conscious living in october – or frugal friday (on a sunday)

I didn’t have a plan as such for this conscious living quest. I just wanted to turn my attention to areas of life where I’d drifted into doing things habitually, and make sure what I was doing was what I would choose to do if I thought about it properly.

One of those areas is spending money. This might not seem to fit with the ethical idea behind the conscious living quest, but it does. It’s about making sure the things I’m spending money on are the things I want to be spending money on.

We never had much money when I was young, and I learned the value of it early on. At the age of 13 I started work in a paper shop, and stayed there, working at the weekend, until I went to university. I loved having my own money, and at 14 I saved for a whole year to buy my own flute (it cost £400, which took a fair bit of saving!). My mum was wise (and frugal) – she’d buy basic toiletries with the weekly shopping, but if I wanted anything fancy or different, I had to buy it myself. (She adopted a similar attitude when I turned vegetarian at the age of 16).

I don’t remember ever feeling deprived as a child, and only rarely as an adult. I’ve tried very hard never to think ‘I can’t afford that [fabulous new coat/ holiday/ giant posh house]’ but instead to think ‘I could afford it if I [spent ten years working full time/ moved into a smaller house/ didn’t buy grapes for 2 months]’. Invariably, I end up content with what I already have.

The job I have now is better paid than anything I’ve ever done before. I just did two days a week at first, and while I was pretty frugal, I managed. When I started working full time, I vowed I’d only spend what I’d earned for two days a week, and put the rest straight into a savings account.

It worked for a while. I built up the savings account, and an emergency fund, and a cheery fund for holidays. And as the months passed, and I realised more and more that working full time does not suit me at all, I started grabbing a cup of tea on the train occasionally, or getting the bus into town instead of walking, or having lunch in a cafe at the weekend. Only small things, but things I’d not really even thought about much before. More months passed, and those things became habits.

And so, last week, I found myself with only £5 in the bank and two weeks until payday. Hmm. In my case not a problem as there’s plenty of money sat in the emergency fund, but this wasn’t really the ’emergency’ I’d had in mind…

I spent Friday with two friends I met through a money saving website. I spent a lot of time there in the past, and learned some good habits, like keeping track of my spending. I don’t do this all the time, but I have done for the last three months. On Friday Robyn suggested I go back through what I’d written.

It’s not that surprising really. A lot of what I spend goes on food. Almost the same amount on travel to work. Other high spending categories are non-work categories (both diesel and trains), flute lessons, and tea and cake and lunch in nice cafes.

Where to start making changes? I’m not in debt, and I earn above the average wage. As soon as I’m paid I put money into my savings account, and also the emergency fund and holiday fund. I realise I’m in a privileged position of not having to economise the way I’ve had to in the past. This is where the conscious living idea comes in – if I step back and think about it, what would I like to be spending my money on?

I won’t be giving up tea and cake any time soon, don’t worry, although I could adopt another lovely friend’s suggestion of taking a flask and a picnic and eating near a cafe occasionally. I also won’t be giving up my fortnightly flute lessons. I enjoy these things, and don’t mind spending money on them. But there are other things I spend money on that don’t add much to the pleasure of my life, and they can go.

I have to travel to work – but if I walked to the station rather than getting the bus I’d get a bit more exercise and save about £25 a month. I often buy lunch in the canteen on the days I’m in the office – if I made my own lunch instead I’d easily save another £25, if not more. I like to buy fruit and veg at the local greengrocers, but often end up dashing into the small (expensive) supermarket too. If I planned a little more, made a shopping list, maybe did a bit of batch cooking, I could probably shave another £25 a month without even noticing.

All this is a very long winded way of saying I found myself in the kitchen last night boiling dried beans, batch cooking rice for the freezer, and making bread and muffins and rhubarb jam. I used to cook dried beans all the time, and got out of the habit – time to get back into it I think. My bread making leaves a lot to be desired, but I’m hoping a bit of practice might mean a passable loaf eventually.

The muffins were a special treat. The recipe comes courtesy of Robyn, although I confess I made a few changes. I used sultanas instead of apricots, added sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and a chopped bramley apple that was going a little soft. I realised once they were in the oven that I hadn’t put any oil in at all, but they don’t seem any the worse for it.

I’m not going to start obsessing about money. I very much like Cheri’s attitude of ‘I have more than enough for my needs’ abundance. But I am going to start spending consciously – making sure that what I’m buying is what I want to be buying.

I’ll be joining in with Robyn’s Frugal Friday series (hopefully on a Friday from now on!) for a little while to keep track. Why don’t you join in too?

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5 Responses to conscious living in october – or frugal friday (on a sunday)

  1. Cassandra says:

    Conscious living is such a fantastically descriptive term. I love how it doesn’t imply being “stingy”, but makes us think about, and be grateful for what we do have. This is so important in the current rampant consumerism we are bombarded with on a daily basis. I will be interested to read your Frugal Friday posts 🙂

  2. Fay says:

    I’m with you here wholeheartedly! And Cassandra’s right, its about a choice and when we do or don’t want to be consumers. Not stingy at all, very much more about concious living. Nice post! And by the way, we spend most of our extra money on food or adventures!

  3. Robyn says:

    That muffin recipe is just great – it is SO good tempered – you can switch some of the flour for cocoa powder, or use melted butter instead of oil (or no oil at all, it seems!) vary the fruit, add nuts, use all flour rather than part porridge oats, switch the porridge oats for oatmeal…..for breakfast muffins I often use mixed dried fruit and a teaspoon of mixed spice, then sprinkle some porridge oats on the top.

    Looking forward to you joining in with Frugal Friday as well – whatever day of the week you choose to do it on! xx

  4. Prairie girl says:

    This post is a good reminder to think twice about what I buy and why I should or shouldn’t. I’m trying so hard to resist a pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks whenever I go grocery shopping. (Conveniently there’s one inside the market). So far it’s working, and I’ve saved myself eight bucks this week! 😉 Thanks to my mum for “raisin’ me right”, most of my clothes are from thrift stores and I’m bargain savvy. With the $ I’m saving depriving myself of lattes, I think I’ll buy a bread making machine. I’d love to have fresh homemade bread weekly, and I think the dense and heaviness of that kind is so delicious. So, thank you for helping me along in my quest for frugal living!

  5. I love the term “conscious living”. I think or hope I might be doing it already but now it has a name I will do it even more consciously!

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