Friday, 27 April 2012

Frugal Friday... 5 Little things...

So, you've filled your storecupboard, batch-cooked for England, and planned your frugal-but-fabulous weekend away down to the last must be time to have a little look at the boring stuff, the everyday things that don't save much, so the temptation is to say "Oh well, it doesn't really matter!" - you know what though, all those "not very much"'s, for us, have added up, and up, into the bulk of the overpayment on our mortgage now! Let's have a look at five areas where you can potentially cut back, without making a massive negative impact on everyday life...

1) A real Martin Lewis favourite, this - Drive economically and think about your motoring costs! I've had diesel cars for the past 8 years or so - Between us we do around 24k miles per year, so the cost of motoring is a good part of our income accounted for. We did the maths on a diesel -v- petrol car and the diesel won hands down, even if for the first few years of having one I had to stick my fingers in my ears and shout "la la la!" loudly to cover the noise of the slightly chuggy engine...! Do you know what though, diesels don't sound half so bus-like as they did a few years ago, and the cost savings are quite astonishing. When we came to look for a second car for Ben diesel was the natural choice. Both of ours are relatively small (A Clio and a Citroen C3) and so the road tax is low - £30 per year each, and we both get around 60 miles per gallon out of them, by driving smoothly, not screaming about everywhere flat out, and keeping the "stuff" we carry in them to a minimum. Servicing is a little more expensive than for a petrol engine, but only a little more, and the lifespan of a diesel engine should, with care and regular maintenance, be greater than a petrol engine, too.  Remember to use sites like to check the cost of fuel too - I saved 4p a litre in the week simply by filling up closer to where I was working, than to home.

2) If you're not using it....TURN IT OFF! Lights, TV, stereo, battery & phone chargers, heating, car engine when waiting for someone....seriously, the "standby" button is NOT the frugal person's friend. Get yourself one of those electricity meters - the ones that attach to the main household meter and tell you exactly what you are using. Then fill the the top, switch it on, and then go and check your meter. Scary, huh? Now you see THAT is why people bang on about only boiling the water you need. Your electric kettle uses a terrifying amount of power for such a small and regularly used device, so it makes sense to use it carefully. Many folk have a flask next to the kettle for any "extra" boiling water to go into - this can be used later for making coffee (not tea which really should have freshly boiled water), putting in the pan for cooking veggies, or even topping up your washing up water. On the note of water for cooking - in spite of the previous rant about the cost of using the kettle, it still works out better, as a rule, to boil the kettle and pour into the pan, rather than heating the water from cold in the pan.

3) Check your bank statements - are you paying for stuff you don't want or use any more? Gym subscriptions when you never have time to go, magazines that languish unread until you donate them, still in their plastic wrapper, to the Doctor's surgery, and memberships to organisations that you have no interest in the activities of are a good example of this. Often we sign up for things by Direct Debit and then forget all about them, and the money carries on sneaking out of the bank account on a monthly basis. Check statements for six months back - that then means you will catch anything that goes out quarterly as well. The keep a regular eye on things from then on to pick up on anything you've missed. When we first started doing this we (shamefully!) discovered that we had been paying someone else's water rates for six months. *Ahem* SIX MONTHS! We got it back though, every last penny. And - you've guessed it....we paid it against the mortgage! (If you bank online, by the way, this step should be a doddle, as usually you can sort your bank accounts to only show Direct Debits on screen).
4) Shopping - we feed the two of us, plus HRH The Cat, on £150 per month. This includes all food, her cat litter, cleaning materials and routine medication like painkillers etc. We waste practically nothing - I meal plan in advance, and then build my shopping list each week based on that plan. I also keep a running list of "Stuff that needs using up" which then gets incorporated into the upcoming meals. The plan works roughly around a five-week rotation, which gets round the risk of ending up in a "it's egg and chips, so today must be wednesday" situation. I adjust the meals around things we have in, so for example next week's plan won't use eggs, as I won't have any in, but the following weeks shopping list gets eggs added to it. Think about how much food you buy, and don't use....a shocking proportion of the food bought in the UK ends up in landfill - it's a waste of resources and of course of your hard-earned cash. For the next week - try noting down everything you throw out, then at the end of seven days, add up the rough cost of that food. Then multiply that by 52. Oh, and add £20 to the final figure to account for christmas. I bet you'd rather have that in your bank account, eh?!

5) Think about your everyday life and the choices you make. This could possibly be the biggest single saving you could make. Martin Lewis has a great tool over on Moneysavingexpert - the "Disincentiviser" - this allows you to work out the cost of those little habits - so a latte each morning on the way to work....lunch bought from the sandwich shop, a daily all adds up, and quite frighteningly, too. Once you know the costs - you can work out which of those items are worth that annual cost to you, and which have become a habit that, frankly, isn't worth the cost. For us, it was a takeaway on a Friday night....every week. We still have takeaways, but rather than being a weekly habit, with the occasional one during the week when we've got home late, or failed to plan well for dinner, it's one a month, at the most, with an occasional extra after a day out, when perhaps a little too much beer has been consumed to consider cooking as an option....!

What would be your five best suggestions for becoming more frugal, without sliding across the gap too far into the realms of "tight"?



cheri said...

Great, common sense, advice there. So why is it that I don't do a lot of it already?

Erm, laziness maybe or a lack of common sense.

Love the way that you write about these things too.

Robyn said...

Bless you Cheri - I think we're all guilty of taking our eye off the ball on this stuff occasionally - writing it down works as a good way of remembering, though!