Friday, 11 April 2014

Frugal Friday...

We've embarked on an interesting challenge this year. As you know, one of our long term plans involves a potential move to the Hebrides. It's a good way off yet, but we know that eventually, that's where we'd like to end up. That, in turn, means that we need to experience the islands at various times of year to be sure that we have done our research well - MrEH, for example, was unsure how much of a problem he'd find the extremely long daylight hours in the summer - while my main concern is precisely the opposite - being the lack of daylight in the middle of winter. Bearing in mind that in mid-winter it doesn't get light up there until around 9am - and is dark again by soon after 3pm - this is a significant concern!

Beautiful - but do I want to see it at 3pm?
Anyway, we've now visited at times ranging from early March to Mid June - and although that only seems like a short time-window, it actually gives us a fair amount of different conditions we have experienced. We've been feeling for a while though that we'd like to try to get up there even just for a week in the very depths of the winter - hopefully meaning we should experience the worst of the lack of daylight, and also some of the more extreme weather conditions. We realised a while ago that the Christmas/New Year holiday 2014/15 should give us just such an opportunity, and we've been planning accordingly.

Obviously we have no intention of losing our lovely fortnight away in the spring/early summer - we enjoy that far too much, and having a full fortnight away is such a lovely thing to be able to do. That's far from the cheapest of holidays either, but we fund it by making regular deposits into a savings account through the year, saving loose change, and undercutting our grocery budget in order to have the whole cost covered before we even set foot on a ferry. This does mean though that there is no spare cash lying about to divert to an additional trip up - so how to fund such a trip, was the question?

Fulmars nesting amongst the Thrift at Ness...
The first step was to work out what our costs are likely to be. A bit of research suggests that travel is likely to be a fairly big expense as you might expect. In December it's not going to be practical to take the car up - the drive up takes up 2 days for a start, and that's without factoring in the risk of seriously nasty weather, so the options come down to train & ferry, or flying. That comment about the possibility of seriously nasty weather has already put us off any option involving ferries - at that time of year an unusual week in the Western isles is one where all the ferries have run as scheduled, so we've pretty much decided that flying up and back will be the answer. This is likely to cost us in the region of £300. Accommodation should be achievable for around £300 for the week also - a lot of holiday lets view the time aver Christmas & New Year as "peak season" but there are options out there for that sort of price. If we're flying up and back, one problem that gives us is travel while we're there - we're likely to be some way off the beaten track so far as bus routes are concerned - so will need to factor in hiring a car - we're currently budgeting £200 for that, plus a tank full of fuel, but are hoping to get a decent deal on the hire cost. Then there will be food and drink. General spending money will be relatively low - there's very little open at that time of year to spend money on - we'll be eating out a few times no doubt, but other than that our entertainment is likely to be mostly walking, and curling up in the cottage listening to the wind whipping around! The food, drink and "general" spends will come from our trusty grocery account again - we already know that it's perfectly possible to build up a good credit balance in there. So - our extra week in the Hebrides will cost us in the region of £850 - how to fund that?

For a good few years now we've been saving into an online "sealed pot" - traditionally this comes from money "rounded down" from other bank accounts and transferred in - so the odd pennies on a balance, or sometimes a few pounds as well in order to round a balance down to the nearest £5 or £10 threshold. This year, and with the challenge of the "cash neutral holiday" in mind, we've also taken to popping our TopCashBack money into there, and more recently a cheque received as a refund from a long-ago cancelled insurance policy. It was a tough decision to do that as in the past all our "unexpected" money has gone off to the account we save for mortgage overpayments in - however in real terms this extra trip is research for our hoped for future move, so it doesn't feel TOO much like cheating! (We still dispatched the council tax & water rates money from February & March off to the mortgage as normal). Interest from savings accounts also heads off into the "VSP" (Virtual Sealed Pot) account. We had £300 sitting there from last year, and so far this year we've managed to add very nearly another £360 so far! Astonishing, eh? That's already our accommodation and flights funded, and probably the fuel for the hire car, too! Although I've long been a fan of VSP saving, it's really come as a surprise quite how much can be saved this way when you really put your mind to it, and because it's only a tiny amount that you shave off the accounts each time you do it, you really don't notice the going of it. (Which in turn leads to the question "where the heck did it go before, then?" I guess!) It's certainly a great way of making something like a holiday pretty much cash neutral, and we'll certainly be carrying on with that method of saving for specific things on into the future.

That snow on the mainland hills is one reason for NOT taking the car up in winter!
How about you - have you come up with a crafty way of making something you really want "cash neutral"? Or perhaps you already use methods like this to pay for something like Christmas, or the kids birthday presents? I'd love to hear how you go about it!


1 comment:

Scarlet said...

I'm selling stuff on ebay to go towards the radiator fund, and the amount is growing steadily.We've also done carboot sales in the past to help to fund renovations/ decorating.
I hope you'll have another wonderful holiday!