Five first steps to being frugal

Picture to illustrate my five first steps to being frugal post of me, Faith Archer, for the Informed Choice podcast, with the quote "there are so many things you can do to make the most of your money that will have absolutely no impact on your quality of life"

Me! On a podcast!


Ever thought you should be a bit more frugal?

Opened a credit card statement and thought “ouch”?

Wondered how there was too much month for your money?

Last week I recorded an interview with Martin Bamford over at Informed Choice Radio, chatting away about money matters and freedom via frugality.

(If you’d like a listen,  you can listen here, or find it on the Informed Choice Radio website).

We talked about the small changes I made each month during 2016, that added up to a big difference – nearly £5,000 in money saving measures, topped up with a whole chunk from investments.

One of the questions he asked was: “What are the first steps for those wanting to live more frugal lives?”.

Now, I’ve had times in my life when I earned a lot of money, and times when I scraped by on next to nothing. Since moving to the country, we’re been living on less, and I’ve thought a lot about how to make the most of it. If we want to live in our wildly impractical house, then every penny counts!

I’m not suggesting that frugality means sitting around shivering under a blanket, eating gruel.

As I said in the quote Martin used with the photo, there are so many things you can do to make the most of your money that will have absolutely no impact on your quality of life.

Sometimes the idea of sorting out money matters can seem overwhelming, and it’s difficult to know where to begin.

So when it comes to first steps to being frugal, I suggest:

1. Check your direct debits

Look at all your direct debits. Is there anything you are paying for that you don’t use any more?
See if you can cancel direct debits for stuff like magazines you don’t read, gym membership you don’t use or free trial subscriptions that you now pay for.
For the direct debits you can’t cancel – bills like gas, electricity, landline, broadband, mobile, insurance etc – start tackling them one at a time. See if you can cut costs by switching to a different company, or getting a better deal from the current company.

2. Get paid to spend

I’m a big fan of earning cashback on money you’d spend anyway.
Get paid a percentage back by:
– checking cashback websites like TopCashback and Quidco before you buy online
– handing over loyalty cards and vouchers
– paying with a cashback credit card
– using a current account that pays cashback on household bills
– saving on food shopping using supermarket cashback apps
Small sums, but it all adds up!

3. Keep a spending diary

If you want to spend less – write it down. It’s that simple. Whether you use pen and paper, a whizzy spreadsheet or a memo on your phone, make a note of everything you spend. Yes, even that snack on the way to work, magazine when you’re bored or donation to red nose day.
Keeping a spending diary will show you where your money disappears and help you consider where to make changes.

4. Use what you have

Next time you think of running to the shops – check the contents of your cupboards. You may be surprised by how much you already have at home.
I’ve blogged before about food challenges (here and here), using up the contents of our kitchen cupboards, fridge and freezer, but this applies much more widely than food.
Whether it’s clothes, shoes, toys, toiletries, books, films, music, whatever, see if you already own something that you could use instead.
Retrieve the outfit you haven’t worn for a while from the back of the wardrobe, unearth the games the kids haven’t played with in ages or dig out the fancy soap you were given last year.
Using stuff up can mean massive savings.

5. Start saving

Now that you have freed up some money by cutting costs, earning extra and spending less – start saving!
Make a conscious effort to set money aside. Whether you start hoarding £2 coins, transferring odd amounts or setting up a direct debit to a savings account straight after payday, don’t let your savings disappear into a big black hole.
If you have debts, you are almost certainly paying more money in interest than you can earn elsewhere, so use any extra cash to pay down the money you owe.
Once debts are cleared, look out for the highest interest you can earn elsewhere. Remember that in today’s topsy turvy world, it may well be a current account rather than a savings account.

These are my five first steps for being frugal, to get you off to a good start.

Now over to you – what are your top tips for starting to live a more frugal life? I’d love to hear! Do share your suggestions in the comments below.

I’m linking up with CassEmma and Becky in this week’s ‘Five Fabulously Frugal things I’ve done this week’ linky.

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  1. Becky Goddard-Hill
    3rd February 2017 / 11:04 am

    Use what you have is my favourite! Thanks so much for linking up to #5frugalthings.

    • 3rd February 2017 / 11:21 am

      Thanks Becky, glad to link up. I could do with using up masses of stuff before we even think of buying more.

  2. 3rd February 2017 / 11:14 am

    I love #3 – we still record everything we spend (on apps these days) and it's been over three years now!

    • 3rd February 2017 / 11:20 am

      Spending diaries are so helpful! I've just started my fifth year of my trusty spending diary spreadsheet. Comes in handy in unexpected ways too, like checking if I got round to paying the subs for Cubs, or how much we paid for insurance last year.

  3. 3rd February 2017 / 11:59 am

    I love a nice food challenge – we are using what we have this week ready for a holiday. Saving lots of money!

    • 3rd February 2017 / 12:42 pm

      Enjoy the holiday! Using stuff up and cutting food waste really does make a big difference.

  4. 3rd February 2017 / 12:05 pm

    I love my spending diary, now a spreadsheet that gets updated every Friday. Helps me feel in so much more control. Ill listen to your podcast now:-)

    • 3rd February 2017 / 12:43 pm

      Oooh glad the spending diary is going well. Hope you enjoy the podcast, it was certainly fun to record!

  5. 3rd February 2017 / 12:31 pm

    Fantastic beginners guide to becoming frugal. I'll be sure to send some of my friends. Thanks for sharing! 😀

    • 3rd February 2017 / 12:44 pm

      Thanks Cora, that's very kind. Hope it helps your friends!

  6. 4th February 2017 / 6:58 am

    After years of frugal living and saving we have recently bought a tiny caravan called a Go Pod. We needed to kit it out. But by looking at what we already had and what relatives were throwing out and what I can make by sewing, knitting and weaving, we are ready to go off at half term. And we have only spent £25! It shows what you can achieve and it is worth it.

    • 4th February 2017 / 8:33 am

      Just amazing that you managed to kit out the caravan for £25! Defnitely shows what can be achieved. Hope you have a fantastic first trip.

  7. 4th February 2017 / 8:28 pm

    I always find a spending diary a real eye opener. It is easy to not notice spending.

    • 6th February 2017 / 9:57 am

      Any money I got out from cash machines just seemed to evaporate. When I started a spending diary, I finally got a sense of where it disappeared on lots of little purchases, and stopped frittering so much away!

  8. 13th July 2017 / 9:56 am

    Love this Faith – I definitely need to be more frugal – one thing pet owners can do is go to shows and festivals. Some are free and you get LOADS of free food samples at them!

    • Faith
      13th July 2017 / 11:29 am

      Great tip – do love a good freebie!

  9. Adrienne
    12th October 2017 / 10:12 pm

    I’m a bit late to this….. do you read Mr Money Mustache blog? US blog, quite rad you and he have a lot in common 🙂

  10. 17th May 2021 / 1:17 pm

    Your blog is everything I’ve been looking for online. Thank you so much for taking the time to record this information!

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