Amazingly we're already into March and 2014 seems to be rushing past as quickly as last year did. I had been meaning to write something about the first month of our Year of Thrift, but time's run away somewhat. Two months in though there's a fair amount to say and catch up on.
What's actually been the most successful thing, but the hardest to keep up, is writing down everything that I spend. For nearly all of January I managed to do this and it really did make me think about every single purchase and question whether it was absolutely necessary or not. I was also somewhat shocked when I realised just how much I was spending on food shopping when I actually added it all up.
I did find this incredibly difficult to do though and I wish I didn't. In theory it should just be a case of keeping receipts and writing it down in a notebook or putting it in a spreadsheet. The reality was that my handbag ended up full of random receipts that gradually got more and more damaged until I finally put them in the recycling instead. I must try to restart this though.
I also spent quite a bit of time at the start of the year going through our utility bills and working out where we could save money. We've turned down the heating by a couple of degrees and also reduced the amount of time each day that it's on. More and more things are being switched off and we've got new batteries in the OWL energy monitor so we can try to better keep track of what's using electricity. I'm also incredibly proud of the fact that I haven't used the dryer part of our washer-dryer at all this year. For the last couple of weeks I've been managing to dry some stuff outside and the rest of the time things are just hanging to dry in our spare bedroom. It's not been a huge change but did take some getting used to as it does take a bit longer to hang it all up rather than just set the dryer to come on as soon as the washing cycle's finished.
The other thing that we finally did was change electricity and gas supplier. I've blogged before about how easy this is to do, but I have to admit that we've not actually made the switch until now. A few minutes on uswitch and it soon became obvious just how much we could save by swapping. We didn't actually decide to go for the very cheapest tariff on the market, but instead went to Ovo's Green Tariff which means that 100% of our energy comes from renewable sources. I'd love one day for us to be able to generate our own energy, but until that becomes a reality this tariff keeps my eco side happy.
When it comes to food shopping I've been trying out shopping at Aldi and also trying to reduce the amount of food we waste. I've been cooking more vegetarian meals too, especially once I'd worked out how much we were spending on meat. The wine bill was also worthy of some reduction and so I'm proud to say that I've now made 5 bottles of homebrew wine and there are two more demijohns (one white and one red) currently sat on the side in the kitchen, bubbling away. It works out at just over £1.50 a bottle – a big saving compared to supermarket prices.
Now that I'm writing all this down it's made me realise that I'm actually doing a whole lot more thrifty stuff than I'd realised. As well as all this I've also being doing lots of small things like repairing clothes, using up things that we have in the house, selling excess things on eBay and local Facebook groups, and also making things from scratch – everything from snacks to a world book day fancy dress costume for Little Miss C. Even her teaching assistant commended me on the use of a school sweatshirt as part of the costume and so proud I am of my thrifty fancy dress ways that it'll be a whole separate blog post soon!
So – now the question of what to do in month three and for the rest of the year – other than continuing what I've started. I've certainly got some ideas, but for now it's time to save electricity by turning off the lights and going to bed.