Monday, 4 November 2013

Frugal Living UK - back to basics.

November is here and I have to get a bit serious with myself, bad habits have become every day occurrences and it has to stop.
I have become used to handing over my card, not for frivolous purposes, but for every day stuff, but without being aware of what is in the account, this is partly due to the unstructured way in which self-employed people like myself are paid. If you have only ever been in a salaried job, just imagine how tricky it can be when some months nothing comes in at all and other months lots comes in and other months in dribs and drabs. How sometimes you have to chase up payment and don't get a penny until months after you did the work. I would love to be paid a monthly salary rather than lumps now and again, I would love to be paid if I am sick and can't work, I would love to be given pension contributions, but sadly self-employed people get none of these things, sure there are benefits, but definite minuses.
Anyway, to get back onto the point, before I was side-tracked there, I have let things get away from me and it has to stop.

So today I went onto all my online bank accounts to see how serious the situation was and it is not great, not dire, but not great. Last friday I had to spend yet another £140 on my car (gasket blown and lightbulbs replacing) which has not helped the situation. I will be back on track if I can spend only a maximum of £100 on everything (food, toiletries, household, petrol etc) in November and the same in December. A lean Christmas? no, just a well thought out one.
It's a challenge although I know many people (some of you included) who live on less than this so not that serious a challenge. I have a freezer packed full of stuff, I have a lot of knowledge and resources to fall back on looking at cheap recipes etc. The petrol could be tricky, but the car is full and I hopefully can get through most of the month on what I have if I don't take any long trips (exempt from this challenge is having to travel to London for work towards the end of the month - there is no way around that expense and I have just to budget separately for it)
So today I did what I used to do but have got out of the habit of doing: I made a meal plan, a shopping list and took £100 cash out of the bank.
Oh what a joy it was to be back in the supermarket with a structure, order and plan to what I was shopping for, I had forgotten how easy it makes shopping, how satisfying to spend so little, what a great feeling it was.
I spent just £9 on a weeks food (might have to top up buying some milk). Yes, I have a lot of things in the freezer, but even so, it just took some imagination and get out of ones head the idea that each meal has to be something 'special'. Home cooked, cheap food is always special, just because tv chefs like us to think we should be eating bloody pheasant croissants or cod roe curry doesn't mean we have to.
So the challenge is set, let's see if I can achieve it.
The irony is that because I have structured my week, I will probably end up eating even better than usual.

Beautiful weather today, done an hour and half gardening and that on top of the 2 hours I did yesterday has tidied it all up no end. I believe the rest of this week will be wet, so it was good to get it done today.


  1. It must require a lot of planning when your income fluctuates like that (what kind of work do you do?). Anyhow, good luck. I hope some money comes in before too long.

  2. Have you thought of putting up a sign in a shop near a school or church to offer tutoring in singing or some aspect of music. A tutor is not a teacher and does not need special qualifications. I do tutoring, although the legal aspects here are different. I have a Working With Children card, and an ABN which means my business is legal. Lots of people tutor for cash, which is a bit iffy. Because you are self-employed you probably already have something equivalent to an ABN. Perhaps a school might need some help with a choir at this time of year. Tutoring is never permanent, but in your case this is a really good thing. Never ever tutor without some other person within sight; this is for everyone's protection.
    Make a budget for next year and estimate your annual income. Work from that point.

  3. I too feel so much happier with a plan and a list. It sounds almost like an adventure!

  4. I must admit to not using a menu plan. Have tried it several times but find it tiresome, each to their own I guess. I buy roughly the same things month in month out, then decide what to make for each meal. We are never bored and every month is slightly different. Christmas food (not a huge amount of it) is bought slowly but surely and put away. Just started using cash rather than a card but still make sure I only use what is budgeted for. Freelance local singing lessons of some kind would be good (or even musical instrument) but as mentioned above, be very careful where young people are concerned. Groups would be better.

  5. I, too, went years with fluctuating income (freelance writer) and know how important keeping up with bank accounts and budgets can be. I would know when I was 'sliding' when I started to feel anxious and edgy and it was usually when I wasn't paying attention to "the plan"! Glad you got back in the groove. Sometimes it was only "the plan" that kept me going in my chosen career rather than finding a 9-5 job (bleh!). Hang in there, Dan.

  6. Glad you're sounding a bit more positive today. Enjoy the challenge.

  7. it gets so you feel out of control doesn't it.

    we are contractors. so we have to be super careful. we have what we call the big pot. and then each week it auto sends just enough for groceries and travel money. its super tight, but we manage and it can feel great to beat the big corporates and supermarkets. My money is mine. I give it away are rarely as I can.

  8. We meal plan all the time. I have to do that to keep my spending to the utter minimum. Our financial situation has now changed and we find it totally essential to meal plan and to make shopping lists accordingly. I couldn`t do without this organisation now. It does feel good to tick off from your shopping list what you had planned to buy, and then you know that you are well within budget. Money is tight now and will continue to be for some time to come. It`s necessary to prepare myself well before I go out and spend now. But, it`s satisfying to still manage on very little, too. If you can make this meal planning a regular thing then you are creating a lasting habit that will save you pennies in the long run. Having fallen of that wagon for a while is something that could happen to all of us, but at least you have the skills to climb back on and resume where you left off.

  9. I am also self-employed (artisan soapmaker, also a few baskets from cardboard, found materials etc) It can be very hard to balance it out. At the moment I am entering one of my busiest periods of the year but there are lean times ahead in the new year. It can be difficult especially in busy times to have the time and energy to prepare and plan but it can be essential. One issue I find very disruptive sometimes is depending on other people. I do not drive so, for example I pay £5 per year for a peat bank and with electricity prices rising and a harsh winter predicted and more power cuts, having that source of fuel has become more important. My friend who I cut co-operatively with and who drives went south in August and so we didn't get the peat off the hill on time and now it is too wet to burn this winter, which means using electricity for heat and much more cost. This has taught me, I think, the importance of planning ahead and having a contingency plan.