Buying a new car – frugally

We’re currenly looking to buy a new car.  We are a one car family and have been so for nearly 20 years.  Now the Other Half works from home, it’s easier to organise who (if anyone) needs the car but we’ve never really needed 2 cars.

We tend only to buy a new car when its absolutely necessary, driving them until they fall apart (or in one case was written off when the OH hit a dustbin lorry – the lorry was fine).  To date we’ve always bought second hand, between 3 and 5 years old so that the worst of the depreciation has already taken place. 

Our current car, a 12 year old Mercedes estate, still drives nicely, but the rusting bodywork will not be cost effective to fix.  We also looked at the fuel consumption compared with a newer vehicle and realised we could be saving around £700 a year on our current mileage.

We bought our last car with a bank loan – not very frugal.  It felt like quite a big drain on the finances at the time, and I was glad when we managed to pay it off early.  This time round I’m hoping we can finance the car from savings – fingers crossed.

We’ve been round a number of garages today and have narrowed our shortlist down to 2 models (or 3, if I can persuade OH to look at Volvos!).  We’re going for an estate again as not only do we go camping regularly, but we’ve also got at least another 5 years of taking children and their ‘stuff’ to and from university.  Watch this space and I’ll let you know how we get on.

How long do you keep your car?  Do you try and keep it going as long as possible?

Until next time, Tawney x

Discovering markets

I called in at the market today to buy some vegetables and fruit.  I’ve only used the market sporadically over the years, but I can see that we could make some significant savings.  Today I bought a butternut squash, a mango and a red pepper, all for £2 and all of very good quality.

All from our local market

This evening I went to the supermarket for our regular weekly ‘big shop’.  I managed to keep our spending down to £38 (it used to be £90 a week a few years ago).  I looked out for the fruit and vegetables I bought earlier to compare prices:

                                     Market                                                Supermarket

Butternut squash         0.61                                                  not available

Red pepper                 0.39                                                    0.69

Mango                        £1.00                                                  £2.00

As you can see, I’ve saved £1.30 just on those 3 items.

Do you use markets for your food shopping?   Do you find it saves you money?

Until next time, Tawney

Keeping track of spending

I pulled our spending figures together for the end of the month yesterday. I’d say it’s been and average sort of month.  We kept to our budget on items like food, but I have to put my hands up and admit that I got caught out by a couple of Bee’s geography school trips.  “I need a cheque for £50” goes the plea.  

Since January I’ve been keeping a monthly spreadsheet to record our spending.  At the end of the month I’ve transferred the totals into another spreadsheet which shows the ongoing yearly totals and included a column for the average spend. This is the first time I’ve managed to keep going with keeping records.  In the past I’ve given up, but putting the October totals  into the yearly spreadsheet has given me a sense of achievement – only another two months and we will have a whole year of spending recorded.  The hope is to have a better idea of where the money is going and how we can reduce our spending.

Spending is divided into essential items – mortgage, food, utility bills, and non essentials. This includes eating out, takeaways, presents, non essential clothing etc. The yearly spreadsheet has given me an insight into how much we are really spending on non essential items and I’m feeling a bit uncomfortable about that.  Now we know where the money is really going, it’s time to get tough with ourselves so that we can move towards the goal of paying off the mortgage and being completely debt free.

Until next time, Tawney 

Celebrating Apple Day

Apple Day was inaugurated in 1990 by Common Ground and takes place on 21st October every year. It is a celebration of apples and orchards, and apple related events take place all around the UK around this date.

I posted yesterday about our enormous crop of apples. It was such a beautiful autumn afternoon yesterday that we walked over Frugal Hill with three huge bags of windfalls to an Apple Day event in the next village.  Here apples could be pressed to make juice on a variety of presses. 

 First our apples were pulped.  

Pulping apples

 Next they were fed into the press. 

Ready for the press

 Finally they were crushed, and our apple juice came out.  

And here comes our juice

It was fascinating to see the different colours of apple juice, ranging from pink to brown.  We think we are going to make our apple juice into cider, so I’m going to get hold of a demijohn tomorrow and see if I can set some off.

We also asked around to try and identify our apples, but without success – I think we’re just going to carry on enjoying them.

Until next time,

Tawney

Apple harvest

We inherited 5 mature apple trees when we moved to our house on Frugal Hill 18 years ago. One has since died, but the others are still going strong and this year we have a wonderful harvest of apples.

There appear to be two or perhaps three varieties, none of which, I am ashamed to say, we have yet been able to identify.

We are using the apples for both eating and cooking. Some of them have been rather sharp, but as they’ve ripened they have turned more yellow and have gained a sweeter taste.

The trees are probably 12/15 feet high, and some of the nicest looking apples are just out of reach. I’ve climbed as high as I dare on the step ladder up and used a long handled lopper to pull some of the branches down. We have picked quite a few from the trees, but they are now out of reach so we are collecting windfalls. The windfalls have been fine – I try and check each day so they don’t have time to get nibbled.

Tantalisingly out of reach....

The quantity of apples has been amazing. From four trees, friends have had bags of apples for cooking, pressing for juice and windfalls for pigs. We have two boxes of apples which we are working our way through. I haven’t bought any apples for several weeks.

Mystery apples

If anyone has any ideas as to what this variety these apples might be, please comment.  I thought they might be James Grieve, but I’ve been told those would be over now, and we still have many apples on the trees.

Until next time,

Tawney

Giving in and putting on the heating

We gave in today and put the heating on.  I’ve resisted turning it on until now, but it suddenly got uncomfortably cold.

We had a truly massive gas bill in February last year, and we’ve been trying to cut our gas and electricity usage since.  We live in a lovely Victorian house, but it is a bit draughty at times.  In the next few weeks, I want to draught proof windows and doors and put up some home made thick blinds and curtains. 

I’m also going to look at how we use our heating.  I’ve turned the radiator thermostats down to half way, and cut the amount of time the heating is on in the evening.  I’ve just got it on from 6.15 am to 8 am and 7 pm to 8.30 pm.  There have been a few grumbles about the heating, but we simply can’t afford bills at the level we had last year.  Hot water bottles and fleeces are being dug out of retirement!  I will post again about how we are getting on in about a month’s time.

Student rents

Hello Everyone

Tomorrow my eldest daughter’s (Edie) rent payment goes out of our bank account – £1300 for the next 4 months in her student house.  Luckily (ha, ha) Sheffield is supposed to be the third least expensive university city in the UK, but around £325 a month for rent with bills on top of that still sounds like a lot to me.

We realised a few years ago that we were going to be caught in the middle income trap.  Mr Tawney earned just over the limit for the minimum student loan – either I went back to work full time or we were going to be in trouble.  Sure enough, Edie’s student loan payment does not over the rent, let alone her living expenses on top.  We worked out how much she would need to live on each week – the loan covers that and we then paid her rent for halls last year and for her house this year.  Luckily she managed to pick up a few bits of work over the summer, so that has helped her out with buying her books.

I’m glad that Edie has gone to university, but even though we knew it was coming we didn’t really appreciate what a difference it would make financially.  And in two years time, her sister might be going too…

Until next time, Tawney

A record week for fuel non consumption

We’ve been trying to use the car less since the beginning of the year to try and save money.  We were filling the car twice a month, at £65 – £70 per tank.  Two things have now cut that to about one tank per month.  First, the Other Half began working from home instead of travelling 30 miles a day.  When he began working from home, I initially used the car for work until last winter.  When it snowed heavily, there was no way I could take the car down Frugal Hill.  I had to walk to work, and I realised that if I could wade into work in the snow and ice, I could probably manage to walk the whole year round.  It’s only 2 miles, so I’ve just carried on walking to work most of the time, catching the train home at 60p a time.

We’ve also become more careful with journey planning, combining journeys wherever possible.  The car can now stay in the garage now for 2 or 3 days at a time.

I’ve just put the car away and noted our fuel consumption for the week.  I filled up on Monday last week, and in the last 7 days we have only done 39.4 miles in the car – a record for us.

Ready meals

My younger daughter has been a vegetarian for nearly 7 years since she was 10. As a result, we other three meat eaters tend to eat less meat. I prefer that we all eat the same meal in the evening – it’s less hassle and I also don’t want my daughter to feel like the odd one out.
 

Sometimes we do eat the same meals, such as sausages, but I will substitute a vegetarian version. Once a week, however, we do have separate meals. Until recently, I used to buy a cook chill meal from the supermarket for Bee. The argument in my head went along the lines of: ‘I’ve been at work all day, I’m tired, I just want to shove something in the oven’. Then the supermarket re-packaged the meals I used to buy and put up the price by 20p. I began to realise just how much I was paying for convenience.

I cooked a vegetarian cottage pie for the three of us at home and had a spare portion which I froze, and pulled out next time we were having separate meals. Bee loved it, and I began to cook her favourite meals in batches, freezing them and using them on a rota so she had a bit of variety. (We probably need a bigger freezer now, but that’s a challenge for another day.)

I started off making today’s batch of vegetarian cottage pie by boiling about 400g potatoes for 12-15 minutes.  I chopped up a small onion and a medium carrot and fried these for 2-3 minutes before adding the end of a bag of vegetarian mince (about 250-300g).  I stirred this around for 5 minutes or so and then added 2 tablespoons of tomato puree and 240 – 300 ml of vegetable stock and brought everything to the boil before putting this mixture into a dish. 

Vegetarian cottage pie

It does take a bit of effort to make the meals, but it is incredibly satisfying to pull something out of the freezer that you have made yourself, and even better, Bee has never left a scrap on her plate since I started cooking home made ready meals

Clearing the clutter – part 1

One of the reasons I’ve started blogging on the Frugal Hill Way is to hold myself to account and measure my progress as I work towards my goals. One of my ongoing goals is to de-clutter our house, and I want to give an update on how I’m getting on once a month.

I have to put my hands up and say that we have an awful lot of clutter in our house on Frugal Hill. I know all the received wisdom about clutter = debt etc., but it’s one of the goals I’ve found hard to make progress on. I believe that when you want to make changes in life you have to find what works for you. I’m going to be trying some new ways to remove the clutter from my life and keep it our permanently.

We do have a problem with hanging on to too much stuff for too long. A couple of weeks ago, the Other Half took two televisions, three computer monitors and two computer cases to the household waste recycling centre. We had put the monitors and computers in the loft ‘in case they might come in handy’. They never did, and years down the road, we finally let them go for recycling. This has made me realise that we need to be careful about putting things in the loft – they get forgotten.

We also lose things a lot, often when we have tidied up and forgotten where we have put things. To get round this I’ve had the idea of cataloguing our possessions. I bought a project book divided into different sections and I’m using one section for each area of the house. The plan is to work through each part of the house, de-cluttering as I go and then have a reference book which tells me where everything is.

The House Catalogue

Finally for today, I’m going back to something that worked for me but which I have let slip over the last few months. I work full time meaning there’s limited time to fit everything else in. In the spring I spent 30 minutes a day de-cluttering our bedroom – I found this easy enough to fit in. Having less stuff has made it easier to keep things tidy in the bedroom, and perhaps more importantly I’m not losing stuff and then wasting money buying duplicates. (We once found 8 pairs of nail scissors in my younger daughter’s bedroom).  Now all I have to do is apply the same principles to the rest of the house.