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How to reduce your living expenses

Updated on August 26, 2013
Saving | Source

It sometimes seems that no matter how much money we earn it is never enough. As fast as we find ways to increase our income, fate steps in and our monthly expenses increase, e.g. a rent increase, a baby arrives, the washing machine breaks down etc. The important thing is that we are prepared for these events, and that we find easy ways to save money on a daily basis just in case! There are so many ways to save money and make it stretch, just ask any adult who lived through World War II and they will tell you how ingenious families became when every scrap of food and clothing mattered. Some of those people found it hard to break those habits, and I for one saw (and still see) some evidence of this in my own Mother who was only a child during the second world war. I guess being frugal was a hard habit to break even once rationing was at an end.

Today of course we are not restricted by rationing or a World War that effects our day to day supplies, but there are still many lessons to be learned from the people who did live through World War II, and there are also many ways we can cut our costs and save money by making a few simple changes to the way we do things now. Even if each change we make only saves us a small amount, as the old English expression goes 'You take care of the pence, and the pounds will take care of themselves'. I guess you could adapt this expression by simply changing 'pence' to 'cents' and 'pounds' to 'dollars' and the message would be the same.

I intend this hub to illustrate a number of ways that individuals or families can save money by cutting costs in relatively painless ways. Once these methods become a habit you will barely notice you are using them, but your bank balance or the money left in your purse will show you that they do work and your money can stretch a whole lot further than it has been doing up to now.

Food | Source


Every year thousands of tonnes of perfectly edible foods are thrown away, mostly because we take the 'use by' or 'best before' dates literally. We frequently serve up too much food so there is a large amount of wastage, or the supermarkets throw good food away when it meets its dates. Here are some great ways to save money when it comes to your food bills.

  • When it come to use by dates or best before dates use your common sense. If a vegetable still looks fresh and crisp, then it is still okay to eat no matter what the packet says. Even meat (if it has been stored correctly) has some leeway on the dates on the packaging. The dates always err on the side of caution, so most meats will be good for at least a couple of days after the date recommended on the packaging. Products like milk can be smelt to determine if they are still good or not. In other words use your senses of smell, sight, touch and taste to determine the edible quality of food you might otherwise have thrown away.
  • Buy foods in the supermarket that have been reduced in price due to short dates. Quite often if you head to the supermarket an hour or two before closing time they will have dramatically have dropped their prices on goods due to go out of date at midnight. We have bought whole joints of meat for 10p before now, and providing you freeze them you can eat them weeks later and they will be perfectly okay. Canned goods last for years, so again buy any of these you see reduced, (just make sure the cans are not dented.)
  • Serve smaller portions. The amount of food that is scraped from plates into bins because the eater was full is incredible. As it is we live in an increasingly obese society, so serving smaller portions is healthier all round, as well as being cheaper.
  • Use leftovers to make other meals. Instead of throwing away the remainder of your cooked meat and vegetables, try converting them into other dishes, e.g. leftover roast dinner soup or bubble and squeak. Cooked meat can be used for sandwiches the next day, or included in stews, casseroles, shepherd's pies etc. Even if you simply use it to add to meat you have already cooked or browned for recipes it helps to bulk up the volume.
  • Buy 'own brands' in the supermarkets as opposed to premium brands. The price differences are very significant, and honestly when it comes to products like canned tomatoes or sweetcorn, you really won't know the difference taste-wise.
  • Grow vegetables at home because not only will this save you a lot of money, but you will be eating far fresher and healthier vegetables than those purchased from a supermarket.
  • Change your houseplants for vegetables you can grow indoors, e.g. salad leaves, cress, bean sprouts, herbs etc.
  • Keep a few chickens for eggs.You can guarantee the eggs will be fresher than any you can buy in the shops, and you can also boil up all your vegetable peelings to feed to them, as well as any stale bread, cabbage stalks etc. They will need some proper mixed corn on top of this of course, but the eggs should still work out cheaper than in the shops.
  • Make your own packed lunches, both for your children to take to school and for yourselves. The amount we spend annually on ready packaged sandwiches and fast food from shops is incredible, and there are big savings to be made by making your own at home instead.

Clothes | Source


Clothing is a significant expense for all of us, and no-one wants to be seen wearing the same clothes year after year. Children grow out of clothes and they need replacing, plus of course clothes do wear out. Here are a few ideas to save money on your clothing.

  • Visit charity shops. There are frequently some amazing bargains to be had in charity shops, and often the clothes still have the tags in because the person who donated them never got around to wearing them, or found out the clothes didn't fit when they did. Even those without tags have often only been worn once or twice, and an outfit that might have cost a couple of hundred pounds or dollars, is suddenly available to you for only a few pounds or dollars.
  • Speak to your child's school about setting up a school uniform recycling scheme. These allow parents to donate the uniforms their children have outgrown to the scheme, and parents who are struggling to afford to buy uniforms can have them instead. Remember when your child leaves school to donate any uniforms back to the scheme in order to help out another family.
  • 'Hand Me Downs' are another good way to stretch the life of your children's clothes. If you have more than one child of the same sex you can often pass outgrown clothes on to the next child. Children grow so fast that there is often plenty of wear left in the clothes, and this is a great way to ensure you get value for money out of them. Alternatively you can swap these outgrown clothes with other parents you are friends with that have children of a similar age.
  • Get shoes re-heeled rather than buying a new pair.

Electricity | Source

Electricity Bills

There are many ways to reduce your electricity bills, but here I will include some of the basic ones that are going to make a noticeable difference when you receive your quarterly statement.

  • Change as many light bulbs as you can for energy efficient ones. Although these seem quite expensive they quickly pay for themselves from the savings you make.
  • Turn your heating down by 1 degree Celsius. Over a year this makes a big saving.
  • As above but turn the thermostat on your hot water tank down by 1 degree Celsius.
  • If you have a cheaper electric tariff during certain hours, make sure you use those hours to run washing machines, dishwashers, immersion heaters etc.
  • Use the microwave whenever possible as this is far cheaper than using ovens, stoves and kettles.
  • Share baths as this conserves hot water. If the bath is too small for two at once, use it one after the other.
  • Shower rather than having a bath for the same reason as above.
  • Turn off your heating and visit friend's houses instead.
  • Turn out lights in rooms or corridors that are not in use.
  • Turn off your televisions at the wall when they are not being watched, as even on standby a television uses almost as much electricity as when the picture is on.
  • Only put as much water in the kettle as you actually need rather than filling it up completely.

Social Life
Social Life | Source

Social Life

We all enjoy a night out, but is there a way we can still have a social life without it becoming an unaffordable luxury?

  • Reduce the amount of nights you go out. You don't have to stop going out altogether, just keep it to sensible levels.
  • Buy beer or wine from the supermarket instead of in the bar or pub. You can always invite a few friends over and ask them to bring their own alcohol.
  • If you are in the bar or pub with friends don't get into the 'round buying' trap. Far better to say you prefer to buy your own because you are trying to save. Most friends will understand this and it doesn't mean you can't still socialize with them.

Coupons | Source

Home and Garden

There are lots of ways to save money at home, and not always the ones you might immediately think of.

  • Put a brick in your toilet cistern to save money on your water bill.
  • As I said earlier, but for different reasons, have a shower rather than a bath as this too will save money on your water bill.
  • Set up a water butt/barrel in your garden and collect rainwater for your garden. Again this will keep your water bills down.
  • Charge your adult children still living at home a sensible rent/keep, and make sure you are not guilty of subsidizing them.
  • Rent out a spare room to a lodger. Alternatively take in foreign exchange students because the companies that organize their trips usually pay quite well, and you only need to have the students for a week or two at a time.
  • Share your WiFi with a nearby neighbor and split the cost.
  • Use free WiFi available in public places rather than having it at home.
  • Use Skype instead of your telephone to make phone calls.
  • Make your children pay for their mobile phone bills out of their pocket money/allowance rather than you paying their bills.
  • If you have any spare land rent some out for grazing or for allotments.
  • Consider downsizing to a smaller more affordable property.
  • Buy one of those gadgets that allows you to mix your old newspapers with water and then compress them into blocks you can burn instead of logs.
  • Save bottles that offer money back as this can quickly add up to a nice amount of money, as well as being environmentally friendly.
  • Start cutting out coupons from newspapers and magazines and use them to make savings in the supermarkets.

Transport | Source


The cost of getting from A to B can be cut considerably by making a few easy changes to either your car or your means of traveling.

  • Walk to work, the shops or school instead of using the car.
  • Cycle to work, the shops or school instead of using the car.
  • Car share with work colleagues so you take it in turns to drive each other to work. The same can be done with other parents and school runs.
  • Use public transport instead of your own car.
  • Get a smaller lower performance car that won't be such a gas guzzler.
  • Always run your car from nearly full rather than nearly empty, because you lose less fuel to evaporation within the fuel tank if there is no air space for it to evaporate into.
  • Don't fill the trunk/boot of the car with unnecessary junk that you end up carrying around with you. This only increases fuel consumption and serves no useful purpose.
  • Don't leave roof boxes on your car unless you need them because they increase wind resistance, and therefore your fuel consumption.
  • Check your tire/tyre pressures weekly, as if the pressure drops too low your fuel consumption goes up.
  • Avoid using air conditioning in your vehicle because it immediately increases your fuel consumption.
  • Drive slower.

Credit Cards
Credit Cards | Source


Some of the best ways to save money don't really fall clearly into any of the above categories so I have amalgamated them here instead.

  • Use banana skins instead of shoe polish as they contain a natural oil that will really make your shoes shine.
  • Cut up your store cards and credit cards because they are just a temptation to live beyond your means, and you end up paying even more for goods and services because of the interest these cards charge if you don't pay them off completely at the end of the month.
  • Buy clippers and cut your own hair (men mainly) rather than paying a barber or hairdresser to clip it for you.
  • Look for own brand products or special offers on household essentials when you are shopping. Lots of items like shampoos, toilet rolls, kitchen rolls, bleach, washing up liquid etc can be purchased more cheaply if they are the supermarket's own brand, and often they are on great deals like 'buy one, get one free' etc.
  • Smoking. If you can I strongly suggest quitting smoking as a major way to save money (I did and saved a fortune), but if you really can't stop right now, then at least stop buying ready rolled cigarettes and buy loose tobacco and papers instead. Roll ups are much cheaper to smoke than ready rolled cigarettes.
  • Have a garage sale and clear out any items you no longer want, need or use. This can produce a very handy lump sum.
  • Agree with your spouse or adult relatives not to buy gifts for each other on certain occasions/holidays, e.g. Valentines Days, Birthdays, Easters, Christmases etc. If this seems too drastic why not do something together that you all chip in for instead, e.g. a meal out?
  • If you have debts then consider getting help from a debt advisory service. Quite often they can negotiate with your creditors on your behalf and get substantial sums slashed from your debts and interest charges waived. You may even be able to get this service free if you contact your local citizen's advice bureau.


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    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      9 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks Sharyn, so pleased you liked this and found it useful :)

    • Sharyn's Slant profile image

      Sharon Smith 

      9 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

      Great hub with wonderful, unique tips. I really loved the "brick in the toilet" - it truly makes sense, less water, yup.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      9 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks Eddy, pleased you liked this :)

    • Eiddwen profile image


      9 years ago from Wales

      A brilliant hub and thank you for sharing. an up up and away from me.

      I wish you a great day.


    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      9 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks so much tireless traveler, that is great feedback to receive :)

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 

      9 years ago from California

      Spectacular hub. Love the pig picture. Voted up interesting and useful.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      9 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks Lisa, that is a brilliant comment, and totally proves that if 'you take care of the pence, the pounds will take care of themselves'. Our local Co-Op supermarket give us a 4p dividend in an account for every pound we spend with them. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays we get double dividend, only half of it is paid to us in 4p stamps. We stick the stamps on cards that end up holding £1 worth each. We are free to spend these (or the contents of our dividend account) any time we like, but most people save both up for Christmas and use it towards their shopping.

      During December if we spend the cards in store we are given an extra 5p per stamp card. Most years my Hubby and I accumulate about £180 between our account and the stamp cards. This is well worth having, and the goods in the Co-Op are cheaper than most supermarkets anyway.


    • Rusticliving profile image

      Liz Rayen 

      9 years ago from California

      Misty! This is a great Hub. So many things you have listed that I can still do to save money! I do however do quite a bit and those pennies really add up! One of the things I am adamant about is every night I empty my change into my big jar and don't touch it. Last year, I managed to save $900+! Voted way up and shared!


    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      9 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Glad you liked this cclitgirl, the banana peel works well apparently, and of course the added plus is you get to eat the banana inside first.

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      9 years ago from Western NC

      You're my kind of thinker. Yep, I love your tips. I had been polishing shoes with olive oil and lemon, but I'll have to try the banana peel trick. Nice! Voted up.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      9 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks Paradise, I agree the wastage of food is just as bad here in Britain, and it drives me mad that our local shop won't even let me buy a 'just' out of date loaf of bread to feed to the birds because it is 'against company policy'. They won't even give it away!!

      Glad you enjoyed this hub :)

    • Paradise7 profile image


      9 years ago from Upstate New York

      Good hub, you hit the high points, for sure. It always bothers me how much we waste in America, in a variety of ways. Wasting food is especially appalling to me, as there are people elsewhere who are desperately hungry.

      All of your tips are sound and doable. Thanks for another good hub.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      9 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks Christin, will look it up. By the way, you can post links in the comments if you ask the author of the hub first, and they will hyperlink okay. Feel free to post the link in this comments section if you like :)

    • ChristinS profile image

      Christin Sander 

      9 years ago from Midwest

      Hi Misty - as it turns out the more aerodynamic your car is the more drag is produced - seems strange but the study was conducted by the society of automotive engineers and they tested a big SUV and a sedan. Anyway I can send you a message with a link because I can't post links in the comments - but if you google the study you can find it pretty easily. Look for SAE study on fuel efficiency. I only know this because I wrote a paper on this topic a couple of years back lol. I was shocked too because I always drove with the windows down - still do in town but on the highway I definitely don't anymore. It's like up to a 20% difference in consumption which can add up.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      9 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Hi Cardisa, thanks so much for commenting, and I am really pleased to hear you already grow your own veggies and keep chickens. That is fantastic :)

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      9 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Hi Millionaire tips, really pleased I have managed to give you at least a couple of new ideas to save money :)

      Hi Cristin, I see your point on the AC in the car, but of course this would probably have far more of an impact if you are driving fast. Fortunately where we live the speed limit is 35 mph, so the speed we are traveling has little 'drag' impact from having the windows open. I do however notice even the 'revs' of the engine immediately go up as soon as I turn on our AC, so unless it is very hot I rarely use it. I would be interested to read one of those scientific studies if you have any links to them. I am still struggling to see how the drag factor would come in unless the open window was your actual windscreen, as the air should be flowing past the side windows rather than in to them full blast. Glad you enjoyed this article and thanks for commenting :)

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      9 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks Julianna, I am glad you found a few ideas here :)

      Hi Bob, thanks for commenting (agree with you about the bankers). Yes re-Romney, I had forgotten you used to farm in Ivychurch.

      Hi Susan, thanks so much for your feedback. I agree totally that popping slightly stale baked goods in the microwave for a few seconds really freshens them up.

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 

      9 years ago from Jamaica

      Anamika S has a point. While saving and conserving I also am giulty of spending on the best food and clothing, especially shoes. In Jamaica the roads are quite rough and in most cases the best and longest wearing shoes are the most expensive. I figure if I buy two pairs per year that save me from buying 6 cheap ones.

      I like your tips though and I have been trying to grow my own veges and have my own chickens. Very useful article.

    • ChristinS profile image

      Christin Sander 

      9 years ago from Midwest

      Awesome hub filled with great information that people should be aware of. Having lived the frugal lifestyle for some time, I make use of many of these tips.

      There's only one point I would disagree on - the air conditioning in the car. If it is too hot, it has been shown scientifically that cars burn less fuel with the AC on than with the windows down. The windows down makes the car less aerodynamic and causes significant drag reducing gas mileage further.

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 

      9 years ago from USA

      So much great information here on saving money. There are a couple I haven't tried yet! Thanks.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      9 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      You've covered everything here on how to save money with many excellent cost saving tips. Drinking at home is by far so much cheaper than going to a bar. What you said about the food expiry dates is so true. Many times I'll pick up baked goods and if they seem a little stale I pop them into the microwave to heat them up a bit. Makes a huge difference.

      Up and very useful!

    • diogenes profile image


      9 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Useful article for all except bankers who just steal more as they need it. For myself, i just can't be assed thinking about saving and all the ways to do it. If I have the money, i buy whatever, if not, not. I live alone for the moment so it's easy in some ways to handle a small budget without much analysing.

      If you are a homemaker with kids it's all much more complex of course, and your sensible hub will be welcome.

      Golly: we've come a long way, Missy, from the days in Romney, no?? (I used to farm there in Ivychurch).


    • AEvans profile image


      9 years ago from SomeWhere Out There

      I love garage sales and cutting men's hair at home is a great idea! I am pretty tight when it comes to my bills but do like to splurge once in a while. lolo! I am going to bookmark and hold on to thest tips! Voted up and shared! :)

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      9 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      LOL Anamika, I guess you are better off than some! I have had a time in my life where I bought clothes in a charity shop, but simply because I literally had no money and could barely afford to eat bread each day. Suddenly clothes from a 'new' shop seemed so low on the importance scale ;)

      Thanks for the vote 'up' and 'useful', I really appreciate it :)

    • Anamika S profile image

      Anamika S Jain 

      9 years ago from Mumbai - Maharashtra, India

      Food and Clothes... I will never be stingy with money on that. For that matter, I don't think I will ever be stingy with money because I am the sort who 'shops till i drop'. Good Hub, Voted up and useful!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      9 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks so much marcoujor, delighted you found this helpful :)

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 

      9 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Solidly packed with practical suggestions on every level!

      Great job... Voted UP & Useful and Informative.

      Hugs, mar.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      9 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks Kathleen, glad there were so many useful tips for you here. I also appreciate you sharing your own tip, they all help :)

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 

      9 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Great hub. You filled it to overflowing with great tips. Many I've heard before, but it's great to have them all in one place. I'm bookmarking this hub for future reference.

      One trick that has served me well: On payday, if I have any money left in my bank account, I move it over to savings and start again with just my paycheck. It's a way to reward myself for not spending every single dime (and sometimes that's all I have left to put in savings). And it feels good to see it accumulate.

      Up and useful.


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