Friday’s Green and Frugal Five

Posting a day early ahead of the celebratory madness of new year! With all the time visiting friends and celebrating, this week hasn’t been the most frugal, but I have managed a few good things:

  1. Took the bus down the coast, instead of driving or taking the train. I was having lunch with family, and it was just me travelling. I decided to enjoy the amazing coastal view from the top of a double decker, along with a few podcasts! No need to find and pay for parking, no need to drive in the rain at night, and it cost a fraction of the price of the alternatives.
  2. Ate all of the Christmas Day leftovers. The final day did require me to be quite inventive, but I’m pretty proud of the fact that nothing went to waste this year. It’s a substantial improvement on last year, as we even managed to eat the tricky and unappealing cold roast potatoes!
  3. Remembered to book train tickets to see more family in January as soon as I was paid. It doubtless would have been cheaper if I’d booked them earlier, but this is a classic example of how being short on money stops you accessing cheaper things.
  4. Opted out of my workplace pension. That might not seem frugal, but considering that I’m only there for under a year, and I would face fees for transferring out to another scheme when I leave, it’s important to opt out whilst I can. I know I’ll be missing out on my employer’s contributions, but as long as I actually save the money I’d be putting in, instead of spending it, I think it’ll be better for me in the long run.
  5. Speaking of savings, I’ll finally be seeing someone responsible enough to sign my passport facsimile, to enable me to regain control of an ancient (sadly almost empty) savings account from my teen years. Strangely (!) my signature has changed since then, which means I can’t change my address or access the account or anything until I can prove I’m me!

It feels nice to finally tidy some things ahead of the new year. And to hold in the spending a little before he new year celebrations! I hoped your week went well. As ever, this post was inspired by Katy’s excellent blog.

Friday’s Green and Frugal Five

Hope for the New Year

This week has been one of those strange liminal times. No longer really Christmas (though more traditional folks will remind me it’s still the 12 days of Christmas), but not yet the New Year. I’m off work, there’s nothing much to do, and there’s still piles of food in the fridge to eat. Things are closed, and people are sleepy and focused on their families and homes.

I guess there is a sense of waiting, now the hubbub and noise of Christmas is done, waiting for the last party, the final celebration of the year. Then everything goes back to normal, back to work and school and daily routine. But maybe with a touch of hope, a touch of expectation that the new year, this year, things will be better. 

This year I don’t know what I’m hoping for. Nothing concrete. I still feel a little too bruised, a little too small to take the risk of making my hopes tangible, voiced, written things. Sometimes it feels that if you don’t acknowledge your hopes, if you wrap them up in your heart, then you won’t feel so achingly disappointed when they aren’t realised. So I’m not facing my hopes head-on today, I’m not looking at them directly. I’m letting them hide themselves in my heart, and hoping to sustain them, quiet and safe in there.

But I am letting myself feel their presence. I hope that whatever fears and disappointments you’ve suffered, you can let yourself feel the presence of hope too. Don’t be too cynical. Let a little of the hope for a new year enter your heart. It may be dangerous, but I think next to love, hope is one of the fundamentals that makes the human condition bearable. 

Hope for the New Year

Friday’s Green and Frugal Five

I’m away this weekend! Not very frugal or probably green, but hopefully lots of fun. In the mean time…

  1. Brought home unused food from work. I think I should probably start taking a food bag with me, as I sadly had to throw out 3/4 of an unused pizza base for want of a way of transporting it home. But a little cheese, tomato and salami came home, when it otherwise would have gone in the bin, so that’s something. I also drank the awful instant coffee at work instead of buying any kind of pick-me-up to get me through the long afternoon-evening.
  2. Did my weekly food shop at the small local supermarket on the way home from work, with only £20 and a single carrier bag on me, and knowing I had to walk it home! Consequently, I didn’t purchase much, and as a bonus the vegan cheese I like was cheaper at this supermarket than the big one we usually drive to. Sadly, not a single bag of salad in stock, so I’ll have to think of something more imaginative for my dinner at college. Also did the food shopping instead of going to dance class, as my partner isn’t well enough, so although I was sad to miss out I did save some cash.
  3. We have switched the heating on this week… but only for two half-hour blasts when one of us has been really cold. Otherwise it has remained off. At least we’ve checked it still works and maybe this year we can avoid it breaking down… last year we were without heating on Christmas Day and only the substantial roast kept us warm!
  4. Applying for jobs every day. Which has to be frugal, I think, because sooner or later someone will employ me and I will have money to finally consider saving!
  5. Attempting to use up some of the tonnes of moisturiser I have been given over the last year or so by putting it all around the house. Hopefully other people will use it too! I’m not a huge fan of fragranced things, and I’m terrible at allowing myself to use the ‘nice’ things I get given, so I’ve ended up with quite a collection.

One definitely not frugal or green thing that has really surprised me…. I used the tumble-drier this week to get help get the bedding cycled as quickly as possible, and I’d forgotten how much it sucks! I must have been running if for almost two hours to dry everything, and it wasn’t even a particularly heavy load. Next time I’m going to try and be more organised and just hang the bedding to dry on the banisters.

Friday’s Green and Frugal Five

The soothing (and unsoothing) nature of cleaning

It’s Boxing Day, and I’m enjoying a little tidying up. That’s right, I’m enjoying it. What’s that about?

Having a quick research, it appears to be that psychologically, cleaning can be what is termed a self-soothing activity. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing as the term doesn’t carry any judgement. A self-soothing activity is just something that helps bounce us out of the doldrums, distracting us from negative feelings for a while. That little bit of breathing space is good for you, even if it is just temporary. Sometimes negative feelings and thoughts can be overwhelming, and a bit of distance is a welcome relief.

I know cleaning is a distraction for me. It requires fine motor skills and attention to detail, and that stops me from thinking properly about other things. Thoughts arise and depart, but attention is elsewhere, so although I note them, I don’t pursue them or dwell on them.

However to be really satisfying, distractions need to both suck you in, and actually interest you. Most of the time cleaning isn’t interesting, but it does have the potential to be really satisfying. Take today. We have a black mould problem – it’s one of the joys of living in a 1980s house with double glazing. Water condenses, dust accumulates, and before you know it there’s black mould growing along your windows and up your walls. It demands constant vigilance, or it spreads, mould-suppressing paint or no (though if you have any suggestions on this, do drop me a comment!). So today I did the bathroom window with bleach: a few very careful squirts, ten minutes or so waiting, and some cautious washing down, and the window was white again. Visible, satisfying, results!

There’s a more recent aspect to cleaning and tidying for me too – not just resetting the situation to regular levels, but actually making it better. Decluttering. Today I hit the bathroom stuff. I didn’t just tidying things up by arranging them, I chucked out a bunch of old things I won’t need any more. I know it’s not frugal or green to just throw stuff away, but I honestly will not use these in the coming years, and neither will anyone else who I’m close enough to actually ask them if they want my half-used dusty old bits and pieces! THis kind of decluttering makes cleaning interesting in a way it isn’t usually, as I try and work out what I actually need, what I can do without, what can be charity-shopped. Maybe that helps to make it a psychologically self-soothing activity.

It does feel odd to enjoy cleaning. Less odd, when I think of it in terms of my ever-present but as-yet-unrealised desire to do a full declutter. But still, enjoying cleaning? Surely horribly gender-normative. I struggle so much when things I want or enjoy are the same things that I’m expected to want or enjoy. I don’t trust them. I feel like those are the things I ought to struggle against – why does society want me to enjoy or be good at these things? Cleaning is just part of the female-dominated work that anyone could do but that usually devolves to women, most of which isn’t recognised and isn’t thought to matter. I try not to do more than half of the cleaning, but I usually do. Isn’t it somehow even worse to actually enjoy it as well? Buying into all that bullshit about women and wives from the mid-20th century?

Balancing these things is difficult, and I’m not there. I don’t know how to reconcile these two aspects. How do you balance house work in your home? How do you fit being someone who likes cleaning and cooking with someone who also wants equality and to reject gender- and sexual-normative behaviour? Answers on a postcard…(or comment!).



The soothing (and unsoothing) nature of cleaning

Friday’s Green and Frugal Five

This Friday was Christmas Day, so not only am I a day late on this (let’s not mention those ones I missed in December!), but it’s also rather difficult to claim any part of the last week was at all Frugal or Green! But it feels good to look for the little things that I did, here and there, and try and concentrate on the good bits amongst all the consumption and gluttony!

  1. My partner and I didn’t exchange presents. That meant that he didn’t get something he has no use for and doesn’t like, and I didn’t either. No shopping stress, no needless consumerism, no waste. I’d recommend this to anyone!
  2. I boiled a chicken carcass down for stock. I’ve never done this before, because I have dim memories of it stinking horribly of…well…dead stuff. But we had one left over from a pre-Christmas Christmas-dinner with housemates, so I made the effort. I was pleasantly surprised that it smelt wonderful, like chicken soup, really comforting and wholesome. Now I have a box of deep brown chicken stock in the freezer, and I’m actually looking forward to using it to make a really comforting soup in the near future.
  3. I’ve been freezing absolutely every bit of leftovers or unused food I can in the run up to Christmas. It’s a real season of food extravagance and bounty for us, so before the big day (and it’s inevitable pile of leftovers) I’ve been freezing everything from the fridge I could. As a result, my partner has sausages and bacon to look forward to, and I have a bunch of home-made microwave meals.
  4. I didn’t send any Christmas cards (except one to Mom) and therefore saved plenty of money and resources. Instead I’m donating to the charities my friends have nominated, as a Christmas card for them.
  5. I rescued a horrible 10m roll of pink wrapping paper, covered in very ugly cartoon penguins, out of an abandoned trolley in a supermarket car park, where it had been crushed. In the end it turned out my housemate needed quite a lot of wrapping paper for his presents, so I was happy to let him have the whole thing! At least someone used it – considering how mangled it was, I think it would have been thrown away if I had taken it into the supermarket.

One horrible waste which did annoy me was that I had to buy new (tasteful) wrapping paper! I was really hoping to avoid buying any of that stuff this year. However I was ill, and I needed to wrap some things on the go on the way somewhere, so I ended up buying a roll at the train station, wrapping gifts in the coffee shop (having brought scissors and tape!) and then leaving the majority of the roll behind with a note that it was free to whomever wanted it. I hope it saved someone else some money!

Did you manage any frugallities over Christmas? Let me know, or head over to Katy’s blog, which inspired this post.

Friday’s Green and Frugal Five

Happy Christmas!

Happy Christmas all 🙂 I just thought I’d post briefly to offer you a link to something charming for Christmas: celebrated author of the fantastic Neil Gaiman reads aloud ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Dickens, from Dickens very own annotated copy!

There’s a Soundcloud of the recording (an hour long) at OnBeing, and you can also get it direct from New York Public Library audio podcast on iTunes.

I hope you are all having a peaceful, loving Christmas, even if it is just in your own heart.

Merry Christmas x

Happy Christmas!