Our frugal lawnmower

The weather in Belgium is finally getting better! The sun is shining, the temperature is rising, the flowers are blossoming … All signs of spring are becoming visible. It’s just wonderful! It’s so amazing what a bit of sunshine can do to your mood :)!

A consequence of the weather getting better is that our grass is growing like crazy, and weed is popping up everywhere. This is a problem that until one year ago, we never had encountered. A year ago my boyfriend and I lived in a small apartment in the centre of the city. The closest thing we had to a garden was our tiled terrace which overlooked the street with passing cars and people shoppGardening. So our terrace didn’t need any gardening at all. When we then bought our house, we were so happy to have a garden, even though it’s quite tiny. We found it wonderful to have a terrace to barbeque on, to have grass, flowers, bushes, trees … Just wonderful to have our own small garden and being surrounded with a bit of nature.

We soon discovered that a garden, even a tiny one, needs quite some maintenance. We needed gardening tools including a lawnmower to cut the grass (we aren’t too fond of the “wild garden” look). Choosing a lawnmower to buy for our garden wasn’t an easy decision, since there are so many available on the market.

There are lawnmowers on electricity, on gas, or even robot lawnmowers that faithfully do their round in the garden day after day. After looking at the pros and cons of all these machines, we chose to buy a “push lawnmower”. It’s no robot that runs on his own, it doesn’t need electricity or gas, it just needs sheer man(or woman)power! It was a less obvious choice since push mowers aren’t very popular here (that’s my impression). But for our frugal household and minimal needs this was perfect.

Garden2I think you can call a push mower a frugal lawnmower. It runs on push or hand power, it’s more economical, it’s smaller, it’s maybe even less frustrating because it has no complex mechanics that can break easily … For these, and many other reasons, my boyfriend and I bought it.

We are very happy about it and don’t regret buying it. I have to admit that we hesitated a bit to buy it because we we’re afraid that it would be difficult to handle, but that luckily didn’t seem the case.

Some advantages of a push mower (if you have a small to medium garden, and you are wondering what kind of mower to buy) are:

  • Price: The price itself is the same like any other lawnmower (We bought ours for 120 euro). Because you don’t need any electricity or gas, and no expensive maintenance, it’s much cheaper. And of course compared to a robot it’s super cheap.
  • Power: No electricity or gas needed. Ok you need some hand power to push but it’s really doable. Even I (a not so strong girl), can handle it with ease. And it’s a good exercise.
  • Sound: It is very silent, no annoying loud noise. If you for example ever have the urge to mow your lawn in the middle of the night you can do it (Here in Belgium there are noise restrictions, no loud noises after 10 pm or on Sunday).
  • Maintenance: I can’t say it with certainty yet, because we don’t have ours that long, but I think it doesn’t need much maintenance (certainly if you compare it with other lawnmowers). Only sharpening the blade once in a while.
  • Storage: It’s much smaller than the average lawnmower. You can easily remover the handle which makes it super east to put away.

Garden3
With the weather being so good, and the grass having a growth spurt, my boyfriend took our lawnmower out of the basement and cut the grass. I tried to remove all the weed (with moderate succes)…

Now our garden is ready for the first barbeque of the year! 🙂

Cheers,
Fiona

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Frugal Travelling (Part 2)

A week ago I wondered whether there is such a thing as frugal travelling (frugal travelling part 1)? Before I really never paid much attention to my (frugal) habits when I was abroad on holiday. Having planned a short trip to Rome made me think about it. I started thinking how frugal travelling could be defined and what my spending habits are when I travel. Do I use holiday as an excuse to spend lots of money, shop extensively and buy lots of food and drinks? Or do I have the same mindset as when I’m home, and be careful with my spending?

I discovered that my boyfriend and I spend more money being abroad, however, we still are very conscious of our spending. We like travelling luxurious in the sense that we prefer to stay in a hotel, and don’t go backpacking or drive around in a camper. When we go abroad we try to escape being a tourist and just try to discover the city and local culture by walking around and just experiencing the city. This way we can discover new touristic or non-touristic things. This is however a personal thing. There are so many different way to travel and go abroad. The things we like, other people will maybe hate or the other way around.

Based our past holidays, and our city trip last week, I can give some tips that I think help to travel fugally. However, some of you may travel in a complete different way, so some tips will perhaps be less relevant.

Last minute deals:
Look for last minute deals but also check the price. I think that a lot of travel agencies make advertisement for “last minutes” but in the end these last minutes are as expensive as other holidays… Also check whether it is better to book your flight and hotel separately. That’s what my boyfriend and I did. This gave us more choice in flight times etc.

Flight:
When booking your flight always check different websites (such as cheaptickets.com and the websites of the companies itself). Also look carefully whether the prices include taxes and what the luggage restrictions are … We wanted to book with a company. It was 200 euro to go to Rome for the two of us, retour, however with only hand luggage. When we wanted to book the flights there suddenly were taxed added and the price became 460 euro which we thought was a bit too expensive. So we found another company where we paid 260 euro for the two of us, return, with taxes and luggage.

Hotel:
Booking a hotel is very personal. My boyfriend and I always try to take a hotel in the city centre so we can reach most of the things by foot (we think it’s so much better to discover a city by just walking around). When booking a hotel in the city the prices are however a bit higher. To book a hotel check different websites such as booking.com, trivago.com and of course the website of the hotels itself. For our trip to Rome, the price of our hotel was really good since we booked it very last minute (a few days before we left) and because it was low season.

Bus, metro or taxi:
Concerning public transport abroad I can’t say that much. In Rome my boyfriend and I walked all the time (I have to admit that at the end of the week we were really tired, we had an average of 25000 steps a day). Apart from walking, metro and bus are cheap alternatives to go through the city. Concerning taxis, it was nice to see that in Rome the official prices were on all cabs, so you knew the exact price to go to the airport. Before we left to Rome we did not know the official prices and whether taxis are trustworthy in Rome, so we asked the hotel to book a taxi for us and asked for a fixed price. I think it’s always better to ask a fixed price before you get in a car. Some drivers otherwise just take a detour to ask for more money. Not always of course, but I think it can happen when they see that you are new in the country (it depends on the country).

Budget:
Determine in advance a budget per day. Keep track of your expenses and try to stay within your budget. Our budget was 70 euro for the two of us per day. To help us maintain our budget and have an overview of our spendings we took cash money with us and never paid with credit card. This way we also avoided extra costs to withdraw money. It was also nice that we could pay in cash because you hear stories about credit card fraud in some touristic cities. So our budget for 5 days was 350 euro. In the end we paid 415 euro for our food (without breakfast) and for museum and sight tickets. So we went a bit over budget but still okay I think.

Drinks and snacks:
Try to look for a local store to buy some water or cookies when you’re walking around. My boyfriend and I like to go for a drink form time to time. However, in some cities (certainly when they are focussed on tourists such as Rome), the prices of drinks can be very high. So we went to a local store to buy some bottles of water that we could take with us. When we were thirsty we had something to drink with us, so we could choose whether we wanted to go to a bar to have a drink or just take our water. We also bought cookies because walking around and visiting a city makes you hungry (well it made me hungry). One night we also bought a bottle of sparkling wine (bubbles J), which we drank in the hotel. It was much nicer and cheaper than drinking bubbles in a bar where every half an hour a guy is trying to sell you a rose (I have to admit, in Louvain where we live, you also have the guys who try to sell you roses)!

Tickets for museums and sights:
We found out that it’s a good idea to look online for the prices and maybe even buy your tickets online in advance. We where not really prepared concerning what we wanted to visit. We first visited Castel Sant’Angelo. We were lucky that there was a very small queue so we did not have to wait very long. We also wanted to visit the Colosseum. From friends we had heard that the waiting lines can be very long (around 2 hours queuing). We didn’t look it up at home, however we were lucky that there was Wi-Fi in the hotel (also in a lot of public places in Rome). So we looked up how we could avoid the line and found several tips online. We know now that for the Colosseum there are two waiting lines, for people who still have to buy their ticket and for the ones who already have a ticket. So if you buy your ticket online you don’t have to wait that long. Or, as we did, you can buy a combination ticket in the Roman forum or Palatine hill (Roman forum + palatine hill + colosseum for 12 euro). At these two sights there is a smaller queue. When we then went to the Colosseum we did not have to wait because we had a ticket… So looking online for tickets or tips in advance can save you a lot of time and frustration.

Pickpockets and hustlers:
When you go to a (touristic) city, be very careful of pickpockets and hustlers. In every big city you can find them and they have a very good eye to spot tourists or easy money. In Rome it was quite horrible since it’s such a touristic city. Everywhere we went there were so many visitors and of course so many hustlers who wanted to have your money. On every corner these guys were trying to sell selfie sticks, umbrellas or roses. Every time again we had to say no, it really got annoying after a while. If you encounter such persons be sure not to touch the thing they are selling, and don’t take it when they try to push it in your hands. Once you’ve touched or taken it they want you to pay for it. We saw it happen that some people didn’t want to buy it but that the guy was being really difficult for he wanted them to pay him. Also, when these guys are circling around you (most of the times in very crowded spaces), try to have the habit to keep your handbag, money and personal belongings very close to you and pay attention to them because a pickpocket will take advantage of the distraction.

Meet a resident:
If you know someone in the city/or country where you go to, you can always arrange a meeting with that person, or ask him/her tips. You can also look on the internet for persons to meet. I knew a colleague from the university who lives in Rome. We met him in Rome and he showed us some nice places that we didn’t know of. We also went to eat with him. It was very nice since he took us to a restaurant where we could try some real Roman dishes (instead of all the spaghetti or pizza that you find on the tourist menu’s). We also were surprised by the price of the diner. It was only 65 euro for three persons (three dishes, 2 side dishes, a bottle of water, a bottle of wine, and digestives). Compared to other restaurants it was quite cheap and no extra service costs were added (in another restaurant we had to pay 56 euro for 2 persons and 11 euro service costs were added). I still don’t understand these service costs rules. So it’s always good to know someone who lives in the city/country you visit.

Souvenirs:
Buying souvenirs is also something very personal. In all honesty, we don’t buy any souvenirs anymore. I used to buy a souvenir to every country that I went as a memory, but now I now that these things most of the time disappear at the back shelf in the closet. I also learned that you don’t need stuff to remember a nice holiday. And I always take lots of pictures so I can look at them as memory. For friends or family my boyfriend and I also don’t buy souvenirs. Most of the time these things (like magnets, keychains …) mean extra clutter for the person who you give it to. We sometimes however buy some (local) things that we also would buy at home or things we can’t find in our country. But we don’t really like the typical souvenirs in the souvenir stores. However it is something very personal. My father in law loves these kind of stuff, so I hope he is not that disappointed we didn’t bring him a fridge magnet from Rome.

Hotel ‘gadgets’:
When going to a hotel I love the small bottles of shower gel and shampoo. Not all hotels have it, but when they have it I’m always happy. I have to admit that I’m one of these persons who takes all these bottles home. We then use them when we for example go to the gym or when we are out of shower gel.

These were some (frugal) tips of going abroad and our experiences of our city trip to Rome. What do you think of these tips? Or do you have any other tips? How do you like to travel?

To answer the question whether we liked Rome. Yes we liked Rome! It was a beautiful city with beautiful buildings and a rich history. It’s spectacular to think how old some building are such as the Pantheon and the Colosseum … We however did not like the fact that we could not disappear as “tourists”. We could not really discover the “real” Rome, because every where we went it was touristic; the restaurants, bars, shops … But it was a nice holiday! 🙂

Below some pictures of our trip.

Rome
Regards,
Fiona

Liebster Award

Last week I got nominated for the Liebster award by Abyssbrain. I was quit surprised, but very happy with my nomination. So thank you very much liebster-award-logoAbyssbrain! His blog (mathemagical site) was one of the first blogs I discovered and I immediately liked. You don’t have to be a mathematics genius to like this blog (I’m surely not). It’s a funny but at the same time informative blog about mathematics.

I was even more surprised yesterday when I was also nominated by Artsyrobot. Two nominations for the Liebster Award, yay. Thank you so much Artsyrobot. She has a very nice blog about crafting, drawing, and other kind of creative things (artsyrobot). It’s worth to have a look at her blog.

Part of this Liebster Award is answering several questions. Answering two sets of questions is a bit much so I will stick to the questions asked by Abyssbrain. Here are my answers:

  1. What is your opinion of mathematics in general?
    For me mathematics is quite important. I did a PhD in educational sciences concerning how elementary school pupils solve mathematical word problems in the mathematics class. My view of mathematics education in elementary school is that it is important that mathematics is not just reduced to abstract calculations. Pupils should be guided to understand mathematics and understand what they are doing, that they know and discover that in mathematics there are so many ways to come to a solution and understand why mathematics is important (that mathematics is not invented to bully them ;)) … So mathematics, and mathematics education is quite important for my. That’s also why I was intrigued by the blog of Abyssbrain.
  1. On a scale of 1 to 10, how reliant are you on technology? Explain.
    Difficult to say. Last year I would say 11 on a scale of 10. At that moment I was finalizing my PhD so my computer was on all the time and I had panic attacks when internet was not working… Now, after finishing, I’m less reliant on my computer and technology in general. Although I have to admit that having this blog made me also quite reliant of my computer.
  1. What are your top 3 favorite books?
    It’s been a long time since I read a book (apart from academic books). I think I would say “Sophie’s world” by Jostein Gaarder. I read it when I was young, it is a children’s book in which philosophy is so clearly and nicely explained. Two other books that I like are “Zorro” by Isabel Allende and “Tarzan of the apes” by Edgar Rice Burroughs. These are two more classical books, but I really like them.
  1. If somebody ask you to give a random advice, what would you say?
    I would give the advice to take a moment to reflect on his own life, and what he wants in life! And just enjoy life!
  1. What is the most boring and tedious thing that you have ever done?
    As a student I worked in the hospital for one month. Day in day out I had to listen to sound files and type everything on the computer (it’s a written report for peoples medical file). It was a very mind numbing job because you had to concentrate all day on typing what the doctor was saying (most of the time fast and unclear) … It was 8 years ago so I hope that now computers are able to do that job because it was really boring.
  1. If you could have any job that you wanted, what would it be?
    At the moment I ask myself that question every day. I’m looking for a job, and I would like to work as a policy maker in education (if possible elementary school) or make mathematical textbooks. However, there are not a lot of job opening in that area. On the other hand, if I could have any job in the world, it would be a job I really enjoy doing and one that allows me to work whenever I want and how I want … So maybe I have to become independent.
  1. What are some of your happiest childhood memories?
    I have one very strong (happy) childhood memory that I will never forget. When I think of it now it is so funny but as a child I did not like it :). It was when I was 13 years old and went to secondary school (my first year). One of my sweet brothers had put a big plastic gnome in my schoolbag. I had no clue that is was there until I arrived in school and opened my schoolbag to get my books (in class). I opened it I saw the big gnome staring at me …. That day I didn’t dare to open my schoolbag again and was very embarrassed because I was afraid everyone would laugh at me when they saw I was carrying a big gnome with me… When I think of it know, I think it was soooo funny :).
  1. What song best describes your life?
    I have no idea… That’s a very difficult question. Probably a Disney song.
  1. What is the most confusing movie that you have ever watched?
    Mr. Nobody. I still don’t understand the movie.
  1. If you can choose any category on a quiz show, which category would you choose?
    I would choose movies and music. Not that I know so much about it, but I like to think I know a lot about it!

So these were my answers to the questions. I hope you enjoyed them!

The rules of this Liebster Award are as follows:

  • Each nominee must have under 200 followers
  • Thank and link to the nominating blog
  • Answer their 10 questions and propose 10 new ones for your nominees
  • Nominate 10 blogs and tell them that they’ve been nominated
  • Write a post containing the questions
  • Include these rules in the post

So as the rules of this award state, I should nominate some other blogs for the Liebster award. When I was looking around to nominate some blogs that I follow and really like reading, I found that most of them already got nominated for this award. So I just want to use this opportunity to nominate one blog that was not yet nominated for the Liebster Award (I think) that I like in particular and to mention some other blogs that are really worth visiting!

My nominee for the Liebster Award is The Thrifted Year! It’s a super interesting and inspiring blog about a yearlong journey of buying nothing new and having a simple, frugal life. I really like reading her blog and her tips. You definitely should go and have a look.

Some other very interesting blogs worth visiting are:

Mathemagical Site
ArtsyRobot
Just a Blog Rambling On
Project Patrol
sustainable daisy
Tiny Bows
New Pollyanna
Therapy Journey

My questions are:

  1. What would be your money saving tip?
  2. what is your life motto?
  3. What is your guilty pleasure?
  4. What’s your favorite DIY project?
  5. What country would you really like to visit one day?
  6. Which specialty of your country should everyone have tasted?
  7. What’s your favorite sport (to do or look at)?
  8. What music instrument do you play or do you want to be able to play?
  9. What motivated you to start with a blog?
  10. Did having a blog change you somehow?

Regards,
Fiona

Frugal Travelling?

Is there such a thing as frugal travelling? As I mentioned in a previous post (see here), my boyfriend and I really like travelling. It is something we really enjoy and want to keep on doing. We are however trying to find a good balance between travelling and living frugal.

Tomorrow we leave on a city trip to Rome, the eternal city … This made me think about frugal travelling. Is there such a thing and how would it be defined?

How do you travel? Do you have any tips regarding ‘frugal travelling’? Do you pay attention to your spending when you travel?

Or have you ever been to Rome? What should we definitely do or visit?

Regards,
Fiona

The power of vinegar and soda crystals

At the moment I’m immersing myself in the world of home made cleaning products. I still use a lot of commercial products which I think could easily be replaced by home made alternatives.

The use of these commercial cleaning products has become a bit of a habit over the years. When I went living on my own, I went to the store to get all the basic stuff you need in a household like for example a bucket, a bristle, dishcloth and cleaning products. Until then I had no clue what products I had to use for the laundry or for cleaning the floor. With some help of my mother I got familiarised with all the different kinds of products, and discovered that there’s a specialised product available for every different thing.

In the following months and years I learned how to take care of my household, while combining it with a fulltime job. Cleaning and using all these different products just became a habit. I really never wondered about whether I needed them until a few months ago when I finished my PhD and had some time to relax and do absolutely nothing. I started wondering about the usefulness of all these products. After googling a bit, and seeing the amount of home made alternatives, I decided to try to replace all the commercial products by less chemical, and less expensive alternatives. It appeared that white vinegar and washing soda are wonderful cleaning products. I’m still no expert in these ‘home made’ cleaning products, but I thought to share some of my experiences and insights on white vinegar and washing soda:

White vinegar
White vinegar has so many uses!

1) You can use it as fabric softener. The vinegar removes soap residue and secures the colour, so your clothes will be soft and are less likely to lose their colour. To Vinegaruse vinegar as fabric softener just pour a small dose in the fabric softener dispenser (do not add it straight with the clothes). Your clothes will look great, will be soft, and don’t worry, they will not smell like vinegar.
[White vinegar=0.33€/litre versus fabric softener=0.11€ per dose]

2) It can also be used as a cleaning product. You can throw away your product for cleaning the kitchen and bathroom as a mix of white vinegar does the trick. The bath, shower, sink and countertop looked as clean as when I cleaned it with a commercial product, although you shouldn’t use it on a granite or marble countertops. Pour a mix of vinegar and water in a spray bottle and you are good to go. One problem though is that your kitchen or bathroom will have the typical smell of vinegar afterwards. Apparently adding a dash of lemon should improve this, though I haven’t tried it myself just yet.
[White vinegar=0.33€/litre versus kitchen product=5.50€/litre and bathroom product=5.30€/litre]

3) vinegar also can be used as a limescale remover. For example when you have a limescale tap or showerhead, soak it for a few hours in vinegar (or a mix of vinegar and water) and afterwards wipe it clean.
[White vinegar=0.33€/litre versus limescale remover=4.98€/litre]

Washing Soda
Apart from vinegar, there is also washing soda or also called soda crystals (sodium carbonate, Na2CO³, different from baking soda).Soda

1) Washing soda is perfect for unclogging the pipes. It dissolves grease and loosens dirt in the drains/pipes. Cook 1 litre of water, add a cup of washing soda and pour it in the drain. Repeat a few times until the water runs smoothly through the drain. Be sure not to use washing soda together with a commercial drain cleaner since there can be a chemical reaction. As general maintenance you can pour once a month the mix of washing soda and hot water in the pipes.
[Washing soda=1.40€/kilogram versus unclogging product=2.35€/litre]

2) Cleaning the washing machine and dishwater. Washing soda can also clean your washing machine and dishwater. For the washing machine pour a cup of soda soda2in the drum and run an empty cycle on 90 degrees. The soda will clean the drum, remove odours and prevent limescale build-up. For the dishwater add half a cup of washing soda in the product dispenser and run a normal cycle with an empty machine. Yesterday it was the first time that I tried it and my machines looked really clean. I however could not check the effect on the limescale build-up.
[Washing soda=1.40€/kilogram versus limescale remover=5.75€/kilogram]

3) You can also use the washing soda as laundry detergent for white clothes. The soda makes your laundry more white and helps to removes stains. But only for white laundry, don’t use it for coloured laundry since it will make the colour fade. Put some washing soda in the main dispenser where you normally would put the detergent, and wash the white clothes as normal. I tried it and my clothes looked very good, there was no bad smell, and (maybe it was self fulfilling prophecy), I had the impression that the yellowish (sweat)stains in my t-shirt were faded somewhat …
[Washing soda=1.40€/kilogram versus laundry detergent=0.25€/dosis]

4) Washing soda can also be used for cleaning the toilet. You can flush some soda crystals to clean/unclog the pipes. I also noticed that you can clean stains on the pipe itself (the part of the pipe in the toilet that is still visible). Pour a cup of washing soda in the toilet, let it sit for a while and flush after a few hours. Clean the toilet with a toilet brush, and you will see that the pipe is clean again.

Apart from these usages mentioned above, there are also so many other things you can do with white vinegar and washing soda. At the moment I only tried the ones explained above.

Do any of you use home made cleaning products? What are your experiences? All tips are welcome!

Regards,
Frugal Fiona

What does a frugal lifestyle mean to me?

A few days ago I was talking with a friend about the fact that my boyfriend and I are trying to live more frugally. When talking about it, she asked me how far we would go and what exactly our personal definition is of “frugal”. Would we only budget our expenses, or would we also stop eating out, get rid of our car, use only home made alternatives for care and cleaning products, stop travelling and so on …

So what exactly do I (and my boyfriend) understand as a frugal lifestyle? For us it’s about saving money where we can, being more economical and creating more possibilities to do the things we love and live how we want. It’s about living a “luxurious” life in which we want for nothing and have the time to enjoy life to the fullest! Realising that “luxury” isn’t about wanting more and more (more and bigger cars, more household appliances, more expensive jewellery … ) but about enjoying what you have and about doing the things you love and actually having the time and freedom to do it. It’s about creating more time for yourself, for being with the ones you love and doing the things you like. It’s also asking yourself whether you really need X or Y and if it makes you truly happy, or whether you just want it because everyone else has or does it, or because of how people around you would perceive you …

By being more frugal my boyfriend and I can stretch our budget, do more things with it and save more money. On the other hand, having less stuff, trying to consume less, looking for sustainable alternatives for things, means also less waste, a simpler less materialistic life and being able to live for less. All these things are a goal in itself, but also help towards our (life)goal:

  • In the (near) future my boyfriend and I want to build a nice house. Last year we bought the house were we currently live in. It’s a small house that’s renovated, located near the city, but still in a green environment (across the house there are even sheep, so cute). It’s ideal to live in for a few years. However, we like to build our own house that’s a bit bigger, a bigger garden and located in an even more green environment. At the moment we have a loan for the house, but our payment per month is really ok (1400 euro), so each month we still can save a lot of money. In four years we then want to buy some land and build our (dream)house with the money that we saved and the money we will get from selling our current house.
  • Eventually our dream is to spend our money in a smart and thrifty way, try to reduce our spending to the minimum (but still living the life we love), save a nice amount of money and become financially independent so that we can choose our own work-holiday rhythm (for example working for 8 months, and take 4 months vacation each year), or even retire early. It will take some time to become financially independent (we are still young) but at the moment we save a nice percentage of our income, can do all the things we like, live thrifty, discover more ‘frugal’ habits each day, and just don’t have to worry about being short of money, so that’s a nice start.

There are a few things that we like that are maybe less thrifty or economical, but it’s about searching for a good balance between these things and living frugally. For example:

  • I have a weakness for scarves, handbags, dresses and nice clothes. In my ‘student years’ I went crazy and went shopping a lot. Now I learned how to contain myself, and that it’s not about the quantity (as much clothes as possible), but the quality (it’s better to have a few qualitative pieces). But still, it remains a weak spot. I’m limiting my purchases, and in the future I will go snooping in thrift shops and go to swap parties. I first have to declutter my closet though, I’m sure I will find some lost or forgotten treasures.
  • I really enjoy eating chocolate and drinking sparking wine/cava/champagne or as we like to call it bubbles. I have to admit that my boyfriend and I drink more than our fair share of bubbles each week. We really enjoy it. So that’s not so thrifty, but on the other hand when we would go to a pub it would cost us easily 50 euro for one night. A good bottle of bubbles costs around 5-10 euro so we just enjoy these few glasses, cosy on the couch at home for only 5-10 euro.
  • I like travelling. There are so many places me and my boyfriend want to visit … When we travel, we do travel luxurious in the sense that we don’t go backpacking or drive around with a camper, we like staying in a nice hotel. We like going to big cities as London and New York (we went to New York last year and it was soooo amazing, it’s a wonderful city), and just walk around all day and experience the life in the city. Apart from our travels to cities we go snowboarding in the winter, and like relaxed summer holidays at the beach where we can walk a lot, get the know the culture and go swimming and snorkelling. If it were up to us, we would keep on travelling (as a matter of fact, in two weeks we will go for a few days to Rome).

So yes, sometimes I/we go crazy on things as shopping and travelling and enjoying our bubbles. But, we for example don’t have a dryer, we pay attention to our use of electricity and water, we are using home made alternatives for our cleaning products (well I’m still looking for replacements, at the moment I’m discovering the wonderful uses of washing soda, but that’s for a later post), we try to walk and go by bike as much as possible and thus try to limit the use of the car …. The list goes on and on and everyday we’re finding new frugal habits that can be combined with how we want to live our life.

So, this is what a frugal lifestyle means to me and my boyfriend. I’m sure that over the following months and years our view on a frugal lifestyle will evolve and chance. For now we just keep on tracking our expenses (it’s still difficult to try to remember each day to insert our purchases and expenses), keep on looking for new frugal habits (at the moment I’m immersing myself in the world of home made cleaning products) and just enjoy our life. Because we may be dreamers and have all kind of plans for the future, we also live in the present and enjoy every single day and live our “luxurious” life.

100% For free

100% for free! 100% reimbursed! 100% money back!

I love it when I see these words in advertisement leaflets. When I see these words next to a product that I usually buy or next to staple products, I kind of get an adrenaline rush and have the feeling that I’ve won a contest! It may sound ridiculous or silly, but it’s true, it feels like a contest where you always win a price.

So 100% for free, what exactly does it mean? It depends on the brand, product and store, but most of the time it means that you first have to buy the product, fill in a form, send it to the correct address, and a few weeks later you receive your money back on your bank account (sometimes even the stamp is refunded). Occasionally you can find a 100% for free coupon that you just have to hand in at the cash register and then you don’t even have to pay for the product.

A few years ago, I discovered these 100% for free promotions. At the beginning I was really sceptical “Will they really repay me ? I often buy this toothpaste and now they will pay me back for buying it?”… One day I put my worries aside and just tried it and found that indeed, this was the case! No loopholes, no strings attached (with the possible exception of the fact that they now have more ‘data’ on me), no nothing! It was quite wonderful to see the deposit of 2,99 euro on my account. After this discovery I often buy such reimbursed products. Once a week I browse through the advertisement leaflets, and these 100% for free promotions always catch my eye since they are written in huge and flashy letters and after a while you know in which folders to look.100%

Over the past few years I have bought toothpaste (a lot of toothpaste), shampoo, razor blades, hair gel, laundry detergent, toilet paper … and so much more. And so far, I always received my money back. I have no idea how much money I have saved by these promotions, maybe around 50 euro per year … It’s nice to save that amount of money. I am also someone who does not stick to certain brands (there are some exceptions though), so I really don’t mind if my toilet paper or laundry detergent is from a different brand …

One of the products that I bought this week was dishwasher detergent. The store (Kruidvat) always has some products 100% reimbursed so when I saw this detergent being one of them I didn’t hesitate! Even if my own 100% for freedetergent wasn’t running low (which it is) this would still be a good idea since there’s not really an expiration date on detergent. It’s nice to save 6,99 euro … I bought the product, filled in the form, cut out the barcode, put everything in an envelope and mailed it with the post … Whoop, another contest won :).

This week (until Saturday) you can find this promotion in Belgium. A lot of you are however from different countries. Do you also have such kind of promotions? Do you participate? What are your experiences?

To end this blog 9 tips for such 100% free promotions:

  1. Only buy what you need. Even though your money gets reimbursed, there is no point in buying something you will never use (you don’t need dishwater detergent when you don’t have a dishwasher).
  2. Be sure to buy the right product (the right brand, series, size … ). In the advertisement it is always explained which products are part of the promotion. They won’t reimburse you if you bought the wrong product.
  3. Keep your receipt. You always have to send your receipt together with a form by post in order to get your money back. The same goes for the packing, don’t immediately throw it away, you often have to cut out the barcode.
  4. If there are two different products at the same time that get reimbursed, and you really want them both, ask for two separate receipts.
  5. Fill in the form and send it as soon as possible. Procrastination is never good, and most brands only accept the form a week or twee weeks after buying the product.
  6. Make sure everything is filled in perfect. It would be regrettable is you forget to fill in your account number, or if they cannot read your writing.
  7. Don’t do crazy things … There’s no point in taking a half an hour detour to save 2,99 euro. Staying pragmatic is key.
  8. Don’t feel obliged to buy some other stuff too. If you don’t need anything else just stick to the reimbursed product (you will not be the only person who only buys the product that is reimbursed).
  9. Keep in mind that it can happen that the product is already sold out when you have the chance to go to the store.

Enjoy your free product!

Regards,
Frugal Fiona

My digital piggy bank

While I was browsing for financial apps, I came across a very nice (and cute) app mypiggybankappfor getting an overview of your savings. I immediately liked it. The app is called “Piggy Bank – Saving Money” created by Georgio Sterk. It is a very simple app that visually shows you how much money you have saved and how close you are to your saving goal. The app is really simple to use, it has an elegant design, and it’s for free.

First you hMypiggybankave to choose for what goal you want to save money and how much you want to save. You can for example save for a car, to buy a house, for early retirement … If you have set your goal, you get a really cute piggy(bank) that shows you how much you have saved and how much remains. At the moment my boyfriend and me are trying to save as much money as we can. Our goal is to save 25000 euro per year. So I entered 25000 euro.

Every time when you then save an amount of money (even a small amount), you insert the numbermypiggybank2 in the app, and you can see the piggy filling up. You can also see how much money you still need to reach your goal. It’s so nice to see the evolution. I just want to save some money and enter the amount in the app, to see the belly of the piggy filling up.

To help you achieve your goal, the app also allows you to calculate how mucmypiggybank3h money you have to save per day, week, month or year. For example, if we want to save 25000 euro in one year, we have to save 2083.33 euro each month. If we succeed to save this amount of money each month we will achieve our goal and the belly of our piggy will be full, yay :). However we are not there yet.

I like the app because its so simple to use and it is beautifully designed with only one goal, showing you how close you are to your saving goal, and how much money you have already saved. For me it really is a visual encouragement to reach my saving goal! I just want to start saving some money and fill that little piggy’s belly! There is however one downside, when you have set your goal of how much money you want to save, you cannot insert a time limit. I for example have a goal for one year, but there is nowhere to include this. I think it would have been a nice addition (for now I will just add in the title that it is my goal for the year 2015). The app also does not show you the history of what you have saved per time period, it just shows you your total. When you want to keep track of the exact amounts you have saved  you will have to use another app or for example keep track of it in an excel sheet.

The app is for free, however, if you want to set more than one goal, you have to upgrade the app for €0.99 (or $0.99). It is available in English and Dutch. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

What do you think of this app? Does anyone of you use an app to keep track of your savings?

Regards,
Frugal Fiona

Smoothies and Milkshakes

Did you know that you can freeze bananas? Most of you probabily allready knew. Until a year ago I however had no idea. When I saw that my bananas were over ripe, I ate them (even when I was not really in the mood) or even threw them away. Then I discovered that you can put them in the freezer which turned out to be super convenient when I got the urge for a smoothie or milkshake.

Freezing bananas is very easy:Freezing bananasx

  • Step 1: peel the banana
  • Step 2: slice the banana is pieces
  • Step 3: put the pieces in an airtight bag or a plastic container
  • Step 4: put the bag or container in the freezer

That’s how I do it. If you prefer, you can also leave the banana in one or two big pieces, or you can even leave the peel on and put the banana entirely in the freezer. If you leave the peel on you can afterwards easily peel the (frozen) banana by shortly holding it under running water.

Now what can you do with frozen bananas? There so many things that you can make with them. I prefer to use them for making smoothies and milkshake. Here are two super easy and super tasty recipies that I often make.

Recipe 1: **tasty-banana-smoothie**

  • Ingredients:
    • Orange juice (since I only use it for smoothies I use a very cheap brand)
    • Frozen bananas (one or two, depends on your own Smoothiextaste)
  • Preparation:
    • Poor a cup of orange juice in the blender
    • Add the frozen bananas
    • Blend until smooth
    • Add some extra orange juice depending on your own taste
    • Enjoy your tasty-banana-smoothie

Recipe 2: **sweet-banana-chocolate-milkshake**

  • Ingredients:
    • ‘Dame blanche’ ice cream
    • Frozen bananans (one or two, again, it depends on your own taste)
    • milkmilkshakex
    • Maple syrup (for the sweet tooths)
  • Preparation:
    • Scoop three spoons of ice cream in the blender
    • Add the frozen bananas and a bit milk
    • Blend until smooth
    • Add a teaspoon of maple syrup
    • Enjoy an uber-super-duber-tasty sweet-banana-chocolate-milkshake

These are two very easy recipes that I often make. It’s nice because they only take a few minutes to make and they are super tasty. And, best of all, you can make them whenever you want if you have some bananas in the freezer.

If you make the smoothie or milkshake, be sure to rinse the blender immediately afterwards. Otherwise, if you leave it for a few hours, it will be much harder to clean.

I hope you all enjoy the banana smoothie and milkshake as much as my boyfriend and me do!

*Smakelijk*

Frugal Fiona

Where to start?

Living frugally, where do I start? I think that I already live quite thrifty, I for example pay attention to what I spend, I use home made cleaning products, I try to limit our waste … but as I mentioned in my previous blog, there’s still a lot of room for improvement.

I think that a good way to start (or continue) living frugally would be by first of all focussing on my spending. I have a sense of how much money my boyfriend and me spend each month, however I have no idea where our money exactly goes to. We can save a lot of money each month but I don’t know the exact amount we give on food, clothes, going out … We’ve created a budget for most household items (such as groceries) but we don’t really reflect back on the accuracy of our estimates. So maybe I have a completely wrong sense of our expenses. It is possible that in my mind several purchases are forgotten or are considered as futile (such as that box of chocolates that I bought yesterday), giving me a completely false sense of being thrifty and could have a big impact on my financial future.

So I think it would be good to start tracking our expenses. Just writing everything down and dividing our expenses in different categories, to get a view of our spending habits (we will definitely need a separate category for chocolates). It would be a good exercise to see where our money goes to, and it will help us to budget our expenses in the future!

At the moment I am figuring out which tracking system would be best. I can for example write everything down in a notebook, use a spreadsheet application on the computer, or use an app. I think I prefer using an app because it allows me to add my expenses on my Smartphone wherever I am.

A quick browse on the internet shows that there are numerous apps that can help me with this, I can enter my income and expenses, divide them in different categories and get a nice overview of what I spend each month for each category. Some apps can even help me to create a budget and tell how much money is left per category. The only ‘difficult’ part is finding a good app since there are so many to choose from. Based on a first quick search me and my boyfriend like dollarbird, spendee and accounts 2, but there are many more so in the following months I will test several money tracking apps including these three and see which one fits best to our needs. I will of course write a review on these apps in the next few weeks. I will also keep you up to date on how tracking my expenses works out for me. My boyfriend and I are very curious to see whether we spend as much money on food, clothes, going out, electricity … as we think we do, or whether we spend much more than we thought.

Regards,
Frugal Fiona