the skinflint philosopher

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


The philosophy of Snow White

Tackling as we are, the thrifter’s life in Bulgaria, we are always trying to scrimp and save wherever possible. For example, I spent some time this week attempting to mend Tiddler’s story book and that has given me a few things to think about.

The backstory of course is that we set off from England as my good and faithful readers know last September, in Leo the campervan, though while sufficient for our basic needs on the two month journey pottering through Europe to get to Bulgaria, was rather lacking in library space. So, a swift calculation means Tiddler (i.e. me) has been reading the same twenty story books in some sort of spiraling rotation for around five months, with my nemesis the pop-up book of Hansel and Gretel appearing on a far more regular than it was due basis. Who knows why Tiddler loves this story so much. I think I made a rod for my own back when I once ad-libbed that the witch was ‘burnt up to a crisp’. Now if I don’t add that specific detail in every time I read of Gretel’s fiendish escape plan I get reprimanded by Tiddler for missing out part of the story i.e. the grusesome nasty bit.
There are a smattering of English language books in the bookshops here, but very expensive, and the town library was no help either. So Granny Westcountry kindly scoured her home for my niece and nephew’s old books and popped them in the post to us as an emergency package of books as frankly, if I have to read Hansel and Gretel one more time there are going to be consequences.  Much excitement all round! The joy of new (to us) books! Unfortunately, seems Tiddler’s cousins had been a bit heavy handed with Snow White and the seven dwarves, and a book had arrived which needed a good dose of TLC.
“Are books alive?” Tiddler asks. Inward snigger from me at the innate cuteness.
“Do books have skeletons?” Cut-off snigger as I have to answer honestly, “Well they do have spines, that much is true”.
“Are books made from lots of ingredients? Have we got the ingredients to mend this one?”
So given the circumstances, I don’t want to throw this book away, and I also believe strongly in the importance of Tiddler understanding the need to take care of her possessions. Money doesn’t grow on trees and all that. Things do still have a value, and a use, even if they are old. Why replace something if it is not broken. Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves. I think you catch my general drift on this theme without resorting to further proverbs. Suffice to say, this is not just about money. Rather that I want Tiddler to be happy when she grows up. I cannot make her life a luxurious one, or guarantee no sorrows or troubles, but I hope I can equip her to be content with her lot, which will foster the skills of being practical, with common sense, and the emotional stability to make wise decisions.

Question: “Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?”
Answer: “The one who is happy”




Quotes to give us a few more thoughts on this theme today:

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The parking ticket fairy and other mythical creatures

Something a bit weird is going on. I think I have bonafide proof (note to self, must contact The Onion) that frugal fairies are popping up all over the place.

Tiddler and I regularly swim, and we make a point of parking on the prom (free parking) and walking the short distance to the swimming pool. It means, as any parent of a small child will know carrying my stuff (swimming costume, purse, phone) and Tiddler’s stuff (swimming costume, swim nappy, spare swim nappy, arm bands, plastic teapot and cups, floaty balls, a water thingy play thing, pint-sized towel, spare hairband, lunch box, water, change of clothes, wet wipes, spare fleece, hat….) up the hill and back, but we save a pound each time so we do it.

The weather has been against us throughout the month of January, with regular Irish Sea squalls and gale force horizontal rain whipping in at us from the bay, and seeing as walking on the prom in those conditions is a little bit akin to George Clooney hanging on to the mast in The Perfect Storm,  last week I decided to ‘cast caution to the wind’ and park at the pool itself. Dutifully, I battled the elements to the pay and display machine, pound coin clutched in my miserly grip and poised over the slot, to suddenly spot a white flapping thing in the dispenser. Is this a dagger I see before me? No, it’s a parking ticket. For that day. Paid about a half hour previously, so still valid for the length of time I need for the swim. Dear reader, what would you do?

Following my bonus free parking, imagine my surprise today when I find exactly the same scenario. Is this a wetter version of Groundhog day? So the two times I have parked in the carpark, I get free tickets. Again, no-one around, ticket in slot, ample time for my swim. Digger suggests someone has forgotten to pick it up. Twice? He also suggests on the mainland (UK) car parking is ticketless, leading to the baffling need to recall your number plate to tap into the machine. But this doesn’t sound right either, as the machine here doesn’t ask for that info, and clearly states with a big green arrow, ‘collect ticket here’. No, I think this is indisputable evidence that the Oh God of Skinflintedness has seen fit to create a parking ticket fairy.

I’m hoping that the Buy one get one free Bogeyman, the Car tax Centaur and the Phone bill Pegasus are on their way soon.


Image taken straight off the internet: really for car sales but suited this blog post I think:)





Skinflintery of the week

Sometimes Thrifter spends (lol) too longer philosophising to actually get round to tell you about her thrifting. So this week, despite blowing the GNP of a small independent state on two Teas and Cakes out with friends, the frugal headlines of this week are:

Homemade Halloween outfit for Tiddler: Cost £0.00
Black leggings that she has anyway, a black flight sock of mine stuffed with other socks and tucked in the waist band of the leggings, a faux fur lined little jacket she has turned inside out to give a furry coat, a headband wrapped in a strip of black material with two cardboard triangles glued on, my kohl eyeliner for facepaint whiskers and nose.
This was such a roaring success that it has been worn three other times this week, and even this morning while she has not bothered with the rest of the outfit, she is currently running around the house with a flight sock tail.

Christmas gift materials (hair bands): Cost £1.20
Thrifter belongs to a couple of book groups, and we always have a ‘just before Christmas’ get-together where we exchange gifts. As many of them are crafters through and through, a tradition has developed that we each make (or buy) a gift for all the other book groupers. The stipulation is that each gift is roughly £1-2 maximum cost per person, and we make a copy of the same gift for every member. This way, rather than receiving a single larger ‘secret santa’ gift, instead you get to unwrap multiple teeny tiny bundles of joy. So this year we have purchased some elastic hair bands for my crafty idea, but I can’t post what it is yet as some of the book group read this blog!
In actual fact, we unexpectedly made money while standing in the queue to buy these. Tiddler managed to charm the two ladies waiting behind us (based on I think a combination of Granny’s homeknit hat and cardigan and a lovely rendition of the alphabet song, which together must have pulled on the heartstrings) and so she ended up with a shiny pound in her hand to put in her moneybox.

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Shoe polish: cost £0.00
A thrifter’s tip- I have a pair of shoes which I rub a little bit of cooking oil into every now and again to keep the leather from drying out. It works a treat.

Tannin stains: Cost £0.00
Given that cups of tea often sit around this house to go cold before they are drunk (Digger seems to prefer his cold (eh?) and Thrifter gets waylaid with a chore or a Tiddler and forgets about them till too late), our mugs are prone to build up a very unattractive brown lining. This week it was time to do a deep clean of them again, so a small quantity of clothes washing powder in each, poor on boiling water, allow to sit for five minutes, and the tannin peels of all by itself. No scrubbing necessary.

Slide and climbing frame: Cost £0.00
How to save yourself £250? This little gem was spotted at our civic amenity site. Otherwise known as ‘the dump’ where people take their garden waste and household rubbish that is not collected from your doorstep, it can be a great hunting ground for the savvy thrifter, as one section is set aside for things that other people may wish to reuse or recycle. It is of course, hit and miss. Sometimes when I stop by there is nothing, but other times you hit the jackpot. Following a frantic call to Digger who was luckily working nearby, I managed to stake a claim on this great pile of plastic till he could come and collect it in his van.  Not quite sure what it was, or what on earth it was supposed to look like, Google came to our aid to tell us how to jigsaw puzzle it together but also the original cost. Seems not everyone is as thrifty as we are when it comes to simply getting rid or something they don’t want anymore. I can’t complain of course, and neither can Tiddler. Look closely and you can spot Tiddler with her cat tail making good use of it already.

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Now as so much of our lives are by now automatically ‘thrifty’ there are so many other little things we do without thinking everyday that could have made this list, but I’ll leave you just with these for now. Who knows what next week will bring! Happy thrifting!


The Marshmallow effect

Skinflintery broken down here into 9 steps ( great for those of us who not only like the idea of being frugal but also love lists as well!
Personally, I think number 6 on the list has got to be the one I most want to teach to Tiddler. In our ‘want-it-and-want-it-now’ society, I increasingly see children (and adults) who don’t understand the value of possessions, money or time. Children who shrug off breaking the latest iphone with ‘I’ll just tell my parents to buy me another one’, children who drop litter or don’t clear tables because ‘that’s the cleaners job’… how can we expect the next generation to have respect for their OWN possessions or time, if they don’t respect anyone else’s.
I hope Tiddler can learn she is the mistress of her own destiny, and a little bit of the Marshmallow effect (
will shape her life for the better.

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“Something old, something new?”

I salute the logic here.…

Estimate for a typical wedding cost comes in feet first and slapping you in the face with a round total bill of £30,000 according to some reports,…/01/average-cost-of-wedding
so if the thrifty stars of the yahoo article put their ‘special day’ on for 10% of that, we have to give them some credit. And long may the marriage last if money is not their main focus, as oft (mis)quoted, “the love of money of the root of all evil”.

Two points the skinflint philosopher wants to make about this theme for the time being (plenty more to come another time!).

I especially shake my head at the chosen headline ‘serves rubbish food’ (ho ho did you see what they did there folks, d’you get it?) as a way to pour scorn and disgust over food health and hygiene issues. How many times dear friends, must we hear before we understand that ‘Best before’ and ‘use by dates’ are not the same thing? The great British public being fearful of heebie jeebies and bacteria (while happily forking out for probiotic yoghurts and stilton mind you) are either scared or guilt-tripped into throwing food out before necessary, thus contributing among my list of food related deadly sins- money waste, packaging waste, food miles waste, irrigation water and agricultural production waste, land use waste, blah de blah the list goes on. Why do vegetables have a use by date anyway? Are we so far removed from the land and its bounty that we have to have someone in a white coat and with a plastic mesh over their head tell us whether we can eat an apple or not? Common sense should apply, but sadly for many, that is not an item you can checkout at your local supermarket.
Obviously there is a personal choice on what you feel happy feeding yourself with, and what you want to serve up to great Aunt Gladys and the in-laws on your nuptial day, but given that food bills are a major part of out monthly outgoings, we need to understand and think more about what and how we spend our money on.

Secondly, the whole concept that a wedding (or any other socio-cultural event) must have a certain conformity is a worry. This article celebrates the savings made, but doesn’t question why the costs were there in the first place. Why does celebrating something have to come as a hit to your wallet? Do people only accept a rite of passage if you flaunt your materialistic version of it in front of them? Should they not be there to be part of your memories and experiences, not to judge you on how many tiers the cake had or whether the sugar almond bag was properly tied in the colour of the moment ribbon?
And if you are going to apply skinflintery, why not go the whole shebang? Ask guests to do a faith supper (everyone brings a plate of food to contribute) instead of gifts? Prevents you have do some decluterring somewhere down the line too, so minimalism scores strongly too with that scenario.

As always, how you spend money is up to you. We all have our own preferences and priorities for our pennies, but given the phrase, “something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue”, then I for one would argue that no brides would want the ‘borrowed’ bit to be referring to a thirty grand dent in their bank balance.

Go for the “something new” approach, and you might just surprise yourself instead.

Celebrating our customs and traditions now comes at a high price

Celebrating our customs and traditions now comes at a high price

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You are what you eat

App-solutely can’t get my head around this. In our ‘plunging pound times’ I thought I would investigate a little bit more into grocery shopping skinflintery, and so downloaded a couple of free apps- Shopitize, Shopmium, CheckoutSmrt amongst other little square boxes of delight- to see if even a techniphobe can operate and save with some level of success. The general idea for most of these, if you have not come across them before, is that the app provides details of deals or savings to be made in various shops, you purchase the items, and then take an image of the barcode plus your receipt and get cash back. Others work on a voucher system. Sounds all good so far, if you have time to devote to planning your shopping to the nth degree and will happily doodle up maps of Tesco aisle arrangements in your spare time.
Meanwhile, back in planet reality, who is actually getting the benefit here? Why is the app free, giving away all these deals, literally at the click of the button? You know what they say folks, “If it looks and sounds too good to be true…..”.
Yes of course, non-savvy shoppers who splurge on branded pizza and luxury biscuits and carrot batons, will no doubt get some money back on those type of purchases- the high end, high cost, and high pile up in your trolley kind of shoppers. Because to put it simply, those products are of course what the apps are promoting. These shoppers will of course spend on other dubiously priced (What! Is one of the ingredients shredded gold?) items while in the same store congratulating themselves the whole time on their finger to icon budget mastery. The retailers can see these guys coming a mile off.

So what is the alternative? Do you need electronic ‘help’ to watch your pennies in the supermarket? Consider campaigns like Live below the line
or personal blogs like Stone soup…/how-to-eat-for-2-a-day-5-ingredi…/
about really cutting back, and then find the happy medium that suits you, your family’s eating habits, and your spending power.
Read this to give you a starting point to consider,…/…/feb/04/rise-of-the-own-brand
and then maybe step into the aisles (without your map) and open your mind to what is really there. If it’s cheap but crap, then don’t buy it again. But I’m pretty sure you’ll find some gems without breaking the bank, and of course enjoy the free smug feeling you get as you breeze past a heaving, wheezing trolley being wobbled around one handed by some poor consumer as they struggles to align this barcode or that voucher with a handful of gadgets, all to buy a product that will still be more expensive that what you have in your hand. Eat well for less.

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Behind the scenes of Project 333

“Project 333”. Sounds slightly reminiscent of some American secret alien landing site, and truly the concept must be alien indeed to the many shopaholics in this material world. Historical records reveal that the importance of clothing and style is not a modern phenomenon, even when the logic seems baffling in hindsight. French courts wearing wigs layered with decaying animal fats? Mercury treatments for the skin? Whalebone corsets? 80’s shoulder pads? The shellsuit?
Nowadays our work, social lives and leisure activities increasingly see an expectation to consume in terms of clothing and accessories, even when we think we are non conformists. The Mods, the punks, the goths, the hippies; whichever ‘alternative’ group you can think of shows a hidden consumerism driven by the chosen style. So Project 333 does give you the chance to step back from that, reassess how you want your book to be judged, and also gain from reducing that pressure on your time and wardrobe space. It ain’t all Narnia folks.
The Skinflint philosopher would like to know though about the leftovers and rejects of the 33. The extras. Where do they go? Are they boxed away for three months, and then swapped over? Do devotees purchase new items to fulfil their next 33 three month quota? Is consumerism just put on standby?
Assessing my wardrobe, there are more that 33 items there, though I know I do wear a small percentage only on a regular basis. Designated work clothes, designated other clothes. But adding up the value is of more interest to skinflintery- how many were given as gifts, or came secondhand? How many years have some been lovingly worn, and still are going strong? Is it that I don’t follow fashion and so have given up trying, or is it simply not a priority?
It makes me think of the proverb, “I cried because I didn’t have any shoes, and then I met a girl who didn’t have any feet”. By all means to the fashionistas of the world, enjoy your style, you rock it! To the 333ers, the ease of a capsule wardrobes seems beautifully minimalistic.
For me I’ll stick with what I’ve got, a basic case of ‘I’ll buy it if and when I really need it’. Either that, or get naked.