Wescot considers how frugal living can help reduce expenses

‘Frugal living’ is all about finding ways to keep waste to a minimum and keeping expenses as low as possible. An important part of it involves avoiding spending money for its own sake and about approaching decision making when it comes to buying goods and services in a restrained way. It can involve a smarter approach to shopping; about staying well informed on special offers and the best value services. On a practical level it can involve taking a long hard look at existing spending habits and looking for smart ways to improve those habits to make an existing budget stretch further.

All of this can be especially useful for anyone whose household expenditure tends to be higher than their income or who are struggling to repay household debts. Wescot is a member of the Credit Services Association and is committed to shaping best practice for the debt collection industry. A snapshot of the company is contained in online Wescot profiles. The company recognises the important role played by independent debt advisory bodies in helping consumers to deal with difficult financial situations – including ways to reduce the cost of living. Here, Wescot considers some of the ways in which outgoings can be reduced to help balance household budgets through frugal living.

Ways to reduce the cost of bills

With some services, there are so many different providers and price plans available, it can be difficult to identify the best deal. This is the case across a range of areas including car and household insurance, gas and electricity providers, credit cards, supermarkets, phone and broadband. With so much variation in costs, consumers may find that exactly the same service is available elsewhere for much cheaper. Price comparison websites are a very useful starting point when looking at essential services. They typically allow consumers to compare hundreds of different products to choose the best deals to meet an individual’s circumstances. In particular, there is often plenty of scope for savings to be made when it comes to broadband and mobile phones. Providers can sometimes be unhelpful when it comes to offering customers the right deals to suit their circumstances. As such, it pays to check phone bills regularly to make sure that call time, text allowance and data usage is not consistently above or a long way below the allowance included in the existing deal.

Ways of living more frugally when it comes to food and drink

Smarter grocery shopping and considering carefully what to buy can go a long way in helping a household budget stretch further. It can bring health benefits too – as it often means avoiding those types of products that are both expensive and unhealthy. Opting for supermarket own-brand and basic ranges is often a very effective way of producing significant savings. What is more, as is often demonstrated in independent consumer testing, supermarket brands are often shown to be just as good – if not better than some of the better known general brands. It is also worth looking for supermarkets that offer good rewards schemes.

One of the biggest challenges when it comes to food shopping is in ensuring that there is as little waste as possible so that perishables do not have to be thrown out before a family has the chance to use them. Drawing up a meal plan for the week should mean that a family buys only those things it needs and is not left with wasted food. This approach also means that it is easier to take advantage of the cost benefits that can be gained through buying in bulk. There is room here to be flexible – for example by taking advantage of special deals that supermarkets offer from time to time. It is important, however, not to be duped by special discounts such as buy-one-get-one-free offers. Remember that a deal is only a good one if it is for an item that is actually going to be used – not thrown away.

Ready meals may be convenient, but very often they are high in fat, sugar and salt. Buying the raw ingredients for a meal not only tends to be cheaper, it is usually tastier and healthier too. The tastiest meals do not necessarily require the most expensive raw ingredients either. For instance, instead of heading straight for prime fillets, look out for cheaper cuts of meat. When cooked slowly, these cuts can form the basis of an appetizing meal at low cost.

Frugal use of fuel

The rising cost of gas and electricity over recent times has meant that for many families, fuel bills make up a significant proportion of household budgets. Frugal use of fuel and simple adaptations to a home can help cut the cost of keeping a home warm. This can be as simple as turning down the heat by just a small amount; taking control of the thermostat and reducing room temperatures by as little as 1 degree C could have the effect of reducing heating bills by almost 10%. A large proportion of heat in a home tends to disperse through the roof. Installing roofing insulation or else bolstering existing insulation could result in significant yearly savings. Replacing an old boiler may involve a significant outlay, but the long term effects of greater efficiency may mean that that outlay is soon recouped in the form of much lower bills.