It’s no secret that I’m a fan of making a budget. I’ve been keeping a budget now since 2006. And there are plenty of articles on the blog about how to set up a budget.
But here’s a hard truth that even I admit to: budgets rarely work.
The problem with budgets is that they are all about good intentions.
Good intentions give you nice warm and fluffy feelings, but they don’t give you actual results.
In other words, a budget will show you where you are overspending, but it won’t stop you from overspending in the first place.
Budget’s aren’t that much fun either.
Which is probably why only about 30% of people actually have a budget.
And no wonder when you read articles on how to create a budget and they start like this:
“Budgets are a necessary evil” [source]
“Creating [a budget] can be extremely overwhelming” [source]
Today I’m going to share with you the alternative that we’ve been using now for several years and what I will be covered in more depth in the upcoming workshop. It’s neither evil nor overwhelming – I call it the Payday Plan.
Rather than creating a budget for the year and hoping that you stick to it, a Payday Plan is a proactive and automated weekly or fortnightly plan for your money.
No tracking expenses and no nasty surprises at the end of the month when you compare your actual spending to what you have budgeted.
Instead, you allocate your money for the week and you automate most of it, spending what’s left.
In today’s post, I’m going to outline how the Payday Plan works.
For the past few years, my idea of organising our digital photos was to dump them all in a folder called “Photos to be Organised”.
As you can imagine, the more photos that have gone into this folder (and we’re talking nearly 1,000 here), the less motivated I’ve felt about organising them.
It’s a job still waiting for me.
In fact, it got so depressing I started a new folder: “More Photos to Organise.” It’s got nearly 1,000 pictures in it too.
Finding a photo is a nightmare, especially if it’s one I’ve taken a while back and I want to use it on the blog. There are photos you may never ever see, simply because they are lost amongst the multitude.
This year, starting from January, I’ve implemented a new system for organising my photos and it’s been working out great. Photos are much easier to find and I’ve taken a moment to cull them, leaving only the best, which saves space on the hard drive as well as frustration.
So today I thought I would share the system I’ve started using to organise our digital photos.
For many years, I thought that soap making was too hard and too frightening.
Then I thought it was too expensive. Coconut oil is expensive enough to eat as it is, let alone making soap out of.
It turns out that making your own soap is neither hard, frightening nor expensive.
For hundreds of years, soap has been made out of animal fats in many parts of the world, and quite often made out of the household drippings. It’s only in recent times that we’ve become a bit funny about using animal fats for anything.
I know this isn’t a popular stance, but I can’t see the point of using expensive food oils in soap, like coconut oil, when animal fats are more often than not thrown away after we eat only the choice cuts of meat.
Vegans and vegetarians excepted, I can’t understand why we despise soap made from animal fat, when it’s less expensive, eliminates waste and makes excellent (some people argue superior) soap. If we’re going to eat the beast, we should be using all of it.
Lard makes a very mild, conditioning soap that is great for your skin. Unlike commercial soaps, where the glycerine is removed and sold as a separate bi-product, homemade soap retains the glycerine, which is very moisturising.
Lard doesn’t lather very well though, so if you’re expecting a bubbly lather from your soap, it’s a good idea to add another oil, like a little bit of castor oil (about 5%). Lard on its own makes a great soap for homemade laundry detergent, although we use ours for personal washing and it cleans just fine. It’s a very luxurious soap.
You can buy rendered lard from the supermarket, but it’s cheaper to render it yourself, especially if you’re using the trimmings from your slow cooked pork shoulder.
When you first read through the instructions, they might make soap seem a bit complicated, but in actual fact it’s really easy and only takes around 20 minutes (even if you’re taking photos for a blog post!).
A large batch will mean you only have to make soap once or twice a year to keep the whole family squeaky clean.
Because I used leftover, home rendered lard, the total cost of the soap (which was just slightly under 1 kg) was less than $1 for the lye. Which is pretty frugal for around an hours work (including cutting the fat, the hands on work of rendering the lard and making the soap) every six months or so.
Plums are in season at the moment and so are both deliciously at their best and at their cheapest.
At $2 and $3 a kilo, it’s hard to resist stocking up and making the most of the season.
Today’s recipe is how to make Asian style plum sauce. Later in the month I’ll share a recipe for plum jam.
I did a bit of calculating and worked out that at $3 a kilo for the plums, this sauce costs around $4.50 a litre to make.
Store bought plum sauces range from $7 to $16 a litre, so making your own not only means controlling the quality of the ingredients, it also saves you quite a bit of money.
And it only takes around 30 minutes of work for a year’s supply of plum sauce (plus gifts if you put some aside). It’s great as a stir fry sauce or as a dipping sauce.
My recipe is adapted from this one. I didn’t use tamarind paste because I couldn’t justify buying it just to make plum sauce. I think the sauce turned out fine without it and all the other recipes I read didn’t include it anyway.
There’s one thing I like to splurge on each year and that’s a nice diary. Something sturdy to keep track of my to do lists and organise my thoughts.
But when the end of the year rolls round, the question then becomes, what do I do with the old diary?
You may have seen ideas around the interwebs for upcycling old books. I know some people have heart palpitations at the idea of cutting up books, but what about old diaries?
In this tutorial I’ll share with you how I turned last year’s diary into a blank journal, to be used either by myself, or to be put away as a potential gift.
Lettuce is one of the easiest plants to grow in the garden (or containers), but it’s also easy for it to go from sweet and juicy to bitter very quickly.
As someone who tends to neglect the garden, I know all about bitter lettuce. The sub-tropical climate doesn’t help this cool climate loving plant either.
But if I’m going to go to the trouble of planting and tending it, I’m not going to waste the darn stuff! If it’s too bitter to eat raw, I’ve found it palatable eaten cooked, just like wilted spinach.
If you can prevent your lettuce going bitter, all the better. But if it does bolt there are some things you can do to minimise the bitterness.
I’ve started updating our household binder and I thought I would share with you the pages I’m making for it, as I create them.
If you’re wondering what a household or home management binder is, it is where you keep all the important information needed for the smooth running of your household.
A household binder is your home’s command central.
You can create a digital household binder using a programme like Evernote, but I prefer old fashioned paper because it’s usually quicker looking in a binder than it is to turn on the computer to find the information you need, like a phone number, for instance.
And if the power goes out or your computer goes caput, you still have all your information at hand.
Which brings me to today’s printable and the first, most important page in your household binder: the emergency contacts list.
Long before there were polyunsaturated oils and hydrogenated vegetable oils, people used drippings and rendered animal fats for cooking.
Animal fats fell out of favour due to the health revolution, but they are coming back in vogue as people move back to traditional ways of eating.
Are animal fats unhealthy? There is a growing number of people who argue animal (and saturated) fats are not as unhealthy as previously thought (not in huge amounts though).
They argue that it’s the vegetable oils that we should steer clear of.
Health aside, the upside to rendering your own cooking fat is that it’s frugal (practically free), and it reduces waste.
But if you’re not convinced that cooking in animal fat is healthy, rather than eat it, you can slather it all over your skin…in the form of soap!
Either way, don’t let it go to waste!
Soap has been made from animal fats for hundreds, possibly thousands of years. Next week I’ll write more about how to make soap from lard, but first we have to render the lard!
You may be thinking ‘sheesh, it’s not even March and she’s already talking about gift giving.’
And I feel a little bit the same, to be honest.
But stick with me, and I’ll explain.
The some of the best kind of frugal gifts are ones you make yourself.
If you plan now and start crafting, you can spread the work (and pleasure) of crafting throughout the year instead of frantically trying to make a dozen things at the last minute.
Here are some things that you can make now, ready for birthdays and Christmas.
Do you own too much stuff?
Is impulse buying damaging your overall financial health?
Is shopping a hobby?
Do you shop when you’re feeling down or stressed? Does it give you a little moment of happiness?
If the answer is yes, then you’re not alone. Consumption is, after all, the foundation of our modern industrialised society.
We experience two triggers to impulse buy: one is external – seeing leads to buying. The other is internal, and marketers know how to use these internal motivations to increase sales.
To beat the urge to impulse buy you need to tackle both the external and internal triggers.