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This is an area that I’ve talked about before. In the past, I’ve made some choices that others would consider too far. I’ve also talked to my fellow UK money bloggers about the most extreme frugal steps they’ve taken.
As we go into the new year many of us will be setting resolutions or making promises to ourselves. For many, myself included, this will involve improving your finances. Whether you are struggling with debt or chasing financial independence there is space for extreme frugality in your life.
This is a hard question to answer. If I asked my parents this, they’d say one holiday a year rather than their usual eleventy billion. For us, it is about finding the cheapest ways to live our lives comfortably.
Extreme frugality is about analysing every area of your life and choosing to cut back. Find a cheaper way and sustain that. Find a way to make it work for you and embrace it as your lifestyle. The amount that you decide to cut back will be unique to you though.
It is not a no spend day/month/year. It is not not spending money on stuff for a bit. It’s not saving money on some stuff and then going over the top on other things. It is a commitment to staying on top of your finances and keeping it cheap. No shortcuts.
Stuff attracts more stuff. You aren’t going to notice the accumulation of new things if it is drowning in old things.
Two years ago I used the Konmari method to declutter my house and it has had a significant impact on my life. It allows me to see the true value of the items that I bring into my house. This, in turn, helps me to say on track with my financial plans.
Having a home that only contains the objects that I either need or love means I am less tempted to devalue that space by spending money on things that do not support or improve that environment.
You can save money if you plan purchases in advance. This is true whether you are stockpiling food or buying gifts. If you must buy at short notice you will pay extra for this.
Looking for deals on food and stockpiling is a great way to save money. But it takes patience. You need to be on the lookout for deals all the time and then buy when they are cheap. It can take months for the price to be right.
This also applies to emergencies situations. Sometimes being frugal means spending money and this is true when it comes to planning ahead. Keeping on top of maintenance jobs around the house and your car can prevent a large repair bill later.
Whether it is your day-to-day expenses or those bills that you think you can not change, put them all under scrutiny. Convince yourself that you can reduce the cost of all of them.
There are some bills that I think I will never be able to get any lower than they are currently. However, every six months to a year I sit down and work hard to reduce them.
If you want to take it to the absolute extreme then why not try and find a way of getting rid of that expense completely? Do you need a TV license? What about alternative sources of energy? Is there a way for you to live rent or mortgage free?
If you want to live a life that is radically different from what you are used to and different from the lives your friends and family are living then it is going to need creativity.
Your TV license is a good example. There are plenty of other ways to watch films and TV, you just need to think beyond the end of your remote. We made this switch and haven’t looked back.
What about if you fancy a holiday? How can you get the holiday you want but within your frugal limits? You could consider staying with friends or even a working holiday where you exchange some of your time for accommodation.
This post is about extreme frugality so it is reasonable to expect that I am going to propose ideas that push you out of your comfort zone a bit.
If you really want to embed the ideas of extreme frugality in your life then I recommend adopting some ideas into your life that take you out of your comfort zone.
But extreme frugality shouldn’t mean that you are living a life that constantly makes you uncomfortable. Sometimes trying new things means buying a cheaper variety of baked beans as opposed to the expensive variety that you’ve been eating all your life.
Deprivation is not sustainable. The art of extreme frugality is treading the fine line between having the things you want and paying too much for them.
You can be both extremely frugal and still have three holidays a year. You can live a frugal life and still have meals out. The trick is to get the best value out of your money and the experiences.
In some areas of my life, people may feel that I cut back too much that I deprive myself. But to me, these parts of my life are less important. They are the areas that I am absolutely willing to go to the full extreme.
There are also those areas where I am willing to spend a little more. But these are for experiences that my family and I gain most happiness and joy from.
By giving myself the freedom to spend a little more here and there, it prevents the need for a big blow out. I don’t feel the need for a huge shopping spree.
If there comes a moment on the path to extreme frugality when you begin to question why you are here, then remember why you started.
Have it clear in your mind what you hope to achieve by embracing a lifestyle of cutting back. Talk about it. Write it down. Make a picture of it. Or even start a blog outlining your journey.
This will keep the idea fresh. It will stop you from straying on those days when the path seems tiresome and the alternative a stroll in the park.
Now you have a better idea of how you might achieve extreme frugal living, you might be wondering what steps you can take to live this lifestyle.
Below I have included my favourite tips to get you off to a good start. Some of these may be too far to you or some may feel too tame. They are only suggestions.
Your home is the best place to start to embrace your new frugal lifestyle. There are so many things that you can do around your home to save money.
I’ve talked about this lots before. You can check out my series I did on this previously and this post, in particular, has lots of tips and tricks for successful meal planning.
You throw these away anyway. You might as well chuck £2 straight in your wheelie bin once a month. Stop buying them. If you want a list of other things to stop buying, I’ve got a post on that.
Whether it is from a cheeky takeaway or a fancy yoghurt or that tub of houmous, these make great pots for packed lunches. My eldest gets sent off to nursery with all sorts of different pots. Plus it is another step towards the eco-friendly living dream.
If are still buying shampoos, soaps, laundry detergent and washing up liquids that come in bottles, make sure you get the most from them. Add a little water to the end of the bottle and keep using it like that. You’ll realise that you need to use far less.
Better still is to switch to eco-friendly alternatives such as Ecoeggs for your laundry and naturals soaps. You could make them yourself if you wanted. You’ll find that they last a lot longer.
Before writing an item off as needing a wash, try to get another day’s wear out of it. If you’ve not done anything too strenuous chances are your clothes don’t need washing that much. Set up a clothes horse or rail in your bedroom for part worn clothes and rotate them.
Try and go as long as you can before you need to wash your clothes. This will give you an idea of how long you can go between laundry cycles. Then set up a schedule and stick to it. I set a laundry schedule and I now do less laundry because I wait until the designated day rather than just doing a “quick wash.”
It is completely possible to have a clean house and never buy any cleaning products. Most of your house can be kept clean with a regular schedule and a wet cloth. For tougher jobs, you might consider using bicarbonate of soda and vinegar. Both cheap and will last you ages.
Clothes that can’t be sold, donated or recycled can be cut up and used around the home. In our house they are used for cleaning, repairing other clothes, soaking up fat and oil after cooking and for wiping our bums!
At least one day every week try to make a meal out of the leftovers in your fridge or cupboards. You might surprise yourself and make a magnificent dish from an odd assortment of herbs and spices and a stray tin of tuna.
Most clothes wear out eventually. But small sewing jobs can bring them new life. You can even use the worn out part and add a patch or some detail that brings it an entirely new lease of life. Pinterest and Youtube are your friends here.
Facebook marketplace and Gumtree are great places to search for cheap and sometimes even free furniture or home accessories. If you spot a bargain but don’t need it straightaway then store it in a shed or an outhouse until you are ready for it.
Another place to look for bargains is skips and dumpsters. Although people are throwing this stuff away it doesn’t mean it isn’t in good condition. However, the polite part of me says it is always worth checking that you can take this stuff first.
Round our way, it is almost impossible to throw away paint. (You can only take it to the tip on two days a year!!!) Therefore, there are lots of people with half used tins of paint. I like to do one feature wall in each room so it is worth asking around to see if anyone has a bit of whatever colour you fancy.
If you wipe down your shower screen after each use, you’ll never have to take the time and money to descale it. This quick habit will save you plenty on fancy limescale removing products.
Not only is it great exercise and the environment loves it but it is completely free. A great way to start with this one is to imagine that you have no other transport. How would you do all your usual jobs on foot or two wheels? Being creative will get you far here.
I mentioned this one in a previous post about ways to save money and the planet. But poor driving will cost you a lot of money on fuel. Careful driving practices will reduce your fuel consumption.
If you can’t walk or bike it then you might find public transport is a cheaper option. Once you’ve factored in fuel and parking costs I quite often find that taking the bus is cheap than taking my car. Plus I get time to do something else on the way.
Lift sharing might not seem like the most convenient option, particularly if you want to stay late or leave earlier. But on the path to extreme frugality, it can save you a lot of money. Take it in turns to drive with one or more people and you can seriously reduce your fuel costs.
If there is a shorter trip that you would normally fly for, try looking at whether you could take a coach or a train to save money. It is not the quickest way but you’ll save money and get some fab views on route.
There is no need to cut back on things you enjoy in life. If anything you should do more of these things but find a way to fit them into your new frugal regime.
Like this blog for instance. This is a hobby for me and it makes me money. Other ideas include crafts that you can sell or offer musical instrument lessons. Much better to make money doing what you love than spend it.
Running, walking and cycling are low-cost forms of exercise. You can create great workouts by using parks, steps, benches, trees, curbs and anything else you can find in your neighbourhood. A gym membership isn’t the only way to get fit.
You can get to see films for free by signing up to advance screenings. Showfilmfirst will contact you and offer you free tickets to films. It might not be a film you want to see but it is definitely one way of getting free cinema trips.
If you are looking for a new hobby, why not start growing fruit, vegetables and herbs? It will keep you busy and provide you with nourishing food throughout the year if you do it right.
If you love cooking then why not try to recreate your favourite takeaways at home? If you love sewing, try making your own clothes or cloth wipes or curtains or sanitary towels? Turn your hobby into something productive.
Man or woman can use a safety razor. I wrote a whole post about this, check it out. An excellent environmentally friendly choice as well as a staple on the path to extreme frugality.
Either switch to solid shampoo bars or start washing your hair with vinegar/beer/bicarbonate of soda/tea. There are endless options. All much cheaper than shampoo from the shops. Some people (my kids included) just wash their hair with water.
In a disposable society, we seem to have forgotten the power of the flannel. A couple of flannels can be used to remove makeup and anything else you might need to put on your face.
The internet is full of free stuff like this. You don’t need to pay for expensive apps and subscriptions to get the benefit. Do some research and find some you like.
Extreme frugality is a lifestyle. If there is something, a dream, that you are willing to change your life for then yes, you can do it! Taking steps like this you really can make your money go further.
Spend time doing your research. Find like-minded people who are travelling the same path. Find your vision. Change your life!
Disclaimer: Remember the information you read here does not represent advice. Any ideas or suggestions are just that and may not work for you. Read the full disclaimer here.
Looking After Your Pennies is an eco-friendly personal finance blog written and managed by Charlotte Jessop.
I write on a variety of topics including frugal lifestyle, eco-friendly living, money making ideas and generally how to make your money go further.