As I approach the end of full-time work, my mind has turned to economy measures that will make my Brave New Life possible.
Over the years, we have had several incentives to watch our spending. One was a blunt letter from the bank saying, ‘You have no money. We can’t pay your mortgage’. This is not the sort of incentive you can ignore. It led us to think about what we were buying just out of habit.
Here are some things we have learned to live happily without:
1 Kitchen paper
I know! Many argue that this is essential to civilised life. So convenient! So versatile! So hygienic! What could possibly replace it? Well, a sponge for a start. There are no wiping up procedures that can’t be performed with these, and sponges are hygienic because any bacteria they gather die when the sponge dries. If you are using kitchen paper for cheffy purposes – toilet paper does just as well if you are gentle with it. You don’t have to tell your dinner party guests. If you always have kitchen paper to hand, it is often just an expensive way of blowing your nose.
2) Fabric conditioner
But the softness – the fresh summer meadow fragrance! Take another look at the price of it, though. It is really just a slimy perfume added to your wash at great expense. I am averse to artificial scents anyway, and in washing products they make me itchy, so this is not a great sacrifice for me. However, if you find that your towels are too crispy for your liking – you can use a bit of hair conditioner instead.
3) Expensive cleaning products
There is such an array of these nowadays, many of them in lurid colours, with exotic fragrances and promises to kill all germs up to and including bubonic plague. They have price tags to match. I have tried all sorts of cheaper options and conclude that you can clean the whole house with old-fashioned, cheap cream cleaner and some thick bleach. Cream cleaner can be abrasive and so not advisable for acrylic baths, but you can use a drop of the bath and shower products you use on yourself for these. For kitchens, doctors say that dilute bleach is all you need to kill dangerous bacteria, and that’s good enough for me. I know it isn’t great for the environment so I am sparing with it.
Those clean-freaks among you may be thinking that I am some kind of frugal Typhoid Mary living in dangerous filth. I admit that I am not super-houseproud, but I am VERY HOT on kitchen hygiene, and it is my proud boast that in many years of raising a family, I have never given anyone food poisoning.
4) Pet food pouches
Our cat, Misty, used to have these as they are nicely portioned and so easy and hygienic to serve. However, we decided she would be joining us in our last big economy drive, and now her breakfasts are spooned from a can of Asda’s own cat food, which then goes back in the fridge with a cleverly fashioned tin foil lid.
This saves us a fortune, which no doubt gives Misty a warm feeling inside. Luckily she is one of the 2 out of 10 cats who do not give a monkey’s about brands.
For her tea, however, she has the expensive scientific dry food recommended by the vet. We are not monsters.
Do you have any great tips or experiences about trying to live without things? I’d love to hear from you!