Tuesday, 4 January 2011

This Time Last Year...

Reconsidering all my options.
Reed Bunting

This time last year, it was snowing. Temperatures were sub zero and all around us was white. The lane was frozen solid, almost impassable because of it's icy state, glittering invitingly to anyone who dared even attempt to skim its glassy surface in anything more than a pair of wellies. Walking, although a very frugal pastime, was quite treacherous, but not so much that it deterred us from partaking of frugal photography.

Within the scope of affordable inventions, I reckon digital cameras surpass most new visual technology. They have opened up the doors to a whole new world for amateur photographers, especially those who had previously found the costs of film, development, delayed results and, ultimately, wastage, prohibitive. No more shall we feel the financial pain of throwing away the bad photos, for the 21st Century brought technological magic to the fingertips of ever prudent, camera-wielding wizard - affordable fun! Indeed, we purchased an exceptionally fine model using eBid Buddy Points - no cash involved.

Many a stunning view was captured from around the place we call Frugaldom with many of these images saved and printed for calenders, postcards and greetings cards; some even became keyrings, coasters and fridge magnets.

This time last year, I had already seen my daughter celebrate her engagement (July 2009) and then her wedding (September 2009). These things are major family events that NEED to be budgeted for well in advance. Thankfully, frugal living, for me, had begun in 2001 and has continued, unabeited, since. It is neither inhibitive nor does it prevent me from living life the way I want it. In fact, it is very liberating. Self-catering a birthday party for 120 people on a budget of around £100 for food was entertaining, to say the least - but everybody loved it and nobody cared - they ate, they drank and they made merry. By pulling together, the families managed to throw a most memorable wedding party the following September and then, come mid 2010, my son didn't go without for his 21st. Frugal living is the only way to live if you intend becoming a frugal entrepreneur. It's about grasping opportunities and running the risk of succeeding in making something out of almost nothing.

Throughout 2010, frugality was the watchword. The resulting spreadsheets have slowly, year by year, been developed to reflect everything I could possibly need or spend. At the same time, they have managed to remain incredibly simple and show me where changes need to be made at any given time. The ISA may not have been filled and I may not own my own home, but that's not the point. As a frugal entrepreneur, I feel it is better to live and save within my means, able to take advantage of whatever small opportunity comes along.

I originally started this challenge to clear outstanding debts and then accrue some savings in the hope of buying a house without a mortgage - but now I'm not so sure. If I buy a house, it represents nothing more that a roof over my head until it becomes inheritance for my kids, but why should they wait? Why shouldn't they learn my frugal ways and benefit from them now?

This time last year I promised myself we would save every £2 coin and every piece of spare change into the homemade papier mache banks we'd all made. By Christmas, the household had an extra £150+ to play with and my son still hasn't even emptied his bank, yet.

This time last year was a full year ago and it's hard to believe how quickly that time has passed. But pass it has. This New Year, I was blessed with a brand new baby grand daughter, my second in the family, so why should I squirrel away every penny to pay for a house that will, ultimately, be sold? I haven't fully given up on buying a house without a mortgage. To be 100% honest, I know, exactly, what house I want to buy. But money in the bank isn't everything. So I have another plan...

Back on the frugal grocery challenge, tonight's dinner was courtesy of the freezer - leftover roast beef with gravy, puff pastry and assorted root veg - homegrown potatoes, turnips and parsnips -  that were lurking in the bottom of the freezer. Frugaler and frugaler... another day goes by without needing to buy.  I did spend some money, though: £23 on coal, £15 on electricity and £15 to my friendly society bond with life assurance. I also squirreled £66.94 into the savings account to round up to the next even hundred, but that was only because it was such an untidy figure at the start of the day. The friendly society bond isn't a brilliant investment but it does allow you to put up to £25 per month into tax free savings and offers a guaranteed life assurance from day one. At worst, it'll cover a cheap funeral, at best I'll get some money back in a few years time. I opened the policy online via Topcashback, so I made the most of that and the extra £15 of M&S vouchers I received. They're offering £50 cashback at the moment for a Scottish Friendly Bond, but it takes a long time to track and pay out - most insurance related products seem to take at least three months. I'll let you know when this year's home contents policy pays the cashback - it should be due soon. 

Please always double check for the best available deals at the time. Savings bonds can go down as well as up, so not always the best option for anyone just wanting to save for a rainy day. Personally, I dislike life insurance because of the risk of losing it all by out-living the policy! At least the life assurance with the friendly society bond offers me something back after the alloted timescale or a small death benefit to save the family from any sudden expenses like a funeral. It isn't morbid - it makes good frugal sense.

Tomorrow, I think, might be Premium Bonds checking day!

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