UK's most frugal pensioner lives off £6.50 a day: what's her secret?

Ilona Richards

Ilona Richards, a 66-year-old pensioner from Scunthorpe in North Lincolnshire may well qualify for the title of the most frugal pensioner in the country. She has shared some of her unusual tips that keep each meal under £1, and keep her daily spend to £6.50 a day.

Simple steps

She told the Daily Mirror that she follows some simple steps that we could all easily add to our regime When she's cold, she puts on extra clothes to avoid turning the heating up. She also frequents the charity shops and the discount aisle in the supermarket; and for her monthly booze treat, she prefers to buy her four pear ciders and bottle of wine from Aldi.

However, Ilona is more committed to these habits than most. She tends to go shopping after 7.30pm, for example, because she says that's when more fresh items are marked down. She then tends only to buy discounted items - and will build her menu around what is available. She has got to know her local Tesco, so knows where to wait and when, for the reduced items to be brought out from the back of the shop.
Advanced money-saving

The Sun reported that she also takes steps some would consider a bit extreme. When she's brewing a cuppa, she heats mugs of hot water in the microwave, because it's cheaper than boiling a kettle. She has also decided not to use washing up liquid, except in extreme circumstances, so washing up liquid can last her almost a year.

Her blog shows that she will often turn her bargain shopping into soups and stews, which she freezes in old margarine pots for bargain ready-meals. To reduce the gas needed for cooking, she will also cut things like carrots into small pieces to reduce the cooking time.

Creative solutions

Ilona thinks outside the box too. In the past she has bought eggs from a local smallholding, and had her hair cut at a local college. For pants, she buys those aimed at teenage boys because they are VAT-free and long-lasting. And when she decided she needed a shed, she built one herself from old pallets and wooden doors. She also collects old fabric and tin cans, which she turns into creative craft works as a hobby.

She took up the lifestyle partly out of necessity. She worked as a lorry driver, and had to take 12 weeks off after an operation. Soon afterwards they announced they were shutting the depot, and as she was almost 60, she decided to retire and live a frugal lifestyle.

Now she enjoys the challenge, and because she saves so much money, it means she can afford things like a car and a holiday. She added: "It doesn't all have to be doom and gloom not having much money. It's all about prioritising what's important. I believe having less gives you freedom."

After telling her story to the papers, Ilona has had a mixed response - many admiring her frugal life, while others criticise the lengths she goes to. She wrote on her blog: "I have no problem with people knowing how I live, I am proud of my frugalness, proud to tread lightly on this earth, proud that I am not wasteful, and proud that I live within my means. Those people who don't get it are either very rich or massively in debt. I just laugh at the blinkered trolls who poke fun and slag me off, for it's me that's winning here, not them."

But what do you think? Will you be trying these money-saving approaches? Let us know in the comments.

Vintage money-saving tips
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UK's most frugal pensioner lives off £6.50 a day: what's her secret?
Back then there was no choice, because the mass-produced microwaveable meal was just a glint in a marketing guru's eye, but now, cooking from scratch can save substantial sums.
The older generation learned that there were meat-free days of the week to save money, and that if you had meat you''d stretch mince with breadcrumbs, or buy cheaper joints and use every scrap.
Perfect fruit and vegetables and top-of-the-range brands are a new phenomenon. Buy generic non-branded food and fruit and vegetables in whatever size and shape is most affordable

Nowadays we rush around the supermarket grabbing things we like the look of - with little idea of what we're going to do with it. Making a list and thinking about what you buy can save you thousands of pounds over the course of a year.

There's no such thing as 'left-overs' there's just the ingredients for tomorrow's dinner. The remains of the meat can be stir-fried the next day, the vegetables blended into  soup, and the potatoes saved for bubble and squeak.

Try an experiment and eliminate everything from your life with the word disposable in the title. Not only will you save money, but your bin will take far longer to fill too.

Before you bin anything, think twice about whether you can give it a second life. Think carefully, does your granny have her tried and tested tips that she has a habit of mentioning, for instance, washing out freezer bags? If you mock, you're missing a trick and wasting money and resources.
Cutting out draughts and insulating your home properly can cut 10% off your heating bill.
Back in the 1940s when no-one had central heating, people got used to wearing another layer at home. Try lowering your thermostat gradually, and only stop when those around you start to notice - you'll be surprised how much you can save.
If you save your washing and dish washing until you have a full load every time you'll save energy and save money.
Over the generations we have been sucked into believing the hype. In the days when adverts were few-and-far between, we managed without many of the things we consider essential nowadays. Re-consider what you buy, and why. Without advertising, would you buy any of it?
It's always cheaper to save in advance and plan a purchase than to rush in and borrow - which could end up costing you hundreds of pounds more in interest.
Older generations typically withdraw what they can afford to spend in cash and then leave their debit card at home or deep in their wallets. This has the advantage that they don't tend to reach for a debit or credit card and spend more than they can afford.
Because the older generations couldn't borrow their way out of trouble, they tended to plan more. Give your family a financial safety and a nest egg for the future.
Back when there were only a finite number of items of clothing to go around in a neighbourhood, people borrowed from each other for special occasions. Nowadays swapping and sharing can save substantial sums
Back in the 1940s when no-one had central heating, people got used to wearing another layer at home. Try lowering your thermostat gradually, and only stop when those around you start to notice - you'll be surprised how much you can save.
There was a time not so long ago when no-one could actually remember anyone who had actually bought a bike. They were passed through the siblings, then across family and friends networks, so that decades later, children were still learning to ride a bike for free. Of course it helps if you buy something gender-neutral, then you can hand it down, and reap the benefits as others hand expensive toys on to you.
In previous generations, neighbours would think nothing of asking each other to babysit, walk their dog, or to borrow a ladder. Nowadays we pay handsomely for babysitters and dog walkers, and each have an expensive ladder gathering dust in the shed.
The army of people who come to our homes to do odd jobs is a new phenomenon for all but the very wealthy. You may well have the skills required to complete these jobs, so get stuck in.

Ditch going out for dinner or browsing round the shops for taking a walk, visiting the beach with a picnic, or holding a family DVD night.

Nowadays we're constantly striving for a bigger TV, a flashier car and a better kitchen. Generations ago people never considered that they would ever be able to afford bigger, flashier and better, so they got on with the business of enjoying what they had.

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