Mimi Harrison started Beat the Budget at university, where she found herself barely subsisting on late-night chips. She’s since shared 400 budget recipes with 260,000 Instagram followers, for everything from caramelised shallot pasta to peanut butter chicken satay curry (now arranged on her website by dietary needs or meal type). She never spends more than £20 on her weekly shop. A Beat the Budget book is due out in June. Many recipes cost £1 a portion or less.
Top tip “It’s all about the planning.” Harrison shares her weekly shop receipts, and keeps her spending down by sticking rigidly to a meal plan and shopping list, even grouping items together on the list to mimic the supermarket’s layout so she won’t get distracted and buy things she doesn’t need. Each week’s dishes are carefully chosen to make use of overlapping ingredients such as halloumi or butternut squash, so nothing goes to waste.
Budget Traveller Kash Bhattacharya has been staying in cool hostels and other budget places to stay since 2009 (his book, The Grand Hostels: Luxury Hostels of the World, was published in 2018). He also flags up good-looking co-working spaces and cheap transport, particularly train and bus, on Twitter and Instagram.
Top tip Save money on your travels by using buses rather than planes or trains; eat out at lunchtime, when restaurants are more likely to offer deals and set menus; head to lesser-known places such as Vilnius, Riga, Brno or Gdańsk, and get a bank card that doesn’t charge for overseas transactions.
Flora Collingwood-Norris’s Visible Creative Mending will teach you how to darn your socks beautifully. She is a designer-maker based in the Scottish Borders who works with yarn and thread, and has knitted for Christopher Kane and House of Holland. She’s part of the visible mending movement, which is about restoring clothes and soft furnishings by making the repairs obvious, often using contrasting colours to patch, embroider or darn. Cuffs are speckled with a rainbow of tiny stitches. Worn-out elbows are recreated using a lattice of multicoloured thread. Moth holes are disguised using tiny hand-sewn flowers. Follow her for inspiring transformations, or sign up to her online workshops to get involved yourself.
Top tip “It costs almost nothing but time to start mending your clothing. No matter what your skill level, mending that is visible looks intentional, and people will assume you meant it to look just like it does.”
Three years ago, former time-management trainer Suzanne Mulholland, AKA The Batch Lady, gave a group of friends an impromptu lesson in batch cooking and meal planning; they were so impressed they convinced her to put it online. Three cookbooks and nearly 162,000 followers later, she now covers anything to do with food and money, including how to save cash at the fishmonger by buying lesser-known species.
Top Tip How to shop for and batch-prep 10 (yes, 10) meals in an hour. Sounds terrifying; actually works. The technique is based on her “grab and cook” meals method, which just means sticking prepped (sometimes partly cooked) ingredients in a reusable zip-lock bag and freezing until needed, then cooking straight from the bag – think different beef-based meals like meatballs, fajitas, chilli, bolognese and burgers all ready to be quickly cooked or finished straight from a freezer bag. Get carried away and you may need a bigger freezer, though.
In 2019, Clare Seal started My Frugal Year anonymously, charting her plan to pay off a £27,000 debt she had built up on credit and store cards in her 20s. By then a parent, she realised she had to change her relationship with money. A year later, she outed herself. Now out of debt and newly a homeowner, she retrained as a financial coach and founded the Financial Wellbeing Forum. She’s brutally honest – she called last September’s budget an “unashamed slap in the face for anyone who isn’t super wealthy”, and says: “You can’t manifest your way out of a cost-of-living crisis.” But she is also empathic, practical and helpful.
Top tip Build a digital toolkit to keep track of your spending and encourage saving. Seal recommends the Snoop app for budgeting, Chip for saving, Sprive for mortgage overpayments, and TopCashback for money back on purchases (she made £250 last year).
Anna Kilpatrick set up not.needing.new after divorce meant losing her four-bedroom house and garden and having to move to a small flat with her two children. But living with less made her much happier, as did kitting out her flat with skip-diving finds and charity shop treasures. Kilpatrick hasn’t bought new clothes for a decade. She says: “You don’t need money or youth to be sustainably stylish. Actually, age helps, as you care less about opinions that are shared with the sole intention of trying to squash you.” Her advice is often coupled with information about how to keep warm when you can’t afford the heating, how to make your own makeup from shea butter and how to curb impulse-buying tendencies.
Top tip “Get a secondhand or preloved cashmere jumper or cardie to wear as a vest through winter. You feel so warm and save money on heating. It’s unbelievable the difference it makes.”
The Carpenter’s Daughter Vikkie Lee teaches followers about upcycling and building anything from wood, whether that’s a garden table made from an old cable reel or a bird table and planter from scratch. She’s also handy with fitting kitchens, laying patios, gravelling driveways, reviewing tools and inventing £1.50 DIY-able wooden gifts. Her aim is to help people save on home improvements, leaving enough cash for, as she puts it: “When you need to pay professionals who know about gas and electrics.” And it works: after renovating a bungalow in southern England, she and her partner now live back up north, mortgage-free, and are restoring a narrowboat.
Top tip Always save your offcuts. Lee has turned a worktop into a workbench with staircase spindles to hold it up; transformed a bookcase into a chest of drawers; and used Jenga blocks as shelf supports; and turned a CD holder into a drill rack for her shed.
Cheap Holiday Expert Chelsea Dickenson’s TikTok is jammed with ways to save money when taking a holiday. They’re mostly sensible, like how to avoid paying expensive ‘excess insurance’ offered at airport car-hire companies by taking out a third-party policy for just a few quid before your trip, but often very funny, too. A cool 1.4 million people have enjoyed watching her swagger on to a low-cost flight wearing a fisher’s gilet, side pockets stuffed with gym kit and bikini, back pocket holding her laptop, to avoid paying for hold luggage.
Top tip “Ask for a hotel room upgrade. Simply email ahead, tell them why you’re excited for your stay and that you’d love to be considered for any upgrades on the day. You’ll be surprised how often it works – I had five people tell me my free upgrade email template worked just today!”
Nancy Birtwhistle is a GP practice manager turned Great British Bake Off winner turned eco-home and garden influencer. Learn how to re-waterproof your old boots using a candle, find 17 uses for 75p-a-kilo washing soda (unblocking sinks, removing stains and cleaning the dishwasher filter, to name but a few), and learn to make laundry soap from conkers. Naturally, her feed is also full of pavlovas, puff pastry and 46p-a-jar homemade marmalade.
Top tip Make an inexpensive household cleaner by mixing together 200g of citric acid, 150ml of boiling water, 20ml of eco-friendly washing-up liquid and 10 drops of essential oil – Birtwhistle uses it to clean her house, remove limescale and get mould off windows.
Aja Barber is known for lifting the lid on fast fashion, while pointing out that buying huge amounts of cheap clothing isn’t a great way to save. In one post, she notes, powerfully, that saying fast fashion is good for people living in poverty neglects the poverty-stricken people who make fast fashion itself. Her GRWM (Get Ready With Me) posts are an antidote to those who constantly show off new outfits. She wears (and loves) what she already has, fearlessly calls out very big brands for greenwashing, has turned down lots of social-media partnerships that don’t align with her values, and shows that you can care about what you wear while spending less and making more ethical choices.
Top tip “You never have to buy new denim. With Vestiaire, eBay and Vinted we have so many places to look. Even if you’re plus-size, as I am, it’s easy. For adolescents, look for high-end markdowns of things like sportswear in small adult sizes because – surprise! – very few women are a UK size 4.”
Unlike many rather glossy parenting bloggers, Jamie Rose, AKA Savvy Jamie, is very transparent about her means and money. She posts on TikTok and her own site about cheap and free days out for kids, mindful spending, creating cost-free family traditions and how to buy and sell secondhand children’s gear.
Top tip Her post on how presents for children don’t have to be new was one of the most popular in her Christmas-on-a-Budget series. “Preloved stuff is a fraction of the new price, whether from charity shops, Facebook Marketplace or Vinted. You can even pick up brand-new products secondhand, meaning you get more bang for your buck.”