It's almost the end of the first month into our 2016 frugal living challenge - how are you doing?

Herbs in the garden

My garden is a shambles with nothing more than the last remnants of the perennial herbs and none of them looking like the photo above - lush, green and colourful. No, instead they are looking sparse, woody, twiggy and in bad need of some care and attention. Elsewhere in the garden, some of the garlic cloves have sprouted and I found a few rogue potatoes when scrounging for some spinach the other day I was out there.

Every new year brings us new challenges but it still never ceases to amaze my how others perceive 'our lifestyle' as we pursue our frugal living goals. I don't even think of it as a peculiar life of deprivation or self-imposed poverty. We live in times of austerity that have been brought on by what would appear to be a complete and utter lack of ability for some people to add, subtract, multiply and divide! Simple arithmetic should surely provide just reason for living within one's own means after working so hard to achieve total freedom from debt. What I see, I own - it is mine. It doesn't belong to the bank, it doesn't belong to a credit card, hire purchase, lease or finance company, it is mine to do with exactly as I please - so I do! Shame on anyone who can't 'get' why they have overdrafts, credit card bills, bank loans, long-running contracts, mortgages and insufficient (if any) savings if it's down to their money-spending priorities being at odds with their household income. Putting their own wants before the security of home and family is, in my opinion, a very selfish thing to do.

Back to the finances - we had a debate in the frugal forums about whether or not there were any benefits to paying BT's annual linesaver this year, as prices had, once again, increased. In my situation, where every penny counts, I found that the 10% savings made by paying in full at the start of the year led me to having an extra £21.54 at the end of the year, along with the added £1.94 that represents the 1% cashback I'll accrue from paying by credit card and clearing the balance before any interest is added. For those of you who have been with Egg card since we began our cash-back savings, we still get up to 1% cash back each year from a fee-free card, we just no longer get paid interest on any credit balances - more's the pity.

So how is the annual challenge budget looking? From a starting point of £4,000, I have already spent £500, with £194 of this going to BT and my usual 50p per day into the savings pot. Telephone and Internet account for a huge proportion of the budget but let's not overlook the fact that these are luxuries that most of us prefer to have. It now costs around £10 per week for personal communications equipment of whatever description you use - landline, Internet, mobile phone - and that has to act as part of our social activities, as we are all so busy communicating that some of us have no time left to actually interact with real people outside of work or home.

The other big burden on budgets is energy costs - these account for about 25% of my annual budget, or 20% if I include council tax. Has anyone else noticed how similar in amounts council tax and energy use have become, or is that just in my old stone cottage with it's single glazing and no loft to insulate? It's like the price of petrol - it used to always run about parallel with that of cigarettes with much of those costs being tax of one form or another - anyone know if it is still possible to buy a pack of cigarettes for the price of a gallon of petrol?

Many thanks to all my regular frugal friends for continuing to pursue a life of frugality and for setting a good example to those around them - living in frugal debt freedom IS the new rich - like it, live it, love it! For those who disagree, you can lump it! smiley

Feel free to join any of our many money challenges free in New for 2016, we have the THISTLE POT CHALLENGE,  a brand new challenge to save those pennies into pounds and come to our Frugaldom meet-up in May 2017. It's going to be our very own frugalfest!

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