Long live cheap shower gel

For the past two years, we have tried to live as frugally as possible.  Some people might think we’re absolutely crazy in our thriftiness, but it has served us well.  Recently, I reflected that one of the things we have saved money on is shower gel.  Yes, shower gel.  I know some would laugh about a blog post extolling the merits of saving money on shower gel, but here it is.

Most of my friends, relatives and acquaintances would buy their favourite brand of shower gel without thinking twice about it.  They trust the brand name, they love the various fragrances, they don’t mind paying for the expensive advertising.

However, they miss the whole point of saving money.  We buy the generic shower gel, price ranging from 6p to 13p a bottle.  But don’t let the price fool you.  The soap does lather up.  It does its job more than adequately.  In addition, everyone in our family has sensitive skin – we all suffer from some allergy or another – yet, none of us have broken out in rashes using cheap shower gel.  Sure, you won’t find variety in fragrances, but is that very important?  Fragrances can cause allergic reactions.  No, it does not leave us feeling like we have baby-soft skin, but we still feel clean.

Can you survive on Jobseeker’s Allowance

I was watching the diary of a young woman trying to live on her Jobseeker’s Allowance.  She explained what her outgoings were and how the allowance was not enough to pay for everything.  In fact, at the end of the week, she did not have any money to buy food.  I’m surprised her rent was so low – she must be in a bedsit.  It’s a good thing she doesn’t smoke, because tobacco is extremely expensive.  Yet, I have seen how young smokers still insist on buying cigarettes despite not being able to afford it.

Her outgoings were pretty reasonable, so she shows that the Jobseeker’s Allowance is unreasonable to live on.  She gets fifty pounds a week.  I don’t have any suggestions to offer her, except perhaps, to cancel her TV license.  She pays five pounds each week for the privilege of watching TV.  She can use that money to buy a little food.  She did not mention a mobile phone, so perhaps, she does not have one.  That rather surprises me, seeing the number of people using mobiles in the UK.  However, it is a luxury that should go if you do not have the money, unless you have one of those cheap pay-as-you-go plans.  We have a cell phone that is only used for incoming calls.

There are other small things that you may have to sacrifice when you are living on a very tight budget.  However, sometimes the alternatives may be more costly, so you have to work out for yourself what is best.  For example, we have a home phone and internet plan.  It may not be the best idea and certainly, the plan is not the cheapest.  But it was the most convenient in terms of timing.  We could not afford to go into pubs and coffee shops everyday just to use their free WiFi.  They expect you to buy food and drink while you are there.  Some libraries offer free internet, but their computers are slow, you cannot be guaranteed a free computer when you walk in, and you may have to drive to the library.  If you live within easy distance of the library, then this might be a viable option.  Unfortunately, there are no free phones anywhere.

You can’t really live without water or electricity/gas.  However, you can minimise your use of these utilities.  In the summertime, you might not need heating and natural sunlight can provide lighting for your room.  Perhaps, go to sleep when the sun goes down and wake up when it rises so that you don’t need to use electricity for light.  I’ve already mentioned the water issue on another post.  Even with all that, I can’t see how fifty pounds will suffice.  Though it is more than the child benefit.  You can’t feed children on the amount they give.

More ways to save water

Water is becoming a scarce commodity as more people are using more water.  As it becomes more scarce and usage continues to rise, the cost of water increases.  Although there are simple ways to save water, we find that it is not enough.  So, we have gone back to the old days of saving water, in some respects.  This was started out of necessity at the beginning, but now we find that it is also convenient and cost-saving.  We are sharing bathwater.

I know it may sound disgusting to some people who have grown up in this world of conveniences where quick showers are a daily routine.  But it is not as bad as it sounds.  Perhaps if you didn’t have a working shower and you don’t have a lot of money and you want to try some cost-saving measures, you might consider this.  Just think about those days before central plumbing was available everywhere.  People took baths in tubs and had to share the water.  Of course, you may bathe in relatively dirty water, but it isn’t all that dirty.  It is more soapy than anything.  You can always rinse off with a little more clean water.  Overall, you use less water than if everyone took a shower, albeit a quick one.

The other thing to consider is not bathing or showering everyday.  We probably do more damage to our skin with daily baths/showers.  When I was growing up, it was recommended that you bathe 2-3 times a week.  But we got in the habit of showering daily.  I know my skin is dry and flaky now.  Our ideal of cleanliness requires this daily routine but we are not doing our skin any good.  Case in point: several months ago, the Daily Mail profiled a woman in her 60s who has been living a “green” existence for 35 years.  She cleans herself with a wet rag and the reporter noted she looked clean and did not even exude a musty odour.  Now, I would not go to that extreme, but maybe skipping a bath a day or two will not hurt anyone.  However, if you are visibly dirty or stinky, I’d advocate getting into that bath immediately.

Rationing to combat recession

During the war years and the depression, many families learned how to be thrifty. Of course, the government helped by creating a rationing system. Because of the growing recession, some people have advocated that we institute some form of rationing.

I think it might be a good idea, as it will also teach young children about the importance of saving, of making-do rather than buying anything and everything their heart desires. It teaches them to value things. It might also teach them to eat healthier. At school, my kids have learned about war-time rationing and all the posters from WWII. Many of them advocated the importance of nutrition. Yet, they have not taken those lessons to heart because of the society they live in. If they were really hungry and only had vegetables to snack on, rather than all those unhealthy crisps and sweets, they might develop a taste for healthy foods.

But it is not just in food that rationing and the depression mentality would affect. It is also fuel and clothes. Women back then had to mend their own clothes, to keep them as long as they could. Sometimes, they were able to alter them a bit to make them more fashionable. Unfortunately, sewing and mending are somewhat lost arts. And women are not as creative in their fashion style as they used to be. Of course, the styles were simpler back then and I wouldn’t mind returning to them.

The fuel rationing might be rather problematic. Some of us have to travel quite a distance to go to work or school and public transport is not always easily available for these trips. It may be that we would have to live closer to work and/or school, but that is not always possible because housing might not be available, places at school might not be available, and right now, jobs are not readily available.

It would be interesting if the government does introduce some form of rationing to help us combat the recession. It may be another one of those “green” efforts.

The frugal mind

Having been forced to live on a limited budget, we have learned many ways to cut back on spending. We may not be able to save, but at least we are limiting our outgoing expenses. Gone are the days that we would have a “shopping spree”. Not that we were ever big spenders, but there were times when it was necessary to undertake a shopping expedition to stock up on supplies of clothes, shoes, etc. After all, kids are constantly growing.

When they were younger, the kids never minded buying clothes from charity shops. They have not even hit puberty yet, but they are starting to get a sense of style, which makes it difficult to persuade them to shop at charity shops and jumble sales. But fortunately, we have not needed to make any additional purchases other than uniforms for school. Even for those, sometimes we had to buy clothes in a slightly larger size. It’s better to take in and up a little, then let it out as the kids grow, rather than buying more and more over time.

Our spending habits have never been extravagant or frivolous and I have never been able to understand those who do spend lavishly. Though we have shopped at charity shops, I never stopped to consider those who donate to charities. I think it wonderful that we have generous people who would donate. Yet, I can only assume that those who donate are comfortably well-off. After all, why give away so much good, useful items unless you can afford to. Nevertheless, I am grateful for their charity.

I would never have considered donating goods such as towels and bedsheets. I would use them until they were threadbare. Even then, I’d find other uses for them, such as cleaning rags. Same thing with clothes. We’d wear them until we either outgrew them or there were holes everywhere. By that time, they were not worth donating, so we’d have to tear them up for other things.

It is this frugal living that has allowed us to survive so far. It doesn’t work for everyone, especially those who are too fashion conscious, but it works for us. Needless to say, it can’t last forever. Our thrifty habits will probably not change, but we still need to have money coming in in order to get through this recession.

Save money or save economy?

It is difficult, as the recession worsens, to find further ways of economising. It is not enough to simply spend less and waste less. Also, It is harder for people to save because interest rates have dropped to practically nothing. So, there is less money, which drives people to want to spend less. However, this becomes a self-defeating cycle. Although this blog is dedicated to encouraging thriftiness, we must be practical in how we go about doing so.

I do not advocate that people go out and spend money they do not have. I would not want anyone to go into debt to rescue the economy. However, I would suggest that those with the money go and spend it wisely. That is the main gist of this blog. If we spend, let’s do it cautiously. The economy is at risk of going into deflation, which would worsen the recession. As prices fall, people tend to hold back and wait for it to fall to the bottom. This can hurt the economy.

If there is a big item you have been waiting for and it is now in your price range, it would be advisable to make the purchase now. This mostly concerns furniture, home repairs, etc. But the same can be applied to cars and houses. We’ve been hearing about the housing slump, but, unfortunately, there is also the difficulty in obtaining a mortgage. If you have the money and there is a house you would like, go for it. But if there is concern that you might not be able to make a mortgage payment, assuming you can get one, then don’t buy the house. Times are uncertain but if your prospects are good, take advantage of the moment. At the same time, don’t allow the economy to worsen because it may affect your chances later.

If deflation occurs, more companies may decide to close, making more people unemployed. The government may be struggling to find a solution to the economic problems, but people (who can afford to) need to take a personal step towards helping get this economy rolling again.

Easy money-saving tips

There are many small ways to cut back on your spending. Here are a few examples:

1. The times are hectic. You are running here, there, everywhere. But all this running around really hurts your fuel budget. Organise your daily routines so that you minimise your driving. Not only will it save you money on fuel consumption, it will save your sanity. If you need to do shopping, make a list so that you will not forget and have to make an extra trip later.

2. Turning off the lights in rooms that are not in use will cut down on the electricity bill. Similarly, turn off your TV or electronics equipment, rather than putting them on stand-by. Use energy-efficient light bulbs – these have now become cheap items.

3. Lower your heater. You should not freeze, but you do not need your house to be a sauna in the winter. Most people can tolerate an ambient room temperature that is a little cool and wear a jumper for added warmth.

4. Cut out the unnecessary junk from your shopping list. Only buy what you need and will use without wasting. Cut out extra junk food for snacking. Buy healthy foods that can be used for dinner as well as snacks. Consider quitting smoking – that alone saves money each week.

5. Avoid going into fast food restaurants. Not only is it unhealthy, it is excessive spending. Plan your meals so that you will not resort to McDonald’s.

6. Save water. You can save water in various ways, many of which are common sense and already in practice:

a. Shower instead of bathing. Unless you stand in the shower for hours on end or you use a power shower, you would save on water consumption.

b. Install a water-efficient cistern for your toilet so that you are not flushing away excessive water.

c. If you buy a clothes or dishwasher, choose a water-efficient model and only wash when you have a full load.

d. If washing by hand, fill a sink with soapy water to wash and a sink with clean water to rinse. Do not leave the tap running.

e. Similarly, do not peel and clean vegetables under running water. Either fill the sink up, or peel, then rinse after.

f. Do not leave the tap running when brushing teeth. Use a cup.

g. If you wash your car at home, use a bucket and sponge rather than a hose pipe.

h. Fix any leaking pipes and check your pipes regularly for leakages.

i. Insulate your pipes so that they stay warm and will not crack.

j. Lastly, consider getting a water meter. You may be paying too much if you are charged an unmeasured rate. A water meter allows you to pay based on what you use and not on the rateable value of your home.