Frugaldom and How it all began

Frugal living, for me, began in 1985/86 and came as a short, sharp, shock that almost financially crippled the household. From then on, it was like fighting our way up a slippery slope to survive falling into the chasm of bankruptcy. Interest rates hit 15%, the Government abolished MIRAS (Mortgage Interest Relief at Source), the Poll Tax replaced domestic rates, everywhere you turned there was a strike, closures, redundancies, shortages and then there were butter and beef mountains - things were bad and my memory seems to have shut off much of what occurred back then - I recall riots, picket lines, food parcels, despair... and bread making! I remember swapping eggs from our hens for yoghurt, rearing lambs and breeding quail to sell at market and I remember how difficult things were when trying to keep a roof over our head with a young family to support. Times were tough but tough times don't kill you, they teach you tough lessons.

Moving on a decade and we managed to afford a computer on interest free credit - it cost about £1,500, had a 16Mb memory and oh boy, how different the Internet was back then! I joined in 1995 after upgrading to Windows '95 - we sold the wheels off the car to buy the software. I'd to go back to college to learn the differences between the old Amstrad with cassettes and the new micro-computers with floppy discs! (And I mean floppy - they were like cardboard with cellophane through them.)

1997/8 saw the extensive development of the original money-saving, cost-cutting, crafting and frugal entrepreneurial project. At that time, I was writing on a freelance basis with regular columns in several magazines, while also helping others to get a tighter rein on their finances - personal and business. When we first began, there was no 'Moneysavingexpert', nor was there any eBid, eBay or e-anything, for that matter. Broadband didn't exist and the Internet wasn't yet available in the libraries, not even on dial-up lines. We paid by the minute and my first modem was 9,600bps. I think we'd upgraded to 56k modems by the time I relocated and the monthly Internet bill could run into hundreds of pounds. I was jubilant when they introduced flat rate charges on a monthly basis. I can barely believe how cheap Broadband is nowadays, yet I still have the cheek to grumble and switch packages at the end of each contract. It is far cheaper now than it was 25 years ago, that's for sure!

The moneysaving, money-making project eventually became known as 'Charlotte's Wwweb', on account of us all being online, spinning one ever-expanding web within our little Scottish based HQ. Few had their own computers, let alone offices or workspace with access to the Internet, so Charlotte's Wwweb became a micro-business centre with a shop attached, for the purposes of those involved being able to display and sell their own handcrafted goods, both over the counter and online. eBid was born and we were able to open online stores. Auction site eBay blasted into UK and the rest is history - they now rule the online auction waves. The Government introduced free Internet from libraries and that put paid to our Internet 'cafe'.

Advertising and marketing costs have always been the bain of any budding entrepreneur's life but, just as 'many hands make light work', many small businesses banding together to promote a common cause was the answer to that problem. The website, which included our online magazines and newspapers (called e-zines at that time) became a real newspaper, published monthly with everything done 'in house' bar the physical printing.

1999 - The regular money-saving column in our monthly newspaper 'Now You Know' was called, 'The Scottish Pound'. It was an on-going challenge to show how it was possible to feed a family of 4 a main meal every day for a total of £10 per week. It made interesting reading and opened quite a few eyes to some needless extravagances. More importantly, it eventually led me here, to Frugaldom.

Back then, I also wrote a column named 'The Plonkers'. This was an attempt to find some cheap alternatives to fine wine for the frugal dinner table. In all these years, the best I've found cost no more than the sugar it takes to ferment some elderflowers or rhubarb, but it was still fun sampling wine provided free by stores in their hope of achieving some 'cheap plonk' advertising.

Early in 2000, our friendly printer was bought out by Johnstone Press - that put paid to the newspaper, but we retained all rights, titles and ISSN registrations... just in case! 2012 saw the launch of a new, FREE daily newspaper online by same name, to which you could subscribe online. This was quickly followed by 'The Microholding Daily', which was filled with money-saving, gardening, poultry-keeping and frugal living hints, tips and stories. Both have, since, vanished as the service providers change their policies and no longer offered free platforms.

Frugal living and money saving pays, that's for sure, and there are many people interested in finding out how! Whether it is in the home or while running your business, an acute awareness of your finances is paramount to success.

The first step is to become debt free, but to do that takes time and a massive juggling act with whatever money you have. Reduce, reuse, recycle and catch a severe dose of frugalitis - learn the difference between needs and wants. It's much more environmentally friendly and much more fun than being skint.

It took me until 2007 to reach my debt free moment, mainly thanks to succeeding with my 2006 challenge. Then it was another 4 years after that before I found a place to properly call home.

Home is a shared fixy-up from where I work, still self-employed and still blogging, so stretching the shoestring budget is still the most important thing I do each day.

The 2006 Cyberdosh Challenge (sponsored)
  • Spend £100 on lottery tickets
  • Invest £100 in Premium Bonds
  • Buy £100 worth of stock or shares
  • Save £100 in a bank, building society or savings account
  • Bet £100 on some horse races
  • Buy £100 of scratch cards
At the end of the experiment, I had to report the findings and explain why I thought each of the above was, or was not, an ideal 'investment' opportunity.

The results were very interesting!

The 2007 Cyberdosh Challenge

Can you live for 12 months on £4000? Let's Find Out Now!

To make all things fair, cost of living does NOT include rent / mortgage payments or council tax and water rates, as these costs are dependent on personal circumstances. The basis of the challenge was to live for 12 months on no more than £4000, including feeding the household.

This may seem ridiculously unrealistic to some, but I accepted the challenge and am almost sure that I am of sane mind. It's a far cry from the original £600 experiment!

2008 'Living on £4000 for a year' Challenge

Search the Moneysavingexpert.com/ 'Debtfree Wannabe' forums.
Just look for NYK Media or Frugaldom - they're one and the same.

2009 'Living on £4,000 for a Year' Challenge

Again, search Moneysavingexpert.com/ 'Debtfree Wannabe' forums

2010 'Frugal Living - Living on £4,000 for a Year' Challenge

I started this challenge off on the Moneysavingexpert.com website forums under the heading, 'How Much have You Saved?' but the frugaldom lifestyle had taken on a virtual life of it's own by then.

2011 onwards - Frugal Living and Working Challenge

Completed my 'buy a house without a mortgage' challenge - Bought a cottage with almost 0.25 acres of garden.
Now running through social media and forums, the challenge still entails living within a household budget of £4,000 for the year, working from home and ensuring that all associated projects are sustainable and cash neutral.

From all of the above, we developed the concept of our microholding project and the emergence of more frugal entrepreneurs began.

2014 - Purchased barn, yard and land

With about 5 hectares of land to develop, the real Frugaldom project was just beginning - turning the dream into reality one step at a time. We also got a little touring caravan, which meant spending my 50th birthday at the new Frugaldom project.

2015 - Purchased holiday caravans

This enabled us to stay near the land during busy times and prepare to hire out holiday accommodation. I have spent most of my time working at Frugaldom to lay the foundations for a self-sustainable eco-project that will, hopefully, provide us and others with fruit, vegetables, herbs, natural art materials and quiet spaces for creativity and nature.

2016 - Hosted our first volunteers and began renting out short stay accommodation 

2017 - Purchased cottage with adjoining studio and wild garden space so you can come and experience our frugal lifestyle for yourself.

FRUGALDOM - Over the last few years we have fenced and planted new orchards, drained and tracked around the main project, improved the barn and yard, set up Frugal Breaks and got the project registered with Social Enterprise Scotland. Money saving, debt freedom, sustainability, recycling, zero waste, grow-your-own, make do and mend, environmental issues, wildlife, nature, arts and crafting... these are all things that are securely entwined in our everlasting quest to maintain freedom from debt and lighten our footprint on this planet. 

PONIES - Frugaldom rehomed some ponies, then some more ponies and then, in 2019, we took on 4 rescued motherless foals, followed by the arrival of a new lodger who needed some special attention, bringing the total up to 10. Funding for the running of Frugaldom and care of the ponies relies on the goodwill of our followers and members of the Friends of Frugaldom support group, who each contribute a few pounds each month to help towards costs.     Being debt and mortgage free helps enormously.

2020 - The official opening of the Frugaldom Project to allow public access and begin hosting our fundraising events, themed breaks, demonstrations and open air exhibitions of art work - sadly, none of this happened because of the Covid pandemic.

2021 - The frugal living challenge is still in full swing. Everything planned for last year (2020) was put on hold or postponed until post-pandemic but that still isn't looking like happening anytime soon so we need to adapt to survive. Plans for 2021 include building a centre hut, extending the hay shelter and making permanent the 2 temporary pony shelters that had to be constructed when we did the emergency rehomings. I'd also love a tiny house so plans include having a frugal version built to replace the old caravan that we were donated.

2021/22 - Opening the Frugaldom Campervan and Motorhome Aire. During the pandemic, our local council encouraged anyone with a spare half acre of more of land to offer overnight parking for campervans and motorhomes. There was no financial incentive to do so but we took the plunge and opened anyway. An aire is a basic service point or stopover for those travelling in campervans or motorhomes, It is cheap and cheerful, no services need be provided and it brings the opportunity to meet new people and introduce them to Frugaldom and all that we do here. Charging just £5 per night seemed the right thing to do. There is no advertising or marjeting budget here so once again, we need to rely on others spreading the word and doing our best to do similar online for free.

2022 - First hut gets built. It took a huge lump of savings to get the first planning application submitted and as soon as plans were passed, building began. The hay shed extension, pony shelters and 'tiny house' in the shape of hut 1, were all finally built.

2023 - Huts 2 and 3 built. Having completed the central hut, we proceeded to submit a second planning application, which was passed. This allowed us to have two more huts built, meaning the Friends of Frugaldom who weren't lucky enough to have a campervan or motorhome could come and stay, help out at the project and have space to relax, unwind and get back to nature.

We have this Frugal Blog to share news relating to everything money-saving that's happening with fellow frugalers and frugaleurs.

I am still in contact with most of the people who wrote as part of the original NYK projects, I still attempt to live on £4,000 per year, although in the wake of the Brexit and Covid combo, life costs considerably more so I allow myself £5,000. I still write up all my findings and results.

Frugaldom has a Facebook page, you can follow @Frugaldom on Twitter, there's a Frugaldom YouTube channel and we have @Frugaldom on Instagram. If you find yourself saving money through being part of our Frugal Living Challenges, you can always pop the occasional £5 (or whatever you can afford) into the project pot via www.paypal.me/Frugaldom or sign up as Friends of Frugaldom, Pony Partners, Wildlife Watchers or Happy Hutters at www.ko-fi.com/Frugaldom 

Good luck, best wishes and every success to all followers of the frugaldom lifestyle! If you are new to frugal living then pull up a chair and join us anytime. It's quite addictive once you see the debts decreasing and then the savings increasing. I still host the Frugal Living Challenge each year on the moneysavingexpert website forums.

Feel free to ask any questions and if there's anything I can do to help, please ask and I'll try my best.

Now You Know!