Monday, 31 December 2012

Goodbye 2012!

2012 has been a great year for me in many ways.


Guess what; I even kept (some of) my New Year's Resolutions!

  • Had 100 No Spend Days. In fact I had a lot more than this, but I could still do better next year!
  • Recorded every penny coming in or out, which I am currently analysing to see how I did
  • I DID find my perfect PhD! :)
I still spent a fair amount of time online, but definitely got out more too! I think this year I need to restrict my internet usage whilst at home to get more out of life!

Ehhh... the weight loss goal was the biggest fail. I still weigh the same as when I worked in restaurants and ate their food every day! This will be addressed big time in the coming year!

The only truly BAD things that happened to me (as far as I can remember) were that my lovely cat died, and that Jools the Peugeot broke down several times, leaving me dangerously stuck on the edge of the main dual carriageway through Cornwall TWICE this year!

This blog grew a lot this year too, with popular posts including:

How much should you give to charity?
My plan to lower our bills
Student loans: why you shouldn't pay it back early!

I think that shows that whilst people are trying to cut back on their expenses to survive another year of the recession, they are still thinking of others less fortunate than themselves. I know this is the case for me!

How was your 2012? I hope you are happier and healthier than you were a year ago! Any plans for seeing in the new year? I'm going to watch the fireworks in the rain! :D

Best wishes to you and your family and have a wonderful 2013! 

Friday, 28 December 2012

Christmas Gifts

Hello! I hope that you've all had a lovely Christmas!

I thought I'd share with you some great Christmas gifts that I received that might be of use as ideas for you to use next year!

First off, coffee! I luuuurve coffee but you may've noticed that it's a pretty expensive habit, especially the flavoured lattes I like best! My sister's boyfriend got me some ground coffee and a set of flavoured syrups, so now I can make my own! (Or pull a bottle of syrup from my sleeve and add it to my coffee at work, just like Elf! :D)

My Nana gave me a book on preserves, complete with some Kilner jars! I can't wait to try making jam, or possibly the citrus marmalade.

My parents gave me a waterproof rucksack. This is ideal for anyone who has to walk a fair distance on the way to work. My bus stops about 15 minutes away from the University, and I get SOAKED fairly often! My old rucksack just wasn't keeping my books dry!

One of the things I got from The Boyfriend was a book on growing vegetables. I've already picked out what I want to try growing next season! I am restricted to whatever I can grow in containers though, because the garden of our flat is pebbles and decking. :(

The Boyfriend's dad gave me a Post Office One4All voucher. They can be used in several shops, although they are a bit of a pain because you have to know exactly how much is left on the card.

Anyway, I am sure as an avid gardener he would approve of my use of the gift card this morning; I bought a mini greenhouse (and a big container for future veg growing!). I'll use it to raise some seedlings in the spring, then transfer most of the plants outside whilst keeping tomatoes and other fussy things inside. I'm excited already!

Oo, oo, I also got some ball-point needles for my sewing machine. They allow you to work with more stretchy fabrics than my normal choice of polycotton. I think crafting supplies would be a welcome gift for a lot of people - I got my sister some card-making stuff, which is something I know she likes to do.

As you can see, I have lots to be getting on with in 2013! Growing my own food and preserving it, lots of sewing and more! :)

Did you get any frugal-inspired gifts that will make your life cheaper and easier in the new year? Leave a comment below with gift ideas to send and receive!

To Pamela:
I must confess, we didn't get the chance to make tofurkey! The shop had sold out of tofu, so we had mushrooms with our Christmas dinner instead! 

Monday, 24 December 2012

Merry Christmas!

Hello everyone! It's been a mad couple of days down here in sunny chucking-it-down Cornwall.

The Boyfriend and I travelled home on Friday, which was lucky as it's been the only day where the rain has held off for long enough to drive for three hours! I was very glad that we have Jools (the car), because the trains between Bristol and Plymouth were all cancelled so I am not sure if we would have made it down for Christmas!

On Saturday we put the Christmas tree up and wrapped the presents that I bought online and got sent home to prevent me carting them all back!

Yesterday (Sunday) I had to go into town. :( The Boyfriend and my mum still had last minute shopping to do. There were too many grumpy people rushing to do their last minute Christmas shopping in town. We went into Truro Cathedral for a break from the crowds and found they have a huuuuuge and wonderfully decorated Christmas tree! They have little stars with wishes for prayers written on them too, which I thought was a nice touch.

Today is Christmas Eve and my Nana's birthday! We are going to her house to give her some birthday presents and peel the big mountain of sprouts for tomorrow! My cousin and I are also attempting to make Tofurkey from scratch, mainly because Mum (vegan) and I (vegetarian) are not the biggest fan of nut roasts! I was all for having a big plate of stuffing, but apparently that's not allowed! :)

Tomorrow is Christmas Day and my parents, sister, cousin and I are all cooking dinner at my Nana's house, which should be nice. Crackers, music and Shloer (which is on half price offer in pretty much all the supermarkets if you need some!).

Anyway, hope you all have a lovely Christmas!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

What's Your Favourite Thing About Christmas?

Hello all! How is your run up to Christmas going? We've been busy visiting The Boyfriend's family, going to carol concerts, wandering through the Christmas markets in town, drinking mulled wine... :)

My question to you is: What's your favourite part of Christmas (or this time of year)?

I'll start! 

My favourite part is putting up the Christmas tree with my family, with the CD full of top tunes blaring in the background (favourite songs: Wonderful Christmastime - Paul McCartney, Stop the Cavalry - Jona Lewie, Baby It's Cold Outside - Tom Jones and Cerys Matthews). 

Wearing a scarf, wandering through the Christmas craft fayres with the family (perhaps with a cheeky cup of mulled wine to keep you warm!)

Wrapping Christmas presents with my sister with a movie on in the background. (Top Christmas films: Elf, The Santa Clause, Love Actually).

Carol concerts - am I the only one who can't hit most of the notes in 'Hark the Herald Angels Sing'?

Hope you are all having a nice month! Only a week to go! :)

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Homemade Christmas Decorations!

Hello! I come bearing tidings of great joy, in the form of a couple of snazzy Christmas decorations you can make on the cheap!

Glitter swirl bauble

These are so simple to make but I love them! :) You can personalise them to suit your tree or make one for each family member.

Get yourself some cheapy cheap plain baubles. I think Poundland do some, but I got 30 from Tesco for £2.80 (ish) because we didn't have any for the tree! You will also need some glitter glue (or glue plus glitter). You can get three bottles of glitter glue in Poundland for... £1. ;)

All you do is draw a pattern onto one half of the bauble using the glitter glue. To do the swirls, draw one coming down from the top, then add another coming off that one, and so on until you fill the space. Instead of swirls, you could draw stars or snowflakes if you like.

Then leave it to dry overnight and do the other half the next day. (To dry the baubles, I cut some toilet roll tubes in half and balanced the baubles on them - pretty sturdy!)

Fabric bauble

This one's a little more complicated than the glitter baubles, but they still only take about fifteen minutes.

Cut out two shapes from your favourite fabric, leaving a 5mm seam allowance. I used heart and star shapes, but Christmas trees could work too.

To embellish the bauble, I used a piece of ribbon and a button on the front. If you'd like to do that too, position the ribbon over the right side of one of the pieces of fabric and pin it into place. Next sew your button into place, remembering that it will be closer to the sides both because of the seam allowance and because it will be stuffed.

Pin the two pieces of fabric together with the right sides (and button/ribbon) facing in. Make a loop of ribbon or twine and position it in the top centre of the bauble, with the loop facing down between the fabric and the ends of the ribbon pointing up and out (see my Advent calendar posts if you don't know what I mean).

 Sew the two pieces together leaving a 5cm gap along one edge for turning and stuffing. Make sure the gap isn't where the ribbon is or you're making the final seam much more difficult for yourself!

Turn the fabric right side out and fill with stuffing or scraps of material.Using small pieces to stuff will give a more consistent shape overall.

Use a ladder stitch to close the seam of the bauble.

I made some paperchains instead of tinsel, as you can see in the photos! :) Also the Advent calendar is hanging in our living room as a bit of additional festive decoration.

Do you make your own Christmas decorations? Post a link below if you've done some Christmas crafting!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

How Much Can You Save By 'Letting It Mellow'?

Let's get down to the business of doing one's business.

I came across an old post over on The Simple Dollar, calculating how much the average American would save by following the mantra, “If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down”. The answer: $7.66 per year, per person (which was £4.95 back in 2010).

£4.95 for an entire year??

I started reasoning that US water must cost a lot less than our own or that prices had gone up dramatically in the last couple of years. Sorry to gross some of you out, but I had to run the numbers for the UK!

The Figures
Right-o, so in Bristol, including water and sewerage we pay £2.95 per m3 of water used. The national average varies hugely and is surprisingly difficult to pin down, so apologies for the local rate!

Dual-flush toilets use around six litres for the full flush, or four litres for a reduced flush. 

The average person uses the toilet six to eight times a day, so let's take a middling value of seven. 

In the UK, one study found people go for a “number two” between 1.2 and 1.5 per day. I'll go for 1.3 as the higher estimate was for vegans. 

The Calculations
So, the average person needs the big six litre flush an average of 1.3 times per day, giving an average of 7.8 litres used per day.

If they're not following the mellow yellow plan, they will also need 5.7 little four litre flushes a day (7 times needing the loo minus the 1.3 already used). 5.7 x 4 litres = 22.8 litres.

The total amount of water flushed away every day would be 30.6 litres per person (22.8 + 7.8). This is 11,169 litres per year, or 11.169m3.

In Bristol, this would cost you £32.95 per person every year (£2.95 per m3). Admittedly, the person would have to be using their home toilet all year.

Right, now what about the frugalista, conscientiously following the “If it's yellow, let it mellow” policy?

Well, you'd still have the same number of “big” flushes, but no little flushes. You'd be using 7.8 litres of water per day (1.3 x 6 litres), or 2847 litres of water per year (2.847m3). This equates to £8.40 per person annually (at £2.95 per cubic metre), or about a quarter of the “normal” person's usage above.

The difference (£32.95 - £8.40) is £24.55 per year per person (or $39.50, if you want to compare to Trent's $7.66 from 2010 in the USA).

So the boyfriend and I are effectively saving ourselves £50 per year by following the mellow yellow method. This is a lot more than Trent estimated for the average American in 2010 (£4.95 per person), but it's still not as high as I'd hoped it would be! Still, every little helps! That saving would pay for an MOT or pay the energy bills for another month and a half!

Another big consideration is that you use four times less water than someone flushing every time, and in an age where water conservation is becoming increasingly vital, this may be the more important factor. The Boyfriend found it incredible that so much fresh drinking water was being wasted in a time where droughts are more widespread than ever.

One flaw in the calculation is that most people don't use their own loo all year. People go to work or school for several hours a day! But Trent had this problem in his calculation too so I have not tried to factor it out. 

I guess there are two main questions to think about:
  1. How far would you go to save £25 (or £50 in our case)?
  2. Does the huge amount of water saved by using mellow yellow outweight the small financial gains? (Each person saves an average of 8322 litres a year). 

    Any thoughts? Is £25 higher or lower than you had expected?

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Ready for Christmas! :)

At the start of November I gave myself one month to get ready for Christmas by December. It was based on SFT's challenge to get all of her Christmas shopping done before the 1st of December, but I added that I wanted to finish making an Advent calendar for The Boyfriend and I, as well as a few decorations for the tree.

Well good news! I finished! I have precisely one person left on my Christmas list, but The Boyfriend is sorting their present out (his side of the family), so I'm done and dusted! :) I've wrapped the ones I have in Bristol, but most of the things I ordered online were sent to my parent's house in Cornwall so that I didn't have so much to bring home in the car!

The Advent calendar is up and filled with chocolatey goodies and challenges.

I've also made some decorations for the tree, which I will show you soon. :) We have a few cheapo baubles from Tesco, with a couple of nice ones from the amazing Trelawney garden centre in Cornwall and paperchains that I made because we don't have any tinsel!

I will be spending December enjoying frugal festivities like carol concerts, mulled wine and Christmas films! :) Can't wait!

How did you get on?