How frugal is too frugal? It depends on your circumstances. About 10 years ago, I remember being horrified when a TV reporter advising people how to save money said that forgoing buying a coffee Monday to Friday would save $750 a year. I would, I reasoned, rather have my daily cappuccino than $750.
A decade on, however, I’m starting to see how much sense that makes, and now I buy only one hot drink a week (chai latte is my choice these days) or fewer.
I thought about that story of saving money again this week while I was at the supermarket. I often purchase pre-cut cheese slices (natural ones, not the over-processed rubber ones in cellophane) and pre-grated cheese. This is purely because they are convenient for sandwiches and recipes respectively. (I know my foodie friends will gasp in horror when they read this. Oh well.)
But comparing prices in the supermarket, I calculated roughly that I would save $150 a year if I bought cheese in blocks rather than pre-cut. That doesn’t sound much, but it is a jolly good night out for two, or a bucket-load of new books, or three bottles of Moët champagne… In return, I have to spend one minute slicing or grating cheese each time I use it. I can do that.
Moving on from that, there must be lots of other ways I could save money just by changing my buying habits slightly.
In reality, any savings I make are likely to go straight to my credit card rather than on champagne. I need to take austerity measures at this time of year, because there is very little academic work from December to the start of March.
On the positive side, it is a wonderful, peaceful time to get some writing done. I’m working on a novel and, from tomorrow, I will aim to write 2000 words a day, most days.
Because of my austerity measures, I will not be going out much to restaurants, going to the theatre or flying away for a weekend in Queensland. In other words, there will be few distractions.
Instead of gadding about, I will be hunkering down, weathering the lean times for another year and…hopefully, at the end of summer, I will have the first draft of my new novel done. That will be a major achievement, since I’ve been researching this topic in various ways for 20 years, and recently, finally, came up with what I think is the perfect formula for the book.
Caron – I know exactly what you mean about finding ways to be frugal that don’t cost a lot in terms of time and effort, but do save you money. Just simple things can make a big difference. I give you credit for thinking that way. Your cheese probably tastes better freshly grated/sliced anyway. And it is good motivation to focus on that manuscript. I’ve found that walking wherever I can rather than driving saves me a lot of fuel money and I stay in better shape. Can’t get a better payoff for frugality than fitting into those trousers you thought were never going to fit again..
Hi Margot. Yes, the cheese is much better that way—I just get busy/lazy. Walking is brilliant. And catching public transport, which usually involves a bit of walking, too. This year for the first time, I took public transport to work routinely instead of driving. It cost much less, and I had the added benefit of two to three hours a day on trains and buses when I could work, instead of being stuck in traffic.
Yes, I think some austerity is good for writers, because it allows us to limit our distractions.
We got a coffee maker a few months back. It was only about $30 on sale from Amazon, and I just buy bags of Starbucks coffee from the supermarket. It makes coffee about as good as what you buy in a coffee shop, doesn’t require much effort, and it’s a lot cheaper.
Very good, brother! Yes, I’ve heard from people who own cafes that it’s selling cups of coffee that gives them the most profit. It is, after all, about 98% tap water.
Excited about your new project, Caron, and will be looking to you for tips on how to be frugal if study plans for 2014 come to fruition.
Thank you, Angela. Yes, I hope I can do it justice. Frugal is good – but I don’t always practise what I preach!
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