I often hear a misconception that being frugal equates to being cheap. Did Extreme Cheapskates really tarnish the word ‘frugal’ that much?
In today’s post, I am giving you ALL (or almost all) of the useful frugal habits I developed over the years and, just for a good measure, a couple of the cheap ones too.
- If I see money on the ground, I pick it up. This is not a joke; the world likes to give me change almost daily. I walk a lot and often find coins on the ground. I am a little superstitious, so I pick them up. If I walk with somebody, I give the coin to them ‘for good luck’. If I have anything to shop for that day, I usually use them to partly pay for my shopping. If they make it home with me, I have a special jar for them and whenever it gets full, I take it to a bank, cash in and whatever money is in there gets sent to a charity. This is by far my weirdest habit. And mind you, the jar gets full at least once per year.
- I meal plan and cook every weekend for the week ahead. There is a number of reasons why I do so, and they include: a desire to always have healthy food available that is to my taste, constant drive to reduce food waste and therefore limit my negative impact on this beautiful planet, the convenience of having a lunch in the fridge for work (I don’t always have time to go out to get food), ability to control exactly what goes into my meals (I avoid certain dairy and soya products with passion). The very last reason is that meal planning has had a really positive impact on my budget. A lunch out in the area where I work costs £8 and up for a healthy meal. A home made healthy lunch starts closer to £2 per meal.
- Whenever possible, I use discount codes. This is for everything from clothes to eating out. My partner and I regularly use First Table (not sponsored) to get 50% off food at restaurants, Dusk (again, not sponsored) to get free drinks, a variety of websites to find coupon codes if we are online shopping and yes, we will sign up for a newsletter if it gives us 10% or more off our purchase. I tend to unsubscribe shortly after because no need for all that content in my inbox and I usually check out as a guest since a lot of retailers do not offer similar discounts to account holders.
- Whenever buying something, I read the ingredients and make a choice based on quality. Whether it’s food, toiletries or clothing, I always check what it’s made of and then decide if it’s worth the money. As example, when buying toothpaste I will compare the ingredients and if they are the same, I’ll select the cheaper one, but if one of the two is significantly better in quality, I’ll get the better one even if it is more expensive. Similarly buying clothing, if a garment is made of polyester or a polycotton, I am unlikely to buy it and instead opt for viscose or pure cotton. It might end up being a little more expensive short term, but because quality of something is better, it usually lasts me longer too. In case of toothpaste and consumables such as food, I see it as a frugal habit as it helps to maintain my health which, if failing, can be very costly and sometimes impossible to salvage.
- I clean my house with distilled vinegar instead of readily available products. I have a couple of big brand cleaning products at home, and I use them rarely. My main cleaning product is distilled vinegar in a spray bottle. It is much cheaper, non-toxic and really robust as a cleaner. Yes, it does smell quite strongly, but the smell does not last and the fact that I am not exposing myself or my loved ones to potentially harmful chemical fumes and saving a lot of money (a small bottle costs pennies) makes it more than worthwhile.
- I give priority to savings instead of expenses when budgeting. Following the ‘pay yourself first’ rule, I will tighten my budget sometimes for the more frivolous categories in order to increase my savings for a pay period. This forces me to not only stick to my budget more (nothing more annoying than having to take money out of savings to add to current account) but also to get creative and make money elsewhere if I want to overspend somewhere. On average I save around half of my income thanks to that rule, but I also chose a career field which pays enough to enable me to do it with only minor sacrifices.
- When shopping for toiletries, groceries and washing and laundry detergent, I check price per kilo, 100ml or number of washes per pack, instead of a price per pack. For example, when buying dishwasher tablets it might be tempting to get a pack of 50 for £8 with a big ‘sale’ sticker (£0.16 per wash), but it will work out cheaper per wash if I buy the pack of 30 for £4.50 of the same brand that is not on sale (£0.15 per wash).
- If a shop has a loyalty scheme, I use it, but close my account every couple of years and start a new one. I am of course talking about loyalty schemes which do not involve credit cards. Majority of chains in the UK such as Boots, Superdrug, Tesco, Sainsburys etc offer loyalty schemes – for them, it’s a data gathering tool and for consumers it’s an easy way to access various sales, coupons and rewards. Over the years I have found that especially for where I spend more money (Boots is a good example here), the thresholds to access rewards go up. To illustrate this, my previous threshold to access bonus points was £40 single transaction spend. I have recently closed my old loyalty account and opened a new one where the threshold starts at £20 spend to access bonus points.
- Free eyesight and hearing tests. I stopped paying for these long times ago. Specsavers and Boots, two largest drugstore chains in the UK offer vouchers for these which can be found online. Without a voucher such checkups can cost £25 each. If you’d rather get them done on the NHS, there can be a long queue.
- I only buy in bulk when it makes absolute sense. In my personal situation the only things which make sense to buy in bulk (and have delivered to my door) include paper goods such as toilet paper and dry cat food, if on sale.
- My house is cool (19 Celsius) in the winter and somewhat warm in the summer (same temperature as outside really). I keep the heating and cooling to minimum as it is really expensive. If it’s cold, I just put a sweater on and carry on as normal. If it’s hot, I open a window.
- Laundry only gets done when there are enough clothes for a full load. Between my partner and I we do 2-3 loads of laundry per week, which covers all our clothing, bedding and towels. We don’t do half-loads and we don’t use a tumble dryer opting for air-drying our clothes instead. It’s much better for the clothes and it’s easier to iron clothing which has not been tumble dried.
- I buy books in languages other than English, if they are cheaper. In example, when I wanted to read The Martian, I purchased it in a Polish online bookshop because it was so much cheaper than English language version. My partner also buys books in French for the same reason. Obviously we only do that for languages which we can speak well!
- Instead of donating things I no longer want, I will try to sell them first. I’m one of those annoying people who take a really good care of their things (if you put your shoes on m furniture, you will not get invited over again). This means that if I no longer have love for an item, it usually still is in a pretty good condition. I therefore attempt to sell it before donating it and usually it does sell if it has any value left in it.
- If I want to take part in specific activity, I find a free pass. As example, last year I was on a major swimming kick. To reduce the cost of accessing pools, I visited pretty much every leisure centre within greater London which offers a free introductory pass. I swim on average once per week and the approach saved me over £100 over 3 months and got me going to all sorts of areas in London that I might not visit otherwise.
- I taught myself basic DIY skills from putting pictures up to painting walls. Although I have never done the maths, my guess is that just on hemming various sets of curtains in my home I saved £250-£300 over the last 5 years. I tend to have walls painted in every house I move to and knowing how to do it saved me around £1000 just for the property I am in now.
- If a product I purchased breaks within unreasonable timeframe, I contact the seller and ask for a refund or a replacement. As mentioned before, I take really good care of my possessions and nothing irks me more than an item breaking down for no good reason. As one example, I use an expensive sonic toothbrush. My model comes with a 2 years manufacturer’s warranty. My toothbrush’s handle broke 3 times in the span of 2 years and was replaced by the manufacturer accordingly, which required me filing for a replacement every time and providing proofs of purchase. If I opted for just re-purchasing, it would have cost me over £100 each time. As a second example, I purchased a nightlight for my stairs around 8 months ago. The light short-circuited and caused a mini power cut in my home for no good reason. I contacted the seller with the issue, and despite the warranty period being only 30 days, the seller was able to offer me a replacement free of charge. If I didn’t ask, the replacement would have cost just £7.99, but it’s £7.99 I’d have to earn.
- Lost deliveries refund – did you know that if you sent something via Royal Mail and it went missing, you are entitled to a refund? I experienced this few times when running an online shop. On average one if 50 deliveries would be reported as undelivered by my buyers. With a proof of postage and proof of item’s value I would then file a claim to get a refund of the postage cost and the cost of the item, enabling me in turn to refund the buyer without being left out of pocket. If you are sending anything to anyone, always obtain a proof of postage in case your item goes missing.
- Personally I don’t love spas and beauty salons but it is important to me to look presentable at all times. With that in mind I have learnt how to do my own manicure and pedicure, colour and trim my own hair (I have hair long enough to be able to trim the back easily) and carry out majority of the non-invasive beauty treatments at home (think peels, masks, at home laser hair removal etc). The only treatments I now splurge on are professional massages once in a while. If I were to do the maths, being able to do all the grooming myself saves me upwards of £300 just in hair care per year.
- Getting the professionals in! Although I am a big fan of DIYs, there are certain things for which I would much rather get professionals in than do things myself. These include major building works, tax advice, legal advice and other similar disciplines in which I lack the skill, expertise or will. Although it might seem expensive at the time to pay for tax services, a professional usually pays for themselves by saving you money through doing a good job with all your deductibles, understanding how you can optimise your taxes and ensuring there are no mistakes in your paperwork which could land you fines.
And now onto the cheap habits:
- Only if the item is completely broken I replace it. As example, my travel adapter used to have two USB slots. It’s only when both of them gave out that I got a new one, so for about 6 months I travelled with only one of them working. And I travel abroad as often as once a month!
- I brew multiple cups of tea from a single batch of leaves. I am very particular about my tea and the habit can be costly. I usually drink loose leaf or rather expensive herbal blends only and will brew the same leaves (either in a tea strainer or in a tea bag) at least twice to get the most out of them.
- I did not install a heating source in the kitchen on purpose. Because I use the oven pretty much every time I cook for the week, instead of having a heater installed I just leave the oven door open when it cools. If the kitchen were to get really cold (it never has) I can just wear another sweater.
- Sometimes I make my own deodorant. No, I don’t smell bad before you ask. I use natural deodorants only and occasionally if my favourites are not on sale, I’ll just whip up my own batch to tide me over until the prices drop.
- Whenever I shop for clothes, I always ask for a discount. The best part of this cheap habit is that sometimes I do get a discount just for asking! This is not limited to clothes though, as whenever I visit a café, buy cakes at a patisserie or negotiate any sort of services you will hear me asking for 20% off.
I said I would list out *all* my frugal and cheap habits, but maybe it’s time to close the list here, as it has gotten quite long. The one big thing not included here is travel – and it’s so big that it will be covered in its own blog post later this month. I hope that this post has encouraged you to adapt a frugal habit or two too, and if it has, tell me what they are in the comments section below!