Sunday 5 January 2014

Welcome to Frugal Living and my Annual Money Challenges

For the Benefit of Newcomers to my Concept of Frugaldom

Frugal living may not be for everyone and it does take quite a bit of explaining to some who can neither see the need, nor have ever experienced the need for trying it. But it is a lifestyle choice that's made by many, nonetheless.

Having already posted about my annual household budget - the £4,000 - I would now like to go over the cost implications of everything else that needs paying. Like I already said, frugal living gave us the ability to save for and buy a very cheap fixy-up over the space of a very short period of time but I did throw in my lot with A. N. Other to buy a 3-bedroom house with a big garden rather than a small flat with no garden. But no matter which way you look at it, £4,000 just won't last a year if you need to count in rent or mortgage and any outside the household expenses, which is why none of these things are included in my £4,000.00 However, this does include the costs of working from home, some of which are tax deductible at the end of each financial year. For everything else, I have a separate kitty, known as...

My Everything Else Kitty - E.E.K.
My Everything Else Kitty
There's no escaping the fact that life costs cash and we need to be really flexible in order to fit everything into the box that is our lifestyle. As you can see by the antics of the frugal puss, even she is a contortionist when it comes to making sure she gets in on the action - if, at first, you don't think you can fit something into your affordability box,  keep trying from different angles until you've found a way succeeding.

Everything else outside of the standard necessities are, for me, paid from my 'EEK'. This is the cash kitty that gets topped up by a tiny drip of interest from savings, gift certificates, points, cash back, winnings, sales of surplus eggs, de-cluttered goods and any cash gifts that happen to come my way at birthdays or Christmas time. Let's face it, keeping hens, ducks, quail, a cat and, now, two giant loppy-lug rabbits isn't through real necessity, its more for the fun than the frugality.

It's great having fresh eggs for cooking and baking but we can't possibly eat them all, so I trade many of them for other things and need to raise any extra cash to cover the costs of feeding the feathered and furry friends, keeping them all bedded down at night and keeping them healthy. I also have my wormery, the pet worms that help recycle household waste into liquid fertiliser that cucumbers seem to thrive on, judging by the enormous crop we had last year.

But how does my 'EEK' work in real terms?

Last year ended with an overall balance of £39.70, so that has been carried over and popped into the 'EEK' savings. On top of that, I have a voucher balance of £30.54 in my Amazon account and have just requested payment of another £8 worth of Amazon vouchers via Topcashback*, which gives me cash back on anything I buy using links from their website. There's also £7 of credit lying in my Approved Food* account, which will more than cover the postage of my next order when I need heavy, long shelf-life goods - they normally do regular offers on bread flour, which is how I can bake a loaf for around 25p.

Cashback Credit Cards

The use of credit cards may be seen by some as incurring debt but I have one golden rule - if I can't afford to pay something in full at the time then I don't put it on the credit card. Online shopping and being self-employed means that I have some added protection by using a credit, as opposed to a debit, card, so absolutely everything goes onto it that possibly can - even my 12 months' BT line rental. Why? Because as long as I pay in full within the interest free timeframe, I get an automatic 1% cash back that costs me nothing and gets paid in a lump sum around the end of each financial year.

Spending £4,000 on the household budget almost exclusively paying by card means brings almost £40 of free cash into the 'EEK' by April of each year, plus whatever else I have paid for by this method. While renovating, almost all of the building materials have been paid this way and in addition to that the livestock feeding, garden-related purchases and any extras that can be added get paid this way. Last year's free money courtesy of the credit card company amounted to £68.94 and that's not to be sneezed at when you see cheap flights, train fairs, ferry fairs or short breaks advertised for less!
All these little bits and pieces add up over the year and, with luck and careful spending, can cover everything else I need to buy. Sales of surplus eggs would normally cover the cost of feed and bedding or else what I exchange for the eggs helps reduce the grocery budget. It is a simple case of not buying anything unless we can realistically afford it and if we can't afford it (or don't see the need to buy it) we can attempt to make it.

Being self employed means keeping up with National Insurance payments, so I have just paid out £70.20, which covers 6 months. This is not part of my household running costs, so does not impact on the £4,000. It is a miniscule sum but it is contributing to my old age pension, so I have no qualms about paying it, even on a voluntary basis when profits aren't sufficient to warrant any further deductions. My monthly savings bond is paid from what I no longer spend on cigarettes and anything else is absolutely mine to do with as I please, even if it's just a few pennies left in my (homemade) purse.

Use it up, Don't Bin it, Burn it or Bury it.

My attempt at zero waste failed dismally owing to the amount of plastic packaging that's used by many companies. Plain brown cardboard is great as it gets rolled up and used in the fire, but plastics are a total pain and need to be binned if it isn't of the type that I can reused - meat packaging, for example! 

We have an open fire and a stove, so anything that is safe to burn gets recycled into fuel and used to heat the house, boil the kettle and even cook food. Recently, I was learning a bit more about recycling wood shavings into eco-fuel and I'm now wondering if it would work using the shavings from the rabbit cages and hen houses, but I'm not too sure how easy it would be to dry the blocks once they are made, or how smelly they might be to make while soaking them for a month at a time - time will tell!

I have a Paper Brick Maker* and it's great for experimenting by adding in things like dried leaves, twigs and shredded paper but, again, the blocks take a long time to dry. I guess I should really try much harder at making a stock pile of these during summer sunshine to help combat rising costs of winter coal. I shall pledge now to make an attempt on the eco-fuel from shavings using this method.

Photos by B.B. Photography

This was our local village main street when the storm surge hit at high tide on Friday (photos taken by a pal's brother), so let's hope things don't get any worse over the coming days. Now I need to wind this up and be prepared for the next storm that seems to be heading our way - we are almost at the top of the hill, so no sea surge reaches us, just the likelihood of power outages and the steam in the garden bursting its banks if the storm force winds drive in torrential rain at the same time as high tide.

The West coast has been taking a real battering recently and the next potential hit isn't looking any less ferocious, so the flasks, candles, torches and hot water bottles are all at the ready plus a stack of wood piled by the stove and an open invitation extended to anyone who may be adversely affected to head up the hill to Frugaldom.

Stay safe, folks, and never forget that no matter how little money you have, your chances of subduing Mother Nature when she is throwing a strop are the exact same as any millionaire - appreciate what you have while you have it and make the most of the important things in life that money cannot buy.

NYK, Frugaldom

PS: We're playing at 'planks'
Several of us take part in whatever free fitness fun we can find, so visit us in the Frugal Forums if you would like to take part. Right now, we're doing the '30 Day Plank Challenge' to prove to ourselves that we do have core muscles and to start toning them up in time for spring.

*I can earn a few extra points or pounds when friends join and use sites via my referral links


  1. We thought about a paper brick maker but changed our minds when nearly everyone mentioned how long they take to dry. Someone else suggested (although I haven't tried it) was to make small chunks by mounding them between your hands and squeezing out as much water as possible. You should be able to get things around the size of a tennis ball and they dry out quicker but also burner quicker! Alternatively, someone else mentioned that when a paper brick feels half dry, carefully saw it in half and it then dryies (but burns) quicker.

    1. The first year I had mine we were fortunate and had a really hot, dry spell early in summer, so I was able to just keep laying them outside in the sunshine. I made them half the thickness and they still took ages to dry. The ones I dried indoors ended up with a musty smell, so it's a long and arduous task turning wood shavings or paper into burning blocks. Getting the air flow right with some dry heat seems about the only way to do it and living in Scotland isn't conducive to that very often. LOL Still, it was a useful gift and worth my while keeping it. I've yet to prepare a suitable place for using it since moving here, so I guess that's something else to add to my 'to do' list. :)

  2. I've started an EEK fund, but at the moment it only has £5, still it's a start! Our grocery budget(food plus all other household stuff such as toilet rolls, washing powder etc) is £2400 for the year and I'm hoping to be able to save £400 from that by being frugal and careful, so thanks for all your tips.
    KJ x

    1. We all need to start somewhere and starting is a far bigger step than just thinking about it, isn't it? Well done and good luck for the rest of the year! :)

  3. I would be concerned with respiratory issues when burning shavings from the bunnies and chicken house as I'm not sure how much of their urine would wash out in the block making process. There could also be residue problems with the chimney as well.... wonder where we could find out?
    Chanterelle.. long lost reader who finally got a newish laptop after almost a year. Glad to be reading your blog again

    1. Good points, C, I'll also try looking into it, although I can't see a tremendous problem with the respiratory issues as it's going up the chimney and my chimney is kept swept. I know quite a few people on farms & yards who pile their stable manure and add chicken and rabbit hutch scrapings then burn the heap. Not sure how legal it is nowadays, mind you! Perhaps the water from soaking the shavings could be turned into fertilizer of some description? More research needed on this topic I reckon.

  4. I'm looking forward to learning more about being frugal and thifty through your blog, I've only just found it, thanks!

    1. Welcome to Frugaldom, Emma! Thank you for taking the time to stop and comment - much appreciated. :)

  5. Always great to read of your frugal plans for the year. That's great that you dumped the cigarettes. That simply does not jive with a frugal or healthy life! They cost a fortune these days!

    1. It was some time ago that I stopped and I am one of those sickeningly fortunate people who, despite starting at 16 and smoking for many years, has never been addicted to cigarettes. I could take them or leave them whenever I needed the cash for other things. I did try explaining it as part of a quit smoking challenge but practically got booed offline, so I left the non-believers to their own devices and did my own thing - I simply quit. :) It's still online somewhere, along with the making of the 'Billy Cans' that were used to demonstrate the simplicity of my methods.

  6. Interesting, I'd never heard of a paper brick maker. Thank you!

    1. Hi Cristin, several of us got them a few years back and set ourselves the challenge of recycling newspapers (possibly during 2010 challenge) but they took too long to dry and I didn't have access to newspapers unless someone brought me some. LOL Now that I'm living on a street, I have a couple of neighbours who hand them in for me to recycle. What out for an update where I'm making lots of papery, woodchip mess soon.


Many thanks for taking the time to comment. All comments are moderated to help prevent system abuse by spammers, time-wasters and chancers, so your comment will not appear immediately.