Where growing, making & good living come together

First half of 2011 spending breakdown

Posted by on Thursday 30 June 2011 in frugal, low spend 11, personal finance | 6 comments

After the one I made for my June spending at lunchtime, I’m in a graph making mood so I’ve made one to show (myself) where my money has gone in the first half of 2011.

Here’s said graph:

And here’s the details in a table:

Category Spent Percentage
Transport £350.20 24%
Food** £339.14 23%
Household £326.73 21%
Crafts £110.63 7%
Work-related £109.15 7%
Garden £85.73 6%
Entertainment £76.59 5%
Books £60.15 4%
Gifts £25.84 2%
Clothes £15.97 1%

(** Takeout food and restaurant bills; my share of all bills or the total bill if I paid for everyone.)

Inspired by Shoestring Alley, I started tracking my spending at the start of the year and decided to record everything I spent “frivolously” – ie. not core bills or to-be-eaten/prepared-at-home food, but everything else. I wanted to start doing it to make me more conscious of my spending habits – to see where the money goes and to know that if I buy something silly/completely frivolous then I still have to hold myself accountable over it. A tool to help me reduce spending & consumption across the board.

It’s really worked – I’ve spent far less money on random things than I ever have done before. I’m actually really surprised how low “books” is as back when I was working full time, I could easily spend that on books each month and I got my money’s worth out of my book buying even then. (Disclaimer: most of the work-related stuff is books too, but books I wouldn’t ever buy or read if I didn’t need them – I would NOT be reading Shakespeare if I had a choice in it! ;) )

Apparently it takes just over two months to form a new habit and I think in the last six months, I have formed a habit of being conscious of my spending and not giving into temptation/the desire to buy things. Over the last month in particular, I’ve not spent a lot (by my previous standards) of frivolous money but I’ve not in any well felt hard done by, which is good, because that could lead to binge spending. There is still room to easily cut down – on lazy/convenience food, on pretty household stuff (related to us still settling in/decorating our house), and on craft supplies – but aside from food & travel costs, I’m pretty ok with it.

Do you track your spending? Do you find it motivating or restrictive?

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Do you use supermarket “loyalty” cards?

Posted by on Thursday 16 June 2011 in admin, frugal | 13 comments

Well, do you?

I’m asking because I don’t really – I have one card (a Co-op card) but that’s it – and I’m wondering if that’s really errant frugal behaviour.

The supermarket we use the most (Morrisons) doesn’t have a loyalty card scheme but our current number two supermarket (Sainsburys, the nearest shop to us so used for bread & milk etc) heavily promote theirs, and every time they do, we say no. I think we’d say no if Morrisons had one too – we don’t like the idea of giving supermarkets (or other big corporations) data to allow them to market stuff to us more effectively.

But at the same time, I know people who use collected points in a canny, frugal way – turning £10 worth of point into £20 worth of vouchers for somewhere they’d already go/something they’d buy. Most people I know who do have cards have them for everywhere so there is no great “loyalty” to any one shop in particular, just the money-off vouchers/gift vouchers as a bonus.

What do you think?

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Using our 100% vegetable oil soap

Posted by on Thursday 2 June 2011 in making, soap | 2 comments

You may remember a few months ago I spent a bajillion hours waiting for some 100% olive oil soap to reach trace then, as a glutton for punishment, I decided to make a second batch of another 100% vegetable oil soap the same day.

We started using the 100% olive oil soap and have got through a few small bars of it – John likes it a lot. He likes that it doesn’t lather much (as it, conversely, encourages him to use less of it) and it doesn’t smell perfumed either (he hates perfumed things).

In a “why change what’s working?” way, we hadn’t tried the other set of soap – the 100% veg oils one – but I decided that should change this week!

The non-lye ingredients of the 100% olive oil one are pretty obvious – the 100% veg oil one a little more complicated — but still, everything bought from the supermarket. I used Frugal Queen’s recipe and method – olive oil, sunflower oil and Cookeen (solid veg shortening) – just leaving out the scent. It traced faster than the olive oil one thankfully!

The resulting soap is softer than the 100% olive oil one (apparently that’s down to the veg shortening) and not quite as pale – a soft lemon-ish colour. (It had some soap ash on it when I first picked it out of its drying place, which I’ve mostly scrapped off – hence the not-perfectly-smooth edges and slight colour variation on the before use picture above). It lathers quite a bit more than the olive oil soap – not crazy commercial soap levels but noticeably more. It did feel more like shop bought soap though – leaving my skin feeling a little “squeaky”. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, just a thing.

I spent £5.27 on the ingredients (£1.89 on the olive oil [on offer at Netto at the time], £1.06 on the sunflower oil, £1.43 on the shortener and £0.89 for the caustic soda needed for this recipe – based on a 500g bottle from Wilkinsons; and I used tap water and no scent) – which I think out frugals the Frugal Queen ;) I ended up with 2850g of finished soap – the bars were randomly sized but if they were normal 100g-ish bars, that would be about 19p a bar (or about 24p a bar if they’re 125g, which was the weight I used to work out the per-bar cost of the 100% olive oil ones [35p]).

As I said regarding the 100% olive oil ones, I’m not sure I enjoyed the process enough to do it often but I like the idea of making a big batch every six months/year as necessary. Before the next batch though, I’m going to try handmilling some of the ones from this batch to try out different (frugal, supermarket-sourced) scents – and might try turning a bar into liquid soap too as that’s handy when my hands are filthy from gardening.

Has anyone else made the Frugal Queen’s 100% veg oil soap? What did you think of it? Or do you have any 100% supermarket-sourced veg oil soaps? Or suggestions for frugal scents and any handmilling/liquid-soap-from-bar making advice?

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May’s mini goals

Posted by on Friday 6 May 2011 in meta | 4 comments

I’ve noticed a few fantastic bloggers set themselves mini monthly goals in addition to their bigger year/multi-year ones and for the first time, I’ve got some tiny frugal/simple living goals I’d like to do too in addition to my 2011 ones. This is more of a to-do list for me than for anyone else really but advice/tips are always gratefully received :)

1. Clean & replace the sealant on the office windows & door. And check the opening window and door’s insulation is fine while I’m at it.

2. Pressure clean the chicken coop inside and out. Something I’ve been meaning to do for a while to get rid of the green-ness and other grime.

3. Sort through the kitchen cupboards. Been meaning to do this for a while but Shoestring Alley’s recent experience of doing it has spurred me on. I’m going to use my findings to influence near-future meal plans and a possible an “eat only from the pantry/garden” week next month.

4. Buy/find and fit a long (retractable) washing line. I’ve got one of those rotating ones which is great and I will continue to use most of the time, but a long straight line would be better for big bedding. I think I have some line somewhere from putting up our little line in the old house so will use that if I can find it. I’d like it to be retractable (either by design or manually wound around a hook) if possible too.

5. Get a better mobile phone deal My contract is up next month – it’s pretty cheap and is a decent deal already but I think I can get a better one. It’ll also be a chance to stretch out of my comfort zone by having to barter/negotiate with someone — I hate doing that.

Have you got any mini goals for this month?

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Giving Approved Foods a try

Posted by on Tuesday 19 April 2011 in frugal | 2 comments

My first order from Approved Foods arrived yesterday.

I first heard about Approved Foods back in 2008 when I was sent an email about it through Recycle This – they help reduce food waste by selling items close-to or just-passed their best before dates — the online equivalent of those cheap food stalls at markets or car boot sales. I remember looking at the site but not being too impressed – the range was limited and tended to be cheaper processed stuff I wouldn’t buy, plus there was a hefty p&p cost pretty much wiped out any savings I’d make on the few things I might buy. Fast forward a year maybe, and I’m reminded of it again but still the same feeling. Then over the last few months, the Frugal Queen has repeatedly spoken of its greatness (and cheapness) so I thought it was worth another look.

The range still doesn’t excite me that much but these are what persuaded me to give it a go in the end:

Deidentified (*cough Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference cough*) mixed Provencal olives and Nouvelle toilet tissue. Two things I buy in the normal course of things, especially when they’re on offer – those olives are just about my favourite supermarket olives. Both were about half their usual RRP. I bought 10 jars of the olives – I like them a lot and they’ve got a long date on them. In fact everything I bought had a decent date on them – the only things after their best before date were two bags of crisps (and their date was only a week ago so they’ll be fine).

The p&p is still pretty hefty – £5.25 for normal UK mainland delivery but it’s for up to 25kg worth of goods so it would be possible to split the cost with a friend and still both be able to buy a decent amount of stuff. I tried to persuade Strowger with the lure of the olives but their stones were their downfall so ended up doing it solo instead. Still, even with having to pay the p&p all by myself, my total was £27.13 for a basket of stuff with an RRP of £46.58 – an overall discount of 42%.

Of course, the RRP stuff is slightly meaningless if you usually buy stuff when it’s on offer (as I do with a lot of stuff and almost always do with [recycled] toilet rolls, for example). I also bought some stuff that I probably wouldn’t buy in the normal case of events – for example, some shortcrust pastry mix. The mix will get used so it’s not a waste of money but it doesn’t feel like I’ll be saving any money because I won’t have to buy them next time I go to the supermarket. I did also buy some Jules Destrooper butter waffle biscuits as an impulse buy because they were cheap – and that’s going to cost me a lot in the future because, my God, they’re fantastically moreish.

I can’t see myself buying stuff from there that regularly – I will keep a closer eye on it from now on in case any more of my favourites come up but the p&p still makes it prohibitive for small orders. I did also get a lots of plastic-based packaging – I appreciate that they wanted to keep my precious olives safe with bubble wrap but the big bag of foam nuggets in with my flour (to, presumably, stop it knocking about) made me much less happy from a green point of view.

Have you used/do you use Approved Foods or any other services like that? Any recommendations/things to avoid advice?

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