Friday, 20 October 2017

Frosty Mood For Me

I was quite pleased to nab a loaf of bread for 26p on the weekend because it was close to date. Yellow stickers make me happy :) I promptly bagged most of it into portions and settled it into my tiny freezer compartment, and then ate the remainder fresh for a couple of days.

Well on day three, when I reached in for the frozen bread to stick in the toaster, I was most dismayed to find that the top half of my bread was still soft. Turns out my little freezer compartment just isn't up to the task and only freezes the items right at the bottom. :(

Bread isn't a major cost saving when it comes to using my freezer, so not being able to freeze bread is not really a huge deal. But it sort of throws my general meal planning out of whack and means I'll need to buy the freshest bread I can get instead of yellow-stickered loaves. I hurriedly ate my "treat" meal last night (an instant Thai green chicken curry, which was thankfully frozen solid) and moved my fish fingers down to the bottom.

All this will mean I can't freeze many things from here on and will need to shop more often. More opportunities for temptation, arrrrgh! Give me strength...

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

El's Budget Hearty Vegetable Soup

Micro-safe soup cup by Sistema, HIGHLY recommended!
As I mentioned earlier, my house move resulted in some very soggy frozen vegetables that I needed to use up. The soup they created was delicious and made lots of leftovers, so I figured I'd share how I made it. It's not rocket surgery - often my cooking is by "feel" and I just throw in whatever I have lying about - but since my kids have become adults and started cooking for themselves, I've realised that not everyone can cook by feel, not everyone can instinctively know what will work in a recipe, and some people prefer a neat and orderly list of what to use. So, here it is :)

Serves 4.

1 can chopped tomatoes
2 cups hot water
1 chicken stock cube
1 sachet chicken & vegetable soup in a cup
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables

Dump the water, chicken stock and chicken soup into a pan and stir it well to make sure there are no lumps in the mix. Stir it over heat until dissolved. Add the other ingredients and simmer until the vegetables are cooked.

Hot tip: to make this go even further, add an extra cup of boiled water and a few tablespoons of tomato ketchup. As you can see, I took the photo before I did this, and my soup was ridiculously thick! :)

Cost (UK - Tesco October 2017)
Tomatoes 31p
Stock cube 5p
Soup sachet 8p
Frozen vegetables 20p

16p per serve
with two slices of buttered bread, about 25p per serve


Sunday, 15 October 2017

Move complete!

Some of the food I brought from the old place was in bad shape when I arrived and had to be thrown out (well, these things happen). I then realised the freezer was iced over, so more food thawed while I defrosted the fridge. End result was that I was forced to eat a frozen (thawed) cheesecake, and I cooked a huge batch of vege soup to deal with very soft frozen veg.

And, trolleys cause spending. I guess it's probably not news to most people, but I did a decidedly "duh" thing on my first shop at the new place - I used a shopping trolley instead of a hand basket. Now you'd think I would still be extremely cautious considering it's been an absolutely horrific two weeks in terms of spending. Not so. I went a bit crazy replacing all the things I threw in the bin before moving house, and oh.my.dog. The bill was ridiculous. Not to mention extremely difficult to carry home.

One-third of today's cost was buying new sheets (this new place has more beds than I have linens... ho hum). On the plus side, I paid for it all using a gift card I bought a few months ago. This doesn't make it free, but it does mean my bank account didn't take the hit. And despite the sheer amount I bought, it was a somewhat planned shop, and fingers crossed, should have all I need for two weeks (the convenience store nearby is very expensive and I'm trying to avoid it as much as I can).

Here's the part where I admit to throwing a few too many treats into that supermarket trolley...

I am eyeing off an electric scooter to try to mitigate the 45 minute walk to the supermarket & major bus route. I can see my work commute being rather tedious if I don't speed it up somewhere - as it stands it'd be three buses over two hours in each direction. A scooter could cut that to 90 minutes and two buses. I have a few of them on my watch list on eBay - second-hand :)

Tomorrow: I plan to pamper myself frugally. Relax, take a walk on the beach, then think about baking a cake. The following day it's busy time as I plan to start listing all my gift stash for sale on eBay and make a little bit of cash to stop the savings from haemorrhaging.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Busy few weeks

So I may have mentioned I had a little bit of cash after the sale of the Finland property. I've been looking at that amount and pondering what to buy with it, and fate has stepped in and shown me a lovely little place for sale in Devon. It has sea views and is literally a ten minute walk to the beach. It's lovely, beyond what I dreamed actually. The bills will be relatively high, but I will have no mortgage - hooray. It also has excellent scope for AirBnB.

I sign on the dotted line next week. I am very, very excited. Please cross your fingers and send all good juju my way, for no weird complications to crop up... a big one is the "can I get internet access there" question because silly me forgot to actually check while I was there, and reviews say that mobile phone coverage is poor...

In decidedly unfrugal news, it's costing me a lot to get my driving license back. With me being about to buy a property, I'm counting every cent. There's a discount supermarket across the road, but it just so happens I have gift vouchers for the one across town. I'm actually contemplating how far I'm willing to walk in order to get milk for my coffee :D

Monday, 11 September 2017

Lovely Saturday

I did work (as I always do all weekend!) but despite it being a terribly busy time, it has been a satisfying few days. I went to visit that second town, and two words: nailed it. The feel, look and energy of the town are all spot-on. It is definitely touristy and busy, and the place that I need to be. While I was there I checked out a couple of flats for sale. Mixed feelings on those but that's ok, this was just a reccy mish (reconnaissance mission... er, a trip to do research). The Finland apartment is sold (woot) and I've been invited to an in-person interview for the job I am after (woot woot).

So that last trip and this upcoming interview, two jagged holes in my wallet. I will even have to stay overnight for the interview trip, because of the timing of the transport.

I got some free scented oil in the mail this week.

PS: I wrote this a while back and accidentally saved it as a draft instead of posting it. I didn't get the job but was offered another one, so that's ok. Will update further later on.

PPS: I was re-reading my blog as I am wont to do on occasion and I realised that there is a glaring omission which might perhaps leave people perplexed. So, here is the Reader's Digest version. My husband and I separated over the summer. I won't go into detail, just wanted to note it in case it left anyone scratching head, etc. We remain the best of friends.
 - ff


Thursday, 27 July 2017

I said no to shopping

I'm not even sure how I managed it, but coming home from work today, knowing I'd be home tomorrow and didn't have much to eat at home, normally I'd pop into the shop for "just a few things". It's never a big spend so I tend to reassure myself that it doesn't matter... but the small spends add up over time.

Well I wasn't feeling the greatest this afternoon, so I skipped it. That's a few extra pounds that I'll still have at the end of the month. I'll raid the cupboards and use up what I have. I keep meaning to try to pare down the food I have left, but like everyone else, I usually prefer the food I haven't got at home already :)

I've submitted my video interview for the position I'm going for. No news yet. Perhaps next week when the submission deadline passes.

I got a free razor in the post this week, so that made me happy. I also made and used a really inexpensive home hair lightening treatment. It wasn't as effective as I had hoped (actually I suspect it was simply that the conditioner was far too runny) but on the plus side it smells lovely and my hair is nice and soft, so it didn't really waste anything. My favourite of one particular cosmetic is almost empty and I found one at half the price that seems just as good, so there's another few pounds saved.

I am on track to save about three-quarters of my pay this month! Since my rent has already been prepaid, it would have been one quarter. I'm still quite pleased with this since I know I will be quite skint when I move towns in September and that last quarter will be swallowed up in higher housing costs.

Oh, and in wonderful news, we have received a purchase offer in on our Helsinki flat that looks 99% sure to go ahead. We'll know for sure in about a week and sign on the dotted line a week after that. I also discovered that thanks to the UK's tax treaty with Finland, I'll save a hefty chunk of the tax I had expected to pay on the profits. All very useful for financing my next move! ::thumbsup::






Tuesday, 18 July 2017

So this happened

I went to visit that town I mentioned, and I came away with mixed feelings. It's a lovely place and I can definitely feel that it would be good for the tourist trade. What made me hesitate was looking at where I could afford to live and its proximity to the town centre (I don't think I would nail my preferred radius of a 15 minute walk).

I realised I would never get "perfection" and that if I expected that, I'd never make a decision at all, so I had resolved myself to going ahead. I was all-but set for a transfer - the restaurant manager in our sister store was happy to take me pending a short interview. And something still made me hesitate before setting up a time with him.

In the meantime a twist happened - because this is me we're talking about and life would be boring without them, hey? I went home to procrastinate over the weekend before calling that manager and I discovered that the brand new store opening next year, the one I would have wanted anyway, is hiring much earlier than I expected.

Application: in. It's a team leader position. I know I have fierce competition and I may just not have the experience they want, but I am hoping they will consider me based on who I am and what I've done in previous roles. I really hope I at least get an interview.

Either way I actually made a decision (whoa!) and if I don't get it I'm still moving to that town. It's brilliant for tourism and the housing costs are lower.

Mood: hopeful. Positive either way.

Next up I have to find somewhere temporary to live for a month (ouch).

In frugality matters I got a nice gift from work, of a cloth bag, tough bag, chocolate bar, throw blanket, lettuce seeds, watering can and stuffed toy. :) I've also received five free moisturising lotion samples in the mail this week.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Box thinking

As has been hinted elsewhere, my lease is running up soon and in addition, I no longer have my investment property. I've enjoyed the last half a year or so as a bit of a "holiday" away from tourist hosting, but truth be told the income I can get from it is just too attractive to stay away. The difficulty is that since I'm not in a position to buy, it would have to be via a rental, and this time it would need to be in the home I live in. Unfortunately the town I live in just hasn't got the tourist trade I would need. My research has shown that I'd get quite a poor income trying to do it here. So I bit the bullet and spoke to my boss, and she has been lovely. She admitted that I'd broken her heart in telling her I'm leaving, but she has offered to speak to other managers and see if I can get a transfer in September.

I've been looking at properties that might work in other towns, but it's disappointing to see how expensive anywhere with a suitable layout is going to be. I'm seriously considering whether I should just rent a studio with a carspace and buy myself a van... and sleep out there whenever I have a paying guest - my work (even if I transfer) has shower and kitchen facilities.

Tomorrow sees me onto the early train to visit another town and check out the tourist vibe there for myself on the ground. It's a bit hard to judge the tourist demand in each area. I need to do this research.

I've also learned to my irritation that I'm expected to steam clean my carpets here before the lease is up. For someone who never wears shoes indoors and whose room is kept neat as a pin, that cost sort of grates. Based on my searches I'd be up for about £60 for the rental of a steam cleaner, taxi rides there and back, and the shampoo. Guess who just arranged one online for £56 including shampoo, with free delivery, and gets to keep the cleaner afterwards? This tightwad :D

Downside: I'll now have three "suitcases" -worth of stuff to move when I do! Perhaps four, if I remember my bits and pieces in the kitchen.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

The Failage Update

About 18 months ago I made a post in which I confessed the ways I fail. Every now and then I read back through my blog, and luckily for you, today I'm revisiting some of my human failures and where I'm at with them. (After all, Frugality is an ongoing process, not a one-off.)

#1 - Meal Preparations. I used to say that I rarely prepare anything from scratch. This is now hit-and-miss. I often eat at work for free, and when I'm home, I do prepare a lot more salad from scratch and eat more fruit - I'm definitely healthier, and I feel it. But I now live alone, and I must admit, after cooking all day at work, I often lack the motivation to cook for one person once I'm home. So I'm eating ready meals about twice a week, but they're generally the frugal versions of ready meals.

#2 - Eating Takeaway. Zero takeaway meals purchased in the past three months. I have bought a couple of "gourmet" ready meals as a treat but it's quite rare.

#3 - My Coffee Addiction. Snapped, broken, gone. This was bad and I was drinking coffee all day before, but it's now no longer something I do on autopilot. I generally sit down with a vanilla latté when I first arrive at work - it's free, and it's my chill-out, calming preparation for tackling my work day. When I'm at home, I drink one coffee a day in the mornings.

#4 - Soft Drinks. I no longer drink them at all. I haven't bought any in the past three months. In the beginning I drank the odd one at work (free), but now all I have is water or fruit juice at work (still free).

#5 - Electricity and Water use. This has changed to become a fixed cost as it's included in my rent now, but good habits have stuck and I am conscious of saving as much energy and water as I can.

#6 - My Toys. I've just bought a new laptop and I'm getting rid of the desktop computer. It was an expensive swap, but I got it half-price by using a buyback deal and choosing a model that's just been discontinued (thanks, husband-detective!). On the plus side, laptops do use less power. I have also just bought a fitness gadget, not strictly necessary but something I wanted so that I could track my fitness a little. It's a very inexpensive one.

#7 - Movies and Games. I no longer pay for Netflix and I'm taking advantage of local tv programmes, since my tv licence is paid for and I can view them on my laptop. I haven't bought any games recently and I'm revisiting my old favourites one by one. I do still play the one that burns a hole in my pocket but I'm trying to be more conscious of what I spend there.

#8 - Bottled Water. Ugh. This one is new, and I hate it. The tap water in my new city is, quite frankly, foul-tasting. In the beginning I was downing lime cordial just to mask the taste, but all that sugar and acid would have killed my teeth. I now buy bottled water. It bothers me that I'm adding to waste, so I have found a very inexpensive one in a huge bottle, to limit the overall amount of plastic.

#9 - Driving. Well, not yet. But I've been evaluating the time I spend on public transport, and as much as I love its frugality and reliability, it is eating into my time more than I'm comfortable with on weekends and bank holidays - I'm simply not being fair to myself commuting for three hours a day, and I work every weekend and most holidays. Getting home at midnight can also be a concern in terms of safety, since I'm a solo female and walking well away from the main street. So I'll shortly be thinking more seriously about car ownership. It will be delayed until I move house to a place which has free parking available.

#10 - Clothing. In my new city I did check out the charity shops - and there are a lot of them! Unfortunately, I'm a Lady Of Size™ and there's very little in my sort of dimensions. There are a couple of good places to shop for new clothes though, and I'm making the most of sales items. I am losing weight, slowly but steadily, and as I do so I expect to have more options when it comes to buying used clothing. On the flip side I'm already having to buy new clothes as the old ones are too big. But I'm ok with this, since my health is more important than my money.

#11 - My Rent. I got a great deal on my apartment, or so I thought, as the landlord knocked the price down right as I signed the lease. Unfortunately, I've just received notice that the rent will go up by almost 10%, and when I check out what else is vacant around here, there are now way too many similar places vacant for him to justify charging me that much. I have about a month to figure out my next move, as locking myself into another fixed term lease didn't fit into my medium-term plans (ie possibly needing to move cities if I see an interesting job with a sister store of my workplace). I may need to move into another apartment locally and delay my Career Progression™ hopes, which will cost me a bit. We shall see.

So that's where I'm at in terms of major spending. If I think of any more, I'll update.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

A spring update I suppose?

I am still quite the newbie when it comes to navigating spending in the UK. It's still a work in progress to know where I should be shopping when I need particular items. Quite a few things have been stumbled-upon in the pound shops. :)

I have limited storage space here, not to mention limited capacity to use up certain food items before they expire. I still have a good amount of fruit and veg in my crisper that I bought a month ago (!!) and the used-by dates are mostly hogwash. It's not like things sprout on a tree with a used-by date. These are not processed or cooked foods and aren't high protein or high-risk foods, so use your eyes and fingers to make sure they look and feel how they should, and they're fine.

Anyway where was I? Oh yes. As I'm walking and bussing wherever I go, I split my shopping between Tesco (near home), Sainsbury's (near work) and the pound shops near my bus stop. I finally signed up for both rewards cards, and I can see on my phone or laptop that a few cents rack up each time I shop. That's a definite win.

A new way to save money on shopping - Zeek

And on my travels today I came across another site named Zeek, which sells discounted gift cards. Signing up is easy, you can use your Facebook, Twitter or Google account to join in seconds. I just bought a Sainsbury's gift card for £8 off the face value, with free postage (!!!) very frugal, I mean who wouldn't say no to knocking £8 quid off their bill, right? Once you sign up, entering the promo code 2Y6T8FLF will give you £5 free credit*. I saw gift cards in there from £10 up to £200 and they're for all kinds of places, Tesco, Curry's PC World, Starbucks, iTunes, Primark, Thomson Holidays, you name it, it's probably there. So if it's a place you shop anyway, it's an easy saving.

One tiny unfrugal note for me personally. In my quest to live healthier, I'm trying to limit my intake of starchy foods (rice, breads & cereals, potatoes) and stick mostly to fruit, veg and protein. Unfortunately that makes a fair few of the free work meals off-limits. Boo. On the plus side they always have free fruit and salad, so I do try to eat that.

Stay frugal people... and let's keep more rubbish out of landfill while we're at it :)

* yes, it gets me some sort of bonus too.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Success?

Frugality: destroyed! I'm about to do something that kills it, because plane trips are not frugal. But I'll do it as frugally as I can...

About 20 applications in, I got 4 interviews and 3 of them wanted me. Gobsmacked. I got to choose where I work. Amaze. Perk: free meals from my work (frugal!) Perk: paying better than minimum wage. Perk: free uniform (frugal!). Perk: great bus services in the place I'll be living and working (frugal!). Perk: excellent leave policies mean I'll be able to visit Finland pretty regularly to see everyone.

I have booked my flight back over to England (the third time in a month - this time a one-way ticket). I've started applying for apartments. Tiny apartments (frugal!). Two showings later this week (please cross your fingers the landlords like me).

I start work in a week. Petrified, of course, but also excited to sort of build an Elisa life from scratch, something I've felt like I've been missing for, I don't know, 21 years. That, for anyone wondering, was the reason I sort of went on this odyssey, I have felt increasingly stifled and wanted to "be" something, which I'm sure sounds really pretentious to those who'd have liked the luxury of barely working for the past ten years. For years I've struggled with not having any goals or feeling like I could ever achieve anything other than treading water - incredibly depressing - but about a year ago I figured out what it is I want, and it's to forge my own life, to have an identity. Totally taboo subject to admit that you feel like you've lost yourself when you become a parent, and if I'm honest, I also sort of lost more of myself when I came to Finland, even though it's a beautiful country. I don't belong here. I'm not going to belong here.

It's like a holiday that never ends. People love holidays but anyone will tell you it's miserable to live out of a suitcase. Finland has been a long, extended holiday for me. The gloss of it faded in the second year. The misery began in the third. Then came the boredom, then the frustration, then a small wave as I started doing tourist lets, bought a lovely investment apartment, and then - and then - it still wasn't enough. So here we are.

Visiting England confirmed what I felt. How ridiculous to find a supermarket soothing, but it was. I could find the food I wanted. I didn't need to embarrass myself with a shopkeeper or go home with the wrong product or with none at all. I could comprehend every packet. Understand shopkeepers. Read street signs. Speak to bus drivers. Go where I wanted, be out as late as I wanted, hog the shower, live on crackers and fruit all day, not cook dinner. How pathetically juvenile to revel in being a grownup and making my own decisions all by my big self. But it was too huge to ignore and affirmed that it's what I absolutely, positively need to do.

It has been too long and it's too overdue; I'm already furious at myself for not having had the courage to do this a year ago. I'm frustrated that I couldn't do this in Finland; it would have been a lot cheaper and far, far nicer not to have to be apart from my husband for several weeks at a time.

But it is what it is and I'm going to make what I can of it, starting now.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Lately #2

Of a decidedly frugally-unrelated nature, I am presently looking for work in the UK.

Reasons are varied, but suffice to say, I will be living super-frugally while there - by necessity, as there will be the regular flights back to Finland. Plus, while I took this office/dungeon on so I could write, it turns out that it's a good exercise in practicing solo frugality.

Fridge accidentally turned down to lowest setting = milk, cheese, leftovers and ham into the bin. :(

Small fridge & no freezer = inability to buy perishables in bulk. I have to admit, I was peripherally aware that singletons have it tougher when it comes to shopping (small portions cost more) and don't necessarily have the time for frugal food prep. But wow. This tiny box fridge (40L) has forced me to confront it head-on, and it's not pretty.

I stay here for 2 or 3 days at a time, and I can't buy a loaf of bread here! Of all the simple things that are now inaccessible, this one hurts the most. People on drastically low incomes - of which there are many - being unable to buy a loaf of bread unless it goes into the freezer. One of the most frugal, versatile foods there is.

Bread rolls - triple the price of two slices of bread
Baguette - six lunches, but goes stale in two days

Fortunately, flour tortillas keep in the fridge, so I now eat wraps for lunch quite religiously. Salad ingredients are fine too (lettuce takes up a lot of room). So does two kilos of carrots (sounds like a stupid purchase until I tell you it was cheaper than buying three single carrots). But every meal now has to include carrot or I'll never use them up.

It's the first time that I've had to assess every item in my basket for its shelf life and how much space it will take up. On the plus side, no freezer, so vegetables are always prepared fresh and I'm eating a lot more salad. That's good, I suppose?

Thursday, 5 January 2017

What Lately?

I have an office now, sometimes referred to as My Dungeon, and said dungeon came without a kitchen (just a sink in what had been used as a cleaning room). My duty, should I choose to accept it: convert said cleaning room into a kitchen. Naturally, I strapped my fists to my back and set off in search of adventure.

Side question: how is it that cleaning rooms are so disgustingly dirty?

Fun part 1: dirty. Etc. Cleaning, etc.
Fun part 2: sink only sort of attached to wall. Also, as I was cleaning it, I felt the joy of water seeping into my sock. Look down and there's lovely foul water on the floor where the drain had overflowed. Overflown. Er, filled with water and then kept going.
Fun part 3: it was all cruddy and crusted over and I didn't have a plunger. (Trip to the hardware shop.)
Fun part 4: plunging sink did nothing. That was draining just fine... straight into the floor drain beneath it, which was overflowing onto the floor.

Well an entertaining afternoon was had involving me pulling a sink entirely off the wall and disassembling all the parts. It was not fun cleaning out that foul floor drain or despairing mightily when the plunger at first did not work. Ultimate success though and it's now all reassembled with the sink even on the wall properly.

Was it frugal? Well not really since it cost me a bus ride, a plunger and plumbing tape, and the landlord really should have had to send a plumber. But I gather he's not a very hands-on guy and I'd prefer not to annoy him with expensive things if I can do them myself for a lot less.

Along side the sink shenanigans I bought a sideboard to become the "kitchen". I also bought a small trolley for the microwave to sit on, and a faux-leather computer chair. Delivery hurt a bit but the total was probably a quarter of new price (thanks, Recycle Centre). Also went to Ikea and found a table top which had been on display (three euro, cheers) plus four table legs (two silver, two white... not matching but who cares). Total cost eight euro. Not bad. I even managed to get it back to the dungeon on the free Ikea bus. Frugal.

I had an hour to kill waiting for that bus so I had a plate of Swedish meatballs. Not frugal. I'm an Ikea Family member so my coffee was free. Frugal. Dungeon in general: costs money (not frugal) but is an adapted basement so is inexpensive (frugal). I bought a laptop for it (not frugal) but it was an insanely cheap new laptop (frugal).

One might say I have been a bit hit and miss with the frugality of late!

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Ironing board score

Not for the first time, I peeked into the skip bins and saw an item I had been planning to buy anyway.

A mini tabletop ironing board - nothing wrong with it except that now that someone had thrown it into the bin, the cover was dirty. I brought it home and washed the cover, added a layer of blanket to thicken up the padding, and it's now hanging in my rental unit, with the old and awkward full-size wooden one stashed away in the attic.

PEOPLE! What is wrong with people just throwing things away? Why on earth can't people leave stuff out where it will be clean, and taken by someone who needs it?

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Cooking in bulk

Since my daughter left home, I've gained a sort of apathy for the kitchen. I think what's happening is that I'm drifting back to my previous existence of grazing rather than wanting big meals. In the seven years I've been here I've put on a lot of weight :( It's mostly to do with cooking too much. I grew up in a family where your plate was handed to you already served. I came here and saw that life was "serve yourself"; so I started doing that, and since my husband always took seconds I made sure there were always seconds to be taken.

Ending with me taking seconds.

But now with only three of us and me preferring to eat small things instead of two plates for dinner, I get lazy and don't always feel like cooking at all. End result is too many takeaways and tv-dinners.

I'm trying to address that by making my cooking time more efficient, so this week I made six meals of chicken in sweet and sour sauce. I served three bowls and put three bowls into the fridge. No seconds allowed, the second three are for later this week. Truth be told none of us need seconds, and if people get hungry there are plenty of snack items available. I also did the same with a huge batch of spaghetti bolognese.

So today I'm feeling pretty chuffed with myself and my fridge full of "ready dinners". We'll see whether it's a habit I can keep up. I think this might be tough.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Boo!

They had a skip bin at our investment flat today - something a lot of apartment blocks do every couple of years. Ours was full of the old furniture from the cafĂ© downstairs and someone's entire flat furniture. Loft bed and mattress, shelves etc. I'm so disappointed in lazy people. The recycle centre would have collected all those items for sale. What a waste to throw perfectly useful furniture into landfill. Disgusting. I wish I had had a use for the tables and bed.

Among it all was a large near-new Ikea floor rug, soaking wet from the rain but now merrily drying out in my attic space. Silver lining!

Friday, 25 December 2015

Time Flies

I must confess, I have had a few weeks of wondering what to post here. Not that I stop being frugal (it is an ongoing habit) but because I'm so used to doing these things, I forget not everyone is! On top of that has been the usual end-of-year festivities. But really, they should have been inspiration for me to post. So, better late than never.

I've lived in Finland eight Christmases now, and every year I have given my Australian family gift cards and charity donations in their names. I buy them online from Australian shops, saving oodles on postage. When I look at what they spend in posting traditional gifts to me... (shudder) they are definitely making the postal services rich.

As for local gifting we have also eschewed most physical items. None of our family are desperately poor, meaning we all have what we need for the most part, meaning that most of the "things" we hand over aren't needed. Obviously it's important to show someone you thought about them, but for the most part we do gift cards here as well, perhaps with a small practical gift. It has the added bonus of limiting what we need to wrap and carry to the festivities on the bus. I received almost nothing which can't be experienced or used up this year - I cannot tell you how thrilled I am about this! My family has really begun to understand how much I appreciate not receiving more "stuff". As a bonus I have lovely things to enjoy which will not take up space in my cupboards.

Speaking of wrapping, we used less than one roll this year. For our own household, we used recycled gift bags. Somehow we have a stash of these received from others. I just flatten them and put them into our "wrapping stuff" and they get re-used. It's amazing how many people would just throw these out. I may just pop my head into the paper recycling bins later today and see how many of them are in there from the 57 other apartments in our block!

Did I mention leftovers? I'm sure everyone knows about Christmas leftovers, and I get to not cook for a few days. Score!

What things do you do to save cash over the holidays?

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

We Walk. We Ride.

Now this one needs an important disclosure. I am not a very fit person in general, I am not a biking & hiking fanatic and I don't really do much exercise at all. And not everyone can make the complete jump that we have, but it's still possible to go half-way.

We walk or we ride. We don't own a car.

I can feel the horror on many faces right now. There are so many people (in so many locations) for whom being car-free is an alien idea that belongs to hippies who eat organic gluten-free raw wheatgrass pancakes. We don't do anything revolutionary, though. We are fortunate enough to live in a place with good public transport, so we use it. For us, not owning a car was a conscious decision. We are a 2 minute walk to the supermarket, so we walk. I'll admit that carrying too many bags of groceries home isn't nice, so it has an added benefit that we spend less in order to avoid carrying so much home! :)

But you don't need to have wonderful transport in order to use a car less. I used to drive a lot, and one thing that car ownership does is make people rely on it - I would have laughed at the idea of walking anywhere, why would I, when I had a car?! But isn't that terribly sad, that I wouldn't walk around the corner, even... think about it.

We always jumped in the car without planning. We acted as if the five minutes saved was too precious to waste. Realistically, if my day is so jam-packed that I cannot afford five minutes of walking, then it is time for a serious think about what's going on in my life, to reassess how I spend my time. We only live once, life is too short to have it crammed that badly.

One way to limit the costs of running the car is to compromise - drive to the train station for instance, if it's not in walking distance. Become a single-car family and coordinate with your spouse on who'll need it on which days. Another idea is to go shopping while you're already in the car for another reason. It will save you fuel if you shop on the way home.

Despite our great transport, we still sometimes bike to a friend's place on the weekends. It's quite surprising how fulfilling that can be, to arrive at the other end without dropping dead of exhaustion :)

What about you - do you use the car without thinking? Or do you plan how it gets used?

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Tuna Cakes

This a simple budget-buster meal you can make when there's nothing cookable in your fridge. The basic recipe is versatile and easy for you to add sauces or spices according to taste.

Tuna Cakes (makes 8 cakes)
2 tins tuna, drained (180g ish tins)
5 pieces of bread torn/cut into tiny pieces
2 eggs
optional mustard, salt/pepper, curry, or chili sauce etc
optional sliced cheese & tomato

Mix the drained tuna, bread and any sauces or spices really well. Squash it down a bit so that the bread soaks up any remaining liquids from the tuna.

Add the eggs and mix them in thoroughly.

Squeeze handfuls into patties and cook them in some oil or butter on a medium frypan (not too hot!). When the bottom is browned, turn it over.

If they're eaten plain and without sauce or spices, they're a bit like eating plain tuna toast, that is, not very interesting. These work best as a base. I definitely recommend spices or toppings to make them more exciting. You can lay a slice of cheese then tomato on top after the first flip. Or break out your sriracha sauce, or mayonnaise.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Acknowledgement of Privilege

I see posts all the time in tumblr-esque hyperbole: CHECK YOUR PRIVILEGE! Some kind of ranting from someone who feels ripped off by the world, directed at someone they think has everything handed to them on a plate. But it's actually a very negative statement, and it gets people offside immediately, because it's not interpreted in a way that's at all useful.

Here is my interpretation of how we should examine privilege, in terms of living our lives as successes (in whatever capacity we think success is: education, happiness, financial independence, whatever). Hint: you're not supposed to feel guilty, so you don't need to get angry and refuse to feel guilt. But it's nice to be grateful, so read on.

Most of the things we want out of life aren't handed to us for free. We see what we want, and we evaluate it (a new car... scoring top of the class in the exam...). We decide if it's worth it. If we want it, then we make it our goal. We figure out what we need to do in order to achieve that.

Perhaps we have to save money, get a promotion. Perhaps we have to study hard. Life can still spring things up in our way to foil our attempts, but by and large, getting it requires personal effort.

So when we get that something (the house we saved ten years for, the scholarship we worked towards) then we are justifiably proud that we did it. If you put some hard work into the widget machine, out pop the widgets.

Except that we often forget that it wasn't always hard work alone. Particularly in things that require competition against others (we got the job, we bought the house, we landed a scholarship). We tend to think about these things in a vacuum, as if nobody else had to LOSE so that we could WIN.

Someone had to lose. We had to tread on heads to overtake people on that ladder.

Big deal! - you say. They should have worked as hard as I did.

Well sunshine, perhaps they did.

Perhaps they studied longer, but couldn't get proper sleep because they were cold. Maybe their parents couldn't send them to college. Maybe they didn't get a scholarship because it's hard to study with five small siblings in the house with you. Maybe they were too hungry to concentrate in class. Maybe they skipped middle school any time their mother's babysitter cancelled. Maybe the girl missed out, because the scholarship went to a boy who was more confident on the debating team. Maybe she was late to exams because of her crutches. Maybe his accent ruined his marks in English class.

Maybe it's far simpler than all this: "people who start with a disadvantage still have options to succeed, they'll just have to try harder." It is amazing how often this comes up. "Sure, you can't afford college, but you can still get a scholarship!" These sorts of things. Stop and think about it for a moment. The underprivileged kid has to try so much harder. The privileged kid can just sail in on average marks because there is a way for them to pay their own way through if the scholarship doesn't happen (their parents' savings, etc). Stop and think about it. Life is very unfair for the kid who has no other choice but to go after that scholarship. It's their only shot. And they're up against middle-class kids who just don't WANT to pay for school. Even more unfairly, the middle-class kids will still get to go, even if they fail to get the scholarship...

Now this does not mean that your success wasn't earned. You worked for it. Your hard work got you over the line. But for most people, hard work was not the only thing that got them there.

If you are still not convinced (hey life's not fair, suck it up) then let's go to working life. You got to be successful in your job because you worked hard. You have put hard work into the widget machine, and a good job came out. You earned it.

Or maybe the other guy didn't get that promotion because they're black and your boss gave the job to you. Maybe she quit because the baby's coming. Maybe he couldn't work while on dialysis. Maybe the power was disconnected, maybe they didn't have a phone, maybe they didn't look as good as you at interview because their clothes had a hole. Maybe the car broke down and they didn't have savings to repair it, because they had student debts.

So now you're thinking about their poor planning? Well maybe you had student debts too! But when their fridge broke, their dad didn't loan them the money. Nobody in your house stole your wallet to pay for a drug habit. You're probably not disabled. You're probably not transgender. You're probably healthy - or if not, you can probably go to a doctor.

The thing with having disadvantages is that they often breed more disadvantages. Things that the happy graduate or worker usually hasn't even considered. Car breaks down, it's inconvenient! But imagine there was no money to fix it, so you spent the rent to get it repaired. Then the rent will have late fees so you won't have grocery money. So you take a payday loan.

Then you can't pay it back. So they take the car, so you lose your job. And you can't pay rent. So you're evicted.

Perhaps at this point you're "lucky" enough that a friend takes you in.

How long will it take to try and save the deposit for a new flat while living on a friend's living room floor with no job? Oh and furniture too - you didn't have any money for a U-haul, so the landlord threw it all out.

Homeless and jobless - all because of a $100 repair on the car. Things that would never have happened to someone who had just $100 in the bank.

So the next time someone says to you, "Check your privilege" - they're not saying that you haven't earned your success. They're reminding you that perhaps you forgot about the people who lose. You forgot that some people work just as hard as you - maybe harder - and are not lazy just because they haven't achieved what you did.

They just haven't had all your privileges.

Say a word of thanks.

And if you are a hair's breadth away from being that someone who could be ruined by a $100 unexpected bill, don't sit idle for even a second. Every spare second should be used to figure out how to save one spare dollar, earn one spare dollar, from somewhere, anywhere. If that means eating nothing but rice for a week, doing surveys for 20c on the internet, then so be it - you never, ever want to learn the "hundred-dollar terror" the hard way, and it might mean all the difference to things in a years' time - it may even be an opportunity to hone the frugality which frees you from it.