Extreme frugality

I’ve seen a lot of posts and even complete blogs recently that have focused on money saving during the recession. Rightly so too as many of us have felt the pinch caused by rising prices, no pay rises to compensate this and even redundancy. It’s rotten and not amount of sausage casserole can make up for this, even if you can knock one up for about two quid.

I think the most extreme frugaling (is it a word?, it is now!) I’ve seen was a guest post somewhere suggesting dispensing with toilet paper entirely and instead using washable flannels. Personally I’ve adjusted my bowel movements so I do around 80% of my solid ablutions at work, which saves loo roll, water, and allows me to check in to both cubicles on Foursquare (I’m mayor of both, which is nice). But what do I know? Some people seem to want to suffer for their budgeting, as if you’re not really saving unless you’re having a miserable time of it.

There is of course genuine hardship out there and I do not want for one moment to denigrate it, wifey has recently been made redundant so we know first hand how hard it can be. But there does seem to be a lot of complaining about money emanating from people carrying their daily Starbucks coffee or with their £60 a month Sky subscription. Those would be the first thing I’d get rid of personally.

It’s times like this though I think that a little lateral thinking is required. I have a rather excellent Collins MicroGem book on Foraging. Now I’m not about to start picking up and butchering road kill like one of wifey’s friends does over the winter* but some of it can be interesting to experiment with and might even save you money. For instance did you know during the war coffee was rationed and in such scarce supply, people took to making a coffee substitute with acorns? There in a nutshell you have a free activity that you can do with the kids- collecting acorns, shelling them and grinding them up, and a product at the end of it you can use (once, I doubt you’ll try it twice, it is quite bitter and needs honey or something else to sweeten it. A lot of honey in fact).

Equally I’ve also turned my hand to home brewing over the last couple of years. The beer is a fiddle to make, time consuming when it comes to bottling and preparing but rewarding when it comes to quaffing. The home made ginger beer is a lot easier to make and probably even more potent in terms of alcoholic content. When your local is charging over £3 a pint, it’s nice to have an alternative. Yes, I could just buy a tray of beer at the supermarket for home consumption and this might even, special offers depending, be cheaper but like the food foraging, home brewing is time consuming. What this means is it takes time up when you could be doing something else that costs money.

I do think part of the frugality movement that gets overlooked is the opportunity cost. When you’re making your manky acorn coffee (tying it in nicely with a bit of history) or brewing your beer, you’re not doing something else that intrinsically costs money. That’s why we like going to the park, or out for walks in the countryside, there aren’t shops to tempt us or cafes there to charge us more than I think is reasonable for a tea and cake.

And if you’re mad enough, here’s a recipe for acorn coffee.

*he does a rural commute to and from work and figures anything he finds on a week day can only have been there for 12 hours at most, so in the cold temperatures is going to be fine. He has a chest freezer stock up to the brim with free food.