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All Contents © 2020The Kiplinger Washington Editors
By Andrea Browne Taylor, Online Editor
| March 13, 2019
With an estimated net worth of $88 billion, the British royal family is one of the wealthiest monarchies in Europe. However, just because money is no object for them doesn’t mean they’re frivolous spenders. They’re quite the opposite. It has been well-documented that Queen Elizabeth II keeps a close eye on her spending, and frugality is a trait that has passed down to other members of her family.
Take a look at several of the most widely reported penny-pinching habits of the various members of the British royal family. In many ways, they’re just like the rest of us.
Prince William and his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton, who are parents of three small children, could easily have custom furniture made for their little ones’ rooms. Instead, they like to shop at Swedish home furnishings retailer IKEA, which is known for its affordable prices. During a visit to Sweden’s national museum of architecture and design ArkDes in 2018, they revealed to IKEA’s head of design Marcus Engman that they had purchased some of the brand’s furniture for two of their kids' rooms, the Mirror reports.
If the Prince and Duchess shop at the big-box retailer often enough, they may want to consider signing up for the IKEA Family Program, which gives members access to exclusive discounts of as much as 20%.
Dan Marsh via Wikimedia Commons
Chef and author Carolyn Robb cooked for the British royal family for more than 10 years, from 1989 to 2000, so she’s well-versed on their eating habits. In a 2015 interview with Racked.com, Robb revealed that Prince Charles is adamant about saving leftovers for additional meals.
“The Prince was very economical and very much believed that nothing should go to waste,” she explained. “If there were leftovers, they’d be used one way or another. If not for him, then rehashed and used for a meal the following day . . . If we made roasted lamb and there were leftovers, we’d probably go and make Shepard’s pie the next night.”
Josh Hallett via Wikimedia Commons
You might expect an heir to the British throne to use a private jet whenever he needs to travel by air. Not the case for Prince Harry and his wife, the Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle. In 2018, The Daily Mail reported that the then-engaged couple flew economy class on a British Airways flight from Longford, U.K., to Nice, France, for a New Year’s vacation. According to passengers who were on the flight, the couple -- casually dressed in jeans, a baseball cap and a beanie -- sat at the back of the plane along with three bodyguards.
In 2014, Prince William (Prince Harry’s older brother) flew coach on an American Airlines connecting flight from Memphis, Tenn., to Dallas, on his way home from a friend’s wedding in the United States. A passenger on the flight took a photo that showed his royal highness sitting in a window seat, where he only ordered water on the short flight, The Daily Mail notes.
The next time the royals want to get away for a winter holiday, we might encourage them to upgrade to business class at bargain rates. Leisure travel peaks during the winter holiday season, while business travel slows down considerably. As a result, the price difference between business and economy class seating narrows.
Queen Elizabeth II has some thrifty habits, too. She has been photographed on several occasions using an electric space heater at Buckingham Palace to keep warm when greeting guests in the audience room, as well as in her private sitting room at her vacation castle (yes, castle!) in Scotland.
When the temps drop outside, rather than crank up the thermostat at her 775-room palace or her Balmoral castle, she simply plugs in a space heater and sets it inside a room’s fireplace. The old-school space heater that the Queen has been seen using at Buckingham Palace isn’t extravagant. In 2013, the Telegraph reported that a similar version cost £29.99 (or about $40) at electrical stores in London.
Each member of the British royal family could afford to wear a new luxury designer ensemble every day. Yet several members have been photographed out-and-about over the years wearing their favorite clothing and accessory items repeatedly.
The Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton favors high-end brands but gets her money’s worth from them. In fact, WhoWhatWear.co.uk has deemed her “the perfect advertisement for the cost-per-wear shopping model,” which calculates the true price of a fashion item by dividing the cost by the number of times it’s been worn. The site reports that she has been spotted at least six times since 2011 wearing a Smythe “Duchess” blazer (she wears it so much the brand renamed it after her), which retails for $695. Using the cost-per-wear model, the true cost of that blazer based on how many times she has publicly worn it is just under $110.
When you have unlimited access to a personal chef who can prepare a tasty meal at a moment’s notice, who needs to worry about grocery shopping, right?
In 2016, Prince Harry was spotted at a Waitrose supermarket near his home in West London along with two bodyguards, The Sun reported. He was seen purchasing a box of cereal, some fruit and a prepackaged meal that was on sale, and carrying the goodies home in a reusable shopping bag.
On his next grocery-store trip, perhaps the Prince should visit one of London’s many Aldi locations. You can buy everything from fresh produce to wine. You also must bring your own reusable shopping bags to carry home your purchases.
Filip Maljkovic via Wikimedia Commons
When you live in a palace that spans 828,818 square feet, energy costs can quickly get out of hand if you aren’t keeping a close watch. Queen Elizabeth II is extremely mindful of energy use at Buckingham Palace -- so much so that there’s a ban on the use of light bulbs over 40 watts, according to the Daily Express. Also, lights must always be turned off when a room is not in use.
Wearing your elder brother’s or sister’s old clothes is a rite of passage for many younger siblings -- including the British royals. Princess Charlotte, the daughter of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton, was photographed earlier this year holding her new baby brother, Prince Louis, while wearing a blue cardigan with a distinct print around the collar. Social media fans quickly pointed out that it was the same cardigan her big brother, Prince George, wore in 2016 in an official photo for his great-grandmother Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday, the Huffington Post UK notes. In that same picture of Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, he’s seen wearing a cream top and pants that were also worn by his big sister in her official photos released by Kensington Palace just after her birth.
The Duchess of Sussex’s fashion sense has taken center stage since she started dating her now-husband, Prince Harry. The American actress–turned–British royal has been lauded for her budget-friendly style choices -- including $80 Missoma gold rings she was spotted wearing via social media and the $300 wool J. Crew coat she wore while attending an International Women’s Day parade. Even tennis star Serena Williams recently praised Markle for sporting a $145 blazer from her Serena fashion line. (The blazer has sold out since Williams posted a picture to her Instagram account of Markle wearing the garment.)
To snag expensive-looking fashion for less like Markle does, outlet malls may be your best bet. You can find high-end brands such as Donna Karan and Calvin Klein at deep discounts. Keep in mind that you should pay close attention to an item’s construction details, such as the type of hardware used on a handbag or the stitching on a coat, to ensure it’s sturdy and will last.
While Prince William admits he’s not the best in the kitchen, his royal highness still enjoys cooking for himself. Last year, while serving as a judge at a charity cook-off competition in London, the Prince shared with the crowd that his favorite meal to prepare at home is roast chicken and steak, according to People.com.
Even his kids like to prepare home-cooked meals with help from their mom. While making an appearance earlier this year at St. Luke’s Community Centre in London, where the Prince and Duchess helped prepare meals, Kate Middleton shared with other attendees that her children Prince George and Princess Charlotte like making pizza dough from scratch at home, Hello! magazine reports.
In the biography “Young Elizabeth: The Making of Our Queen,” author Kate Williams shares that the Queen has a longtime habit of collecting wrapping paper and ribbons from gifts she’s received, smoothing them out and storing them to use again, People.com reports. Just like many of us.
If you haven’t been stockpiling old gift-wrapping paper like Queen Elizabeth II does, you’ve got another budget-friendly option: Check out your local dollar store for hard-to-beat-deals on everything from gift wrap to ribbons to gift bags, all for a $1 apiece.