Saturday, 4 January 2014

2014 Annual Frugal Living Challenge

Happy 15th Anniversary to our Published Frugal Challenges.

Christmas Day walk
 
It was March 1999 when the first edition of 'Now You Know' came off the press as a monthly newspaper, as opposed to just being online or as part of a page in someone else's publication, so I'm planning on making 2014 extra special in as many ways as I possibly can, to celebrate out 15th anniversary without it costing extra money or incurring any debts.
 
In 1998, one of my first personal money challenges was featured in the Scottish Daily Record and then, not long after that, the FT.com inadvertently sent investors streaming our way when Cyberdosh (another of my online money 'games') got a mention within the pages of their prestigious online publication. So much has happened over the years that I do tend to discount the true origins of Frugaldom and relate back just as far as 2007, when I first took NYK's frugal living challenges into the Moneysavingexpert forums. We're still there, for anyone who prefers the vast anonymity of that version, otherwise join us in the www.frugalforums.co.uk
 
What's in Store for 2014?
 
My annual frugal living budget has, once again, been set at £4,000 for the year to cover all the essentials like food, toiletries, cleaning products, electricity, coal, logs, TV, telephone, Internet, travel, clothing and footwear, gifts and donations, household pet supplies, home insurance and any other routine expenses that can be controlled by strict budgeting.
 
After so many years of doing such challenges, we are fortunate to now be living in our own bought-and-paid-for fixy-up, the result of yet another challenge to buy a house without a mortgage. This puts us in the lucky position of not having to worry about rent or mortgage repayments.
 
Council Tax is something that can no longer be shaved, since the councils saw fit to abolish the annual 'pay it all up front' discounts. No savings to be made there, so they get their £100 (or whatever) each month, instead. Being rural, we do save a little bit by way of not having to pay the sewage charges - we have septic tank - and there are no separate water rates here in Scotland.
 
Over the years, we have learned continually what we can and cannot live without - distinguishing between absolute needs and basic wants has been paramount to the success of our moneysaving, cost-cutting campaigns for a simple lifestyle. Many of the items in my budget are non-essentials and I could live without them if I had to, but being self-employed while working from home does bring with it the need for communication with the outside world and that necessitates a telephone line, Internet and yes, even television, as part of the household income is derived from broadcast media related work.
 
What's nearby? Deer!
Many people who skim read my posts fail to grasp the concept of rural living combined with frugal living. Frugal living in a rural location is totally different from living a frugal life elsewhere - we have added expenses, we can't rely on power supplies, we have no public transport, no amenities within easy reach, very little by way of regular employment opportunities, no diverse range of shops, no supermarkets and I choose to live without the added expense of a car, so no popping out for a pint of milk if we run out or a hot food takeaway, if the notion takes us.
 
We don't get yellow sticker bargains for pennies, we can't pop into the pub, library, museum or local hall for a free heat and we certainly can't traipse around the high street looking for bargains. We need to make do and mend plus make the absolute most of any opportunity that takes us away from home. I would love to 'shop local' for everything, but it is impossible while frugal living without transport in a rural location. We need to turn to our gardens, friends, neighbours and yes, even the Internet.
 
I hope to keep the blog updated regularly to reflect how each and every pound of my £4,000 gets spent over the coming year and to share with you some of the other things that are made possible by this simple lifestyle, one that relies heavily on living within my means.
 
Here's what I have done, so far, that will impact on my 2014 spending and the household budget:
  • Got a meat order for the freezer, making the most of some discount codes and free delivery from MuscleFood* (This link is a friend referral link that offers new customers free chicken fillets with their first order.)
  • Topped up the electricity pre-payment meter by as much as possible to reduce the number of to-ups needed over the coming year. The meter was in the house when we came here and I hope to have it removed as soon as I have reduced the 2014 spends against previous years by at least the cost of removing it.
  • Bought a couple of bags of coal
  • Paid for a full year's BT line rental, which cost £141, rather than pay £15.99 per month - an overall saving of £50.88
  • Got two new bunnies - completely NOT frugal but who can refuse such a fabulous present when it also includes housing, food and bedding for the cuddle-bunnies?
  • Umm... this is a very tricky one, so I will attempt to explain it first. My previous 'expensive habit' was smoking - I published my challenge about quitting and practised exactly what I preached, making a point of saving every penny I'd normally have spent on cigarettes. At today's shocking prices, this now equates to over £700 over a year. That's a huge amount of money for a frugaler so I opted to split it among the following: a tax free savings bond with life assurance, fun money and the garden. My previous 'expensive hobby' was horses. I have not been able to save the equivalent of what I used to spend on them because it is impossible for me now. This year, to celebrate, commiserate or commemorate the above, I bought a small share in a racehorse. If any of you out there have ever been bitten by the horse bug, you'll know it is not something you can simply shake off and forget - it's in your blood for life. This is my indulgence for 2014.
Looking forward to watching the progress of 'Winnie' this summer
 
Tried to teach the frugaldom bunnies why they shouldn't try typing, but fail..lkshavsi\l luHK.EN8xm z,///////Ncj....ed
 
Hmemade decorations now all gone for another year, but hoping the horseshoe brings us more luck, rather than more horses


So far, this year's meals have all been from food in stock and, while the log-burner is lit, I am making the most of it by cooking whatever I can on top of it - right now, it has a pot of chicken stock simmering away after I defrosted a chicken, made a slow roast dinner over the stove and am now preparing a nice stir fry: leftovers will go in a casserole with the meat that comes off the bones in the stock pot and then I'll get a pot of soup from the rest of it. The actual carcase can be boiled down further, or possibly even slow-cooked overnight, and then blended to make into cat food.
 
I should probably add that we did not succeed in completing any of the rooms in the house, although most of the 'big stuff' has been done. We're without an actual cooker in the long-term temporary kitchen, but I do have all the mod cons essential to cooking without one - electric hot plate, mini grill, slow cooker, microwave, steamer, bread maker, toaster, kettles, coffee maker... we are quite civilised here, despite what some seem to think. :)
 
We don't have central heating so, in winter, the house is only warm when the fire is lit. This, in turn, heats a few radiators and the tank of hot water - as long as we have electricity to power the pump that circulates the hot water. Electric blankets, huge woolly blankets and hot water bottles are great during winter. The persistence of power cuts is one of the main reasons I chose to have the stand alone stove, lovingly known as Wilbur, my pot bellied 'pig'. He is probably the hardest worked object in the Frugaldom household, unless we count 'H', who has to chop all the logs Wilbur consumes on a daily, even hourly, basis.
 
Extra note here - 'Wilbur' was an eBay buy and cost about £100 including delivery. The more expensive part of this project was having the old chimney lined before being able to install the multi-fuel stove. 2014 will be my first full year of using this to save on electricity, so the bicycle will be back out of hibernation soon so I can get out there and start collecting more sticks and I am still faithfully filling in my www.imeasure.org.uk stats every Monday.
 
What do we do for frugal fun? Well, so far...
  • Went out walking on Christmas day.
  • Had relative staying between Christmas and New Year, so we visited a local historical site that's within walking distance - weather was lovely.
  • Had several neighbours round for drinks on Hogmanay then
  • We all went out first footing one another until the 'wee small hours'.
  • Visited the newest neighbours (en masse) to handsel their house on New Year's day
I really cannot see anything sub-standard in this lifestyle of what some perceive as self-inflicted poverty. Yes, it is certainly living well below the breadline and we probably would spend much more than 10% of our annual income if we'd to even attempt to heat our homes to what the Government states is an acceptable level but so what? We aren't cold, we aren't hungry, we aren't living off the state and we own the roof over our heads. 
 
I promise to do my best to keep you all up to date with how I stretch our pennies into pounds throughout 2014, so feel free to join me on board my debt free wagon as I bump along and fight to stay on there. If you fall off, be sure there'll be a virtual friend ready with outstretched hand to help you back on again.
 
As I always love to say - the less I spend, the more I can afford and, with this simple life costing so little, it leaves huge scope for finding better things to do with my time (and money) than waste it on money worries.
 
|Frugaldom Plans for 2014:
  1. Keep on beating the budget by focussing on needs and saving for wants.
  2. Grow more fruit and vegetables.
  3. Complete the living room, kitchen and bathroom.
  4. Create a 'secret garden' complete with 'tiny house'.
  5. Watch the progress of 'Winnie' in the hope she makes it onto the racetrack
  6. Enjoy having the rabbits, hens, ducks, quail and wormery while seeing them all 'help' cultivate the garden.
  7. Meet up with friends for another frugal expedition - it's looking like Schiehallion will be the 'big hill of the year' but I'm sure we can fit in several other trips. It's not like walking costs money, is it?
  8. Take eldest grand daughter on another big adventure.
  9. Encourage more friends and relatives to visit Frugaldom.
  10. Knit, sew, craft, bake, make, mend, reduce, reuse and recycle more.
I hope you'll all join me for yet another epic, roller coaster ride into Frugaldom.
 
NYK, Frugaldom.

12 comments:

  1. Rural living used to be a cheap. It's not any more. Here in Ireland the countryside is full of empty holiday homes. Unless you are a Dairy farmer with sixty cows. It's not possible to make a living. Wouldn't want to live in a town again. But sometimes I wouldn't mind. I miss rock concerts, pubs and public transport.

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    1. Hope you had a lovely Christmas and New Year, Dave. I have never found rural living cheap, if I'm honest, but I have never lived in a big town of any description, so perhaps my comparison basis differs from yours. I have to disagree entirely on your belief that it is not possible to make a living, though, as regardless of how difficult it is, we still all need to do it. It's things like minimum wage and basic standards of working and living that simply don't apply to many of us. :) You could diversify to encourage more visitors to your place - how far are you from the nearest town?

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  2. I love the idea of having a share in a racehorse! Everyone needs a little excitement in their lives, dont they? Have to say Winnie looks stunning, not that I know much about horses but she stands beautifully.

    As for living frugally, well thats another matter of 'horses for courses' isnt it? I live very close to a large city but am mostly housebound with hubby. When I do escape its the bus fare coming off my spending budget that stops me. Minimum of £4 to get anywhere and if I allow myself £10 then its nearly gone. I am busy decluttering but with purpose, nothing should be thrown away but re-used/passed on or donated. Am having some small steady success with 'that online auction place' which will fund my plan for the year, do not want to just add it to my purse but use it wisely. I am very focused this year, more, if possible, than ever before and its making me very contented. Lets hope we all have a good year especially with the veggie growing! hugs Ginny

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    1. All the very best to you and yours for the coming year, Ginny :) After our last car died and we made the conscious decision not to replace it I had to have a serious rethink because of the travel cost implications, so I introduced a new section to my budget spreadsheet - yes, I am a spreadsheet fiend who documents every penny spent with regimental precision - it may seem obsessive to some but to those who share my love of financial accountability and number-crunching, it is a wonderful habit to have. I now have two categories - travel and postage/deliveries - so I can separate these from my actual spends and make allowances for extras where some folks overlook the added expense. It does seem to help, as I can then allocate any spare or extra income to whichever category I choose. :) I hope you have friends, neighbours or relatives who can help out now and again so you can get out and about whenever needed?

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  3. Wow what an inspirational post!

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    1. Thanks, Justine, I hope it can help someone, somewhere see beyond their current financial crisis. We all have them at one time or another but there is always light at the end of the tunnel if we keep ploughing ahead in search of it. My lights just happen to eat hay and could, literally, be tempted by dangling a carrot on a string! :)

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  4. Well, I for one will certainly be reading your blog again this year. I find it fascinating. In a couple of days, I plan on writing about a way to heat a room using 'just' tea lights for 8p a day. My son found it on you tube and it looks to be quite doable for anyone who needs a little cheap heat!

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    1. Hi DC, hope 2014 proves to be a good year for you. On the subject of the 8p candle heater - it's a very old video and the posts have been doing the rounds again recently, so I suspect you are many years younger than me. :) We did the experiment several years ago using tiny plant pots but the tea-light candles (and plant pots) now cost more than they did back then. :)

      We also did the experiment of how long it takes to boil a billy can of water over the candles during a power cut. If I can find the old posts, I'll point them out - there should be copies on the MSE version of my challenge.

      HAVE FUN, will look forward to hearing modern day results! :)

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    2. Hah, just read your post today and no, I am not younger than you but several years older and DB, older still! As a child, we used to cover a candle with the wire frame of a lampshade to create a 'stove'. Then heat a small tin cup of milk and share the cup of coffee each (4 of us). Kept us entertained for hours, that and munching on Winalot dog biscuits! Didn't seem to bother us at all, no side effects re the dog biscuits except we all have a fascination for the full moon:)

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    3. Hee hee hee... even my kids, especially son, would help themselves to a Bonio, hasn't done them any harm unless you count a fascination for cats! :) Isn't it amazing the games we used to play involving flames and stuff? LOL

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  5. Really interesting to read about how you save money. I often wonder each month where on earth my money goes, I think following your blog will make me a lot more mindful and hopefully help me pay off my credit card and save up some money for my future goals.

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    1. Emma, I have a very basic spreadsheet that you can download from the forums, if that is of any help? It's nothing fancy and it's all pre-set ready for you to fill in your own budget figures then deduct your spends as you go. It's in Handy Links section of www.frugalblogs.co.uk

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