We have welcomed many new members to the Frugal Forums where the day-to-day trials and tribulations of we challengers are published. We set our sites on living more frugal, self-sustainable and healthy lifestyles while pursuing, achieving and maintaining debt freedom. We have analysed our spending, studied our budgets and set out our goals, now let the frugal games begin!

The road to Frugaldom

Starting a new challenge is never easy and believe it or not, organising a personal budget seems to be one of the most difficult challenges around, as so many just cannot see how their personal spending impacts so much on their household budgets. So let's get one thing straight, right from week 1 - when I talk about budgets, I mean the real numbers of actual income less actual spends that result in either a plus or a minus number. If your real income is less than your spending then, quite frankly, you're doing something wrong - it really is that simple!

Many people attempt to resolve bad budgeting by seeking out more income which, in turn, can lead to more stress, more spending and, overall, create a negative impact. Here in Frugaldom, we work our challenges in a slightly different way - we reduce the overall cost of our lifestyle by separating the needs from the wants in a very basic fashion. Only once there are no debts do the 'wants' get reintroduced and only at a level affordable to an otherwise frugal budget. If acute austerity measures are needed, then so be it.

For 2016, my aims are to run my home on a budget of less than £4,000 and still afford a few luxuries. All other household income is allocated to rainy day savings, pension planning and investments. But first we need to settle into our new year and the impending arrival of this one literally swamped many of us!

Newton Stewart Flood

Flooding in Newton Stewart

What have you done over the first half of week one of 2016 Frugal Living Challenge?

Day 1 - New Year's Day - Had a very, very late breakfast, despite having arrived home relatively early from the Hogmanay celebrations (around 2.45am) For New Year's dinner, I prepared a frugal meal of thick beef stew slow cooked in homemade stock, vegetables, potatoes and about one third of a pack of shop-bought puff pastry. I had frozen the leftover Christmas dumpling, so we had a slice of that with cream and we drank some wine. In all honesty, I was glad we had power restored to cook at all. (You can get the recipe for traditional Scottish Clootie Dumpling here.)

The new year arrived here amidst a bit of a family crisis. The photo was taken outside daughter's shop after the retaining wall of the River Cree collapsed during the high tidal surge that resulted from storm Frank. The storm managed to flood our town, knock out our electricity supply, knock out the Internet and knock out mobile phone signals. As of today, 4th January, power has not yet been restored to daughter's flooded premises but the whole place has been emptied in an attempt to salvage something from the business to enable her to get back up and running as quickly as possible - somewhere! For now, we have only just started counting up the costs that will be incurred between now and insurance claims, structural repairs, sanitising, drying out, redecorating and refitting the premises.

My little budget pales into insignificance but at least all this frugal living allows for emergency savings and this certainly falls within the category of 'rainy day'!

My Challenge Budget

  • £720 food shopping for 2 adults
  • £80 toiletries, cleaning and laundry products
  • £600 electricity
  • £340 heating and hot water
  • £44.50 misc extras
  • £400 telephone, Internet and mobile (non-essential)
  • £145.50 TV licence (non-essential)
  • £50 footwear and clothing
  • £80 gifts for others (non-essential)
  • £240 transport & travel (non-essentail)
  • £60 postage and deliveries
  • £120 home insurance
  • £120 pets (non-essential)
  • £1,000 council tax

Total £4,000.00

In dire straits, if facing the possibility of homelessness and bankruptcy, I could easily slash this budget by 25%  but for now, this includes the luxury of having pets, a telephone, broadband Internet, the ability to travel about a bit and still afford a few gifts for others. I allow myself an additional 25% (£1,000) just for fun money but I actually find it fun budgeting, which costs nothing.

This journey isn't for everybody. Over the years, we have honed our skills, fine-tuning even the most mundane of chores. We read our energy meters every week, we count the costs of going to work, we have zero tolerance for waste and recycle, reused, make do or mend whatever we can. In return, we live in debt freedom and can do with our disposable income whatever we want. Some people save, some invest, some pension plan and others spend on their passions and follow their dreams.

Meals - most days we eat porridge and I tend to add in a handful of sultanas or raisins per serving to get one of our 5-a-day into breakfast! This is my recipe for Scottish porridge

Day 2 - Spent agonising over how best to help daughter tackle the problem of rescuing her business, but managed to fit in doing some laundry and throwing a £1 pizza into the oven for dinner!

Day 3 - After a trip into town to meet insurance assessors with daughter, it was home to make the most of meal leftovers that should probably have been eaten by now. I had bought some milk, carrots and onions in town, as Co-op had succeeded in reopening, despite their previous flood, so that should take care of the grocery spends for a while. £2.84 in all.

With half of the remaining 2/3 pack of puff pastry and the last of the stew still in the fridge, I made a small pie, then used up the final 1/3 pack of pastry by rolling it out and filling it with mincemeat. I baked both in the oven at the same time and that was our carb-laden meal of the day. We are still eating fruit, crackers, cheese and crisps leftover from Christmas. We only managed to eat half the pie with beans and wedges, so the other half went into the fridge.

Day 4 - Meals are wonky right now. We normally have breakfast, a light lunch and then dinner in the evening but we ended up having the last of the steak pie with a tin of beans at lunchtime today,  then a ham salad tonight for dinner to use up some of the cooked gammon that daughter couldn't use in time and the last of the Christmas iceberg lettuce that I had kept by the root-end in a tub of water.

I hope cooked gammon freezes OK! We couldn't eat it all, so it got split up, wrapped up and put into the freezer which, fortunately, had chosen to remain frozen during last week's power cuts. We still haven't finished the open packs of cheese from the Christmas cheese board and I have at least a dozen eggs needing used up as soon as possible! Time to take a look at my faithful old list of 101 things to do with eggs!

In between times, I have begun pulling together all the recipes and food-related posts and will be putting them under the heading 'Frugal Gourmet', which began as one of our annual Frugaleur challenges around 2008, I think? It had to be temporarily shelved owing to other commitments taking priority. It will be up and running very soon at www.frugalgourmet.co.uk

That's my exciting week, so far! I hope to pack much more in over the next three days, as I have the first batch of this year's laundry detergent to make, many eggs to use up and there are a few bits and pieces needing done around the garden. Mr EcoArts has been busy trying to reincarnate our storm ravaged former polytunnel into a fox-proof chicken run and tomorrow is my day for taking down all the Christmas decorations. Oh yes, and the normal working week resumes here in Scotland as that's the holiday well and truly over for the start of this year!

I hope 2016 is going as smoothly as it possibly can for you and my thoughts are with those of you I know who are currently dealing with family tragedies. Rainy days come in all shapes and sizes when we least expect them, so hang on in there and keep on frugalling as best you possibly can.

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