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Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Keeping on track, a review

Good morning. I will zap off this post early being as I missed yesterday. From time to time I review my money saving activities, to ascertain if they are still relevant today as they were when I first started on my frugal living journey. You might have noticed there is a list of money saving tips on a separate page, link at the top, I have been checking through them to see if they still apply now.

Almost every aspect of  living expenses can be tweaked and pruned by making choices. Make a wrong choice and you will find you pay more than you need to. Saying that, everyone's aspirations for a better life are different, so there is no, 'one size fits all'. The areas I save money in may not be the same as yours. So why am I so tight when it comes to spending? Easy answer, because I like to be in control. I will not hand over any money willynilly, every purchase is carefully thought out.

The first question I ask myself is, 'do I need it?' If yes, then where is the cheapest place I can get it. If no, how much do I want it, and do I have enough money to pay for it without skinting myself. At this point treats come into it. Nothing wrong in treating yourself now and again, but a treat to me is something I allow myself occasionally. My treats might be a small bar of chocolate, a bottle of wine, a can of cider, a bag of crisps, or  a magnum ice cream. I spread my treats out over several weeks or months. One bottle of wine a month spread over four days. One magnum when I am on a day out or holiday. One small choc bar if I really fancy it, but my self discipline always kick in when I am in a shop and I will not pick one up as an afterthought to add to my other purchases.

So, basically, I save money in some areas to channel that cash into other areas which are important to me. I like a nice car so I save up for one. I have pets so I need money for that. These might seem like fixed costs that I can't cut down on, but as I said, all aspects of living expenses can be tweaked and pruned. I could buy a cheaper car which costs less to run, but I can afford the one I have. I could have just one cat. I am at my maximum of pets cost wise at the moment, and would not take on any more. I have a budget for them and I am at my limit. Utilities are flexible costs, I can choose when to flick switches, when to turn things on and off. I can monitor usage through my meter readings.

So let's have a look at the money saving list. I will pick out a few to review.

Before I wash my clothes I inspect them to see if they are dirty or smell. Yes, I still do that. It's a waste of water, electricity, and soap powder to wash clean clothes. Will they last one more wearing before they need a wash. I wash everything on a 30 degree, 30 minute wash, using two dessertspoons of powder for each load, and dry everything outside. If the weather prevents me from drying outside, I have enough clothes to delay a wash until a good drying day comes along, windy or sunny.

Cut down on tea and coffee, heat a mug of  water in the microwave and add a dash of fruit juice. Yes, I still do that. I very rarely use my electric kettle because it needs two mugs of water to cover the element. I know you can put some in a flask for later, but I only have one hot drink in the morning, the rest of the time I have cold drinks, and they are very watered down juice drinks.

Check bank statements and credit card statements for any direct debits that are not needed any more. I keep my direct debits to an absolute minimum, preferring to pay bills by cheque into the bank My mobile phone is topped up at the local shop, £10 every two months. I have an annual DD for my Youth Hostel membership, and car recovery service. £4 goes to googlie for posting unlimited photo's on my blog, and a monthly DD goes out for house insurance, and landline/broadband. That's all, makes it easy for me to monitor.

Buy children's tooth brushes, they are cheaper than adult brushes. Yes, I still do that. A three minute scrub with a small brush gives the same results as a bigger one. My dentist always asks if I use an electric brush, my answer is no. Why do I want to spend money on a gadget that will need charging up, and new brushes to purchase every so often, when I can do the same thing using wrist power. And while on the subject of teeth, I only use toothpaste in the morning. I like to start the day with a fresh clean mouth. All other times I brush with water only. It's the time spent brushing that counts, and using the correct technique, plus flossing, which gets rid of the food trapped between them. I must be doing it right because I've had five years of all clear check ups.

Use wash cloths instead of paper towels. Yes, I cut up old cotton sheets, old towels, and use them as dishcloths. When they are past their useful life in the kitchen they get relegated to floor cloths, shoe polishing cloths, window cleaning cloths, and dusters, when I can be bothered to dust. I have a couple in the bathroom for wiping bath, basin, and toilet down. And the very old cloths get used as cat litter box wipes after I have scrubbed them out and they need to be dry before refilling with fresh litter. When I throw cleaning cloths away they are manky. Just a note to add to this. I do have a paper towel roll, I use it for a dribbly nose. It lasts longer than a conventional box of tissues because it doesn't fall apart so quickly, and my nose is constantly cold and wet, even though I never catch a cold. A bit like a dogs, ha ha. I never ever buy J cloths, wet wipes, dish cloths, floor cloths, or boxes of tissues.

I still wear boys and men's underpants as opposed to ladies knickers. I haven't had to buy any for years, they last ages, never fall apart, and never stretch and go baggy. They are a snug fit, no uncomfortable floss up the bum or cheeks hanging out. Anyone with a small bottom would save loads of money by making the switch. They come in all colours.

Tidy your food cupboard and have a stock check. Yes I still do that. I know exactly what tins, packets and frozen I have, no festering unmentionables lurking at the back waiting to be chucked out. I keep my spices to a minimum, no small glass jars of goodness knows what hanging about. I don't follow recipes for cooking, because if you do, you need to check you have the ingredients first, if not then you buy it. So easy to be left with half a jar of this, half a packet of that, never to be used again. I make my meals with whatever I have in, I improvise, I use up what I already have. No recipe books in my house.

Moving on to food shopping. I don't take a list, I go with an open mind. There is no item of food that I must get, I buy whatever is a good price and I can substitute one item for another. I like expensive foods like they have at Marks and Sparks, but would never shop there unless it has a yellow sticker, and that isn't likely to happen because their big store is on the edge of town. I am not loyal to one supermarket but will cherry pick from those I am close to, or passing to and from somewhere else. I will not waste petrol running around from shop to shop. My motto is, 'pop in when passing', especially if it is between 5 and 9pm. Another motto, 'worth a look'.

Don't buy food out. I know the times when my stomach will be grumbling for food, so if I am going anywhere and I know I will need to eat, I take a snack with me. A sandwich, a drink, a piece of fruit, a few cream crackers a piece of cheese etc. If I don't eat when I am hungry I start getting wobbly, and that means eat something now. So rather than dashing in a shop, I have something in my bag. I eat before I go food shopping, because being hungry in a supermarket aisle will trigger off my desire to grab whatever is available. This has happened on occasions, and not wanting to give in to junk, I have been scouring the shelves for something suitable to eat. I might pick up a cheese and onion pasty or a banana, to satisfy my hunger. One thing I cannot bring myself to buy is ready made sandwiches, even if they have been reduced to pennies. No thanks.

I like to review my money saving and spending habits now and again, just to check I am on the right track. To check I am not slipping back into spending more than I can comfortably afford. I read other money saving sites to see if there is anything I am missing, any good ideas I should be doing. It's easy to take your eye off the ball and slip back. I don't keep a spending diary any more, by keeping my outgoings and incomings simple, all the information is stored in my head. As long as that bank balance stays in the black I am ok. It may dip a little at times when there is a big bill to pay, the next one will be car insurance, but exercising restraint for a few weeks will bring it back up again. Swings and roundabouts comes to mind.

Your priorities will probably be different to mine, but whatever you spend your money on, it has to be what you can afford without going into debt. Some sacrifices have to be made to be able to live the life you want to live. I want a nice car, I don't eat out. You eat out twice a week, go to the gym, get a coffee in a cardboard cup every day, and you make do with a cheaper car. Your choice, my choice. Don't come moaning to me that your car is clapped out and you can't afford the repairs.

Thanks very much for popping in, I hope I have given you something to think about. Time to take my best friend out. He is lying on the carpet, I'll get his lead.

Toodle pip


  1. I buy a pair of toothbrushes in Lidl's for around 99p, one for husband, one for myself. This way I can afford to change them regularly, and they do the job very well indeed. Although I do not have attractive teeth they are very clean. My dentist even complimented me on my teeth-cleaning regime which, just in case anyone wishes to follow this as I can assure you it works, I first brush my teeth with Sensodyne, then I give each tooth an individual floss, and then I brush again with Oral-B and rinse. Then a rinse with Listerine and, bingo, clean teeth, mouth and gums. It takes a few minutes to do this, but once a day a through clean is worth it. I should really do this last thing at night but because I'm tired I do it in the morning and my final brush of the day is simply a brush and rinse. No one needs an expensive gadget with which to clean their teeth, two brushes for 99p will last a couple of months at least, if rinsed and dried and put away between use.
    But your careful spending habits put me to shame. Husband, son and grandson and I had our breakfast out this morning and I frivolously spent £30 I'd not planned to spend. Slapped wrists! But it was an excellent breakfast and, of course, one has to acknowledge that if I'd cooked it at home it wouldn't have been for free, I'd have bought eggs, sausages, tomatoes, bacon, bread, butter ...
    Margaret P

    1. Margaret, if you had the money to spare to pay for your breakfast, and it wasn't needed elsewhere, and you don't make a habit of it, then it's a treat.

    2. My best buy recently was in a charity shop (a rather up-market one in a posh area of town, I might add) ... a super Hobbs T-shirt for £4.50. It is one of the smartest T-shirts I've ever owned. Ditto, a few weeks ago in the same shop I found a heavy silk Jaeger scarf, the kind I'd seen in one of the town's dept. stores for around £90, and I snapped it up for £7. There are bargains to be had out there if you are prepared to look ... or rather, have hawk eyes!

  2. Yes, you cut your cloth accordingly. Natalie

  3. I volunteer at a local Needs Council, where folks come to us for money. We first have to sort out if they are druggies and used up their cash, but in many cases folks just don't know how to manage money when they have it. There is too much outside influence from the "haves", I guess. I need to send them to your website for ideas for saving money. I"m also very conscious of what is trashed....need to recycle as much as possible.

    1. Hi Linda. I haven't heard of a Local needs Council before, it sounds like a good idea and there should be one in every town. Many people are not very good at prioritizing, therefore get themselves in a mess. Something along the lines of the Domestic Science lessons we used to have at school, with budgeting the household income as well.

  4. Hi.Yes!.We had "Home Ec"(home economics class) and learned everything from cooking nutritious cheap meals, to sewing clothing,baking from scratch and household budgeting at our high school.Also I think parents,grandparents,and caregivers need to try to instruct and guide children in finances and wise spending / saving practices so that they can mature into responsible adults.Personally I find that balancing that" fine line" when and if in a relationship of shared income is crucial.If a couple is not on the same page in that regard it can only lead to trouble.We review the household budget and our spending habits on a regular basis together.Financial serenity is ,I think,only a component of a happy life but it is one of the key stones in the foundation. Your blog and unique take on life and choices is always cheering,informative and inspiring,Ilona,thank you.Bye for now,D..

  5. Very wise words. Once people realise they don't need all the things manufacturers are throwing at us and we can't all live the lives of the Chelsea set the better. We are too easily caught up with what others expect not what we can deliver Christmas being a prime example. People getting into serious debt to show off what they've bought. My father called credit "the never never" because it took so long before the item was ever yours. And you were probably bored with it before it was even paid for. The way people change their phones as a status symbol is stupid.

  6. Thanks so much for this update, I re-read your savings area yesterday so this was very timely! Your blog is really interesting and well written, thanks again for the time you spend!

  7. totally agree- we all have different spending priorities but MUST keep in the black with a bit saved for emergencies and save for everything we need . recognise the difference between a need and a want,

  8. Hi Ilona, great post, as always. I love waking up to your wisdom and wit.
    You mentioned choices... very important aspect of this discussion as is the idea of keeping up with the proverbial Jones and believing we need all that the advertisers and manufactures offer us. I believe simple, simple, simple. Mend, make do.. reduce, reuse recycle... upcycle, share, etc etc.
    I am content with my lot...I am very fortunate that I grew up in a time when vital skills were taught at school and at home. I quietly thank my parents, grandparents and teachers almost daily, for the skills I have learned that enable me to live the life I choose and for the values instilled in my at a very early age. LOVE your attitude, your sharing, encouragement and your down to earth approach to life. Many, many thanks. Cheers

  9. Interesting to see you still do these things after all these years. I think the moral of the story is make good money choices a habit - you do them consistently over time and before you know it you do it automatically. I have changed a few habits this year. I never leave the house without filling a water bottle, I can manage without food but I hate being thirsty and would buy a bottle of water! We park just on the outskirts of town for free and walk in, only takes 10 minutes - this must have saved me a fortune. Almost every item in my wardrobe is high end label. I only have good quality clothes, cashmere jumpers and wool skirts etc. 90% of my clothes came from our local charity shop where everything is £1.99 - even winter coats! It pains me to buy anything new because I see so many hardly used clothes crammed into charity shops. Yes you have to sift through some washed up primark clothes but the thrill of the chase is rewarding - even my teenage daughter loves going in for a rummage. Debbie

  10. i love this, no holier than thou preaching just this is what i do could you use/adapt it

    thankyou some good ideas all sensible not pie in the sky unachievable nonsense

  11. "I make my meals with whatever I have in" - "No recipe books in my house" - very sensible, though for some things I definitely need recipes, e.g. baking, preserves. But for the main meal of the day I most certainly prefer to make up my own, using what is in season, what is cheap and what I think we need nutritionally. I think we would all be better off in many ways if we accepted what is AVAILABLE rather than thinking "I want this so I'll go here there and everywhere trying to find it", whether that is food or clothes or whatever. As we live out in the sticks and it's two buses (or an 18 miles bike ride, or wait until I can use husband's car) to get to a bigger town with choice of shops, I have always used mail order, and now the internet, a lot, and for some things it is still necessary, but I am tending more and more to accept what is available locally rather than going further afield, even if that means I don't get exactly what I would have liked. Not sure that that would have been easy when bringing up our four children though.

  12. Hi Ilona, I enjoyed your post about all the ways you watch your money and make wise choices. I grew up in a household where my parents and grandfather lived together. My grandfather was very aware of what he spent money on. Whatever he had, he kept in excellent condition. He was a real good example for me. My parents were the same but not as careful as my grandfather. I think sometimes it's the era you grow up in too having to raise his family during the worst of the depression years. It teaches you to treasure what you have. Thanks for all the great tips as usual.

    1. Hi. Yes, you are right, it was the era we were brought up in. Back then we didn't know what everyone else was spending their money on apart from the relatives and close neighbours. Now, with the internet and TV, there is so much more temptation to have what other have.

  13. Hi blogers, to make your bedding last longer and fresher, turn pillow cases, sheets and duvet covers over every few days so that they are not always worn in the same place. I never buy white because it never washes white for very long. I have loads of woolens and do a wool wash once every 6 weeks or so, everything else goes in a coloured cold eco wash and it all looks fine. My extended family know what I'm like and they like making stuff, so I got a years supply of homemade washing powder in a jar in my christmas box last year, still using it reckon it'll do another 6 months. I used to buy duck pads to go on my duck handle to clean the toilet as I dont like toilet brushes, I think they are unhygienic. I stopped buying them and use pieces of rag now that go in the bin. Our wheelie bin rubbish goes to a power station to make electricity, best place for it. I buy a really cheap cleaning liquid from discount shops called Astonish, it is endorsed by the Vegan society, so no nasties there.


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