Frugal Living in 2017

At this time of year, we’re bombarded with advertisements and expectations, with sales leading many people to buy things they regret or don’t really need. Adverts based on our browsing history and demographics appear on our Facebook feeds and Google searches, and if you’re planning on going to the cinema over the holidays to see one of the much-hyped new films out, get ready to sit through ten minutes of product advertisements, plus trailers!

In response to an increasingly consumerist world meeting an economy that still hasn’t recovered from the recession, frugal living is a popular trend right now. November 25th 2016 (also known as Black Friday, the infamously busy shopping day that follows Thanksgiving in the United States and starts the Christmas shopping season) was also Buy Nothing Day, when participants around the world pledged to buy absolutely nothing on that day. With shoppers becoming more and more aware of the environmental impact of their purchases, we’re also looking to reduce our carbon footprint. Plus, frugal living saves you money for the things you really care about!

Here are some suggestions for great resources from our collection to get you started on a path to frugal living – or just adopting a few ideas here and there.

The Basics:

Repurpose old clothes

Clothes are a huge industry for obvious reasons – but with pressure to keep prices down, the true cost of cheap clothes manufacture is only starting to be felt. Almost every major clothing chain has been connected with sweatshop scandals, plus cheap clothes often don’t last long, and sizing that doesn’t cater to the average person means that lots of us have piles of clothes we’ll never wear. Or maybe we just refuse to admit that our favourite items of clothing need replacing because we know we’ll never find anything like them again!

Tamsin Blanchard refuses to believe in Green is the New Black (BOOK ZONE 646.3) that spending less and helping the environment mean you can’t look great and have fun with fashion as well!

The Cheap Date Guide to Style by Kira Joliffe and Bay Garnett (BOOK ZONE 646.3 GAR) is all about the idea of expressing yourself and dressing as you want to without getting into the usual cycles of spending – as well as being a fun and snarky approach to classic style.

Scrap Crafts Year ‘Round: More Than 70 Projects to Make with Less than a Yard of Fabric by Chris Rankin (BOOK ZONE 746 RAN) is packed with ideas for crafting projects to give your old favourites a new lease of life and make the most of the fabric you’ve already got.

To spread the love, watch out for retailers who allow you to bring in clothes for recycling, or donate old clothes in good condition to a charity shop (charity shops are also a great place to find good clothes cheaply).

Lots of people use upcycled materials to make art, like this sculpture made of old bolts!

Make your own cosmetics

The cosmetics industry gets a lot of criticism for advertising campaigns that sell a lifestyle rather than a product, as well as animal testing, the use of potentially harmful chemicals and promoting unhealthy body ideals, but there are other options. Unfortunately, ethical cosmetics products are often expensive and go out of date quickly because they don’t use preservatives like more mainstream products, but making your own cosmetics can be rewarding and much cheaper, especially once you start customising them with scents and ingredients that work for you!

Check out Feeding Your Skin by Carla Oates, (BOOK ZONE 646.726 OAT) for some excellent recipes for moisturisers, facial scrubs and more! Not only will these not break your bank, but they’ll also have less impact on the environment: there has recently been a big push-back against wasteful products like facial scrubs that contain ‘nurdles’, tiny resin pellets also known by the tragic name ‘mermaid’s tears’ that go through the sewer system but don’t break down.

Revolutionise how you eat

If home cooking seems daunting, don’t worry! There are plenty of fantastic books, Youtube videos and websites out there to help get even the newest cook started. We highlighted some of our resources in our blog post on student recipe books, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg: we have loads of great recipe books that cover everything from starting out to catering to dietary requirements like vegetarianism or gluten-free to cooking from around the world. Jack Monroe’s website, Cooking on a Bootstrap, is also an amazing resource, as Monroe originally started it when they were on benefits to try and make the most accessible, cheapest food they could. These days, Cooking on a Bootstrap is filled with advice for making the most of your food budget, and even has sections for microwave recipes and vegan and gluten-free recipes.

Use local resources

People often think they need to spend lots of money to treat themselves and relax, but Norwich has so many amazing things happening that don’t break the bank! For a start, libraries are a great source of entertainment, and the Information Store has plenty of fiction and DVDs to lose yourself in. Keep an eye out for our Book Exchange, where you can pick up donated books for free. With libraries coming under threat from budget cuts, consider using your library rather than buying a new book. You benefit, they benefit, and you help keep them open for others!

Tackle that budget

Budgets are scary, and for lots of people it feels like something the world expects them to be instantly good at, but budgeting is something you can learn about. We have a number of books that make budgeting easy, so you can figure out how to best use the money you have. A lot of people’s spending is emotional, coming out of pressure, feelings of anxiety, or confusion about how best to shop. These books have tips on how to be a smart shopper, how to put some savings aside and how to recognise your own spending patterns. And the best thing is that if you get them out from the library, they don’t cost you anything!

Spend Less, Live More by Alvin Hall (BOOK ZONE 332.024)

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Personal Finance in Your 20’s and 30’s by Sally Young Fisher and Susan Shelly (NORFOLK HOUSE 332.024)

The Teenager’s Guide to Money by Jonathan Self (BOOK ZONE 332.024)


The Next Level!

Grow your own food with The River Cottage Veg Patch Handbook by Mark Diacono, BOOK ZONE 635 DIA

Learn how to repair furniture in Care and Repair of Furniture by Albert Jackson and David Day, BOOK ZONE 684.1044 JAC

Crack the hood and maintain your car with Greaseless Guide to Car Care Confidence by Mary Jackson, BOOK ZONE 629.2872 JAC

Keep your bike in top shape with The Bike Book: Complete Bicycle Maintenance by Mark Storey, BOOK ZONE 796.62 STO

Choose an ethical holiday destination thanks to The Ethical Travel Guide by Polly Pattullo and Orely Minelli, BOOK ZONE 910.4 PAT

Why do we do it?

Well, there are the obvious benefits for your budget, but living more frugally often means you reduce the environmental impact you’re having and can support more ethical brands that pay their workers properly and don’t use unethical business practices.

Read Planet Earth (BOOK ZONE 550) and Extreme Earth by Sebastian Junger (BOOK ZONE 551) to learn about the extreme environmental effects of climate change.

Learn more about the grim world of sweatshops in the BBC3 series Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts (BOOK ZONE 746.92) – you’ll never look at some of these businesses the same way again as you follow a group of fashion-conscious teenagers who see the truth behind their clothing choices.

The Ethical Consumer by Deirdre Shaw, Terry Newholm and Rob Harrison (NORFOLK HOUSE 658.8342) is a fascinating look at the world of ethical consumption, going into the reasons for it and a history of consumer activism.

The Ethical Fashion Forum has a brilliant database called the SOURCE which you can search to learn more about brands and companies and find great suggestions for ethical and sustainable suppliers.

City College students run second-hand stalls, charity collection drives and craft events that are a great way to get rid of your old stuff and help with these fantastic initiatives into the bargain – keep an eye out for posters across campus!


Pictures of Money (2014) Money. Available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pictures-of-money/ (Accessed: 26 January 2017)

Wicker Paradise (2013) Ferric creations. Available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wicker-furniture/ (Accessed: 26 January 2017)


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