- Getting Into The Habit Of Being Thrifty
Cutting The Cost Of Uniform
Have you bagged any school uniform bargains this summer? Bargain school-wear is only a steal if you actually need that item in that size. I speak as a woman who accidentally bought eight pairs of school trousers for my son one year because I kept forgetting we already had enough…
Those days are behind me now (probably) because I have A System. I now audit both Tartan Boys’ uniforms once a year, which lets me note the gaps that need immediate plugging, and the ones that will need plugging over the next year or so. I can shop around for the best prices, at my leisure. This has improved both my sanity and our budget. Want to try this yourself? Here’s how it’s done.
Get The Paperwork Sorted
Start by putting together a master list of all uniform items – remember shoes, PE kit, socks, etc. as well as the more obvious items. School handbooks and websites should provide you with a full list. Make multiple copies of your master list – enough to see each child through their school years.
Now get a folder and put in a divider for each child. Slot each child’s uniform lists behind their divider, and label one for each year of school they have left. (Obviously, skip the dividers if you have only one child of school age.)
Take An Audit
Haul all their uniform out and sort it into three piles – items that still fit and are in good condition; items that no longer fit but are in good condition; items fit only for the bin. Take the bin pile and chuck it out now.
Now go through your uniform lists for the coming year and tick off the items you already have. Note any that need new buttons, dry cleaning, etc. as you go. Put these aside to fix up later and put the rest away.
At this point you may still have some items in reasonable repair that just don’t fit any of your kids. Take anything that is smaller than your smallest child, bag it up and send it to the charity shop/school fayre/etc. With everything that’s left, go back through your folder and check off the items you already have for the years ahead. Some of the items your kids are wearing this year will do younger siblings in years to come (blazers, for example) so pencil these in too. The pencil part is important in case you have to “retire” a garment sooner than expected.
You are done – time to get shopping. Fill in the gaps and keep in mind your lists for future years – if you see a great deal on school trousers, for example, you will know exactly how many to buy and in which sizes. This only works if you keep your kids at the same school forever – if there is any chance of your moving out of the area there really is no point stocking up on school shirts six sizes up. Been there and done that too…
That’s it. It’s not brain surgery, but it does make it easier to cut the spiralling cost of kitting out your kids.
Why You Need To Stock Check Your Kitchen
It’s a five-week month, and whenever the calendar gives me a week off from some of my usual thrifty habits, I like to take the chance to Tackle One Big Spend or to Take Stock. This week I am doing the latter and running a stock check of my kitchen.
One of my 5 Principles Of Thrifty Living is to Quantify Your Assets – Exploit And Enjoy Them. Or to put that much more simply – know what you’ve got and make sure you are using it. Taking this approach with your food supplies saves you money immediately because cooking what’s already in costs nothing. It lowers food costs over time because you stop repeatedly buying – but not using up – the same products. As a bonus, knowing which items in your kitchen are about to pass their use-by dates saves you from wasting money on food you will put, uneaten, in the bin.
If I was a truly thrifty mama, I would know, all the time, what was in my fridge, freezer, and food cupboards. In reality, I don’t always just know which foods I need to buy and which I already have. Or which ones need used up this week. But that’s OK, because I can write lists. And keeping a list of what food we have in has saved me LOADS.
Now, I am not pretending that this is rocket science. I am not even pretending that everyone needs to do it. Personally, I am completely dependent on any devices (lists, calendars, Tartan Dad) that help me to rise above the chaos inside my head. If you, on the other hand, have Organisation in your very bones you probably don’t need this.
But if you have ever chucked out a box of slimy mushrooms, bought your fiftieth tin of chopped tomatoes inside a month, or rushed to the shops for an emergency dinner when your freezer was full to bursting, this is for you. And me.
How To Keep Tabs On Your Food Supplies
Starting A Food Supplies Inventory
This process couldn’t be much simpler.
- Take half an hour to go through all your food supplies and write them down. (While you have everything out of your cupboards/fridge/freezer, why not go nuts and give them a good clean for extra smugness?)
- Stick your list somewhere handy (freezer door, for example) and add to it whenever you add new supplies. I have separate lists for each place I store food but if all your food stores are right beside each other you could use just one list.
- Score things off as you use them so you always know at a glance how much of anything you have.
What To Keep Your Food Supplies Listed On
You can use apps to help you, but all you really need is a pen/pencil and some paper. In fact, a dry-wipe pen on the door of your fridge/freezer will do. If you want your kitchen to practical and pretty though, there are lots of attractive – and free – printables out there to help you keep on top of your food mountain. I am currently using cute-but-uncomplicated ones from DIY Home Sweet Home. Pop over to Pinterest for more pantry printables.
Quantify Your Assets: Exploit And Enjoy Them
De-cluttering is the new detoxing. Not content with clearing out our bodies, we are now rushing to buy books and apps to help us clear out our homes. Even if you have resisted being swept away by the current tide of tidying up… there is a lot to be said for it.
Since you are reading a thrifty blog I am going to assume you want to spend less, or get more for your money than you currently are. That’s what Tartan Thrifty and all the world’s thrifty blogs are here to help with, but I want to suggest that you should also take time to notice what you already have. Why?
Six Reasons Why Auditing All Your Possessions Is A Thrifty Move
- Because you might already have some of the things you need or want. Why waste money buying things twice?
Why waste money buying things twice?
- Because finding out what you don’t have gives you time to save up for them and to shop around for the best prices.Why go into debt or panic buy at the highest price if you don’t have to?
- Because you could find that you have stuff you no longer need but which other people might want to buy. Why have clutter when you could have cash?
Why have clutter when you could have cash?
- Because organising and editing your possessions makes your home a nicer place to be – and it’s free! Why refuse a free home-improvement?
- Because rediscovering things you already have is like shopping without spending.What’s not to love about free shopping?
- Because noticing what you have got lets you actually enjoy it. Why focus on the things you can’t afford when you could enjoy what you already have?
Use It And Enjoy It – Or It Was A Waste Of Money
If you don’t know what you have you can’t use it and enjoy it. And if you can’t use it and enjoy it you might as well not have bought it. So this Thrifty Principle is about knowing what you have and making the most of it – and it starts with auditing everything you own.
I avoided doing this for years because it sounds too technical. But quantifying your assets is just making lists, right? I have pens and paper and a brain – I can write a list!
And so can you. Grab a notepad and a pen and pick one area of your home. Start small – kitchen cupboards, say, the kid’s toys, your wardrobe… Haul out everything in it. Set aside anything you don’t want to keep, write down everything that’s left and then put it all away again. Sit down with your list and start planning how you are going to make more use of what’s on it.
Getting Into The Habit Of Recognising What You Have
You are richer than you think – you just need to quantify, exploit and enjoy what you already have. Even taking time to audit your possessions in just one area of life (the contents of your freezer, say) will save you money and, perhaps, a little of your sanity. Start small – but do start.
These daily/weekly/monthly and occasional habits are the ones to get into if you want to make the most of what you’ve got.
- Check what food supplies you have in your cupboards, fridge and freezer and plan the week’s meals and snacks around that so you can avoid buying food you don’t need or wasting food you have already paid for. Waste isn’t thrifty!
Every six months
- Do A Wardrobe Audit so you can see what items you will need to buy this season and start shopping around for good prices.
- Do A School Uniform Audit so you can take advantage of special offers without buying items you already have by mistake
- Do A Toys And Games Audit so you can see what new playthings your kids will need and avoid buying things they already have
- Take Stock – audit all your other possessions so you know what you own and can plan how to enjoy it more or use it to save or make you money.
Confidence on a bike is a very thrifty gift to pass onto your kids. Tartan Dad cycles to work every day. It costs less than public transport and much less than the petrol and parking would if we bought a second car to use – even factoring in the cost of wear and tear (the bike: Tartan Dad is thriving on it). I want the Tartan Weans to have that health and thrifty option when they grow up, so we have been saving up to buy Tiny Tartan his first Big Boy Bike. This month, we reached our target.
Then Tartan Boy accidentally dropped the laptop on the floor.
A reliable pc repair shop is a good thing to have up your thrifty sleeve. Priceless Computers have been repairing our computers for years, saving us well over a grand we would otherwise have spent on replacements . This laptop, though, they couldn’t fix. So we had to blow the bike budget (and then some) on a new laptop. We considered buying a reconditioned one on Ebay but worried about the hassle of having to post it back if there were any problems with it. Then we discovered that PC World also sell reconditioned laptops and let you bring them to your nearest store if there is a problem.
Three days later, and £250 pounds poorer, we had a small, very light, touch-screen laptop. The laptop is immaculate and works perfectly, and it cost us £100 less than we expected to pay for a very basic brand-new laptop. We could have got a reconditioned laptop cheaper on Ebay or Amazon: I paid extra for the peace of mind. Would I buy reconditioned next time? Definitely – in fact, I don’t think we will ever buy one brand-new again.
(Sadly, PC World are not sponsoring this post – perhaps I should have suggested it to them and got the laptop for free…)
It looked like Tiny Tartan’s bike was going to have to go back on the wishlist for a while, but a friend suggested The Bike Station,
a charity dedicated to promoting cycling and other sustainable forms of transport. Included in their wide range of services is a bike recycling scheme. They take old bikes – nearly 10,000 a year – and recondition them before selling them on – children’s bikes start at £20 each and adults at £45. So Tiny Tartan got his new bike after all and left us only £25 poorer.
I am almost as delighted as Tiny Tartan.
So, I have spent most of the money we had saved over the last few months, but gained the insight that where there is a will, and a willingness to take second hand, there is a way to get what we want for less. Although, on balance, I think I would probably have preferred to just keep the money…
I am not going to tell you how to reduce your Council Tax payments – although you may find the advice on Money Saving Expert helps you do just that – but being thrifty is as much about getting your money’s worth from what you buy as it is about avoiding paying more than you need to. I have been looking at the amount of our budget we set aside each month for Council Tax payments and this month I began to wonder… I pay Council Tax each month and just accept it as one of our unquestionable debits. But what if I considered it an asset instead? What do I have to show for all that spending?
Council Tax is used to top up local spending on a variety of areas. I googled “what does my Glasgow City council tax pay for?” to get a list of these and then looked them up on the council website and its arms-length Glasgow Life website for more detail. It turns out I am wasting my money because every time the Tartan Family paid to go to softplay, etc, we could have been doing all sorts of things we had already paid for with our Council Tax. Next time we are stuck for something to do we could
- Download a huge range of popular magazines in electronic format through the Public Library service. Here in the Tartan House we spend close to £25 a month (!) on magazines and comics: this could save us a fortune over a year.
- Start a bookgroup – or join one of the many existing ones in venues across the city. The library service provides advice on setting up a group and free sets of books through their Books To Go scheme
- Attend a book festival or take Tartanboy to Scotland’s first children’s book festival, Wee Write.
- Borrow DVDs and audiobook/music CDs.
- Use a searchable online database to find out what is on in any of Glasgow’s 8 free museums and art galleries on any given date. So on a rainy Sunday I could put in the day’s date, type Family in the Activity Type box and immediately get a list of indoor activities to entertain and educate the Tartanweans.
- Go behind the scenes at the museum. The museum service does not have nearly enough space to display all its holdings, so it uses a central Resource Centre to archive all the undisplayed artefacts. This I knew already – I always pictured it as being exactly like the one at the end of Raiders Of The Lost Ark. What I didn’t know was that it is actually open to the public, with regular Family Days as well as a very varied programme of tours focussing on specific parts of the collection.
- join the waiting list for an allotment. Exercise, fun with the kids, time outdoors, a change of pace, new allotmenteer friends, and even free fruit and veg… it is a long waiting list though and I suspect the Tartanweans would be Tartanteens by the time I got a plot.
- download a range of leaflets about the Parks Heritage Trails and visit any of the city’s 90+ parks. I had never even heard of some of them and there are a dozen of the largest ones in which I have never once set foot. There are big country parks, formal gardens and little urban parks, at least one of which hosts the remains of a graveyard and a modern orchard; parks with skateboard rinks, tennis courts, playing fields, bowling greens, mountain bike trails and adventure playgrounds; parks with ponds, fountains, lakes and rivers; parks with art galleries, museums, historic buildings, sculptures and a grove of ancient, fossilised tree trunks; parks where squirrels perch on your shoulder and parks with shaggy Highland Cattle and huge shire horses, not to mention the City of the Dead, Glasgow’s Necropolis, burial place of the city’s historical rich and famous right beside the medieval cathedral.
That’s a lot of free family fun to keep us entertained and I haven’t even mentioned the free swimming at 11 pools to which the kids are entitled, the competitively priced gymnastics, swimming, tennis, badminton, football and parkour lessons at council venues, or more than a thousand fitness classes for adults each week and the gyms – because we are already taking advantage of them through Tartanboy’s Glasgow Kidzcard and my Glasgow Club membership.
Our Council Tax also pays for lots of services that we don’t need/want but that other people do, because the Council Tax is not just an asset to maximise, it’s a way of sharing with other people in my city, and sharing makes people happy. I have not found a thrifty way to reduce my Council Tax but, as I added Council Tax to my budget this month, thinking about all the good it will do me and mine, and the benefit other people will derive from it too, I found myself smiling. I want to hold onto that attitude so I am making this an annual habit: once a year, check that you are making the most of your Council Tax payments. What could you do with yours?