TEA Recommends

Here is the stuff that The Escape Artist recommends to help you get to financial freedom.

I’m not on commission and there are no affiliate links and no adverts on this page. We’re all on the same team and you can help your fellow freedom fighters by leaving tips in the comments below.

Investing

Investing can be made simple enough for everyone to manage their own portfolio.  If someone else manages your investments, then you are being screwed.

Fire your financial adviser. Dump your wealth manager and avoid actively managed (i.e. expensive) funds.

You can use Monevator to find the lowest cost broker / platform as well as lots of free info on investing.

Personally my favourite is  The Share Centre. I like The Share Centre for UK and international shares as they don’t screw you with an FX commission (unlike many other platforms).  The service is excellent and its really easy to transfer an existing portfolio over to them. They will even pay the exit fees levied by your current platform.

Credit cards

For spending in the UK, I use the American Express platinum cashback card which has no annual fee and gives you 1% cashback on everything. Just don’t spend anymore than you would have done if you’d used cash. Pay the balance off every month by direct debit and never, ever pay interest. Obviously.

When overseas, I use the Halifax Clarity Mastercard which is the best way for us Brits not to get shafted with ridiculous hidden FX charges.

Mortgages

The Bankers Jar

Use Moneysavingexpert to find the best deal. Look for a flexible mortgage that allows over-payments with no penalties. Then pay down your mortgage as if it were an emergency (it is) and 15% interest rates were coming back in a couple of years time (they might be).

The higher the spread between savings and mortgage rates, the more an offset mortgage can make sense. This is like having a flexible line of credit and has option value.

A bigger house never made me happier (or more attractive). Remember what’s in The Banker’s Jar and don’t just buy the biggest house possible.

Rent

If you own a house and have a spare room, rent it out.  If you want cheaper rent, share a house or flat. Either way, take a look at www.spareroom.co.uk.

I haven’t used it myself but I’d love to hear from someone who had used this smart-looking scheme to get cheap rentals in London and elsewhere in the UK.

Cars

skoda

I think of cars as Money Incineration Units.  The bigger the car, the more money it can burn.

If you want a super-luxurious family car that’s cheap to run, the Skoda Octavia is what we have. The Skoda Fabia and the Skoda Citigo are smaller and even cheaper.

You could also check out any small car by Seat, Toyota or Citroen. Diesel not petrol. Used not new. Cash not finance. Obviously.

Can you live with 1 car rather than 2? Do you have a bike? Legs?? If you drive distances less than 5 miles, you are at risk of Car-Clown Syndrome.

Petrol

This is burning money. So use less and buy smart.

Groceries

Buy real food that grew in a field or used to walk / swim / fly.  Read the book The De Vany Diet (also called The New Evolution Diet).

Avoid ready meals and other stuff made in factories. That means avoiding brands, packaging and processed food.

We use Tesco home delivery which is the height of decadent luxury. Why pay more? Frugality ninjas should check out Costco, Aldi and Lidl.

Don’t confuse saving money with deprivation.  Experiment with blind taste testing to see whether its really worth paying more. For example, I blind taste-tested Lidl’s fruit and nut chocolate versus Cadbury’s and am now a huge fan (Lidl’s is a fraction of the price).

Mobile phone

Here’s a clue…anything on a multi year contract is probably a rip-off. Why would you allow yourself to get locked into a 3 year contract when the price of IT-related shit comes down every year? Respect Moore’s Law and the value of optionality.

Check out the smaller brands (3, Giff Gaff, Lebara). I’m on the 3 network with a pay as you go tariff which is as cheap as chips…even when you are overseas.

Books

Are free from your local library. Or can be bought used from Amazon for next to nothing.  You can get a better education (virtually free) by reading the right books than you can from any university.

Jewellery

Getting married? Want a ring? Remember: Diamonds are not a girl’s best friend.

Like bling? Fine. I have 2 words for you: costume jewellery. Honestly…how many people can tell the difference?

Satellite / Cable TV

Are you kidding? Why would you pay money for the privilege of having someone beam adverts, news and other toxic waste at you?

If you insist on watching TV, you can watch the BBC free on iplayer with no adverts messing with your head.  You are also allowed to watch Channel 4 if you fast-forward over the ads. We also use Netflix which is good for films and documentaries.

Newspapers and magazines

No need to spend any money on these. Newspapers should be treated with scepticism. Glossy magazines are toxic and full of consumerist propaganda: avoid.

Podcasts

Essential : interviews with FI gurus

Recommended: think like an entrepreneur

Recommended: relationship advice for guys

Bikes

What do you mean you don’t ride a bike? Bikes are incredible frugality machines that provide free transport plus healthy side effects like small bones and fast metabolisms.

You can get a bike second hand for almost nothing. Try local ads, Ebay, Gumtree, Freecycle etc.

If you want a fancy new road bike then anything from Trek or Specialized between £500 and £1,000 will be more than enough bike for 99% of the population. If you are not a professional cyclist, I’d recommend the Trek 1.5 or the Specialized Allez road bikes. If you are a professional cyclist, you should be using your team sponsors bike…so that’ll be free then.

Gas / electric

Two thirds of home energy costs are spent heating the air. Get your house properly insulated (start with the loft and cavity walls). Grants are often available so this might even be free. Experiment with turning down the thermostat by 1 degree and wearing clothes.

We use the Moneysavingexpert Cheap Energy Club to tell us what provider and tariff is cheapest.

Water

Find out if you are on a water meter or not. If not, you can ask the water company to install one. Our bills went down when we did this but obviously this might not be the case for everyone.

Schools

Are free in the UK.  Some people don’t seem to realise this. And no, standards have not fallen. If you’d been to my comprehensive school, you’d know that.

Insurance

Most people buy too much insurance. I prefer to save the money and self-insure…unless its a legal requirement like Third Party motor insurance where we’re price sensitive and always shop around. We currently use Elephant insurance for motor insurance because its cheap.  Health insurance is unnecessary in the UK. If its serious, the NHS provides great healthcare. If there’s a long waiting list, use some of the money you’ve saved over the years to pay for the op.

Gyms

Ditch that expensive private gym subscription. Local authority gyms are cheaper. Exercise more naturally. Use your bike. Walk. Take the stairs. Do press-ups. Try sprinting – like you are being chased by a lion – now and again.  Check out your local Park Run.  Play more.

Swimming pools

…are luxuries and not required spending. But they can be bought for under £90 here.

Holidays

Go off peak. Use the internet to unbundle holidays and see if that’s cheaper than the cost of a package. Try booking direct with the owner of your villa / apartment. Always negotiate.  For a family it can be cheaper to drive not fly to Europe in peak season.

Consider a house swap or renting out your house while you are away.

Nature

Is free and is all around you…enjoy it. Own thousands of acres of private woodland via The Woodland Trust.  Rent your own country estate for the day with The National Trust.  Get ridiculously cheap accommodation in amazing locations by joining the YHA.

Happy Saving!

8 comments

  1. EdwardJBean · · Reply

    Great website – I am 33 and am one of the lucky few with a chance to hit FI before the age of 40. Thanks for all the info, and reminding us that achieving FI is as much psychological as it is financial.

    With regards to the American Express Platinum card, there is currently a £25 annual charge, meaning that you don’t break even until you spend £2.5k on the card. Alternatively, the Platinum Everyday card comes with no annual charge at the expense of slightly lower interest on the first £7k of spend. Working through the numbers, you’ll only ever be worse off by £11 on the Everyday card, so I personally am going to opt for one of these instead.

  2. I like and agree with many of your sentiments here!

  3. You can get cashback at quidco/topcashback on insurance; these sites aren’t just for ‘oooh, 10% off the new shiny, so if I buy now I’m saving money’ stuff. If you’re really keen there’s a few quid of cashback just for searching on gocompare and comparethemarket via quidco, without needing to actually purchase through them. The cashback is never 100% guaranteed but if my experience is anything to go by the price is not higher for having gone through the cashback site anyway, so if you don’t get the cashback it’s not the end of the world and if you do it’s a nice bonus.

  4. mmhisnibbs · · Reply

    Re; UK National Trust membership; save money by joining the New Zealand Heritage scheme. Members get free entry to commonwealth partners, which includes National Trust properties.
    Family of 4 (2 adults + 2 school age children) = $95 = £40ish at current exchange rates (iirc you may pay extra for an overseas membership but not a huge amount)
    http://www.heritage.org.nz/get-involved/join-us

    UK National Trust family membership currently = £104 (Nov 2015) the saving is over 50% and if you feel bad buy an ice cream when you visit!

    1. Ellie@frugalitygivesusoptions.com · · Reply

      Wow, great tip!

    2. David Mincher · · Reply

      Thanks for the tip. We signed up online and the card arrived a couple of weeks later. One thing you forgot to mention is that the NZ card also allows entry to English Heritage sites too 😀 sp not only have I halved my NT membership, but gained English Heritage too.
      Cheers!

  5. I’m a big fan of plugging all my financial leaks and maximizing savings, so I really appreciate this list. Thanks.

  6. Claire · · Reply

    For spend overseas, I have been using the card from REVOLUT, a start up set up 2 years ago. It saved us hundreds of pounds during our 3 month travel. It has no fees and the lowest FX rates for cards. It’s linked to an app on which you can track all your spend. They raised £12m in crowd funding last year and so are adding new features every month now.

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