MOST of us feel the pressure when the cost of living drops — but not frugal Rachel Howlett.
She skimps on everything from toiletries to tea bags.
Rachel spends less than £2 a day on food, £25 a month on gas and electricity and only buys tax-free clothes she finds in teenage departments.
A quarter of parents are now forgoing toiletries to keep their children safe, while three-quarters of adults worry about skyrocketing food prices every day, new polls show.
But Rachel, 45, a single self-employed gardener and carer whose modest two-bedroom flat in Biggleswade, Beds, takes great pride in being frugal.
She says: “I live on the basics. My sisters say I’m obsessed with money, but I like to save and hate waste.
“I love a regular cup of tea, but I will reuse the tea bag up to eight times. Luckily I like it weak.
“I take a bottle with me instead of buying it and I never waste food. When I have broccoli, I eat the stems and leaves—they can fill up a meal—and I never peel veggies. It makes them smaller.
“I buy as much yellow-sticker food as I can and take Tupperware with me to pick up leftovers when I go out to eat.
“That’s how I found out in my spreadsheet that I spend an average of just £13.36 a week on grocery shopping.
“I broke up with my ex-boyfriend six years ago, which made me even more cautious. Then I lost my job in a theater during Covid.
“Now I have two jobs as a gardener and caretaker.
“I don’t have children to support me in old age – a decision I made partly because of the high cost – so I want to be able to afford care when I need it at home when I get older.”
Toiletries and hygiene items are a big expense for many families.
Research by Andrex and charity In Kind Direct has found that the cost of living crisis has left some of us forgoing face wash, hand wash, deodorant and even toilet paper.
But Rachel says, “I’m very frugal with toiletries. I always ask for them for Christmas and birthday gifts because they are so expensive. I buy in Poundland or Savers which is cheapest and I get bars of soap as they last longer than gels.
“I was gifted a large bar of soap late last year and it’s still going great.
“When shampoo and conditioner bottles look empty, I cut them in half and scoop out any residue.
“The only makeup I own is a single lipstick and I rarely paint my toenails. My only bottle has lasted five years so far.
“I wouldn’t dream of buying nail polish remover. The polish either wears off or I paint over it.
“I’m on the mini pill, so I don’t get my period. I do it for convenience, but I like that I don’t have to buy expensive toiletries. I buy reusable razor blades and while it’s recommended to replace them every five to ten shaves, mine can last a year. I swap at the pharmacy.
“The other day I found a bottle of men’s shaving cream and as the cap was missing and there was no price tag I went to the cashier and got it at a bargain price of 59p.
“I also signed up with market research companies that do product testing. I’ve gotten all sorts of free stuff from them in exchange for feedback – everything from shampoo to moisturizer to bathroom cleaner.
“Right now I’m using a free deodorant from one of the companies. When it runs out I replace it with a roll-on which I find lasts a lot better than sprays. Again, I take the cheapest. I have no brand loyalty.
“I buy cleaning products in Poundland and never buy branded products.
“You don’t need cleaning wipes, just the product and a wipe. When it comes to toilet paper, a pack of 16 is cheaper than buying packs of four.”
Rachel has been thrifty since childhood and got a round of newspapers by the age of 12.
But the cost of living crisis has made her even more determined to save the money.
She says: “When I got my first paycheck I bought a couple of record singles. But after the second week I realized that saving makes me happier than spending.”
“I always put my pocket money in the bank. As soon as we started going to pubs I would buy a drink and make it all night long.
“Today I am always on the lookout for bargains.
“I eat yogurt that’s a month past, and I’ve been known to eat eggs that are two months past their sell-by date.
“People throw away food far too quickly. It will smell or taste funny when turned off. I use candles instead of lights and only turn on the heat for a total of six hours between October and February. I was only paying £25 a month for gas and electricity and I do have a loan. I only ever take a shower because it costs less than a bath – assuming you take a short shower.
“And instead of a smartphone, I use an old mobile phone that costs me £6 a month.”
Rachel wears a size 38 and on the rare occasion that she buys something new, she shops in the youth department where clothes are tax-free and cheaper.
In the past two years, she’s bought herself a pair of pants and a new top – because she needed them for work.
She saves even more money by wearing discarded clothes from her mother, Susan, 68.
Refusing to pay for satellite TV or a streaming service, Rachel watches programs she has recorded as they have no commercials. That means they take less time to watch and use less power.
But Rachel insists she’s not stingy.
She says: “I don’t go out much, but when I do I make sure I’ve done some extra work to earn some extra money, like childcare. That way I don’t worry about overspending.
“I always leave a generous tip and while I don’t drink I’m happy to split the bill 50/50.
“But if someone I’m dating offers to pay more, I won’t object!”
Rachel says she struggles to understand why some people are reckless. She says: “Unfortunately, there will be some people who don’t earn enough for basic necessities. But others think they’re cutting back when they really aren’t.
“I will never understand those who spend on take-away coffee or £10 on lunch when they could make it at home.
“It seems completely unnecessary. If they adjusted their spending and their expectations, they could make huge savings.
“And they can do more to help themselves, such as quitting smoking or not going to the pub.
“I don’t see a big difference in my spending as I go straight to the yellow sticker aisle in the supermarket almost every day and shop little and often.
“I want other people to realize that a tight budget isn’t going to ruin your life.”
https://www.the-sun.com/lifestyle/5790990/i-use-teabags-eight-times-to-save-cash/ I use each tea bag 8 times, never peel vegetables as they shrink and my razors last a year