Frugal money saving tips UK

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Money saving tips to make UK frugal living work for your family:

  • Meal plan – proven to save money, meal planning not only saves money, but encourages cooking from scratch using simple, fresh foods
  • Budget – ever wondered where all your money goes? Budgeting puts you back in control of your finances
  • Fun for free – family fun doesn’t have to mean expensive.
  • Recycle – charity shops, clothes swap fairs and friends and family hand me downs are all great places to get clothes from. Remember which shop your winter coat came from when you were 7? Exactly…
  • Use loyalty schemes – loyalty schemes can let you have FREE days out, restaurant meals and discounts on a whole host of items

What is frugal living?

Over the last few years, we’ve heard the word ‘frugal’ a lot, but what does it actually mean?

The dictionary meaning of frugal is to use money sparingly. However, I just don’t think this really captures what frugality means to people. I don’t believe you have to be cheap or worse, stingy, in order to be frugal. For our family, a better definition of frugality would be ‘to use money wisely’.

Thankfully, the popularity of frugality has meant that it’s no longer slightly embarrassing to use vouchers and coupons when you’re eating in restaurants, or handing over coupons in the supermarket. Hand me downs are now often seen as sensible and spending a fortune on kids clothes as wasteful. Times have changed. There are deals to be had all over the place and frankly, whether you’ve got the money or not, who’d want to hand over more cash than they need to.

Why do you want to live more frugally?

Knowing why you want to live more frugally will really help you see what the important things in your life are. Why did we originally start to cut back? We have a plan to be debt free, including the mortgage. We want to have security, a savings pot, and to be able to help the kids out when they grow and want to start making their own lives away from us. Keeping this in mind is such a help, especially when I’m walking through the sales, not needing anything, when out jumps a pair of boots I used to not be able to say no to. These days…I know they’re not as important as my goals.

Whether you’re frugal in one area to splurge in another, frugal in order to save or frugal through necessity, we’ve got some really great ways to cut back and waste less, all whilst living well.

Benefits of a frugal lifestyle

Becoming frugal has so many more benefits than the intended money saving benefit. Some of the unintended benefits I discovered are:

  • Eating well – cooking from scratch saves a ton of money, but it also makes you eat well, really well, without particularly noticing.
  • Teaching the kids about money – although I never really talked specifically with the kids about frugality, they picked up some great habits along the way. Like yelling out ‘it’s a bike ride day!’ when they opened the blinds to sunshine.
  • Helping the planet – I uhmmm……wasn’t very good at saving the planet before I caught the frugality bug. Now, as a consequence of homemade food/beauty/household cleaning products, I’m slightly less guilty of using harsh chemicals and over packaged products. Not judging…. it happened accidentally. Shhhh :)

The Best Frugal Living Tips

I’ll let you into a secret here. Not all the things I tried to home-make worked. Sometimes, there’s just no substitute for something out of a bottle, from the shop. I tried, and many times things worked out. Like my brown sugar face scrub. And using vinegar to clean windows. There were, however, quite a few things I’m simply not prepared to switch, even in the name of frugality, and even knowing my ultimate goals are clearly far more important than, for example, which deodorant I use today. But… and it’s a big but, living frugally for me and my family means making it work, and work so well that I don’t feel deprived.

I don’t want to go without. What I want in a frugal lifestyle is to feel that yes, I’m making changes, changes that save us money, but also that I’m swopping something in my life for something else that’s equal to it, even better than it.

Cheap food shopping

There are several ways I could see that you can start making big savings in the supermarket. The first, was by meal planning. This was such a huge, positive change in our house, and where we made some initial savings when we first started our debt free journey. Meal planning made shopping in the supermarket cheaper: simply because we were buying less, buying smarter and planning ahead.

Where the most change happened though, was in taking our everyday habits and replacing them with better, cheaper ones. Honestly? The changes we made were all for the better. Some of them took a little getting used to and others meant we had to be more organised, some worked and some didn’t, but the ones that stuck, I wouldn’t change now.

Grocery shopping on a tight budget

  • Eat less meat – Meat is really expensive to buy. Even the cheaper, value meat is way more expensive than a veggie alternative. Swapping out a few meals a week for a plant based alternative is healthier, way cheaper of eating and you can make a double batch and freeze it for very little extra money than a single portion would cost you.
  • Love your leftovers – while we’re talking about double batch cooking, leftovers are an amazing way of making lunch that lasts the week without having to spend more time the kitchen preparing them. Freeze the portions you’re not going to eat within the next few day, and get them out the night before you want to take them to work.
  • Buy frozen fruit & veg – frozen veg is really good for you. It’s cheaper, it lasts in your freezer until you want to use it so you waste less, and it’s cheaper, by quite a lot. There are some fruits and vegetables that are better fresh, but there are also some that are better frozen (they’re frozen straight away, locking in nutrients) so it’s swings and roundabouts. As a loose rule, we tended to go with frozen if something was out of season, and fresh if it was in season and therefore cheap!
  • Quit buying jar pasta sauce – my kids love pasta sauce. It’s a staple in our house and it’s my go to when we get in late and I need to rustle something up, fast. It’s pretty easy to open a jar. They keep in the cupboard for a long time, and they couldn’t be easier. But….they add up and there’s a better, cheaper, healthier way. Make it yourself ahead of time, freeze it in batches and it’s then as simple and quick as your regular jars. Need some recipes? Here’s one for delicious, simple pasta sauce that’s cheap and quick to make ahead of time, and there are a whole load of family recipes here to start bringing into your meal plans!
  • Stop buying shop bought smoothies – loads of us love smoothies. Breakfast smoothies are a big hit in our house, but they can cost loads in the supermarket. We started making them at home and haven’t looked back. They’re far tastier than their shop bought equivalent, cheaper, better for you and if your house is crazy busy in the mornings like ours is before school, they’re a nutritious, super fast and popular way of getting some goodness in the kids before they go off.

Need some inspiration?

  • Downgrade your brands – switching from branded products to own label ones can save you a packet, but you do need to do your homework first. The levels of salt and sugar can vary hugely between what appears to be similar products, so always check your swap isn’t doubling the sugar content etc…and if you’re not prepared to switch your favourites for another brand, try making your own. Try this home made ketchup recipe here, it’s a money saver, it’s healthier and you never know, you might prefer it!

Free entertainment

Entertainment. Turns out, free fun is pretty awesome. Yes, some things you have to pay for but honestly, there’s very little you cannot do either for free, with vouchers you’ve kept back for a special occasion or by making the most of offers and promotions. The key? Being organised. If you plan ahead, know what promotions are on and when they’re running, you can plan ahead and save an absolute fortune.

Free family fun

Fancy some free family fun? Here’s some suggestions to get you started:

  • Crystal Palace Park – this park has it all, and my lot loved it! What’s there? National Sports Centre
    Children’s play area 
    Maze 
    Dinosaur trail
    Fishing lake 
    Concert bowl
    Children’s farm 
    Boating lake 
    Bust of Sir Joseph Paxton 
    Italian Terraces and sphinxes
    Information Centre 
    Crystal Palace Museum
  • The Potter Trail – The Potter Trail in Edinburgh is a FREE Harry Potter tour. Yep, I know, it’s amazing. What’ll you see? You’ll discover the magical locations that inspired characters and scenes in the series, visit the places where JK Rowling wrote the books, and even learn a spell or two along the way! See where Lord Voldemort is buried and discover the café JK Rowling wrote the FIRST Potter book, take a trip down the real life Diagon Alley and have a chance to be sorted outside the school which inspired Hogwarts.
  • Free entry to UK Museums There are a whole host of free museums in London, and they’re FREE to enter and spend some time in. Some of the best? The Natural History Museum, The Science Museum, Tate Modern, Royal AirForce Museum and the National Army Museum. Find a list of them here and plan your days out.
  • Merlin theme parksthere are ways to get FREE days out at the UK’s top theme parks. That’s Thorpe Park and Chessington World of Adventures among others. One popular way to get free vouchers for days out is through Tesco Clubcard. There are other ways to get free tickets. The Sun newspaper sometimes runs Super Days promotions to get free theme park tickets, and although not free, there are frequently 2 4 1 vouchers available on food packets, Kelloggs branded food being one that has them a lot.

Don’t fancy an organised day out? Sometimes, simple is best:

  • Walk in the woods
  • Ride your bikes
  • Go rock-pooling and watch the crabs bury themselves in the sand
  • Spend an hour at the local park

There’s free entertainment all around us. Sometimes, it just takes a little nudge to see it :)

Budget beauty

Perhaps my favourite part of frugal living? Making my own DIY beauty products. It’s so much fun, the products are amazing, and not only do they cost a fraction of the price of their shop bought equivalents but they’ve got none of the chemicals we’ve got so used to in mass produced products.

I’ll tell you now, DIY beauty filled me with horror when I started out on this frugal journey, and it definitely wasn’t the part I thought would turn into the bit I liked the most! I was never massively extravagant with the beauty products I bought, but I was taken in by some fancy packaging, a posh looking beauty counter and the promise of perfect skin! I loved getting a new skincare routine and honestly? I was really concerned the DIY way wouldn’t work for me.

There was some trial and error yes, but these days, I believe the products I make are better for my skin and work just as well, if not better than the ones I used to buy. Plus you can be all smug about the saved cash :)

The recipes below are 3 of my favourites, I use them all the time and wouldn’t go back. Keep these in the fridge after you’ve made them. I tend to make fairly small batches as I usually have the ingredients in the cupboards at home anyway and like to use them freshly made when I can.

Brown sugar skin scrub

The simplest of DIY beauty recipes, this is the one I use all the time, maybe 3-4 times a week. It’s a 2 ingredient face scrub that exfoliates and moisturises in one go, leaves my skin baby soft and costs pennies. Feel free to swap out the oil you use. Different oils are good for different skin types. I use coconut oil as I have very dry skin and find the coconut oil traps moisture in, but perhaps wouldn’t be as good for acne prone skin.

Brown sugar face scrub recipe

1 part coconut oil

2 parts brown sugar

It’s hardly even a recipe right? The best thing about it is that you don’t have to be precise, I use a teaspoon to mix it up (have the coconut oil at room temperature) and away you go.

Change the oils as you like, as a rough guide, you could try:

Coconut oil = dry skin

Jojoba oil = oily skin

The cheapest organic coconut oil I found was in Lidl, at £1.69 for a 300ml tub, and that’s not an offer price it’s their regular price, so this is my go to place to buy it. Have a look around when you’re at the shops, sometimes it’s on offer and you can get a good deal. You need quite a small amount for this skin scrub so this 300ml pot will last for ages.

Jojoba oil is a bit more expensive than coconut, but still way less than the shop bought stuff! FreshSkin Beauty sell it on Etsy in different sizes so you can try this out quite cheaply without committing to buying a bigger bottle.

Brown sugar? It’s soft, so way less harsh on your skin that white sugar, it’s dirt cheap per teaspoon and you can get it anywhere. Plus, it’s delicious. Winner.

Oatmeal face mask

Twice a week, I use this oatmeal face mask. It’s replaced the sheet masks I used to be so fond of buying and it’s way better. Like the Brown sugar face scrub, it’s as simple as could be and when I priced it up, I believe each face mask costs about 10p.

DIY Oatmeal face mask recipe

1 tablespoon of rolled oats, *blitzed to a fine flour consistency

Add full fat cows milk until you have a thick paste

Cinnamon (optional, just for an added delicious aroma!)

Oats are super soothing for your face, and the milk helps to renew your skin. Fast to whip up, this face mask will keep in your fridge for a few days.

Cover your clean skin and relax for half an hour. Tip/ make sure you wipe this off your face and put in the bin and not down the plug, it can clog the pipes otherwise!

*This face mask has the same effect if you decide not not blitz the oats. The reason I do is simply because it can be a little clumpy if you leave the oats as they are, and I like to feel the mask is covering my whole face!

Banana hair mask

Banana hair mask recipe

1 Super ripe banana

Olive oil

Mash the banana up to a pulp, then add a teaspoon of olive oil, bit by bit until you have a silky smooth but not too runny mask you can work through your hair.

There will be some banana bits in it, that’s fine. The banana gets to runny if your whizz it in the processor, so mashing it with a fork is fine. I tend to leave this mask on for the length of a nice relaxing bath before taking it off, and I also shampoo my hair afterwards to get rid of the oil residue. The result? Smooth, super shiny hair, for roughly 15p. If all you’ve ever done with over ripe bananas is make banana bread (bit that there’s anything wrong with that!) then you should try this and then then add it to your ‘things-to-do-with-bananas’ list!

If homemade beauty products are something that floats your boat, these two sites provide masses of inspiration:

Savvy Homemade

Wellness Mama

DIY cleaning products

Housework. Love it or hate it it needs to be done, and stocking up on cleaning products can be pricy. Yes, there are a whole array of budget products available, but they still add up and many times, you can use ingredients you already have in your cupboards to get your home sparkling clean.

There are some products I’d rather not budge on but on the whole, if something homemade does the job just as well (sometimes better!) then that’s what I’m going with. Frugal cleaning products in this house need to fulfil on two fronts. They need to be cheaper and they need to work. Tick both those boxes and it’s job done.

*You need to be really careful about mixing chemicals to make cleaning products. Always make sure ingredients are able to be mixed together before you do so. Some of them can create fumes that are very dangerous.

Some of the best DIY cleaning products we make?

Laundry stain remover

Stain removers are one of those things that I find *really* expensive in the shops. Some of the better known brands can cost up to £6/7 and for us, that’s really too much money to spend. If they worked magic…maybe….but I’m never totally happy with them and so resent the amount they cost. But with 3 kids and a dog, sometimes I have a need for laundry stain remover.

Enter Bicarbonate of Soda. This is more like laundry magic than anything else I’ve found. Really. I already use it in the kitchen, and now it’s my go to for stain removal.

Bi Carb laundry stain remover recipe

It’s not a recipe, more of a sentence :)

Take a heaped tablespoon of bi carb and mix it with water slowly, until you have a paste.

That’s all there is to it. Take your paste and rub it on shirt collars and ketchup stains etc…and then wash as normal. One thing…some fabrics (very delicate ones!) won’t like this. Be careful with what you’re using it on. Dues to our lack of fancy clothing in this house, general laundry has always been fine!

Bathroom cleaner

Few people love cleaning their bathroom, but lots of people love having clean bathroom. If you’re not one of the lucky few who have someone else do this for you, this simple vinegar cleaner will save you money and make your bathroom shine. Can’t say fairer than that!

DIY Bathroom cleaner recipe

2 tablespoons of white vinegar

1 teaspoon of baking soda

Put these two into an old (cleaned out) spray bottle and shake it up. Then simple use on your sink and bath as you normally would to give them a good clean. Neat vinegar can also be sprayed onto grimy tiles to get rid of mold. You’ll need to leave this on for a while before rinsing it off again.

Wooden worktop grease remover

We have wooden work surfaces and while I love them, they are prone to getting grease spots on them, despite my best efforts to avoid doing so. Who knew it was so easy to remove the grease?

Salt grease remover

Salt. That’s it. You only need the cheapest table salt you can find (17p per value pack in Asda I believe!), sprinkle it over the offending grease spot and voila….half an hour later, brush it off and it takes the grease with it. Magical :)

Like more info on DIY household cleaning products? Check out these sites:

The Green Parent

Keeper of the Home

I hope this post gave you some food for thought! Being frugal isn’t al about penny pinching and going without, at least it isn’t for our family. I love to save money, yes, but the alternative product needs to live up to the old one, or the change won’t last and I won’t be happy with it.

If you’ve got a DIY beauty recipe you love or a cleaning hack we need to know about, leave us a comment in the comments below and we’ll look at adding it to a future update :)

Liked this post? Here are some other posts we think you might enjoy:

How do you live frugal?

Use your money wisely. You can do this by:
Meal planning
Using loyalty programs
Buying secondhand and not brand new

Is it good to be frugal?

Being frugal means spending your money wisely. Frugal is not about being cheap. Frugality means you can prioritise other things in your life which have more value for you.

Can you live frugal if you’re already on a budget?

Yes! There are often ways to save money and switch products for better, cheaper ones. Being already on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to live frugally!

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