How to Live on One Hundred British Pounds Per Month

Instead of writing my usual Sunday Special post, I thought I would write something different instead. Today I want to talk about the bare minimum that one person needs to survive in such an expensive city as London. Okay, this is a bit dramatic, but I am sure you get the point. The title of this post should actually read HOW TO LIVE ON ONE HUNDRED BRITISH POUNDS PER MONTH AFTER THE BILLS ARE PAID, but I would like to think this is pretty self-explanatory.

Have you ever wondered how much money you actually need on food and other basic needs each month? Well, I have and back in May I decided to find out. Since I started this blog, I have been on a “spending crash diet”. If you read my last two Sunday Special posts (one and two), you probably remember that I spent very little on my grocery shopping and personal care items. Well, I have not been doing this for just those two weeks; this has been going on for over two months now (apart from one week when I went to Italy). The rule of the game is simple: I only buy things that I need and nothing else. By need I mean things like food, personal care items and cleaning products.

Let me assure you that this experience has been a real eye-opener for me, it has not been as hard as I thought it would be and the valuable lesson that I have learned is I don’t need a lot to enjoy life. When I started my “spending crash diet” I had two conditions: this is a three month experiment and my “diet” must stop if it makes me feel unhappy. Don’t worry, I have some cash set aside if this stops working for me.

This is what I did to save big bucks and squeeze all my needs into one hundred pounds per month. For comparison, my monthly travel card costs more than that. Shocking, I know.

CUT OUT THE UNNECESSARY

I don’t really need the latest issue of yet another magazine. Nowadays, you can find any information you need online. Celebrity gossip, fashion, food, sport; you name it, it’s there. Also, you can always re read your old magazines; they will seem brand new to you.
I don’t really need take-away coffee. I used to love Starbucks and had a Starbucks card that I would regularly top up to pay for my coffee and get a free drink after purchasing, like, fifteen. Perhaps, I am not a big coffee lover after all, but cutting out my usual trips to Starbucks was the easiest thing I had to do so far.
I also gave up buying DVDs and sold about one hundred I had already. It freed up so much space in my bedroom and earned me some extra cash. Yes, I kept all my Sex and the City DVDs. Seriously, this is a real need!

FULL SHOPPING BAN

I do not remember the last time I bought a piece of clothing. I really don’t. I have a closet full of clothes and 1/3 of it is brand new or worn once or twice before. What do I need new clothes for? My guess is that I will not need any new clothing until the end of this year (if not longer). I mean, I have eight different coats alone. Eight! I won’t even mention my shoes and bag collection.

CUT YOUR GROCERY BILL IN HALF

I wrote a separate post on this subject some time ago. The main tips include making a shopping list, collecting points by scanning a loyalty card, meal planning, buying in bulk and downgrading to own store brands where possible. My diet is pretty healthy and I buy a lot of fruit and veggies, cook yummy meals at home and pack my lunch to work. I occasionally treat myself to chocolate, sweets and other yumminess (Is this even a word? It sounds pretty cool). Yes, I may have downgraded some items to store own brands, like rice and pasta, and personally I do not have a problem with this, but I do not deprive myself of anything. I still buy pineapples, mangoes and other expensive fruit along with avocados and asparagus. Perhaps not every week, but whenever I feel like it.

EATING OUT/GOING OUT BAN

Eating out is perhaps the most difficult part of being on a “spending crash diet”. I love eating out. I miss catching up with my girlfriends in fashionable London bars and restaurants, and I don’t mind one- or two-hour wait to be seated. Yes, this is how dedicated I am when it comes to food. I used to spend some serious cash on eating out and although I miss this experience, it helps to not have this spending category in my budget. I have initially set a £70 budget for this, but later on changed it to £0. This is not a need, especially when I am “crash dieting”.
As for going out, my party days are over, and I sure don’t miss my late nights out. These days my weekends are more productive than ever.

FIND FRUGAL WAYS TO HAVE FUN

Spend time outdoors, go for a walk or a bike ride; have a picnic with your friends or a night in watching films; spend your afternoon in an art gallery or attend a free exhibition; or take a camera and play a tourist in your own city. There are so many alternatives to expensive pastime that will not break the bank. Having fun does not have to cost much (if anything!).

CUT OUT THE LUXURIES

The last time I had my hair cut and dyed was back in January. Yes, it has been that long. It is perfectly okay for me to not have my hair dyed at all. My natural hair colour is not that different from the one they use to dye my hair. I would like to have a cut though.
As to manis & pedies, these are no longer things I get done, I do it myself. What else do I have all these expensive Nails Inc. nail polishes for?

EXERCISE FOR FREE

Cancel your gym membership and exercise for free at home or outdoors. I have two great workout DVDs by Jillian Michaels (she is the best, no joke!) and a pair of dumbbells. If you are into yoga and meditation, this can be done at home too. If you do not like the idea of exercising at home, go for a run in the park or along the river. It is much healthier to exercise outdoors than in a stuffy gym and it is totally free. I have one exception to this rule – if your employer pays for your gym membership in full, take it!

This may not be for everyone, but it sure helped me set my priorities straight. Well, my results are in. Although I still have one month left to go, I thought I would share my progress with you. Here are my figures so far.

JUNE 2013 – Total Spend £75.44
Groceries £48.22
Personal Care/Cleaning Products £27.22
* I didn’t have to buy any groceries for one week in June (but if I had done I would have still been under the £100 mark).
JULY 2013 – Total Spend £79.43
Groceries £57.08
Personal Care/Cleaning Products £22.35
* I was in Italy the first week of July and had a separate holiday budget. Had I been at home, I would have probably managed to stay within the £100 mark for the whole month.

I have mentioned this before but for my new readers I will mention this again – I get invited to different events as I work in corporate travel and entertainment business. From time to time, I attend hotel functions, restaurant openings, gala dinners, sporting events and so on. This does not cost me a penny. In the month of June I attended six events whereas in July I attended five. This privilege helps me cope with my current financial lockdown; however, I believe I would still be able to cope had I not been given this opportunity.

I wish everyone a fun but frugal August 😉

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28 comments

  1. My spending’s been slowly creeping up. Since I gave myself a break, I need to start it again.

    I haven’t gotten my nails done in such a long time, so I do want one but maybe I’ll wait until my birthday or something. And I envy you for getting invited to posh events for free!!

    1. I have to say it’s nice to be invited out. I get to socialise with my colleagues outside work as well as meet new people. It’s fun and the fact that it’s free doesn’t hurt! 😉 Good luck w/ cutting back your spending, if I can do it anyone can do it!

  2. I think if you can live on £100 per month in London of all places, then it’s possible for anyone to do it! Your crash dieting is going brilliantly. It just goes to show what one does and doesn’t need in their lives to enjoy themselves.

    One thing I struggle with is making sure my little girl doesn’t miss out. We do lots of free things like picnics and trips to the park but one activity I really want her to do is swimming. And because I have to go with her, it costs around £8 each time! That’s just the cost for getting in, we don’t have actual lessons. If we go once or twice a week it soon adds up. I need to work out what else I can avoid spending on so that I can spend the money on her in the right places. 🙂

    1. Thanks so much! I don’t want to push it too far though, so I’ll keep at it for another month for sure and then I’ll see how I get on. Perhaps I’ll have a few meals out in September and then go back to spending crash dieting in October. We all deserve a break.

      Ah yes, I know swimming classes can be so expensive. I used a swimming pool at my gym in the past as it was “free”, aka included in my gym membership package. Classes on their own can be much more expensive. It does seem like it’s a bit harder to live frugally when you have children, as you want to give them the best you can, invest in them, etc. But I’m confident you can do it!! Your debt repayments are impressive! 🙂

  3. We are on an eating out ban right now as well. At least, we’ve really minimized how much we’re eating out. It really does help cut expenses even though I get sick of eating at home sometimes!

    1. I know where you’re coming from Holly, I’m the same. As much as I enjoy my newly discovered love for cooking, sometimes I just can’t be asked. Plus, I miss the social aspect of not being able to eat out. It does save a ton of money though, so we’re doing it for the right reason 🙂

  4. i cook at home most of the times and hence eating out expenses would be bare minimum for us. Your monthly expenditure for the months of June and July really look amazing Eva

    1. Thanks so much Rita, I’m really trying and I’m happy to see it’s working.

  5. Excellent job Eva! I’ve cut back on SO many of those things and like you, eating out was hard to say no to at first. I got that FOMO feeling and felt it hurt my social life, but now I’m pretty used to it. I also stopped buying magazines. The only thing I think I do on that list is get regular hair cuts and the occasional pedi because I spend so much time in the sand and living in LA I wear open toe shoes all the time, so I really try to make my feet presentable. I also look terrible with long hair and need to keep it short so I go more often to the salon. I don’t “need” these things, but they do help me out a lot with my self-confidence! Keep up the great work Eva!

    1. Thanks Tonya, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, it’s for the right reason. Yes, eating out is what I miss the most; I love catching up with the girls, try different cuisines, discover new yummy dishes, people watch (that’s my favourite, hehe) and so on. Now they come over and we cook together (which is great fun!) so it’s not that bad. It’s not forever, it’s only temporary and with time it’ll get easier anyway.
      I think there’s nothing wrong with going to your hairdressers if you need to or get a mani/pedi. You have to take care of yourself as looking well lifts your spirits and boosts your confidence. This is normal. I am okay at the moment with having given these things up. Temporarily! 😉

  6. Oh cool, that sounds like a fun job. And way to go with that frugal budget!

  7. Great post, and it shows that it is possible. You’re doing very well…especially as you’re living in London!

    1. Thanks Laura. Yes, London is expensive as it is, but living in the area where everything is for the bankers (and I’m not one of them!) is not helping my budget.

  8. Sounds like a fun job indeed. I also live in the London area and at first laughed at the thought of getting by on £100 a month – but it looks like you pretty much nailed this one! Great effort on the food spending! 🙂

    1. Thank you! It’s a good job; I enjoy the “going out” part more than the “stuck in the office” part though 😉 I didn’t believe it was possible either, but with some hard work and dedication everything is possible! 🙂

  9. These are some great tips. I love articles like these. Its so interesting the different ways people can stretch their change to get them through the month.

    1. Thank you! I agree, It’s definitely interesting to see what other people do to pay off debt or boost their savings.

  10. Wow! That likes a really good plan! When I read “What do I need new clothes for?”, I cringed. But it is entirely true. Buying new clothes for many people is a luxury.

    1. I definitely don’t need more clothes and I agree, buying too much is definitely a luxury!

  11. Wow. Congrats on living off $100 pounds 2 months in a row!!! Such a PF rockstar Eva 🙂 I do all the things that you listed as well to save money and at first I found it very challenging, but now it’s my “normal” way of life.

    1. Aww, thanks hun! I know what you mean, this is becoming the norm! I didn’t even realise I had cut back by that much until I decided to calculate my final numbers, it’s crazy how little you actually need! 😉

  12. I can very easily cut out the eating out…it’s my husband who’s bad. One of the toughest things about marriage is compromise with finances!

    1. I can see why it can be tough!

  13. Hi there! Someone in my Myspace group shared this website with us so I came to look it over.
    I’m definitely enjoying the information. I’m book-marking and
    will be tweeting this to my followers! Outstanding blog and outstanding style and design.

    1. Aww, thank you so much! I’m glad you are enjoying the information, and promise to keep it interesting 😉

  14. You really are doing well, Eva! We’ve decided as of this month to buckle down extra hard too. And I SO agree with you about eating out; we miss it! That, and I miss my highlights. I’ve got this mousy brown, dishwater colored hair without my highlights. Blech!

    1. Thanks Laurie, I’m trying. I don’t think I could do it for a long time, but it’s good to “diet” every now and then. I’m sure your hair is not that bad 😉 I could do with a bit of colour too, but it’s not my priority right now. Maybe for Christmas!

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