Awesome April. Following on from Frugal February and Miserly March, I thought it was time to be a bit more upbeat. Frugal and Miserly suggest a Scrooge concept, which is just totally wrong. Living within your means and not being wasteful is just good sense. April in the Northern Hemisphere is a lovely month. The worst of the winter is behind us, the sun is starting to shine. Time to spring clean everything, your home, your finances, your health!
There are plenty of money-saving blogs. Far too many to try and cover here. Rockstar Finance has produced a Directory of Finance Blogs I am stunned by the quality of the posts. A quick look at Pinterest gives you so many ideas, you will be swamped.
My money saving ideas, are only good common sense. There’s nothing particularly novel about them. They have been honed through many years of originally ‘having to’, then a few years of wasting it because I wasn’t focusing on money saving (mistake), too busy running family, job, house etc. Now latterly I have really become interested in money management again. It has almost become a challenge in itself. How much can I manage to save from our day to day income, not necessarily because I need to, but because I want to.
Having the odd (planned) splurge is fine. A few weeks ago, a friend came to stay. She had just had a significant birthday, so my treat was an amazing afternoon tea at the Signet Library in Edinburgh, followed by a cinema trip to see Viceroy’s House. We had a great day, and while it included looking for a special outfit for a wedding, it didn’t result in masses of shopping bags, and we walked swiftly by the couture options! It was a one-off. Well at least for another decade!
This month’s Money Saving post is about Spring Cleaning. Going back to basics, doing things that I grew up with (and to you Millennials, that means doing what your grandparents did!)
- Are you making the most of your garden?
- Create an attractive space, where you and your family can spend time if the weather is good. You can buy some old chairs / table on Gumtree / Craigslist, or if you’re lucky, you might even get them free. Do them up with odds and end of paint – they don’t have to match, and children will love helping.
- Have you room for a vegetable plot? Home grown veg tastes so much better than bought stuff, and you can always swap extra produce with friends & neighbours. One packet of green beans / peas for planting will be repaid many times over.
- Create a cheap play area for your children. I have a fantastic photograph taken some years ago. We had just moved house, the garden was in poor shape. We had a pot luck party, and all the children decided to make mud-pies. They had a great time, it didn’t cost anything (except the bath water!) A sandpit can be created from wood off-cuts (but make sure you also make a lid, or the local cats will create a mess!)
- Your local boot / trunk sales are a great place to buy pre-loved toys.
- Bikes don’t always have to be bought new. Some paint, polish and decorations can go a long way.
- Is your house a mess? Does it annoy you?
- Set some time aside to have a blitz. Make everyone help. Put things away. Sort them out. If things are broken, mend them or throw them out.
- Clean it! It might seem daunting, but decide to do one room at a time. Involve everyone. It’s not just ‘Mum’s’ job. Vinegar and lemon juice are good cleaning products. You don’t need to buy expensive products.
- Sort out your wardrobes. Clear out clothes that no longer fit. Sell them, give them away, or recycle them. (Old T-shirts make great dusters). Re-purpose them if you can. If you can sew, you can change the look of your clothes quite easily. As trousers change shape, width, length, if you’re at all handy, you can alter them, with just a small effort. If you knit or crochet, unpick earlier makes, and re-make in a different style.
- Use your material scraps. They can make lovely quilts. Local fabric shops sell remnants at a fraction of the price. You can make great cushion covers and throws, which will change your room cheaply. They are also great gifts. My favourite gift for a newborn is a handmade quilt. It goes in and out of the washing machine, makes wooden floors comfy for a babe etc. Recently I made a quilt for the newborn son of someone I had made a quilt for herself, 30 years ago – and some of the same fabric went in both quilts!
- Some cheap paint can work wonders, it doesn’t take long to paint a wall, and it will brighten the room up.
- If your carpets are marked, see if you can hire a carpet cleaner, and clean it yourself. It will be cheaper than getting someone in, and lets you put off replacing it for another year or two.
- Is your house too big for you? You could rent out a room, you could downsize, move to a less expensive area, closer to work etc. There are always choices.
- Consider cutting down on the things you own. Have you too much stuff, that has to be looked after, is taking up space, needs cleaning. If you feel you are in this category, do not buy anything else, until you have disposed of some things. Some people starting up, would love your extra plates / glasses. Or sell them and get some extra money. Though I don’t advise going to the same length as Jacob of Early Retirement Extreme,
- Check your heating thermostat. If you took my advice in Frugal February and turned it down 1 degree, you will now be used to it a little cooler, you could always try nudging it down a bit again, or reduce the time it is on. For those of you in hotter climes, try and minimise how much A/C you use. Reverse the process, a little hotter wont matter!
- Spring clean your finances. Are you in debt? Sit down and take a long, hard, look at everything. Get a clean sheet of paper, write down absolutely everything you owe, or you own. Split it into Savings, Loans, Credit Cards, Mortgage etc. What is your income? Does servicing your debt each month challenge you? The worst thing you can do is close your eyes to a problem. It will just get worse! There are lots of places to get debt advice. In the UK, Citizens Advice is a good place to start.
- Take a look at ALL of your spending January to March. What are the items that stand out? What things were really not necessary? Count it up. Are you surprised? Have you let money slip through your fingers? From now on, change your habits. It is supposed to take 8 weeks to change a habit, so come the end of May, you will totally accept your new economic habit. It’s not about being a killjoy. A latte here and there wont break the bank, but many lattes, many meals out all add up. Try going to the supermarket with cash. You really will put less in your basket. Use a basket not a trolley. If you have to cart the goods round the shop, you’ll think twice about putting additional things in!
- Check every standing order and direct debit. Do it every couple of months to make sure something hasn’t sneaked through. Have you got a gym membership you’re not using – get rid of it
- Have you a new car, a car loan? You don’t need to change you car every couple of years. I hold mine for around 10 years. Do you really need a car at all? Could you walk / cycle / bus / train to work?
- Buy the ‘own brands’ when you’re food shopping. It’s a bit of a hobby horse of mine… See Save money on your Grocery Bills A good example – 1kg of porridge oats costs a fraction of porridge oat sachets, and generally has no additives. Own brand ‘basic’ pasta costs about 20% of a branded variety. Can you really tell the difference?
- Time to get fitter! (Though I’m not so good at taking my own advice… See My Diet Progress, or Rather lack of it) Get out for a walk. Do some gardening. Offer a hand to an elderly neighbour.
- Eat better. Look in your fridge, your freezer, your cupboards.What is in there? Pre-packed snacks, ready made meals, desserts, biscuits. How do you cook? Make from scratch, or buy-in?
- Plan your meals. I am not a fan of eating the same thing every Monday, but a bit of pre-planning allows you to bulk buy / cook ahead.
- Portion control!
- Use leftovers. I posted in Frugal February , how a chicken costing £3, and £2 veg made 15 meals. I cook chicken at least once a week. Sunday – roast chicken and veg. Make soup. Set aside some meat for chicken salad. Use the rest in pies. I freeze single servings of soup and pies, so we can be flexible when we eat them, according to our schedules. That is 35p / 40c each portion. Previous generations would have a roast dinner on a Sunday, cold sliced meat on a Monday and Shepherds Pie on a Tuesday. Mince/ sausages / stew were on the menu which used cheaper cuts of meat.
- If cooking is a dark art – sign up for local cooking lessons, or ask a friend to help. I make my own shortcrust pastry, crumbles, sauces, casseroles, cakes, puddings etc. Learn a few simple dishes, be it lasagne, stir-fry etc. I don’t think I can buy a family-size ready made lasagne for less than £1 a head, but I can definitely make it for less than that. If you have picky-eaters who wont touch veg, it can be finely chopped / pureed & mixed in. They wont know what’s in there. In the UK, we now have a concept of Wonky veg, which is irregularly shaped veg but for a lower price. It tastes the same!
- You don’t need meat at every meal. Pasta with a home-made tomato sauce is cheap and easy to make.
- Clean your teeth after your evening meal. You shouldn’t feel the same urge to snack.
- Give up the couple of biscuits / snacks with a cup of tea/coffee. You don’t need them.
- Try and cut junk food out of your life. Read the back of a bag of snacks. I counted 17 ingredients on 1 pack of flavoured crackers.
- Do something in the evening, instead of collapsing in front of the television. You know it makes sense!
April for me is such a lovely month. I live in Scotland where the winter days are often dark and damp. When April arrives, I feel like I have been given a new lease of life. Awesome April indeed! I hope at least one or two of these items have given you an idea.
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