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!

Advertisements

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.

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

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.

My Frugal Journey

Today I decided to start living frugally. At the moment I already live quite thrifty (I think) but there is definitely a lot of room for improvement. I want to discover more ways to live frugally, to become more conscious about my spending and spending habits, and to adapt (together with my boyfriend) a frugal lifestyle. And what better way than sharing my experiences of my frugal journey in a blog.

Now what exactly is frugal living? Wikipedia defines frugality as “The quality of being frugal, sparing, thrifty, prudent or economical in the consumption of consumable resources such as food, time or money, and avoiding waste, lavishness or extravagance.”*

This definition seems to imply that frugal living is about sacrifice and deprivation. However as described by Erin Huffstetler in a very interesting article about frugal living**, frugal living is about living smarter and using your money in a smarter way, so that you can afford to live the life that you want to live!

Three main concepts of living frugally are described:Frugal Living2

  • Smarter money management [know how much money you have and how much money you need to pay your bills]
  • Smarter spending [spend the money that you have in the best way possible]
  • Harnessing your creativity [find ways to make due with what you have and do more things yourself]

So living frugal is about getting more ‘bang for your buck’, creating possibilities and living the life you like to live. I’m up for the challenge of trying to live more frugally. I want to pause for a moment and overthink my spending habits and habits in general life. I want to adopt a frugal lifestyle in which I am more conscious about spending money, handling food, products, buying services, doing more things myself …

I hope you will follow me in my journey to a frugal lifestyle. I hope that in my upcoming blogs I can share tips and tricks that are useful to you all, and to receive some feedback.

Regards,
Frugal Fiona

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frugality
** http://frugalliving.about.com/od/frugalliving101/a/What_Is_Frugal.htm