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. I also get small bottles for free at work so I'm bringing them home and I'm recycling them all (work's bottles are made of recycled plastic, too).

#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!