Michelle Newbold and members of our Super Solos Facebook Group share their everyday money-saving tips to help get through the cost of living crisis if you’re living alone and want to economise.
As we emerge from the pandemic, we have all become a little older and wiser. Many of us are adapting to a new normal after the last couple of years and have learned to live differently.
When it comes to our spending and successfully managing to live on less money during this time, we learned some valuable lessons back then, including how to continue living as sustainably as possible.
The current cost-of-living crisis is looming over the heads of most Brits in the UK – although Money Week talked in February 2022 of what is looking like another global crisis. The crisis sees solos facing new challenges as most of us live on a single income.
Living costs are exponentially rising, from heating homes to commuting to work, and it will have emotional and physical consequences for just about everyone. So what can we do to help ourselves get through this challenging time and carry on living sustainably and looking after our wellbeing?
When we talk about living sustainably at Solo Living, we don’t talk only about green ways to reduce the impact of climate change. Living sustainably when you’re living alone also applies to leading active and healthy lives where we look after our wellbeing and mental health.
Our financial situation can impact our wellbeing, therefore, equipping ourselves with strategies that can help us navigate the cost of living crisis and be more resilient during this time can only be beneficial.
The pandemic catalysed significant changes in our lifestyles and environment. We can take forward a lot of what we learned as we live through a cost-of-living crisis – reconsidering how we live, work and put food on the table.
What sustainable mindset can we adopt while navigating the cost of living crisis?
It can help to adopt a sustainable mindset that carries us forward and generally guides individual spending over the next year. The cost of living crisis is expected to continue at the very least until the end of the year and could start easing in 2023 with inflation stabilising in 2024 Another energy price hike of around 40% is expected in October 2022.
One advantage of having a solo income is the ability to know exactly what money is coming in and out and be able to control it. Planning ahead, budgeting and slotting in dates to do the things you most enjoy means you will be financially prepared at the same time as having something to look forward to.
Keep track of prices
Be aware of and track the cost of everything you buy – from food items, energy, petrol, and clothing to financial products and services. That way, you’ll notice when prices rise and when you might have to review your monthly budget plans.
Prioritise your spending
Prioritise your spending for the next year – identify what your fixed costs are – like mortgage or rent, energy, food and commuting and set aside that amount every month. If planning for a year seems too difficult, try at least to plan for three to four months at a time.
Don’t aim to give up things that genuinely make you happy and help keep you in a good place mentally. Rather, try and think of ways in which you can maintain your favoured lifestyle by giving up or reducing spending on what you regard as non-essentials.
Figure out what those things are by setting aside some time to really grasp what’s important to you. For example, if you definitely need a holiday abroad, ask yourself what you are prepared to economise on to allow yourself the holiday?
When you are clear and confident about your financial priorities and generally plan what you want to do over the next year, navigating the cost of living crisis can become much more manageable.
Below Michelle shares some of her personal everyday money-saving tips to help us budget and stretch our finances with even more ideas from people living alone – community members of the Solo Living Facebook Group, Super Solos.
Money-saving tips to get you through the cost of living crisis while living alone
1: Talk to your boss about flexible working
The pandemic saw a significant overhaul of the workplace, with millions of people moving to work from home. If you can do your job from home, it can help to speak with your boss about flexible working, splitting your time between the office and home.
Flexible working is a great option to help reduce your commuting costs, especially if you spend a large slice of your income each week on buying lunches, coffees, bus or train fares, petrol and car parking.
Now some of you might argue that in fact, going to work will help save on energy costs at home, and that might be true. To find out, what you really need to do is work out what your daily spending would be if you go to work including commuting costs and other purchases like buying lunch and coffee.
The cost of going to work each day might look like this:
Lunch and coffee: £4-£5
Time commuting: 2 hours, there and back
Total: £7.00 plus 2 hours of time
Then calculate the cost of working from home:
Take all of your energy bills from last year and calculate your average monthly spend. For illustration purposes, let’s say this was £100 per month. Since April 2022, let’s approximate an energy price rise of 100% making your average monthly bill this year, £200. We will divide the £100 price rise figure by 31 days (including weekends and assuming that you would have normally paid £100 whether you work from home or not).
£100/31 days = £3.22
Without lunch and coffee (which can be absorbed into your food shopping budget), this example shows that working from home, even with the price hike might still be a cost-effective option. However, it really does depend on your personal circumstances, the cost of your energy bills, food and your personal spending while out working.
The cost of commuting and where you live is also an important consideration. The average UK spend on monthly commuting is £66.31 (but this was before the energy and petrol price increases in October 2021 and April 2022) and this can also vary significantly depending on where you live – with rail travel in London being the most expensive type of commute with an average cost of £387 per month.
2: Entertainment and lifestyle savings
Although many of our entertainment and lifestyle choices were curtailed due to the pandemic, there are still ways to economise now that the world is returning to normal. Check if you have any premium digital subscriptions that are currently going unused and consider cancelling them.
Organise regular nights in with your friends and family. Have your guests bring one thing to contribute to the night, be that a bottle of wine, a starter or dessert for dinner, or a bag of snacks to share.
3: Health and beauty savings
Check if you have any local hairdressers running student training for discounted prices. A trained stylist constantly supervises hairdressing students, so don’t worry that you will come out of the salon looking like a French poodle.
By using a sponge in the shower, you can reduce the amount of shower gel you use. You can also use a cheap bottle of hair conditioner to shave your legs and underarms – and it softens your skin too!
4: Food savings
You can grow your own veg in your flower borders or planter tubs if you have a garden. If you don’t have a garden, you can still grow things like leafy greens and lettuce in a window box.
Start a compost heap and make your own compost by saving food scraps and crushed eggshells. You can use your fertiliser to grow your own flowers and vegetables.
If you are using the oven, use it well. Batch cook multiple meals and cakes and then freeze them to eat later in the week.
Investing in a slow cooker is also a great way to prepare a one-pot meal. Slow cookers use around the same amount of energy as a lightbulb, so it is a low-cost way to prepare a couple of hot meals at once.
5: eBay or car boot your unwanted possessions
Everyone has things sitting in the back of a wardrobe or cupboard that hasn’t been worn or used in months.
Having a good sort out of your possessions and using eBay or booking a space at your local car boot sale can make you some extra cash and declutter your home simultaneously.
6: Save on household cleaning products
Switch to using white vinegar to clean your home instead of many different, and more expensive cleaning products. White vinegar is effective, and it’s cheap! It is also more environmentally friendly and healthier to use than chemical-laden cleaning products.
Bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) is another inexpensive cleaning agent that you use to replace expensive cleaning products. It can be used to scour pans and remove organic stains like food residue from surfaces. In fact, there is a multitude of home cleaning problems that bicarb can solve including deodourising your fridge.
If you run a dishwasher, make sure it is full before using it and only use half a dishwasher tablet per wash. If your dishwasher is only full of drinking glasses, coffee mugs and dinner plates, you don’t need to use a whole dishwasher tablet to clean them.
Using cheap supermarket own-brand cola will clean your toilet and remove limescale build-up just as well as any expensive toilet cleaner. The citric and phosphorous acid in the cola fizzes off limescale build-up in your toilet bowl.
7: Save more energy
You may have seen ‘vampire devices’ mentioned in the news recently. These are electrical goods left on standby that will continue to drain energy when not in use.
It is estimated that an average household could save £50 – £90 per year on electricity bills by switching off these devices at the plug socket rather than leaving them on standby.
Turning off the lights when you are not in the room can save you money on your electricity bill. Turning down the thermostat by one or two degrees will hardly be noticed but can reap significant savings on heating costs. Layering the clothes you wear while at home and going to bed 30 minutes earlier can help save even more energy.
While heating bills are lower during the summer months it might be an idea to top-up your energy account now and again before the next energy price rise coming in October, as we are told. This can help offset the cost of bills during the winter months.
8: Water savings
Living sustainably also means wasting less water. If you have a water meter, you can save more water – and money off your water bill – by using clever water-saving devices.
With a water meter, every time you flush the loo it costs money. Water-saving devices can help reduce the cost by reducing the amount of water flushed from the cistern. While the flush works on the basis of the force of the water to remove waste rather than the amount of water; these devices are quite simply bags filled with water that help to maintain the water level of the cistern.
However, you don’t need to buy an expensive purpose-built device for your loo. Instead, fill an old 500ml cola bottle with water and place it in your toilet cistern. Your toilet will flush with the same force but with less water.
It goes without saying that taking a quick 2-minute shower is cheaper than running a bath. But if you put the plug in while showering, you can use the soapy water from your shower to clean your bath or shower tray afterwards to save even more water.
9: Supermarket savings
To grab yourself a bargain, plan to shop in a supermarket late at night. Most supermarkets spend the evening putting out reduced items for sale, and later at night or early morning is when you will find more reduced items on offer.
Always shop on a full stomach. Going food shopping when you are hungry is a sure way to overspend on expensive junk food and sugary treats. Make a shopping list of your essentials. Eat before you go and stick to your list.
Use money-off coupons, online and offline, by signing up to free supermarket rewards schemes.
10: Organise a clothes swapping party
A sustainable way to make the most of the clothes sitting in your wardrobe is to swap them with your friends. You can make a fun night of it and share some snacks and a bottle of wine while trying on clothes and putting on a fashion show.
Don’t forget to include accessories like handbags, jewellery, belts and scarves. It is amazing how adding a fun scarf to an old jacket can give it a new lease of life.
11. Boost Your Finances
Do you have spare time that you can use to make some extra cash? What skills do you have that you can put to good use and what hobbies can you turn into an income stream? Virtual assistants, childminding, social media assistance, writing, tutoring and crafting are just a few ways to make some extra money. Websites like Upwork, People Per Hour, Fivver and Task Rabbit are platforms where you can set yourself up as a freelancer. A side hustle can help earn some extra cash, boost your finances and we all know every little bit helps.
More money-saving tips to get you through the cost of living crisis from people who live alone – members of our Facebook group, Super Solos – Living Alone Community:
- Get a lodger
- Buy a blanket and turn the heating down a couple of degrees.
- Batch cook and freeze meals.
- Eat less meat.
- Buy a quilted gilet, especially if you work from home, I’ve had one for years.
- Shower for a shorter length of time by setting a timer
- Always annualise energy payments, so pay more per month in the summer to subsidise winter costs.
What I have no idea about is further measures, I’ve been doing most of the above for years!
- I batch cook and freeze meals. Remember to get them out of the freezer on the morning you want to use them – saves on electricity by not having to defrost in the microwave or oven.
- Use a throw on the sofa to keep yourself warm.
- Shut doors to keep the room warm.
- Buy thermal blinds and curtains.
- Don’t put the heating on a timer.
- Switch off any sockets that are not in use.
- I don’t switch my oven on unless I need it – it has a clock but I already have two, so don’t need it.
- Pay the same monthly amount for your energy bills all year to “save up” for winter usage.
- Grow some veg if you have the space – it’s more fun than you think!
- Bulk-buying a 24 pack of loo roll is way cheaper than 6 four-packs. A huge bag of pasta/rice is cheaper than the small ones: a larger box of teabags is better value than smaller ones and this stops the need to go to the shops frequently and then spend money you don’t need to!
- Don’t leave things on standby if you don’t have to – it takes two seconds to plug it in and switch it on!
Well at this point I’m not sure. However, it looks like renting out my condo. I’ll be looking for a housesitting opportunity for the winter.
Check your bank statement for direct debits…are you paying for something you don’t use? If you have a pet on expensive long term medication check online to see if a prescription from your vet and ordering online is cheaper than getting medication direct from the vet. Be conscious of prices at all times so it’s easier to compare while shopping.
Although you can’t save anything on gas and electricity at the moment, I have saved by doing an audit on other household bills.
- Saved £5 a month by badgering my broadband provider to be put on their cheapest plan.
- Moved debt onto an interest-free credit card, saving approx. £20 a month.
- Cancelled Netflix and instead, I am using free streaming apps like Pluto, saving £6.99 a month.
- Cut approx. £2 a month by shopping around for car insurance.
- Cycling instead of driving to work – approx. £15 a month saving.
- Always look out for yellow stickers when food shopping.
- Consider charity shops when clothes shopping.
- Replace big brands with supermarket own or even value brands when shopping.
- Consider B and M, Home Bargains and Poundland for household items, as they are often cheaper than supermarkets.
- When driving, check your tyres are at the correct pressure and that you’re not carrying around junk in the boot.
10, At home switch off items at the plug when not using and defrost your fridge/freezer regularly.
I got rid of my cooker. I don’t batch cook so it works out cheaper for me to use my combination microwave for oven cooking. I have a hot plate for stove cooking, two slow cookers, a small one and a larger size, a steamer and a George Forman. I have saved loads by not using a cooker.
- Always compare your renewals – contents/buildings/car insurance, internet, mobile, and energy through one of the comparing sites.
- Claim cashback through Top Cashback (and other similar cashback sites). I was really sceptical about this but have got back about £800 over the past 4 years. You can use them to buy all sorts. I use it just for renewals and then check the prices on comparison sites.
Batch cooking is the way to go. Despite the hard times I still want to entertain so when cooking I’ll add a little extra and have that for dinner the next day or so.
- Keep on top of household maintenance to prevent expensive problems e.g. resealing baths and showers, and regularly ensuring plugs and drains are clear and clean. I also put aside a small sum each month specifically for my car servicing, repairs etc (recognise this isn’t an option for many).
- A gilet at home was mentioned. I find those lightly padded jackets that fold into a bag perfect for wearing at home on top of clothes (I know some people wear dressing gowns ).
- To save on water consumption, small things do add up. E.g. you can reuse the water for boiling eggs to water the plants (after the water has cooled). Or the leftover water in your gym bottle can be poured pour into the plants.
- Invest in household systems that help to save – a friend of mine invested in a rain-water recycling system, where rainwater is captured and then piped in to flush the toilets or for gardening usage, but of course, this only works if you are in a house, and not an apartment. If it’s within budget, installing solar panels also helps to save on electricity.
- Opt for a pressure cooker to cut the time required for stewing and slow-cooking.
- Opt for an air fryer and reduce oven time – air fryers, on average, run at about 1500 watts as opposed to the estimated 2.3kWh that are used to run an oven. So, in other words, an air fryer uses about half the energy. For solos, an air fryer can be used for smaller solo meals too.
- Change to energy-saving bulbs.
- Close window curtains to contain the heat. Over here, there is also the possibility to have double layer curtains, where the outer layer is a synthetic plastic-like fabric which helps to insulate the room.
We hope you find some of our tips helpful if you are looking to economise and save money during this cost-of-living crisis and we would like to thank our Super Solos Group Members for contributing to this article. Please share money-saving tips of your own with the rest of the Solo Community by commenting below.
More Articles – Cost Of Living Crisis: Money-Saving Tips
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Which?: Ease The Squeeze
ThisIsMoney: Five Ways To Boost Your Finances