Frugal Friday, 14th of July 2011
X is for X Box, Y is for Yahoo and Z is for Zopa.
I’ve had enough of this A to Z and so this is the last one! I will continue frugal blogs though!
The X Box and similar game machines may not seem frugal but I get my money worth playing games. Most families can play for hours and you can borrow and swap games. I would consider different machines when considering buying a games machine. Look carefully at the most popular ones and what your friends have.
I use Yahoo quite a lot, not so much for search but Yahoo finance is very useful and I even used the weather service this morning. I used to use Yahoo answers a lot and I answered a lot of questions. You can find share prices and bond prices on Yahoo finance.
You can read my previous blogs about Zopa. Basically you can lend or borrow through Zopa and it is social lending. I lend and I put £500 into it in February last year. I shall put a few thousand in this year because I’m quite impressed with it and have no bad debts.
This is a direct copy and paste from their email and my interest rates –
Your average gross lending rate (after fee) on loans made…
- in the last week is 0.00%
- in the last month is 6.50%
- since you joined is 8.07%
The rates are above inflation. These are the rates in general:
£979,980 was lent out to borrowers at an average gross rate of 7.14%
- A* 36 market: Average lending rate was 5.5%
- A 36 market: Average lending rate was 6.0%
- B 36 market: Average lending rate was 7.4%
- C 36 market: Average lending rate was 8.9%
- Y 36 market: Average lending rate was 7.9%
- A* 60 market: Average lending rate was 6.4%
- A 60 market: Average lending rate was 6.9%
- B 60 market: Average lending rate was 8.4%
- C 60 market: Average lending rate was 10.0%
- Y 60 market: Average lending rate was 8.9%
I’m not lending to the C market or the Y (young) market. Those markets have a better rate (for lenders) but are risky – you pay your money and take your choice.
You can sell your loan book off using rapid return to get your money back. I read earlier of personal loans at rates as low as 6.6% (available apparently to 51% of people) but many people are quoted much higher rates when they apply. This is comparable to Zopa is you have a perfect credit rating; if you don’t have a perfect rating you might be better off with Zopa.
Thanks for reading this weeks update, next week I will write another blog about frugal living or something pertaining to money. I have written a few money related blogs this week including the regular Thrifty Thursday blog. You can of course scroll down the page now for the full A to Z of frugal living! I wouldn’t take the I for ice section too seriously, it was written for April 1st!
Live thrifty and frugal and take control of your life.
Frugal Friday, 7th July 2011
W is for Wealth; waste not, want not; water; winter and work.
Wealth isn’t about how much stuff you have, wealth is about how little stuff you need! If you live relatively simply, you can sleep at night and have everything you desire. If you covet your neighbours car, conservatory or wife; you are never likely to sleep at night.
If you won the Euro-millions lottery this week and had over 150,000,000 pounds how would you stop it being devalued? With 150 millions it is possible, but with small amounts even a million, it can be difficult to find an investment with a return above inflation. The wealth subsidiaries of banks will normally welcome you with anything over a million; but they don’t always give good advice unless you are super-rich. Inflation is now at least 5% and so on 150 millions; you need a return of 7.5 million a year to just stand still. You will have to rob a few people blind to get that; but that is what rich people do… I read that shops in Birmingham now fetch over £130 a square foot; I wonder who owns them all? I would bet that limited companies own them all and the rich own the companies. The shares in the companies will pass from generation to generation at ‘face’ value; ensuring the rich stay rich forever more. That is a nice way to avoid that awful inheritance tax.
Waste not, want not
The poor are such wasters; it is waste that causes poverty. Waste not; want not should be a motto for all. A motto for society; we could call it the motto for the Big Society! The middle classes can afford to shop at Tesco and Sainsbury and have nice jobs in local government. The middle classes are threatened now with pay freezes and lower pensions. It could be time for a re-think, maybe pay off the mortgage before you retire? Other useful ideas are to become thrifty and frugal; only use the credit card for purchases over £100 and cut up the store cards.
When I was in hospital, I was nil by mouth for days; no water or food. I wet my mouth with a sponge on a stick! It makes you realise how important water is and it is the most important thing in our lives. The next is food and after a couple of days I was allowed 60 ml of water an hour, then after a week food. Food is important but we eat far too much, too much fat, sugar and often too much alcohol – we risk obesity, diabetes and many other problems.
When we get our priorities right we also realise we also need to keep warm in winter. Look at recent price rises, housing, water bills, food and home energy. They are deliberately putting up prices and speculating on the things we need and that are essential. What is OFGEM doing about rising energy prices? Precious little, the lights are on but no one is home; as usual…
They do say you can become rich by working hard. It must be a myth; all the hard workers I know are relatively poor.
Next week – X for X-rated (this will not be easy).
Frugal Friday, 1st of July 2011
Please scroll down for previous blogs Frugality – A to V ( W next week)!
V for Victorian
I’ve started with this picture because I’m fairly sure it’s what’s left of a Victorian workhouse. People would be sent there who couldn’t afford to live and were in abject poverty. They knew how to build in those days, but why build the workhouse so ornate? The same is true today; the British government is planning to spend £32 billion on a high speed rail link from London to Birmingham. They cut essentials and then show off by spending obscene amounts on dubious projects. This is why it’s important to be thrifty and frugal.
V for Vehicles
It’s expensive running a vehicle these days and road planning doesn’t help. I used to practice cycle racing as a teenager on one particular road with a 40 MPH limit; I drove down it yesterday and my average speed was slower. They have put a 30 MPH speed limit on and at least 4 speed cameras, double roundabouts, traffic lights that seem to stay on red for a very long time and lots of other crazy features. I just drive in 5thgear to try to save fuel and avoid braking. It’s all in the name of safety, but is it any safer when there is a continuous line of traffic at 15 MPH than occasional traffic at 40 MPH? The main thing is to reduce fuel consumption to a minimum and that means a high gear and light on the brakes as much as possible. I had someone pass me and then pull in front of me and stop a few yards ahead; it saved the guy no time at all. If you take pride in your driving skills it will save you a fortune. We can’t avoid wasting fuel sitting waiting for traffic to move or lights to change, that is a planning problem that costs us as a nation money; but we can avoid fast acceleration and hard braking because that costs us money! I will be sending my car into the garage soon for a new cam belt; regular maintenance also saves money in the long term.
V is for Vanity
I think the whole issue of personalised number plates is stupid in the UK, they should be done properly and issued (with a fat fee) properly by the DVLA to the silly and vain. Vanity is an expensive trait to have; it includes vanity number plates, silly job titles, plastic surgery and a whole load of gadgets that are hyped to sound better than they actually are. I look at people using cell phones as they walk along or MP3 players and it signals stupid to me; they think they are dead cool… I saw staff from the local hospital yesterday, wearing their name tags as identification and using cell phones while they crossed the road; that is an accident waiting to happen – but accident and emergency is close by!
V for Vouchers
I don’t like using coupons and vouchers but they can save money and I buy gift vouchers as presents at Christmas because people get what they want after Christmas often in the sales. Gift vouchers are good and frugal.
V is for vegetables and vitamins
I had a blood test this week and they will check to see if I’m deficient in a few vitamins as well as checking for antibodies and other tests. There are obviously vitamins, minerals and fibre in vegetables and fruit and you should strive to get your five a day. Tinned (canned fruit) is great for making up the 5 a day; try it on breakfast cereal or even slide a banana onto you cereal. I have canned fruit after at least one meal and it’s more reliable than some fresh fruit. I eat vegetables and try to cook them lightly to save the vitamins. I did stir fried vegetables, bean sprouts with pork for dinner last night; very tasty and rich in vitamins and minerals! Pork is expensive now but you can dice it and add diced turkey, then stir fry it and the cheaper turkey meat makes it enough for a family without costing too much. Use plenty of rice and veggies! You can also stir fry veggies in the wok on the barbecue and serve with your burgers, kebabs and chicken drumsticks.
V is for ventures
If you are going to start a little venture to supplement your income; do so frugally. Most successful businessmen are efficient, frugal and thrifty; this leads to success. Try asking a successful businessman for a raise and you find out how thrifty and frugal they are! Saving money in one area and wasting it in another area like you’re running the country; is not frugal.
Be thrifty and frugal when times are hard and avoid the 21st century equivalent of the workhouse; debt…
You may also like to read yesterday’s Thrifty Thursday blog.
Frugal Friday, 24th June 2011
You have a job that pays 100,000 a year, company car and an Iphone and it all goes bad on you and you are facing selling your nice home and a debt mountain. That was the subject of a blog on the Lovemoney website and one in an excellent series. In the UK you can get advice and help if you are struggling with debt from the CCCS and so that blog is well worth reading. No matter how well off you are, you need the emotional security of having some money saved for just such an event when everything goes wrong and you are faced with losing a good job or your investment income is dropped fast. The usual recommendation is that you should have enough cash to last three months. I would say that is a minimum. I could go at least a year if all my income dried up. I don’t have a company car or an Iphone though!
I actually went shopping yesterday and they say don’t shop when you’re hungry. I have to admit avoiding shopping most of the time. My neighbour does most of mine when she does hers! I did spend more than usual. We all get tempted in the supermarket! My temptations were food suitable for stir fried Chinese cooking and I also bought some food that was expensive but healthy. It could have been much worse. I didn’t have cigarettes or alcohol in my shopping, both of which in this stressful society we live in can be addictive. The most expensive thing I bought was pork and fish! The most annoying thing about shopping was mirrors that gave the impression that the supermarket had a bigger stock than they really had. I also looked for a soft drink that I usually have and couldn’t find it. There was lots of Coca Cola on offer if I bought 8 litres! I read some labels but declined because I know indigestible sugars in many soft drinks make you fart! I found the one I wanted on the bottom shelf, eventually.
Insurance policies tend to be underwritten by ‘names’ (rich people) at Lloyd’s of London and banks also underwrite insurance and share issues. They effectively take the risk instead of the company for a small commission. In the case of an initial public offering (IPO) of shares, a bank usually buys them and then they are sold at a discount to institutions like insurance companies, banks, pension funds and hedge funds. You can buy the shares for full price on the stock market after they have had their ‘discount’ and the bank underwriting the IPO has most of its cash back. This method of doing an IPO often means the shares are over subscribed and the price goes up; making existing shareholders a profit. If you then buy shares, you not only have to pay full price. You have to pay a price decided by the market and that decides two prices, one for buying (high) and one for selling (low) giving the stock market a profit. On top of the stock market spread you also have to pay the brokers fee and in the UK stamp duty. This is why so few people invest. The whole system favours institutions and is undemocratic.
I would like a nice shiny new car but would never actually buy one when they depreciate so much in the first year. The same applies to many other things and used is as good, if not better than ‘new’. You can get some goods free on free cycle or freegle and that can be a good way of being frugal and saving money. My sister gave away a kitchen in good condition recently and I have away an industrial sewing machine that would be ideal for someone to start their own business. The problem with both items was transport, the kitchen did go in a van and of course it needed fitting; the sewing machine was heavy and ended up in the back of a hatch back.
Union bashing is a sport in the Conservative party I think; but unions have got the workers better pay and conditions. The fight for better pay and conditions has often meant industrial action and that benefits no-one. The employer loses and the threat of that loss should be enough. Employers often stand firm on political grounds even though it’s not in their interests and the unions call a strike when it’s not in the employees’ interests. They play politics with people’s lives but with inflation running at above 5% and the rich getting richer, there is still a place for unions. In real terms many workers are facing pay cuts and pension cuts in real terms on top of the ones they have already accepted. In an economic crisis it is reasonable to expect everyone to make sacrifices but workers are expected to make sacrifices while the CEO still gets an obscene bonus. Perhaps the remuneration of the board and CEO should be tied to the remuneration of the whole workforce and perhaps also take into account the interests of other stakeholders like the organisations shareholders and users?
You might like to read some of my other blogs, they can all be found on the home page. Average or typical was a blog this week that might interest you too, I also did my usual Neodigital Art blog and last but not least was no smoke without fire about rumours and virals.
I hope you enjoyed this update; V for vices next week – give up a vice before then !
Frugal Friday, 17th June 2011
T is for Twitter, taxes, time-shift, trackers…
Taxes vary from country to country but they usually have some things in common. You can avoid VAT or sales tax for a while by simply spending less and saving more. In the UK, few people use their capital gains tax allowance of £10,100 a year. Many things aren’t liable for capital gains tax too and so if you can buy a car and valet it and sell it at a gain; it’s tax free. The sales of copyrights are normally a capital gain and therefore tax free up to that limit. It can be a nice little earner to send letters to magazines that pay a small sum for the copyright or fillers to Reader’s Digest. You can also make a capital gain by winning competitions, watch out for those that require skill and are unpopular and so don’t have many entrants.
I’m not finding Twitter very useful but social media is only as useful as we can imagine it to be. I get more and more followers every week and people are beginning to click the links to my blogs! You also get trends or trending on Twitter and they can be interesting. I use Tweetdeck for Chrome as my client on my browser to check out Twitter and send Tweets. It is free if you have a computer and so why not give it a try?
Time shift is on some televisions and digital TV recorders and not at all frugal but it is useful. It is frugal to record television to a hard drive though. You can record one channel and watch another with the right recorder and of course record a channel while you’re out. I’ve used a digital recorder since 2004 and can use EPG to see what the schedule is and then record with one touch. No need to buy a TV guide with EPG; frugal! No need to rent DVD just record digital TV; frugal!
You can get savings accounts and certificates that track the Bank of England base rate and the same applies to mortgages. The National savings certificate linked to inflation tracks the RPI and the return is tax free and so worth considering. I read a blog this morning that said it was going to talk about small things, atoms, molecules and savings account interest payments! It is hard to get a decent return. You can track base rate or inflation using Zopa by simply increasing or decreasing you interest rate depending on demand. I cut mine slightly this month and I have decided to offer lending in the 60 month market. I didn’t cut the rate too much because I expect the base rate to go up next month; you heard it here first!
Lovemoney recently did an article on buy to let mortgages, many of which were trackers. One of my friends is landlord and she gets her entire income from renting property and so I’m not against landlords. I do think buying property to rent, is risky if you have to have a buy to let mortgage. The base rate is often below inflation and so benefits buy to let. It is still a risk if the base rate rises steeply. I have seen interest rates at 12% and that would put many buy to let landlords in trouble. We see interest rates below inflation now and the Bank of England is getting away with it because wages aren’t chasing prices. We know however that public workers are set to take industrial action and so this situation may not continue; we could have very high inflation next year. The government and Bank of England believe unions are powerless and that won’t happen; but it has happened before.
Tried and Tested
When we are spending our money or even just thinking about it; keeping tried and tested in mind is a good idea. If you are buying a used car, besides looking for value for money, look for a FSH (full service history) or if that isn’t available, ask about repairs, maintenance and look for signs of wear or abuse. I check the rubbers on pedals for wear and obvious signs a car has been driven in an abusive way on a regular basis. Most careful owners look after everything, even upholstery and so look at everything and if it has been looked after, the chances are it won’t cost too much in maintenance. People use to comment that my car still had a ‘new’ smell to it and it was ten years old then! Even the smell of a car can give away its real condition. If you are buying domestic appliances then look at reviews on websites and see what other people say about the product. Be careful of reviews though, people are asked to review products right after buying them; not at the end of the warranty period. If you have a good insurance company that gives you good service then you can shop around for cheaper motor insurance; but check they have good service and good claims procedures too; ask your friends what experiences they have with insurance companies, banks or whatever service company you are changing to. You could score companies by giving those marks out of ten and only deal with companies with a high mark. If for example you give BT 4/10, that could later influence your decision when choosing a telecoms provider, after assessing the choice. You could even score them separately on price, service, call centres and so on and please share your scores in my comment box at the bottom of the page!
The more things you are trained to do the better because it can save you money. My local school has a vehicle workshop and does evening classes so people can learn how to maintain their own cars; simple maintenance like changing the oil can save you money. The same is true of learning to cut your children’s hair; learning a craft, doing accounts, painting and decorating, gardening and many other jobs around the home that are skilled but that you can learn to do yourself.
Frugal Friday, 10th June 2011
S is for sales, shares, stocks, security, savings
The mark-up on goods varies quite a lot but some goods have a big mark up and tend to be cut in price if they don’t sell. Watch out for drinks like bottled water and soft drinks; these are often cut in price especially in discounters. The discounters in the UK are Netto, Aldi and Lidl. I occasionally buy Lucozade and find that discounted in a multipack of 6 bottles. Coca Cola and Pepsi has a huge mark-up and so often put on special offer. Coffee is also often on special offer and it keeps and so stock up. Think twice before using Starbucks or something similar.
Look for famous name cosmetics on the Internet and the same applies to glasses; both have a huge mark up and so tend to be sold cheap on the net. If you have your eyes tested; ask for the prescription!
Furniture has a high mark-up and often put in sales, but you have to watch quality. It is the stuff that doesn’t sell that goes in the sale. You can sometimes get a bargain on that cream leather suite; but do you really want it in cream? It looks great, but shows every mark.
The mark-up on jewellery is around 300% and so again it gets put into sales and is often cheaper 9 carat gold or sterling silver. Look for quality and maybe go to a specialist dealer; in the UK you can find good specialists in the Birmingham jewellery quarter and they sell gold bullion there for investment too. Well worth a trip to Brum! They do have high overheads and so expect a discount of perhaps 25% (maybe better).
Buying shares in a limited liability company can be a good investment, especially a small private company that you are familiar with. Investing in a public company can be done ‘privately’ or through the stock exchange. The former can be profitable but is more risky. Initial investors; who buy before the shares go on the stock exchange, get a better deal but take a bigger risk. You can buy on the stock exchange through a stock broker and he in turn goes through a dealer. Your bank probably acts as a stock broker and some do special days when they will trade at a reduced price. My bank has an offer on at the moment with free dealing on overseas markets, but they will make money if and when I decide to sell again and the fees aren’t cheap. The AIM (alternative Investment market) has shares for pennies and often it is quoted as being a good investment because the shares are cheap; they are also very risky. The AIM companies have done quite well through the recession but some have gone into liquidation. The FTSE 100 is thought to be safe, but we have seen major companies have problems like banks and so nothing is ‘safe’. The banking shares now seem cheap compared to what they were before the recession and many analysts are asking if they are a good investment. There is new banking codes coming out because of recent scandals and so it is a risk investing in what is effectively a load of bankers!
If you want to get some practice buying and selling shares on the New York Stock Exchange; you can try it by starting your own virtual fund at www.marketocracy.com – it’s realistic. I watched a few funds I run cope with the recession; technology coped, the others have struggled.
I have a blog about Zopa that you may like to check out, but it is due for an update. I have around £50 in my account waiting to be lent out and so may have to cut the interest rate from 7%. I can leave it where it is and an interest rate hike by the Bank of England would fix things and I would have money to lend out in August. I won’t leave it too long before checking it out and cutting maybe 0.25% or even less to get the cash lent out quicker.
I have already mentioned index linked saving at NSANDI and at inflation plus 0.5% that is a reasonable and safe way to save at the moment. Most other savings methods pay less than inflation and so a rip off. Bankers!
It is a good idea to be security conscious, being careful at the ATM; go when there are people around. The ones outside banks are the most secure and tend to be monitored by CCTV when the bank is open. Look at having a security light controlled by infra red on you house, it does deter thieves; an alarm is a good idea too. I would not have a safe unless it is well hidden. If you have a safe a workman in you home may spot it and word soon gets around. If you have a safe make sure it’s well hidden and if you ever come face to face with a robber you are less likely to be beat to a pulp for the key or combination. If it is a key; keep that secure too, not on your person.
I see signatures that are little more than a bit of squiggle and are not legal on a document or at least they would be a disadvantage in a court of law. I know many people who practice a complex, but clear signature and some people even have different signature for different things. I know authors who have a signature especially for signing their books!
Thanks for reading today’s frugal blog; you may like yesterday’s Thrifty Thursday blog. Please check out the Home Page for an informative, entertaining and amusing blogs from the past week. You can also follow me on Twitter!
Frugal Friday, 3rd of June 2011
R for Rich, Rights and Risk
We all want to be rich and I thought about this earlier; what is a really easy get rich scheme? I first of all came up with winning the lottery! My ticket ran out last night and of course if you don’t buy tickets; you can never win. This principle applies to most things; if you don’t have a go, if you don’t try; you will get nowhere. The magic ingredients are money, (you have to buy a ticket), effort (you have to buy a ticket), being smart (you have to know how to buy a ticket) and most important; luck! It is the same in everything, even starting a business; invest your money, do the work, be smart, don’t waste money and get lucky!
I write this blog and people sometimes think I’m stupid for writing about the Zynga game, Farmville, but players read my blogs and so far today those players make up a third of readers. Playing the game can be a game of skill too, you try getting to level 300 where I am!
A WordPress blog like this one doesn’t make money and so I am investing time in it. This is an important concept to recognise that investing time and managing time are essential to success. I can have WordPress on my own web space and it’s not expensive. Then I can have quite a powerful voice and publish whatever I want to. I can also accept advertising and sponsorship. First I have to invest time and money and build a phenomenon. I not only have to write a blog but publicise it too and use social networking effectively. I have just posted a link to a blog in Facebook and I also use other social networks like Twitter. I do need to get lucky of course but I do have some interesting connections on social networking. I added a few followers this week on Twitter who appeared to like my blog ‘exploding alarm clocks and killer cucumbers’. It appears the cucumbers weren’t Spanish after all; I knew it. It was the onions that were Spanish! The Spanish have accused the Germans of premature speculation and we still don’t know where they got infected!
Risk and Ratios
There is always a risk to what you do; but it can be quite frugal to estimate what that risk is. I’m risking a quid on a lottery ticket and if it loses; so what? If it wins on the other hand; then it’s a big deal. The odds if I remember right are about 17 million to one. I could save up my cash and buy 50 tickets once a year and maybe improve the odds to as low as 350 thousand to one. I won’t live long enough to make those odds good though and so I might as well have a little fun with it every week. That is another reason to buying a lottery ticket; you get to have a little fun. I post comments to amuse people on Facebook about it and I get to swear at the television on a Saturday night. I shout things like, “For God’s sake get on and draw the bloody thing!” and it relieves a whole week of built up tension.
Have you noticed how finance writers encourage you to save money, invest in a pension, take out a credit card, take out life insurance, take out a mortgage, etc. They are either encouraging you to borrow from the banks and pay a load of interest or lend money in the form of insurance and pensions at what is effectively a negative interest rate. Banks charge a minimum of 7.9% interest on a credit card and the same bank offers less than 2% interest on savings. Some banks offer 4% on savings (tied up for 5 years) and charge 16.9% on their credit card! They like to make a profit don’t they? It is a wise move to buy your own home because they tend to go up in value; but an alternative is to invest wisely and build up wealth that way. There has always been a certain amount of status to being a land or property owner though; but don’t allow the pursuit of status get out of hand, keeping up with the Joneses can be very expensive and not a bit frugal. The internet is great for researching investments and you may like to try Yahoo finance. Go to Yahoo.com if you’re outside of the UK.
Rights are complex and vary from country to country. In English law and the law of most countries a maxim in law is that things should be reasonable. We have employment law in the UKthat allows you to appeal to an employment tribunal if you lose your job unfairly or unreasonably. This even applies to ‘constructive dismissal’. Consumer right are also complex but protection is afforded by the Sale of Goods Act and Trades Descriptions Act; goods must be sold and traded reasonably and be fit for their purpose. We also consider that we have the legal right to live our lives in peace free from interference and to have the right to dignity. This includes the right to good health care. We do have a duty to ourselves of course and the authorities are tending to shift the responsibilities from State to individuals. They appear to think that a ‘nanny state’ breeds irresponsibility; it could be argued however that no one even if they smoke cigarettes or whatever deserves to get sick. There is a ban on advertising cigarettes now and health warnings but it hasn’t always been that way and although people aren’t even allowed to smoke in a works van now without a fine; cigarettes are still promoted. The government also gets a lot of tax from cigarettes and other things that are bad for our health. We do have to take some responsibility and it’s a good idea to think carefully about whether it is wise to smoke or drink too much; you can also think about other health hazards like driving too fast and diet.
I hope you found today’s blog inspiring, be frugal as a life style and save you cash for living! You may like to read the blog I wrote earlier this week, ‘exploding alarm clocks and killer cucumbers’ that’ quite amusing. Social networking can be beneficial to our wealth too and I also wrote about the use of clichés in social networking that is informative and amusing. There is as usual my Thrifty Thursday update too!
Frugal Friday – Update 27th May 2011
Q is for Quality, quantity and quote.
I looked at designer clothes today on a website that sells them at a discount. I find some brands are poor quality and they simply trade on a designer name and other brands have the clothes made to a higher quality to get repeat business. The same applies to the cheaper brands and so you do have to learn to judge quality. I have found clothes at bargain prices in the local supermarket and the quality has been reasonable. I do buy some clothes by Pierre Cardin and find the quality is good; but I don’t like the price!
I did get a bargain on some Pierre Cardin and so bought in quantity so I have enough to last a few years! I don’t think underwear will go out of fashion and if it’s not fashionable; who’s to know? It is almost impossible to judge quality on-line and so it’s a good idea to read reviews on products and do research. Some makes appear to be consistently bad quality or have a recurring problem. I find computers overheating a lot now with circuits more and more integrated but some brands seem more prone than others. I also find laptops are more prone than desk top computers even though I find a laptop much more convenient.
Anything you can switch like you energy supplier or car insurance you can look for better quotes. I find that if I have a better quote then I tell my current supplier and they usually match it or even do better. I’m saving a lot on energy, but I did have to swap to persuade my current supplier to find an acceptable tariff. I saved £16 a month and I’m still in credit by changing my tariffs for gas and electricity; so it was worth the hassle. I’ll do my car insurance this year; it has got too expensive. They gave me free home contents worth it and so they must be making a good profit!
It can be difficult to quit an addiction, but addictions cause more financial problems than anything else. The addiction can be cigarettes, alcohol, gambling, drugs, sex or even shopping. It seems we can become addicted to anything that we enjoy, but enjoyment does involve excitement and that provokes hormone production that can be addictive. We can beat addictions with will power but sometimes we have to find a replacement or cut down really gradually. I replaced my cigarettes by drinking water and it worked; but it was still hard to give up. I have to give up a prescription drug but will reduce that very gradually. Alcohol appears to depend upon the individual, some people can cut it down and some people just have to stop drinking. I think shopping addiction must be limited, we can’t stop shopping but we can restrict it to essentials and cut out the luxuries and maybe reward ourselves with a luxury once a year to get that high that we seem to enjoy!
A reward from the money you save can be a powerful motivator to give anything up.
A quid is of course the slang term for the currency in theUK; the pound sterling. We moan about tax rates in the UK and VAT has gone up to 20% this year. Fuel costs are at astronomical levels and it was reported that a major bank didn’t pay enough tax on profits of over a billion pounds. The reason for this was it made much of the profits overseas and the profits it made in the USA went to the government there. Why bring cash back to the UK when our taxes are so high? It will stay overseas and be re-invested overseas. This doesn’t help shareholders who own the company of course; but does help the directors who travel abroad on expenses and have free holidays to match their obscene bonuses. Do they care about customers or shareholders?
You may like to read yesterday’s Thrifty Thursday update. I posted blogs every day this week and they can all be found on the Home Page. You can subscribe or even follow me on Twitter!
Frugal Friday, 20th May 2011
P is for postage, payment, penalty, partners
Postage (size does matter)
I am always getting stung on postage; OK at least once a year! I tend to make airmail letters too heavy and you should use a low weight paper and it’s not impolite to print your letter using you computer printer to save on postage. In the UK we now have postage based on weight and size so when you buy greeting cards it is better to go for a small good quality one, rather than a large ostentatious one. It also shows you have a little taste!
The Post office in the UK is useful for lots of things but it’s particularly useful for obtaining foreign currency. The inflation linked bond was done by the Bank of Ireland but is no longer available. The on-line bond pays 4% – less than inflation and they expect you to tie up your money for 3 years! They must be joking…
I use direct debits (automatic payments) from my bank account for some bills; they are guaranteed, but it can take time to sort out if anything goes wrong. I have had payments taken from my account that have been wrong before. If I don’t trust the organisation then I use a standing order (fixed payment) or use an alternative payment method. For some payments such as haggling for a second hand car then cash is still preferable. People are still likely to conclude a deal faster at the sight of a wad of cash! The same applies to other used goods except when you’re buying them on-line at places like EBay.
I see people pass me when I’m keeping to the speed limit and see speed cameras coming up. They not only risk a penalty they’re less likely to see the camera. I’m careful too because in the UK you get points on you licence and after 12 points (I think) it’s a driving ban. I often catch the guy who just passed me at the next roundabout or traffic lights and so is it worth it? Parking tickets are harder to avoid but tend to be expensive. There isn’t much you can do but try to go shopping less often and buy everything you need when you do go.
Partners as in a spouse or a business partner are as a single person for legal purposes and so you are responsible for what your partner does financially. You are responsible for your partner’s debts and so this is a good reason to think very carefully before entering into any kind of partnership. A limited company for business purposes is s little more complicated but limits your liability quite a lot. Some people even have their spouse as a director in a limited liability company.
PayPal is useful for online payments and you can open a business account for receiving payments. This is useful if you have a website. If you are making payments through PayPal, you can use a debit or credit card and if anything goes wrong with the transaction contact Pay Pal as soon as possible.
I hate payday loans the interest rates are exorbitant. I had an email from Wonga; spam of course – their interest rate was 4214% – a complete rip off. They lend out for short periods at an obscene interest rate just like loan sharks and often the people behind it contribute to dodgy political funds. Why else aren’t these loan sharks put out of business?
In the early part of the 20th century people would pawn their Sunday best clothes on Monday and redeem them on Saturday to go to church on Sunday. These parasites appear to be making a comeback; have nothing to do with them. They will sell cheap goods that they obtain from unsuspecting mugs who pawn their goods because they are desperate, for a fraction of their true value.
I nearly forgot P for Parasites – they are everywhere it seems – it goes well with P for politics.
You may like to read yesterday’s Thrifty Thursday blog update.
Frugal Friday, 13th May 2011
O is for Open University
It’s Friday the 13th, spooky! It isn’t a problem if you are educated though, we make our own luck. You can improve your education at an Open University or a university offering online courses. Online courses are becoming more common; especially in America. In the UK we have had the OU (Open University) for some years and it uses all forms of media to do the course. You can get a taste of what it’s like by watching the TV programs. I watched a program on Saturday morning once and learned about using statistics to predict future trends; that was thrifty; free education and it made me some money! You are better off studying something that is in demand and something that you will enjoy. One of my friends did a course in English at the OU; this is a good idea for an aspiring writer. There are many other subjects to pick from and a business course can be useful.
More courses are done online now. I looked at a psychology course at the University of Derby that was all online. You just need the time to be able to do it and of course a computer; preferably with another one as back up. A laptop with a external hard drive back up and a desk top as back up for the computer is ideal.
Online, you can do lots of things. You can check out the news, weather, what’s on television. When it comes to information you are spoiled for choice. You can get information tailored to you needs. I am interested in the interest rates around the world; so I can try to predict when the Bank of England will raise rates; I have a Google alert on Interest rates so I get an email when they are mentioned on websites. I also have newsletters sent to me on finance. I just received one suggesting that commodities particularly gold and silver may bounce back and be a good investment. I tend to agree but the dreamless ones have put VAT on silver in the UK. I would like to buy physical silver; but will have to stick with adding a couple of gold coins to my coin collection.
I also blog online and have a website. If you have broadband your ISP may give you some free web space. There are a number of programs to do websites. I still use Frontpage to do mine. I’m using Microsoft Word to write this and I’ll paste it when I post. I can also do web pages with Word but the file sizes are a little big. The webspace I have from my ISP is only 15 Mb – they are mean! I manage to pack a lot in and will paste a lot of information next time I update my website. I must get some counters working again so I know how many people are actually visiting it. My life revolves around the internet now and I have an email telling me the weather forecast and then I use social networking in the form of LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. The link to this blog will be automatically posted on all three sites when I post the blog.
Open source is different to freeware that you simply download; with open source there is sometimes a small fee. Open source software includes Linux that is a variation on Unix that is used on mainframe computers. If you have webspace, you can get Linux space much cheaper than Windows webspace and then put a website on it or a blog like this one. You can have a blog online with WordPress.com for free or have WordPress on you own webspace with you own personalised address. You can go to WordPress.org to get open source WordPress for your own space. It is often installed using an installer program called Fantastico. The subject of websites and content management systems (CMS) like WordPress need a blog all of their own; but you get the general idea. You can also get forum software and much more that is open source. A good suite of open source programs is Open Office that is a substitute for Microsoft Office.
DNS is the Dynamic Name server that we all use to get websites. The server converts what you enter into you browser to an IP address and connects you. If your ISP (Internet service provider) has problems with DNS then you can’t connect. You can then click the link above and use ‘Open DNS’. I haven’t needed to use it yet, but you never know!
You can register for the Open Art Competition in the UK here
You can also watch out for open art exhibitions that will allow you to exhibit your work if you haven’t been exhibited before. Open exhibitions usually welcome contributions from everyone that can produce something of a reasonable standard. You might like to get into Neodigital Art by reading my blog about it.
Frugal Friday, 06 May 2011
Continuing my A to Z of frugality, this week its N for News
Why buy newspapers when you can get news for free? I have looked at news from a lot of websites this morning and had newsletters sent to my inbox. They come from Reuters and I have a lot of financial news letters too. You can also use Google alerts to get an email when there is news on a particular subject that interests you. You can of course simply search Google for news. I just searched using the word ‘news’ and it returned television stations like the BBC and well known newspapers. I obviously get UK news sources, but I can set it to other countries too. I also get news from Twitter and to a certain extent Facebook. I also get news using Windows Live from friends that Tweet interesting news. I also try to get news that is balanced; not just right wing politics or left wing politics; but both. I read the Wall Street Journal and the China Daily. The frugal gathering of news can save you a fortune and give you a more balanced view of what is going on in the world. The gathering of financial news and investment news can also save you money and make you money. I use Yahoo for share prices and a lot of financial news but there are a lot of other sources.
I make notes all the time using a conventional notepad, a Sony dictating machine that records to MP3; I also use the Windows program Notepad and even Microsoft Word. The use of a HTML program like Word allows me to embed hyperlinks to my source if the source is on the internet. I help students who have to quote their sources and so that gets me into good habits! It can be useful to make notes of all the frugal and thrifty ideas that you come across!
I have a friend who is relatively wealthy (a few million) and is expected to wear very expensive clothes to some functions and she buys nearly new clothes often from charity shops. This is a great way to save money and she gets dresses that cost thousands when they were new for a fraction of the price they were new. In some social circles it’s not a good thing to wear the same outfit to more than one social function; I wouldn’t know. I would buy some things nearly new too; it is easier for women though. I find I can get new clothes out of season at a good price and so it’s not worth it for me. It has been suggested that I could write for a company that does very up market clothes; I’m not exactly sure what they do, but I have taken a slight interest. I would wear some designer clothes if the quality warranted it and even looked at Rolex watches. The watches that are very bling and look cheap even though they are gold; I wouldn’t wear. I might wear a stylish one if I was wearing a formal suit and they gave me one for free… Fat chance…
Necessities and needs
Always buy what you really need and pay for the necessities first; everything else is luxury. If you can analyse all those costs and cut the cost of the basic necessities like food and fuel; you have more money to save. The luxuries are easier to cut down on but we often put luxuries into our basket or shopping trolley without even thinking about it. I do and I’m quite miserly! We have to resist temptation when shopping and so obviously don’t shop when you’re hungry. Don’t be tempted by special offers on things you don’t really need. Look beyond the things that are at eye level in big stores, the bargains are low down or up high. The famous brands are at eye level, the own brands are by your feet or up high. Own brands are usually just as good. The own brands I have bought recently included shower gel that as very cheap (10p); it works but not very well. The toilet rolls doubled as sandpaper, again I prefer something a little better quality…
Finally, I needed to clean something earlier and added a drop of washing up liquid to a spray bottle and topped it up with cheap bleach. The result is a spray that does cut through grease, kills germs and bleaches. It works very well and is very frugal.
Frugal Friday, 29th April 2011
M is for Money
M is for money of course and I am continuing with my dictionary of frugality! Money can be quite useful and some thing we all need. I have already written a bog about the nature of money on my thrifty page. There are all kinds of ideas for making money, but those easy money ideas like taking up dealing in foreign exchange (FOREX) or spread betting; are they really easy money making schemes. They are for the companies running them but not for us. If you want to make money, ask what products and services you would pay good money for and then ask what products and services you are able to provide for people. It helps when you are providing a product is you can make it yourself or at least get it at a good price. If you want to provide a service, can you do it more efficiently than someone is doing it now? If you decide to wash down people’s driveways and patios with a bucket of water and a brush; you may find the guy with the jet washer is making more money and is far more competitive. This is down to having the right equipment and professional equipment can be expensive but still be frugal because it does a better job and lasts longer. If you know your customer it helps too; you can make more money in an area of millionaire homes washing down driveways (with a jet washer) than you can doing the same thing on a council estate. I know, these things sound obvious, but can you apply the same principles to other businesses and business ideas?
M is for Markets
I live in a town where there is a street market, it was established by Royal Charter; markets were recognised hundreds of years ago as being that important as to warrant a Royal Charter. There are markets every where and it can be difficult to recognise them and often difficult to access markets. The stock market can only be accessed through stock brokers and traders and although there is no reason why it can’t stay open 24 hours per day for 7 days a week; it is open office hours only. The language of the stock market is confusing for outsiders; it has buyers that are called bulls and sellers that are called bears. This confusion and bovine excrement hold back the market and the only way ordinary people can invest is through brokers, banks, pension funds and their insurance. It is far simpler for people to simply invest in the home they live in and have a couple of bank accounts. Even education is geared away from people investing. In Victorian times a 10 year old could tell you the return on a government bond; now ask an average 16 year old in High school what a government bond is and they are likely to look at you blankly. If you can learn to understand markets of all kinds and the way they work; often governed by supply and demand with some manipulation from the power players, it will help you become more financially savvy.
At the time of writing markets are being affected by an increased demand for paper goods and also increased prices for a lot of commodities. The price of oil has gone up and so this increases fuel prices and because goods have to be transported this has a knock on effect for all goods. Paper in particular has been affected and so how this affect our weekly shopping and what can we do to be more thrifty and frugal? I saw that one manufacturer has already suffered a loss and is warning of further price increases for goods like toilet rolls and tissues. I use both and so I have been stocking up, but also thinking about the way I use these products and whether it is possible to use less? If you buy paper serviettes (paper napkins) for when you have a barbecue, why not use kitchen roll? Would cheap toilet tissue sometimes be an economical substitute for tissues? The manufacturer also warned products in plastic bottles like washing up liquid, shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and even soap would increase in price. The best return you can get in a bank on you money is 3 or 4 % a year; you could stock up on loo roll and get quite a good return in real terms now. It seems the price is likely to go up by around 10% in the coming months so this can save money.
In addition to looking at prices going up we can also look at what’s coming down and take advantage of season foods like vegetables. I also look at what is not popular in summer and consider buying a sweater for next winter and even Christmas cards and Christmas paper may be on sale somewhere! I usually get those in January though. Many companies have offers on home insulation in summer when we tend to think less about keeping warm and it’s a good time to have work done on your home.
I’m off out to buy a snow shovel. You may like to read yesterdays Thrifty Thursday blog or my blog about the secrets of success and I recently did a Neodigital Art blog. You could also try enhancing you career by using social media.
Frugal Friday, 22 April 2011
L is for Loans, losses, lenders…
I should give Lovemoney.com a mention because a few of their readers also read my blogs. Lovemoney does advice on all things financial and some of the writers are getting the idea that there is only so much you can write about the best credit cards, etc; before you become boring. They are doing some less serious articles now and even trying for humour; I’m not worried they can’t compete with me!
I lend money with Zopa and get around 6% after I allow for bad debts and so on you can read about that in a Zopa blog I wrote. Saving with a bank is similar of course except you get ripped off on the interest rate. The current thinking is that things have changed since the days of high inflation when wages chased price rises. The unions have less power now and so most people are just accepting a lower standard of living as inflation eats away at their income and savings. It is difficult to find better savings rates and I have been lucky adding a few coins to my coin collection that just happened to be gold sovereigns at a time when gold has gone up to $1,500 an ounce. I had to double check the spot price just; even I found it hard to believe when Gordon Brown sold at $250 not too long ago. There is a lesson to be learned that governments need equity to back up currency and individuals need equity to back up what they owe. In the case of the individual the equity in your home should more than cover what you owe. If the value of your home is less than what you owe you have negative equity. The same thing applies to governments. If you don’t own your own home and don’t have a mortgage the same principle applies, you should have sufficient assets to cover debts.
According to my research Britain’s gold sold for $3.5 billion – today it would sell for about 12 billion. I’m more shocked by how little gold Britain had; we have half as much now!
I don’t pay institutions interest and so avoid loans; but would borrow to buy something that would give me a guaranteed return that was higher than the interest I was paying. I would borrow to buy a car to get to work if the choice was borrow to buy the car or no income. I would borrow to insulate my home and save money on fuel bills or buy a new freezer and save money on food. Fortunately, I have been frugal long enough not to need too.
A lot of people don’t understand limited liability. If you buy shares in a company then the company is a legal entity in itself. Your liability is limited to paying for the shares or sometimes to making a payment if the company goes into liquidation (the latter applies if it’s a company limited by guarantee). There are private companies, public companies and companies that are both public and whose shares are traded on stock exchanges. If you invest in a private company then it’s a good idea to have some say in what happens to your money. In the UK, private companies often issue ‘A’ shares with voting rights and ‘B’ shares that don’t have voting rights. I don’t like ‘B’ shares but they can be a good investment and often issued when there is a good reason for the founders of the company to keep control of the company for a limited period as it is in its infancy. Companies formed to make new movies are an example and even the ‘B’ shares can be a good investment is the film is a success. They are a very bad investment if the film is a failure of course. You can buy shares on the stock exchange through a broker and some are only pennies and so if they go up a few pennies; you can make a good return. I do own some that went up a few pennies a couple of weeks ago and that was a return of 49% on the previous day. It would have been a great return; if I had actually bought them on the previous day! They did go down before they went up! You have to watch trading fees and the price you buy at are higher than the price you sell at; the margin can be 20% in some cases. Stock brokers drive fancy BMW’s and it’s investors who pay for them!
I bought a pack of plastic folder files from Poundland and I label them for accounts; one is labelled energy bills and I file bills and other documents like that. I do have files in my desk; but a cardboard box goes the job just as well.
While I’m on the subject of labels; I had problems getting the things off my new kitchen word tops and just about everything else including drawer fronts. The trick to this and the sticky they leave behind is washing up liquid and a wallpaper scraper; the washing up liquid acts as a lubricant and stops the scraper scraping the nice new surface and the label scrapes off.
If you pay capital gains tax, there are losses you can deduct. The items that are subject to capital gains tax are also items you can claim a loss on. If you have shares that you will sell at a loss; hold on to them and sell them in a year when you’re going to pay CGT. Copyright sales are subject to capital gains tax and you can offset losses on investments against that tax. The same sort of thing applies with income tax if you are self employed. You can claim a loss for some of your home heating even if it’s used in part of you home used for business. You can pay an accountant for tax advice but I have always found putting tax questions in writing to a tax inspector to be a frugal and free way to get advice. You also have it in writing! The tax man has a bad reputation but I found them extremely helpful; especially the young ladies.
Frugal Friday, 15th April 2011
It’s Frugal Friday and I continue going through the alphabet compiling an A to Z of frugality. This week it’s K for Kit and hopefully after this week it will get easier!
You can save money by making up you own kits for a variety of purposes; it’s cheaper than buying a special kit. A first aid kit for the home should be in a suitable container. I used a large food container and put in basic first aid items. You need scissors, dressings, cotton wool and everything for minor injuries. It is also useful to think about more major emergencies and have bandages and dressings. You need simple pain relievers; but the simple aspirin administered to someone having a heart attack can save a life. Band aids or sticking plasters will probably be the most used items; you also need antiseptic and you can also make your kit customised by putting in things you are likely to need. If you are prone to digestive problems put medicines in to deal with those. Medicines like antacids and codeine for diarrhoea can be very useful to have handy. You should also make sure there are things like scissors, tweezers and a torch (flashlight) for use in a general as well as medical emergency.
Doing a first aid kit for the car is more or less the same but injuries may be more serious and so you would have more dressings. A kit in case the car breaks down would include tools, tow rope, car jack and so on. I even have a gadget that can inflate tyres, has a powerful light and will boost a flat battery. I got it cheap in a sale and often have a low battery. The idea of a kit is to have everything you need in one handy container; I have a tool kit for the home and one for the car. The same thing applies to cleaning; I have a kit to clean my car and another kit to clean my shoes.
You can even make up kits for particular types of cooking like doing barbecues; you would include all the barbecue cooking tools and maybe the stuff for lighting the charcoal; all packed away in a convenient container.
Keep It Simple Stupid. This acronym relates to computing but can apply to all areas of modern living. Professionals always like to complicate things with confusing terms to keep things ‘exclusive’. Sellers and buyers on the stock exchange are bulls and bears; metaphors and acronyms abound. This culture of over-complication costs commerce and industry trillions of dollars globally. We have enough of this garbage in our professional lives and so why not keep our personal lives simple. I use a simple hard back book for home accounts and it’s not worth opening Excel on my laptop; but there are many people who like to complicate things. I don’t like keep changing credit cards, bank accounts or suppliers either. I am paying too much for car insurance and so this year; I will change insurers but first I’ll try the simple solution, I’ll ask my present insurer for a better deal. I did that with gas and electricity and it worked; I did have to change supplier for a month and then change back again and force them to do me a better deal or lose a customer but it worked. I think the insurance company will be easier to get a better deal out of later this year.
The Kindle is of course the Amazon eBook reader and there is a free program from Amazon to read those eBooks on you PC. You can also get a free eBook reader for the PC that will read PDF format eBooks an epub format; that is Adobe Digital Editions and is quite handy because it keeps you place when it’s closed. I don’t think the Kindle is worth the money yet for a monochrome eBook reader. I think colour ones will comes out with more functions in the near future. They do have displays that can be read in the garden and bright light and so there are advantages to out way the price for someone who travels a lot and reads a lot. I think they will be more popular when there are more publications to read on them and the price is more competitive. Amazon has asked for more Novellas to publish for the Kindle and I think Novellas and short stories are becoming more popular because people have less time. Novels do tend to have a lot of ‘filler’ and don’t get to the point of the story.
I have written a few other blogs this week and so do have a look around starting with the home page and of course there is the Thrifty Thursday blog!
Frugal Friday; Friday, 08 April 2011
J is for Jetsam and jewels
Jetsam is parts of a ship or more normally cargo that has been jettisoned from a ship for some reason. This jetsam can be found on beaches in the UK and some other parts of the world. It is less common now than it used to be, but beach combing is still interesting. Flotsam is the stuff floating in the sea; which you can also go after; if you don’t mind getting your feet wet.
While on the beach there are other things to look out for like shell fish, sea weed, shells and pebbles. The use for shell fish is obvious, but people actually buy unusual shells and so they are worth watching out for. The sea weed makes excellent garden compost. The pebbles can become jewels, if they are polished. To get some idea of what they will look like when polished just coat them in cooking oil. You can polish them using a tumbler, which is a machine that has a drum that goes around and around constantly. Inside the drum are your pebbles and some fine grit to do the polishing. The finished stones can be used for all kinds of decorative purposes like making jewellery.
I did jeans last week in my April fool blog, but I’ll try to add some sensible advice. The difference between expensive jeans and cheap ones is usually the cut. If you are buying inexpensive jeans and they are on a hanger; look carefully to see how they hang; if the legs are slightly twisted they haven’t been cut properly. The other problem is the size; take a tape measure with you and if the size is supposed to be 32 inches waist; make sure it is. Expensive jeans are often the wrong size and so don’t think you’ll always get quality by paying a high price.
We all want justice and getting it can be very expensive. I do have legal protection on my car insurance because I have seen the nightmare that can begin if you hit someone while driving. I have seen solicitors and barristers at work and they will drag out a case to make money. The court has a duty to help you obtain justice but courts are designed to intimidate. The small claims courts in the UK are less intimidating and so if a large company owes you money and you want to claim through a small claims court; go to the court not a solicitor for advice. They will advise and give you the right forms to fill in. Taking legal action against a large company in the small claims court can work well. The large company has to defend itself with an expensive legal team and it’s not economic to do so and so if you write to them and if you give them a way out without admitting liability or damaging their reputation; they will usually take it. The small claims courts have a limit on the amount you can claim and this varies from country to country. The court will tell you the limit. It was £5,000 in the UK and $5,000 in the USA but those limits may have changed. I give those figures as a guide because I don’t have the time to research it! If you are unfortunate enough to be charged with a criminal offence; you can opt to defend yourself and often the court will assist. The court will also help you get legal aid if you are entitled to it. It might keep you out of jail!
Getting the right job can be quite frugal. People are now looking to work at home or close to home and so even if you have a job it is worth researching local employers and opportunities. You don’t have to work for someone else; it isn’t compulsory, so consider working for yourself. You are not normally paid for the time it takes you to get to work and you also incur costs like fuel for the car that reduces your net earnings. The British government has said they want to encourage people to work close to home or work at home; I don’t expect the dreamless ones to come up with an idea that will work. We have to try to reduce the costs associated with employment and even the cost of food and drinks throughout a working day can mount up. You can of course take food and drinks to work with you and this will save money but may be seen as anti-social by colleagues; many people socialise at work during breaks. It is isolating to work at home but there are fewer distractions and you can leave the phone of the hook and just get on with it. The hours are more flexible too and if you need an hour off to do shopping; you take it and catch up on work in the evenings or weekends. You can also multi- task some things effectively. I put the laundry in the machine and while it washes; I get on and do something else. You don’t really have to stop long for lunch, just long enough to eat. The whole regime requires disciple but is very flexible.
You may like to read some of the other blogs that I have posted this week. The Thrifty Thursday blog is interesting of course. I also posted a Neodigital Art update with some tips this week. If you like astrology you may find Monday’s Close Encounters interesting and I followed that up with one about Chinese astrology with The Year of the Ox blog on Tuesday. There will be more to come over the weekend including the weekly Farmville update!
Frugal Friday, April 1st 2011
I is for Ice, invisible and indigo.
Ice is of course frozen water but it has multiple uses. You can put drinks in the fridge to cool; but why not be frugal and use ice! It’s really cool! You fill a high ball glass half full of crushed ice and pour over a soft drink like Cola and you use half as much Cola. How cool is that? The drink is so cold, they can’t taste the Cola and won’t know it’s not a famous brand but the cheap own brand crap from the supermarket! This technique works well for many drinks. If they insist on something expensive like scotch and bottled water. You use lots of ice, cheap scotch and filtered water; they will never know the difference.
Invisible ink is wonderful stuff and great for signing contracts and when it runs out; fill the bottle with water – who’s to know. I sign all my contracts with water now and tell them to warm the paper slightly to see the signature. I usually demonstrate with ‘one I made earlier’. Indelible ink isn’t quite as useful but can be handy. You have seen that clause in a credit card agreement where it says you agree to unemployment and financial disaster insurance? You don’t have to pay that extra premium just put a very thick line through the clause with your indelible ink pen and sign the contract with your invisible ink pen. Sorted…
Have you noticed that indigo jeans are really cheap in shops like my local supermarket and the more fashionable stone washed ones and sand blasted ones are very expensive? By the way, I am told the sand blasted ones irritate your skin. This is really frugal, buy the indigo jeans and a litre of thick bleach and then take them home and paint them in bleach! It works! Just get a paintbrush and paint them on both sides in thick bleach and leave until they fade. Then you simply put them in a washing machine and switch it to rinse and spin! The jeans come out faded and fashionable at a fraction of the price.
The internet is great and you can find all kinds of information and ideas. You can search for cheap indigo jeans! I looked and could only find stone washed well known names; but they have them cheap in the supermarket.
The internet will even help you boil the perfect egg. It will time it to absolute perfection; using this internet stop watch here: http://stopwatch.onlineclock.net/
You can actually time your egg down to 1/1000 of a second. In trials it seems you need to set it at 4.00.0000 minutes for a medium egg, 4.2555999 for a large egg and we are still doing trials on small eggs…
You can even use that website as an alarm clock to get you up in the morning or as a clock radio; nearly as cool as using ice cubes…
There is access to a lot of online radio stations too. Cool…
I hope you enjoyed this special April 1st blog – back next week with J for jewels, jokes, etc…
Frugal Friday, 25 March 2011
H is for housing and Holidays
I have written before about trying to keep up with the Joneses and acquiring things simply because they are status symbols. This applies to housing and holidays. It is a status symbol in the UK to ‘own’ your home; but is it always wise. Many people when they retire look for rented accommodation so they can release the equity in their homes. I think home ownership is preferable because money is devalued and so whatever assets you have need to go up in value. Government policy at the moment keeps interest rates down and so makes a mortgage relatively inexpensive. It also devalues money and housing is usually kept in short supply. The supply of housing depends on planning permission and government policy. In the USA it is largely planning and the provision of infrastructure like water and power that keeps housing in short supply and therefore expensive. People have become more antisocial and tend to live alone more (me included) and many older people have lost their spouse and so live alone. The baby boom generation is retiring and this has led to more one person occupation of housing. You can save money by renting and this is desirable, but as inflation starts taking off again and banks become more willing to offer mortgages then buying a home will once again be the more frugal thing to do.
I fancy somewhere expensive and exclusive sometimes; but why? I would probably be happier in the English countryside taking photographs. It is the ‘grass is always greener’ syndrome. San Tropez may look nice on television with all those topless babes on the beach; but in real life it is for the rich, beautiful and brainless. The more frugal go somewhere much more interesting. The same applies to almost all popular destinations that your travel agent will recommend; he recommends the places he gets a commission on. You can go frugal by buying your own food and going self catering and this doesn’t mean cooking a lot. I eat salad when it’s hot and cooking a lot of food is easy now with modern cookers and microwaves. I can put chips in the oven and add those to a salad with minimal effort and it is much cheaper than eating out. There are a range of choices for accommodation that is frugal from camping to small hotels. I have memories of camping being uncomfortable and difficult but modern camping equipment makes it much easier. It does take some planning, especially if you want services like electricity.
I like the idea of having lots of days out when you have time off, visiting those hidden places of interest. I go searching for hidden places to take photographs and visit museums, libraries and art galleries. I like the Neodigital Art that I do and take photographs for that and find inspiration in art galleries. If you use your vacation time doing something frugal and thrifty then you can save up for a ‘dream’ holiday. The definition of a ‘dream’ holiday varies from person to person. I think mine would be meeting interesting people, getting inspiration for my writing and taking photographs; I won’t find that on a beach.
Haricot beans are of course the beans they use to make baked beans. I saw a huge container of baked beans that you are meant to keep in the fridge when I was ‘virtual’ shopping at the supermarket online; it did say eat within days of opening though. I am not sure if I could eat a kilogram of baked beans in a few days! It is important to understand that pulses like beans are high in protein and can be a very frugal food source. You can add pulses to soups and stews and cut down on meat (and cholesterol) to save money. This was done as a matter of course many years ago as well as eating cheaper cuts of meat, game and poultry. It proves again that a little knowledge can save you a lot of money! Beans on toast isn’t a bad meal, in the nutritional sense and provides protein and fibre.
Money doesn’t buy happiness but lack of money does cause a lot of unhappiness. Debts have caused anxiety, depression and even suicide and so being thrifty and frugal is almost essential for emotional and psychological health. Being frugal is about saving money but can be about making money. I have been ill and so I can’t do my garden so I paid someone else who did it in a fraction of the time. That was a good choice and being frugal in other things meant I can afford it and also have fresh veggies and salad in summer. They will help me maintain my health too and so being frugal can lead to greater contentment if not happiness. There is also an opportunity if you like gardening to make a little extra money. If you’re spending 80% of your income on necessities and the rest on luxuries; you don’t have to increase your income by much to afford more luxuries or be frugal and waste less. I’ve saved myself hard work today and given someone the opportunity to make a little extra money and that works for both of us.
You may like my social media blog; social networking appears to be all pervasive now and I use it all the time. It can help you become more frugal too; maybe I should start a frugal and thrifty fan page on Facebook? If you take control of your finances; you take control of your destiny…
Friday, 18 March 2011
G for Gold, Gardening, Green and Garages
Investing in gold can be difficult, especially if you are short of money. In the UK gold sovereigns are probably the best. If you live in another country you perhaps know the most popular gold coin that you can easily buy and sell. I can take gold sovereigns to a shop a half mile away and get a reasonable price. I have collectable ones and so would sell to a specialist dealer; but in an emergency I can sell them quickly and easily and they have doubled in value since I bought them. I wouldn’t invest all my money in gold but it’s certainly been a good investment during the recession. It is also useful to carry gold sovereigns when you travel; like the SAS (an elite army unit) do, because gold is like an international currency.
It is March now and time to start planning if you have a garden and if not, why not think about a window box with herbs in or even salad like lettuces. I will begin next week with mowing the lawn and weeding and hopefully dig a trench for runner beans. We do have wheelie bins to dispose of garden refuse where I live and maybe disposing of some weeds is a good idea, but most garden refuse like kitchen waste can be composted. Why send good compostable material to a tip? I’ll write more about gardening in my Thrifty Thursday blogs and the season gets underway. It is a good idea to plan now to grow herbs and vegetables in any garden space you have that is suitable.
I run Google Chrome on my computer because it’s fast and has a spell checker for when I post blogs or make comments on websites. I also have a Google mail email address and log into various Google sites with my Gmail address and password. I particularly like Street view and Google maps. I plan my photography outings using the maps and sometimes Street view. You can also look at Adsense if you have a website or independent blog to make a little money. This blog has Adsense on but that revenue goes to WordPress. I would get the money if I had WordPress on my own web-space. If you are new to blogging or want to try it then WordPress is the best; but try it on WordPress.com first and then when you are familiar with it; you can do it on your own webspace.
Green is of course the common term for all things environmentally friendly. If you are frugal and try not to damage the environment and save energy, drive frugally and recycle then you save money too; it is very frugal to be green.
There are all kinds of grants available for home improvements in the European community and in most countries educational grants are available. I checked out grants for Chinese students and I found a lot just by searching using Google. There are also enterprise grants that you may take advantage of if you are trying to start your own business.
I like to gamble but it is the first thing to give up when money is tight and it should be controlled. I buy the off lottery ticket and maybe bet on horses or soccer. I often take bets as well as bet on horses and use the betting exchanges. They take a commission out of winnings; but they are much better than the bookmakers. I often place a bet on a horse and ‘lay’ the bet after the race has started. Laying a bet is taking a bet from someone else. You can read the page on here that says ‘About me’ goes to my website and there is a link to Betfair if you’re in the UK and a code to get twenty five pounds added to your account when you deposit twenty five pounds; that is a useful introduction. It is reasonable entertainment if you bet online and want to watch the big meetings on television; the betting makes it that much more exciting. You just need to keep it under control and never bet more than you can easily afford. You should remember that even live sport on TV has a slight delay but the prices on your computer screen are more accurate. You will do even better if you take bets by laying them than betting on horses or soccer. I took a few bets that people had placed on soccer teams getting a ‘clean sheet’ during the World Cup and as soon as England scored; I won my bet. It didn’t come off every time but I did well on that and I know little about soccer.
I use a small garage near my home and they give me personal service on the safety test and services on my car. They don’t do work that doesn’t need doing. I don’t do unnecessary journeys and keep my mileage down. The oil and filter doesn’t need changing every year and so they do different things each year and it’s very economical. I did have an engine service this year and will have a new cam belt fitted because it’s old and may break. My loyalty to the same garage is rewarded and they know my car and know me. The owner usually deals with me personally and he collects the car and does what needs doing and returns it the same day and I think that is excellent service. The cost increases as the car gets older; but hasn’t gone over £150 a year yet. It will be higher this year with the cam belt but even if it goes to £350 which seems likely; that is cheaper than changing the car and losing on depreciation. My car is so old now; it doesn’t depreciate and is still in good condition. It’s not the most economical on fuel because I needed a bigger car but with careful driving and planning my journeys it does very well. I wrote a blog in January that was vaguely about premonitions, I was still relatively new to WordPress and posted the wrong photograph but there is a photograph of my car there; it’s not the latest registration but it’s in good condition and never breaks down.
I hope you have found today’s blog useful. You may like to check out yesterday’s Thrifty Thursday blog. Creating a phenomenon (I got the title wrong) was also interesting as was my update on Neodigital Art.
Frugal Friday, Friday, 11 March 2011
F is for Fashion
When I was in college I always admired the students from the nearby art and design college; they weren’t dedicated followers of fashion they improvised their clothes. They were the trend setters. Being a trend setter and looking at street fashion that invariably ends up on the catwalk can be very frugal. If you look carefully at many designer clothes they are made in sweat shops in the Far East and if you look beyond the designer label; it will say ‘made in’ followed by the name of some low wage country. It is a good idea to remember that ‘fan’ is an abbreviation of fanatic and being a fanatic about anything can be expensive if not hazardous to your health.
Fast food can also be a trendy fashion and an expensive one. I bought a fizzy drink in the hospital shop; it was twice the price of the supermarket and three times the price of buying it in a multi-pack in the supermarket. I usually take drinks with me and if it’s going to be any length of time; food too. In the UK, you can ripped off at hospitals, motorway service stations and anywhere there is no competition. I remember a hot day in London and my friends wanted ice cream; I decided on a cold beer from the supermarket up the road. My friends joined me, it was cheaper. You can learn from the fast food manufacturers though; they load their food with fibre, salt, sugar and fat. Give your children brightly coloured vegetables with their chicken and ask “would you like fries with that.” You can even serve the food in those cardboard boxes the fast food places use; to add to their experience.
Freeware is free software for your computer. Microsoft does quite a lot of free software from programming environments to photo manipulation programs. The Windows Live suite of software gives you an email client, instant messaging, photo software, blogging software and you can add Microsoft security essentials to take care of malware like viruses. The picture above was taken with my digital camera and changed using Fotosketcher; a freeware program that you can find by simply searching for it. Then you can join my Neodigital Art movement and become a very frugal artist! Check out CNET for lots more freeware.
You can restore your furniture and white goods easily. I restored my freezer with Plasti-kote and varnished furniture can be restored by scraping off the old varnish, sanding it and re-varnishing it and it comes up like new. Paint the inside of wooden cupboards with a dark emulsion to restore them.
You can promote just about anything and indulge your interests with social media. My friend promotes his novel, my great niece has a fan page for music and I belong to a group for students who are learning the power of social media. They learn how to do their profile pages not just on Facebook but professional ones on LinkedIn and also how to blog. The Queen of England and the President of the United States is on Facebook and the president also has a profile on LinkedIn; they recognise the value of social media. You can communicate on Facebook, share photographs and video and even embed your Facebook video on a website or blog. You can of course play Farmville for free on Facebook too!
Fame and Fortune
The pop artist Andy Warhol said that one day we would all get our 15 minutes of fame and social media is making that possible. It’s just as well, the head of comedy at the BBC only reads scripts from the famous like Katie Price; my stuff has no chance unless I blog my way to success, I’ll be too famous for the BBC then. I don’t really want fame but the fortune would be nice; I’m working on it, I bought a lottery ticket. I help a few students and I would like to help them as they struggle with finance and student loans; but being thrifty and frugal I want for nothing and value good health more than money. I do get more people reading my blog all the time, page views double every month and more and more people follow me on Twitter. I also get invitations to join ‘expert’ groups and even had an invitation for drinks and canapés at a posh London do! I think buying a lottery ticket is a waste of money but we have to gamble a little and I can afford it. A lottery ticket also has a low carbon footprint and more socially acceptable than buying manufactured goods that have taken precious natural resources to make. I heard about the tsunami hitting Japan earlier and it does make me wonder about what the future holds for young people as we continue to abuse the environment.
You may like to read the Thrifty Thursday blog I posted yesterday; we can help save the planet by being thrifty and frugal. My ‘Daylight Robbery’ blog has been very popular too if you haven’t read it. The ‘Emperor’s New clothes and ‘Great Expectations‘ was popular last week too.
You can follow me on Twitter if you have nothing better to do and want links to my latest blogs.
Frugal Friday, Friday, 04 March 2011
E is for Education, Earnings and Enterprise
I think education is very important and a great investment. It should also continue throughout life and include acquiring skills and experience. I did a few subjects, science, telecommunications, psychology and still draw on my lessons I learned at school particularly English! This can obviously make your earnings potential that much greater.
Enterprise and earnings
Most people earn a living working for someone else or a corporate body, but I think one day employment will be seen as a sort of slavery and everyone will be self employed and negotiate contracts to do work for a specific time. Self employment isn’t for everyone now, but it is worth everyone considering. Starting a small enterprise even on a part time basis can bring valuable experience. The students I mentor study business but how much better it actually run a business if only for a few hours week. One recently did start and is earning eight times what she was offered to do a part time job; it’s worth thinking about. You can consider a lot of options for making extra money. I have known people wash drives with a jet washer, sell their produce from the garden, do car boot sales, clean houses, do ironing, babysitting; consider what is in demand in your neighbourhood and ask your friends. The more skilled the work is or if specialist equipment is used; the more you can charge for your services
I recycle nearly all my waste, but much of the organic waste; I compost. Why send potentially good compost to the tip; unless you don’t have a garden of course. I am collecting food trays like the plastic trays I get chicken in to use as seed trays; why buy seed trays or pots?
Ecards and Emails
I’m not too keen on Ecards mainly because you have to click a link in an email and don’t know if that leads to a virus carrying site. I took a photograph for New Year and put Happy New Year on it. I put that in an email and sent it to friends and also uploaded it as a greeting to friends on Facebook; it was frugal and appreciated.
I do Ebanking with two banks, Barclays and the Halifax and the former is secure with pin sentry and the latter has a complex log in that I have to have written down and so isn’t secure. I don’t have to log in very often fortunately. I am getting into peer to peer lending more and more. In future I’ll just use banking for my current (checking) account and get decent interest rates on deposits using social, peer to peer lending. I think rates below inflation are a rip off; I have no intention of subsidising the useless government, bankers or people who live in debt.
We expect government to be efficient and all kinds of other organisations and so why not our own lives and finances? We can try to cut down on waste. It is not frugal to waste time even; driving from one place to another to save a small amount wastes time and fuel. You may be better utilising your time making money rather than saving it. The latter; saving it, is usually the best option, but not always. You can sometimes make a nice extra income doing a car boot sale every Saturday morning rather than trudging slowly around the supermarkets. I know people who make £100 on a Saturday selling junk; I mean bric-a-brac. You can also sell some unwanted items and craft items on EBay.
Tradesmen sometimes have to give an estimate but ask for a quote then you know what you have to pay when the job is finished. The estimate if you need to have one should be reasonably accurate and the final bill should be within 10 – 20 % of the estimate. If they try to charge you double the estimate; take legal advice.
Ebooks and Ereaders
I like the new E-Readers like the Amazon Kindle but they all seem too expensive and they are still monochrome. The new tablet computers are colour but a new innovation and will get cheaper and better. If you do buy an E-Reader then make sure they read all the popular formats; epub and pdf in particular. You can get a lot of books and papers free in PDF format. If you really like reading fiction then authors will welcome you reading the draft versions of their novels; check out writer’s groups at the library or on Facebook. I find some manuscripts aren’t perfect because they haven’t been though the editorial process that corrects them; but many writers have Ebooks they will let you have in return for a short review. Writers’ find it difficult to find their own errors and it may be something as simple as a missing comma; they welcome someone who can read and proof read the manuscript for them.
Equity is the monetary value of your business, house or all you personal assets. Millionaires don’t actually have a million pounds or dollars; they have assets worth that much. It can be interesting to value everything you own and see what you are worth and check occasionally if your worth is going up or down. You should allow for inflation devaluing money (currently 4% in the UK) and you will normally see assets like property going up but in a recession or a period of high inflation and low interest rates we lose asset values. You will find that you are being cheated because your money goes down in value faster than your assets go up in value; if they are going up at all. I have found commodities like gold have risen but with money being devalued by 4% inflation and possibly more because food and fuel prices are going up by more than the inflation rate, most banks accounts pay interest rates that don’t even give a return but a loss in real terms.
If you control you finances; you control your future and hence your destiny.
Next week, F for fortune, frugal, free, festive, famous, fun, Facebook, etc…
You may like to read Yesterday’s Thrifty Thursday blog it was very popular!
You can find Zopa (peer to peer lending) here: http://uk.zopa.com/member/Mike10613
You may like to read my blog on Zopa.
Frugal Friday 25th February 2011
D is for Debt
Being in debt worries people and makes us insecure and so for your own emotional health try to pay off debts. If you can transfer debt attracting a high interest rate like store cards and credit cards to a lower rate like a loan then do it. It can be very satisfying watching those debts come down as you become more frugal and slowly pay them off. It is even better when all the debts have gone and you can see the savings mounting up.
In the UK direct debit are automatic payments from your bank account and guaranteed in case anything goes wrong. We really do trust banks don’t we? Not! I use direct debits now for some payments mainly because it works out cheaper, but for some I don’t use them; it depends on how much I trust the organisation I’m paying. I use standing orders for a fixed amount if I don’t trust them.
Digital photo frames
I got my digital photo frame half price in a sale and it was a good deal. I can do a slide show and people can view my photographs without me printing them out using very expensive printer ink. I think my printer ink costs around £2,000 a litre; it’s not cheap. My frame also plays MP3’s and I can plug in a SD card or a flash drive. I think it even plays video although I don’t use it for that. It would be handy for video if I was in hospital and didn’t have my laptop.
Dining and Dinner parties
One of my friends has a lot of dinner parties and is a great cook. This saves money if your friends tend to invite you in return; it is much cheaper than eating out. I tend to do buffet or barbecues for guests which is easier.
Whether the diet is for medical reasons or weight loss it can be expensive, especially if you buy special foods. If you are slimming, you need less food and so it should be cheaper; you can just add more fibre to your diet to fill you up and count calories – it works and it is frugal.
There is a lot of talk about companies now paying good company dividends, but in the UK they are taxed at source. Company shares (stock) that goes up in value and makes capital gains, this gives a better return if you haven’t used all of your capital gains tax allowance.
It is a good idea to keep a financial or frugal diary and record where all the money goes to. It is particularly useful to record why you bought some luxury and when. The use of a diary to record birthday presents and all the cash you spend at Christmas is particularly useful. This is a variation on keeping accounts but a lot more information. You might record something that wasn’t the bargain you thought it was and learn from the mistake. You may benefit from realising that some things in the shops are on special offer for a limited time. I bought things today on special offer and bought enough to last a while because I have seen prices go up 50% when they aren’t on special. I can buy another product on special next week.
Do It Yourself can save a fortune if you are good at it. It could be fixing a small dent on the car with filler, doing a little decorating, gardening and growing you own, the list is endless. You can learn new skills at community colleges like hair styling or how to do basic jobs on your car and you get a sense of achievement from doing it. You may need a skilled tradesman to do electrical work; but changing a fuse is quite easy. Acquiring knowledge or skills is always a good investment and you can trade them for the skills of friends and relatives.
Draughts and dust
Fit draught excluders to outside doors and it will prevent draughts and prevent dust coming in. I have them on inside doors too so I can shut a door and keep the spare room cold to save on heating costs. You can open upstairs windows in summer and heat rises so there will be a flow of air through the house which will be cooling. Don’t open the downstairs window; you just get more dust come in. You may find it easier to open a kitchen door or window, dust still comes in but the kitchen floor is easier to clean than the entire house.
I have covered driving in a previous blog, but it is always worth thinking about because it is so expensive. I drive frugally to save on wear and tear and fuel. I keep the rev counter on my car below 1,500 revs whenever possible. I don’t make unnecessary journeys very often; except maybe to take photographs occasionally. The last time I went out to take photographs, I combined the trip with other places I needed to go. We went to the ATM and supermarket on the way to where we wanted to take photographs and so it was quite frugal. If you make a list of all the expenses of running a car including depreciation, it is surprising how much it comes to. Many people see the car as a status symbol and then it is very expensive. I can’t even imagine wanting an expensive personalised license plate.
Since writing this I did go out taking photographs and shopping, we did short journeys from one place to another and it was frugal on fuel. We went to an art gallery which was free, Poundland for bargains and a Victorian park high on a hill to take photographs; the park is free too! I still spend six pounds, five pounds in Poundland for a torch that recharges itself (LED), anti-bacterial hand-wash, a vapour rub for congestion, seed to grow mint, basil, parsley, thyme, chives and dill this summer in a herb garden and last but not least aluminium foil trays to make cottage pies in. The cottage pies can be frozen and are easy to make; they are an easy meal when I don’t feel like cooking. I’ll do a cottage pie recipe soon under cooking; my last attempt didn’t photograph well because I didn’t have aluminium foil trays!
There is a link to my website; do take a look around and of course you can follow me on Twitter and comments are always welcome. Next week, E for Environment, Earnings, etc…
18th February 2011
Frugal Friday, 18th of February 2011
C is for Cash
There are lots of ways to save cash and sometimes it pays to use cash. If you are buying a cheap used car, the price will often come down if the seller sees a bundle of cash and the same thing applies to many other things. I would never buy a new car; the previous owner has tested them for me! The depreciation on a new car is far too high too. I’ll spend money on mine in a month or two having a new cam belt fitted; it’s a very expensive job if it breaks and it’s over 13 years old now – so it’s frugal to be cautious.
Cooking – You can save a lot of money by learning to cook. It’s not difficult! I had chicken, chips and a mixture of vegetables for dinner. It couldn’t be more frugal and easy to cook. I used oven chips and cheap frozen chicken. The frozen vegetables were cheap too, often cheaper than fresh because they are never ‘out of season’. I was tempted by a kilo of fresh carrots for £1 to make carrot soup; but went for the kilo of frozen carrots and swede, they will keep much better and I can make the soup, whenever.
Cars - You can save money just by looking after your car and keeping it clean and rust free. Mine is now 13 years old and still going well; it will last for years and isn’t a status symbol. You can also save by checking tyre pressures yourself and doing simple jobs like changing the oil and other fluids. In the UK you can get cheap car tax if you drive a small fuel efficient car too and so that is worth considering. I drive a larger car because I do low mileage and I got a luxury car for a very good price and I may spend more per mile on fuel but save on depreciation. I use a high gear a lot and drive frugally, never accelerating hard unless I have to and I avoid braking hard too.
Credit cards – I have a credit card and I pay it off every month and only use it for purchases over £100 for legal protection (in the UK); otherwise I use a debit card or cash. Forget swapping cards you may get an interest free period but the transfer fee is likely to be 2.9% and that is expensive. The only time to buy on credit is for an investment. If I needed a new freezer which saves me lots of money; I would consider buying on credit if I couldn’t afford to pay cash.
Coupons – I like coupons, I saved about £5 on stain remover with one not long ago; but don’t buy magazines just for the coupon.
Cycling – Cycling is not only cheap transport but great exercise.
Cleaning – I don’t bother with lots of cleaning products, washing up liquid, biological washing powder and bleach do most things. I cleaned my kitchen floor the other day with cheap washing up liquid; but then went over it again and added a little wash and wax that I do my car with; it’s a good trick, it stays clean for ages! The wash and wash is great for a lot of things and of course the car. I do wax the car and buff it with an electric polisher once a year and then use wash and wax the rest of the time.
Curtains – If you close your curtains at night it will keep the heat in and if you close them in the day they will reflect the sun and keep your rooms cool in summer.
Computers - I can write a complete blog on running a computer frugally. I search for freeware using a search engine like Google and find lots of Freeware and I use it. I use Fotosketcher and Smoothdraw 3 for manipulating photographs and the Windows Live suite of programs is free; I use Windows Live instant messenger to chat to my student friends in China and they send me their assignments in a second. We also share photographs and files easily. Windows Skydrive is a free 25 Gb of web space for sharing too. Microsoft Security Essentials is free and they even do a programming environment now for Visual basic. I also use Avast! Antivirus and that works well with the Microsoft antivirus and windows defender. I also use Ccleaner and look for freeware programs on CNET.
Collecting – Collecting can be expensive or it can be frugal. It’s frugal if you get things for free like beer mats. I collect postcards, coins and stamps and a object d’art. My postcard collection was started by my grandfather and nearly 100 years old and so the images are sought after. I scanned some and shared them with friends on Facebook. I could make money from the collection by scanning all of them and selling copies of the images on the internet. I have chosen carefully the type of cards I collect and although I will collect any card if it’s free. I try to buy mint condition cards with a graphic design that becomes more valuable with age. I particularly like art nouveau cards. I occasionally allow people to look at the ones in albums and elderly people appreciate them in particular because they are more nostalgic and remember many of the long forgotten images. The value of stamps in nostalgia is harder to understand but the values have soared in recent years. It may be that the stamp I valuable because it is one that commemorated a royal occasion or the 1966 World Cup; someone treasures the memory and wants the stamp! The same thing applies to coins and of course gold sovereigns have increased in value in the past few years just because the gold price has soared. Gold sovereigns are carried by the SAS (an elite army unit) in case of emergency because they are like an international currency. I think a few from a coin collection could be useful to carry when you are on holiday overseas; gold is like an international currency.
Clothes – I have been known to buy from charity shops but find clothes so inexpensive now it is hardly worth it. If you want designer labels, you pay for the label. I do buy some designer underwear, but in bulk and not for the name; just because I like them. My jeans were half price and when they cut the price again; I bought four pairs. I saw shoes today that are four times the price in a well known catalogue for the same shoes. I am a little fussy about shoes, I like soft leather and pay a little more for that and look for quality. I don’t equate quality with price. You can pay over £100 in the UK for poor quality and get good quality for £25; you simply have to know the difference. There may be a famous name on the label and made in Korea on another label; most well known labels tend to be imported and not particularly good quality.
CD’s – The CD format gives good quality music when compared to a MP3 but I find I only like one or two tracks on a CD and it can be frugal to borrow a CD and rip the two tracks to MP3. I do listen to MP3’s a lot but unfortunately none of my friends have the same taste in music as me! I do get bargains sometimes because I like classical music. The CD’s are often on special offer or even free and charity shops get classical music CD’s too. If you don’t like classical music it is probably because you don’t understand it. It is like popular music, everyone has their favourite popular music and it’s the same with classical. We tend to listen to classical music a lot as part of advertisements but we don’t notice.
Next week: D for Digital and other things; I save a fortune by using digital devices frugally.
Frugal Friday, 11th February 2011
Frugal Friday, 11 February 2011
B is for Banking
I have begun with a photograph of my breakfast because I worked out that cornflakes with soya milk were quite expensive. The breakfast cost as much as dinner of chicken, chips and green beans. I am allergic to milk and a celiac and it would have been cheaper otherwise. It would have been even more expensive if I hadn’t used ‘own brand’ cornflakes which taste the same. I think I can make breakfast more frugal; but my health is more important than money.
I read a lot of advice about banking and changing accounts, but there always appears to be a catch. I like security and my bank is the most secure and they phone me occasionally and ask if they can help. The service has actually improved over the years and the ATM is a much more secure and user friendly design. I prefer service to a few extra quid interest on my current (checking) account. I do bank with another bank that is a pain, the log in is complex for online banking and so I have to keep it all written down, that isn’t very secure. I have an instant access account with them and a bond. The instant access account was a condition of the bond and it took an hour just to prove my identity in the branch. The branch has now closed down and if the service doesn’t improve I may just dump the Halifax as one of my banks this year. I also prefer banks to pay me interest and not me pay them! I always pay off my credit card before it incurs interest and make money on my savings bond.
I have kept simple accounts for years. I am very frugal and now mainly spend cash for food. The more expensive items I pay with a debit card and bills are mainly paid with direct debits and so I keep a record of all the money going in and out of my bank account. I can check it online whenever I want to. I spend more or less the same on food and household items every week and so I gave up keeping a record; but it is worth doing, you can see food prices rise! The object of the exercise is to see more money coming in than going out!
In the UK there are lots of welfare benefits and obviously whichever country you live in you should claim what is rightfully yours. The old chestnut about the tax payer paying for those benefits is rubbish. All countries have national assets and the licensing of North Sea oil, cell phones, television and radio stations, water and many other national assets in the UK provide enough money for all welfare benefits. Welfare benefits shouldn’t be confused in the UK with National Insurance benefits. When you insurance against something happening like sickness or unemployment, you naturally claim if the dreaded event ever happens and you shouldn’t allow people to make you feel guilty for exercising that right.
The frugal amongst us constantly looks for bargains. I saw a pressure washer half price on the internet at Halfords last summer. The store is about 3 miles away and so a 6 mile round trip. I had to go that way on Saturday morning anyway to hospital. I combined the two trips. I also bought a winter sweater that morning, it was already discounted being summer but they cut the price another 33% for me. I also went in a shop that morning where everything is sold for just £1.00 I am careful in there because not everything is a bargain but sometimes it doesn’t have to be a bargain. I prefer to buy something in a shop rather than go elsewhere for one item, especially if driving to get that one item means using expensive petrol. Markets can be a great place to pick up bargains, although parking is now a nightmare near my local market. The same is true of charity shops in the UK and the ones in ‘up market’ areas have good quality goods at reasonable prices. I’m not a great fan of EBay, but there can be bargains. I saw a new Android cell phone last night and was tempted to buy that because I can access the internet when I’m out. It would be a luxury and a luxury I can live without. I’m virtually joined at the hip to my laptop anyway, so I would only use it occasionally at a meeting and so it’s hardly worth it.
Buy in Bulk
Food bargains are good and I always buy in bulk if I can. I can get meat wholesale, but the wholesaler is a distance away and so the petrol costs have to be considered. I only buy there if I am going that way anyway. The supermarket I normally use is Asda, a part of Wal-Mart and they do buy 2 or 3 and the price is discounted. I can find non-food bargains there too, but often search their website and buy a lot at the same time to save on delivery costs.
Anything that you can store you can buy in bulk; even root vegetables from a farm. I used to buy potatoes 25 Kg at a time, now I live alone and eat rice sometimes, it isn’t worth it. Bulk buying for a family will save a fortune. If you have somewhere cool you can store things like root vegetables and some fruits. You may be able to bulk buy for your freezer too; I buy lots of chicken and fill my freezer. You can sometimes bulk buy canned food that will last for years. I picked up salmon in cans about half price and only had to buy three cans; although I should have perhaps bought more.
I have some clothes still in wrappers because I bought in bulk, it saves time, petrol and I usually get a discount too. I bought four pairs of jeans because they were reduced to half price last year; that is a good saving and will last me a while. I’m not tempted by designer labels; why pay extra for a label? I do buy certain brands because they are better quality though.
Bills – Never put off paying bills or leave them to the last minute; just pay them.
If you set budgets and stick to them, you can get or keep your spending under control. Have a separate budget for food, energy, telecoms, the car and luxuries. I have saved on the energy this year by renegotiating with the supplier; everything else went up. I will re-negotiate or change my car insurer in 2011. I am so frugal I can afford more luxuries, but want for nothing really. This year I may spend some money on my garden, but although that may be expensive it will be an investment because it will provide vegetables and herbs.
Riding a pedal bike is not only frugal but the exercise is good for you. It depends where you live however and your age and health. You can always consider a motor cycle too; especially in a two car family. Running just one car and a motor cycle would save a lot of money. I have ridden a motor cycle for years and it is more dangerous than ever, particularly with speed ramps everywhere. It is also cold in winter, I wore thermal gauntlets and my hands still froze. It is worth considering though and they can be a pleasure to ride in summer.
I like to gamble and can afford to gamble, but this is one thing you give up before all others if money is tight. I buy one lottery ticket for each draw, two each week; to buy more is silly. I never use bookies; if I place a bet it’s through a betting exchange and I’m not greedy. I look at betting as a sort of high risk investment. I am writing this in advance and the Bank of England hasn’t decided yet on interest rates for February. If they stay at 0.5% I have a winning bet giving me a return of 16% in 2 days. That is a good return but it is risky. I think the bank will raise rates but maybe starting next month by 1/4%. I also lay a bet, which means taking bets from other people. I sometimes place a bet at say 10 to 1 before the race and then lay the same bet at 5 to 1 during the race. I make money if the horse wins and lose nothing if the horse loses. I do lose if I fail to get the lay though. On the whole stay away from gambling and the get rich quick schemes involving spread betting are very risky and you really have to know what you are doing.
In business you really have to be frugal. The problem with politicians and bureaucrats is they don’t risk their own money and so can be frivolous with money. In business you look at all expenditure and income and try to minimise the former and maximise the latter. I see people in business that ‘need’ expensive clothes and all the accessories, car and most expensive cell phone and a small mansion to match; but it can all go horribly wrong. You can give the illusion of success on a budget. I considered an Android phone earlier from EBay and decided I didn’t need it. I still have a cell phone that works and I spent extra for a top of the range laptop because I’m a writer; the same principle was applied when I decided on a camera. I chose one that would do the job and do it economically. I would get better photographs with a DSLR than a bridge camera; but at a higher cost and I would need a lot of lenses to do what I do. I take photographs of buildings, landscapes and I do food photography. My camera is very versatile and didn’t cost a fortune. It will pay for itself with a little luck; my photography has improved dramatically since I have had it.
I have a big family and lots of friends and so just keeping up with birthdays is hard. I have two birthday cards from a shop that just sells cards, one for my sister who has a big zero on her birthday this year and one for a friend who is the same age! I will buy a present for my sister, but no one else. I am more generous at Christmas! You can buy presents or make them very cheaply and this applies to birthdays and Christmas. I take photographs and so a good photograph printed using my printer and a nice frame from the Pound shop would make a good present and appear to be far more expensive than it really is.
Bulls, bears, bonds and bubbles
The finance world is full of silly terms for things. Bulls are people who are buying shares; bears are people who are selling. There are many different types of bond. I have a saving bond with a bank; it’s very safe but not a great return. The government bonds, sometimes called gilts, have a poor return on the whole too. If you look at the investor section of company websites, most issue corporate bonds and these offer a better return but with more risk. The risk in most cases is low and you get a good return. I will consider those this year. If you become really frugal and have no debts and no real temptation to spend money; then you can look at a variety of investments and it’s worth learning all the silly terms and trying to understand the nature of money. If shares are going up in price fast and you can afford to invest, you could make a lot of money; but if it’s a bubble and there is no real reason for the rise; they can crash back down and you lose money. It is always a good idea to be diverse when investing, but that is easy to do if you are wealthy; much more difficult for the average person to do. The stock exchange and the financial system does belong to the wealthy and even the comfortable middle classes are finding their money is becoming worthless with inflation. If the interest rate you are paid by your bank is less than inflation then that is a negative return. Most savings accounts in the UK now pay a negative return and some are scandalously low at 0.1%. The banks who offer a bonus for the first year are also ripping off new customers. They make too much money from credit to be interested in becoming competitive and attracting depositors.
If you have a frugal tip or idea, please comment. Next week C is for Cooking, amongst other things…
A is for:
These cost money and I’m not talking just about drugs; but tobacco and alcohol. I just drank water every time I wanted a cigarette when I was giving up smoking and promised myself rewards with the cash I has saved. Alcohol addiction can be more difficult and I have known people have seizures when they stop drinking and so it’s a good idea to see a doctor and get professional advice. I have been addicted to prescription drugs and withdrawal is a nightmare. A professor who is an expert suggests cutting your dose by 10% at most every two weeks. So if you are addicted for example to 15 mg a day of a benzodiazepine; cut it by 1 mg to 14 mg and then another 1 mg two weeks later and so on. When you get below 10 mg you may need to break the pills in half; and below 5mg things get tougher and the professor suggested even filing the pill down to the dose you want can be a way to cut the dose. On 2 mg many doctors suggest you cut that altogether and others suggest a ¼ at a time. You may be able to cut by ¼ but if you have problems; like insomnia, then file the things.
I think anyone with a computer and a camera can be an artist. I take photographs of a variety of things and usually from unusual angles and then upload them to my computer and change colours and sometimes use graphics programs to change them. The photo editing program that comes with Office allows you to change colours, contrast and brightness and that is often all you need to do. I also use Fotosketcher (find it by using Google) its freeware program that turns photographs into sketches or paintings. Try printing them on plain paper, they often look like water colours; but I usually just upload them to deviant art, Facebook or Windows sky drive and share with friends.
Vitamin A is a frugal way to keep healthy because it boosts the immune system and helps to prevent cancer. Most of the foods like carrots that contain it as beta carotene are cheap; they do a big bag of carrot cheap in my local supermarket but it’s too big for one person. I shall have to make carrot soup and freeze it!
However, vitamin A (retinol) is toxic and is even used in chemotherapy as a cancer treatment. There are creams such as Retin-A that are effective against acne and can be used when other treatments fail. These creams can also be used for fine wrinkles. Vitamin A can be found as beta carotene; a double molecule, which isn’t toxic and is a very good anti oxidant that will help to prevent cancer. If you eat a lot of foods containing beta carotene it is good for the skin and mops up free radicals giving some protection against cancer.
Food sources of beta-carotene include sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, spinach, turnip greens, winter squash, collard greens, cilantro and fresh thyme. To maximize the availability of the carotenoids in the foods listed above, the foods should be eaten raw or steamed lightly.
Lycopene is also one of the carotenoids and contained in tomatoes; all the carotenoids seem to be bright colours; orange, red, green, etc and are fat soluble. If you are on some medications for high cholesterol you may need more beta carotene and if you have malabsorption; you may not absorb enough. A recent study showed that eating a lot of food with beta carotene in would improve your skin colour; but cut down if the palms of your hands start to go orange; that is too much!
There are a number of free antivirus programs. I use Avast! And I use the free Microsoft antivirus program, Microsoft Security Essentials. The latter keeps crashing since the last update but they work well together and most important for frugal minded people is that they are free.
Remember you can become rich by saving money!