Living Frugally – What does it mean?

Bagley Excess Frugality House
Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

Herein marks the beginning of an endless series, all about frugality.

My intention with this post is to talk about what frugality is and what it means to me and go into some detail on the frugal actions I take which enable us to save money on everyday expenses, purchases and bills.

I’ll follow this up with a numbered series of ‘Frugal Win’ posts, where I’ll record any and all wins that have saved us money as and when they happen.

Hopefully, you’ll then be able to apply some of these wins yourself and maximise your savings rate by saving the difference!

Remember the motto: Earn more, spend less, save the difference and enjoy the ride.

This is the ‘spend less’ part.

Frugality (/fruːˈɡalɪti/)

Noun: the quality of being economical with money or food; thriftiness.

I want to start by making it clear that frugality is not about limiting your life to the point that you’re miserable.

As I mentioned in a few previous posts, it’s about being intentional; when you’re about to make a purchase, be it in a store, a supermarket, for insurance, a holiday, or for a household bill, stopping and thinking:

a) Do I really need this – what are the consequences if I don’t make this purchase?

b) If I need this, do I really need it right now?

c) If I need this right now, is this particular purchase good value for money?

d) If I don’t feel like it’s good value for money, can I get it cheaper elsewhere?

e) If I can’t get it cheaper elsewhere, can I save money (discount code/coupon) or collect points, via a rewards card or credit card that earns you redeemable points?

Let me know if I’ve missed anything!

These are the questions that go through my head any time I’m buying anything. To me, this is something I quite enjoy and treat like a game.

Parting with my cash only happens when I’m happy with the answers I’ve given to all of the above. Let’s go through these questions and list out some examples and what my responses and thoughts are.

“Do I really need this”

Obviously, this largely depends on what it is. If it’s food for your household grocery shop, then yeah! You probably need it.

But even with this, there’s opportunities to save and get more value for your money. Using myself as an example, when I shop, I avoid branded foods wherever possible and go for the store brand wherever I know that the quality is the same, as it usually costs a fraction of the branded equivalent price.

Obvious, right? Good.

Also, go to the store with a list. Going without a list is a recipe (pun intended) for disaster, as you’ll end up buying things you didn’t need because they were “on offer”. I see you! 👀

Many in the FI community rave about Aldi and Lidl for getting great value on their shopping, and I think these stores are great.. so long as you have one close enough to your home.

I don’t have one near where I live, and don’t fancy driving 20 minutes each way to get to the closest Aldi.

I don’t see that as a good use of my time and fuel when I have a Sainsburys, literally around the corner from my home that I can walk to in less than 5 minutes!

Also, I’m reassured by the fact that they won lowest price supermarket of the year in 2019 out of the big four: Sainsburys, Tesco, Asda & Morrisons. I also get added value by using a nectar card which awards us with points for every £1 we spend.

These have a monetary value we can redeem in store or with their partner brands. In addition to this, we have a Sainsburys credit card, which earns us additional points for every £1 we spend in store or at their petrol station, and points for every £2 we spend elsewhere.

We use this and then pay it off immediately from our ‘food-shop budget’. We earned around £300 in points last year, which we put towards our Christmas shop and gifts.

In my view, we earned money by spending money we had no choice but to spend! No-brainer.

If you regularly shop at the same supermarket and don’t, at the very least, have a rewards card for that store. Get one now and watch as your points pile up!

“If I need this, do I really need it right now?”

So, similarly to the above question, if this purchase is for an ‘essential’ item like grocery shopping, car/home insurance or anything else otherwise unavoidable, then it’s easy to tell that there are clear negative consequences to not making that purchase as an when you need it.

However, that doesn’t mean there’s not money to be saved! You should move on to the next question.

On the other hand, impulse buys are a category of spending that you need to apply this question to. We’ve all been there, scrolling on our phones and getting targeted adds for all this cool stuff you’ve recently searched for and, wow, it’s miraculously on offer too! Stop!

Ask yourself the first question.

If you decide it’s something you do need or really really want, then think about if you really need it right now.

If it’s not an immediate need, my recommendation is to put it in your online basket and leave it there for two weeks. If you still think you need it in two-weeks-time, go right ahead!

In most instances, you’ll find yourself forgetting about it completely, or, coming to your senses and realising it was very nearly a blatant impulse buy.


You just saved yourself some money! Now save that and invest in your future.

“If I need this right now, is this particular purchase good value for money?

This one’s simple.

Once you’ve established that this purchase you’re about to make is an immediate need, shop around!

Check similar retailers, use, check ebay as well as amazon. Don’t assume amazon has the best price.

Identical items can often be found cheaper on ebay with free delivery! If the purchase is for some form of insurance or household utility, check at least two different price comparison sites.

Or, check what offers your chosen supermarket bank has on. You may find their prices to be competitive, and if if slightly more expensive, that may offer large amounts of bonus points which have a monetary value and therefore, actually makes the price cheaper than the next best quote.

This brings me to the next question:

If I don’t feel like it’s good value for money, can I get it cheaper elsewhere?

I’ve managed to save us thousands of pounds over the years by simply shopping around for the best deal.

Our gas and electric utilities when we first moved into our home were £120/month.

The first time I switched, this went down to £98/month.

The next time: £58/month.

Insurance is a similar situation. Never stay with the same provider out of convenience.

There’s no excuse these days with the number of reminders you receive when your insurance is approaching renewal.

I guarantee you, you will find the same product, or better cheaper elsewhere if you just take half-an-hour to put your info into a couple of comparison or switching sites.

“If I can’t get it cheaper elsewhere, can I save money (discount code/coupon) or collect points, via a rewards card or credit card that earns you redeemable points?

If you happen to find yourself in a situation where you’ve scoured the comparison sites to no avail and you can’t find the item or service you need elsewhere, then consider your other options.

For example, can you earn rewards points on the purchase? Is there a discount code or coupon available anywhere?

Usually a simple google search throws up all sorts of offers and discounts.

Or, can you simply pay with your rewards credit card which gives you points for every pound you spend anywhere?

My favourite thing to do is to stack these options.

For example, our home insurance is through Sainsburys. We got a discount of 10% for being a nectar card holder, received 7,000 points (worth £35), got double points for the rest of the year, and we paid on our Sainsburys credit card which earned us 2 points per pound of the £156 the insurance cost us.

Also, if you or anyone in your family has access to their University email account, you can sign up to services like Unidays or Studentbeans.

These give you access to dozens of discounts and special offers for all sorts of goods, services, food and drink!

If you ask yourself these questions and explore, for just a few minutes how you might be able to save money on, or benefit from the everyday purchases you make, I guarantee you’ll get addicted and save yourself a small fortune in the process!

This is the start of a live series in which I will document my own ‘frugal wins’ – real life scenarios where I’ve saved me and my family loads of money by applying the above steps.

Make sure you subscribe below so you don’t miss a single one!

I’m certain you’ll be able to apply the learning’s from my frugal wins to save yourself a nice stack of cash!

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Published by Finance&Lifestyle

A Dad from the UK documenting his journey to financial freedom. Sharing my lifestyle and finance hacks so more people can find financial independence, retire early and take back control of their future.

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