Thrifty bloggers share easy ways to get frugal

By Emma Lunn

If you're trying to free up money for paying down debt, adopting a more frugal lifestyle can help you cut back. 

Yet the word "frugal" might bring to mind intimidating images of growing your own food, making your own clothing and sacrificing luxuries. If you're not cut out for that lifestyle, don't worry -- we asked some of the UK's top thrifty bloggers for tips even a frugal beginner can use.

Replace expensive hobbies with thrifty (but equally fun) ones
Piper Terrett writes the The Essex Life blog. From 2007 until 2011 she also wrote The Frugal Life, a popular blog about saving for MSN Money. frugal-tips

She has also written several books, one entitled The Frugal Life: How to Spend Less and Live More.

"I think downsizing your hobbies is a good tip in these tough times," Terrett says. "If your existing pastimes are becoming too expensive for your budget, have a think about other similar things that you could do instead which are cheaper and could actually be more fun."

Enjoy the theatre? Terrett suggests joining a local choir or drama group rather than "paying top dollar to watch other people on stage acting in them."

Enjoy eating out?

"Why not start a 'Come Dine with Me'-style dinner club with friends and take turns to cook for each other?" Terrett says.

Challenge yourself to live lean
is "the site for bon voyeurs on a budget." Written by a pennywise lady, who writes under the moniker Penny, the blog explains how to live the good life for less.

"Every couple of months I have a 'Tenner Week' to cut back on spending," she says. "After I've bought a monthly travelcard and paid the bills, I take out £10 for the week. Then I use up everything in the fridge and make meals from the store cupboard and freezer.

Worried about having only £10 for an entire week? Penny turns to library books, internet radio and recorded films for entertainment. She replaces spa visits with "pampering nights" that make use of her unused beauty products.

"I stick to a couple of coffees or beers when socialising and keep busy with thrifty chores, like altering clothes or de-cluttering the house," Penny says. "It's ideal if you're low on funds the week before payday."

Think before you shop
Hard Up Hester's Stretching the Penny
blog is written by a 50-something from Reading who was forced to re-evaluate her finances following a divorce. The blog chronicles her experiences with frugal living, making do and the "mad lodgers" who have rented out rooms in her house.

Hester suggests checking your cupboards and freezer before heading to the grocery store. Doing so may render a shopping trip unnecessary.

"I defrosted my freezer today and combined it with making a freezer audit," Hester says. "I made a list of meals that I can make from the freezer contents. I found I have enough food in the freezer to make 31 meals."

Plan ahead
Zoe Morrison writes the Eco Thrifty Living blog, which claims to help you "slash your budget but not your principles." Morrison, a mother of two, aims to cut her spending by carefully considering all purchases and sometimes getting creative as an alternative.

Zoe's top frugal tip is to get organised by looking at the things you do daily, monthly and yearly -- and planning ahead for them.

"To save money daily, make a packed lunch or take a hot drink out with you in a Thermos mug," Morrison says.

Weekly savings can come from reducing travel costs.

"You can do this by buying petrol at the cheaper end of your journey," Morrison says. "Also consider car sharing. Either ask around or look on the internet at car sharing websites. Another option is to sell your car and use public transport or get a bicycle instead."

Saving money monthly is as simple as paying bills on time to avoid penalty charges -- and, if possible, negotiating a later due date for your credit card bill.

Finally, yearly savings involves planning ahead for the days that require the most spending, according to Morrison.

"To save money yearly, plan for birthdays, holidays and festivals really early on and make cards and presents, or buy them when they are at their cheapest," Morrison says.

See related: Debt payoff strategy: Selling your stuff, UK personal finance bloggers share their financial mantras

Published: 16 May 2012