With prices on the rise and wages certainly not keeping up, more and more people have to turn to more frugal ways of living, but some are going a level up and heading closer to being a member of the extreme frugality club... How frugal would you want to be?
What does extreme frugality mean?
Extreme frugality refers to a lifestyle characterised by an unwavering commitment to cutting costs and maximising savings through unconventional and often radical measures. It goes beyond traditional budgeting and thriftiness, pushing individuals to explore the outer limits of resourcefulness and creativity in their quest to save money. Its pretty much anything that might be classed as going a bit too far in the battle to save money, and will likely get you a 'funny look' when telling someone what you do!
From ingenious DIY solutions to minimalist living, extreme frugality challenges societal norms and encourages individuals to rethink their spending habits in pursuit of financial independence.
Some of the extreme frugal living tips:
In 2023, I was invited onto a BBC Radio show, and we discussed some of the extreme frugality tips, I've listed below, that the show's listeners might be interested in adopting to live a more frugal lifestyle. Not all of these tips are extreme ways to save money; not every tip has to be an extreme measure way to reach your financial goals; sometimes, it's the little things that add up, but that said, some of these are a bit 'out there'!
Reusable toilet roll
This is, in my view, going a bit too far! I'm all for people trying to save spending money on household items unnecessarily, but reusable toilet roll is not one of the frugal hacks I've adopted, but I do appreciate that for some people, using pieces of cloth instead of loo roll, which, once used, are stored in a container of bleach and water and then put in the washing machine to be used again, is one of the extreme things they are will to do to aid their extreme thrifty living way of life. In hindsight, it's not a million miles away from washing babies' nappies, but I suspect the contents may be a little worse, and I get that loo roll is expensive, but I'm not sure I'm ready to class paper toilet roll as one of lifes little luxuries quite yet, I think there are other things I would be happy to lose before losing loo roll, still thousands of people are now doing this, and if money is tight then fair enough! One of the arguments for NOT doing this is that you would have to spend money on the laundry detergent, plus the energy costs and water usage washing them, so would the savings be eaten up, and you may not save much money?!
There is, of course, an argument for moving away from disposable paper towels for handhe old-style, washable handkerchiefs over disposable tissues and such like, and of course reusable nappies, over the, expensive, and not very eco-friendly, disposable, variety.
Regrow your veg
This one is very achievable, and I think the best way to save some cash is something I do whenever possible, as it can save you a lot of money. For example, take a spring onion, cut off the root, and place it in water or soil, and it will re-grow, which you can then use for food, and re-grow again! It makes sense, as does saving and then using the seeds from the vegetables and fruit you buy from the grocery store, to then grow your own food! This sustainable approach not only reduces grocery expenses but also aligns with eco-conscious living, minimising the environmental footprint associated with constant produce purchases. This practice not only contributes to substantial savings but also fosters a deeper connection with the food we consume. Imagine savouring the satisfaction of plucking homegrown tomatoes, lettuce, or herbs that originated from discarded stems or seeds, it's good for the body, the wallet, and also your mental health. I've written more detail about how this works in this recent blog post.
Freeze leftovers for another day
Freezing leftovers is a hallmark of frugal living that not only helps minimise food waste but also serves as a strategic financial move. In a world where convenience often takes precedence, embracing the practice of freezing uneaten portions elevates our ability to stretch every penny you've spent on groceries. Beyond mere practicality, it becomes a conscious effort to extract the maximum value from each meal. Whether it's transforming last night's pasta into a quick lunch or repurposing roasted vegetables into a hearty soup, freezing leftovers empowers us to create new culinary delights without incurring additional costs. It's a simple yet effective strategy that aligns perfectly with the ethos of extreme frugality, turning the remnants of one meal into the foundation for another, all while contributing to a more mindful and economical approach to our daily consumption.
I'll often freeze leftover components of a meal and use it at a later date. For example, I like cauliflower cheese with my roast, but the rest of the family hate it, so I'll make up a batch and freeze it into individual portions and then take it out of the freezer when I need it. If I have leftover lasagna, for example, I'll freeze that, even if it's not quite a full portion and then use that for a light meal, or if I've then made another lasagne at a later date and have some left, I'll put that that with the already frozen lasagne, and I now have a full portion, and so that's a meal taken care in the future. It's useful if I am doing a meal plan, as I can include that, and it is a great way to reduce food waste and lower your household bills, and it'll come in handy as a way to cut down on expensive fast food!
Buy whole milk and then refill with water.
I didn't think people did this, but actually, they do! They buy a bottle of whole milk, and then once half is used, they top it back up with water, with the idea being that it's now similar to skimmed milk and doubles the amount of milk you get for your money! The logic is reasonably sound; I did try it, and it isn't something I would want in my cup of tea, but it works ok when making sauces or puddings! So a bit extreme, but if used for the right thing, it's a yes from me!
Also, with milk, if it's getting close to its use-by date or you have too much, then freeze it. It works fine. It tastes better when used with cooking, but will still be more than usable. You can also do this with fresh fresh cream, cheese and butter.
Re-use your tea bag
Ok, this may be the most un-British thing you could do, but it's not a new idea! I've heard many stories of people using a tea bag, drying it out and then using it again! I've tried it, and it is kinda ok... obviously, it's a weaker cup of tea than the first cuppa, but more or less passable! It would be better for making iced tea, as you don't need quite so much flavour, and based on that, again, it's on the list as an extreme frugal contender!
The above also works if you use ground coffee; again, it will be weaker, but you could run hot water through the coffee grounds of a coffee maker again, you'll double up on how much coffee you get from a pack, and it works well. If you like your coffee on the weaker side, this one is a must!
Only drink tap water days.
Opting for days where water is the sole beverage you drink, not only slashes grocery expenses but also promotes a healthier lifestyle by steering clear of sugary and expensive drink options. This intentional choice not only saves money on beverages but also fosters a greater appreciation for the most basic and essential drink—water. As we consciously forgo pricier alternatives, we not only lighten the load on our wallets but also reduce our environmental impact, sidestepping the waste associated with single-use containers.
It makes sense to take fewer baths and showers to keep water usage at a lower level. You don't want to skip them entirely if you still want people to come near you, but limiting the number of showers etc., you have is an excellent way to conserve water. Baths are better in regards to the amount of water you use, as some showers can use 10 litres of water a minute, so if you are showering, try and keep it to as short a time as possible; 2 minutes being the optimum showering time to help keep your utility bills as low as possible.
Surprisingly, baths use less water, and what water you use for your bath can be kept in the bath and used for flushing the toilet. The water can also be used for watering the plants and grass, ensuring that no water is wasted at all. Don't forget that some customers can get free water-saving devices from their water companies, which help reduce water usage and keep bills down, and is a great place to start on a water conservation misison!
Only flush toilets once a day
Following on from the bath /shower frugal saving, only flushing your loo once a day is an excellent way to save water, if not a little gross. Please, for the love of all that is holy, only do this for liquids; please flush solids immediately!
If you want to flush as normal , invest in a hippo bag that fills up space in your water cistern. You may be able to get one free, which means your toilet will use less water to fill up the cistern. You could also consider filling up a larger fizzy drink bottle with water and popping that in your cistern, which will do the same job as the hippo bag.
Use a power timer to turn off your appliances at points during the day, such as the fridge/freezer.
Invest in a power timer for your heavier power-use electronic appliances. You can comfortably turn off your fridge or freezer for 60 - 90 minutes without any risk of the food coming warm/defrosting etc. Have them turn off in the middle of the night when there is likely to be nobody awake to keep opening the fridge/freezer doors; that way, you can save money on electricity with no food safety risks.
Extreme cheapskates can keep their energy bill lower by keeping the heating off! It's a bit harsh in the winter, of course, but investing in a decent hot water bottle and using blankets can help keep you warm; they do say heat the person not the house, and with energy prices still being high, its a frugal avenue where you can save some serious cash.
Reduce electricity bills by unplugging devices when not in use to eliminate "phantom" energy consumption.
Meat-free meals - Reduce the cost of meals by removing the meat
Skipping meat in meals every other day will help lower the cost of your food shop. Don't substitute the meat with meat-free alternatives, such as veggie sausages, veggie burgers etc., as these are often more expensive per kilo than meat; instead, buy cheap veggies and go down the stir fry or veggie curry-type route instead; even better if you manage to grab some yellow sticker bargains to lower the cost even further! It's probably healthier as well!
Grocery budget - Don’t take your card or cash to grocery shopping.
Take stock of what you have in your pantry, refrigerator, and household supplies. This helps you plan meals and use existing resources efficiently Write a list, work out what it's going to cost, more or less, and then buy a supermarket gift card, from a cash back service such as JamDoughnut or Cheddar to cover the amount you expect to spend, and then use that to pay in the supermarket.
You'll earn cashback on your purchase, which helps frugal people save some money, but if you ONLY take the gift card with you, and not your wallet, you'll be forced to only spend what you have on the gift card and are then far less likely to pick up impulse buys while shopping, and so it should help keep your food bill down as well.
Use apps such as Olio or Too Good To Go, to grab cheap, even free food, to help stretch the food budget. Sign up to as many restaurants, cafes, pubs and all other types of food establishment loyalty apps as possible and make sure they have your birthday, as then you will often be sent freebies or discounts as a birthday treat. Create lots of email addresses and forward them all to one main email account and then sign up to all those loyalty apps several times over, putting in different dates of birth, and then you'll start to receive loads of freebies and discounts! I read recently about a student in the US, who did this with restaurants and managed to score a free meal every day of the year; which is pretty impressive!
Lovely as it is to have a meal out, or even just a coffee, don't do it. Plan food in advance, take a packed lunch, make a coffee at home and use a thermos; the average person spends over £300 a year in coffee shops, with the average coffee costing around £3.10 each (2021 pricing), whereas it can cost under 40p per coffee, even less if using an economy coffee, to make it at home and take it out with you!
Plan your meals for the week using ingredients you already have. Get creative with recipes to make the most of what's available. Plan and prepare meals in advance to avoid impulsive and costly dining-out decisions. Sunday is our meal prep day, and we'll make meals for the next few days and plan out the rest of the week's meals, utilising food we already have in the fridge or freezer, to reduce, our expenditure on groceries.
Don't buy new
It can be tempting to buy new everything brand new, be it clothes, furniture etc, but don't. Use charity shops, places such as Facebook Marketplace, garage sales, eBay and Vinted to grab some cheap, even free, clothes and use Olio to look for clothes being given away.
Don't forget to barter/trade clothes. If you have clothes you don't need, put a post on Facebook and offer to swap your clothes with somebody else, for clothing they no longer need, (brilliant for swapping kids clothes), and if you've had something in your wardrobe for more than a year without wearing it, sell it and use it to buy something you will wear or buy something else you need. The average person has around £1,000 of clothes in their wardrobe and wears about 10% of what they have!
Explore bartering with friends, a family member or neighbours to exchange goods or services without spending money. If you have something your neighbour might find useful, offer to swap it with something of theirs that you may find useful! Don't be afraid to ask to borrow something from someone! Borrowing is one of the best ways to save cash! Don't have a lawnmower, borrow someone elses and, in return, offer to do something for them, like wash their car; it can be really useful and also can be a great first step to getting to know that person better as well.
If you go and stay at a hotel, make sure you nick the complimentary tea and coffee from the room, as well as the guest shampoo and soap. If you stay for more than one night, ensure you take these items before the housekeeper comes to service the room, as they will add more! Don't be afraid to ask at reception for some extra tea/coffee; it's unusual for them to say no!
Not stealing, but a grey area, dumpster diving has become a thing in the UK, after being well documented as an American thing and involves looking in the bins of businesses to see if there is anything in there that you can use in some way. In the States, unless there's a sign that says no trespassing, the police don't care, and I'm not saying you should try it here, but I know people do and come away with all manner of items they can use/sell/trade. To be on the safe side, ask before you take! Some businesses will have a policy that says no, others don't mind, especially if you're taking heavy things, as most of the companies that empty these trade bins, weigh the amount of rubbish they take away and charge their customer for any excess weight, per kilo, over an agreed amount, and so if you've taken rubbish away, it can save them money!
We all love Netflix, Disney Plus, etc., but they are expensive. There are free entertainment services offering you TV series and movies to watch, and yes, I'm talking about the legal ones, services such as Pluto, which provides a wide range of free movies and shows to watch. You will need a TV licence for this, though, as the service also includes streaming video, so it falls under the TV licence required category. Get into reading, or playing board games with family and friends.
Cancel the gym membership, walk more, and try to find a local park that has gym equipment, or take a walk around a nature reserve instead of using the treadmill at the gym. Cut out the other subscriptions like National Trust membership, and food subscription services. Seek out free community events, libraries, and outdoor activities for entertainment instead of expensive outings.
No spend day
Plan a no-spend day every week - This financial discipline, gaining popularity in the realm of frugal living, involves designating specific days where individuals commit to spending absolutely nothing. The concept revolves around challenging oneself to utilise existing resources, so basically using what you already have, fostering a more conscious and intentional approach to consumption. During these days, individuals take a break from the typical spending patterns and find innovative ways to meet their needs without reaching into their wallets!
There are even more wacky ways to save money, but I've tried to keep it just hovering on achievable; after all, this is Great Britain. and we do have our standards, skint or not ;)