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 16

Five Principles Of Thrifty Living #5 Don’t Spend More Than You Have To

Don’t Spend More Than You Have To… Well, Duh!

You’re thinking that this is so blatantly the whole point of thrifty living that it’s not even necessary to mention it, aren’t you? And you are right, of course – nobody feels good about throwing money away on over-priced goods and services. Just the same… there is more to this Thrifty Principle than meets the eye. Hear me out.

Saving Money

There are (fortunately) many ways to cut the cost of something –

  • Retro-Coupon-Moms-GraphicsFairy-1024x786use discount codes, take advantage of special offers, shop through a cashback site
  • shop around for the best price
  • make it yourself
  • shop seasonally and buy it when it is at its cheapest
  • get into the routine of regular maintenance so the things you already have last longer and avoid having to replace them for longer
  • buy second-hand
  • buy an un-branded version
  • get it for nothing through sites like Freecycle or by developing a devil-may-care attitude to rummaging in skips

See? That’s eight right there. The key is to ask yourself how much you can afford and how much this is worth to you and then find a way to get it at that price and no more.

Spending Time

alarm+clock+vintage+image+graphicsfairy7bThe thing is though… it’s not just about spending money. Shopping around, DIY, trawling charity shops, clipping coupons, checking in with Freecycle – all these things take time. Having less money than you would like doesn’t necessarily mean you have time to spare. And time is not money. You can’t save it up for later. You can’t beg, borrow or steal someone else’s. You can’t earn extra. Everyone gets exactly the same amount. Whether or not you use it, you lose it. When your money runs out you are poor. When your time runs out, you are dead.

retro lady fro www.thegraphicsfairy.comFor my money, time is the really limited resource; we should never waste precious time just to save cash.  So before you commit to spending time to save money, ask yourself, are you being realistic about how much time you have available? Is this going to cost you time you could spend on other areas that you value more than the thing you want to get cheaply? And are there other things you could do with that time that would be more cost-effective – either by saving you more money or by earning more than you could save?

How To Live Well Without Spending More Than You Have To

Don't Spend More Than You Have ToLook, I am not saying that trying to spend less is a waste of time. I am saying take the focus off the “don’t spend” part. Not Spending is kind of an empty achievement – it has no value in itself. It’s what it allows you to do (clear your debts, pay the deposit on a house, build up an emergency fund) that has value. Focus instead on the “have to” part. Cost is negotiable – the cost in money and the cost in time. Somewhere between spending time and saving money there is a sweet spot. Find yours – and don’t spend more time or money than you have to.

How To Get Into The Habit Of Not Spending More Than You Have To

These are the habits to get into if you want to lead the high life for a low price.

Every Week

  • Batch a snack
  • Batch a lunch
  • Batch a main meal
  • Make soup

Every Month

  • Make Something
  • Grow Something
  • Try A New Free Or Cheap Activity
  • Preserve Something

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
May 4

Make Something

Is Making Things Really Cheaper Than Buying Them?

Retro-Thinker-Mom-Image-GraphicsFairy-thumb-320x320Making things is fine if you are five, or fortunate enough to be naturally artistic, but… For the rest of us? Every month? As a genuine attempt to save money? Come on…

Make Something is one of my monthly Thrifty Habits. Why? Whenever we pay for products we are really paying for someone’s materials, their skills in transforming those materials into something we want, and the time it takes them to do that. But if you already have the materials, skills and time, why not put them together and get the product for free? This is neither a new, nor a crazy idea. You do this every time you open the fridge and knock together a sandwich to take to work instead of paying for a sandwich made by a stranger. You probably feel perfectly competent to make a sandwich – why not any of the other products you regularly pay for?

Being creative means you can always be flexible about getting what you want at a low price

Making at least one thing that we would otherwise buy each month turns saving money into an empowering,  positive experience.  Being creative means you always have options, can always be flexible about getting what you want at a low price – whether it’s a new set of cushion covers or a fully re-upholstered sofa.

sewing+printable+vintage+image-graphicsfairy2c-150x150I should say up front, I would make things even if it left me out of pocket. Creating makes me happy, and I am not alone – a recent study by Glasgow University found a connection between making and welbeing.   Making things helps you get into Flow, it can be sociable,  leads you to learn new skills, beats slumping on the sofa in front of the TV and gives an enormous sense of achievement.Which is why Investing In Creating Not Consuming is one of my keys to Buying Happiness. So Make Something is a happy habit – but is it always a thrifty habit? And what if you are really short on the skills side?

Why You Should Get Into The Habit Of Making Things

Making things you need but can’t afford is thrifty but only if it doesn’t end up more expensive than buying it in the first place. I am not just talking about costing more money – I am talking about the cost in time. If you have to spend time you can’t afford to make the thing – especially if you could have used that time to earn or save a bigger sum of money – then paying for someone else’s time might be more thrifty in the long run. So I am not whole-heartedly recommending the DIY lifestyle for every situation.

teeny tiny tea cup candle from www.tartanthrifty.orgWhat I am recommending is that, each month, you give it a go. Take one thing you would otherwise buy – or do without – and try to make your own version. What’s the worst that could happen – you find out this is not for you and that this is one area where you can cheerfully pay someone else for their time and skill? The best that could happen is that you discover an activity you deeply enjoy that saves more money than it costs. That’s worth a shot, surely?

House-Painter-Lady-Image-GraphicsFairyAs for worrying about your lack of skills… There are plenty of projects that require minimal skills. Anyway, the only known way to develop any skill at all is to start doing something you can’t do and keep working at it until you can. Go for it!



For some creative inspiration, click here to view the Tartan Thrifty Make Something  and look up Make Something in The Habits in the sidebar to the right.

April 25

Buy A Little Treat

Why Buying Yourself A Treat Is Not A Waste Of Money

Tucked into a little, non-prominent spot on the Thrifty Habits Planner is an unexpected weekly habit – Buy A Little Treat.

Say whaaaat?! I thought we were trying to save money here, not fritter it away!
retro lady fro www.thegraphicsfairy.comWe are, we are, but… Let me tell you something everyone who has ever been on a diet knows: you can only be good for so long. Sooner or later everyone cracks. And what happens when a conscientious dieter cracks and eats one fun-size Milky Way, in defiance of all their good intentions? Uh-huh – they lose the plot and follow their tiny slip-up with an enormous blow-out. After weeks of rigid self-control, one tiny lapse cascades into a non-stop calorie spree.

money mumA bottle of wine and an entire donner kebab later regret sets in… too late. Money diets are no different – if you are in constant denial, you will eventually crack and once you do, your budget is likely to get blown right out of the water. Weight loss programmes frequently build in daily or weekly food treats to help us manage our boom-or-bust tendencies. I firmly believe a thrifty spending regime needs the same. Without the tiny release of little treats we all turn into pay-day millionaires each month – delirious with wealth after weeks of self-control.

treats reassure us that, even though we are cutting back our spending – however drastically – we can still enjoy life

Gretchen Rubin, in her hymn to habits, Better Than Before, argues for the “Strategy Of Treats”: “When we give ourselves treats, we feel energized, cared for, and contented, which boosts our self-command—and self-command helps us maintain healthy habits. (Read on Psychology Today.)  That applies as much to healthy money habits as it does to healthy eating habits. When we are in constant self-denial, thrift becomes drudgery and our motivation plummets. But treats reassure us that, even though we are cutting back our spending – however drastically – we can still enjoy life. And that keeps us going.

NewYearChampagneGraphicsFairyWhat I am saying here is not that we should lose control and blow the budget on treats – I am saying that we should take control and set a budget for treats. Yes, in the short term, we will spend a little more. But in the longer term, we will spend significantly less. And where an unplanned binge-spending session leaves you feeling bad, small, frequent, affordable treats make you happy. Who doesn’t want some of that?





February 1

A License To Print Money…


Thrifty Habits Planner February Week 1 - New Page

money mumI can’t show you how to print money (soz) but I did show you a few weeks ago how to nudge yourself towards spending less. One of those nudges is paying for everything with cash not cards. Why? Because it stops you spending more than you can actually afford. You can take that a step further by splitting that cash into separate purses to spend on different budget lines. For me, this is an important monthly habit, because it makes my budget concrete. It’s much easier to convince myself that we can’t afford a cinema trip today if the Treats And Outings purse is empty – even when I know there is still money in the bank. That money belongs to other things.

Cash-Envelope-Template1For the past couple of years I have used budget plastic pencil cases labelled with cheap key rings for all our cash so I can see at a glance how much is in each fund. That works for us, but if you want a thriftier and more stylish option, why not click on one of these to print your own? It’s almost as satisfying as printing money…

Affiliate links - New Page


January 18

Five Principles Of Thrifty Living #2 – Work With The Real Not The Ideal

It’s A Thrifty Mystery

retro lady fro www.thegraphicsfairy.comThere you are, one week away from pay-day. You made a budget at the start of the month. You stuck to your budget – you are pretty sure you stuck to your budget, or, at least, you don’t remember buying anything that wasn’t on your budget… And yet here you are now, checking your bank balance, and finding that you are already in the red. What went wrong?

What went wrong is that you spent the month paying with your ideal income not your real income. What went wrong is that your ideal self made up your budget – and she really did mean to stick to every detail of it. But your real self actually did the spending and she has an agenda all of her own. What went wrong is that you didn’t work with the real, you worked with the ideal.

Work With The Real Not The Ideal

images (1)Any idiot can see that if you want to be on top of your finances you have to be realistic. (I know because I am that idiot. I am also the idiot looking at her bank balance in dismay at the end of the month. Sadly.) The tricky part isn’t grasping the idea of working with the real. No, the tricky part is catching yourself working with the ideal instead of the real. The ideal is nice – we feel good while we work with it. It’s only later that we realise we have been side-tracked from reality. Again.

I want to give you an easy way to spot yourself sliding from your real to your ideal. I REALLY want to give you an easy way to do that. And if I ever find one, I promise you that you will be the very first person I tell.

retro-reminder-vintageimage-Graphics-Fairy2For now, though, long experience has taught me that you have to keep asking yourself, “real or ideal?” every time you make a spending decision. So this particular Thrifty Principle is more about a slow, persistent attitude change than specific habits you can get into. That said, the following habits will make it a lot easier for you to keep it real. Try them and see how you get on. You can make it easier on yourself by downloading this week’s Thrifty Habits Planner to keep you on track.

Each day

  • Store Your Receipts so you have concrete evidence of your own spending habits. A jam jar, a pocket – anywhere you like, just don’t chuck them away!

Each week

  • Cook, Eat, Save, Repeat so you can eat like Nigella every day even if you cook more like Carrie Bradshaw.
  • Put Cash Into Marked Purses so you are spending real money every time not virtual money, and so your spending is in line with what you can afford to buy not what you would like to buy.

Each month

  • Review The Month’s Spending  so you can see where your money is really going rather than where you think it is going. This is where your stash of receipts from the last few weeks come in.

Each year

  • Set Spending Targets so you know what you really want your money to do for you at all times and are clear about the limits to what it can do right now.


And if you would like to see an example of me trying to work with my real not my ideal self, take a look at Thrifty,Lazy, Tasty Soup – My Hunt For Low Wattage Pottage.

January 11

Five Principles Of Thrifty Living #1 – Take Control

Where Do You Start With Thrifty Living?

Retro-Coupon-Moms-GraphicsFairy-1024x786You need to change your money habits. You want to change your money habits. You just don’t know exactly where to start…

You need The Five Principles Of Thrifty Living.

The 5 Principles Of Thrifty Living

retro+lady+vintage+image+GraphicsFairy2When I first began to think about nailing thrifty living I wanted to get some guiding principles clear in my head. I started out with about fifty. I failed to nail thrifty living – way too many to keep in mind every time I opened my purse. And, anyway, when I thought about them… they all boiled down to just five big ideas. Which is fine – I can just about keep five principles in mind.

  1. Take control
  2. Deal with the real not the ideal
  3. Be joyful and generous not miserly and miserable
  4. Don’t spend more than you need to
  5. Quantify your assets – exploit and enjoy them

With these in mind thrifty living suddenly feels a lot easier.

Over the next few weeks we are going to look at each Thrifty Principle in turn. This week it’s time to Take Control.

Take  Control: You Are The Master, Not The Victim, of Your Spending

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)

This is the one. If you take nothing else away from Tartan Thrifty, please take this – the key to living within your means is taking control of your spending. Makes no difference if you are fabulously wealthy or breadline poor – if your spending is out of control you will run out of cash. And you will have that uneasy, niggling sense that you are are not on top of your own life. No amount of money makes that comfortable.

motorcycle-GraphicsFairyNobody but myself and Tartan Dad have access to the contents of our bank account – nobody else is spending our money for us.  So any spending mistakes are made by us and only by us.  Realising this fact set us free.  If they were all  our mistakes then it was completely within our power to change every one of  them.  We just had to get into the  driving seat and start steering our spending rather than riding along with it. And so do you.

How To Take Control Of Your Money

The key is to make a habit of it – by the time the novelty wears off you will be controlling your money without even thinking about it.. These habits are the ones to get into if you want to take control of your spending.

Each day…

  • Check Your Bank Balance so you never get charged for going overdrawn.
  • Store Receipts so you have data you can mine for insight into where your money is going.

Each week…

  • Do Routine Car Maintenanceretro-baking-vintageimage-Graphics-Fairy – a little time each week will reduce your garage bills and even delay the cost of replacing an old car (unless you are even thriftier and just don’t have one).
  • Plan Your Meals Ahead so you don’t keep falling back on the fastest and easiest options – which are usually the most expensive.

Each month…

  • Make A Budget so you only spend what you can afford and you only spend on what you have prioritised.
  • Put Cash Into Marked Purses For Different Budget Lines so you have to stick to the budget you have set.
  • Review The Month’s Spending  so you can see where your money is really going and take steps to change that.

Each year…

  • Plan Gift-Giving For The Yearretro-reminder-vintageimage-Graphics-Fairy2 so you can celebrate the relationships you value at a price you can afford
  • Tackle One “Big Spend” at a time so you gradually cut the cost of your biggest spending areas.
  • Set Savings Goals so you have an incentive for taking control of your spending and so you can be realistic about how much you need to cut back each month

Does that seem like too much to take in? You can make it much easier by printing out a copy of this week’s Thrifty Habits Planner to keep you on track. I’ll be back next week to look at how to Deal With The Real Not The Ideal.


January 4

How To Cut The Cost of Next Christmas Now

The Secret To Having An Affordable Christmas

What is the secret of having a truly thrifty Christmas? In fact, what’s the secret to not letting your spending on all your gifts for the whole year run away with your purse? Budget stores? Buying in the sales? Becoming a hermit?

All of these would help – although I don’t recommend the last one – but they are not the single most important thing you can do to keep the cost of gifting down. The single most important thing you can do  is to plan ahead. If you know in advance which gifts you are going to want to give and when, and have a clear idea of exactly how much you can afford to spend then you are in an excellent position to take steps to give without going over your budget. Let it all creep up on you, though, and you will start to panic buy… at a price.

Here’s how to take control of your budget for next Christmas – in fact for all your gift-buying this year – in five easy steps.

Spend A Little Time; Save A Lot Of Money Later

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

    First get clear in your head why you are buying gifts at all. Bowing to social pressure? Keeping up with the Joneses? Letting your loved ones know that you value them? Whatever your personal reason for buying gifts this year, put a price on that – what is buying gifts worth to you?

  2. Now use my soothingly rational How To Cut Your Gift-Buying Budget flowchart to decide how you are going to keep to that budget this year
  3. If one of the ways you plan to keep to your budget is by making gifts, then use Who Is Going To Thank You For A Home-Made Gift? to figure out where you can – and can’t – go the DIY route. Then start working on those DIY gifts now. That way you can enjoy the creative process rather than running yourself ragged trying to do them all next December.
  4. ChristmasRetroShop-GraphicsFairy1Make a plan. Write down every gift you plan to give this year – Christmas, birthdays, weddings, new not-even-born-yet babies, teacher and other thank-you gifts, as well as the less predictable but good to have in the bag ones (hostess gifts, house-warming presents, hospital visiting, etc.). Start filling in what you plan to give for each one – don’t worry if some of these are pretty vague at this stage.  Try Organised31 for a printable gift-planner to simplify this step.
  5. Get your gifts as and when you see them at the right price for your budget.

That’s it. You can do this! You just need to take the time now.