B-Day

Yesterday I updated my budget, something I still do in a spreadsheet and will continue to do until our loan is paid off……

Sometimes these quick checks help bring a smile to my face. When realising we’ve got a few more pennies than I’d thought. Then there are those times when I end up feeling physically sick with apprehension.

Yesterday was a dizzy-sick day. Somehow we need to find ourselves €1,000 to survive through ’til June. Come June we’ll be back in the black, having either a few euros spare or have that 1k saved up.

The problem is that between now and then we will be one thousand overdrawn, and without an agreed overdraft. Yikes!! :(

Thankfully we hadn’t got our new sofa yet, as the situation would be even worse.

The problem with getting paid in the middle of the month has reared its ugly head once more. Too many bills to pay weeks before I have the money to do so.

The problem with trying to go ‘moneyless’? There’s not really anything left to cut and try save a few pennies or cents.

I have just six weeks to find €887.

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The Big Update!

It has been six months since starting this blog, and now feels like the ideal time to give you all an update and help remind myself of what we’ve already achieved and what we want to work towards in the months and years ahead.

It’s also time again to spend a little more, in hope of saving a lot later. I’m also really keen to lessen our impact on the planet some more and in the process become a smidgen more self-sufficient.

Food, Shopping & Waste .

I am working more hours than I’d like, to pay off our little loan. However, we have found ourselves with a few extra pennies each week. Rather than continue to cut our food budget to the absolute minimum, we have decided to take responsibility and have set ourselves a few guidelines for the food we will buy in future.

Our food should meet as many of the following points as possible:

  • be organic
  • be vegetarian (but we’re still eating eggs)
  • be fair-trade
  • be as locally produced as we can find
  • have minimal packaging, especially plastics

There’s one exception to buying local, as I’m not aware of any coffee plantations in Spain.

Giving up caffeine is something I’ll work towards, but not before my hours drop back down. It’s also a bit too cold for us to grow olives here, something that has become a favourite snack of ours.

Organic, fair-trade and local produce tend to be a little pricier than normal products found in supermarkets, but we’ll also be supporting local businesses, small shops, and also local producers when buying fresh stuff in the bi-weekly farmer’s market. Which seems like a good compromise.

We’ve already come to accept that going totally moneyless is not a reality for us, not just yet. We will of course continue to reduce our need for money as much as we can.

And of course, we’re hopeful that the majority of our vegetables and some of our fruit will be home-grown… eventually.

Also, we hope to reduce our weekly waste. Something that has already happened without much thought. 80-90% of our weekly rubbish is recyclable and another 5-10% is organic.

After last summer’s worm massacre, we’ve yet to set up a real composting system. This is something else we will address. Having today spent some money on a decent compost bin, both one for the kitchen and one for the terrace.

I’m hoping to get all those rubbish numbers as close to 0% as I can. Composting kitchen waste and using reusable bags not just for carrying our groceries but for rice, oats and anything else I can find bought from larger sacks. Thankfully most of the organic shops have options for buying these plus nuts, quinoa, couscous and more in this manner.

So, we’ll try to make some sacks of our own to avoid using the plastic (supposedly biodegradable) from the shops loose produce section. We’ve also paid a bit more than usual for truly biodegradable bin bags, made from corn starch[!?] or something similar.

We’ve not gone fully vegan, but are still largely vegetarian. We eat eggs and have the odd treat of some cheese. Once in a while we still eat some chicken too.
(More about chickens/eggs in the garden section.)

I’m currently looking into healthier options for our cat, the food we buy her now is expensive and processed. I have found a supplement that can be added to meat. Sure, we’ll still be supporting the meat industry and all the problems that brings, but my cat is a part of the family and deserves a healthy diet.

Keeping Warm.

We’ve given up on the olive oil lamps, not great light sources and yet amazing little heaters. I’ll try to find some way to use the parts and might come back to them next winter. The heating is now off and will stay that way indefinitely.

We’re also using our current small increase in financial stability to invest in beeswax tea lights. I hadn’t really thought about the ones we were using before, it was only when the last batch we bought produced a very nasty smell that we decided (much like our food) to go as natural/organic as possible.

I’ve found some that are sold with the option of not having the aluminium cups/containers. I have actually been keeping all of the ones we’ve used with the idea of an art project or upcycling of some sort in future. So, I can reuse them again for now with the new candles. I should do the same with our other light-candles, but we will use what we have first.

Power.

We found out where our power comes from, a nice move on our power company. Utter transparency and honesty, but not such a pleasant surprise. The breakdown was more or less:

    • 20% renewable (a good start)
    • 25% coal (the horror!!!!)
    • 25% nuclear (oh dear!!)

I still need to translate the remaining 30% which came from several different sources.

Well, finding alternatives to both save money and not use this wicked electricity has become an even bigger issue for me.

Thankfully we have unplugged the fridge-freezer and the only major energy we use is my computer for work. Having eventually failed at trying a tablet and a low-energy computer like the Raspberry Pi.

The other three big items is the washing machine, and my husband’s Xbox and TV. He is very much willing to take on this lifestyle change with the exception of one of his favourite games. I’ve asked him to play less, but have promised not to ask him to stop altogether.

Let’s see how it goes, sometimes he says he wants a new electric razor and this and that. Maybe it’s old habits or maybe he’s just thinking out loud and not entirely serious about getting these things.

Currently we are generating our own power from the wood burning oven and kettle that both use heat to make power, plus the old small solar panels and a some wind-up torches.

In the future I’d really like a small wind turbine, rather than a questionable (environmentally-friendly speaking) solar panel and perhaps more human-powered options.

I’ve decided to donate my Kindle to my father, once I’ve read all the books, as I know he is interested in getting one. I’ll ask that he sells/hands it on in future and so my concerns over its sustainability should have been solved.

Cleanliness.

I have been using soaps and shampoos again, and I did need a shave last month.

I had a Xmas treat of a haircut too. I kept the top long, and just had the sides shaved. So, I can still see exactly how much my hair has grown.

I am not changing my mind about not shaving or cutting my hair, this was simply an end of year treat.

I am reading about making my own soap/shampoo and won’t buy new products. I need to be ready with my own by the time our supply runs out, or go a few weeks again without any.

I am still peeing in the bidet to save water, but once our compost bin is established I’ll be peeing there. I’m sure the neighbours will be giving me some funny looks, but I need to set up a screen for me to also have showers outdoors come summer.

It’s entirely possible for this screen to evolve into an outdoor shower and compost toilet cabin. I have been doing my research into compost toilets. And am wondering why these aren’t mandatory in all new buildings?! Well, it’s at the top of my wish-list but being one of the more pricey items, will not necessarily happen this year.

What about the garden?

I spent the princely sum of €0.80 to buy some garlic, lettuce, cabbage and a little more on a new apple tree, raspberry bush and I forget one more. We’ve planted seeds for some insect friendly flowers, more peas (our current ones were badly damaged in gales), cornflower, borage and chard.

I’m finally getting organized and have began making monthly planting schedules that I can refer to again year after year.

I also harvested some onions, but have replanted them to produce more. I was very excited to see five little onions had grown from the one I planted last year. Never have I smelt fresh onion before, wow!

We need to get more soil but have plenty of wood chippings left, and we’re avoiding spending money on more pots by upcycling anything and everything that has no other value or use. As part of our cutting down on rubbish, we now only have one bin, our old coffee maker, which no-one wants to buy, joins an old kettle, old cat litter box, mugs, vases, packets and more.

Having bees is a long way-a-way, given finding them locally has proven a headache. My source of worms has also disappeared, meaning I can’t get some once our compost bin has been established. :-(

And chickens? Given we still eat meat, and that I have found much cheaper starting options than I originally posted? Yes, they are back on the radar – but with no clear date in mind for when we’ll get them. I can always feed the kitchen scraps too, but will there be enough for feed and compost?

What else is new/old?

We’ve still got plenty of old pallets and wood to make more things but have no real need for anything just yet. Maybe our outdoor bathroom/screen or some pot containers. I guess there’s no rush to decide.

Sadly, I am still waiting for my Altered Nozzle, the sooner we get this and save some water the better.

We’re ready to sell on more items such as books and other odds, but having got sick of boxes, we recycled or upcycled them and will now just have to accept less for items than we had once hoped.

I’ve been checking through my social media and have lost access to my Tumblr, but I’m not currently too bothered by this. If you’re messaging me there, I won’t get it.

The future?

Let’s just see what happens with Instagram, vlogging and other social media, but for sure I am excited to continue writing here.

As I said, chickens sometime this year and hopefully bees who knows when.

Willow coppice for firewood is also on my list, but this may not be a reality until we have our own land… along with the wind turbine.

I plan on getting/making a camping shower for free hot water this summer, but in the meantime we will need the boiler and gas for short hot showers.

Other things for the longer future that require we own our home, need more land or basically money are a plant-based grey-water filtration system and that compost toilet.

I don’t expect many people dream and wish for a compost toilet, but I’m one of them now.

And of course, more crop plants.

 

Phew. I think I’ve said enough. Thanks for reading this mammoth post. I’m so excited for the year ahead, and hope you continue to follow us on this journey.

Hot or Not?

Getting back into moneyless, or even money-less, living after our Christmas break has proven difficult. Having to work more to pay off a loan and having a few extra treats has pushed our ultimate goal a little further away.

The trick is to not stress about growing food, instead I need to sit back and enjoy the process and learn from it… no matter the result. I also need to relax a little on the electricity side of things. The odd lamp or light isn’t such a terrible crime.

Although I now know where our power comes from. :-O More on that next post.

So, I have double checked about the house once more. Searching out those little sneaky plugs that have crept back toward reunion with their beloved sockets.

The biggest “splurge” we’ve allowed ourselves is heating. Not that our alternatives didn’t work. It was purely laziness, not having to worry about wrapping up and lighting candles, and being stuck in one room had proved much more of a challenge. Perhaps if we weren’t working so much and could have more time to enjoy being outside, walking, gardening or anything that helps keep you warm, we might just have succeeded.

Today though, the heating is being cut back and will go off for good in about a fortnight.

Having taken a week to write this post, I’ll leave it there and write again soon.

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?

Small Smelly Victories

The small victories need to be celebrated. Having become more aware of how much water we are using I switched from a hose, with its endless stream of water, to a watering can.

I counted the number of times I filled it and took note of the amount of water that flowed away down the drains. 12+ was my count.

Since then I have cut down to 7.5 fills of the four litre watering can. There’s still some puddles on the tiles but nothing like before. Sure the sudden drop in temperature and cloudy days could explain the need for less water, but I am happy to know that less is being wasted.

Never in my life have I wished for rain so much, a day with zero litres from my own tap is the best!

I am already working on cutting that number down on rainless days too. Following the Moneyless Man’s advice on cosmetics, I gave up using any products during my daily shower. With the idea of then using the same water to help thirsty plants.

The temperature was a sweaty 30 degrees when I started, but the cooler temperatures have settled in now. It’s been almost two weeks and I must say, I am happy.

I have no idea how my hair smells, but it looks and feels amazing. The only odor I am fighting (with regular washes) is my armpits. Maybe I do have a natural smell about me, but my partner hasn’t complained.

My skin is better and the blackheads are finally in retreat after half a lifetime of chemical warfare. I do give my nose an extra scrub with a hard sponge to help, but no soaps or scrubs.

Looking to the months ahead, I wonder if perhaps a change in my diet would help with the stinky pits, but at least the rest of me isn’t stinky …not even my privates!

I’m still using soap and/or hand sanitizer for washing my hands, I don’t think that’s something I could give up. And alternatives to toothpaste is something that’ll have to wait.

It is still sandal season, so fighting off potential cheesy feet could well be the next challenge.

What else has changed? My partner has started lighting candles and not switching on lights without me having to ask. :-)

We are eating less crap and cooking more, and we’re losing weight as a result. We both have more energy and are going for regular short walks. We are both sleeping better too.

I am reading a lot, lot more. I am stocked up on unread books so unplugging the TV was the best decision. I still haven’t sold off my smartphone or tablet, too nervous to let them go just yet.

Still I am preparing for their departure, especially after finding a new mobile tariff that includes a few free SMS and unlimited phone calls. This is less than a third of my current plan, includes a free dumb phone and means I do not get distracted by social media, emails or chats all the time as it has zero data.

The weird thing was that it included a mobile number and a wireless “landline” number but these are locked to the somewhat dumb-dumb phone. I guess it was designed for technophobes or older people with poor eyesight. It’s no fashion setter but it’ll function for what I need. I rarely message my partner, as we often see each other during lunch breaks. I prefer to meet friends rather than use an app to talk and I can still Skype family and send emails when on my computer.

So yeah, I really need the call time for work and for the odd personal call but that’s all. This isn’t something that happened quickly or easily as I started cutting back on my apps and internet usage about a year ago. Still, everyone is used to the idea now so this shouldn’t be a big adjustment.

I am getting off topic now. In fact it’s time to go collect some firewood, I’ll explain that next time.

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!