My Year so Far!
- Live on £4,000 for the year (2013 will be year 7 for this)
- Grocery Challenge - included within the above total - increased to £1.25/person/day
- Frugaleur Challenge - Establish a new micro-business
- Get fitter, not fatter - always trying!
- Hand make gifts for friends and family
- Save all loose change
- Eco-renovate the house without incurring any debt - this is a 5-year challenge, started in 2011
- EEK - Everything Else Kitty - all other spending must be cost or cash neutral
- Do without a car - cycle, walk or lift share for the full year
- Tick off a few more items from the 'to do before 50' list.
- £4,000.00 - I began the year with a household account balance of £4,000 and have tried my best to spend accordingly. After deducting approximately 25% of this for Council Tax, £145.50 for the TV licence (a luxury) and £165 for home insurance, I was left with £2,728.46 to 'live' for the full year. That's an average of £52 per week for the household. Winter was long and harsh, we were snowed in for about a week, lost power on numerous occasions and spent a small fortune on electricity trying to heat the place. Now, as of 14th June, I have £1,192.53 remaining to last until 31st December 2013. With 200 days remaining, if I am to succeed in this year's challenge, I have only £41.73 per week, on average, to spend!
- GROCERY CHALLENGE - Since we're one less in our shared household this year, I thought I would be rash and increase the budget from £1 per person per day to £1.25, giving me a grand total of £912.50 to last the year. This includes toiletries, cleaning products and laundry products, so it's still quite a tight budget, but I know that it's part of my job to make it work - and work it must! I have £458.20 remaining and have just spent £32 via a Groupon offer - 135 luxury 3-ply toilet rolls with free delivery. Sorted in that department for the next year, at least, and I'm sure I can stretch the balance over the next 6 months by supplementing it with garden produce, even if we do need to eat copious amounts of salad leaves, rhubarb and blackcurrants, not to mention all the eggs produced by the hens ducks and quail. The homemade laundry 'detergent' is a must, as is bulk buying, batch cooking, preserving and taking advantage of bargains anywhere available.
- FRUGALEUR CHALLENGE - This is really difficult because I had planned on making some spare cash from a craft-related project but then ended up selling the items to raise funds for a local charity. On the plus side, the new 'McGonks' (www.mcgonks.com) project paid for itself quickly, based on the fact that everything being used was either given to me or bought cheaply as offcuts or surplus. A serious effort will now be made to try and make it financially sustainable while also helping fundraise for charity. Besides that, it ties in well with items 4, 5 and 10 of my personal challenges list. (£675 cash for charity raised to date.)
- GET FITTER, NOT FATTER - We don't need expensive gym memberships here in the frugal living sector. We live in a fairly rural location within easy reach of lochs and seashore. We can walk, cycle and swim without it costing us a penny and any cut back on food consumption can only mean further savings on the grocery budget. A frugal diet is fairly healthy anyway, as it means cooking everything from scratch and growing whatever fresh produce you can either in pots or in the garden. Making the McGonks has helped this challenge as we now have a photographic diary of where they go, a fundraising challenge and even a frugal trip to the top of Ben Nevis, which was fabulous! Tied in nicely with item 10 on my list!
- HANDMAKE GIFTS - I'm notoriously bad at this as I am not very artistic and don't really have any real talent for crafting. I can do the basics of knitting, sewing, embroidery, crocheting and other stuff like that but actually getting my head down and concentrating on it for any length of time seems beyond me - I talk too much! If there's no company, I get easily distracted and lose focus on what's supposed to be getting done. Must try harder - I wonder if the nieces and grandchildren would like McGonks for Christmas? I doubt it very much! :)
- SAVE ALL LOOSE CHANGE - Still saving it religiously, dropping it into the appropriate jars for coppers or silver but spending so little cash means there's seldom much left over by way of change. Still, it mounts up into pounds eventually, then can be spent on something more substantial.
- ECO-RENOVATION - That's now two full years since we came here and we have managed to save quicker than we spend while doing little bits about the property. The new roof is on the back of the house, we now have proper windows in kitchen and bathroom, we have running water, electricity, a multi-fuel stove, the main hallway refloored, new cupboards in the temporary kitchen and the outbuilding has been rebuilt. The house still looks like a bombsite to the uninitiated, what with no plaster on walls, no ceiling in living-room and the old fireplace currently ripped out to leave a hole in the wall, but progress is slowly being made without too much waste. Indeed, the old fireplace has already been turned into another spiral herb bed in the garden.
- EVERYTHING ELSE KITTY (EEK) - This has taken a bit of a battering, as I'm aiming for a cash neutral year. Things that get paid from this include keeping the poultry, reclaiming and rebuilding the garden, National Insurance contributions and all manner of things not included in a basic household budget. The weekend holiday trip to Fort William, for example, had to come from this, as had several items of necessary clothing for the walk up Ben Nevis. It's the 'everything else' things that mount up and can kill a budget stone dead before we've even had time to notice. When you look at it from the point of view of having £8.75 per person per week to spend on groceries, toiletries and cleaning products, you can see the massively negative impact the likes of a takeaway meal might make, or the fact that the poultry may stop laying for a month but they still need feeding and bedding. Unexpected events crop up, charities need supporting, a pet needs a vet, a car needs repairs... the list is endless. Thankfully, we no longer have a car to drain funds but the extras still mount up, especially when things in the household need replacing. Year to date I have spent £445.29 but have only accrued £340.08 in extra income, generated from cash-back sites, sales of surplus eggs and, lest we forget, the whopping great £108 compensation from the power company after the 4-day power cut during the snow storms. The amount of interest generated from my meagre ISA savings is negligible, amounting to a ridiculous £1.50 per £1,000 per month! It's an absolute joke! As for the Premium Bonds, (I kept a few) they have won me nothing for the past 2 years! My free Lotto tickets, on the other hand, have given me three wins! Such a pity that the £5 or so had to be split twenty ways in the syndicate! Bottom line is that my 'EEK' is currently running in deficit at a rate of £105.21 This needs to be remedied soon, as the next load of poultry feed is due this month! Oh, and I also bought a tent! (Don't even ask!)
- DO WITHOUT A CAR - So far, so good! Working from home helps, as there's no commute anywhere, but as the sunny weather approaches, the urge to wander is creeping back in again. The shortest route to the local village store is just over 7 miles round trip, so cycling is much faster than walking and I'm limited by what I can carry on a bike, so spending is capped. However, getting further afield is going to be a challenge. I have several places I'd like to visit but each involves at least a 20 to 30 mile trip, so this challenge is being tied in with numbers 3 and 4 of my challenge list. I should get fitter cycling and I can thoroughly research my Frugaleur project by bike. One day, I may even invest in a newer bike.
- THE BUCKET LIST - Well, it's kind of a bucket list, it's my list of things to do before I'm 50, developed from my list of things to do before 40, which eventually became my list of thing to do before 45. One of those things was to go up Ben Nevis, so that was happily achieved on 25th May, at the same time as promoting the McGonks and fundraising for the local lifeboat. Also, I'd never been hostelling before, so that was another new experience. I found it a little expensive compared to camping, so bought a friend's tent when she was decluttering. I am sure 'tales of the tent' will be forthcoming in the not so distant future.
Please feel free to ask any questions and join me in the forum at http://frugaldom.myfreeforum.org if you'd like to discuss any of the items mentioned in this blog.