How’s my New Year’s Resolution going? January edition.

As you may have read, this year I’ve committed to reduce the number of days every month where I buy things. I want to get a better idea of my spending, as well as become more mindful of it, and of my consumption of things.

For January, I have committed to having at least five buy-nothing-days. This isn’t a big deal, but I wanted to start out small and easy. I’m going to add one day every month, until December, which right now is looking quite terrifying with sixteen buy-nothing-days pencilled in!

So how has January gone? Mixed. 

First up, I definitely hit my buy-nothing target of five days, and in fact despite fears early in the month I actually hit this target by the end of the third week. Successful!

The first week was really hard, with only two spend-free days, which I had to work really hard to find. Week two was a near disaster: having a dear friend stay meant that we went out a lot and I spent on food for special meals, but managed one day. But week three settled into some kind of post-holiday normality, and I managed two with relative ease, and probably had a couple more (though I’d stopped counting) in week four.

However I have realised a few things. The resolution is completely new, and I’m not following anyone else’s suggestions, so at the beginning I had no idea of how it would work. I assumed these ‘buy-nothing-days’ would be completely spend-free. I’ve now realised now that, for me at least, that isn’t going to work. 

I don’t want anything putting me off going swimming, or getting a prescription, or paying for physiotherapy etc. I’d actually quite like to increase the number of days a month I go swimming, which although cheap (£1!) does need to be paid for as-and-when I go, rather than on a membership. A healthy mind and body is very important, and frugal in the long run, so I’ve therefore decided to exclude spending on physical and mental health from the buy-nothing-days. I want to look after myself more in the coming year, rather than put in arbitrary boundaries which inhibit that.

I’m feeling some disappointment that the buy-nothing-days won’t look as money-free as I initially thought they would. But I think this is probably the best approach to take, and I am now looking forward to the coming months, and even the challenge of the final few, with a lot of hope. I hope your own New Year Resolutions are going well, and do check back this time next month to see how February’s challenge went!

How’s my New Year’s Resolution going? January edition.

Friday’s Green and Frugal Five

Well, I went into this week expecting it to be a little hellish, with two extra jobs lined up as well as afternoon appointments. In the end, the biggest extra job failed to materialise, and although that means less money, in this case I’m quite glad as it also means much less hassle! This week hasn’t been completely parsimonious, but there have been a few bright spots:

  • I fell in the mud last weekend. Rather than pay for my coat to be dry cleaned, and use who-knows-what chemicals, I washed it by hand in the bath, spun it in the machine, and hung it to dry. I didn’t want to do it, it was a real effort, but it was free and low impact! 
  • I’ve done the first day of a two-day training course in paediatric first aid. Learning something new is always good, but in this case I’m getting a c.£300 course for free from one of my employers, and I should be getting paid for the hours spent training, and my other employer let me have the day off work to do the course and just make up the hours this week, rather than using precious holiday! Hoping it will boost my CV a smidgen too, which might be frugal in the long term. Oh, and I got a free lunch!
  • Nine free eggs one of my employers didn’t want.
  • A whole bag of good clothes went to a friend-of-friend who is just a touch smaller than me (and doesn’t have my IBS problem) and was a little short on work clothes. Really happy to have found a new home for unwanted things, and the spares will go to charity. Saved someone else money, and reduced consumerism!
  • A friend is lending me a piece of kit I need, which saves me having to buy it. In return, I will de-cat-fur and press it. Much better than buying, using once, and then storing forever something that I would rarely need.

What small triumphs of frugality have you had this week? 

As ever, this post has been inspire by Katy’s blog and wonderful readers.

Friday’s Green and Frugal Five

Friday’s Green and Frugal Five

Not bad this week, considering I’ll have been away both weekends, which brings it’s own spending!

  • I packed sandwiches, cookies and water for the long, cold train journey home on Monday, rather than buying anything. I probably would have folded and bought a hot drink at one of the stations, as I was stuck there almost an hour on a concourse with little shelter and my hands went numb, but there wasn’t anywhere inside to drink it. Saved c.£3.50 and didn’t use one of those disposable cups.
  • I pre-booked a bunch of festival events this weekend, getting an early-bird discount, and didn’t pre-book for an extra one just for the free gifts as I can’t actually attend it. Saved c.£35-50.
  • Haven’t been for a haircut in months, though a couple of times this week my hair has been driving me nuts!
  • Bought my supermarket shopping online and collected it, which cost me nothing extra, and helped me avoid impulse and unnecessary purchases. I actually had a hard time meeting the minimum spend this week! Next month I’m going to review the whole process.
  • Have been searching for a way to keep our small old cat warm at night this winter, but so far haven’t found a method which seems safe, easy and effective. Rather than buy something that doesn’t quite do it, we’re just going to leave the airing cupboard door open at night for her as a temporary measure until we find a better solution. Though this reminds me I need to get some kind of insulating jacket for the water tank in there!

I’m driving across country today, so hopefully I’ll survive on just what I’ve packed and avoid the service stations… but I think on Sunday that might not be that easy.

As ever, this post was inspire by Katy and all over her fascinating commenters.

Friday’s Green and Frugal Five

Friday’s Green and Frugal Five

This week we’ve had a very dear friend to stay with us, so the focus has been on spoiling them as much as we can get away with. This is quite tricky considering how kind, thoughtful and temperant they are, but we did our best! Consequently it’s one of those weeks where you look for the ‘better’ spends, rather than trying not to spend at all. On the upside, I did manage one no-spend-day in amongst all the excitement, which is very encouraging.

  • Excitingly, I’ve managed to pick up a few extra hours with my main job, just handling some admin for a sub-department’s event. This will bring in extra money, but will also give me new things to do, saving me from getting too bored! Win-win.
  • As I talked about a few days ago, I bought this week’s food shopping online and collected it myself. I really think this has helped me not buy things I am not certain too need, saving money and avoiding junk.
  • Did not order take-out last night, even though we were all very tempted. My partner cooked great pasta instead, much healthier and a league cheaper.
  • Abstained from eating lunch or buying coffee or anything not brought from home all week, though I did break today. Could not drag myself out of bed early enough to make sandwiches, and was too sad really to face it. I’ve spent most of the afternoon travelling in pretty cold conditions (via train) so I have treated myself to warm food and drink, but I will try and abstain on the return journey next week.
  • Went to the movies and treated our guest, but did get 2-4-1 tickets for us, saving £7. Saw The Hateful Eight, but not sure I can recommend it!

If this post interested you, head on over to Katy Wolk-Stanley’s blog, which inspires this and also contains lots of similar stuff!

Friday’s Green and Frugal Five

Supermarket food shopping: how I’m avoiding it in 2016

There was a time when I really enjoyed supermarket food shopping. Probably sometime after I finished my masters, when I had enough money to buy whatever food I wanted and everything was new and exciting. But over the last few years it’s got to the point where I actively resent having to go in the supermarket.

Recently I read a post in the simplicity-minimalism blog-o-sphere where the author, Tsh Oxenreider talked about three things I’m resolving not to do in the new year (or something similar). She didn’t directly mention food shopping, but whilst reading her (somewhat relentless if you’re on her email list) plugging of something called ‘ePantry’, I got thinking about getting my food shopping delivered. Wouldn’t it be great to no longer waste hours of my life every week walking around the supermarket buying the same old things every damn time?! This week one of my colleagues also mentioned that she has switched to it permanently, and she explained how it worked for our local big supermarket.

Armed with that inspiration and information, I explored my local superstore’s online offerings. To save money I opted for the ‘pick-up-from-store’ option, and I have to admit that driving in today did make me feel pretty damn smug – there was a queue just for parking and the whole place looked packed and stressful. I was so pleased not to be participating in that!

So far it looks like a really good option, saving on hassle, time, stress and money, considering the following pros:

  • It will probably take me about ten minutes to order my usual weekly shopping, as we tend to buy the same things consistently, saving time.
  • It took 15 minutes door-to-door to pick up, again saving time.
  • I didn’t have to use carrier bags (though sadly my loose veg was packed in extra plastic) so only a small net increase in waste.
  • It allows me to review the order in a calm, peaceful, well-fed frame of mind which helps me be critical and pick out those things we don’t really need, saving money.
  • Not being in the store itself saves me from picking up impulse ‘treats’ as a reward/pacifier for surviving the experience, or because I’ve ended up really hungry whilst walking around. This is good for our health as well as our bank balances!
  • It is so much easier to check the ingredients of food online than it is in the store. As we tend towards a vegan diet, this is really helpful, as is the (slightly shonky but still informative) ability to search for ‘vegan’ food on the store’s website. This actually opens up greater variety of food to us, which is a real bonus.
  • I can easily check what we have in the cupboards/fridge and avoid getting things we don’t need, and as I can add to the order as the week goes by I can easily add things that we run out of as-and-when. This saves us money and avoids waste, and I’m hoping will avoid additional trips/frustration over forgotten things.

All in all, I’m tentatively hopeful that this may be a long-term solution to the grind of supermarket food shopping. I think there’s even a chance that, if we rarely actually go into a supermarket, the few times we need to we might actually enjoy it again! I certainly think it’s an excellent way to keep track of how much money we’re spending on food, and to avoid buying unnecessary things.

Overall, if you’re looking to reclaim some of your time from this boring task, I’d totally recommend it. I’ll let you know how it goes in the next few months.

Supermarket food shopping: how I’m avoiding it in 2016

Friday’s Frugal and Green Five

This week has been a little up and down, and probably contained too much food and coffee eaten away from the home/office! I don’t know about you, but I’m having problems adjusting back to the regular work routine, and staying away from the tasty foods that have been part of the holiday season! However, I have managed a few things I’m proud of:

  1. I bought three months of bus pass (which I use to travel to work rather than drive) at a reduced student price, saving £100! I’ve paid for an evening course in April with the local college, and as a result I have a current student card. My local bus company accepts this as sufficient to issue a student-priced bus pass, which is absolutely fantastic!
  2. Recycled the liquid cartons when I drove to the supermarket. This is so dull I always wish I didn’t have to, but I still do it. I also managed to remember to take stuff to the tip, including a bin-liner of clothes too damaged to be charity-shopped, which went in the fabric recycling bin. Dull, but dutiful.
  3. Reserved from the library that a book my partner and I really wanted to read. I had to pay 90p for the privilege (I don’t know any other library that does this and it annoys me so much!) but that is 10% of the cost of buying the book. I only had to wait a few days and it didn’t hurt to put that new copy I was lusting for back on the shelf too much…
  4. Swam 1km in the local pool, for just £1! My workplace has a special arrangement with the pool, so for as long as the funding lasts, I can swim for cheap. Not only is it excellent for the body, it’s good for the mind too, as the rhythm of swimming and counting laps tends towards mindfulness.
  5. Made a bunch of dinners out of sad looking left-over vegetables from the back of the fridge as part of my drive to reduce waste. I’m trying to shift our dinners over to more vegetable-based food, but I’m not feeling very inspired!

Thinking on my News Year’s Resolution, I am trying for more buy-nothing-days, but not succeeding very well so far this month. The problem is that I do quite a lot of things that require (sometimes tiny) amounts of expenditure, like the swimming. This has to be paid for as-and-when you swim, rather than on a card or season pass, so I can’t just pay once a month. Wish me luck for improving this in the coming weeks!

As ever, this post was inspired by Katy’s blog, where lots of similar lists get posted!

 

Friday’s Frugal and Green Five

Getting inspired to declutter your clothes

Sometimes the amount of clothes I own can feel overwhelming. I look at them, and I feel guilty for not using lots of them, but then frustrated because I can never get to what I own, or even see it. Everything is just piled on top of everything else. Then I get that classic “nothing to wear” feeling, and I just get in a complete grump. I don’t even want to go through stuff, because it’s all so horrible I don’t even want to look at it.

But this time, I’m not ignoring it. I’ve gone through my regular, day-to-day type clothes and culled a whole bin-liner to give to charity. I’ve done this not because of some New Year’s resolution, but due to a happy coincidence of inspiration which has helped me face the mess. So if you’re looking for a bit of motivation or inspiration for tidying or decluttering, here’s my list of ways to find it:

1) Visiting (tidier) friends

I visited a friend for New Year, and the experience was surprisingly inspiring. The friend I was visiting very kindly gave me and my partner their bedroom to sleep in. The bedroom wasn’t inspiring in itself: it was actually the spare room of the house, didn’t really have very much in it, and was a rather uninspiring pale brown colour.

However, because the room was quite sparse my friend had folded and stacked most of their clothes on the shelves. And it just looked so simple and functional! Unlike my own shelves, where I had left my clothes tangled up, confused and generally stuffed in as tightly as possible, my friend’s shelves were neat, tidy and definitely not over-filled. I was pretty jealous of how easy it was to see what was there and get to it. Seeing it up close, by accident, also made it very real. This wasn’t some show home, or someone known for their tidiness or obsessive decluttering. This was just a regular person with similar hobbies to mine.

I’d definitely say, if you’re looking for real slap-in-the-face inspiration, take a few minutes to privately peruse one of your tidier friends’ rooms!

2) Reading books (or articles) about tidying

A good writer not only communicates their passion, but actually makes you feel like you can do the thing just as well as they can. A friend very kindly gave me a copy of Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and I’ve just read the first quarter or so. I may talk about the book in more detail later, but it is a pleasant and easy read. To a Westerner her perspectives on inanimate objects seem rather odd, but she makes you really feel like you could tidy your whole house and keep it tidy. I probably wouldn’t spend money on the book myself, as it is repetitive and could be much more firmly edited down to a hundred pages or so, but it is invaluable as inspiration if not actual content.

3) Working out what you really want to wear.

Marie Kondo tells you to hold each piece and ask Does this spark joy in me? Which I think is definitely a good way of getting past the excuses we often make of but I might need it… it’s very functional… etc. But when I was decluttering I focussed more on Is this clothing actually me? As well as the obligatory Does this shit even fit me properly? and Do I even like this any more?

The key, as Kondo identifies, is not just to have a bunch of clothes which are good enough for their use but which you are apathetic about, but a smaller number of pieces you actually really like. You don’t need to have a Pinterest board of ‘your own personal style’ to do this. You already know who you are, and what you’re comfortable in. You need to pick out those clothes which allow you to really feel genuinely like yourself, and recycling everything else (assuming that leaves you with at least enough clothes to last a week!). Pretending to be something you’re not is awkward and uncomfortable, and other people do sometimes spot it. Your best clothes, the ones that you will actually wear rather than pushing to the back of the shelf/drawer/closet, are the ones that truly resonate with who you actually are inside.

I know it doesn’t initially seem a big deal, but I think that getting rid of the boring clothes I only have and wear ‘because I should’ is a small but important part of learning (remembering!) how to be more myself on a day-to-day, moment-by-moment basis. So I’m trying to give up all the things that look ‘okay’ on me, so that what I have left are the good things, the things I actually like wearing and make me feel more like myself. I don’t need a lot of clothes, I just need to be able to easily access ones which I am confident and happy wearing on a daily basis. And which don’t make me feel too drab! So if you’re feeling dowdy, or uncomfortable, or just not able to really into to the clothes you have and wear, you could use that as good inspiration to declutter your wardrobe. Just don’t ‘throw out’ the whole lot (as Kondo seems intent on doing, much to my annoyance!), give them to charity or recycling!

4) Realising your body shape or needs have changed and responding to that fairly and honestly

I have to admit that this cull highlighted that I’ve fallen into some terrible traps with my own clothes. One of the worst has to be One day I’ll lose weight and this will fit again. It’s so easy to say this to yourself and then push the offending item to the back of the closet. I’ve done it loads, specially in the last year or so, when my IBS has played up and made it impossible to wear some things due to tightness, or waistband position.

As I picked up, tried on, held, and generally considered all of my clothes, I’ve realised this is an absolutely poisonous mindset to have.

Please, please please don’t do this to yourself. The last thing you need if you have any self-consciousness about your body is a bunch of clothes that you wish you could wear but which can only hang around making you feel shit about yourself. Get rid of them. It doesn’t mean you don’t intend to lose the weight, it doesn’t mean you won’t ever wear that sort of thing again. It isn’t a defeat. It’s just getting rid of something you are essentially keeping around to remind yourself that you are not good enough as you currently are.

You are good enough. Even if you want to change your body shape or weight, you are still perfectly sufficient right now. Don’t keep things that tell you otherwise, or make you feel guilty or ugly or un-wonderful. If your body shape or needs have changed, but your wardrobe hasn’t, use it as a chance to declutter your wardrobe. It may seem too hard, or be painful to face up to, but being honest with yourself is important, and you can get through it. It’s okay to be you, and it’s okay to want to change, but if you’re anything like me, holding onto these objects just lets you use them as mental cudgels to induce guilt and dislike for yourself.

 

I haven’t finished decluttering my clothes yet. Whilst I have a bin-liner full of day-to-day clothes from my shelves to go to the charity shop, I want to be more rigorous with my more formal clothes in the little wardrobe, and the (argh!) hats, box of scarves and gloves. However I have culled a bunch of stuff for being way too fucking boring for me and that’s given me quite a lot of joy!

I hope these suggestions help you find inspiration to declutter your wardrobe, and re-discover all those things hiding at the back!

 

 

 

Getting inspired to declutter your clothes