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Posts tagged “driving

Psychology | Skills and Habits

Bannister road 030

As children we acquire a lot of skills that become habitual, we can do them without thinking very much about it. We learn to crawl, walk and feed ourselves and later we learn lots of basic skills like reading, writing and numeracy. It seems the graffiti artist who painted on this bridge learned a little reading, writing and arithmetic. He seems to have a fascination for the spots on a domino. It’s a shame he wasn’t taught a respect for property and the environment. (more…)

Thrifty | Spend less on VAT?

Open Road

A lot of what we spend goes on VAT and even more on various duties on tobacco, fuel and alcohol. I read somewhere that some of the worst drivers in the UK are here, where I live in the West Midlands. We eat while we drive, drive without shoes and have other weird driving habits it seems. I read this morning of the worst speeding offending areas and we weren’t even in the top ten. I drive now to save on fuel and that means driving smoothly in the highest gear that is appropriate. It seems a speeding conviction can also cost around £200 when you have paid the fine, costs and your insurance has been increased. (more…)

It’s enough to drive you nuts…

WS 5 016

You’re driving along and a woman’s voice is nag, nag, nag… Turn left at the next junction, take the third exit at the roundabout. Like I don’t know where I’m going! You can turn the sound off on the SAT NAV, but that gives you one more thing you have to keep an eye on. I need to have eyes everywhere on the roads around here. Regular readers will know I live in the heart of England; in the Black Country…


How to save on petrol


Driving technique

I was watching Top Gear on TV not long ago and Jeremy Clarkson was making fun of advanced drivers. Advanced drivers do know how to drive and save fuel though.  I suspect there were few advanced drivers queuing for petrol this week but plenty of petrol heads. You can get twice as many miles from a litre of petrol if you develop a driving technique that saves fuel. You don’t have to go slower; no! (more…)

Frugal Friday | Christmas thoughts

Money - Seeing the future

I had a look at the prices of turkeys today. The larger ones work out cheaper; generally speaking. The turkey crowns are about £9.00 a kilo. The price per kilo varies a lot and some are basted with butter. The price can be less than £3.00 a kilo for a large turkey. I found Asda to be cheaper than Tesco. It pays to check all the prices per kilo. I live alone and don’t want much left over and so the turkey thigh joint will be enough for me. (more…)

Frugal Friday | Competing



In the western world lots of people over-eat and it causes problems like obesity, diabetes and heart disease. I don’t eat so much now and often don’t put so much on my plate. I also eat far more vegetables. My chicken and chips with broccoli is healthy and frugal. Just half a chicken leg is enough for me now.


A Monday morning ramble…

MM2 037


I took this photograph yesterday after I had gone thrifty shopping! My intention was to photograph the canal which I did but those photos are a little dark after the rain. I noticed some trees and bushes and set a wide aperture and got some interesting shots. I think this bush is a yew, it has strange flowers that are very sticky! (more…)

Automate your life!

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The photograph is of a Manor House, that one wasn’t my first choice.  I chose a photograph of a farm shop and then realised I had used that one in a previous blog. We tend to do things automatically and then we forget that we have done them. We drive through traffic lights and then wonder if they were on green! (more…)

Frugal Friday – The A to Z of Frugality

Frugal Friday

The A to Z of Frugality…

Addictions: alcohol and tobacco

Everyone who smokes cigarettes is addicted, regardless of the excuses they make. If you give up this addiction it saves a huge amount of cash and it is better than burning money. I drank water to ease the withdrawal and promised myself a few rewards for making it through. The first reward was a DVB recorder after a year and I saved all the money and so the next reward was a car! Alcohol is more difficult, are you addicted or a social drinker? It can be hard to tell; I was drinking too much, but also taking prescription drugs. I stopped for health reasons but it had a lot of beneficial effects; my writing improved and I wrote a novel. I admit to having a few drinks over the past month, it started at Christmas as usual! I stopped again, I was sleeping too deeply and that gave me headaches, I did sleep better but a couple of weeks off the booze and my sleep pattern will be normal and I will be alert and able to write until three in the morning again! I won’t do that again though!

Bulk buying

I bought chicken today, £4.00 a pack or 3 for £10.00, that is a good saving and I buy everything in bulk. I am not impressed by designer labels but I do buy designer underwear; I just like them, I still bought in bulk and most are still in the wrappers. I do occasionally buy from a wholesale butcher that is really cheap, but not close so I have to buy a lot to warrant using the petrol to get there.


Cooking is an amazing way to save money and if you read my Frugal Friday regularly you will get tips and recipes on what to cook.  Usually post a blog, photo or recipe; but doubt if I will have time today. I will also post ideas for summer and summer salads using cold chicken, prawns, iceberg lettuce and cucumber with chips to fill me up are not only delicious but healthy too. Lots of ideas and recipes will be posted and so follow me on Twitter or come back for more…

Driving (frugally)

I did an advanced driving course and test when I worked for the government. I was required to drive smoothly, no fast acceleration and no hard braking; except when I got to the high speed driving. I used a high gear and was gentle on the controls. I still drive the same and can spot another advanced driver; they have their hands on the steering wheel. You can spot bad drivers, only one hand on the wheel; really bad drivers have a cell phone in the other hand…


I studied electrical science, electronics, psychology, hypnosis and a lot of other things. I studied at a typical English grammar school, masters in chalk covered black gowns and then on to advanced technology colleges and a practical education at special centres run by the government. I also worked in technology and so I can write about it! I don’t miscount what I have learned from my family, my mom taught me to cook, my sister is a hair stylist (L’Oreal finalist) and my late sister designed and made clothes. My brother was a car mechanic turned artist. I am good at learning from books too and taught myself web design. The latest web site I worked on was a rush job, I was 25% through my book on Dreamweaver and didn’t get time to finish it and so just got on and started the site! You have to learn the basics and when you get to the complicated stuff; break it down into bite size chunks. I had an email today from a student I help; she studies history and humanities. I also help two Chinese students with English and business studies. They will come here to England next year to do their Masters; will that be too complex for me? I’ll give it a try and I think I’ll manage. I think the encouragement I give to people who I mentor is more important than helping with assignments; it helps them believe in themselves and their future.

Friends and Free Fashion and trends

Friends, true friends will help you be frugal by lending you all sorts of things and you can reciprocate and get free DVD, CD and MP3. They will also help with trends and recommend things. I talked to a friend this morning and advised on saving energy. I showed her my draught proofing and how it stopped heat escaping from one room to another.  My family is even more useful because we help each other. I rewired my brother’s house; my sister or niece cuts my hair. My nephew fitted my home office with shelving and another nephew fitted a carpet for me.

Free fashion is easy just think about it. I looked at some fashion jeans yesterday; they looked like the ones I got bleach on cleaning the loo! I didn’t buy them! I was looking in case they had summer clothes on sale in January! I didn’t buy anything in that shop; but will be back in summer for a new winter sweater!

Gifts: Make your own; Garden: Grow your own

I also saw some A4 photograph frames in Pound land (everything costs £1); they are great and a lot cheaper than a well known store near my home. I can use those to make a cheap gift and even personalise it, if I take a photograph of someone or their car or their house and frame it. I also saw seeds in their but they were mixed, peas, beans, etc. I wanted runner bean seeds and maybe I’ll grow salad, lettuce, tomatoes and that sort of thing. I also want a herb garden this year, the herbs can be dried or frozen. They can be given as gifts too. Fruit is great to grow in the garden too and there is a great variety of small fruit trees to grow now and thorn-less berries. You can even grow herbs in a tray on a windowsill if you don’t have a garden.


There are lots of ways to be frugal around the home. Energy saving is the main one. I have sealed windows, lots of insulation in the loft, cavity wall insulation, draught proofing on inside doors as well as outside doors. Thermal curtains in some rooms’ keep them warm at night; especially my bedroom! I don’t have pot plants unless its runner beans on window sills in spring. I threw out lots of ornaments, except the really good collectable stuff. I used the wind screen washer I use in my car to clean windows today and then went over with a dry window scrim (that is rough linen) for perfectly clean windows (frugal too).


I have a package deal for Internet, I renewed my contract and they promised me half price for 3 months, I only got it half price for 1 month; I will complain and loudly and on their forum and to their CEO’s office if they don’t pay up! I get line rental, free UK calls for up to an hour, free calls to other TalkTalk customers for 3 hours, International calls to the EU and some Commonwealth countries to landlines; land lines and mobiles to North America and broadband services. The broadband is around 12 Mb/s usually which is fast enough. I get 15 Mb of web space; I would like more. I manage by hot linking photographs and videos off-site; I use Photobucket and my videos are on Facebook. I also have some YouTube videos embedded on the site. It may sound complicated; but it’s easy after a while, I often help people get started. I do that with Microsoft FrontPage which isn’t available now; but get a cheap copy of Office 2003 and you get that and all the other Office programs at a fraction of the price of the new one and it’s easy and fast to learn. I use Dreamweaver, but my site is much quicker to update.

Freeware will save you money too, look out for Ccleaner, search for freeware programs using Google and Google Chrome is a good one; it’s great for research. Fotosketcher is good for turning digital photos into works of art; YouTube downloader will let you download Youtube videos and strip off the music as an MP3. Inkscape is a good graphics program; Smoothdraw 3 is great; I added some “UFO’s” to one picture with that! The great frugal thing about the internet is free communication with Windows Live, Skype, Google or Yahoo. I can video chat with Chinese students using Windows Live sent files back and forth and share photographs. I can also share on Facebook and share knowledge and information on LinkedIn. The opportunities to be frugal on the net are endless.

Jeans and other Clothes

As I already mentioned the jeans I cleaned the loo in got bleach splashed on them and look like designer jeans. I also try to change clothes to suit me and other fashion accessories. I want some designer sunglasses but they are very expensive. I need them for a photograph but John Lennon style glasses are very expensive. I searched for cheap round sunglasses yesterday and found some for £20! They are just sunglasses and I want prescription ones but I may be able to get them fitted with prescription lenses; it would still be a saving. I also need a hat and saw one for £10 while out shopping; the image is a little like a gangster image and so a white tie will complete the image. I’m still looking for the white tie. I used to go to fancy dress parties and this style would be great if I went to one again; always think of multiple uses before you buy! I think I will stop short of deliberately cutting my jeans or splashing them with bleach; but some people follow and some people set the trends. What are you a sheeple who follows or a trend setter? Trend setters can be very frugal!

Kits: Make up your own first aid kit

You can go around the Pound shops and buy all sort of things to make up a first aid kits for you home cheaper than buying one and then make one up for the car; they are amazingly useful in an accident. You need plasters, bandages, petroleum jelly, eye drops and the whole assortment of dressings. Remember too sharp scissors, hair styling scissors are best. Put in some things like aspirin and paracetamol (Tylenol). I don’t like aspirin but it could be handy if someone is having an angina attack.  You can make up your own tool kits, hair styling kits, sewing kits, shoe shine kits, whatever – it’s frugal.


I would advise against lending to friends and family! It can cost you money you will never see again and ruin friendships. I prefer to give my family money rather than lent them money; I can always use emotional blackmail then to get them to mow my lawn!

Music, Make do and Mend

I sometimes, plug a cable into my Freeview box and into my MP3 recorder. I pause the Freeview using timeshift and when I want to record, press record on the MP3 recorder and play on the Freeview simultaneously (Freeview is digital TV through an antenna). This is useful for popular music; but that that great for the music I like, I listen to classical.

Music I have covered but there are sites on the internet where you can stream music from like Imeem and Esnips is s useful site. You can also rip music from CD’s for you MP3’s and my MP3 player records.

Of course, make do and mend is an old idea but if you wait until you need something rather than want something it can save money. Make do and everything lasts that little bit longer. Mend it and even if it only lasts a little longer, you have saved money. I use all kinds of plastic containers as plant pots; I make do! I use an old litter bin as a planter; I make do. I fill up spray bottle with cheap bleach rather than buy new spray bleach; I make do.

Needs versus wants

Make a list of what you need and then what you want. Your needs must start with basic foods, housing, energy and possibly transport. Your wants are luxuries that you can do without, even those meals out, snacks and coffees. I find most of the things I want are very expensive and I don’t waste money buying on credit, which just wastes money on interest payments. I save for what I want and can always afford what I want because I’m always frugal; it is now a way of life. I still have to save for very expensive things like a new car. The mechanic who maintains my car says it will last for ever if I keep looking after it and keeping it maintained. It’s like new and people even say it smells like new inside. It is just over 13 years old and so the cam belt may be on past its use by date. It will cost about £200 to have it replaced, far more if it breaks and so I’ll have that done this spring.

Organisation: Get organised, keep personal accounts

I could keep personal accounts on computer but my maths is good and picking up a hard backed book is quick and easy. Just record money in on the left page and out on the right page. If you have more coming in than going out; that is healthy financing. I have double coming in that going out on an average month, sometimes more. I don’t worry about half yearly bills like water or annual bills like tax or car insurance. I will get a discount on the car insurance this year though; I paid too much last year!


You pay money for stuff, keep it nice and make it last. I restored my freezer twice. I can’t remember how old it is, I remember freezing chicken in it 25 years ago! I have also restored wooden furniture by scraping off the old varnish and sanding it and giving it a new coat of varnish. Old furniture is well made and lasts forever. I also look after my car cleaning off the mud and dirt with a Jet washer and then polishing it properly with an electric polisher at least once a year. The rest of the time I use wash and wax and it keeps clean. I could do more maintenance but get too busy. I do top up fluids, keep the battery charged and do minor repairs. It is cheap to have it washed but I have seen them do it, with jet washers on high power and that can and will damage paintwork. I don’t like washing the car, but do it properly and the exercise is probably good for me!

Quality: Learn to distinguish quality from bad design or materials.

It can be difficult to assess good from bad design and sometimes you just have to accept bad design. The power supply on my laptop is badly designed, it gets hot. If the transformer was properly laminated it wouldn’t get hot. Flat pack furniture is often poor quality, sometimes it can be strengthened especially the back of a cabinet. The main problem is kids swinging on doors attached to flimsy chipboard with a nice coating! Solid wood even if its pine is better than chipboard; but that will last if you look after it. In electronics it’s even harder to decide quality from poor quality and I tend to wait until other people have tested the product and written reviews. My friend had a good quality expensive digital camera that took very poor photographs; I downloaded a firmware update after reading a review and it’s good now and takes awesome photographs on a 24X zoom. You also have to assess whether it is fit for its purpose. I had a new laptop and it’s Windows 7, great but a lot of my software won’t run the same and getting drivers can be difficult. If you have a computer running Windows 7 and you are thinking of buying software or a peripheral; make sure it runs on Windows 7. I can print using Windows 7; but am still trying to get the copy and scan functions on my printer working. It sounds easy to contact the manufacturer for help. I would have to contact a few and one is in China to get everything working as before. It all takes time and time can be used more frugally elsewhere!


I restore furniture as already mentioned, re-varnishing or re-painting. I have a paint stripper that strips with hot air and that can be useful for doing restorations on furniture. You can also restore whole rooms to their former glory sometimes. Victorian fireplaces are often hidden in old houses and can be opened up again. If you have the skills, you can restore anything, vehicles, furniture, white goods like freezers, old doors can be put back into use, oak beams can be recycled into feature fire surrounds. You just need tools and a lot of imagination!

Shopping (around); Saving money is better than making it; it’s tax free!

Shopping around is good and frugal and saving money is tax free. You not only save on paying income tax, but VAT or sales tax too! You do have to be careful not to use too much petrol going from shop to shop and it’s good to go online and make a list of what you want and how much it is before even visiting the store. I always ask people if they know where I can get things too and that saves searching the shops and stores for what you want.

Training and Skills

I find it almost unbelievable when I find people who can’t use a screwdriver.  They do exist! I think even simple skills like that can save you money and complex skills like painting and decorating can save a lot of money. I remember a time when everyone fixed their own cars; but I rely more on skilled mechanics because cars have got more complex. I can however fill in a little dent and manage to match the paint to hide it. It helps to go to college and do a course and there are lots of short courses on just about everything in most developed countries. If you have a family learning how to cut and style hair can save some money! You can begin with a course that is frugal and saves you money and then go more advanced and turn the skill into something that makes you money or even helps you start your own business. There are often writing groups in libraries you can join; local history groups, the list is almost endless if you count all the online resources too.


Understanding is difficult because although we live in an age of information we don’t always understand it. I mentor students and they are very smart under graduates but often get simple things wrong because they lack experience. One business project they had to do recently was about a hypothetical hotel with 30 staff. This would be a very small hotel with the staff running the hotel in shifts 24/7. One student imagined a large hotel with a swimming pool and bowling alley! This is where a mentor helps, who has been around an d worked in a wide range of environments.

Value: How valuable are those collectables?

I collect all sorts of things and I have difficulty valuing them. I have stamps, postcards, coins and lots of object d’art. One of my friends said I should sell the postcards because they are now valuable, the collection has been handed down three generations; I would like to hand it down to another generation; but can they understand the value? The value is not the card itself, but the image and they are rare because most of the original cards have been damaged or destroyed; they date back to the 19th century. I could scan them and sell the images on the internet and make more money than selling the actual cards. Understanding value applies to anything collectable and stamps in particular are difficult for many people to comprehend the value.

Waste not: want not

Millions of tons of food get wasted every year and the amount of packaging is incredible. I recycle more and more and I rarely waste food. If I do have waste like peelings I try to compost. I know someone who says he has no soil in his garden, that is because he takes all his weeds to the tip and grass cuttings; he throws the soils away and then buys more! I recycle by composting and have done for years and so have about eight inches or more of soil. There is no need to do anything fancy, just dig a trench in Autumn and put all you kitchen and organic waste into that through the winter and it will compost down and be ready to plant runner beans in the next spring.


Nah, not a guide to free porn, although why anyone would buy it beats me. The X of course comes from sex and pertains to adult movies; but sex is usually free! I did read of a guy who gave his girl friend his credit card to go shopping; so maybe not always free…

Young and foolish

We do tend to be a little stupid with our money and less stupid as we get older and wiser and so my advice to the young is it may help to get an older mentor to advise you on financial matters and they may even do it for free. I mentor students for free and they reward me by telling how brilliant I am when I do an assignment in 2 hours that they have been struggling with for a couple of weeks. There is a drawback however, not everyone gets wiser with age so you may have to be a little picky.


Zopa is peer to peer lending and operates in a few countries; it is doing well in the UK although not so good in the USA where I think it ceased trading because of bad debt. I became a member with £500 lending it out in £10 lots (to diversify risk) last February. It took a month to arrange the 50 £10 loans but interest still came to around 7% but I have had to cut interest since then In 11 months I have made just over £30 in interest; no bad payments and a £50 introduction fee. I made 6% so far in interest and if you count the introduction fee that makes it a return of around 16%; so I shall put more in this year.  Opened the account as research, but now I shall do some serious lending. I recently cut my interest rate because there was low demand compared to savers but a TV advertising campaign may change that. I also expect the Bank of England to raise the base rate in the next couple of months. I would bet on a .25% increase; I am watching carefully; it could be worth a bet. The odds on an increase on a betting exchange are about 10 to 1 for a February increase. They may hold out to March or April; just before the budget or just after?

There are a few ideas. If you have one or two; please comment…

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