Current currency crisis!

I had a post all planned out in my head, talking about getting back into the swing of moneyless living, or as near as possible, after my relatives had left also updating you all on the end of my personal soap embargo and new ways I’m trying to trim as many pennies/cents as possible from our bills. Then disaster hit!

Yup. I’ve started using soap again but am still saving water from my showers. Now though it is kept for flushing the toilet. I’ve finally given up my long hot showers, using as little water as possible; rinse-stop, soap-up, rinse-done. Another luxury that was hard to say farewell too. The flip side of this is not having enough water for flushing.

So, I’ve taken to peeing in the bidet and rinsing it clean after (with old shower water). That saves a huge amount of water, even with our modern dual high/low flush compact toilet.

Not ideal, and I find myself dreaming of a compost toilet – but that’s something for the future.

What else did I want to tell you all? Oh, we’re still really considering a microwave, but I couldn’t convince my other-half to get a secondhand one. Still not sure that I want or need one.

And – we’re finding it harder to resist turning the heating on. Currently the boiler is set to hot water only, the radiators are all off and we are using candles as a source of heat.

 

 

Luckily we had previously bought two Egloos, one for the living room and other the bedroom, due to the poor insulation in our old flat. These do a fantastic job in the new place, giving us a nice toasty home (well, two rooms), but the mornings are so chilly that I have to wrestle with myself not to start the gas-powered central heating. Maybe it’ll be a Sunday morning treat.

So, yeah. Back to that disaster. A friend who’d previously lent us some money, also a way of thanking us for help, which had helped us payoff our few mini-loans and credit card bills, suddenly claimed life or death and needed a big chunk of it back.

Our only option was to borrow more money, we’ve put it on the credit cards for now and have applied for a normal loan… we’re currently waiting to be finalised as we were pre-approved. Not a real disaster, but emotionally, spiritually and in respect of the way we want to live this is a fucking nightmare.

Well, what we had planned to save each month may now have to go towards clearing this debt for the next year or two. I was ready to quit, until realising I had no way out.

I’ve calmed down a lot, having accepted that personal loans from family and friends are as risky as bank loans. I’m not ready to give up and am even more determined to fight for my freedoms and rights to live without money.

Wait, reset.

I feel that I’ve already gotten off topic on a few of my posts here, sure I wanna be self-sufficient and sustainable for the good of the planet. I have always been an environmentalist to some degree, even during my less green and more wasteful moments.

The reason I haven’t dedicated this blog purely to green issues is that it depresses me. I see waste and destruction everywhere, always have done. That’s why I studied Environmental Science and that’s why my family told me I think too much.

Perhaps they are right, and rather than get depressed about it I need to not over think things and simply act on them. I will try.

Focusing on my health, happiness and living within my means, on a much reduced salary (partly by choice), is the best way that I can help the planet.

I have fallen back into some old habits in such a short time and need to remind myself of why I started this blog, money and my hatred for it. Perhaps it is naive or immature to only blame money for creating the environmental destruction we see today. But you have to admit money creates the perfect conditions for the social and environmental apathy that riddles our societies today. Well, not counting those who do more harm by trying to do good. Yes, you. You social media junkies.

I wanted to support alternative companies and convinced myself that a Fairphone and some GoTennas were acceptable purchases, one is sustainable and socially responsible and the other allows me to save money and make use of the first.

No, no, no. Damn! We are all so brainwashed to buy, spend, dispose and buy again. It is crazy. I do not need nor want a smartphone (no matter how like-minded the manufacturer and I are). Neither do I want or need to use social media. Where better to share my photos and ideas than right here.

It was my patient partner who made me realise that I’d fallen into the trap of commercialism when he made our new dinning table, from pieces recused from being dumped. One main piece was a beautiful antique but very weather-beaten set of legs, the others were a mix of pallets, wood and chipboard used to transport fittings for a new shop.

There’s that waste issue again, so much wood wasted after one use. Need to shake of the sadness and anger. The positive, an entirely free and repurposed dinning table for us. :-)

So as before, I have cancelled my funding for GoTenna on Kickstarter and my order for a Fairphone 2. It’s a little late to return the fancy cooker that generates power (a BioLite BaseCamp), but this is something that I need, use and can just about justify. Good luck to those who need fancy devices, there are some great companies out there producing products that are better for the environment and good for people wanting to be more self-sufficient/to go off-grid. But let’s face it, everything we make is bad for the planet no matter how green it is. I, however, am happy with my modest dumb Doro phone.

The egg & chicken

So, I have officially started my permanent vegetarian diet. Already I feel the benefits and am relieved that I no longer need to fill my body with artificial substances to try combat the pain in my foot.

Being spontaneous does have some drawbacks, I don’t have all that much food in the house and today is a local holiday. It’ll be tomorrow at the earliest, depending on my foot, before I can get out and replenish the pantry.

I can’t wait for our vegetables and fruits to get established and hope that at least part of our shopping bill can be cut. I realise that there are somethings that are difficult or not possible for me to grow and expect that weekly trips to the supermarket will remain part of our life.

However, how sweet it will be to only buy non-fresh items that cannot be produced at home. We’ll (hopefully) have red peppers, tomatoes, aubergines, peas, courgettes, figs, berries, onions, ginger, mushrooms, herbs and more that I forget.

One of the things we could easily source from home is eggs, and this was something I was excited to do. However with initial set-up of a coop and getting the hens costing somewhere between 500 and 800 euros, this isn’t exactly a cheap option.

Given the cost of half a dozen eggs is about 1 euro, that’s 800 weeks until we get our initial investment back. And not counting the cost of feed, bedding and necessary items for healthy hens. That surely is not very self-sufficient?

Sure, we could source supplies and build our own chicken coop and yet that doesn’t seem to be a worthwhile investment of time or energy either.

I know a friend, with a larger piece of land, who raises chickens and she sells the excess eggs. The local farmers’ market is full of organic eggs too. When I say farmers’ market it truly is full of local farmers as we’re surround by farms of all sizes here.

I know that by raising the chickens yourself, you can be sure that they are 100% organic and happy. Then what happens when your little chooks get too old. Kill’em? Cook’em?!
Not sure I could or would like to do that.

No matter how much I like the idea of keeping our own chickens, plus the free fertiliser the littler darlings produce in large quantities and knowing that our food scraps will not be going to waste, well I just can’t rationalise that hefty bill or the bloody end our little feathered friends will meet.

I haven’t forgotten the idea of selling our excess eggs, but I would not feel happy about that. I would likely give them to friends as gifts and thanks for their help.

Perhaps I should think again about bees, a cheaper start-up and much cheaper maintenance costs. The beeswax would come in handy and I guess I could grow to like honey.

Can anyone offer some advice?

ups & downs

I watch people (mostly Americans) unboxing, reviewing and demoing utter fucking shite on YouTube and feel genuinely angry, lost, confused and flabbergasted that people really want this crap. Not only that they want it but that they hand over real money for it.

Such a waste of… money? Well yeah but I was going to say resources, time, effort and fuck yeah money. If all those resources, time and money were instead given to a worthwhile cause, a charity or to helping the environment then what a difference.

But that’s what makes them happy? Bollocks. Really? Ugly plastic turds that look like imaginary characters? Useless gizmos and gadgets that tell you what colour something is??

Open your fucking eyes, read a book, grow up a little, make a friend, volunteer at a local charity or shelter. Then tell me that garbage still makes you happy.

Let’s call this an up and a down. I feel more determined to commit to my newly chosen lifestyle and yet feel utter overwhelmed by the tide of idiots and their flood of utterly pointless and wasteful ‘toys’.

Then I get a bill from the gas company, in six weeks we used only €10 but we have to pay €380 in installation fees?!!? Bloody hell! €800 is the minimum monthly salary here, what would a family with only one working adult do when they first got their gas supply connected??

This made me even more determined, I’d cut off my supply and get a refund from those cunting thieves! The government and their tax rates are no better, but that’s a whole other can of snakes.

That’d be an up, but it is soon followed by another down.

My one cherry tomato plant has some infection and died almost overnight. Small things, my dad would say, don’t sweat them. Sure, but that was my symbolic plant. The first food-plant I’d ever bought/grown.

I feel like a bloody yo-yo, perhaps this is normal for such a radical change in lifestyle. Maybe I am being too harsh and too extreme too soon. Not letting myself switch on more than one light for more than 10 minutes each day. Only charging my Kindle (another thing to discuss later)  when I can charge it with solar energy.

And then there are those days that I am too tired from still working too many hours and needing to cook a meal over flame, which is bloody difficult, and tend to the garden and find firewood. Damn, I am a whiny-assed bitch.

Too long have I lived in too much comfort, even when we had little we had something.

I have books, I allowed myself a small spend on some secondhand books about self-sufficiency. Yet I am always too knackered to read, worse still I am too tired to write here.

I tried limiting myself to only writing between working hours, to reduce how much I am using my computer when absolutely not necessary. Nice idea, bad for creative juices.

Then this happens:

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Wine Cap Mushroom, or garden giant (stropharia rugosoannulata).

A small victory, the mushroom spores I planted have obviously survived and began to produce fruit. Such a joyous moment and one to spur me on.

So, forgive me long absences and my ranting and my cursing. I am very much a grumpy environmentalist and most positively a spoilt moneyless man, but I will struggle onwards.

And, I will change my mind on not sharing photos. It is after all my second passion to writing. I must however not allow myself to fall into the same trap of sharing a photo in place of writing something to go with it. Dare I even start and Instagram account?

More on that next time.

the void

Filling the void can be a bit of a challenge, I still watch too much telly but at least now it is poor quality, free TV full of adverts for crap we do not really need. I am reading a lot more, luckily I have accumulated a backlog of books that I “never have time to read”.

Obviously spending no time on social media, not watching endless back to back shows and films on Netflix and no longer aimlessly browsing the net for no reason or shopping for more crap has freed up a lot of my time for reading, gardening, cooking and sitting wondering if this is a path I really want to take.

I am confronted with the open endlessness of a future I am unsure about, in a place I really like but that is no longer where I want to be. My partner was rejected a visa for the UK and so we haven’t been able to visit, let alone move there.

I guess like any addiction, money is not an easy one to kick. Partly though, it isn’t easy to think that I am choosing to return to a situation that was difficult, almost ruined my relationship and left me stressed for several years.

Well, no. Not really the same situation, and hopefully a much better one than we would otherwise have. I am not planning to give away all our excess money, instead I will save this up for the future and for a rainy day.

One thing that I am struggling with, is giving up a visit home to the folks. My partner had already booked flights home, the first time in five years. Having to travel so far means tickets cost much more and hence the infrequency. Perhaps I am a little jealous that he gets to go away and visit different parts of his home country for two months, when I usually get three days at my parent’s house.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the chance to have as much time with mum and dad as possible. It is simply my inner-nomad that is crying out to go somewhere different.

I have also felt bummed-out by my failed attempts at reviving my old laptop, with the hope of selling my newer one. Some instant cash and a chance to recycle something that feels a little extravagant. Basically I got Ubuntu installed, after a day of struggling to fix hardware and corrupt files, only to find out that it is incompatible with my work’s website. Arrggghhhh!

My reaction was to go around the house like a madman, unplugging everything! I was glad to discover that my solar charger can fully charge my phone and my e-reader.

I’ll talk about the Kindle another time. I switched to a dumb phone for a week or so but in the end I had to switch back to a smartphone for work. So I dug out my old iPhone 3G, with the same idea being that I can get more and find a buyer more easily for my new phone.

The number of apps I can have is limited, I was pleased with myself to resist the temptation of some others I used too often.

Another downer was finishing Mark Boyle’s book, to have him talk about the importance of those around you. I have my partner and a friend. That’s about it.

Neither of them understand or support me at this stage, and so I feel like I am being pressured to give up. Whatever happens, we need to spend less and save some money. We’ve no pension and no savings. This will hopefully be the arguments to win over my partner.

Watch this space…

Hoarding Inc.

Wow! We have a lot of stuff.

We moved house recently, before I finally snapped and decided not to spend a penny more. We were already thinking about spending less and being more self-sufficient and were looking for somewhere with a garden or terrace to help with that.

We found somewhere that was a bargain but cost more than our previous rent. I am still hopeful that the extra €150 a month will balance out in savings from heating alone. Double glazing and 21st century insulation is such a luxury. Plus having the extra outdoor space is something we were so desperate for.

We can use the space to grow food, perhaps keep chickens and maybe one day have a bee hive for honey etc.

We paid a local shop, who made our furniture, to help us move the new and our old furniture plus a few boxes of essentials. We have since spent the last three weeks packing and moving everything else. Minus one big bag of clothes we gave to a local family.

We have not actually unpacked a single box after the first two days, and have not needed or wanted anything. This has been a big shock to us both, how much stuff we have accumulated over the 7 years we traveled & worked abroad and even more so the three years we lived here. I still have a box of stuff from my earlier travels in my parent’s loft.

It is funny to think how we ended up like this, my partner didn’t have much as a child and I had enough. However my mum and dad were strict on not having too much, we very much had a “one in, two out” rule. Except more sentimental things.

When I graduated university and left the UK, I sold off my piles of CDs, DVDs and the odd VHS and cassette tape. Plus mountains of clothes,papers and books that got sold, donated or handed down shortly after I left. That left me with two big boxes in the UK and the clothes I lugged around with me in my bags.

Back to the here and now, we have discussed this at depth and have agreed to sell, recycle or donate what we can. When the time comes (I hope not too soon) to move again, it shouldn’t take this much effort. Still I am proud of us for moving the countless heavy boxes ourselves by foot and by trolley, and in the sweltering 30 degree heat.

I have gained respect for people who have no choice but to work in physical jobs in hot places with little chance for a break or rest. Sure, it is likely more difficult for them and our sore muscles were very much a choice… but I have learnt something about myself and what I want from life and this cheaper existence.

Old Habits

Well, yes they aren’t easy to kill, are they?

I saw someone convert a kerosene lamp into an olive oil lamp for a smokeless, safer and cheaper light (and heat) alternative. Candles aren’t that cheap these days!

So I paid between 30 and 40 euros for two lamps and two mason jars. Far, far too much!!

The glass bottom of the lamps are rather nice so I will need to find an alternative use for them. The reason they need changing is that olive or vegetable oil are much heavier than usual lamp oils and cannot travel up the wick so easily.

I do not really know how long it will take me to make any savings on my lighting/electric bill, but this is also a psychological game. After this initial cost my lighting will be free. Knowing that I am not paying a cent to light my home is very liberating.

Yes, I do mean free. We have litres and litres of olive oil that we will not use before its best before date (will have to write another post on that) which would otherwise have gone to waste. We do try to avoid cooking with too much oil, even the healthier kinds.

A good friend of ours owns some olive trees and gifts us more oil every six months or so, more than we ever use. We have insisted that she gives less, but they have more than they need too. So we have an almost unlimited supply for free. :)

Well, this is just a quick post. I’ll update you when I have converted the lamps.

A broke bloke!

Two broke blokes…

It’s time to get my act together, to act my age(?) and sort out my spending habits.

Alright, so I am not totally to blame for exhausting all our savings… moving house and needing to buy furniture and white-goods is largely the cause.

Still, that doesn’t excuse my crazy spending of late. Not that we go mad often, rarely do we spend thousands but those odd hundreds do add up! Nor have we ever had an extravagant lifestyle. Both our childhoods were let’s say less-well-off than most.

It’s only in the last few years that we’ve had any spare cash, so can you blame us for going on a little spending spree? In fact, we don’t really like money and it’s not that we don’t understand its value. I often say I hate money and the fact that it drives us (as a species) to destroy our planet and kill each other for resources that will inevitably bring us more money is for me an obvious indicator that something is not right.

Capitalism sucks! I am not saying other options from the past are any better, but basically our current system is no longer doing enough to better our world and make people’s life’s happier/healthier. Change is painful but we need it and so does our planet.

I have in the past toyed with the idea of reducing the money I spend and my dependence on systems that I dislike, I have allowed myself to spend a little more in order to be self-sufficient and spend less in future. I even got myself a copy of The Moneyless Man by Mark Boyle. Thing is, I have always fallen back into old habits.

Now though, the option is not mine. We are running out of money and we have a few small loans to repay and credit card bills to clear. These are tiny compared to some people’s debt, but they need to go not grow.

So let me outline a few changes we hope to make/are making, others we will avoid and how I think we are already getting it right.

Looking after the pennies?

Cutting back on the few splurges we have, namely food, craft supplies and gadgets, should help us clear those loans and credit cards as well as narrow our expanding waistlines.

Being aware of the amount of electricity and water (and gas) that we use and really cutting back on unnecessary machines, gadgets, gizmos and anything that cannot be done with (hu)man power. I’ve banned the vacuum, what’s wrong with a brush and broom? I have packed away the coffee machines and dusted off the French press. The kettle will need to be sold and replaced with a smaller, more energy-efficient albeit Soviet in style, one. I have already started boiling the amount of water needed and not filling up the kettle each time.

I am also looking into alternatives like solar power, worm farming, composting and other things to help avoid needing to spend money in future on things like fertiliser, this will be crucial for us to grow our own food.

Cancelling subscriptions is the last thing for now. No more Netflix, Xbox One Gold and cloud storage. I’ve dusted off our slightly archaic external hard drive and have already started transferring files for backup. We will also reduce our mobile contracts, going for less data, but I am limited on this due to needing free calls for work. Still, even a little drop in price will help.

Keep them pounds!

Well, Euros. We will cancel our plans to purchase those last little things we needed for our new home. A bed frame, a microwave, sofa and some drawers or cupboards. Luckily our mattress is comfortable enough on the floor, we can make use of cardboard boxes for storing things and let’s see (do some research on) whether a microwave would save us electricity or not.

Another big spend that would then suck up more dosh is a car. We would really only need it to visit places out-of-town on the weekend. We will have to go on as we have done, going to those places that public transport can reach.

I will switch the fridge and boiler into economy setting and will ensure we do the same with the washing machine.

We do watch a lot of TV or play computer games, having the telly on and games console is very likely the biggest power consumption. I am trying to reduce how much I watch, where we live there are a series of free channels. The quality is awful and the amount of advertising makes them painful at times. Yet if this is my only source of visual media, that could well help me kick the addiction. I am not going to ask or nag my partner to stop playing his games… well, not just yet. Meanwhile I will switch to our old, smaller, cheaper to run TV.

That’s all I can think of for now.

Our little piggy bank.

We don’t take long holidays in far-flung places, taking day trips on public transport helps us save some cash.

We only go out to cafés and restaurants once in a while.

We try as best we can to take care of ourselves, our teeth and even cut our own hair.

We grow a few veggies and herbs, namely tomato and basil. For sure we will try to expand our green patch. Although I do not want to lose flowers that are beneficial to insects, these will lose priority to edibles.

We have little solar charges to top up our smart phones for longer days out and we use minimal heating during the winter. Admittedly we are guilty for leaving fans on too much during the summer.

We do put down extra warmer rugs in colder months and put on more/thicker pjs plus wrapping ourselves in blankets. The opposite being true in the heat, we’re not afraid to go all the way and be nude. ;-)

We only buy in food when we need it and avoid wasting, the extra snacks that creep in with each visit needs to stop.

We walk or cycle in town only paying to travel to other places nearby.

As I said, we are not big spenders, not really.

I am now thinking of more and more things to discuss, but I’d like to leave it here for now and write about these in another post.

Wish us luck!