Well, I got accustomed to being more careful doing Frugal February, so I have decided to continue straight into Miserly March. A slightly different set of ideas, but all with the same core theme – cutting expenditure. Only 12 this time not 50!
For me, Frugal February worked well. As I write this it is just about finished, but I won’t be shopping in the next hour or two!
What worked well in February?
- Shopping less. Through the month, my husband and I consciously found reasons why we didn’t need to go grocery shopping. Our total month grocery bill was just on £230, which was well under our usual £300. If I keep this up, that will be a tidy saving at year end.
- Energy costs – we checked and found we were on the optimum price plan. Good to know.
- Analysing the basic cost of the things we buy most, saved us a few pounds. I generally buy a whole salmon fillet at Costco, and cut this into my own (generous!) portions. This week I price checked it before doing so. The Costco price was £15.99/kg way more expensive than Sainsbury, just 100 yards away (£13.99/kg). But Lidl provide them even cheaper, prepacked, portion size controlled, at about £12.50/kg, or £1.50 a portion. So I’m now buying salmon from Lidl, cheaper and more sensible sized portions. Win/win. Small things like our handwash is cheaper at Lidl, and I like it, so that is now on my Lidl list. However butter was cheapest at Costco, so I stocked up.
- I rediscovered a childhood meal, because I found a tin of salmon at the back of the cupboard. I used to love tinned salmon in white sauce, in a puff pastry envelope. Very nostalgic, and not particularly healthy, but on a winter’s day, very warming. Cost £0.85 a portion
- Our slow cooker had died before Christmas, and I had been looking for a replacement. £30 reduced to £22.50 at Sainsbury’s. Result! I had been struggling to find one big enough for bulk cooking.
- We only ate out once. It was a lunch at our favourite Chinese restaurant. £22 in total, for 3 courses each from the fixed price lunch menu, and a pot of Jasmine Tea. We enjoyed it and it certainly didn’t break the bank.
What worked less well?
- We use the car very little, so there wasn’t much I could trim here. March will be worse. I have a few trips to Glasgow, and we will be driving south to visit family. A couple of tanks of gas!
- Our jetwash for cleaning the driveway died. A wee mouse had visited the garage in the winter and chewed through the hose. Not a big hole, but when the water is under pressure, you get very wet! £100 for a full replacement or £50 for a replacement hose. As the washer is 10-15 years old, we decided to replace. Even though my heart tells me this wasn’t the optimum answer, it is the best long term answer for us. It is more powerful, will do a better job, and take less time. It is still way cheaper than paying someone to do it. I’ll salve my conscience by putting the old one on Gumtree. (UK equivalent of Craigslist). Someone will be able to make use of it.
- The monitor on my husband’s PC finally died. Replacement £90. It had been holding together (just) from our DISASTER in October. You can see it peeking out from under some shelves…. The Router is in a similar position – here’s hoping it hangs on for a wee while longer.
So what about March?
- Think about how you cook. Last month, I suggested making the most of your oven being on by putting in extra things. How about how many pans you use on the stove? Can several things be cooked in the same pan? Consider using a multi-layered steamer, which will cook several things at once. I use a slow cooker, instead of putting the casserole in the oven. It uses very little electricity. I use a pressure cooker to make soup, because it makes it really quickly.
- Think about what you eat, and how you eat it? Your fridge might be full of healthy vegetables, but are you buying the right things at the right time? Is it sensible to pay £2 for an imported pack of fresh mangetout or snow peas out-of-season, when there are local home-grown veg you can use instead for a fraction of the price. Look in the freezer section. You can buy a huge bag of frozen peas very cheaply. A comment I heard the other day – “I looked in their fridge, and it was all the best of stuff, nothing reduced, nothing from the basic range, expensive imported vegetables, top of the range yogurts, and they say they are broke. They just don’t know how to shop”
- How much does each meal cost you? Consider a cost limit for your food each day. So if you have a blow out dinner, you have a cheap lunch. Oatmeal is a cheap and filling breakfast. Eggs cost very little. In season, local, vegetables are usually good value.Cheap cuts of meat can be cooked in the slow cooker, you don’t have to buy the best stuff. Understanding your portion cost for each meal makes you focus on the cost of the food, and whether the additional spend is worth it.
- Are you filling your food recycling bin each week? What with? Are you making too much food and the leftovers get thrown out? Do you not use the stuff you have bought and it has gone mouldy?
- Most of us know at least one person that we say – I don’t know how they do it. They have very little money, but they can stretch it a long way. Learn from them. I have two or three friends who have perfected this. Initially because they had to, now because they want to. A valuable skill.
- Consider growing some of your own vegetables, fruit or herbs, depending on your available space. If you have no garden, consider growing some herbs on your windowsill. In my garden, I have redcurrants, blackcurrants and gooseberries. This year, I also intend to grow some runner beans.I don’t have a lot of space so I grow the beans along the fence, in among my plants.
- If you have a lot of produce, consider swapping with a friend or neighbour. I swap berries with my next door neighbour in exchange for apples from his tree a few months later. I then make tons of apple sauce, and freeze it to use throughout the winter. I give some berries to a friend (she uses them in smoothies), in return, I get jars of home made jam.
- Remove some things from your shopping list for ever. Snack food such as potato chips, nachos, salted nuts, sweets really do not need to be there, unless you have a special event coming up. Even then consider healthier alternatives.
- Research all the things you can do for free in your town. I live in Edinburgh. Many of the galleries and the National Museum of Scotland are free. Have a walk in the Botanic Gardens (Free, except for the glasshouses), walk round (5km), or up to the top of, Arthur’s Seat, all free. Great exercise. You can get a free guided tour round the Scottish Parliament (needs to be booked). You can even attend committee meetings. During the Festival in August, you can people watch, see free shows on The Royal Mile. Wander through Princes Street Gardens. For a small outlay of £4, you can hop on and off the ordinary buses and trams all day, which will save your legs. (Though not the Guided Tour buses – they cost quite a lot). In Barcelona where I spent last spring, you can get into many museums and exhibitions for free on the first Sunday in the month.
- Be a tourist in your own town. Take your camera, (or your phone), pack a lunch and go for a walk on a nice day. You will be amazed at the things you will see to photograph. If you haven’t done this for a while, you will be surprised at how much your town has changed. I took my own advice to try this one out. read about it here
- Sign Up at your local library, if you have not already done so. It will save you money on buying books, even if you normally get yours second-hand from charity shops. (My favourite hobby!)
- Research any big purchases carefully. Stay away from emotional purchases. Understand what you want, why you want it. Ask yourself – do I need it? Why do I have to buy it now? Can it wait? Can I afford it? You might want to wait a few days from deciding you need it, to actually buying it. You might even decide you don’t need it at all.
How did you get on?
Between Frugal February and now Miserly March, I hope you have got enough ideas to have saved some money. Now what are you going to do with it? Invest it, of course, I hear you say.
How about saving 80% of it, but giving 20% of your savings to the charity of your choice. It is money you weren’t expecting. It is good to give, you will feel positive about it, your preferred charity will appreciate it. Some years ago I read a book by Jack Black of Mindstore. He believes strongly in Positive Affirmation. At a time when money was difficult for him, he started to write on the front of his cheques – With Joy and Pleasure, I pay and on the back of the cheque, This amount goes out into the world and enriches it before coming back to me multiplied.What a lovely idea. I have already said in my post Dream Big, I aim to increase my charitable giving this year.
I am a member of the Rockstar Finance Forum, they are running a Giving Card project, where a few bloggers are given cards to use wisely, on a different theme each month. Last month, they were to be given to someone who was struggling financially. The reports written up by the bloggers on how they used their cards were amazing, and this was one of the inspirations for the paragraph above.
Give something back!