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

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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!

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