frugal foot forward….

We have been toying with the idea of reducing our outgoings for some time (I must qualify this as it is not a notion shared with my husband) and trying to live a more frugal life.

I already ‘do’ car boot sales and charity shops in the constant search for unusual fabrics for my makes as well as bit and bobs that save a few pennies here and there. I now only read books on my kindle and I read lots but they are largely free. I can make a meal out of just about anything too but I undoubtedly fail in my attempts to be thrifty when it comes in other areas of life.

We (sorry, I) eat too much and I sometimes forget about left overs and they get wasted, even though this wastage is made slightly less ‘criminal’ by our local council food recycling that goes to a composting plant.  We own far too much ‘stuff’, even though I don’t think we can really be considered conspicuous consumers.  We ran 2 cars for a while even though one of them was hardly powerful enough to even need petrol but as soon as our parking permits reached a value greater than that of the actual car, it had to go. We have our hobbies and pass times and none of them are ‘gear’ free even though we can actually feed ourselves from a couple of those pastimes. We have the requisite iPhones and iMacs and iPads that we use for work and even though we could probably get by with less expensive equivalents I have never used anything other than a Mac until I recently tried a PC so it just makes sense.

I have just started to dip into teacher Kathy Kelly’s “How I lived a year on just a pound a day” (one of the very few paperbacks that I still own) over a cuppa and toast in the morning and it has fertilised the germinating seed in my head that is moving toward a more thrifty way of living.

I don’t want to think of all the pounds wasted over the years on silly purchases (some as recent as 2 weeks ago!!) because I would only grieve over the properties that I might have been able to invest in, do up and rent out/sell on for my pension days if I did.

Is it too late to start now and make a significant impact on my life?  I’m sure it isn’t.

I think it really started to come to mind more and more when I spent a year working my butt off and not really getting paid; my efforts were always encouraged by the promise that things would get better and I’d get my rewards.  They did get better, and I think I would have got my rewards but it was all just too late. I had accepted a reasonable job offer from another company and I just had to leave.

It had been terrifying!  I paid my mortgage with a credit card just to get by and although I KNEW that the money had to be found to pay that off eventually, the alternatives were unthinkable.

My husband was in no position to make up for my lack of salary although his efforts were gargantuan and enormously appreciated. He already has a mortgage to pay himself on a house he owns and with a dreadful property market, the option to sell just wasn’t there without losing too much.

He was amazingly supportive and did so much to ease the terror but it was the worse financial situation I have ever found myself in. Much worse even than being a student.  I don’t want to have to experience that again.

We never had much so when I was at school, I made my own clothes, I used to make stuffed toys and sell them through the local free paper or I worked in a horrible shop on a saturday. When I left school I took a job as a nanny for a measly £25 per week when my contemporaries had fewer children to care for and poorer bosses but earned twice as much: I supplemented my £25 by making dress samples for a local manufacturer who supplied for Frank Usher.  I gave up the heady earnings that my nannying job offered and went off to college where, I adapted charity shop stuff and sold my hand made jewellery at places like Glastonbury or Reading (Rock Festival as it was then known!!) to make up the tiny amount of money I was sometimes left with from my grant.  It was at college that I honed my culinary skills at making something from nothing to a point where I was generally feeding half of my year come the end of term and the end of funds.

Even when I entered the professional world of architecture and design in my early twenties, I was suddenly earning quite good money but it still wasn’t great compared to other professions. Unless you become a Richard Rogers or a Renzo Piano, the earnings in my field would never be in line with those in the thieving city. So, in order to make it go further, I continued to make my own clothes unless lycra or a ‘I can’t walk away from it’ bargain got the better of my dress making skills.  I was always able to run up a new hand made posh frock for a christmas ‘do’ or a wedding that came along, though.  I’ve even made a wedding dress or two for others strapped for cash.

I’ve had my extravagant moments in life, don’t get me wrong. I spent a huge amount of cash on a solo trip to Australia, NZ and Malaysia in 2001, bought an incredibly expensive silver fountain pen for meetings that I had to attend in the 90s (now long gone to a house break in unfortunately) and grabbed myself some lovely jewellery, bags, shoes or ‘to die for’ items of clothing.  But generally speaking, I don’t splatter cash likes lots of people I know.

My ponderings have continued since changing my job last year even after regaining the financial confidence a regular and sensible salary gives you. It finally became something I needed to act on when I invested in some new skincare products recently.  I have sensitive skin but have rarely been particularly careful about how I treat it until I started to realise it might be too late if I didn’t finally get into a good regime. I found what I needed, got a good multi buy deal on line and eagerly awaited my purchases.  Realising that I had to find a place for them in the cupboard, I started sorting out some space. Imagine my surprise (and shame) to discover a whole host of perfectly lovely skin care products that had been FREE. These were your classic Clarins type offer ‘exclusive to John Lewis’ where you get a bundle of free stuff when you buy 2 or more of your usual products.  I literally had stock!!

Kathy Kelly’s book has reinforced the feeling that I should do something about this kind of excess.

Thankfully, I do have like minded friends. One in particular is the queen of frugal finds and is never without a beautiful gift or item that she has sought out for a snip of the usual price. I have long admired her virtues and wish I were as accomplished.

So, where can you cut back and start reducing your outgoings without ruining your own life and every one of those around you?  Apparently, there are a huge number of ways

Recycling is a good start but when it comes to actually parting with cash……. don’t make any purchases that:-

a) you don’t need

b) that duplicate something that you already own

c) are ’emergency’ purchases where there isn’t really an emergency requirement

d) replace something that you can actually repair without looking like some kind of bag lady

e) are purely on impulse

There will be no more of those purchases where you THINK it is a bargain but it isn’t really.  I will put something I think I want onto a list and if it is still there a week or more later, I might have to consider getting it. But then again, I might wait another week and see.  I will stop letting vouchers that I get for the supermarket run out before using them. I will sign up for every loyalty card going at the places I frequent and I absolutely will start shopping for food daily so I can take advantage of those bits that can’t go back on the shelf tomorrow.

Wish me luck!

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