Tuesday, 27 November 2012

A Look Back Over the Frugal Years


I can't believe how quickly time is marching on and that we're a mere four days from December 2012! Preparing for 2013 seems a bit 'pie in the sky', yet here we are... pies, shortbread, clootie dumplings and anything else you can think of begging to be baked or boiled!

Everyone's talking in Christmas-speak, Yule-speak and winter festivities-speak, so it's high time that I got to work on the new Frugaldom moneymaking challenge, before drifting off into fluffy-cloud-land to dream of Santa, roaring log fires, hot chocolate and marshmallows.

As most people know, a frugal lifestyle allows little in the budget for anything outside the cost of living, especially while trying to renovate an 1805 cottage that sucks every breath of warmth from you as soon as you walk in the door. 'Sausage dog' draught excluders, fleece curtain linings, winter woolies and extra quilts are all at the ready, having been rudely awakened from their summer slumbers. But that won't halt the ever-increasing cost of living. No way.

Beating inflation is about staying ahead of the game and, for those of us who are self-employed, that means one of two things... increasing the income or reducing the overheads. Well my overheads are as close to zero as I can possibly bring them without imposing hypothermia or malnutrition on anyone who ventures near, so that leaves income.

Frugal living means frugal working, so another new challenge has been launched for 2013. We've been doing these for years. Nobody has ever got rich yet, but they are such immense fun that it would be sad to stop trying now.

The premise is that you 'invest' a fixed amount, say £10, and then work towards growing your money to show profit. This year, I invested in some egg cartons and began selling frugal gourmet quail eggs. A fellow frugaler developed her skills in making jewellery items, while another bought fabric and sold cushion-sized squares.

It's amazing how much fun you can have with £10 but, for 2013, we are upping the stakes to a whopping £50! The challenge launched recently during Gobal Entrepreneurship Week with one frugaler setting up a secondhand clothes business, catering for larger ladies, while another is looking into room rental. Me? I have set up 'Clan McGonk' as part of my long-standing eco-arts project.

Eco-art is about creating one thing from another using, wherever possibe, what would otherwise be treated as surplus to requirement.

With this in mind, I thought it would be rather fun to recap on some of the past challenges, products and ideas. For a start, it may tempt a few of you to consider joining our 2013 challenge

My garden logman bird feeder was built from off cuts left by the treefeller when a neighbour had a conifer felled in her garden last year.

'Cash cow', along with several other characters, was made from papier mache. We simply recycled old newspapers and turned them into banks - and all other forms of sealed pots - for yet another savings challenge.

The pebble and shell 'pets', as you can easily see, were made from pebbles and shells. (I think that was the 2005/6 challenge - we've been doing this for some time.) With investment made into tiny 'googly eyes', they, in turn, began finding their way onto everything! We sold some really, really crazy items via eBid.

Does anyone remember any of the other recycled items that Frugaldom produced over the years? What about the famous 'willitfit'? The wooden postal measuring slots were made from offcuts salvaged from a local picture framer. I got all manner of offcuts, mostly thin hardboard of the type used to back prints for framing. Those were great days! The smaller pieces of wood were turned into wooden savings 'bricks' and the bits sliced from the postal slots were made into keyrings. A small investment was made into the rings and hoops for creating the keychains. And then, along came the offcuts from plywood - how fantastic was that? Free plywood and a friend with a fancy shmancy cutting tool that meant we could draw shapes, then he could cut them accordingly.
All manner of creatures appeared on the doorstep, as we turned them into hand-painted planters.

Perhaps the days of larger free offcuts will return, but the recession is surely here to stay - nobody wants to part with free wood nowadays, not when it can go on a stove to help fend off the cold and boil a kettle for a cuppa. So, it's time to move on and attempt to make something from whatever people are finding themselves getting rid of to the bin man. Pity I can't recycle plastics. Hmm...

To hand, I have old clothing, household textiles and shredded paper! With this in mind, plus the fact that sis had the job of creating furry toys for tombola stall prizes, she gave me the idea of how I could adapt a previous project (1999, so few if any of you will remember it!) to bring it online and into production.

My 2013 Frugaleur Challenge is to make recycled furry friends, otherwise known as my clan of McGonks! The initial start-up capital will be invested in such things as website creation, felt, fur, ribbon, little pompoms, big googly eyes and any variety of sewing and replenishing the sewing box with toymaking related items. (I love homemade Christmas presents, don't you?) At the moment, I am unravelling an old jumper to free up some wool for knitting little scarves and crocheting mini-blankets, but I still need to source chunky knitting needles and a crochet hook - soon it will be gonks galore!

During a previous challenge - shell & pebble pets - I managed to grow my investment enough to invest in a lovely new glue gun, so that will help somewhere along the way. During the wood craze, I afforded to invest in a pyrography iron and I already have an office shredder, so that will help make the stuffing! Eco-arts, eco-gonks, eco-fun, who needs a Furby?!

I'm really excited about getting my new frugaleur project off the ground, having already invested in domain names for the new website and dusted down many of the files containing the photos and exploits of my previous character.

Not only will Clan McGonk exist, it will also have its own series of mini ebooks and a selection of collectable furry friends from which to choose. You'll can follow the stories online, take part and generally have some frugal fun. There's even a McGonks page ready to be developed on Facebook - how cool (and free) is that? Now that I come to think about it, perhaps I shouldn't have give away the sewing machine, afterall! I'm going to have to stitch up these furry little critturs by hand.

If you would like to take part in the 2013 challenge, check out the site at www.frugaleur.com and let's get making, baking, creating and crafting for the new year. It's frugal fun all round and we are always interested in trading with like-minded others.



  1. Not that you want to spend any more money than you have to, but have you checked out the price of mini sewing machines - usually £30 max. Proper machines as well, just very small.

  2. what size crochet hook are you looking for? I have some duplicated.

  3. Thank you for the comments, I always love receiving some sort of feedback on the blog.

    Data, no, I haven't seen the mini sewing machines, although I do vaguely recall tiny toy-like ones from about 40 years ago. (Giving my age away now!)How interesting - must do some research, thank for that. :)

    WP, I have no crochet hooks at all, everything like that was lost many years ago during my biggest move. Anything that's fairly chunky for loose squares would be ideal, as these will become shawls for the lady McGonks of the little clan. :)

    1. Email me and I will check my stock of hooks abd send you what i can.

    2. Many thanks, WP, I'll get back to you via the forums/email. :)

  4. Heard about you via Jane, Frugal Queen - can I send you some ribbon & other bits? Email me [address on my blog]

    blessings x

  5. Love the McGonks. Did you used to watch Michael Bentine's 'Potty Time'? They look the characters that you would see every week? Great idea!!

  6. Angela, how lovely to hear from you and many thanks, will go and investigate your blog very soon. :)

    Dave, as a matter of fact, I did! But I also remember my gran had one of the original McGonks, which went out of production many years ago, otherwise I'd have sourced one of those as my 'model'. :)

  7. I remember Potty Time! Hello, I'm another visitor from Frugal Queen. I have some chunky knitting needles - any use? I also have some fibres and odds/ends of trim/beads. E-mail me, contact at



  8. your head is bursting with ideas isn't it...LOL I need to sit down and think what I can/will do...........

    Gill in Canada

  9. Could you use some pieces of felt, buttons, fabric pieces, etc? My email is on my profile.

  10. Another visitor here from Frugal Queen, will pop you a bag of bits in the post at the weekend!

  11. Crikey! I don't know what to say! You are all such lovely people offering great suggestions, support and to help out with bits and pieces, I am eternally grateful, and a little humbled, to say the least.

    The blog post really wasn't meant to come across in an 'asking for help' sort of a way, but this show of kindness demonstrates that our world isn't such a bad place. It shows that frugalers, fellow bloggers and friends are all one and the same - a fantastic bunch of people to know, even in a virtual world. :)

  12. I have some yarn that you can have. If that would be useful you can email me via my blog and I'll let you know what colours I have.

  13. Hiya. I've come over via Froogs blog as well. Will also pop a bag of craft bits and bobs over to you too :-)
    J x

  14. You guys are all amazing! Seriously, I've never met such a wonderful bunch of people online ever, it's frugamazing!

  15. Hiya, did you get my little parcel with the tartan in it? Just wanted to know so I can relax hugs Vix/Jayne

  16. Hi Vixen, yes, your parcel arrived and was much appreciated. I was trying to include little nebtions without mentioning names, as I'm not too sure of the protocol on the 'love bomb' strategy - I had never encountered such a thing until 'Froogs' and I were partnered in the competition. I included a hint for you in http://frugaldom.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/secret-santas-frugal-treasure-trove.html wher the fleece heart is in the middle of the photo. :) Loved everything, including the beautiful card. Sorry I didn't respond directly - I really need to learn how this all works.

  17. I dont know either lol Oh well its out now! I was worried you wouldnt get it as I lost a parcel a while ago in the post and soemwhere near Birmingham there is a lovely box of pretty hand made stuff sat on a post office shelf :( Sorry for putting you in an awkward position hugs Vix

  18. Vix, not at all, I'm learning to ignore awkward and hope to also take better control of my wonky typing skills. Glad you understood my previous reply, it's so bad that I had to read it twice! LOL


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