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In the UK, there’s definitely been a huge rise in people wanting to take a step back, reflect and change the way in which they live their lives. Our modern day lifestyles can be really unhealthy, and the struggles of the last few years (with the pandemic followed by a cost of living crisis) have only added to people’s mental health issues and financial worries.
You might be seeking out a more simple, frugal life without spending much money because times are extremely hard, or perhaps you just want to slow down and change the pace. It could be that you want to save money for making memories instead; clear debt quickly; or reduce your reliance on material things or technology.
We live in a chaotic and materialistic world but that doesn’t mean that we can’t choose to step away from it all and embrace a happier, wholesome, simplistic lifestyle – reducing stress and saving money along the way.
Let’s re-evaluate, taking a look at what simple living really is and why it’s important. So, if you’re wondering: How can I live a good life on little money in the UK? I’ll be sharing my tips – with 25 ways that you can adopt a more simple, frugal, minimalist lifestyle today!
What is simple living?
Simple living is a lifestyle choice – making a deliberate, conscious effort to simplify various aspects of life in order to focus on what truly matters. It involves reducing material possessions, limiting clutter, living in a more eco-friendly way and embracing a more intentional, frugal and fulfilling life – saving you money too.
Frugality: What does frugal living look like?
Being frugal goes hand-in-hand with simple living – it’s a conscious decision to spend money purposefully, practically and without excess. When we live in an economical way, and prioritise our spending on needs over wants, it allows us to afford the things that we love, avoid debt and reach long-term financial goals.
It’s often simple choices, for instance: opting to pack a lunch instead of eating out; using up leftovers; purchasing home wear, clothes and gifts second-hand; or spending your weekends hiking or playing at the beach instead of doing expensive activities.
For us, when we avoid spending money unnecessarily on these kinds of things, it allows us to: travel for longer and more often; fund our home improvements; and overpay on our mortgage (debt free is the dream!). Redirecting our money towards things that will actually enhance our lives and make us happy, instead of everyday things, is really what frugal living is all about.
Simple living vs minimalism – what’s the difference?
Simple living and minimalism share some similarities, but they do have slightly different focuses – though many people will want to adopt an approach that combines a bit of both.
Simple living tends to refer to a holistic lifestyle approach to living in a less chaotic way – this could involve reducing stress, focusing on family, looking for balance, enjoying nature, avoiding technology, being more self-sufficient and simplifying routines.
With minimalism, the focus tends to be on reducing material possessions and simplifying the home. It’s about learning to live with less, decluttering, organising and letting go of things you don’t love, want or need.
Both approaches focus on making intentional choices to live in a more simple way – eliminating things that are unnecessary or don’t add value to our lives. Buying less and wasting less, there’s an element of being more eco-friendly too – though simple living goes beyond our possessions to look at more sustainable lifestyle choices as well.
For me, simple living gets us back to basics – spending more time outdoors in nature, growing our own, cooking from scratch, fixing not throwing. And, the great news is that all of these things will save you money too – less is definitely more.
Why live a simple, frugal life?
Remember that the key to living simply, and adopting a frugal lifestyle, is to focus on what truly brings value and joy to your life while eliminating excess and unnecessary expenses. By being intentional with your choices, spending and routines, you can achieve a more satisfying lifestyle – reducing stress levels and increasing your long-term financial stability too. With little money wasted, you’ll have more available for the important things.
Completely changing the way you think about money, is a great catalyst for clearing debt quickly. All the time we owe money to others, with debt usually growing considerably over time due to compound interest, we are never truly free. By living frugally, we are less likely to be borrowing money, and will have more spare cash to redirect to past debt and the mortgage. Once the debt is gone – financial freedom awaits!
Can life truly be simple in this day and age? Probably not entirely (unless you have the means to disappear off grid or start your own self-sufficient small-holding!) but that doesn’t mean that we can’t take steps to improve things and strive for a happier, less complicated way of life. Living a simple life is about consciously choosing what matters most to you and letting go of the rest.
How can I live a more frugal, simple, minimalist lifestyle? 25 tips:
1. Overhaul your finances
Simple living involves a focus on financial responsibility – budgeting, avoiding unnecessary expenses, and focusing spending on experiences and meaningful activities rather than accumulating material possessions. The Frugal Mum motto is – spend less, live more.
Set a monthly budget for the essentials (and a few treats) and stick to it – you can use my budget tracker to help. Try to stop spending money that you don’t have – to avoid accumulating debt – instead saving for trips or the things you need.
If you know that a big expense is coming up (such as a holiday, car repairs or Christmas) put a little away each month to help with the costs. For any existing debt, switch credit card debt to cards with 0% interest offers, or consolidate what you owe into a lower interest loan – using the spare cash from your new simplified way of living to clear it as quickly as possible.
Debt is stressful and interest payments can make things unmanageable very quickly, so try to simplify your finances as much as possible. For more info, check out my article: A guide to debt, interest rates and savings: Should I pay off debt or save money?
Be sure to set clear financial goals, live under your means where possible and regularly review and adjust your budgets / targets as needed. If you struggle to stick to a budget, read my cash stuffing article – it’s impossible to spend more than you have when you’re using cash.
2. Cancel what you don’t need
Ask yourself whether you need all of your subscriptions, memberships, clubs and activities – are there things that you hardly use or don’t really enjoy? Which things could be cancelled or swapped for a cheaper alternative? For instance: free online classes, going for a run or cycling could replace a £40 monthly gym membership – instantly saving you nearly £500 each year.
This applies to the kids too, during the pandemic my two also found a love for doing less – there’s so much joy to be had in taking a slower approach to life. Take time to reflect, and then simplify what you have and what you do – it’ll benefit both your mental health and your finances, whilst freeing up more time too.
Never auto-renew either – make sure that for insurances, and other essential monthly payments, you’re getting the best deals – reducing your outgoings without a single change to your lifestyle! (Remember to use cashback websites too – the rewards on those sorts of things are usually high.)
3. Embrace the ‘no spend challenge’
Each month set a ‘no spend challenge’ theme for one area – such as weekends, clothes or eating out – have a different theme each month, so you don’t miss anything too much. We do this a lot – and it definitely makes you think twice about what you’re spending, whilst encouraging you to be more creative and limit what you’d usually waste on non-essentials. Read my ‘no spend challenge’ post for more ideas.
There are lots of other spending challenges too – check out my article: The 12 best money saving challenges to try today! They’re a great way to keep focussed on your finances, promoting more conscious, frugal and purposeful spending habits, and it’ll boost your bank balance quickly.
4. Simplify socialising
According to Nimblefins.co.uk the average household spends around £135 each month on takeaways and restaurants – more than £1600 every year! Try to change the way you see socialising – it’s the people who are important, rather than what you do – you don’t have to miss out, just switch things up.
Invite your friend over for a pizza instead of eating out, or share a bottle of bubbly in the garden instead of visiting the local pub. If you usually meet your friends for coffee and cake, why not take it in turns to host at home?
Don’t be afraid to say no either – reducing our social obligations, slowing things down and living a quieter, simpler life can do wonders for our mental health. It’s important to prioritise your family’s well-being so if you won’t enjoy it, you can’t afford it or you just need a rest, politely decline invitations and put yourself first.
5. Create a better work-life balance
Simple living encourages a more balanced approach to work and life – remembering that you’re replaceable at work but as a parent, partner, family-member and friend you are totally irreplaceable. So enjoy hobbies and fun activities to maintain your well-being – making sure that you make time to exercise and get enough sleep too.
With modern day living, it’s so easy to rush around, never be present and flit from thing to thing, caught up in an endless to do list. (Honestly, slowing down is the thing I struggle with the most!) But, changing to more simple living habits, working reasonable hours, reducing stress and making our time more purposeful can totally change our lives for the better.
Mindfulness and meditation can be really useful tools, as well as activities like yoga – allowing time for rest, reflection and relaxation can really reduce stress. We need to work to live, but we absolutely shouldn’t live to work. And, you might even want to take the time to reassess your career goals and fulfilment too.
6. Declutter your home
The home is where minimalism and living a simple life really overlap. For most people this will involve getting rid of unnecessary possessions, organising spaces more efficiently with storage that works, and creating a stream-lined, calmer environment. Others may take this a step further and even consider downsizing to a smaller home.
It really depends on your lifestyle and personal goals but even simple changes, like having clear surfaces or less children’s toys, can vastly reduce housework whilst making the space more relaxing to be in. Letting go of the things that we don’t need is a great way to make life easier and save us time.
My printable 30 day decluttering guide will help you to get started – then donate, recycle or sell the items that you no longer need – you might even have some items that could fetch a decent amount of cash.
A ‘less is more’ mindset is great news for your bank balance as you’ll be reluctant to re-introduce clutter into your home – you’ll be wondering where you’ll put each new purchase, how much use it will get and most likely decide not to buy things you don’t need or love. So, simplify the house and have a fresh start.
7. Simplify your routines
Take the ‘less is more’ approach and think about how you can simplify your daily routines too – a few organisation and lifestyle tweaks can make our busy lives a little bit easier. For instance:
- Fewer cushions on the bed will save time in the morning and evening.
- Baskets around the house will keep things clean and tidy.
- An organised fridge / freezer / spice rack will save time when cooking and reduce waste.
- Storing cleaning products in the room you’ll use them will save time.
- Storage by the front door for coats, shoes, keys and bags will make the morning routine run more smoothly.
- Cooking meals in bulk will free up more time for relaxation in the evenings.
8. Connect with nature
Being outside doesn’t cost a penny yet it’s absolutely invaluable for our mental health and well-being. We’re incredibly blessed in the UK to have stunning coastlines, hills and mountains, woodland walks and country parks dotted around for us to enjoy.
These are the spaces that help us to feel rejuvenated, even just getting outside in our own back gardens can ‘blow the cobwebs away’. Taking pleasure in a hike, a bike ride or a walk along the beach is the definition of a frugal day out – enjoying a more simple, slower pace of life too.
You might want to do a digital detox as well – limiting screen time, reducing your reliance on technology and unplugging from digital devices regularly to spend time in the real world, connecting with others and nature.
9. Grow your own
For me, part of living in a more simple and frugal way is becoming more self-sufficient. You don’t need acres of land either – I’m simply growing what I can in our back garden and in the cheapest way possible! Seeds are usually very inexpensive for the amount of produce made, and my kids really enjoy the process of growing their own. (You can even get seeds and cuttings for free from a local seed swap.)
We’ve made planters and a log-store from leftover wood and free pallets, collected a compost bin from a local selling page, and even had some free raspberry canes donated by a neighbour from her garden! It’s about doing what you can with the time, space and money that you have – and making your own compost will reduce waste and save you money too.
If you’re short on time, most fruit trees and bushes are very low maintenance and the savings can be great as fruit can be so expensive to buy in the shops – especially at the rate my kids eat it! If you don’t have room for trees or a veggie patch, a lot of fruit bushes and veggies can be easily grown in pots.
I love nothing more than picking and cooking fresh produce from the garden – saving us money whilst improving our physical and mental health too. If (like me!) you’re a novice and working on a tight budget, Huw Richards’ book: Grow Food for Free is the perfect place to start.
10. Do it yourself
This leads on to the DIY element of simple, frugal living. Save a small fortune by doing what you can yourself – it may not be perfect but it’ll certainly be cheaper! Learning basic DIY skills for home repairs and maintenance is a great way to save money – and repairing instead of replacing is more eco-friendly too.
Sometimes, you’ll need to spend a little on tools to get started (though you can often get these cheaply second-hand) but in the long-run there are so many savings to be made. Instead of buying new we recycle, repurpose and upcycle – some of my favourite pieces of furniture were free – it’s amazing what a lick of paint can do. Upcycling is great way to give your existing old furniture, kitchen cabinets or fitted wardrobes an inexpensive facelift too.
Save hundreds of pounds each year by rolling up your sleeves and giving things a go yourself. Here are some of the things that we do ourselves to reduce our outgoings:
- Clean the windows – saving around £15 a month / £180 each year. Even if you invest in a pole kit, it’ll soon pay for itself.
- Use our own drain kit to unblock the drains.
- DIY, gardening and decorating the house – only paying for trades when we can’t do it ourselves.
- I cut my husband’s and son’s hair – a good trimmer, some grading scissors and a few youtube videos saves us £30 a month / £360 each year.
- Wash the car.
11. Embrace frugal living habits
Often saving money is about changing old habits, and focussing on the smaller things – as they really do add up. These could be simple changes like renting books from the library instead of buying them, borrowing clothes for a special occasion from a friend, taking a flask of coffee or a refillable water bottle out with you, or packing up a picnic for a family day out.
I never leave the house without food and drink – even taking ice-lollies in a cool bag when we head to the park or beach with friends in the summer, or packing a car-picnic if we’re out running errands near lunchtime. The kids are always hungry so it pays to be prepared!
A small £5 expenditure every day, which may seem insignificant at the time, equates to around £150 each month, or £1800 a year! So look after the pennies and you’ll definitely see the pounds adding up quickly. To keep focussed, set a saving goal for what you’ll use the extra money for instead – simply taking a packed lunch to work each day could fund an entire holiday!
12. Boycott beauty treatments
Brow tints, facials, waxing and all sorts of other expensive treatments can soon add up. Take the time to reassess what you can do without, and what you can do at home yourself. My favourite wax strips are just 99p!
Plus, simply painting your own nails could save you £20 a month. And, colouring your own hair, or using a root touch-up kit to extend the time between expensive hair appointments, could save you hundreds of pounds each year. Check out my beauty money saving tips for lots more ideas!
13. Reassess your luxuries
Similarly, you might want to reassess other luxuries and non-essentials too. For instance, you could ditch expensive TV packages in favour of Netflix or Amazon Prime; lots of choice without the big bill. Or, opt for a lesser mobile phone contract – ask yourself what these expensive things actually bring to your life.
Switching to an older model or SIM only deal can also save you enormous amounts of money – sometimes it can even be worth buying yourself out of your contract to do it too. It’s easy to find a SIM only deal for less than £10 each month – whilst the average phone contract is upwards of £30 per month – this switch would save around £240 per year depending on your contract costs.
Cutting back on a few luxuries could help you to save for something fun, like a weekend away or a holiday abroad so keep that it mind – spending less on ‘stuff’ might allow you make more memories and live a fuller, happier life.
14. Enjoy frugal family days out
Days out and weekends don’t need to cost a fortune – in fact you often don’t need to spend a penny! Visit a museum, feed the ducks, roam the woods, have a day at the beach or take part in free local activities. For inexpensive fun with the kids, check out my article: Cheap days out with the kids: 20 ways to have fun on a budget in the school holidays!
Fancy something a bit different? Check out what’s on offer for free in your nearest city, often they’ll be lots of freebies to take advantage of. My 10 free days out in London article proves there’s so much free fun to be had in the capital!
With a Blue Peter Badge, children can also gain free entry to over 200 Blue Peter Badge attractions around the country such as theme parks, zoos and castles – making those bigger days out a lot more affordable. For more information, and to find out how your children can apply, check out my article on Blue Peter Badges.
15. Change your shopping habits
Be mindful of your shopping habits to avoid impulse buying and unnecessary purchases. Focus on the essentials, so that you buy only what you truly need, and think quality and longevity over quantity in order to save money in the long run whilst shopping in a more sustainable and eco-friendly way.
As I mentioned before, decluttering is a great way to begin your journey to spending less, and being a more mindful consumer. Change your habits so that you prioritise experiences and making memories over possessions.
Another way to curb unnecessary spending is to avoid following trends and stop trying to keep up with the latest fashions. When it comes to clothing and your home, opt for a ‘timeless’ approach. Buy things that you like, and decorate to your taste, but try to avoid anything that will soon fall out of fashion.
16. Reduce your waste
In the UK, we throw away a shocking 7 million tonnes of food and drink per year! Not only is this bad news for our bank balance, it’s also awful for the planet. A recent article reckoned that the average British household bins more than £65 worth of food every month – almost £800 annually – time to book a holiday instead!
Soups, sauces, quesadillas and curries are great ways to use up any leftovers – for lots of ideas and recipes read my post on how to make the most of your leftovers. But reducing waste doesn’t just apply to food – have a go at repairing broken appliances, mending holes in clothes and repurposing what you have – a tin could become a plant pot, and a large box could become a play-fort for the kids. Be creative!
For lots of people, myself included, the attraction of a more frugal, simplified lifestyle definitely coincides with wanting to live in a more conscious, sustainable and eco-friendly way – to get started read: What is eco-friendly living? How to live in a more sustainable way and save money – 30 tips!
17. Invest in re-usable items
Another way to reduce waste, which is great for the planet whilst being really cost effective in the long run, is to invest in re-usable items. Here are a few easy switches:
- Ditch sandwich bags in favour of reusable containers – picnics, packed lunches, leftovers and baked goods can all be stored in reusable tubs.
- Invest in some reusable cotton pads for removing make-up and cleaning up grubby little ones. Prices on Amazon start from around a fiver for a pack of 10-15 large pads – just throw them in with your washing and they’ll be good as new next time you need them.
- Stock up on some reusable water bottles; fill them up before you head out to save money and reduce the need for single-use plastic.
- Use cleaning sprays with washable cleaning cloths to avoid one-use anti-bacterial wipes.
18. Change the way you eat
Frugal shopping and cooking, reducing your food costs by just £20 a week, will save you over £1000 every year – plus you’ll likely be eating in a more healthy and sustainable way too:
- Avoid expensive and unhealthy processed foods by cooking from scratch.
- Use Olio to reduce your food bill and become a food waste hero – collecting food shopping for free!
- Batch cook to fill the freezer to save you time in the future.
- Freeze and preserve what you grow in the summer, to enjoy later in the year.
- Use frozen vegetables and herbs to save money, prep time and reduce waste.
- Plan your meals in advance to reduce food waste and avoid unnecessary spending on takeout or dining out.
- Buy items in bulk and take advantage of discounts to reduce costs.
- Ditch branded items in favour of stores own brands to slash your food bill by up to 30%!
- Check out my article on 20 easy ways to cut the cost of your food bill for more tips.
19. Improve energy efficiency
Save on utility bills by being mindful of energy consumption, making a few easy changes and insulating your home. It could be as simple as choosing to sweep instead of using the hoover, waiting for a bright day to dry washing outside and wearing some extra layers before turning up the thermostat. Turning the heat down by just 1 degree could reduce your heating bill by 10%!
According to the Energy Saving Trust, we can also save £65 each year by just remembering to turn off the appliances that we’re all guilty of leaving on standby! And, another £25 by remembering to turn the lights off when we leave a room.
Cut down on shower time too – Southern Water say the average UK shower lasts 8 minutes and halving this to 4 minutes could save families around £200 per year. (And, this figure doubles if you have a power shower!) For loads of energy saving tips, check out my post: 20 simple ways to reduce your energy bills and save money.
20. Have a minimalist Christmas
Christmas and other celebrations can really make a dent in our bank balances. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be crippling if you make a few changes. First, set a budget (and stick to it) and put money away year round. Then, simplify where you can – focussing on what Christmas is really about makes it totally do-able without much money.
Avoid unnecessary gifting; just buy for close friends and family, and don’t be afraid to have a discussion with others – they’ll probably be relieved to lessen their spending too. Remember to embrace second-hand shopping too, or think about which gifts you can make yourself! I’ve got loads of tips for an affordable, frugal, minimalist Christmas – so check out these articles:
- Christmas without money – 30 tips for a DIY family Christmas on a small budget
- How to have a simple, minimalist Christmas (to maximise your happiness!)
- Minimalist Christmas gift ideas – simple, purposeful gifting
- Ideas for Christmas gifts without spending money – a free homemade Christmas
- Christmas on a budget: 20 ways to save money on your Christmas food shop
21. Cut motoring costs
To slash fuel and maintenance costs, think about which short journeys could be walked or cycled and get some exercise instead. For longer journeys, could you use public transport, or car share with friends on the school run or colleagues for work? According to liftshare.com, car sharing could save you up to £1000 each year in fuel costs. But, when you do need to fill the tank, visit a website like petrolprices.com to quickly compare fuel prices near you.
With more people working from home since the pandemic, it’s also worth considering if your household needs more than one car. It’s not just the fuel that adds up but insurance, services, MOTs and repairs too. We sold our second car, and it saves us around £1000 per year. But, if you need your wheels, perhaps think about downsizing to a more fuel-efficient model if need be.
22. Travel frugally
This year a summer holiday might seem impossible, but with a little bit of creativity, it might just become a reality! Perhaps you could book a Sun Newspaper Holiday for just £9.50 per person; or join Trusted Housesitters or go camping to slash accommodation costs.
Maybe you could swap flights for a road trip? Or, travel completely out of season? Eurocamp have some incredible deals. Take a look at my articles: 20 tips for travelling abroad on a budget with kids – here’s how to save money on your family summer holiday! and UK family travel on a budget: 20 ways to have a cheap staycation! for tips on keeping your holiday costs down – think about it, the more you save, the more you can travel!
23. Stop buying new
I love thrifting and shopping second-hand – our home is filled with preloved treasures. Selling websites and social media pages have lots of bargains; from furniture, to curtains, to rugs, to kitchenware, to clothes! So always take a look before you buy new – it’s better for the environment and it could save you a small fortune!
Join Preloved today to get started on your second-hand adventure! There will always be someone selling something that you need for a fraction of what they paid for it – you might even find some freebies. Preworn and Vinted are brilliant for second-hand clothing too!
24. Minimalise your wardrobe
Streamline your wardrobe by keeping only the clothing items that you wear regularly. You might even want to consider a capsule wardrobe approach – where you have a limited number of versatile pieces.
When you’re clothes shopping (new or second-hand) try to pick items that can be mixed and matched. For instance, if you have three skirts and three tops that all go nicely together, you can mix and match to make 9 outfits! Or pick new items that would compliment other clothing pieces that you already own.
Check out my 10 ways to create a sustainable and affordable wardrobe to reduce your spending and help the planet. Imagine how much easier it would be to get dressed quickly from a streamlined, simplified wardrobe.
25. Change what you value
The best way to see significant change is to really re-evaluate your lifestyle. Ask yourself what you really need and what you value the most. Could you downsize to a smaller house to reduce your mortgage payments and have more cash for the fun things in life? Or, perhaps you could go a year without new clothes to fund a holiday instead.
Being frugal goes hand-in-hand with a more simple, minimalistic lifestyle, and this means changing your mindset entirely. It’s not about missing what you don’t have, or feeling hard done by when you go without. You’re choosing this and, for everything that you let go from your life, you’re gaining so much more…. Time. Money. Energy. Happiness. Memories.
Tomorrow is not a given. When we start to see the world in a different way, and our perception of value changes, we can finally appreciate what’s really important. Develop a mindset of gratitude for what you have – taking time to appreciate the simple pleasures in life. When we stop feeling defined by our possessions, they stop holding us back.
Hi, I’m Natalie Smith – AKA Frugal Mum. I live on the Kent coast with my husband Jay, our two home-schooled munchkins Finn (12) and Lola (10) and our pooch Milo. An ex-primary school teacher, I now work as a tutor alongside my role as a family money-saving blogger!