May 22

Share Something

Once A Month Give Something Away

This seems an odd Thrifty Habit – why spend the whole month saving money only to give some of it away at the end of the month? What if you have nothing left at the end of the month for you and yours, never mind for sharing with anyone else? Surely when times are hard, the first things you cut out are the non-essentials?

Tartan Thrifty Be Joyful And GenerousIt was certainly the first thing I did when belts were tightened in Tartan Towers. Without even thinking about it I stopped giving away anything to anyone. I reasoned that it was wrong to give money away when my children needed it. But… A few months of thrifty living revealed that, actually, if we were careful, we did have enough and more. My children had everything they needed – and quite a lot that they just wanted. So did we. I was happy we were living well on less but uncomfortable with turning a blind eye to other people’s needs.  That’s when I began to formulate my Five Principle Of Thrift – particularly Be Joyful And Generous, Not Miserly And Miserable – because I realised that it is possible to be good with money without being Good.

Share Something is one of the Thrifty Habits that comes directly from this principle but I didn’t start including it in my monthly habits until I was researching How To Buy Happiness. I came across a study that demonstrated that sharing makes people feel happier. I realised that sharing a little is actually an investment in our own happiness as much as other people’s.

Why You Need To Get Into The Habit Of Giving A Little Away

sharing a little is actually an investment in our own happiness as much as other people’s

Maybe you already need no convincing that it is a Good Thing to share with others. In which case, just take this as reassurance that you don’t have to stop being generous to start being thrifty (although you do have to start being realistic about how much you can afford to give away.) But if you do still need persuading, consider the following ways in which sharing with others will boost your morale.

  1. Working out what to share makes you aware of what you already have. That makes you grateful, and grateful feels much better than greedy.
  2. Realising you have enough to share helps you keep a sense of proportion about your own financial worries – it makes you realise that your own situation is less dire than you thought.
  3. Money worries can make you feel very alone; giving to other people makes you feel connected again.
  4. Sharing is empowering. It leaves you feeling that, not only have you managed to stretch your income around your family’s needs, you have managed to stretch it a little way towards someone else’s. You have completed your thrifty challenge and then some.
  5. Sharing makes you more likely to let other people do the same for you. When I felt like we were barely making ends meet I was fiercely opposed to accepting any kind of hand-out from anyone. I needed to feel we were managing on our own. But when you feel you are part of a cycle of people sharing you don’t mind accepting what comes back your way because you know that what goes around comes around.

How To Share Something

Vintage-Grocery-Store-Basket-thm-GraphicsFairy-320x320If I have managed to convince you that Share Something is an important habit for thrifty people then do think outside the box – donating money is not the only one way to share. Put something extra in your shopping trolley to donate to a food bank. Donate your stuff to charity shops or give it away through sites like Freecycle. (Disclaimer: don’t do this if you desperately need the cash you could raise by selling your stuff instead.) Volunteer your time, buy a Big Issue, put a few coins in a charity bucket, sponsor someone’s fundraiser… It’s up to you.

As for how much to give… It depends what you can spare – and only you can be the judge of that.

Whatever you do, however much you give away, the key is just to start. Whether by letting you hold onto your values or by helping you to feel better about your own finances, sharing something each month will enrich you. Try it.

May 9

Five Principles Of Thrifty Living #4 Be Joyful And Generous Not Miserly And Miserable

Why Do You Want To Be Thrifty?


retro lady fro www.thegraphicsfairy.comAre you reducing spending so you can avoid debt – and avoiding debt because debt makes you miserable? Maybe you want to cut spending on some areas so that you can keep your money for the things that make you smile. Or do you just want to kick that anxious feeling that gnaws at you for the last two weeks of every month? Whatever your reasons – it’s a safe bet you are hoping that a thriftier life will be a happier one.

Saving our finances should never cost us our souls

But what if the process of reducing your spending makes you miserable? What if it turns out that you hate permanent self-denial, feel bad about exploiting other people/other creatures/the planet for a bargain and hate the drudgery of constantly cutting costs? What if, in pursuit of living cheaply you become…  cheap?

What if the whole process turns out to be soul-destroying? Saving our finances should never cost us our souls.

Saving Money Without Selling Your Soul

Four of the five Principles Of Thrifty Living are about spending less. This one is different. It’s about exercising some choice over how you save money so you avoid the trap of putting your finances ahead of your wellbeing and your values.

Choose Joy Over Misery

RetroNewYearsGraphicsFairyFrugality has enormous potential to make us miserable – not least because focussing most of your time and attention on money is never terribly healthy. And cost-cutting that also cuts all the pleasure out of life is a waste of effort – we humans rapidly lose interest in doing things that make us miserable and stop doing them. (That’s why gym memberships when you hate going to the gym are always a doomed purchase.) If you want to make thrifty living an effortless habit you also have to find ways of making it a joy – or you will effortlessly fall into the habit of not bothering.

Click here for this week's free Thrifty Habits Planner
Click here for this week’s free Thrifty Habits Planner

So find ways of saving money that also enrich your life. Grow some of your own food and enjoy a connection with the natural world. Make something you would otherwise buy and enjoy the glow of getting creative. Try a new free or cheap activity every so often and savour the variety in your life. Team up with other thrifters – in real life or online – and enjoy the company as well as the advice you get. Take time to applaud your own thriftiness – everything you do to cut your costs shows that you are resourceful, smart and determined so big yourself up for it.  Hold onto your values and do thrifty in a way that still lets you do you.

Choose Generosity Over Miserliness

The thrift that does not make a man charitable sours into avarice. [M.W. Harrison]

When you don’t have much there are two ways you can go. You can take the miser’s route – focus on what you don’t have and hold tightly onto what you do. Or you can take the generous way – focus on what you do have and use it to make yourself and others feel good. Being a miser may result in more money but it won’t make you rich where it really counts.

Tartan Thrifty Be Joyful And GenerousSo share what you can with other people, and take heart from the research suggesting that people who share their money feel happier than people who don’t. Don’t exploit other people to get the lowest price. Don’t exploit yourself either – by overloading yourself with budget-busting tasks or by endless self-denial. Be kind to yourself – buy yourself a little treat now and again. Don’t just set yourself savings goals – set yourself spending goals to focus on what your money is going to do for you. Find a balance between being careful with your money and being Scrooge.

Getting that balance right is the key to developing thrifty habits for the long-haul that truly make your life better.

Getting Into The Habit Of Being Joyfully And Generously Thrifty

These weekly, monthly and annual habits are the ones to get into if you want to embrace joyful generosity and avoid miserly misery.

Each week

  • how to buy happinessBuy yourself a little treat to keep your morale up

Each month

  • Share Something so your own thrifty journey does not stop you from connecting with other people on theirs
  • Grow Something  so you get food in a way that lowers your costs while raising your pleasure
  • Try A New Free Or Cheap Activity so that avoiding more expensive outings does not become boring

Each year

  • Set Savings Goals to remind yourself why you are trying to cut back your spending
  • Set Spending Goals so you are clear what your money will be doing for you over the next twelve months
March 7

How To Buy Happiness

Once you can afford to feed, clothe and house yourself, each extra pound makes less and less difference to your sense of well-being.”  Liz Hoggard, Making Slough Happy

Money can’t buy you happiness, right?

Wrong, according to Jonathan Haidt, author of the excellent The Happiness Hypothesis who insists that  “those who think money can’t buy happiness just don’t know where to shop.”  And then goes on to show how smart spending choices will make you thrifty and happy.

Tartan Boy ClimbingNow, I love Thrifty, but I love Happy more. Isn’t Happy what Thrifty is really shooting for? Why are you cutting your spending? Freedom from the misery of debt? A good life at a lower price? Saving up to live out a personal dream?  Whatever your reason, it’s about being happier. It’s always about being happier.

So, what should we be doing with our money, to maximise our Happy? I have been exploring the world of Positive Psychology and here is what I have learned.

How To Buy Happiness

  1. Invest in variety not volume.  It’s not the expense of a new thing that delights us – it’s the newness, the change from what we just had to what we have now. So frequent, small treats will create steadier happiness over time than occasional big purchases. Treating yourself little and often could make you more contented than saving up for one big expense.
  2. Invest in doing not having.   Activity, according to positive psychologists, brings greater and longer-lasting pleasure than possessions, especially activity that we share with others.
  3. how to buy happinessInvest in creating rather than just consuming.  Making things makes you happy. Buying things, not so much. Cook things, grow things, make music, design a web site, redecorate your home – whatever works for you.

    “Joy’s soul lies in the doing” (Shakespeare)

  4. Invest in your health. It’s harder to feel good when you feel bad. Money spent on nutritious food, a comfortable mattress, shoes you can walk in, etc, is money well spent. (Note to self: money spent on fancy wine is a less secure investment in lingering happiness.)
  5. Invest in relationships.  Spend money on connecting with others (meeting friends for coffee, travelling to visit family, sending a birthday card, etc.) rather than on competing to have the best, biggest, most luxurious and most expensive of everything. We are hyper-social animals and we need to feel connected to others more than we need to keep up with the Joneses.
  6. Invest in community: share.  Studies show that people who share more are usually happier than people who don’t.  Perhaps it’s because it reminds them how lucky they are to have more than others; perhaps it reassures them that they have something of value to offer to others; perhaps it helps them feel involved with the rest of the human race.  Perhaps we just feel good when we do good.  Whatever the reason, in terms of buying happiness, it’s a great investment.


Thrifty Habits PlannerClick here for this week’s Thrifty Habits Planner. It’s free – what could be thriftier than that?

November 3

Merry Thriftmas! How To Do A Magical Christmas On A Real-Life Budget

Christmas Is Not Just About Buying Stuff

ChristmasRetroShop-GraphicsFairy1It’s coming. Christmas: the time of year when we buy Stuff and immediately give it away.  Sometimes Stuff we can’t afford.  Sometimes Stuff we are not even sure the recipient will actually like.  In the full knowledge that we ourselves are also about to recieve Stuff we wouldn’t necessarily have chosen, or, embarrassingly, would not have been able to afford to buy.  (Martin Lewis Smith explores this more fully here – well worth reading.)  It’s easy to believe that Christmas is mainly about buying Stuff.

And, actually… [whispers] I like the Stuff.  I love getting a stocking full of the little fripperies I don’t usually waste money on.  I love spoiling my children for one day.  I love having a big, greedy feast to share with my loved ones.  I love the way that, in the darkest part of the year, the house is filled with brightness and abundance.

A Celebration Of Enough

For me, Christmas is a celebration of having Enough.  Enough food. Enough shelter and warmth. Enough loved ones and liked ones.  Enough time to spend some of it relaxing with them. Enough money for treats. Enough stuff to share it with others.

How to buy happiness - six secretsTaking time to enjoy what we have, sharing with others, giving ourselves lots of little treats, celebrating relationships – these all fit in with my thoughts on Buying Happiness.  I don’t have a problem with that.   I do have a problem with the fact that our seasonal pursuit of Stuff mainly seems to buy unhappiness.  We don’t actually spend the festive period kicking back and saying, “Relax!  We have enough of everything.” We spend it worrying about the debts we have just rung up.  We spent the weeks before worrying about whether we were spending enough to please the recipients of our gifts. If it leaves us this anxious, is there much point celebrating it at all?

I have spent this year trying to develop thrifty habits to make life for the Tartan Family happier and I don’t intend to fall off the festive wagon.   This year, I am determined that Christmas in Tartan Towers will be in line with my own Thrifty Principles.

Five Thrifty Principles For Christmas

  1. Take Control Of Your Gift-Buying Budget
    Take Control Of Your Gift-Buying Budget

    Take Control:  You Are The Master Not The Victim Of Your Spending.

    I have used my own  Take Control Of Your Gift-Buying Budget Flow Chart to set a Christmas Gift Budget that we can definitely afford without going into debt or leaving ourselves without enough for our own needs.  I have also had a look at what we actually need to buy, so that these things can make up the bulk of our gifts for the Tartan Weans –  clothes,  sports gear, craft supplies and kit for other hobbies.  And I am starting shopping now, so that last minute panic does not get a chance to throw me off-budget.

  2. Be Joyful And Generous, Not Miserly And Miserable.

    I don’t want to be so fixated on not going over budget that I don’t enjoy giving people gifts that will bring them pleasure.  On the other hand, I don’t want to be so fixated on giving other people lovely gifts that I spend more than we actually have.  The key, for me, is reducing the number of gifts we buy, so that we have enough to buy quality gifts. Adults don’t really need other adults to buy them things, so we will be focussing our budget on gifts for children.  We have made this clear to all the adults by the way – so they don’t go ahead and spend on us without getting anything in return.  If you are going to go the same route, now is the time to let people know so you don’t win this year’s Scrooge Award.  And we will be finding other ways to celebrate our relationships with adults and show them we value them.

  3. Christmas-Fairy-Image-GraphicsFairy-597x1024Work With The Real Not The Ideal.

    It keeps coming back to the budget.   No matter how much we would like to spend on other people, we can only spend what we actually have.  The same goes for all my other attempts to sprinkle fairy dust over everyone’s Christmas.  I don’t have to do everything Martha Stewart has to suggest for a perfect Christmas; I just have to do enough.

  4. Quantify Your Assets; Exploit And Enjoy Them.

    making a list - New Page I am making a list, and checking it twice, of everything we already have that could be used to produce Christmas Gifts –  sweets left over from Halloween; preserves I put away over the summer.  Offcuts and scraps of fabric; the candle-making and other craft supplies languishing in the cupboard; chocolate moulds collected over the years; festive cookie cutters, empty but pretty jars.  I will be including equipment – my sewing machine, kitchen equipment, gardening materials, the printer, DIY tools – as well as the skills Tartan Dad and I already have.  And time:  I will be looking very carefully at exactly what pockets of time I have available to spend transforming these assets into Christmas.

  5. santa+painting+vintage+image+graphicsfairy3Don’t Spend More Than You Have To.

     We will be using up our loyalty points, googling for discount voucher codes for everywhere we do our online Christmas shopping, and taking advantage of special offers whenever possible.  I am already signed up to Top Cashback and will be using Debt Camel’s advice to max the money I get back from my Christmas shopping.  I will be checking out discount stores like The Book People to grab top gifts at rock bottom prices.  I have already begun taking advantage of some of Aldi and Lidl’s weekly offers to stock up on surprisingly good quality gifts for the Tartan Weans. And we are not above buying second hand.  Finally I will be exploiting the assets I quantified by making some gifts.

Will people actually appreciate a home-made gift?  Now there’s a subject for a whole other post…


HandNoticeVintage-GraphicsFairyMore Christmas Posts



How To Fill A Bulging Christmas Stocking Without Busting Your Budget

How To Fill A Christmas Stocking For (Around) A Fiver

5 Ways To Make DIY Stocking Fillers – When You Have No DIY Skills

1 Cheap Pic-n-Mix, 10 thifty Stocking-Fillers

Gifts In A Jar – Snowy Road Mix

How To Turn A £10 Bottle Of Aldi Whisky Into A Hamperful Of Tasty Treats

Make-Ahead DIY Whisky Truffles

How To Cut Your Gift-Buying Budget

Who Is Going To Thank You For A Home-Made Christmas Gift?





January 25

One Week To Payday: Take Control , Take Stock and Take A Moment To Share

“The sense of being in control is central to happiness.  Keeping on top of your finances is usually a much more important recipe for happiness than trying to make lots of money.”  (Liz Hoggard in Making Slough Happy)

money mumI started the month by writing a rough budget, and setting up systems to nudge myself towards spending less.  Now I am taking a moment to bask in the happy glow this has created.  I have felt more in control of our spending because, thanks to making my bank’s website my homepage, I got in the habit of checking our bank accounts every day.  And using little mini-wallets to hold cash for different areas of spending meant I didn’t constantly worry about whether I could afford what I was spending.  Keeping all our receipts has been an eye-opener though – I was way off on what I thought we spent on different areas.  I have used this to set realistic (ish) targets for next month, rather than writing an ideal budget that doesn’t reflect how we actually spend our money.   I have taken control of our finances and I am feeling a teeny bit smug.

HandNoticeVintage-GraphicsFairySo, to make sure I keep it up, I am introducing a new, monthly habit.  In the last week of each month, set a budget for next month’s spending  before the money comes in.    You can download a really comprehensive budget planner over at Diary Of A Frugal Family.

Another new habit for the last week of each month is to Take Stock.  One of my guiding principles is to Quantify Your Assets and it makes sense to do this before I plan our spending and saving for the coming month.  So I will audit our food supplies before I plan meals, try on all my clothes and work out some new outfits with them,   before treating myself (just a little) in the sales, make lists (I love a list!) of what we have already in the flat,  and whatever else helps me to pay attention to what we’ve got, rather than focussing on what we can’t afford right now.  This won’t just make me feel a little happier, it will save us money I might have spent on things we already have.

When I thought about how to buy Happiness earlier this month I resolved to try to share a little of what we have – if only to remind us that we are so much better off than we think.  Living frugally can become a selfish pursuit, enjoying bargains at other people’s expense, thinking only about what I have to do without rather than what other people are doing without, envying people who have more (or at least appear to).  We live in one of the richest countries in the world and are by no means poor (around the national household average, if you were wondering) but because I am always focussed on whether we have enough to last to the end of the month I never think about giving some of my carefully managed money away.   Well, as of this month, that will change:  my final new monthly habit is to share what we have left. 

Sotzil:  Isabela Pacheco, daughter of Pedro Hu Pacheco and Isabe logoThat sounds pretty generous, eh?  Actually, the bank account is only just in the black and no more (this is a big improvement on the whole of the last year).  But there is some loose change in most of my little mini-wallets and I am off to see how much it adds up to.  Just a tennerFive quid?  Can we scrape together £2.50 to give a homeless person back a little of their dignity?   It’s a fairly pathetic start, but it’s something.