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.