One Month until Christmas!
No? Not sound like your household? Phew! Because it certainly doesn't sound like mine and I'd hate to be alone with my wild seasonal thoughts!
What stage have you reached in the proceedings? I do know that I've had the best part of 50 years to get accustomed to the fact that Christmas happens every December, followed a week later by the arrival of the new year, but why am I always in such a chaotic state of non-preparedness?
What have I been doing with all my time in Frugaldom?
- I made two dozen Ozzy Blackbeard Knitted Christmas Puddings (that's one of them in the photo at the top) using scraps of wool from my stash. I used a tiny bead as a berry on the first one but then decided it was easier to simply sew a couple of stitches of red wool on top. I had a little bit of green felt, but you could also knit the leaves, if you followed Fibrefable's free pattern. These will be used to gift wrap individual chocolates, meaning that one box can be split among friends and family as cute little gifts or Christmas table favours. Ferrero Rocher, anyone? (Sadly, our local store doesn't have Ferrero Rocher, so I'll need to try and source these from elsewhere.)
- I used up some oddments of red and white wool to knit little Santa hats, making up the very basic pattern as I went along by knitting a row of plain then a row of purl and decreasing to create the size needed. The small will be used to cover bottle tops on the homemade 'pink champagne' and the larger one is for covering a chocolate orange. (Sadly, our local store doesn't have any Terry's Chocolate Oranges, so I'll need to try and source these from elsewhere.)
- I tried first knitting and then crocheting little owls for hanging in the tree, as I love what's known as amigurumi and want to make a load of these for the younger members of the family. Next, I'm going to make the mini hedgehog, using the simple to follow, free patterns posted on the Knitted Toy Box blog. The free crochet patterns are on the Romansock blog, which I also love - fluffy bunny, anyone? So many things to knit with such a dwindling supply of DK! (Sadly, our local store doesn't sell yarn, so I need to replenish from elsewhere.)
- Cinnamon Sticks - I have
treated myselfinvested in a pack so I can make cinnamon candles, scent some winter spiced potpourri and spruce up a homemade Christmas wreath for the door. I opted for the eBay offer of 20 x 8cm for £2 including postage and packaging. At 10p each, that's about the best price I could find and there are also the Nectar Points I collect while shopping there. In fact, I think this was a double points weekend. (Sadly, our local store doesn't sock anything as exotic as cinnamon sticks, so I needed to source these from elsewhere.)
- Christmas Holly Wreath - I splashed out £2.45 for 5 x 10" wire wreath hoops, again via eBay, taking advantage of free delivery and double Nectar points this weekend. We have plenty of foliage in the garden, including holly, plus I have a box of assorted ribbons, bows and shiny baubles in my crafting stash. Add to this some dried cones, the cinnamon sticks, some fine plastic coated garden wire and anything else I can lay my hands on that represents itself with a hint of festive colour or texture, I will have a very frugal, homemade holly wreath for my front door.
- Christmas shopping! It hasn't been much, so far, but I seem to take a somewhat different view to the current belief by many that Christmas is nothing more than a hyped-up, consumerist-driven spend fest. Yes, I agree that it can be, especially when people go crazy, making rash, OTT decisions about how much money to spend regardless of how little they can really afford. or worse still, when that competitive spirit suffocates the festive spirit. I mean, really! What is that all about? If someone in a family earns £50k a year and another earns £5k, who in their right mind would expect similar value gifts to be exchanged? In fact, who expects reciprocation in the first place, if one tells the other that there will be no gift exchange this year? The gift of giving is a great one, so if any of your nearest and dearest state that they don't want to 'do' Christmas, it needn't stop you - just give their gift away to charity if they insist they want nothing. My shopping, so far, amounts to various smaller pieces of cumulative presents that will be put together by way of homemade hampers - made up in recycled cardboard boxes, not fancy wicker baskets!
- Planning the meal - I took the opportunity of buying fresh turkey while I had the chance of paying for it with free points. It's now in the freezer. My friend always makes braised red cabbage for us both and, by way of exchange, I give her a bottle of my homemade pink 'champagne'. This year, it's raspberry, blackberry and rhubarb.
- Bargain bagging with cash back, buy one get one free, free delivery and voucher codes. I splurged in the online Thornton's store! I think the normal price should have been much closer to £100 but with the *Topcashback voucher for free box of chocolates, a half price daily deal, a superb buy one get one free offer, the clearance bargains, the free delivery and the cash back from site and credit card, it came in at approximately £35 and enough luxury chocolates to share among the entire family. Christmas is about affording luxuries that you wouldn't normally even contemplate at any other time of year. Christmas is for frugalers doing what they do best - celebrating their financial achievements and savvy shopping in some most impressive ways.
- Preparing for the onslaught of a long and possibly harsh winter. I have all my candles to hand, the wind-up torch, the rechargeable clock radio, the stack of logs and the cupboards packed with some emergency supplies. I have practiced cooking most things on the stove top, so a period without electricity similar to last winter's shouldn't affect us too much. New woolly blankets are draped over beds and settee, fleece blinds in the windows, hot water bottle checked for leaks, matches to hand and the electricity meter topped up to the maximum in the hope of delaying the inevitable price hike that comes into play from 6th December. I have not fallen for the ridiculous posts that are circulating with the news that you can heat a room for 8p per day because this 'tale' is simply NOT TRUE! If you doubt my word, light a tealight candle and time how long it burns, then work out how many candles you'd need and at what cost, to last you a full day. The absolute cheapest cost at least 1p per hour to burn and produces sufficient heat to warm a cupboard.
- Preparing for next year's Frugal Living Challenge, which is run through www.frugalforums.co.uk but still has a subsidiary thread running in the Moneysavingexpert.com forums. 2014 will be year 7 of this challenge being open to the general moneysaving, budget-conscious public, so don't forget to join us soon.
Indoors, we almost had a living room but then plans changed again. The new backboiler is so good at heating the water that I've decided to incorporate another two radiators into the system, with one of those in the living room. Folks have asked why I would even need a radiator in my living room when that's where the open fireplace is, but when all that heat is roaring around a triple pass boiler and then up the chimney, I want as much of it circulating around the house as possible. This thing is hearing water at a rate enough to power 10 radiators and still heat a tank of water, so I'm now looking for a bath, rather than waste any hot water!
I'll tell you the story of the living room door in a later post!
Back on the Christmas trail, check out a few of the links at the bottom for recipes that include snowman soup, handmade chocolates and truffles, clootie dumpling, shortbread, homemade rhubarb champagne and other homemade gifts that we have tried over the years. I hope you can find something that catches your attention and brings a smile to someone's face over the coming weeks.
For those of you who like to make your own clootie dumpling and short read, we still have some of the exclusive November Challenge Frugaldom Fun and Food card sets available for sale. (All profits from November sales are for charity.) These include recipes for both of the above plus the instructions for making your very own papier mache, ready to begin the next year of frugal living, cost-cutting, budget stretching and debt busting.
On a sadder note, we have now learned that our nearest village post office is gearing down for closure soon. We'll still have postal service available in the village, by way of a counter in the general store, but to add to my woes, one of the two little general stores is closing. This is very sad but reflects how difficult it is for local shops to survive when most who can afford to prefer to jump into their cars and drive 40+ miles to the nearest big name supermarket. As a result, next year's grocery budget has had to be increased to £975 for the Frugaldom household to allow for the extra price increases that have already started to appear in the sole-surviving general store! I did promise to add in local store prices for the items I listed in last week's post about food prices, I will endeavour to do just that over the coming week. I can tell you now that a 2 litre carton of semi-skimmed milk cost me £1.62 this weekend. That's equivalent to 8.1p per 100ml. Checking on the 'mysupermarket' website, I see it costs 4.4p per 100ml in supermarkets, or £1 for 4 pints (2.27 litres).
I wonder if less food would be thrown away if everyone had to pay village store prices? Any thoughts on that, anyone?
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