags and never having fun. It’s making the best of the resources you have, wasting nothing, being creative and spending a little time to save money.
I don’t really consider myself hard core frugal most of the time, but speaking to a friend the other day I realised that I actually am compared to most people! Being thrifty is just second nature to me. It doesn’t feel difficult or like a struggle; it just feels normal. This is what frugal living looks like to me.
I have been running a series on Instagram this month called This is What Frugal Living Looks Like and plan to carry on as October progresses. So follow me over there to see what thrifty and frugal things I have been achieving.
So, what does frugal living look like?
A home not a palace
You can spend a fortune on your house. If you are lucky enough to be able to afford a mortgage it is easy to think you have to buy the most expensive house possible.
For me it makes sense to buy a more modest home that you can easily afford and then a) build some savings and b) over pay the mortgage.
Ours is an ex-council 1930s semi and we love it. It isn’t glamourous, but it is old and solid with a large garden and lots of space around it.
Of course, I come from a point of privilege. When I first stepped onto the housing ladder in the late eighties, a 2 bed house cost me £39,500 on a 100% mortgage. Nowadays, people need a good chunk saved for a deposit and prices are astronomical. I hugely admire some of the young folk I know with home ownership as their focus doing all they can to get there.
However, if I was doing it all again, I would still say buy a humble house in as good an area as you can afford.
Making do and buying second hand
I would dearly love to rip out the kitchen and bathroom and start again. However, living frugally means making best use of what we have. It is all sound and scrubs up ok. If it wouldn’t fit into House Beautiful magazine, who cares?
We painted and brightened both rooms up a few years ago. I bought some bunting for the kitchen and painted the old honey pine dresser from my parents house from the late seventies green. It fits in a treat.
We don’t feel the need to constantly redecorate and buy new furniture. In fact, we would rather buy second hand! We both love the art nouveau and art deco era and this inspired our faux fireplace in the lounge. I found the tiles on eBay at a really good price and Mr S made the shelf from a piece of wood he had in his shed. All of the furniture in the lounge is second hand, apart from the large bookshelf which I bought 30 odd years ago.
Mr S is great at finding little ornaments and trinkets in junk shops that fit the theme. Some he has picked up over the years, like the old car posters.
Our bed came from Facebook marketplace a couple of years ago. Again, most of the furniture in the bedroom is second hand.
A frugal garden
We are fortunate to have space in our garden to grow some food. The greenhouse was a local eBay pick up about five years ago and was a great find!
One of the large sheds at the end of the garden came from Freecycle. Luckily we were able to borrow a van to collect it as it is huge. Mr S put it together and gave it a new roof to match the existing shed.
Our green bench was left outside a neighbour’s house with a free sign on it. It was sound but the seat was rotten. We walked it home and Mr S repaired it, then I painted it. It does need another coat now though!
As well as the greenhouse, we have two small vegetable patches. We could be more organised and produce more, but we do what time allows. This summer it has saved us a lot of money. I have barely had to buy any fresh produce for months.
We collect kitchen scraps and garden waste to make compost and currently have one large compost area made of old pallets, plus two plastic bins nearer the house to throw out the kitchen scraps. It’s a great cycle to improve the soil and grow better crops in the future.
We are currently enjoying some of our pumpkin crop and made a delicious Thai pumpkin soup this week.
Not everybody is lucky enough to have the land or the time to grow their own food. However, there are loads of ways to save money on food. I still rate Aldi for food and other items at brilliant prices. Their weekly super six offers are excellent.
If you want to see a great example of a family buying healthy food on a budget, check out Mary and Ken of the Humble Penny on You Tube. They have a £50 weekly budget for a family of four and what they eat would fill a dietician’s heart with joy!
I don’t cook from scratch 100% of the time, but mostly I do. There’s not doubt that cooking yourself rather than using a lot of pre-prepared and convenience foods saves money.
Sometimes I am short of time and will grab a jar of sauce to make a quick casserole or curry. However, I buy those cheaply from places like Aldi, Home Bargains or Approved Food*.
Meal planning is crucial to me to save money in the kitchen. Having said that, I will often change things up if I find a good ingredient reduced in price or on offer.
I am not great at hitting the supermarkets at the end of the day to get the best of the yellow sticker bargains. I’m usually too knackered! However, I know many people who do. My daughter, for example. She introduced her hard up friend to this and she now goes to her local stores at 9 pm on a regular basis and buys all the 10p sandwiches. She freezes them and they are perfect lunches for her kids each day.
Regular readers will know from my recent support for Oxfam’s #secondhandseptember, that I rarely buy new clothes. I don’t have to!
I find so many quality items at car boot sales, jumble sales and in charity shops that I resent paying the prices for new items in the shops. Although it’s not lost on me that someone has to buy them new in order for me to get them used… I am a second hand Rose and proud of it. This is another example of what frugal living looks like to me.
I have never owned a new car in my life and wouldn’t buy one. Neither would I get into debt for a car. My current one is a 2003 Toyota Yaris. It cost £500 and has been brilliant for the past 3 years, getting through the MOT each time and costing little to run.
I will have to replace this car soon, so I am on the look out for another second hand bargain. As long as it gets me from A to B, I really don’t care what anyone else thinks of the old banger!
The small things add up
Sometimes frugal living is a lot of small actions that combined save a lot of money. They also tend to be better for the environment. For example:
- Line drying clothes.
- Only boiling the water you need.
- Washing our own cars.
- Turning lights and appliances off.
- Having a shower rather than a bath.
- Wearing layers rather than putting the heating on immediately.
- Walking or cycling short journeys rather than driving.
- Repairing things rather than throwing them away.
- Stocking up on specials when you see them (but only if you will use them!).
- Dyeing your own hair.
- Getting hair cuts and beauty treatments from students at the local college.
- Go for frugal fitness! Running, walking and exercising at home cost nothing.
- Paying for services such as Netflix or Now TV instead of getting stuck in a long contract for satellite or cable TV. I watch a lot of You Tube for free!
Whether you are on a low income, saving towards a goal, building up your emergency fund (every household should have one), paying off debt or aiming for financial independence long term, it may make sense at some point to find out what does frugal living look like and embrace it.
Do you live frugally? I would love to hear what you do and why in the comments below.
*This is my referral code. If you sign up and make a purchase with Approved Food, I will receive a bonus.