It’s a new year, and time for making new plans. As always, many New Year’s resolutions are likely to include getting healthier, losing weight and eating better. But part of many people’s plans will also be to budget more carefully, especially after the Christmas spending, and find ways to make their money go further. Adopting a more frugal lifestyle, often associated with minimalist or simplicity movements, can help you succeed with these resolutions at the same time.
Cut the Alcohol and Save a Grand
Alcohol can play an expensive role in our lives, day to day, week to week, more than we may realise. A couple of glasses of wine with your dinner, drinks with friends, a gin and tonic to treat yourself – it all adds up. In midlife we might not be binge drinkers, but often we have fallen into what the Institute of Alcohol Studies describes as the “very little but very often” drinking pattern. Making a frugal living choice to cut out, or at least down on, alcohol will help both your bank balance and health.
Eric Appleby, interim chief executive of Alcohol Concern, has in the past talked of the many, and rising numbers of, “middle aged, middle class” drinkers, to whom a bottle of wine with dinner or a drink before meals, seems like a perfectly normal drinking pattern. You may not see yourself as one of those drinkers, but even a more moderate level of drinking has its costs. Many middle-aged couples, for example, can consume a bottle of wine every couple of nights, or, in some cases, every night, plus several other drinks during the week when out and about. Assuming that, as a couple, you on average get through four inexpensive bottles a week – easy to do if you have a glass of wine most nights with dinner, or to unwind during the evening – with each bottle costing around £5, this adds up to over £1000 a year. And that’s just the wine, not the extra drinks. Given that as we get older we metabolise alcohol differently, so that even moderate amounts can have significant effects on our health, cutting down on drink is definitely a sensible frugal choice.
Ten a Day? Quit Smoking and Save £1500
Most of us know the health risks associated with smoking, including strokes, heart attack, and cancer. But have you ever calculated the financial effects of your nicotine addiction? If you’re a ten-a-day smoker, over a year your habit will cost you more than £1500 of your income which you’ve no doubt worked hard for. Think about the healthy things you could do with that money instead – gym membership, an active holiday, or new bikes for you and your partner to enjoy the fresh air together. It’s not easy to give up smoking, but such cash savings should be a good incentive to work towards achieving that goal this year. Contact your local NHS Stop Smoking Service for advice and support.
Do it Yourself to Lose and Save Some Pounds
If you pay other people to do your house work for you, for instance, gardening, cleaning or house maintenance, a frugal and healthier option is to do it yourself. According to Fitness magazine, these three activities use 288, 224 and 256 calories per hour, respectively. That’s money saved and calories burned. Result. If your argument is that you feel you can’t do some of these jobs, this year, why not try and learn how. Remember, learning new things keeps the brain active and helps you stay sharp.
Grow Your Own Greens for Healthy Spending and Eating
Eating healthily can be expensive, especially if you choose to go organic. Even so, more people are choosing this option – In its 2014 organic market report, the Soil Association revealed sales of organic products in the UK in 2013 grew by 2.8%. One frugal way around this is to grow your own fruit and vegetables. While the food you produce might not be “organic”, you can control the chemicals you use, and find cheap and natural ways of protecting and improving your crops. The Permaculture Association, a national charity that supports people to learn about and use permaculture in the UK, offers information for growing your own fruit and vegetables, such as companion planting, on its website. In addition to eating these healthy snacks, the bonus of growing your own fruit and veg is you will get some good exercise while you do the work.