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i like big butts and i cannot lie - water butts that is
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Is it possible to save on your water bill?

As part of my No Spend Challenge for the Year I am looking at my ‘fixed’ bills. I have found that actually a few of them are less ‘fixed’ than you might think. The first is my regular £60 a month Direct Debit to the water company. This amounts to around £720 a year.

How can I reduce my water bill?

We are two adults in a three bedroomed house. It is a small three bedroomed house but it is still assumed that on average most houses this size will have three or more people living in them. However the water company will make a judgment based on the rental yield for your property. So our three bed in the midlands would rent for more than our three bed in West Wales. Hence the massive jump! Now obviously some households will use more than the average for that rental and some will use less.

Meaning sometimes they lose money and sometimes they make money. SO by asking to pay by a meter you are asking to pay for the units you use and only the units you use.

How does my water bill work?

All bills come in two sections;

  1. the fresh water that comes from your taps – hot or cold
  2. the sewerage drain off, sometimes referred to as foul water or grey water. It is what goes back into the sewers and is estimated at around 95% of what goes in.

If you have a vacant property for any length of time have a look at the governments help site, Ofwat.gov.uk.

Is a meter right for me?

The average household water bill is at around £400 pa. We don’t love to waste water as it has to be treated and there is an environmental impact that comes with that. So we believe that even with a garden we will save money on a metered service. This decision may not be the right one for you so there are a few sites which allow you to check like a water meter calculator.

After having used the calculator I can see massive savings for us with a meter!

Firstly let’s make sure we are still all on the same page for how to save water!!

Disclaimer – there are affiliate links in here which I may receive a small fee for, without any additional cost to yourselves.

How do I keep my usage low?

Ban the hose

like seriously completely ban it. Not for watering the plants, not for cleaning the car and not for filling the pond! We have two water butts that we managed to buy in the sale from Water Butts Direct.

 

We don’t even use a watering can that we have bought as we are that frugally minded that we use Plastic Bottle Recycled to a Watering Can.

That is just the zero waste eco warrior inside of me coming out but it does save money by not buying a watering can!

For washing the car use water in a bucket and rinse down with a fresh bucket and sponge.

When you fill the pond with rain water it allows for a wider spectrum of native wildlife to flourish and themiddlesizedgarden.co.uk has a lovely article outlining the reasons why and some fun ideas for getting a small pond started.

 

Share a bath?

Well this is one of the more popular ideas! We tend to shower and don’t take long as we are always in a rush to leave the house. I do like a bath occasionally though and when I do I make sure I enjoy it to the maximum. I use lots of bath bombs and lots of bubbles. Hopefully this year I will share some ideas for making your own as some of them do still come wrapped in single use plastics! The one shown here is organic and wrapped in paper, and very suitable for a luxury bath!

 

 

Turn off the tap!

An obvious sounding one, but when cleaning our teeth we use around 6 litres of water a minute. Now I’m pretty sure I take longer than a minute to brush mine, but only dip the toothbrush under the tap two or three times. What about rinsing under the tap before you wash up? That sounds a good idea.

 

Are you flushing away money with the water?

For those of us who hate the phrase ‘if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down’ perhaps we could look at a toilet cistern block like a
Hippo the Water Saver.These are specifically designed not for the slimline type cistern but for those without a limiter. You can still avoid a few flushes throughout the day if you like too!

Washing up versus a dishwasher!

By using products which are not harmful to the environment like you can reuse your washing up water for the plants! So this also leads on to always using a washing up bowl, you will use less water and it will be immediately transportable. Even if you are just topping up the water butt.

If you use a dishwasher there are savings to be made, but only when you fill it up completely!

Keep a fresh cold drink of water at hand

As simple as that keep a jug filled with tap water in the fridge. You wont need to run the tap to get it cold.

What next?

For us we are going to get a water meter. The calculator that I used shows we can save around £350 every year. So it is a simple yes. We may be able to save even more if we follow our own advice. Eventually we will look to build our own off grid homestead and then we can get super serious about rainwater harvesting!

I would like to leave you all with a link to a small article from Oxford Brookes on the environmental impact of ‘cleaning’ water for human consumption. As you may have a large family and it may not initially seem achievable. So if the financial costs aren’t an incentive perhaps the carbon ones will be?

WE love saving money and the hopefully contributing to saving the planet too. So if we have inspired you at all please do share this and get involved with our other media via our Facebook Page or even our Facebook Group Zero Waste No or Low Spend Ideas and Inspiration.

The main thing is to try and reduce your usage and then decide if you are ready as a household to take that plunge! I would advise it to anyone with more rooms than people living in the house, but also to all those who can be economical with their use.

Action!

  1. get a big butt
  2. turn off the tap
  3. shower or get cosy in a bath
  4. think before you flush
  5. wash up to create grey water
  6. chill the tap water ready in the fridge
  7. hand wash your car
  8. get a meter if you are confident that you fit the criteria!

 

zero waste glass jars
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Zero Waste No Spend Kitchen Wins

You will be surprised that you have never thought of these easy zero waste no spend hacks for the kitchen. Saving the Earth has never been more affordable, or fun. Do not worry about skill level. I can do it, you can do it!!

Affiliate links are contained in this post meaning I may take an income from any sales at no cost to yourself.

If in doubt about what a No Spend Challenge is have a read of our Getting Started Guide or have a watch of our how to YouTube video…

Bulk buying / safe storage / happy prepping!

A no spend challenge does not mean no spending! Complex I know. What it means is that you make the most of what you have got. When there is a sale or you have a coupon you must make the most of this. Capitalising on a bargain is the only time it is a bargain. So please do not be pulled in by sales for things you cannot store or use. Sometimes I have been guilty of creating more waste by ‘bargain’ shopping. I am mainly talking about your food shop here! Do not bulk buy shoes or handbags!

Zero Waste Storage Solutions

My in-laws have a serious caffeine issue. They have very kindly donated to me all of their used coffee jars for the last few months. I also have some super usefulChalk Paint which I use for SO MANY projects! So for me this makes sense…

plastic waste free jars
Bulk Buying only makes sense when you need what you are buying. To reduce waste, I use glass storage jars.

To reduce any chance of waste I store all dried goods in these sealable jars. As I have painted on them I have the space to also pop on the best before date, to the lid. This means when stored I can still see.

 

 

Grow Your Own = Zero Waste

A packet of seeds will only cost a few pounds, but will produce a high yield for your kitchen.

 

I have been swapping plants with neighbours and sometimes you will be able to grow just a few plants from seeds, and then get some young plants in exchange. Suddenly zero waste and luxury fresh food go hand in hand with budget planning. This rocks for me as

no waste here
easy to grow from seed or cuttings, you will have a never ending supply.

I always find a weekly shop with fresh fruit and vegetables will cause food waste. So therefore I go mid-week, meaning actually I spend more in the shops.

This year I have even grown lavender from seed! Always read the instructions on the packet and make sure that you look on Freecycle for people giving away plant pots.

Compost Your Veg Scraps

We have just made a compost heap from old pallets. This means we can have two bins on the go, the first we fill then move to the second one once the first is getting ready to be used. This gives us a constant supply of free, hig

h quality compost. So alongside the free pots, cuttings and seedlings we are doing ok. There is no plastic required to wrap our food up before it arrives with us, we just dig it out of the ground. I have a few clever little ideas for maximising small spaces. You could easily try things like Potato

zero waste here
Putting your waste to good use.

Towers as they are so easy on your back.

Small space – fast pace compost

We are working towards moving to a smallholding. So we have not always had a medium sized garden, or any garden in fact. So we are pretty happy with windowsill gardening – see micro greens and how to grow them.

I write all this so you realise that I understand. We do not all have massive spaces to cultivate. If you wanted to purchase a compost bin as one of your larger investments you could do worse than a ready made compost bins.But do check your local Facebook swap shops for pallets. I also like the rotating compost bin as it can be a much quicker process and flies and vermin cannot get in. Which means you can use your zero waste ethos to the max!

tips on creating tasty zero waste mealsLazy Zero Waste Cooking

Don’t get me wrong, I am not a lazy person. However, why would I waste time cooking from scratch every night? I do make sandwiches and use a beeswax wrap instead of cling film as it has a single cost attached and doesn’t make any further waste.

Next thing I do for lunch is leftovers – glamourous, wonderful leftovers. So obsessed am I with ‘no waste’ that I actually create waste by making too much food. That way I can have it reheated for lunch the next day, or use some of the ingredients for dinner the next night.

Best waste to create..

Roasted vegetables are my absolute go to. If you roast root veg you can then use it again in an omelette type dish. Or in many different ways, but if you go

Leftovers create waste to be eaten.
soups, ‘spanish’ omelettes, cold with dips, twice cooked, or frozen for a later date. Root veg rock!

for Mediterranean veg you can make soups, bases for pasta sauces and all sorts of other yummy ideas. Either way you can add as much or as little flavour as you like. If you are growing your own veg, this is virtually cost free. Perfect for a No Spend Larder Challenge! To be fair though I have a block when it comes to carrots as mine are always wonky!

 

When can an egg clean your clothes?

When it is an eco-egg! The one here says it will clean 1000 loads, I have asked several forums and the consensus seems to be even more.
so far I am very happy with ours and it works out A LOT cheaper than any other detergent available. I also have very delicate skin, and it is not having an adverse affect. So I would recommend giving it a try. Very much a better option for our oceans and our pockets!

 

inspiring bit …

I hope that I have given you all a few places to start. We are finally feeling free because of our No Spend Challenge but we have always been super keen on upcycling and reusing. I want us all to feel more confident to give things a try and if there is no cost attached I think we have nothing to lose! Please get started and let us all know how you do on our Facebook Page or by subscribing here! So time to get stuck in! Make that promise to yourself, you are going to buy the seeds, start the compost, use a wrap, save your leftovers. Whatever it takes to make the first step, you can do it!

Zero waste can mean zero cost!

I’m going to be adding more. So why not join in? why not start saving money? Why not carry on Saving the planet? I’m loving it, so might you!

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Top tips for the No Spend Challenge

We have completed the first few weeks of our No Spend Challenge and I wanted to share with you where I ‘failed’ and where I smashed it. Spoiler alert – there are no real fails, just tips I have learnt! You will have your own hurdles and your own wins. So start looking for where you are succeeding. By reading this you are making some great first steps.
There may be affiliate links in this page, meaning I may get a small fee for any referrals at no extra cost to yourselves.

First Tip – Tell the world

All my friends know I have this site, and I am totally open when trying new things. So I thought I had told everyone and that they would all be happy to reciprocate. I mean I even went on BBC Radio 4 for the You and Yours programme – 26 minutes in, if you are interested!

tips being shared!
Very nervous before my radio four interview!

So the scenario was our gorgeous nephews 8th birthday and our gift to him. We thought we were sticking to our rules See our ‘No Spend Challenge – Get Started’ article for the rules. So far so smug! In our rules we decided between us to get something which would help his mum out a bit too, so we went for clothes. I think you will agree this is a good tip. Zero waste and totally sustainable. Well yes and no. We went to a large supermarket to get him some cool t-shirts and jeans. This was an unplanned for trip and outside of the normal organised shopping. So we got him some good quality clothes but also missed that we then picked up £10 worth of extra food.

lesson learnt!

Moral of the story – it is not a one way street. I wanted to spend money on him as I felt they would also spend money on us. This in turn led to an over spend in a different area. So we are now in agreement to ask that our friends and family do not spend money on us either. They wont have to give us handmade gifts or lots of time together, but we have enough.

Second Tip – Let’s not use the ‘F’ word!

There is no such thing as failure here. I used to increase my spending as and when, without paying any attention to it. Now that I am learning to take control, there is no f word. This tip is based on keeping a positive outlook. My motto is ‘whether you think you can or you think you can’t you’re right’. I apply this here. So I have my tiers to keep me on track without any guilt. You will have your own tips and tricks.

This week I planned in to spend less than £10 to get a few drinks at an awards ceremony. This was an event I had put an apprentice forward for, and was therefore very keen to buy us each a diet coke! If it wasn’t for my tier system this may have been seen as a fail, however I also bought raffle tickets and then won a large box of chocolates. Proof if ever there was needed that the world looks kindly on you when you need it to!

In reflection

I want to get control of my money for security. I also want it to be a long term turnaround. To live more frugally. This is not like a crash diet for your money – destined to fail the moment you stop. So I have chosen to go with a certain flexibility. It does not mean I will then go on to be casual again straightaway! Don’t let one evening dictate the rest of your life! Top tip would be to be happy with any progress.

Third of our Top Tips

Be prepared. You will feel tempted. You may feel alone in the struggle. There is a lot you can do about it. I have found sin

tips for leftovers
Are they roast veg, tomorrows soup or even the base of a ‘Spanish’ omelette?

ce outing myself to 3.5 million listeners on British radio, it has been a lot easier to talk about money. So many people portray themselves as successful in terms of money, however they may be hiding massive debts.

For me, every morning before work I would have breakfast with colleagues. We would each spend anywhere between £1 and £8 on our breakfast. I have now started to eat porridge that I bring in. This is still not super cheap and I am sure not the best in terms of zero waste, but it is much better and much cheaper! Now we are all sharing tips for our success.

insights into myself

I had no idea I was so happy with preparing food in advance. Once I embraced it I totally rock at it. I am now cooking every night and intentionally make too much! I then make an easier evening meal the following night, or have leftovers for lunch. in keeping with being kind to myself, I also spent money on frozen battered cod and some chips. so much cheaper and not as time consuming as I had thought. Tips for anyone like me, keep that smug glow going and record your meal plans. Tick them off as you succeed.

Fourth Tip

Use the No Spend Challenge as an excuse. I don’t mean you have to isolate yourself and have no life, because you are not spending money. The exact opposite. Once you have had the initial talk with people, and you can be as open about your ‘why’ during that time as you like. Then all you need to do is think ‘I wont be buying X because I am on the No Spend Challenge’. It means I didn’t need to think whether I could afford a new coat, it just wasn’t going to happen. This kind of makes it perfect for those of us who like to bury our heads in the sand when it comes to money. Which leads me on to …

Tip Number Five

Start to look for other areas to cut back on. I decided to keep my grocery bill pretty constant. In fact it has, but my food waste has gone down massively! This proved that I was wasting my money on things I didn’t use when it came to food. So it got me to thinking about other areas I could cut down on. I have now reduced our unit price for gas and electricity – not our direct debit amount as several companies will promise that, it is the unit price you need ot look at.

by using a site like the one attached I found lots of different options. I have also looked to cut down out energy use, as well as cutting some of our own wood for the log burner. I have also written an article on heating the home for less, Ways to Keep Warm this Winter if you fancy a read and are crafty!

Final Tip

Keep it up. You are doing a big challenge. This is not meant to be a simple swap. Bu make it easy on yourself and focus on your goal. I have started to look at prices for smallholdings and going off grid. You could look at your goal in the same way. Why not google search for images? The nice yacht, car, holiday, clear bank balance, early retirement the list goes on. Keep focusing on succeeding and you will.

When you feel ready to start using up scraps and finding ways to increase the potential for what you already own, have a look at the below! Let us all know how you are doing and let’s help each other to make this work! By sharing our tips we are able to get the most from our own situation.

Tips on sharing tips!

p.s. you can share tips without having to share all of your private data!!! No bank statements or anything which could help out online fraudsters!

30 day no spend challenge
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No Spend Challenge – Get Started

No Spend does NOT mean no spend. You are still paying rent / mortgage and all of your bills. Any existing debt can still be included in those bills. You will then set your own goals to fit in with your own life.

Why ‘No Spend’?

For our family it has always been the case that we spend what we earn. When we first got together my husband came preloaded with bad debt. We managed to live on the breadline and pull ourselves out of debt. Having never felt that we spent excessively, why do we still have no real savings? We do own our own house, or some of it at least! I am finding that we are not alone in now earning a middle range wage, no children, but no savings.

Another reason would be how much I cringe at the thought of being consumers. Our planet struggles to maintain us all, so we already grow our own as well as make our own crafts. Why not extend this? How can we not at least try?

Your reasons may be similar and I have spoken to people in the UK worried about Brexit and the cost of living going up. I have met people who have one self-employed member in the house and this worries them. Whatever your ‘why’ I can guess it boils down to insecurity about the future.

What are you spending on?

We have two sorts of cost each month, fixed and variable. The fixed ones aren’t all that ‘fixed’ actually. A good mortgage advisor would come in handy each time you need to remortgage and there are ways to negotiate a good price. I am changing job so my super efficient hybrid on higher purchase may need to be tweaked to reduce our overall costs. Our Gas and Electric are not on a fixed term contract so we will look at price comparison sites every 6 months to stay ahead on the amount we spend. I am looking at our water bill and whether we might be better off with a water meter this summer.


We have never been able to stick to looking at receipts to see how much we spend on variable costs. You can see the start of the problem there! However with the no-spend year we don’t intend to. By popping some rules together we will be able to cut all of the variable spending to the minimum.

Rules –

  1. no cutting back on FairTrade products. This is a non-negotiable really as I have been out in countries where modern day slavery has been deployed to bring us cheap foods. It is icky and not something I would like to support.
  2. small steps are also important, see the tier system below!
  3. homemade is acceptable as an alternative, we will look to reuse, recycle and repurpose where we can.
  4. fix first then look to replace
  5. money for pets not to be adjusted, we have furry friends who need certain essentials. That said I do intend to create a lot of toys for them still
  6. medicine is not to be affected. This is particularly important as poor Paddy has just come off his motor bike and he needs dressings and pain medication still
  7. We may need a bit of discretion around gift giving as we have two young nephews and a niece. We are thinking for the older one to give experience days though.

I have a YouTube channel so check out my scary video on the subject!

 

No Spend Tier System

So I have set up the Tier system. It is a bit like when we start a new diet and go all out to ensure we hit our first weeks target. It is not always sustainable and with the best will in the world cutting out carbs or only eating potatoes is not the most exciting way to live!

So we want this detox to work and a no spend year will have everything that life can throw at you in any given year! So if you are suddenly visiting sick relatives in hospital, do not be afraid of getting a quick coffee as a pick me up! You can’t always be thermos flask ready! With the Tier system I intend to start off realistically and if one month is particularly hard I can drop down a Tier. I will show you what they look like for us and you can have a think too.

Tier 1.

No online shopping for anything other than groceries. New clothes, shoes, jewellery, perfume, make up – all banned! Cancel that Netflix. Visit the gym for the first time to get money back and stop any future payments!

Now that I have scared you all, fancy a declutter? Start to get some income as well as no spend! We will talk more about what to do with your unwanted stuff later on!

Tier 2.

Oh no this is the big one for us! No eating out; lunches, nope. Coffees? Oh poop no! Sandwich on the train to a meeting? Only from your beeswax wrap my love! Sneaky doughnut from the staff canteen? A minute to the lips a lifetime to the ‘no spend’ fail room.

This should be achievable and surely we will start to feel that these are more ‘treats’ once we are done?

No luxury bathroom goodies, or garden treats. A big one for me are plants. So I am squeezing seeds for food into the groceries category, but I am not being hedonistic with it! I will frugally still accept gifts of seeds from others as well as swap mine.

Tier 3.

Hardcore no spend only! Travel expenses to be cut. I am going to be 2.3 miles from work so surely I can walk/cycle or run? For a year? Holidays to be cost free. I will be unpicking all of these things along the way so don’t worry! Gifts for free or homemade. This may be hard as there are often times at work when you need to give a donation – a leaving gift or maternity. So we are happy to still be generous here, or offer a handmade alternative! We will also avoid spending on interior decorating. This is a tough one as we have only lived here three months. We still have lots of DIY to do around the place – luckily we have all the power tools we need!

 

How are we going to manage an entire year of no spend?

By still having fun! Beauty products can be homemade and fun girlie nights in arranged. Hosting a games night, with homemade pizza can be great. Date nights can be movie nights and we can build our own BBQ in the Summer. We can arrange a clothes swap or attend ones which are available in our local area. There are museums to visit and even open air productions for free.

Using the Tier system will allow us to go deeper one month than another. If it is pouring with rain I will not feel guilty for driving to work, I will just need to be aware that it will impact on our overall success.

 

Over to You!

I will be sharing ways we are reducing our spending throughout the year and let you know if I need to drop down a Tier at all. I will be making my own old fashioned cleaning products. Alongside beauty products made from the garden.

There is no one way to do this.

It is up to you.

Dip into Tier one first month then progress to Tier three, one week each month for the rest of the year. Look to adopt elements from each Tier or skip and just do Tier 2 and 3? Up to you and your families needs. Keep on track by sharing how much you are saving with the rest of the family, or just keep a secret stash account for paying off the mortgage? Whatever your reason why, let’s do this together!

I am starting this fully on April 6th 2019 as it is the start of the financial year. It is a challenge so I will share the bleakness as well as the surprise successes.

Good luck and let’s make this work!

 

Urgent Financial Help

If you are in dire need of emergency financial advice and the debt is getting too much have a look at Citizens Advice website as they have even more useful advice.

However, if you want to have a sneak peak at some of our crafty upcycling to date check outour Crafty Up-Cycling pages here and equally if you want to get some growing started have a look at our Veggie Patch pages here.

 

Best of luck getting started!

 

no spend year is starting soon
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Warmest February, but also the driest?

Is anyone else panicking about the lack of water so far this year? As this is the warmest February in history could it also be the most arid? I don’t want to sound like the harbinger of doom but I am bricking it. A few years ago I was thinking about plants that love the gloom and wet. Looking for Hydrangeas, or Rhubarb. Now, however I’m looking at Mediterranean plants and those that can survive a drought!

This article contains affiliate links, which will not cost you anything but I may get a reward.

What can we do about the lack of water?

  1. We have cut down some massive yew trees and will be chipping it with a hired machine, this will hopefully keep the moisture in when the weather is at its warmest.
  2. interlink your water butts. Or there are some really cute ideas for planters which co-ordinate with your butts, making them less of an eye sore! Currently there is an offer on at waterbuttsdirect.com
    and I also have the code MUM10 to give you an exclusive 10% off any purchase at check out – prior to Mothering Sunday!
  3. change our planting options.

It may be the warmest February ever so far, but that doesn’t rule out the coldest March. So how are you planning on ensuring a hardy crop?

We have planted Sweetpeas, Marigolds and several other seeds that will need protecting if a frost comes. So do not be tempted to plant out before hardening off. That means we have started them out in nice warm and moist conditions on a windowsill. They are delicate little baby plants and will need to learn to cope with colder weather. We are still having frosts overnight and so I will transfer them to the potting shed for around 5 days until I feel they are ready for the ground! I am also warming the ground! I will show you how in the next article.

Proof I don’t trust the weather?

Well we have been busy here, not just in the garden but also creating a few new crafts including a Scarf – woven with a peg loom and I cannot emphasise enough how easy that one was! Also it was one skein of wool, so cheap enough!

peg loom weave sacrf

We have also been experimenting with lovely homemade mini greenhouses. I have an idea for a cute gift for Spring and you can watch the how to video on our YouTube channel

I will write the full article once we have some herbs ready to eat as well!

 

If you agree with me and don’t fully trust the weather but want to get gardening, I have written an article on
Micro-Greens Maximum Taste!

I don’t know how to convince you all but they are THE easiest thing you will ever grow. That and the fact you can store the seed for years makes this the perfect preppers food.

Let us know how you are getting on with your mini smallholdings too!