Investing in a frugal lifestyle

The term frugal can be defined in so many ways. Some people define it as only saving money and never spend a dime, some compare it to being cheap, some say that they live frugal even when they barely save money … Everyone has his own interpretation.

For me, being frugal is a lifestyle. It’s a way of living where you make your own individual choices of how you want to live your life, how you save your money, and most importantly how you want to spend it. It’s creating the possibilities for yourself to spend your money on the things that you want and are important to you, by saving money on other things. You can for example choose to live a very thrifty or frugal life in all aspects of life and place all the money that you have on a bank account, or you can save a lot of money on certain things, in order to be able to spend more money on other things that matter the most for you. There are so many possible ways of living frugal. Everyone is free to live the way he or she likes (that’s the beauty of life). I just think it’s wonderful that by means of small money saving changes, and by being careful with your money, you can stretch your budget and be able to do do so much more with it 🙂 … As I already mentioned in a previous post for my fiancé and I it’s not about having the biggest or most expensive car in the neighbourhood, or what other people may think about our car, house or even our lawnmower 😉 … for us it’s about saving some money on these things so we are able to take a leave of absence for two years, or retire several years earlier or do something we like. So we apply a frugal lifestyle with that thought in the back of our minds, but of course still live the way we want (yup we don’t save money on vacation and bubbles).

This blog really helped me (and my boyfriend) to live a more frugal life … (I’m only blogging for a year now). A frugal lifestyle is really an investment. You have to change habits and sometimes change your perspective on things, in order to become frugal in all aspects of your life and for example not only spending less money on one shopping trip. It’s not possible to completely change your life from one day to another and become frugal in all aspects. It’s a journey that takes time, one where you discover new things everyday.

I noticed that in the beginning of my frugal journey I only wondered what the best ways were to save money in the short term (which was good since step 1 is cutting all big expenses) … Now I’m starting to think more and more in the long run and start changing small things in my household that seem trivial but in the end help to waste less money. I really notice that I start questioning a lot of habits/things … (most of the time things that just became habits in the past). I’m also changing things and even buying things, in order to save more.

A few months ago I for example bought some pyrex dishes with a lid on. They were in promotion, I got 6 dishes for 20€. I really really like them, they are super convenient (I don’t know why I didn’t buy them sooner). It’s maybe silly that I’m so enthusiastic about it but now I can make lasagne in the dish, put the leftovers in the fridge with the lid on (no more changing dishes or wrapping paper needed) and the day after I can put it in the oven or microwave to heat it again. Or I just can put it in the freezer… I don’t know why I only discovered it a month ago :). It’s a nice investment. Another example are handkerchiefs. Until three months ago I used paper handkerchiefs all the time. I sneeze a lot and I didn’t like cloth ones as a child. However, three months ago I gave it a try to use a cloth one since paper ones actually cost a lot of money, and it’s also a lot of waste. I went to a very cheap store (Wibra) and found some incredibly cute kerchiefs from Daisy Duck, Plains and Minnie Mouse (I don’t like boring) … Ever since then I only used them (okey not when I was sick and had a running noise). I don’t know how much money I would save by using cloth handkerchiefs, but I think It’s better than paper ones and there is less waste. My boyfriend already used cloth handkerchiefs so I didn’t have to convince him :). I also bought a sandwich wrap (you had a glimpse of it in my blog) and try to use it all the time when taking my lunch to work. It’s much better then wrapping them in tinfoil. Another example is my cycle bag that I received as a birthday present of my parents… It’s so easy when I go to the store with my bike :).

So living a frugal lifestyle, or trying to live a frugal lifestyle is not just about spending less money or putting some extra money on your bank account and be done with it. You really have to invest in it! Every now and then you have to take a moment and wonder why you are doing what you are doing. Are you doing it because you really want to or because everyone else does it, are you doing it in a cost efficient way, or did you just create a habit without thinking about other possibilities (for example using dishes without lid, using paper handkerchiefs) etc… So in order to live a frugal lifestyle you really have to invest behaviourally, emotionally and sometimes even financially. All kind of small changes add up to big changes. It’s a journey that keeps on going. My boyfriend and I are going in the right direction and save a lot of money. We however still have a lot to learn. Hopefully we are able to in the end achieve our goal of retiring early! Without denying ourselves everything of course!

My (Frugal) resolutions for 2016

It’s been a while since my last post but I’m back! Last months have been crazy, but still this is no excuse to stop blogging. It doesn’t mean I stopped to trying to live more frugal though.

I made some resolutions for 2016 (I’m a bit late, I know. But as they say, better late than never!).

The first one is obvious. I need to get back in the rhythm and start writing more. Last months I slacked a bit but that is going to stop today. I made the resolution to get up earlier and start my day with writing for an hour (after I did my pilates) for my blog, but also for my new job. A few months ago I became self employed (part-time) as a business writer. I love to write, I’m  good at writing technical informative text, and there are a lot of companies that outsource writing. So I started this side business and I’m proud to say that I have two clients at the moment, and one potential third one. So in my spare time I write when I have a project. Now I just need to dedicate one hour a day to writing, this way it becomes a habit and goes more fluently without thinking. And by making a habit out of it I will have more time to write for my blog about a subject that I like a lot. So, to get things started immediately and avoid procrastination, I’ve set my alarm for tomorrow morning at 7 a.m. This gives me enough time to start my day writing!

My second resolution is something I struggled a long time with. But I feel that 2016 is gonna be different. My second resolution is declutter/tidy/clean the house and get rid of all the unnecessary things and pursue more or less minimalistic living. I’m tired of bumping into stuff and tidying it all the time. It seems that I don’t have enough closet space but in reality I think that my boyfriend and I just have too much stuff that we collected over the years. It’s not that we buy so many things but I guess that over the years you just collect a lot of stuff. We also got all our stuff from our parents houses and we do not really throw a lot away. We just find a nice place to stack it and forget about it. So I really want to clean the house and only keep the stuff that I need and makes me happy (as in the book of Marie Kondo “The life changing magic of tidying up”) … I’m confident that a clean house with no clutter will help to live more frugally as well. After going through everything and seeing the stuff that you have and never use, and throw or give it away, you will think twice about buying a new candlestick, vase or radio for example .. and maybe realise that you do perfectly well without it. It will help to realise that you don’t need a lot of things and that there are more important things than “stuff” … I will keep you up to date about how my efforts turn out (Last month I already cleaned my wardrobe (again), and organised it in the konmari way and it stayed clean and organised ever since…) so my hopes are up. Oh and a clean house also means less time lost in cleaning and decluttering and more time to write and enjoy my free time.

My third resolution is about money. Just like every year my boyfriend and I would like to save a nice amount of money. However, this year there is a small chance of plans and we will not be able to save as much as we would normally do. I’m very excited to say that we are going to marry. A few weeks ago my boyfriend proposed and I of course said yes! My resolution will not be to try to have a very cheap or frugal wedding (because you only get married once, right?), but always try to keep the frugal option in mind and decide on what things we want to spend money and what not… So I will keep our budget in mind, and I will always look for the smartest solution moneywise. And if possible look for cheap or less expensive alternatives. We want to have a nice party will all our dearest friends and family present, so I think we will have to spend a big amount of money on the venue, but there are other things on which we can save some money. I think that for example I will make some decoration myself, maybe make the invitations myself, let my nails done by a friend …. So I hope to have a wonderful wedding (I already have a wonderful guy :)) and despite the wedding save some money.

A fourth resolution, and maybe one that most people have at the start of the year, is to exercise more. It has nothing to do with the wedding and fitting in my dress ;), it’s just that I’m not really sporty and I really need to do something about my level of fitness. Once or twice a week I do my pilates but that’s not enough. So I decided to enroll myself (together with a friend) in a fitness club to do some Zumba every week. I have to admit that it’s not that cheap to enroll (75€ for 12 lessons) but If I have to do it alone from home It will never happen. So my resolution is to exercise more. The Zumba will definitely be good, I will try to go by bike to the sportscentre (only 4km away) and of course keep on doing pilates. For the ones that are interested, I do pilates, or well it’s called blogilates from the website www.blogilates.com. It’s completely free, you can find various exercises, calendars, a ton of movies etc.. And I really love the instructor. She is energetic and dynamic and keeps me on track.

My last resolution is one that I already try to live by but it never hurts to keep on repeating it. It’s about appreciating what I have and not looking at other people and for example trying to impress them. I think that only by appreciating what you have, not only material wise but also family and friends wise, and what you (can) do, and not trying to compare yourself to others can make you truly happy. I really don’t mind what people think about me, I’m happy with what I have. I even want to live on less and only keep the stuff I really need and makes me happy (see resolution 2). And yes there are a few things that I also really want, but it’s a nice goal to save money for and it’s what I really want for myself. I think this resolution will also be important when planning the wedding. When planning a ceremony and party you always keep others in mind and well it’s the first time I will organise a wedding so I think it’s easy to fall in the trap of having the wedding that you think you should. I will try to keep in mind that my fiancé (It sounds good :)) and I just have to organise the wedding the way we want it.

These were my resolutions for 2016! 🙂 How about your resolutions? Did you make some and how are you planning to keep your resolutions?

Cheers,
Fiona

Windows, newspapers and sheep

Yesterday I could not escape it anymore, I really had to clean my windows. I postponed it as long as possible, but sometimes you just have to face the music … Yesterday was that day. The windows of our house were too dirty! I almost couldn’t see the last rays of the summer sun, or the super cute black sheep across the street anymore. Ok it’s a bit exaggerated, but truth is that they were dirty and needed some serious cleaning.

Luckily, last year I discovered a method that made cleaning the windows a bit less frustrating and also super frugal. Believe it or not, by using newspapers! Maybe most of you will already know this trick but for the ones who don’t know or never tried it, let me explain and hopefully convice you to do it as well. It’s super handy because it leaves no stripes on the windows (I always had trouble with that), and it costs no money since you don’t need fancy, often toxic, or expensive cleaning products. I read the tip in the book: “Superscrimpers: Live Life for Half the Price” by Eithne Farry. A very intresting book with lots of money-saving tips. I was quite suspicious about this tip but tried it anyway (I had nothing to loose, except some old newspapers). I frowned, cleaned, and overcame.

All you need is:

  • a bowlIMG_1314
  • a rag
  • water
  • vinegar
  • old newspapers (I don’t have a subscription on a newspaper. However, every week we get the local newspaper from “Leuven” in the mailbox. It’s free for all the residents, and informs about everything that’s going on in the neighbourhood. So after a while you get a pile of old newspapers)
  • and of course a (dirty) window

What happens next is quite obvious. Add water and some vinegar in a bowl. Clean the window with lots oIMG_1320f water. Make a small ball of some pages of the newspaper and dry the window with it (when the paper is getting too wet take a new one). And you’re done … It’s super easy and you really don’t need anything else to make your windows nice and shiny :).

I don’t know if you can see it on the pictures but my window is really clean now. I’m able to see the sheep across the street again.
IMG_1324
So, thats’ one window down, 10 more to go. I don’t know if I will do them all today, there so much more to do on a free day (yes I have to admit that i’m procrastinating right now while writing this blog. It’s so mucher nicer to write about cleaning the windows than actually cleaning them). I’m also not looking forward to the last window of the house, the ceiling window in the kitchen… I think I will leave that one for another day, maybe in the next ten years or so (or leave it up to my boyfriend who’s not afraid of climbing on the roof).

Now you nIMG_1322ow everything that there is to know about cleaning the windows. Sorry if this is a somewhat boring post, but I really wanted to share this tip since I was quite suspicious at the beginning but really prefer this method now.

Did any of you already washed your windows like this? Or do you know a better method? Let me know.

It’s the small things that matter!

When people reflect on their expenses and wonder what the best ways to save money might be, they often think that they should cut their big expenses. These big expenses are of course very important and when you want to save (more) money it is useful to see whether these big expenses can be lowered. However, it’s often all the small expenses taken together that make a difference. Most of the time they have a bigger impact than we think!

A very nice example is people’s lunch to work. I don’t know if this is a relevant example for all of you, but for most people in Belgium it is. In Belgium, from what I ‘ve seen, most people buy their lunch at work day after day. I for example work in the city centre of Leuven. During lunch, most of my colleagues go in the city and buy a sandwich, salad … instead of bringing something from home. However, having to buy a sandwich every day costs a lot of money. So when going to work I always try to bring my own lunch. At the end of the month it is so much cheaper (or you spend less money). Also my boyfriend takes his lunch with him (most of the time I make it for him. I like to make his sandwiches and they are tastier when made with love :)).

At my boyfriend’s work, some people even made a remark about him taking his sandwiches with him everyday (he and his boring sandwiches). So he made a quick calculation to show them the difference. Here’s the calculation based on Belgium prices in euro. Feel free to share your calculation with the prices in your own country or to tell more about the lunch habits in your country.

  • A normal workweek is 5 days
  • Imagine buying a sandwich every day for 3-4 euro
    • 3,5€ x 5 days
    • 17,5€ a week for just a sandwich
    • 70€ a month
  • often people also buy something to drink, a soda or a coffee (not all companies offer employees free drinks or coffee at work)
    • 1,5€ x 5 days
    • 7,5€ a week
    • 30€ a month
  • And of course you can’t get through the day without a cookie (I can’t anyway)
    • 1€ x 5 days
    • 5€ a week
    • 20€ a month
  • Everything taken together you get
    • 70€ + 30€ + 20€
    • 120€ a month
    • 1440€ a year for one person!

So in one year you spend around 1440€ for buying your lunch everyday. Maybe less, maybe more, depending in you eating habbits. This is a lot of money. Certainly when you are with two people who buy lunch every day, that’s 2880€ (it’s a nice citytrip or vacation). And yes it’s true, most employees receive a meal voucher of 5-7 euros per day for buying lunch, but isn’t it nicer to spend that money on other things than spending it every day on buying lunch?

Now how much does it cost to bring your own lunch, drinks and cookies (this is of course not for free and also has a price). You can for example take leftovers with you or your own sandwiches. My calculation is for bringing your own sandwiches.

  • It takes one or two breads a week
    • 2,4€ x 2 breads
    • 4,8€ a week
    • 19,2€ a month
  • Stuff to put on your bread/sandwich
    • around 6€ I think
    • 24€ a month
  • Drinks
    • 0,55€ (if you buy for example if you buy a pack of 6 soda cans in the store) x 5 days
    • 2,75€ a week
    • 11€ a month
  • Cookies
    • 0,40€ (Also if you buy a big cookie box in the store) x 5 days
    • 2€ a week
    • 8€ a month
  • Everything taken together you get
    • 19,2€ + 24€ + 11€ + 8€
    • 62,2€ a month
    • 746,4€ a year

This is almost half! It’s a rough calculation, but I think it really shows what a difference it can make. The prices are estimates because sometimes you buy something cheaper or more expenive, nothing at all, a lot, or leftovers from last nights dinner …. I just wanted to show what a difference it makes. I have to admit that I sometimes also buy lunch at work, or buy a cookie when I didn’t take one from home. But I try to limit it, because before you know it you’ve spend a lot of money on food. This is also why it helps to keep track of all your expenses, big and small  (see post https://fionasfrugallifestyle.com/2015/05/15/what-are-your-spending-habits/).

lunch

Here you see my lunch :). I ‘m also very proud of my reusable bread wrap. I never use aliminium foil anymore, and it’s so much more convenient than a lunch box.

Another example that small things matter is buying your daily cup of coffee on the go. Here in Belgium you see more and more people arrive at work with their take away cup (a habit flown over from the states?). I admit that I also do it once in a while but I try to limit this as well (because I can’t handle that much caffeine 🙂 and of course because it costs a lot). There again, if you do the math you see that buying a cup of coffee every day can cost a lot on a yearly basis. That’s why it’s often a good idea to get up a bit Koffieearlier and take the time to brew your own coffee at home :), or just kick the caffeïne habit altogether.

So what are your lunch habits at work? Or do any of you have other examples of small costs that at the end of the year really sum up, and that you can easily lower in order to save more money? Please let me know!

Earning some extra money by filling in surveys

Whoop! Today I received a letter in the mailbox with a gift cheque of 10 euro. It’s always nice receiving such a letter :). As the title of this post reveals, I received the gift cheque by filling in surveys.

For some years now I’m registered on ‘I-say‘ (previously Ipsos). It’s a website where you can collect points by filling in surveys. Per surey, depending on it’s length, you receive around 50-170 points. When having collected around 1200 points, you can exchange them in a gift cheque of 10 euro. There are various kinds of cheques of all different kinds of stores (e.g. Amazon, Ikea …) from which you can choose, or you can even donate money to charity (right now they are actually collecting money for Nepal). Okay, I have to admit, it takes a while to collect enough points, but it’s so easy to fill in a survey once in a while, and after a few months receiving a cheque of 10 euro in the mail is always nice. There are a lot of things that you can buy with 10 euro :).

I discovered ‘I-say‘ a few years ago after I graduated. During my Psychology studies I had to participate in several experiments, and fill in numerous surveys as part of the courses (abot 1 survey a week). This way we helped with the research that was conducted at the faculty, we learned about psychological experiments, and the methodology of surveys.

After 5 years of studying Psychology, and filling in surveys on a weekly basis, I was so used to filling them in (and giving my opinion) that I really started liking it. So I went looking for a good website where I could earn money by giving my opinion and I-say was the winner. Over the past 2 years I filled in surveys about quite a big range of things. For example; advertisements, my internet habits, eating habits, or even about packaging for new products. Some surveys were more intresting then others, but still, they were all fun (and I have to admit that I fill them out in front of the tv). I think that in total, I gained about 100 Euro. It’s not a lot but it’s a nice extra.

Apart from Isay there are also a lot of other websites where you can earn some money by giving your opinion and filling in surveys (e.g. swagbucks, GlobalTestMarket, Crowdology …), but I never tried these so I don’t know how these websites, surveys, or the rewards are. Do any of you have some experience with some other websites or with I-say? Feel free to share your opinion!

Cheers,
Fiona

10 Ways to save money on grocery shopping!

A good way to lower your monthly spending is by trying to cut your grocery bill because buying food and other groceries can take a large chunk of your budget. Luckily it is a variable cost that can be reduced. For the last few months my boyfriend and I are trying to reduce the amount we spend on food, care products and household products. We used to spend around 400€ a month and we are trying to get it to 300€ a month, and so far it seems to be working.

I collected several tips for spending less money in the supermarket:

  1. Never go shopping while hungry. When you are hungry you tend to buy more food and greasy unhealthy snacks. It sometimes happens that I’m in the store with an empty stomach, and then I really notice the snacks stacking up in the shopping cart (which is bad for both my wallet and my weight).
  2. Make a list of the things you need and stick to it. This will help to avoid impulse purchases.
  3. Also try to make the list in order of the organisation of the store (for example, vegetables and fruit are aisle 1, cheese aisle 2, drinks aisle 3 … ). This way you can walk through the store without going back and forth between the different aisles. It will save you time and you will be less tempted to take some extra chips or snacks when you pass that aisle for the third or fourth time.
  4. Before going to the store, make a week menu and look what you already have and what you need to buy and put in on your list. It’s really handy because then you have food for a week, you don’t have to ask yourself every evening what to cook, and you avoid going last minute to (maybe more expensive) stores to buy the ingredients you need to cook a meal. This also eliminates freewheeling at the store and will keep your weekly menu healthier, cheaper and more diverse then if you have to decide what to eat all week when you are in the store.
  5. Check the weekly promotions, however don’t be blinded by them. Only buy the things that you know you eat or use.
  6. Try to buy season fruit and vegetables. Out of season vegetables or fruit tend to be more expensive.
  7. See if you can replace brand products in cheaper brands. Most of the time (however not all the time, it depends on the products), the cheaper version tastes as good or is as healthy as the expensive brand. Also know that stores always put ‘expensive’ brands on eye level, and the cheaper brands at the lower levels of the shelves.
  8. Sometimes it can be profitable to buy different things in different stores. However you must see for yourself whether the costs of driving to the different stores doesn’t become higher than the amount of money you win by buying cheaper things in the different stores. (Don’t forget you waste a lot of time as well).
  9. Size matters. Take the size and quantity of products into accounts and buy Groceriesaccordingly to your needs. My boyfriend and I eat a lot of minced meat in spaghetti and other dishes. So we always buy a large amount of minced meat and freeze different portions. The maxi pack of minced meat is a lot cheaper (10% reduction). I also buy a huge bottle of provincial herbs. We use these herbs in a lot of dishes so its cheaper to buy a big bottle with which we can refill a smaller bottle. Another example is soda. We rarely drink it so we buy it in cans. Cans are maybe more expense than a bottle, but we drink it so rarely that its cheaper (since we can never finish a bottle before it’s lost all the bubbles), so we also don’t have to throw any away.
  10. Compare prices of different products/brands. If you compare the price, look at the price per kilo. So look at the relative price, not the absolute price.

And for good measure 2 extra tips:

  1. Keep your receipt. By keeping you receipts you can keep track your monthly spending on groceries, and you can also compare prices. For example, if you see that a certain product that you normally buy is in promotion, you can check how much you paid last time. Maybe the store says it’s in promotion, but it’s possible that they first raised the price. If you really want to create a system you can enter these things in an excel file, making them easier to track.
  2. Bring your own (re-usable) bag to the store. In Belgium (and I think in a lot of countries in Europe) most of the stores ask some money for a plastic bag so it’s better for your wallet (and also the environment) to take your own bag.

These are some general tips that my boyfriend and I know and try to follow. I have the feeling that they really help use to lower our grocery bill. What do you think of these tips? Do any of you have any other tips? Feel free to share!

Cheers,
Fiona

Clothes swap party!

I’m so excited to share my latest “frugal” adventure! 🙂

Last month I decided to tidy up my wardrobe. I had so many clothes that they didn’t fit in my wardrobe anymore. I wear most of my clothes frequently, but there are also a lot of clothes that I don’t wear anymore, or that I even never have worn. For example, sswap1ome of my clothes are just not my style anymore. These are clothes that I still have from when I was 20 (I can still fit in them so I never got rid of them). Then there are some clothes that never fitted that well. These are mostly clothes that I had bought very cheap in sales and from which I had made myself believe that they would fit better at home (now I know better, if they don’t look that good in the store, they won’t look good at home, even if they are very cheap). Then I also have lots of clothes that are just worn out but that I never wanted to get rid of because I loved wearing them. They were/are my favourite pieces, but they don’t look that decent anymore. I always made myself believe that they for example are still perfect to wear on a lazy Sunday at home.

So it was time for me to tidy up my wardrobe and organise my clothes (and my accessories). I obliged myself to organise one shelf/drawer a day, and to be very strict for myself (everything that I didn’t wear anymore had to go!). It was very hard to get rid of the first piece. I kept finding excuses and situations to wear that certain piece that I had not worn for so many years (a lazy Sunday at home, when I have to paint, to work in the garden, a dress up party … ). But once I found the strength to get rid of that first piece, the rest followed really soon. I ended with an organised wardrobe, with clothes that fit and are my style and that I often wear. I even rediscovered a lot of clothes that I had forgotten.

I also ended up with a huge pile of clothes and accessories that I wanted to get rid of. I organised everything in three piles: damaged/not wearable, worn out/wearable, as good as new.

The pile of damaged/not wearable clothes was luckily not that big. Most of these clothes had small holes in them. Now I finally threw these clothes away. swap2Some of them I cut in pieces and made rags of them. I also kept one very nice dress with the intention of making a skirt of it (only the top is damaged).

Then there was the pile worn out/wearable clothes. This was a big pile of worn out clothes that are still very wearable. I donated these clothes to charity.

The third pile was the pile as good as new clothes. This pile was not super big,   but not really small either. These were the clothes that I never (or almost never) had worn and thus were still in perfect condition. I hesitated to sell them, but I did not really know where and how … So then I thought that it maybe would be a nice idea to organise a clothes swap party. I had read about it and thought it would be fun and a good excuse to hang out with my friends.

If you have never heard of it, a clothes swap party is a party/evening where everyone brings clothes or accessories that she (or he) never wears anymore. Then you just start swapping clothes. What for one person doesn’t fit anymore can fit perfectly for someone else. There even exist big swap events where you receive coupons for the clothes that you brought, and these coupons can then be used to take other clothes (for example 1 coupon is one piece). Obviously we kept it a bit more informal here ;).

I just organised a low key swap party at home with a couple of friends where no one was obliged to take any clothes with her and where everyone could take home whatever she wants. I wanted a fun “ladies evening” (and of course get rid of stuff). It was the first time that I organised such a party so I had no idea what to expect. When I had invited my friends, they were quite reluctant (they did not know whether they had clothes that they never wore, and if the had they would be ashamed of them…). But they were in for a “ladies evening” with bubbles (sparkling wine), chocolate, and good company! (The clothes were a side issue).

To my biggest surprise, everyone had brought a big bag of clothes and accessories. With all these clothes, shoes, handbags, scarves, earrings, … my living room was transformed in a small store (at that point my boyfriend took refuge upstairs in his office. The combination of six ladies and a big pile of clothes was too much). So then we started swapping things. We had all different sizes and shapes which turned out to be perfect. What for person A didn’t fit anymore, fitted for person B.

The evening turned out to be a BIG success! Everyone had found several clothes and/or accessories that she liked. I found:

  • 1 nice skirt that had gotten too small for some else (in my favourite colour)
  • 1 skinny jeans that had gotten too small for some else
  • 1 pair of new shoes. They were too small for the person who had bought it, but she was not able to return them to store.
  • 2 scarves. Ok I already have lots of scarves, but no white or yellow one … And I wear one almost every day
  • 1 pair of earringsswap3

It was a fun evening with friends, everyone got new clothes (I don’t need to go shopping for a while), I got rid of a lot of stuff and was happy that I made some friends happy with them (The clothes that no one wanted went to charity).

Apart from these things, the party also created an awareness with all of us. The cleaning of our wardrobe, swapping clothes and talking about it (why they didn’t fit (anymore), why we never wore it ….) helped to raise some awareness of shopping and buying new things. I for sure will think twice before buying something new.

In the future I will definitely do a swap party again! A clothes swap party will be for in five or ten years because now my wardrobe is organised and I’m not planning to buy a lot of new clothes. And if I buy something new I will better think about it. Another swap party will be coming soon. A friend was so enthusiastic that she’s thinking about organising a swap party where we can swap other things like DVD’s, books, candles, decorations, and so on… It’s wonderful that the idea of a swap party was received so well, and it will be part of the future … I hope this blog will make all you warm for the idea of doing a swap party! It’s fun, you can make others happy with the things you don’t need/want anymore, and they on their turn can make you happy. One person’s trash is another’s treasure!

Did any of you do a swap party already? What are your experiences? Or what do you do with clothes that don’t fit anymore or that you never wear?

Cheers,
Fiona

What are your spending habits?

What are your spending habits? Do you know how much money you spend on electricity, groceries, clothes … each month? And do you have an idea when some yearly/quarterly costs such as for example insurance, or the electricity bill appear?

Until two months ago, my boyfriend and I had a general idea of how much money we spent each month on groceries, clothes, stuff for in and around the house … but we had no exact idea. We also didn’t have the habit to each month reflect back on how much we had spent. So, two months age we started tracking our expenses to get an overview of where exactly our money goes and what our spending habits are.

In the beginning it was a bit of a search to find a good tracking system that worked for us. I started with testing some apps on my Smartphone since I thought it would be easier than on a spreadsheet on the computer or than writing everything down in a notebook. I tried the apps Dollarbird and Accounts 2 Checkbook.

I was immediately quite fond of Accounts 2. It is a very simple and nice app where you can insert your spending day by day, link it to your different bank accounts, and divide your spending in different categories of your choice. I think I liked the app because it is very handy to have an overview of the balance of your bank account (or accounts) on your phone. This overview also helped when I had forgotten to include a purchase and had to check the bank account (which happened a lot in the beginning). The app also allows you to each month retrieve a graph with your spending per category, or you can export a file with all transactions.

I also tried Dollarbird, which is an app that works with a calendar interface. Instead of getting an overview of your bank account, you get an overview of the month and how much money you have spent each day. You can also divide your spending in different categories. It’s a really nice app but I quickly stopped using it since I preferred to use Accounts 2 because of the overview of your accounts.

For the past two months I inserted all our expenses in Accounts 2. In the beginning I often forgot it but after a few weeks it started to become a habit to keep the receipts and include all expenses. Because of this, I can each month retrieve an overview of our spending per category which is super handy and a great way to start spending money in a smart way and budgeting expenses.

In addition to a monthly overview, I also wanted to have an overview of our yearly/quarterly costs. So I decided to include all our expenses in a spreadsheet on the computer to get a more detailed overview than on the app. I made the same categories as in the app, and inserted every expense per month. I also checked my bank account for some big yearly costs such as insurance, the electricity bill… . Then I used a colour scheme to indicate the yearly costs and the costs that return every three months. Here you can find the spreadsheet I made (Expenses).

I’m really excited because with this overview we can exactly predict what our fixed costs are going to be in the coming months. Now we also know which months are going to be more expensive than others due to the addition of several (yearly) costs. A nice consequence is also that now I will know when I have to make my yearly dentist or eye specialist appointment. (Before I never knew how long it had been since my last check up).

With the combination of the app and the spreadsheet I have found a tracking system that works for my boyfriend and I. I don’t know if this system would work for some of you… But if you don’t track your money yet, I would suggest to start with it! It’s really nice to have an overview and to know how much money you actually pay each month on different kind of things. It really helps you to get a sense of your spending and can help you to better regulate how much money you spend on things (for example the things you need and the things you want but not need). In the end it will also help you to save more money …

If you already are tracking you expenses, feel free to share how you do it (with an app, a spreadsheet …). All tips and tricks are welcome.

For now my boyfriend and I will keep tracking our expenses and in a few weeks we will start budgeting.

Regards,
Fiona

‘Sinterklaas’ Cake

A few days ago I discovered that I still have some chocolate figurines from a few months ago from St. Nicholas day [Or in Dutch ‘Sinterklaas’]. The chocolate is still good to eat, but we have so much chocolate at home (some still from St. Nicholas day, a lot from Easter … ) that it’s becoming a bit too much :). So I thought it would be a good idea to make something with a IMG_1218few figurines before they get bad (although chocolate doesn’t get bad that fast).

I don’t know if many of you know ‘Sinterklaas’ and celebrate st. Nicholas day on the 6th of December. Here in Belgium, on the 5th of December children put a shoe under the fire place (or just a place in the house) and during the night St. Nicholas passes by (or their parents ;)) and puts candy and presents in the shoes of the children that have been good throughout the year. It’s a bit like Santa Claus at Christmas in the US. Even though my boyfriend and I have gotten a bit too old for it, we still received a lot of chocolate from our parents. So much that there still is some left (and we eat a lot of chocolate).

I decided to make a chocolate cake with some figurines. Cake is always a good dessert, and it’s even better when it’s chocolate cake. My favourite cake is chocolate cake with raisins and nuts that my grandmother always makes. But my cooking skills haven’t gotten to that level yet so I kept it easy.

Recipe: ‘Sinterklaas’ cake

  • Ingredients
    • 200gr butter
    • 100gr sugar
    • 1 bag of vanilla sugar
    • 300gr flourIMG_1220
    • 4 eggs
    • 100gr of dark chocolate or as I did it dark chocolate figurines 🙂 (I don’t know whether milk chocolate also would be tasty).

To make the cake, melt the butter and add the sugar, vanilla sugar and egg yolks. Then add the flower (it’s best to sieve it first). Whip the egg whites until it’s foamy and add it to the rest. Then add the melted chocolate (I’m sorry ‘Sinterklaas’ for melting you).

IMG_1221To whip the egg white foamy I used a hand mixer that I discovered a few months ago in the Ikea. Before I had the hand mixer I used a fork to do it. But it always took me a long time and it was never very foamy. Now, with the hand mixer it’s super easy to do. It works as well as a normal mixer but you don’t need electricity. (It’s the same as our lawnmower. I get more and more fascinated by such tools that don’t need electricity or gas… )IMG_1219

When the dough is finished, put it in a cake mold and let it bake in the oven for about 45 minutes on 180 degrees. Then you have a super tasty ‘Sinterklaas’ cake :).

IMG_1223Do any of you often have left over chocolate? And do you make something with the left over figurines? Let me know so I can try it for myself so our excess chocolate doesn’t go to waste.

Cheers,
Fiona

Changing your mindset

Trying to live a more sustainable and frugal life is more than spending your money the best way possible and knowing how to manage your money. It’s about changing your mindset and creating frugal habits. It’s for example nice if you replace all your lights with LED lights that have a lower energy consumption, but it doesn’t really help if you then always leave your lights on and don’t really adopt the habit of switching off your lights when you leave the room. Or if you go to the store it’s nice if you look at the price of the things you buy, and try to spend your money in a smart way, but it’s even better to wonder whether you really need the thing you want to buy, whether it’s an addition to your household, or whether it just will gather dust in the closet. So, trying to live more frugal is about changing your habits and mindset.

I sometimes have the feeling that for example having things with a low energy consumption such as LED lights are being used as an excuse to excessive waste “I have LED lights so now it’s okay if I leave my lights on all the time …” It’s the same as eating healthy. A common thought is that if you have eaten a piece of fruit you can eat something unhealthy as if the piece of fruit abolishes the unhealthy thing. Even I sometimes fall into that trap. Therefore I think that it would be a nice exercise to get to know your own habits, the frugal ones and the non-frugal ones and try to create a frugal mindset.

So the last couple of weeks I tried to discover what my habits are, in order to try and replace the less frugal habits into more frugal ones. I noticed that some of my habits are already quite thrifty and frugal, but others can be improved …

First of all I want to start with my good/frugal habits. Some of these habits I learned when I was a child, others I developed when getting older, and some habits can be more defined as healthy or even lazy habits, but at the same time they are frugal.

  • Turning off the lights when you leave a room.
  • Turning off the heating at night and when you leave the house.
  • Sorting waste.
  • Taking the staircase instead of the lift. This is more a healthy habit. I tend to take the staircase to have some exercise and walk a bit. They say you should walk 10000 steps a day.
  • If possible, walk instead of taking the car for short distances.
  • Only Iron the things that really need to be ironed such as shirts and jumpers. I for example almost never iron T-shirts. I dry these on clothes hangers so they don’t need ironing. It’s a (little) lazy yet frugal habit (I really don’t like ironing).
  • Cleaning with a mix of vinegar and water instead of with commercial cleaning products (see the power of vinegar and soda crystals).
  • Freezing left over food or trying to do something with leftovers.

Then there are some habits that I have from time to time. So they are not yet really habits, but I’m doing my best to make them into habits.

  • As mentioned in my blog post where to start I’m trying to keep track of my spending to get an exact idea where my money goes to. It’s starting to become a habit to write all my expenses down, but I often still forget it.
  • When going grocery shopping I’m trying to stick to my list, never go while hungry (apparently people buy a lot more food when shopping hungry), try to look for things that are on discount … I don’t always succeed, but it’s becoming more and more a habit.
  • When going shopping for clothes or other things I try to always ask myself whether I really need it, whether it’s worth the money … It’s starting to become a habit. I also reduced my shopping to a minimum.

Then there are some new habits that I want to adopt. There are many, but at the moment the most important one for me is that:

  • I want to bike more… I have to admit that I hate biking. I don’t mind biking in a quiet street, but I really don’t like biking to the city centre where there are busses and cars driving close to you. But maybe I don’t like it because I rarely bike … So, last month, I went back to my parents house to get my old bike from when I was younger. At the moment I’m repairing that bike and I have the intention to bike more (to go to the store, to the city … ). It’s not only healthy, but it also saves you money on gas, and it’s better for the environment …

These were some examples of my frugal habits or habits I want to adopt. What are your thrifty/frugal habits? Or do you have some habits that you want to change or adopt?

Cheers,
Fiona