After a joint quarter-life crisis at 30, Mr and Mrs Frugalwoods (not their real name) decided to save 71 per cent of their salaries by penny-pinching and bought a 66-acre homestead in Vermont where they now live. She kicked her habit of $18 yoga classes by volunteering as a receptionist at the studio for 30 minutes a week in exchange for a free class, hasn’t bought clothes for more than two and half years (thanks to some “awesomely durable undies”) and valiantly lets her husband cut her hair. They describe their lifestyle as “luxurious frugality” and are striving to build an online community of like-minded people (no, it’s not a cult).
How it makes moneyThey may be backwood bohos now, but the Frugalwoods aren’t hicks. They have cash reserves, a second property that they let out and sizeable stock-market investments. Then there’s the money that comes from online endorsements (everything from financial packages to kitchen equipment).
Tightwad tip The 72-hour rule: do not buy anything (except out-and-out necessities like prescription medication) for at least 72 hours after you initially consider buying it.
To say that the fashion stylist Alexandra Stedman is not exactly living the life of a pauper would be an understatement, and she’s the first to admit that her site “is not about living off toast every night”. However, if you want to carry a Gucci Dionysus bag and spend £130 on pyjamas, then who are we to judge?
She’s sensible with money where she can be, she says, to afford her variation of luxurious frugality. There’s not a homestead in sight for the queen of high street bargains as she poses in picturesque London streets in £13 tops from Uniqlo and heels she has picked up in the sales for £12 (as well as some £279 leather trousers).
How it makes money Software tracking means that if someone buys a product that’s recommended by her on the site, she makes a commission.
Tightwad tip Sell old bags on Vestiaire and Tictail in order to splash out on a new designer one.
One day, bored stay-at-home dad Ricky Willis and his wife, Naomi, from Tunbridge Wells found their bank balance had dropped to £6, with not enough to buy nappies for their daughter. He blogged about surviving on the breadline and it resonated with their readers. More than 150,000 people now visit their site each month, keen for tips on how to manage money better and their cheap nappy finder that locates the cheapest brand for the size you want. Ricky occasionally pops up in the tabloids with his interesting money-saving ideas, such as how to keep the cold at bay with a rice-filled old sock.
How it makes money Partnerships with different brands, earning commission from affiliates and advertising.
Tightwad tip Sell your cardboard toilet rolls on Ebay. They’re popular with arts and crafts lovers and people who want to grow seeds. Selling 50 can make you about £7.
If you live in Manchester, this week you may bump into the self-proclaimed “label maven with a beady eye for bargains and a craving for saving” at your nearest pound shop, stocking up on Christmas detritus (she points out that Poundland is more like 5p-25p-land). This pennywise enthusiast says no to debt and yes to thrifty hacks, alerting her 12,000 Twitter followers and readers to discount deals for food, fashion, holidays and weddings — and how to get water-company freebies because what more could a girl ask for?
How it makes money Advertising and by two affiliate sites: Skimlinks and Affiliate Window.
Tightwad tip Fill ice-cube trays with the dregs of sauces, herbs and leftover wine to reuse at a later date and, voila, you’ve slashed your grocery bill (if, that is, you avoid accidentally putting your chicken stock ice cubes into your next gin and tonic).
Cooking on a Bootstrap
As a single mother in Southend with a weekly shopping budget of £10, Jack Monroe blogged about cooking imaginatively with supermarket own-brand ingredients. The blog gained more than 100,000 followers eager for recipes for essentials such as soffritto paste, vegan banana pot and beetroot burgers, which helped Monroe to become a newspaper columnist before signing a book deal for a reported £25,000.
How it makes money Monroe sells prints of food on the site as well as advertising and has published two books.
Tightwad tip Make a pancake from gram flour and little else. Nutritious and delicious? You decide.
The No Spend Year
You’d be wrong if you thought that personal-finance journalists are good with money — at least in Michelle McGagh’s case since she haemorrhaged cash on goods she didn’t need. Feeling suffocated, she wanted to lead a more minimalist lifestyle so set herself the challenge of giving up all but essential spending for a whole year. In her 12 months of radical frugality she used vinegar as a household cleaner, cycled 120 miles to a wedding and rummaged for leftover food from the bins at the back of shops, which helped her to overpay £23,000 on her mortgage. If you don’t mind sitting in a bar nursing a pint of tap water while your friends knock back prosecco, McGagh could be your financial guru.
How it makes money Her book, The No Spend Year, was published earlier this month.
Tightwad tip Mix oats with water to use as an exfoliator.
Mean Queen – Life After Money
Not a blog by Lindsay Lohan about being down and out in Hollywood but a 67-year-old’s guide to living on an annual budget of about £2,400. Ilona Richards, a retired lorry driver from Scunthorpe, was dubbed Britain’s most frugal pensioner when she told guests to bring their own teabags to her house, but don’t let this apparent lack of largesse put you off.
It’s worth visiting her site just to see how she constructs a summer house out of some old pallets and discarded front doors (Laurence Llewelyn Bowen, eat your heart out). Endearingly grumpy (“Grrrr, I hate housework”), the Mean Queen’s often bizarre money-saving tips involve everything from reusing margarine tubs to recycling bath water.
How it makes money It probably doesn’t. Richards refuses silver-pound sponsorship or advertising. “I don’t accept freebies and I won’t give you any bullshit.”
Tightwad tip Make your own plant feed by soaking nettles in a tub of water. It smells horrible, but it’s free.