Monday, 6 January 2014

That's Life! Be Grateful for it!


Late start after a very blustery, chilly and damp night - it was warm in bed, I didn't want to get out into the cold! Nature calls and we must obey!

The cat has been fed, I've had my mug of tea, lit the main fire, read the electricity meter, eaten my porridge and can still see my breath while sitting here at the computer, looking at the thermometer on the wall reading 8 Deg C. I could switch on an electric heater but we are doing our best to learn to live without these - persistent power cuts render them useless, anyway.

The stove has now been lit and will have this room warm by the time the other fire has heated the water in the back boiler to pump it round the radiators. 'H' has been out to attend to the feathered friends, chopped more sticks and had his first soaking of the day. This is a typical morning in Frugaldom. We should learn to appreciate typical days much more than we do!

We're still waiting for the full blast of the next storm to arrive - perhaps it has changed direction overnight? No, that would be too much to expect when this is January in Scotland. Besides, it is absolutely battering down with rain and hail now, so chances are the power will be out by lunchtime. The kettle is back on the stove. We are offered a little shelter on this southwest coast by way of Ireland, so best wishes to all over there when the surge arrives.

Meter Reading

The chart above is of my weekly electricity meter readings for this house. You can see both spikes from the past two winters and this is what I want to avoid completely in 2014 - but it isn't a catastrophe if we fail!

Monday has traditionally become meter reading day in frugal households up and down the country and this one is no different. I began the exercise in 2003 to try and control how much was being fed into the prepayment meter in the rented cottage while also buying logs and coal. I am grateful for the fact that I have the knowledge and good sense to prioritise my spending in a way that allows me to pretty much live my own life the way I want to and still afford to save for whatever else life throws at us! 21 Deg C throughout the house isn't necessary here, we can live happily without that!

With a prepayment meter, costs are unfairly inflated by the power companies assuming that only people in debt, without bank accounts or who cannot be trusted to pay their bills possess such things. To be fair, they are a great way of inadvertently running up a huge bill during winter, as you can over pay during summer and not need to top up extra through the freezing months, but this doesn't excuse the fact that the rate per kilowatt hour is set at a premium. In my opinion, anyone being paid in advance for anything should be rewarded with a discount at least equating to the bank interest rates! (Link to Scottish Power rates)

Energy price increases were due to take effect on 6th December but we had topped up the meter to the maximum £249 by then. I haven't a clue what to do about this, as I won't be topping the meter up again until summer - will we be beating the price hikes? The kilowatt hour rate increased but the daily standing charge decreased on 6th December 2013. Overall figures suggest we are saving slightly but is my meter also clocking up a debt along the way? For some obscure reason, Scottish Power representatives have been unable to confirm or deny this for me. I guess I should just be grateful that we have the sheer luxury of electricity at the touch of a button, regardless of tiny percentage differences in metered prices.

Today, I read of yet another possible price change, this time a slight reduction! To be 100% honest, I haven't go the faintest idea how much a single unit of electricity should be costing me, all I know is that my meter is currently charging 12.96p per kWh plus a weekly charge of £2.11 despite the standing charge having fallen to £1.92 and the unit price having risen to 14.42p per kWh on 6th December - time will tell what happens. Does it really matter if we're prepared and can afford to pay it?

Since buying into this house in April 2011 we have done everything in our power, pardon the pun, to reduce electricity costs. I simply hate paying over the odds while seeing wind turbines appear all around the country that bear no effect on the cost of heating our old terraced cottage on this tiny street on a tiny budget without gas or oil. Here we have coal and logs. Coal is now £14 per bag for the cheapest available in our area. We should be grateful, as many a life has been lost in the quest to harvest coal from mines!

But we still need to think ahead and do what we can for future generations. I'm already a gran to a 9-year-old and a 3-year-old and I'm not even 50 yet! I could be a great, great grand parent if I'm fortunate enough to live that long. I want to be part of the population who did what they could to prolong the existence of our planet in a sustainable and meaningful way.

Burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) is something I would prefer not to do if it could be at all helped - but for now it can't! One questionably better option that's deemed 'carbon neutral' is log burning but, at the same time, keeping a plentiful supply of dry, well-seasoned timber in sufficient quantities to sustain a household all year round simply isn't feasible unless you want to make a career out of log splitting - which pays you zero income and the trees still need to be bought with cash, felled, hauled, sawn, split, stacked and stored a year in advance. We haven't even got around to building a big enough log store yet, far less fill it with an entire winter's worth of wood! Let's hope we can remedy this problem during 2014 and, meanwhile, be grateful for what we already have.

Fingers crossed for no power cut, as I've just switched on the breadmaker. As soon as the water is heated by the fire, I'll get a washing on - I swapped the cold feed hose onto the hot water pipe to reduce the energy needed by the washing machine to heat the water (thank you for the tip @Solarbud) - and then the clothes will need to dry indoors on airers by the radiators.

The bulk of the 'Nile' mince (so called because it stretches so far) cooked on the stove for last night's dinner (served with veggies and suet dumplings) is in the fridge waiting to be turned into a huge lasagne, so that's what I need to make this afternoon. This will be done in between putting together a web page for a client, catching up with the frugaldom forums, knitting a bit more of grand daughter's blanket that I still haven't finished, chatting, keeping the stove and the fire going and, all the whiles, thinking of the horror being endured by a family well known to all us 'horsey folks' from Lanarkshire at the sudden and devastating loss of a 4-year-old child. I cannot begin to imagine the horror for any mother witnessing such a tragic event.

Thoughts are with all concerned at this extremely sad time.

NYK, Frugaldom


  1. Prayers being said for the family of the 4 year old child. How truly, truly sad. :(

  2. big, big drop in temperatures here, going to hit the minus 20's oC again tonight, probably even colder. Just heading out to start snow shoveling, got a LOT of snow overnight. Will post a couple of photos on Facebook.

    Gill in Canada

  3. It will be interesting to see how much less of a spike you have this year, although with the weather being so bad do keep safe and keep warm.

    Our chickens think we have brought them to hell, they run out from underneath the henhouse between showers and then as soon as the sky darkens with yet another rain cloud they all vanish again, it's been like this since we moved them here, my lovely soft southern little egg layers are suddenly in for a wild and wet Welsh Winter.

    It's most definitely a day for catching up on inside chores.

    All the very best for the New Year.


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