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!

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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.

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

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

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

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

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