Monday, 10 November 2014

Tales from Frugaldom

The ever-continuing tales of frugal living in an attempt to give up the day job and pursue the dream of life in the fast lane of Frugaldom. A round-up of some recent events and the bare bones of being prepared.


The past few months have been busy here at Thrift Cottage. Slowly, I have managed to tick a couple of more items off my bucket list and 'to do' list, mainly in getting the kitchen into some sort of order and, most importantly, making my Will! Not wanting to dwell on the inevitable, but it is a simple precaution so I am prepared for the one guaranteed event in life. November, of course, is national Will Aid month, so if you feel loath to hand over your cash to a solicitor for the privilege of their writing up your last Will and testament, then select one who is donating the month's proceeds from such transactions to charity.

November is Will Aid month

I have tried my best to follow a good eating plan and maintain a healthy lifestyle in an effort to curb weight gain over the winter months and to at least retain an element of fitness, especially for those occasional days that may be deemed suitable for a cycling trip to the field.

How to sabotage a diet

The costs of my frugal fitness plan haven't really impacted on my overall spending. In fact, it has probably contributed to a reduction in overall grocery spending, as I am simply reducing the amounts of everything I eat... even when forum members choose to send anonymous gifts in a vain attempt to lead me astray. I had to cycle twice as far, twice as quickly to work off this lot, and do without pudding more than once over the last few months after giving in to temptation more than once and with more than just these crisps!

I feel that retribution has been sufficiently served by way of the crock pot in my slow cooker having cracked, rendering it useless for frugal soup and stew making. It now needs replacing, so I'm watching for all the offers and hoping I can find a 6.5L replacement via Amazon, so I can part pay using free vouchers accrued through Topcashback.

Savings on the grocery spending have been many, especially since the start of the Asda home delivery trial in our rural corner of the country, but it also means that a few extras seem to find their way onto the orders - like 30p chocolate bars, family packs of biscuits and even the occasional cakes. These costs, however, are minimal in comparison to switching on the oven and spending an hour in the kitchen baking, when the time can be spent elsewhere, like at the computer typing up my 50,000 words in my first attempt at NaNoWriMo. Having spent the weekend out on site planting trees and with a visitor staying at the house, I have fallen behind with my word count, so this needs to be remedied as soon as possible. I made my $10 donation, pledging to write 50,000 so now I must complete that pledge.

nationa novel writing month - nanowrimo

The cost of feeding the electricity meter has increased by around 10% recently, counter-balanced a little by the odd power cuts that have affected us during the worst of the weather. A nice little rebate of £12.00 has helped prepare us for colder weather, as it equates to between 60 and 70kwh of 'free' electricity, in a round about sort of way.

Burst water main

Water rates don't affect us here in Scotland, as any water charges are incorporated into our Council Tax, but it did make me wonder how much was wasted when hundreds, possibly thousands of gallons of the stuff were flooding our street a few weeks ago after the water main suddenly burst. We were very lucky in that the torrent reached the front door but was repaired before it came over the threshold.

Over at the field, or Frugaldom, as it is now known by all, the month of near persistent rain has considerably raised the levels of the burns that flow around the land. We went along the roadside boundary and also walked across the main grassland, which is mostly marshland, and could clearly see the flood lines, so this should be useful information for future developments involving such things as live art structures and wildlife hides. I didn't venture down to the pond, as there just wasn't enough time to do everything that needed to be done during our weekend trip there.

The Black Burn

Despite several weeks of rain, the marshland is not as treacherous as I was expecting. It would be an interesting project to clear out some of the old drainage ditches to create a network of mini ponds, interconnected by duck board walkways!

I was pleasantly surprised to discover several areas showing potential for cultivating into grassland, with one spot, known as bracken hill or bluebell hill, depending on the time of year, proving to be particularly dry, owing to its elevation above the rest of the surrounding land. Curious! The friend who accompanied me on my walkabout agreed that it could be an interesting research project to try discovering why this little land anomaly exists.

Potential grassland

On top of bluebell / bracken hill looks like an ideal spot for a wildlife station, the slightly raised area providing an excellent viewpoint for a vast swathe of the project. Exciting times ahead, I feel.

Elsewhere around the field, there were several new fungi and moss species spotted. There were quite a few of this little fellow about the place - not sure what type of fungi it is but am hoping one of you reading this can let us know. :)

White fungi

Tree planting as part of the Woodland Trust World War I Centenary Woodland Project


Tree planting at Frugaldom

Despite having sent out over 100 invites, publicising the event online, notifying both of our local newspapers and alerting the nearby holiday park, the turnout for our event failed to entice anyone new on such a wet Saturday. By the Sunday, however, our core group had packed picnic lunches to make the most of the sunshine and spent the day planting trees, chatting and enjoying being outdoors.

Early morning haze on Sunday

The early morning sunshine was blurred by low clouds of fog rolling a blanket of dew over everything, including the little spider's web on the Frugaldom trading post. It really was a fine day for planting trees and getting the hedgerow in around the garden of gratitude.

Edible hedging around the garden of gratitude

The hedging around the area reserved as a gratitude garden has now been planted up with crab apples, elder and sloes with a few hazels and space remaining for other fruits and berries. I have plenty of cuttings from blackcurrants, raspberries, gooseberries and blackberries to go in between these to form a thick, edible hedge that will also, hopefully, entice wild birds and insects, not to mention happy foragers picking fruit and berries for jelly and cordial making in years to come.

Edible hedging

I'm really pleased with the progress made over the space of just one weekend of planting and extremely grateful to have been given the opportunity for Frugaldom to become part of the World War I Centenary Woodland project. It will bring immense pleasure to many in the future, I am sure, as our gratitude garden develops and the new seating and picnic areas are created.

My problem now is working out how best to be there to actually get any of these great plans implemented. A small financial miracle is probably what most would wish for, but where is the challenge in that? I will start number crunching the list of possibilities now that they have been whittled down to just a few with real potential, then concentrate on how to take this plan forward. As my frugal living motto goes,

The less I spend, the more I can afford.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Frugal Car Maintenance

freeimages.co.uk techonology images
For those who have cars: Each car model has a suggested maintenance regime that is laid out in the owner’s manual. You can save yourself thousands of pounds by taking the time to read the manual and to follow the schedules specified. This can directly impact on the longevity of your vehicle, its performance and the costs per mile driven.

Picking up on big problems early is what regular preventative maintenance is all about. Prevention is better than cure might be a maxim that your doctor will tell you, but your mechanic should also be saying the same thing when it comes to your car. Of course, some checks need a specialist to do, but you can also remain frugal by undertaking some car maintenance yourself.

Check The Fluids

Many car fluids can be checked by an owner with little garage experience. Ensuring fluids are topped up is one of the most effective ways to maintain a car’s ability to drive well. It is quite easy to do, although you will need to consult your manual in most cases. Make sure that your car has the right levels of oil, transmission fluid, wiper fluid, power steering fluid, anti-freeze and brake fluid. If you are not sure about how to do this, then online tutorials about how to use a dipstick to check oil, for example, can be a big help and may well save you thousands of pounds in unnecessary inspection bills. If you wait until the relevant dashboard light comes on, it is often too late to sort the issue out cheaply.

Tyre Maintenance

Keeping your tyres well-maintained is another important way of saving money in the long run. According to specialists, premium tyre manufacturers use tread wear indicators on their products, which makes it easy to judge when a tyre is reaching the end of its life. Alternatively, you can use a dedicated tread gauge to detect a worn section of tyre. Whatever you do, make sure, make sure to check your tyres and ensure they are road worthy.

Tyre inspections or new tyres are no longer things to fret over, as online reserve and fit systems are available throughout Britain...

Visit Frugal Blog to read more

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Centenary Woodland Project

420 assorted saplings
The latest batch of trees have arrived for the weekend's planting event - 420 mixed hazel, blackthorn (sloe), crab apple, dog rose and elder.



2014 marked the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War and, as part of The Woodland Trust World War I centenary woodland project, Frugaldom is taking part in this once-in-a-generation tribute for those who lived and served, by creating a growing legacy that will hopefully stand tall for centuries to come. We hope to have the woodland planting well under way for the 11th of November, Remembrance Day.

These trees will make up the first stage of our new harvest woodland, which should provide a great future foraging area for all concerned. Adjacent to this woodland, is what we plan on having as our wild flower meadow, which includes poppies. If you find yourself with any spare wild flower seeds, we can happily give them a good home. (Details for posting can be found on the 'Contact' page of  www.scottishmultimedia.co.uk website.)

We have issued an open invitation to anyone with an interest in such projects to join us on Saturday  8th November or Sunday 9th November between the hours of 11am and 3.30pm to help plant our tiny trees. We will be meeting on site, where there are no amenities, so please come prepared. There is some parking available at the road end or along the track at the barnyard.

 

If you choose to stay the weekend, adequate camping facilities can be found nearby at Balloch O' Dee campsite or else 3 Lochs Holiday Park, both of which are within about a mile of the Frugaldom site.

The Woodland Trust has provided full instructions, tree protectors and canes for securing the saplings. The Trust is working with lead partner Sainsbury's, along with the Army Cadet Force, Combined Cadet Force and Air Cadets, to create these special Centenary Woods. By providing 3,000,000 free trees for planting on locations throughout Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales, it is hopes we will all have access to these living memorials to the Great War.

Get in contact via www.frugaldom.com if you would like to come along and take part in our event.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Writing, Tree Planting and Money Saving Entrepreneurs

I suspect November is going to be a very busy month, possibly the busiest month of my life! Frugal living, as a lifestyle, is quite time consuming, what with money challenges, gardens, cooking from scratch, DIY, taking up to 10 times longer to get anywhere when cycling or walking and let's not overlook many hours at the computer, eeking out a living. So what's so different about November?

Image design by Elizabeth Doyle


First of all, November is NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month - and it has been running since NYK was publishing 'Now You Know', which makes this challenge 15 years old! It is literally a challenge in which anyone interested can attempt to write a novel of 50,000 words within the month of November. I have registered to take part!


Next, we are expecting to take delivery of 420 mixed native species trees that the Frugaldom Project has been awarded as part of the Woodland Trust's nationwide World War I Centenary. The saplings are being delivered to Thrift Cottage during the first week in November, along with canes and protection spirals. We will be having a Frugaldom planting event on site to create a brand new harvest woodland to commemorate the outbreak of the Great War of 1914-18.  This is quoted as being, "a once-in-a-generation tribute for those who lived and served, by creating a growing legacy that will stand tall for centuries to come." More than 16 million people, not to mention countless animals, died during the conflicts. Throughout Britain, people will be planting trees out of respect. We hope to have all our trees planted in time for 11th November and then continue developing this project in any way possible.
Fast approaching the 13th and 14th of November and the Scottish Business Exhibition, which is another event I hope to be attending. It's for all budding entrepreneurs and frugaleurs, an opportunity to learn from some experts. Tickets can be claimed free, you just need to register through The Scottish Business Exhibition (http://www.thescottishbusinessexhibition.com) or New Start Scotland (http://newstartscotland.com) web sites.


That almost takes us up to the 17th November and the start of Global Entrepreneurship Week (www.gew.co/) which is when we start our 2014 moneymaking challenge in the Frugal Forums at www.frugalforums.co.uk This year, once again, we are working with a budget of £10 start-up capital to see how far we can take, or how much further we can develop, our business ideas.

I think that's enough to be going on with for now. In the money savings stakes, I have been fortunate enough to bag myself some of that super-duper, ultra cheap sugar that Pound stretcher is currently selling ay an incredible 49p per kilo. This is thanks to someone in the family who is coming to stay for a few days and asked the question, "Is there anything you need from the shops?" Not sure they expected me to ask for a load of sugar, mind you, but the same bag costs over £1 in the village store and a visit there involves a 7-mile round walk or cycle!

NYK in Frugaldom

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Motoring Moneysaving Tips Pre-MOT

The cost of keeping a safe, reliable car on the road can amount to a fair chunk of any frugal living budget, especially if that car is needed on a regular basis.
 
Making a few preliminary checks and doing the simpler things yourself before your MOT is due can save you a small fortune on potential garage bills. Here are a few moneysaving suggestions.
 
Information and graphics by www.motorparks.co.uk also available here

Visit the frugal blog for more moneysaving hints, tips and suggestions.