Friday, 10 May 2013

Frugal Friday

Frugal Living is becoming more and more popular as either belts have to be tightened to make ends meet as costs rise and pay stagnates, or as people see the advantages of cutting back on money spent unnecessarily to fund a better life further on. There's no need to feel deprived either - there are masses of blogs out there detailing different people's  takes on cutting down, and cutting back, and their reasons for doing so. One of my current favourites is Saving For Travel which details doing exactly what it says in the title. A refreshing take on the subject - this frugality is to feed a definite wanderlust, and it's great to see all the adventures they've got planned!

An alternative take on "Frugal Living" is "Simple Living" - the same sort of idea, but with a definite "less is more" slant to it as well. Thinking about what you need, as opposed to what you want, is a great starting point. I try to at the very least acknowledge when something is a "want" rather than a "need", and it does make you look at your life differently.

There are all sorts of ways you can frugalise, or simplify your life:

- Cut down on consumption of electricity, gas, water. This can be as simple as turning lights off in rooms you are not in, or hunting down items which are on "standby" and turning them right off. it's cheaper to just put a mobile phone on to charge until the battery is full, and then take it off again, than to leave it on all night, for example. If using the oven put several things in at once. If just reheating something I usually use the Microwave/mini-oven on combination or convection rather than heating the big one. Turn the tap off when cleaning your teeth and if you have to run the water though to heat for face-washing anyway, use that run-through to rinse the brush. If you are on a water meter, and run a dehumidifier, then the water from that can be used for toilet flushing.

A good example of something best bought seasonally...
- When grocery shopping plan in advance what you are going to cook, and only buy what you need. Check the fridge before writing the meal plan and work out what you need to use up - then work those items in to the plan. It's often better to buy a smaller amount of better quality meat - maybe not organic unless you feel strongly on such things, but look for British, as this gives a higher quality of welfare as standard than meat imported from abroad. The red tractor mark is a good indicator. It's not all about the animals either - the meat will taste better (Yes, it does, really!) and there are stringent guidelines over here on such things as the use of antibiotics, too. The same with eggs - free range aren't that much more expensive now and you get a much nicer egg! You can also Bulk-Buy meat - buying a whole lamb, or half a pig, for example if you have the freezer space to do it - can really drive the cost per-kilo down.

- Frugal Fun - Something Saving For Travel has mentioned is choosing a town or village in your region that you've never been to before and simply going and exploring. Find out what exhibitions or museums there are, many of these have free admission, as do cathedrals and churches. Others simply ask for "A Donation" so you can choose for yourself what you can afford and think it was worth. How about walking a coastal or county path? We fancy The London LOOP and may well make a start on that this year. If you take with you a flask and packed lunch, then it can be done simply for the cost of the fuel to get to your starting point, and, if not doing an "out and back", the cost of travel back to the car. If you have membership to English Heritage, The National Trust or the RSPB, then make the most of them.

- Downshift - if shopping, buy Shops own brand instead of branded or premium, or "economy labels" instead of own brand, and see where you notice the difference. (We hold fast on branded coffee & loo rolls, but are quite happy to buy value fruit and veg, for example). Booking a weekend away? How about a B&B instead of a hotel, or camping rather than a B&B? Primark rather that M&S? Superdrug rather than Clinique? You get the idea....

'Tis the time of year for tulips...
- Clothing - Go through your wardrobe and clear out anything you don't like any more, or that REALLY doesn't fit. In a charity shop out there somewhere there is someone who will love your cast-offs and will really appreciate the opportunity to get a brand new (to them) outfit! If there are garments that you no longer wear currently, but aren't sure whether you may do in the future, fold them tidily and pop them into a box, seal it with tape and write the date on the lid. Write a reminder on your calendar for 3 months hence. If in that three months you've not thought or, or looked for, any of those garments, send the whole lot to the charity shop without even opening the box.

- Make small changes - if you buy a coffee every day on the way to work try making it just a friday treat instead. Likewise turn the weekly friday-night takeaway into a payday only treat, or knock them on the head altogether and perhaps go out for a meal once in a while instead - £15 per week on takeaways translates to £180 a quarter, or more than £700 per year - had you realised that? You can Downshift there, too - Chinese usually works out cheaper than Indian, and near us, good quality Fish & chips can be had for even less!

Who can resist colours like that?
- when booking travel, planning ahead is usually cheaper than doing things on the spur of the moment. Booking our train tickets ahead of travelling and then collecting from the station might only make a tiny saving each time, but I'd sooner that money was in my pocket than someone elses! Likewise if you're travelling any distance by train, it's worth working out when the really cheap advance tickets are released and trying to book then - we got MrEH from London to Doncaster for £9.35 last year like this, and then of course there was our sleeper tickets for our Orkney trip which was travel AND accommodation for a night, all in one, and cost us just £38 each...the full price standard tickets would have been over £100 each! Don't forget the bargain travel sites too, although for booking advance tickets well ahead the operators own sites often beat RedSpottedHanky. It's worth checking what fees they charge though - RSH charge none, and so can still be cheaper. If you're using the car, then plan to combine journeys where possible, or better still, think about whether you need to use it at all or whether in fact walking or cycling would be better for you, the environment AND your pocket! When buying petrol or diesel give thought not only to where is cheapest, but also to whether there is any particular supplier's fuel that your vehicle runs better on, than another. MrEH's car for example does less miles per gallon when using BP, than on Shell, or better still, Morrisons fuel. If you can combine cheap fuel (use with loyalty schemes to save you money on groceries of fuel further down the line then so much the better.

My "Simplify It" challenge is very much about making my life more streamlined and simple, and to that end I'm dividing it into sections to attach one at a time. Clothes, books, email inboxes, kitchen items, and even the food cupboards - nothing is going to be safe this year! I've already started looking at everything with a mental question-mark - do I need it? Do I use it? Do I have more than one item doing the same job? if the answer to these questions suggests that the thing in question is surplus to requirements then it's leaving my home, and my life! I've realised how much I like having spare space on bookshelves, in fact on ANY shelves! Books that I have had hanging around because I feel I "ought" to read them will be winging their way to the charity shop, and the sort of clutter good for nothing much more than gathering dust will be a thing of the past!


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