Life

How to be frugal: Easy money-saving hacks from people who’ve mastered cutting back

Living more frugally could reduce stress and help your money go further.

Sometimes, it can be quite hard to say ‘no’ to things.
Sometimes, it can be quite hard to say ‘no’ to things. (Alamy Stock Photo)

Always wishing you could save a bit more money?

Over half (52%) of consumers cut back on non-essential spending during the first quarter of the year – in particular eating out – a new survey by KPMG Consumer Pulse suggests.

In fact, only 3% of people said they could afford to spend more on non-essentials so far this year, according to the findings. While dining out was the most common thing cut back on (by 72% of respondents), buying clothes (62%) and takeaways (58%) were also high on the list.

Being frugal seems to be the way more and more people are keeping afloat during the ongoing cost-of-living crisis – but what is the best way to go about it?

Here, experts and people who have mastered the art of frugality share their favourite money-saving hacks…

Embrace trends that help you spend less


(Alamy Stock Photo)

“Sometimes it can be quite hard to say ‘no’ to things for the reason of saving money,” says financial coach James Beckett. “A good way to cut back costs – and maybe even benefit your own health – is to jump on various socially acceptable trends that are indirectly cost-cutting.

“For example, I did Dry January this year and it inevitably meant I spent less going out. All that money went into my savings pot.

“You may choose to give something up for lent, claim you are training for a half-marathon, or that you are just trying to get [healthy for summer]. Take advantage of any trend that can help you save money, and use them as an excuse. Your friends and family will understand.”

Bolster your DIY skills


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While there are certain jobs that should only ever be left to the professionals, many smaller tasks could be doable with a bit of creativity and know-how. Naomi Willis, co-founder of Skint Dad, thinks it’s important to at least try doing something yourself before outsourcing.

“Instead of paying someone else, frugal people often try to fix things themselves or make gifts by hand. It’s about using what you have and learning new skills,” she says.

“It could be as simple as sewing a button back on instead of buying a new shirt, or helping to craft something for your kid’s homework. YouTube is great for finding tutorials, and I find reducing the playback speed great when it’s showing something tricky that I’ve not done before.”

Get to know your spending triggers  

A social occasion, a party, having a stressful week – there are plenty of triggers that can prompt us to overspend with a bit of retail therapy.

“But before indulging in unnecessary purchases every time something new goes in the diary, or you feel like a change of scene, or you simply feel bored, look at what you’ve already got and don’t automatically buy something shiny and new,” says Emma-Lou Montgomery, associate director at Fidelity International. “Because while an instant hit might make you feel better momentarily, it could leave you with an unwanted black hole in your finances.

“Tracking your spending and identifying points where you’re more likely to spend because of how you’re feeling may allow you to take more control.”

Get into the habit of ‘paying yourself first’

(Alamy Stock Photo)

One trick Beckett likes to employ is what’s often known as ‘paying yourself first’ – which is basically making sure your financial priorities are taken care of every time your salary comes in.

“I will make sure I take care of all the important things that I need before everything else. What that means is I will transfer to a separate savings pot (many banks like Monzo have them) as soon as I am paid,” he explains.

“Because I effectively never see the money in my main current account, I psychologically feel ‘poorer’ and consciously or subconsciously reduce my spending to meet my new, lower wage. It helps me meet my savings goal without feeling like I’m trying hard to restrict my spending, because the money isn’t there for me to restrict anyway!”

Opt for second-hand

For Faith Archer, a money blogger at Much More With Less, frugal living doesn’t mean zapping all the fun out of life – and trimming back by embracing second-hand and pre-loved shopping makes her money go further.

“If I really need something, I’ll see if I can pick up a decent used version. I enjoy snapping up bargains in charity shops and it means, for example, I can pick up clothes from better quality brands than I could afford if shopping at full price,” she says.

“I also check out websites such as eBay, Freecycle, Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace. Shopping second-hand also stops stuff from being chucked into landfills.”

Make meal plans

(Alamy Stock Photo)

Archer also suggests planning your meals.

“After rent or mortgage and utility bills, food is the biggest expense for many families. Cut food bills by making meal plans based on the food you already have in the house, researching budget recipes, heading to cheaper supermarkets and switching to own brand or value range products,” she says. “Even if you only cook a few of your meals, it will save compared to opting for ready-meals, takeaways or eating out.”

Try cashback sites 

“Instead is searching for ages for a discount code (which generally never works when I find one), use a cashback site and get a bit of money back for every purchase,” suggests Willis. “It’s like getting a small reward every time you buy something you were going to buy anyway. Over time, this money adds up, and it’s tax-free.”