the skinflint philosopher

Attempting to thrift our way to a better life, with a toddler in tow!

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Out with the old

It has been a non-stop pell mell Christmas for us this year, with hardly a chance to come up for air. We have braved travel during Storm Barbara, socialised with numerous friends and relations, ate far richer food than normal, and only finally touched down and had 24 hours at home on this the very last day of the year to try and get some method back into the madness.

Having spent a week at Thrifter’s parents, we are relishing being back in some sort of order, where clutter is not spiralling out of control and threatening to tsunami down on our heads if you nudge a precariously balanced pile of books, or foolishly think you are safe enough to open a closed cupboard door. Of course, we benefit from the hoarding. We only have to travel with hand luggage, as my mother has plenty of everything we could possibly need but don’t want to bring. Tiddler has been the proverbial ‘kid in the sweet shop’ with the amount of toys and jigsaws that I remember from when I was little and have been kept safe ever since. If ever we need something, Mum no doubt has one we could use, and we would have made far more use of this resource over the years if we were not two kingdoms and a sea away from them. Mum’s storage is of course the ultimate in thrifting by default, by not having to purchase anything ever, but it relies on an immense and seemingly constant managing, redistribution, and excavation of possessions. This is something that can’t be tracked on the household equivalent of the Dewey system. NASA may need to get involved at some stage.

Digger and I purposely decided not to buy each other presents this year, in the midst as we are of trying to reduce our material goods, as jacking in our jobs this summer and going off for a gap year or two is still very much on the cards. In the end, I found a bottle of avocado oil under the spruce tree from him, and he got maple syrup from me. Who says romance is dead? Little consumable luxuries that won’t add to our decision making criteria of Keep, Sell, Donate or Throw, as Eat is fortunately a wholly separate genre. Thoughtful gifts from friends and family mean we are replacing very old with new, but also enjoying a little extravagance with unexpected gifts for us and Tiddler that make us feel blessed with their friendship.

So now that Christmas is past, and new year is upon us, Tiddler has succumbed to the Land of Nod, and Digger is in the kitchen rustling up an avocado oil drizzled salad to go with the bottle of fizz to welcome in the chimes, we shall not be thinking about making New Years resolutions, as our resolution is already firm and steadfast. We want to be the best we can be for Tiddler, and we are already trying to walk that path for her. By the end of 2017, we’ll hopefully know if we are going in the right direction. As for the start of 2017, I doubt if we will make it to midnight. Sleep: a skinflinter’s cheapest form of leisure activity.




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Bay day

Tiddler and I have been doing a bit of mud wading this morning, as we checked in on the tree planting team at the large site we are working on clearing and replanting. The glorious (managed) gorse fires there of the autumn have been replaced in a winter sludge and it has been some weeks since we braved the weather and the mire.  The hardy workers though were willing to share their builder’s tea (for the non-UK readers that means tea so thoroughly brewed your teaspoon will either stand up of its own accord, or possibly just melt)  and mince pies with us even though we only turned up just in time for the tea break. There is something about turning your back on the Christmas razzmatazz that is going on seemingly everywhere else on this isle on the last Sunday before the 25th, and instead sharing some open air minimalism for the eyes and a camaraderie hygge instead. Clive is modelling a great beard these days so pretty sure Tiddler figured Santa was doing a bit of wilderness moonlighting anyway, particularly as he gave us an unexpected gift to take away- a bagful of beautifully crunchy crisp bay leaves, and strict instructions on infusing the flavour into bread. The Christmas solstice may traditionally mean bringing the greenery indoors for the winter for the sprits to survive, but the greenery will still be out there, if you step out into


Driftwood Building Blocks

Reblogged post below: Sharing it here as The Skinflint philosopher loves this blog post and idea- many thanks to blogger ‘Pioneering the simple life’ for the article.

Pioneering The Simple Life

We all love manipulatives, items with soft shapes made by the rhythms of the Earth. Give children a few hours and a place to play with found objects, and you’ll be surprised where their imaginations go. During a gorgeous 3 days of camping on our favorite Olympic National Park beach, we picked up not only washed-up plastics battered from years of travel atop the Pacific waves, but we also gathered a beautiful selection of years-worn driftwood.

The organic shapes were beguiling: Sticks worn into rounded gray pieces any child would love to handle, contemplate, and build magic worlds with.

We brought a few favorite pieces home to be used again and again as building blocks for the imagination. And now, whenever we go on our beach camping trips, we collect more, to give as gifts for friends who like to have a basket centerpiece for all ages to enjoy. Gather some up…

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Spruced up for Christmas

Digger has just turned up in the van with the whole top off a large spruce tree- he has been in the plantations doing some felling and general woodcutting shenanigans. This is his gift to us, the unwanted section of the tree from his work, but perfect for us at Christmas.  The tree smells beautiful, a real sweet and pungent aroma. Tiddler is dancing around with joy at the thought of being able to ‘play with glitter’ (tinsel).  Deck the halls indeed.



A hygge hug

Now according to my somewhat dubious sources, Denmark is just slightly less uninteresting than Belgium in the grand European hierarchy. We know they produce some pretty good pork, and the effervescent Sandy Toksvig gives a good run for the BBC money, but other than that, for the most of us, Denmark is just another sort-of-not-quite Nordic country. It comes as quite a shock then to discover those canny Danes have been not only lounging about enjoying, but also single handedly exporting ‘hygge’ to the mass-market. Somehow I seem to have missed the memo about this trend until now, which may be partly to blame for my general sense of frazzledness in recent weeks.

For those of you a little still in the (hygge-induced-lights-dimmed) dark about the whole thing, it’s one of those semi-etheral concepts difficult to pin down and translate, and certainly pronounce. Don’t even get me wading into that argument, suffice to say, it is most certainly not how it looks. A socio-anthropologically inclined linguist would have a field day trying to define hygge, but let us for the sake of argument sum it up as an elevated state of cosiness. You can hygge with others, by drawing down the blinds and having a meal with friends, or on your own by lighting candles and reading a good book. You can even hygge yourself every time you make a cup of tea, if you bother to get the best china out that you normally only save for special occasions, and if you make it with loose tea, a fancy strainer and sugar tongs then it’s a double hygge whammy. A hygge combo in other words.

Clearly the artic circle bound Danes with their maximum of seven hours of daylight in the winter months needed something to get them through the potential gloom, but they do specify that you can hygge whatever the weather, if it makes you feel good. So this is what I want to consider today, from a skinflint perspective.  If like Digger and I, you want to make your pennies count then it is easy to get into the habit of holding back on little luxuries, on doing without, on skinning the flint to make things last. This can feel, or be seen by others looking in, that this is a self-inflicted purgatory. A time of famine, literally, if we relate this to diets in the run up to the potential Christmas over indulgence.  But we are fortunate enough to be born in the western world, in the 21st century, when thrift does not mean hardship, or a means to prevent destitution. It instead is a way of simplifying your life, minimising your extravagance, peccadillos, and possessions, in order to streamline your time, energy and future prospects. This way even the simple things can give you the warm glow of hygge. If your life is one of waste and opulence, perhaps it may be a little harder to make the most of life’s small pleasures.

So whether you get a warm feeling from a bacon butty on a Sunday morning, or indulge in a good belly laugh with Miss Toksvig on QI, or perhaps some other small perfect inexpensive moment that makes you put a little something upbeat into your life, then you’ve given yourself a hug. A hygge hug. And anyone that can do that for themselves, or for those around them, is a master in the art of life.


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Sugar and spice and all things….sticky

‘Tis the beginning of the season to be Jolly, and even the hardened skinflinter has to open arms somewhat to goodwill, generosity and general goodies. Tiddler has already been inundated with varying levels of E numbers and general stickiness, ranging from the sweets from a Christingle orange (tempered with raisins as a chaser) to an upside down gingerbread man decorated as a Rudolph. (Will the craft fair/WI brigade ever run out of charmingly cutesy ideas?)  Digger on the other hand is feeling a little deprived without a chocolate advent calendar this year, but is bearing up well by resorting to sneaking Jelly Beans when the packet is left unattended.

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Savvy xmas skinflintery so far:

DIY advent for Tiddler, with little goodies inside- crayons, stickers, toys – most of which were duplicate things we have accumulated over the year from party bags and such like, and therefore put to one side at the time.  She thinks that the little wooden bottle she has spotted in number 9 is housing a genie so we are getting ready for some fun with that one!
Cost: £0 for the goodies, and £0 for the fabric calendar which was a hand-me-down gift.


Advent candle. In theory Thrifter did go into town with money to buy one this year, but got sidelined having her eyes tested (free on the NHS hurrah) and forgot about the candle, by which time December 1st was on the doorstep already. Digger says it was a waste last year anyway as Thrifter had bought a triangular shaped one which, getting wider at the bottom as triangles have a habit of doing, refused to burn down properly each day and resulted in Digger getting himself in a complicated daily stand-off with it, large carving knife in hand ready to chop at the offending areas of wax. So this year, ‘reuse’ is our key word by ‘recycling’ random birthday candles into a admittedly more-shabby-than-chic advent candle plate. I can’t claim to be too proud of this one, and am rather embarrassed to photograph it for here, but Tiddler gets the concept or burning one down each day before she gets to open her advent calendar pocket, so I guess it works.
Cost: £? minimal for the original candles, greenery from Digger.


Wreath, made from more greenery brought home from Digger, a couple of old ribbons from chocolate boxes and based around a circular piece of a broken mobile that used to belong to Tiddler. She had fun winding the ribbons in and out.
Cost: £0

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The start of the hand-made gifts: buttons, beads, ribbons, old maps…. all found kicking around the house. Only purchase was the stretchy hairband.
Cost: by my mathematical reckoning, £1.20 divided by 40 hairbands = 3p

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Christmas debt shouldn’t follow you from one year and haunt you through the next. Your friends and families will remember the TIME you spend with them, not the money.

Any further ideas please of Christmas skinflintery- please comment?