25th November 2013
Let's face it, if I had sufficient income from paid work as a writer - a lifelong ambition sparked off by reading a book titled 'The Big Tomato' in the early 70's - I wouldn't be sitting here trying to resolve so many complicated, long term financial issues.
Don't get me wrong, I love crunching numbers and I love all the fantastic results I've witnessed over the years, but helping others for free doesn't pay the bills or keep a roof over my head. Bearing this in mind, I needed to reflect on what my future may hold. We all need to keep our hopes and dreams alive, so this seemed like a particularly poignant day to reflect on such musings!
25th November, 2013 was a typical Monday! Few need reminding that 50 years ago today was the funeral of the assassinated President John F. Kennedy.
The weather here in Scotland has been reaching sub-zero temperatures recently and we've had the first snow flurry, but on this day in 1950, several feet of snow fell in many of the north-eastern States of America and, combined with 100+ mph winds, caused millions of dollars in property damage and killed 160 people. A huge cost for all concerned.
In 1973, President Richard Nixon was very harshly criticised, accused of deceiving the American people and not telling them about the real cause and severity of the energy crisis. Another crisis! Energy and finances... will these problems ever be resolved?
Looking towards the current energy price hikes here, it's reported that over 35% of Scottish households were in fuel poverty in 1996. In 2002, it was less than half that when they changed the definition of 'fuel poverty'. (I call that political number crunching!) By 2009, the figure was 28% and there's a claim that 98% of all Scottish households now have full central heating. Hmm... to this date, I have never been asked by any official body how much it would cost me to maintain this house at the minimum required temperature throughout the year. I can tell you now, it would probably take closer to half my annual income - certainly well over the 10% of the household income, so our fuel crisis is that we simply can't afford enough of the stuff! That's the reality of a frugal fuel crisis! But I don't feel in crisis about that in the least - it's toasty by the stove and 14C feels positively tropical when its freezing outside. Perhaps I should be stockpiling coal instead of saving cash in the bank! I could have doubled my money over the past 10 years! I'm planning on slashing my electricity expenditure next year for several reasons, one of them being that I'd rather help keep the local coal man and log man in jobs! Without them, I'd be well and truly stuffed!
Who remembers Bob Geldof and Band Aid with 'Do they Know it's Christmas?' That was on this day in 1984 - another money-orientated event to help deal with a crisis that resulted in around one million people dying of starvation, unable to buy food or fresh water in sufficient quantities to sustain themselves. Human beings, starving or dehydrating to death! I wonder how many people could be fed from the equivalent of what British households shamefully bin? But worry not - the council will recycle it all soon - into what, I am not 100% sure. Nor am I sure of how ecologically or economically sound these schemes are.
On a much lighter note, did you know that on this exact date in 1960, it is reported that Scottish Parliamentarians met in order to protect the alleged existence of the Loch Ness Monster? Supposedly, a group of young Englishmen were planning on dropping homemade bombs into the loch in order to send the mysterious creature to the surface, hopefully resulting in the capture of the beast for further study. The Chief constable of the County of Inverness, who it's said supported scientific study of this mysterious creature, did not, however, support bombing it in the process. The existence of 'Nessie' will forever be debated, but the fact remains - people love a good mystery. I, for one, am pleased that someone with authority chose to take such action (alleged or otherwise) to keep the hopes and dreams of many alive. Can you imagine what would happen if anyone suggested attempting to bomb Santa and his sleigh out of the sky? How shocking!
So, I've wandered from job to job, topic to topic, year to year and room to room today. I'm still not sure which direction I should be heading in 2014 but I have come to one conclusion - nothing is getting any easier! Perhaps we need to find what contents us, rather than trying to buy happiness. For me it seems to be about safeguarding my own future to avoid burdening anyone else - family, for example - with disasters that could so easily be averted.
The saying, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink" springs to mind when I see how many millions of pages of information are available about kicking debts, curbing spending and living within our means - despite them all, how many people (and Governments and countries) still have unsustainable debts, yet continue to spend unashamedly on non-essentials?
The saying "Like lambs to the slaughter" springs to mind when I see posts on social media sites proclaiming all sorts of miracle cures for all sorts of faults, flaws and crises, then witness those I previously thought of as rational, intelligent individuals, 'buy now', 'subscribe' or 'click here'. Almost every single person I know professes to have less money than they'd like, yet not one has ever taken up the frugaldom challenge to better their ability at budgeting.
Two little loaves got baked on 45 minute express setting in the breadmaker, so they'll be sliced and some served with the soup. I do like making soup! I guess it's one of the few things I concede to being good at doing - I can conjure up a pot of soup from next to nothing. If all else fails in my grocery challenge, I'll always have soup despite my lack of culinary skills. My bread never rises as proper fluffy, soft stuff, but we eat it, regardless. Soup, on the other hand, that can be played with until you get it near perfect every time.
Perhaps I'll try my hand at some more crafting - if only it was as easy as the pictures make it look and if only the receivers of such creative gifts appreciated them for what they are - hours of painstaking work - instead of subjecting me to the regular comment of, "Oh no, what are we getting this time?" Perhaps I should shock them all and give them nothing, but where's the fun in that?
How many of you have monsters lurking in the dim and dark depths of your lives, just waiting to pounce when you least expect them?
Is it just me who worries about the future?
Is it a cliché to discuss the price of cheese?
Should we really be noting the fact that it costs more for 3 filleted haddock than it does a bag of coal?
Why do so many people look at us strangely when we say we bake all our own bread, make all our own jam, marmalade and jellies or that we make our own laundry liquid?
Is it really making us seem old-fashioned that we will attempt to home-make anything we can, even if it means recycling something old into something new?
I do know that we of the frugal living ilk won't save the planet. I understand that we are like a tiny shoal of krill swimming against a huge tide towards the gaping mouth of a whale, but this is what we do - our best!
I feel very lucky to have completed my personal journey to debt freedom, a destination I reached in 2007! But that was just a temporary stop, a way-marker en route to the next fork in the road, where my choice led me to pitching in with A. N. Other and buying a house without a mortgage. Now we are well on the way to completing the renovation that will allow the house to be turned into a home. But that, again, is just the next step of my journey. What happens next?
In this respect, we are all sailing in the same boat. We still need to stay ahead of the game and try to protect ourselves from any sudden losses and, at the same time, balance that with actually living a life now that we are content and happy to live. I may not be anyone's wife, frugal or otherwise, but I can, at least, practice frugal housekeeping and home improvements on a budget while, at long last, trying to pick up where I left off before having sunk into the depths of debt and a failed marriage.
My 2014 challenge shall, once again, attempt to stretch my £4,000 household budget throughout the entire year while pursuing the goal of turning house into home. My hope is that many more of my friends and family will see fit to afford a frugal holiday. (If you doubt your finances will get you this far, I know someone who loves number-crunching and who can probably help make your trip affordable!) :)
I sincerely hope that you will join me in the Frugal Forums for the 2014 challenges that lie ahead of us. There is already a thread started to introduce the ideas for next year and joining is absolutely free. You can follow this blog, subscribe to it by email, follow @Frugaldom on Twitter and even consider stopping by to hit the 'like' button on the Frugaldom Facebook page.
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See you there,
Interesting and important events that took place on this date over the past years came from here.