Monthly Archives: February 2011

The art of being frugal?


I’ve been scouring the PF blogging hemasphere of late, trying to summon up a bit of extra motivation. It’s interesting what’s out there. So many different opinions. Save More! Spend more! Earn more! One theme that I’ve noticed frequently popping up relates to how far you can go with being frugal before you’ve gone too far. Obviously the definition of ‘too far’ is going to be a subjective thing, but it’s something I’ve often contemplated (and blogged about) along the way. This question can present itself in a host of ways but tends to revolve around how realistic/unrealistic it is to live on a bare bones budget long term. Frugal Trenches recently wrote a post over at The Simple Green Frugal Co-op titled ‘Realistic Budgets’ which acknowledges that certain ‘extras’ just have to be budgeted for. Move To Portugal included a post about how she has found it more important to enjoy life (and not be made miserable by a job) by pursuing her goals at a slightly slower pace than try to reach them faster at the expense of everything else. Then I read a post over at Voluntary Simplicity called ‘Don’t Confuse Playing at Frugality with Living Frugally’ which compares frugal extremes with being on a crash diet (ie a quick fix that won’t work in the long term). There were lots of other posts from other blogs that seemed to be saying similar things.

Why is it quite so tempting to try to live on a bare bones budget in the first place? Since starting this blog I’ve often been tempted to try not to spend anything at all. But why? Perhaps because when I made the big shift from spending unconsciously and not saving anything to doing the exact opposite it felt so good. Seeing savings building up and being on top of my finances instead of having them spiral out of control did, in fact, feel great. Maybe I’m trying to recreate the honeymoon period of my altered relationship with money. The thing is, it is hard to recreate that sense when you’ve made the big change and are now plodding along quite happily. Maybe it is simply that you can see how much money you could save or use to pay off debt if you literally only had to shell out for the bare essentails each month. This is incredibly tantalising if you’ve got a financial goal of some kind.

There is also the fact that when you’ve been spending a lot and then stop, you tend to be quite well stocked up on ‘stuff’. Shoes, for example. You’d probably have a good supply of shoes when you stop spending so you can go for quite a long time before any of them actually need replacing. Or bathroom products – most of us have bucket loads of the stuff. It took me a year after starting this blog just to get through the supply of soaps that I had collected from gift sets over the years. Unread books. Lots of music to listen to. Clothes. Sports equipment. Whatever it might be that you do/ used to like spending money on. It is easy not to spend on this kind of thing when you have plenty of it already. It is also easy to skip going on holiday when you’ve been once or twice a year for more years than you can remember. It is relatively easy to stop spending on everything but the bare bones for a while and, when you do, you tend to have a lot more money to decide what you want to do with.

But what happens when your supplies start to run out? Your shoes get scuffed and broken. Your make-up runs out or goes off. You’ve read all of your books and the library has a long waiting list for a new title. You’ve listened to every album you own and want to listen to something new. You want to try out a new recipe but don’t see how you can justify the cost of some of the ingredients when your food budget is so low. Your clothes are bagging out of shape. The strings break on your tennis racket and the chlorine finally eats a hole in your swimming costume. A new restaurant has opened in town and you really want a night out. That holiday the year before last suddenly starts feeling like a very long time ago.

As I said, it is easy to go without for a while. It isn’t too difficult to push yourself to earn more or stick out a miserable job or live on next to nothing in the short term when it frees up so much income to solve a problem like debt or lack of an emergency fund or to make a start on a big goal of some kind (like a deposit for a house or a move abroad). In the long term, however, going without everything is pretty hard going. Obviously some people manage – ar actively want – to live a lifestyle that would seem extremely frugal to a lot of us. However, I think we need room for a bit of spending in our budgets, whether it be for holidays or haircuts or whatever the thing might be that puts a spring in our step and makes it worth getting up in the morning.

While living on a bare bones budget for a while is challenging, I think the really tricky part – the real art to frugal living, is learning how to be moderate. We all know that you can lose weight by eating better and exercising and yet very few of us find it as simple as that. Which compromises are you happy to make, which things do you know you can do without and which things are a step too far? Perhaps the art of being frugal in the long term is being able to answer these questions and striving to get the balance right.

What do you think?

Categories: Frugal ideas | 10 Comments

Hair advice please!

Tricky one this, since I don’t include photos of myself here 🙂

I’m dithering about a) changing hairdresser (which will be more expensive) and b) getting – gulp – highlights. Does anyone know anything about this? Any advice?

My current hairdresser is fine – she trims my hair perfectly (though I have long hair with a few layers in it so not exactly complicated) and it costs me the staggeringly expensive price of £10. Including a 20% tip! It’s been very budget friendly and my hairdresser is really nice. Thing is. It is a very odd little place. Probably more for the, er, older lady. I’m not convinced how well they might do colour or what kind of quality ‘stuff’ they would use. Or is it all the same? I literally don’t know. Help! Living in a small town your options are fairly limited. A few years ago I used to drive to my nearest big town/small city to get my hair done but it got too expensive. I definitely want to keep it local.

Maybe I should be explaining the why…

I’m blonde. I’ve always been blonde. As in, not just light but really blonde. Naturally. And now I’m not. I’d heard that you can ‘lose’ your blonde after having a baby but I honestly thought it was more of a gradual thing with age. It isn’t. It is as though someone has flicked an ‘off’ switch. I have what look exactly like roots. About 3 inches of them. My hair is always darker in the winter and lighter in the summer but this goes way beyond that. It looks mank and I hate it. All last month I tried to get used to it. ‘It’s not so bad’ I thought. ‘Don’t be shallow’, I told myself. ‘Why add a regular expense to your budget?’ another voice taunted me. And it seems my answers to the above are ‘Yes, it is that bad, I look bloody horrible’, ‘I don’t care’ and ‘So?’. I’m fine with not looking exactly the same as before I had Baby. I didn’t expect to (not being the gym bunny type). But this grim mousy hair appears to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I can only remember snippets of co-workers comments on getting their hair coloured. Stuff about vegetable dye (or something), foil, T bar (?), half-head/full-head. I don’t know what any of this means?! What should I ask for? What should I avoid? What about strand tests?I don’t want anything that looks too obvious when it is growing out. I could probbly afford to get it topped up every 3 months at most.

ALSO, should I stick with my current hairdresser and risk living with bad highlights (my hair grows very, very slowly)? Should I try the new salon in town that looks, actually, quite stylish but hasn’t been open long enough for anyone to be able to recommend it? Should I go with a salon that a friend recommended but is about a 24 mile round trip and a bit of a pain to get to?

If anyone knows about any of this please help me!

Categories: Budget beauty | 11 Comments

Up and down with the weather

I’m having a mild fit of the blahs today. Maybe it is because yesterday the sun was out and everything just seems better then, doesn’t it? Since it was so nice I skipped playgroup and took Baby for a walk along the seafront, which was really busy considering it was  before 10am on a Tuesday morning in February. Incidentally, since I’ve been on maternity leave I’m frequently surprised by the number of people I see out and about during the day time. Why aren’t they at work? What’s their secret?! I wish they’d tell me. This maternity leave is slipping away far too fast. Anyway, the walk was good and then we met up with some friends for coffee (£2.35).

Today, however, has been relentlessly grey and miserable. Both Baby and I have had colds and then I realised I was also getting a coldsore, for which I can’t take my medication because I am breastfeeding. Baby couldn’t get to sleep because of her bunged up nose so I ended up taking her for a drive (works like a charm). This evening I tried another Jamie recipe (Chicken Casserole). I really wasn’t in the mood but the chicken had to be used so I had to get on with it. I’m glad I did because the recipe was ridiculously simple and it tasted really good (plus I have two portions to go in the freezer so we’ll get a night off cooking next week). I’ll definitely be making it again.

I’ve just cracked open a book I loved when I first read it three years ago and it is as comforting as the casserole (Mariana by Monica Dickens, great-granddaughter of Charles. Read it if you liked I Capture the Castle by the fabulous Dodie Smith and The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice). Through its pages I’m going to escape to Charbury and be optimistic that, in spite of the heavy rain forecast tomorrow, everything will seem a bit brighter!

Categories: Book love | Tags: | 3 Comments

The weekly shop and a free lipstick

Still managing to stay on budget fairly well. We went to have lunch with friends yesterday (massive Sunday Roast – nice). Had to nip into a shop to buy a gift and a card for a birthday and my monthly LoveFilm fee left my bank account – both came to exactly £13.27. Weird!

I did the food shopping today which came in at £38.83. I was quite pleased with this as I picked up some extra things that were on offer (such as a reduced tuna steak that needs to be used by tomorrow. I’ve bunged it in the freezer). I’ll probably need to get a few things later in the week (I forgot to pick up loo roll, grrr) but the bulk of it is done. The meal planning went much better last week so I’m hoping I manage to stick to the plan this week too. At the moment I’m doing the meal plan and shop on a Monday (for meals for Monday to Friday) and then picking up extra food late in the week to be used over the weekend when we know what our plans are. This seems to be working out pretty well. I’ve made a batch of diet friendly leek soup which should be my lunches taken care of for a few days. Clearly more attention needs to be paid. I weighed myself this morning only to discover that I’ve put on half a pound! 

I also stopped in at Boots today as I realised my Max Factor Lipfinity has almost run out. Luckily I had a voucher for £1 off so I used that along with my Advantage card points and got it for free! I like free…

Categories: Budget beauty, Frugal food | 2 Comments

A little bit of domestic bliss


We’re having a super frugal weekend it seems – half by chance, half by design.

Spent most of the day at a family get together and the rest of the afternoon tidying up and watching Baby sitting on Husband’s knee playing the piano – ahhhh! Had to pop to the shop to get a few provisions for the weekend, namely garlic bread and some more baking supplies – £7.77.

As I type, a pot of Cawl Cennin soup is bubbling away on the hob – a new recipe I’m trying out from the WI Soup book. There will be enough for four portions so we’ll have some left for tomorrow night. Earlier in the week I tried out a recipe for spinach and cheese muffins (sound disgusting, taste like heaven) so I’ve already done my two new recipes for February! I’ve also made a batch of chocolate cupcakes earlier to take to some friends tomorrow, they just need frosting. I am totally rocking the domestic thing today!

Husband has rented two DVDs for us to watch later and I’ve just cracked open a second-hand book I bought last month (Daphne by Justine Picardie if you’re interested). Compared to this time two years ago (rehersing for a gig) we’re about as rock n roll as a pair of tea cosies. Thing is, if two years ago you’d told me I’d be spending the night in with Husband, some good food, good films, a good book and a gorgeous baby girl asleep in a cot upstairs I’d have been thrilled. Which I am. Tea cosies it is…

Categories: Shoestring Fun | 3 Comments

Free parking and No 7 vouchers

Oops, it ended up being another teacake day yesterday. Two of my Mum mates have gone back to work and can’t make the Tuesday meet up anymore, thus we met up yesterday in the usual spot for the usual tea and teacake. I was determined not to eat cake. In fact I spent the whole walk into town debating the calorific content of a latte versus tea and a teacake. I had just decided that the latte (though naughtier than regular coffee) was probably better than cake only to get to the cafe and find out that the coffee machine was broken and was being repaired. Gah! You could have just had the tea, you might say. Ah ha, how little you know me, would be the response. £3.10 spent.

I also stopped in at Boots to get my monthly £10 Vodafone top up voucher thus collecting Advantage card points along the way. I currently have over £60 worth of points on my Advantage card. I’m going to be using my points for any skincare or make-up purchases until I’m back at work so that should help me with my budget. I can’t imagine that I’m going to need that much over the next few months, though, as I’m pretty well stocked up at the moment. Over the last year I’ve gradually switched to the Boots No 7 range for just about all of my skin care stuff. I’d been using the toner and eye make-up remover for years because of the brilliant £5 off No 7 vouchers that they often give out (thus making each item under £3). However, last year Loreal stopped producing the Visible Results range (why? why? It actually did give Visible Results?!) so I’ve also started using No 7 cleansing facial wash, moisturiser and exfoliator. My skin tends to freak out if it doesn’t like a product but it seems fine with this range. Budget wise, everyhting is really cheap when you use the vouchers so I’ve been stock piling items every time I get the chance to have £5 off. The moisturiser is by far the most expensive item (£21 at full price so £16 with a voucher) but I’m only half way through my first pot and I’ve been using it for months.

Also, I keep meaning to mention I did some food shopping on Monday. Although this, technically, was in January I’m going to include it in my February food spending. The total came to £35.05 but I had a £2 off coupon which took it down to £33.05. Nice. * Update: I had to pop to the shop again after writing this post to get more food (eggs, milk, potatoes and so on) so another £6.14 on foood this week.*

We went out of town for our Sing and Sign group today. I wasn’t very familair ith the town where it is held so for the first few sesssions I parked in town spending £1.50 on a ticket each time. Last week I made the effort to go a bit earlier and drive around. I found a residential street nearby with plenty of free parking and so e parked there last week and today, saving £1.50 each time. The only cost today was in fuel used but since I had petrol in the tank I didn’t have to get my purse out!

Categories: Budget beauty | 2 Comments

A 50p day (and a Beef Casserole)

Another cheapie day. We went to the library for the bi-monthly baby session (stories, songs and instruments) and then on to the Baby Clinic for weigh in and a catch up with a few people. I managed to throw a Beef Casserole together (4 portions, 2 for tonight and 2 for the freezer) and stick it in the oven before zipping off to a nearby town to pick up a book that had been ordered in for my birthday last month. I had to spend 50p on parking which was my total spend for the day.

As usual for the start of a new ‘challenge’ my motivation is still fairly high so I managed to walk 1.5 miles yesterday and 2.5 miles today. Not loads maybe but since being snowed in at Christmas and then the incessant rain in early January I’d got out of the habit. I’m going for a walk again tomorrow as long as the rain isn’t too bad! Until then I’m off to sample that casserole. It smells pretty good…

Categories: Ramblings | Leave a comment

A morning out on £1.65 (and a bit about weaning!)


Well, the frugal February plan is off to a fairly good start. This morning we went to our (free) playgroup and then we went for tea and teacakes with a crowd of other Mums and babies afterwards which is something of a Tuesday tradition. I was going to forego the teacake today in honour of my diet but decided to have it anyway. It’s only once a week. One of the local cafes is very accommodating and has a large area in the back where we can park up all of our pram and pushchairs and not be in the way. They also have a loyalty card where you get your tenth hot drink for free. I’ve been saving these points up in readiness for the end of my maternity pay and so I used one today (I still have one to use). Hence my pot of tea was free so I only had to pay £1.65 for the teacake. I think £1.65 for a morning out with a playgroup and then tea and cake is pretty good going!

You might be wondering about the photo. That, dear readers, is a frozen (heart-shaped no less) cube of pureed carrot. I’ve been meaning to write a post about weaning for months now and I never seem to get around to it. We weaned a bit earlier than the recommended 6 months (since then it has been all over the news that some research now suggests 6 months is too late – they can never make their minds up can they? It’s like the peanut thing all over again. I digress…) for a variety of reasons. We started out with baby rice, then carrot, then apple and onwards. I bought an Anabel Karmel book and have since been given two more. I doubt I’ll ever get through all of the recipes but Baby seems to like whatever I seem to make though some recipes, like Beef Casserole, took a couple of attempts before she was really very interested. I’ve been batch cooking. At the moment I have four batches of food in the freezer: Beef Casserole, Chicken with Sweet Potato and Apple, Broccoli and Califlower Cheese and a Lentil and Sweet Potato recipe. I also freeze cubes of individual vegetables and fruit which get mixed and matched in with other things. One of Baby’s favourite things is pureed pear mixed with plain yoghurt. She eats way better than I do! However, I do buy some food in jars for when we are out and about. Not many places will heat food up and I also worry about giving her food that might have been in my bag for hours when it really ought to have been in the fridge. We seem to get on okay with food from Organix or Hipp Organic so I have a little supply of those in the cupboard for when I know we aren’t going to be back in time for lunch or dinner. I also cottoned on today (about 6 weeks late!) that I don’t need to boil and cool her drinking water anymore – she can have cold water straight from the tap. What a relief! Sooooo much easier.

I really had to restrain myself when it came to buying weaning products – so many dinky containers! Pretty spoons! Cunning little clip-together things! Eventually I managed a little restraint. I collected together all of those tiny little tupperware boxes you never know what to do with and Mum also donated several from the back of her cupboard. They have been invaluable since Baby has been eating larger portions of things. I did buy a set of four special clip-together boxes. They are nice and robust and keep the contents in properly – particularly good for when we are going to visit friends as it means I can take something home-made and bung it in their fridge as soon as we get there. Dealing with some kind of meaty puree that has escaped from its container and all over the inside of your bag isn’t particularly fun. The special icecube trays were also tempting but we already had two flexi ice cube trays (one of hearts, once of stars – thank you IKEA!). Speaking of IKEA, Mum also picked us up a set of 6 brightly coloured bowls which we use every day and are brilliant. We could probably have spent a few pounds less but all told it really didn’t cost very much and I’m pleased with what we’ve got.

I don’t think I’ll be spending any more today but if I do I’ll ‘fess tomorrow…

Categories: Baby | 7 Comments

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