Friday, 7 September 2012

Frugal Friday...

We hear a lot about what "Being Frugal" means to various people on the internet - via website, blogs etc. My reading list contains a good number of blogs on the subject - some very similar to mine, where there is a mix of general stuff, photos and frugality, and some where the frugality is the sole reason for the blog. In their own way, most are a good read (although some are just downright hilarious - the "Car Crash TV" of the internet, if you will!). Then there are sites like MoneySavingExpert, and it's associated forums, where many of us started out, which will help to refine your finances down to the N'th degree, and blogs, like the marvellous "Down To Earth" where Rhonda gently plants the seeds of frugality and Simple Living without ever preaching, getting on a soapbox, or surreptitiously ripping off other peoples ideas and claiming them as her own. "Living a Slow & Simple Life" is another in the same vein, just a good, entertaining read, that every now and again makes you think "Oh yes! what a good idea!"

The simple things in life...
So it's easy to find out what various people consider to be "being frugal" - but how about what it doesn't - or shouldn't, in any case - mean? To me, being frugal with money is very different being "tight" with it. Miserly behaviour dressed up as being frugal makes me cringe. We give to charity - regularly by way of memberships (National Trust, RSPB) routinely in passing (RNLI boxes always get a contribution from us, and we shop regularly at charity shops) and occasionally on the spur of the moment (collections at speedway, for example, for injured riders, the St John Ambulance or Speedway Riders' Benevolent Fund). What I won't do though, is be "guilted" into donating, so the tin-thrusting OAP outside the supermarket, imploring me to "give to the poor little kiddies cancer fund" won't be getting a bean I'm afraid. I've done charity collections myself (for the Guide Dogs For the Blind Association) and I know for a fact that all the reputable charities ask that their collectors do NOT approach people directly to give - they know full well that it's counter-productive. By the same token the person collecting around the pub, or coming into an office I'm working in will be leaving empty-handed so far as I'm concerned. I DO donate, but I choose where to, and when.

We eat good quality food - although I shop on a strict budget, on a week to week basis almost everything I spend (in the region of £20, usually) is spent on milk, and fresh fruit and veg. Fruit and veg varies with what is seasonal, and good quality, and as much as possible is British grown. Eggs are free range, meat is British - I simply will not buy imported meat just because it is cheaper, while knowing full well that the animals that have provided it have suffered unnecessarily. My conscience won't allow it, and by shopping around carefully you can get better quality for relatively little more cost in any case. I care about what we eat, and refuse to eat crap, or "engineered" foodstuffs, just because they are cheap. If I want to bulk out meat in a stew, or mince in a bolognese, a handful of porridge oats or oatmeal does perfectly well thank you, I'll pass on artificially grown forms of protein! I want to pay off the mortgage, but not at the expense of seeing British Farmers lose their livelihoods and us all be beholden to Europe for all our food, or not knowing what the foods I put into my body might do to it in the longer term.

Buy British! (Or grow your own!)
Heating is another subject often raised on Frugal types of blogs - and oh so often this creates the image of the "frugalista" (or frugalisto, there are a few out there!) hunched over a tiny heater in the one room they "allow" themselves to heat, or worse, bundled in 17 layers and tucked up in bed at 7am because they are insistent that they "can't possibly put the heating on!" Our heating definitely goes on when it's cold - it's better for us, better for the flat, and means that we don't spend all night with the cat wrapped round our heads! Yes it costs (more for us than for the vast majority of those whinging that they "can't afford" to put their central heating on - we have storage heaters which cost a small fortune to run!), and we have it set at a level which just takes the chill off, not one that means we are running around the place in January in vests and shorts! Modern housing (by which I mean anything built within the last 100 years or so) simply isn't designed to be left unheated, and will get damp pretty fast. Once damp gets hold, it brings with it all sorts of health problems, and is incredibly difficult to eradicate once it's set in, and will cause you problems down the line with selling the property should you wish to do so. We monitor the weather forecasts for a few days ahead, and set the heaters up accordingly, if we're away for a few days they get turned right down, and if we're in, and cold to the point that wearing a thick fleece and snuggling a throw round our feet doesn't fix, we have auxiliary heating which can be used for short periods - a low-cost oil filled radiator which gets used in the bathroom and bedroom, an electric "Bar heater" in the front room (old fashioned but effective!) and a small convector heater ideal for foot-warming in the spare-room-come-office!

I refuse to be cold for anyone!
As a result of all the profligate spending above (Yes, you can laugh, but there are plenty out there who would considering it to be exactly that!) it might take us a little while longer to pay off that mortgage, but as and when we have we will have done it without having years of misery to look back on, or (hopefully) medical complaints as a result of eating food which is cheap for a reason! Saving is great, but we refuse point-blank to sacrifice a decent standard of living for it.

That pretty much sums it up for me - frugal should mean "careful" - not tight, or miserly, certainly not eating crap to save a few pennies, and definitely not sitting freezing to death! Watch where the pennies go, and pay off debt wherever you possibly can, but not "at all costs" - your health and wellbeing, both physical and mental, are far more important than that! What does Frugal NOT mean, to you?



Wittgenstein's Watering Can said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wittgenstein's Watering Can said...

Frugal to me is about making the most of the money you've got, making it go further so you can do things that you might not otherwise be able to do on your income, whether it's paying off debts, paying for holidays, a course, a hobby or saving up for something special.

I reckon I've eaten better since I started being 'frugal' - through experimenting, trying out different cuts of meat, growing my own veg etc. I used to sometimes resort to cheap ready meals or ready-made things when I was short of money but it's usually a false economy especially when it doesn't taste great - makes you feel deprived and sorry for yourself.

So, yes, NOT about feeling miserable, deprived and definitely NOT feeling cold!!

Have you seen - absolutely brilliant blog about eating well on a budget?

Tony Giles said...

I consider frugal about not wasting rather than going without por buying something that is cheap but of poor quality.

Since moving to Lewis my income has been a lot less (taking account of the fact that I'm now mortgage free) but finding that I'm better off because so little waste goes into the bin these days - I buy what I need and use it all rather than buying something and using half of it.

(As with Wittgenstein, I'm also eating better now. Although Lewis is most probably one of the few places where venison and lobster are cheap foods.)

Robyn said...

Some great points there - thank you both. Wittgenstein you are SO right about trying different cuts of meat - like you we like to eat high quality and high welfare, so if I want to make a beef stew for example, I now look for cuts like shin or skirt - both utterly delicious and a fraction of the cost of the more "conventional" cuts. I'll be having a good old oread of that link too - how that one slipped by me previously goodness knows!
Tony, it is spending time in the Hebrides that has started us really thinking about what we put into landfill. It's such a waste of the countryside to fill it with our rubbish, and this is all the more noticeable where the landscape is so breathtaking. Of course as you rightly say this has the side-effect of meaning you save money.

dreamer said...

Good post Robyn.
i agree with your other commenters,to me it is about getting the best value from the money you have available, often this means buying something of a better quality that you know will last forever rather than the cheap and cheerful option. We eat well on a small budget but we eat good food, home grown veg and fruit,foraged foods, eggs laid by ours or the neighbour's hens,and fish, game etc caught and passed to me by friends.This means the cash we do spend can be spent on better quality food just less of it.The frugality is not the main objective of how we live it is just the by product of the choices we make.Living more simply just tends to equate to living less expensively - both in financial and ecological costs :)

Miss Piggy Bank said...

I'm enjoying your blog Robyn and you have some very valid points

Robyn said...

I'm really glad you're enjoying it!

Dreamer, I'm sorry I missed this comment previously - great point you make there about better quality meaning you need less - we've found this with meat, particularly. Better quality mince in a bolognese means you can get by with about half the quantity. As you say, frugality & simplicity going hand in hand.