Friday, 1 April 2022

Costs are going up - here are some tricks I use to save and make money and some tips

Times are hard! In the UK the cost of electricity and gas has almost doubled, vehicle fuel is up by 50% and the Retail Price Index is up 6% and still rising. Savings interest rates are stupidly low but mortgage/borrowing rates are rising.

Theo the cat

Energy costs

As I work from home and live on my own (if you don't count my cat Theo who has his own fur coat) then to save on my heating bills, I turn the central heating thermostat down to 18°C and I only heat a few rooms. I also wear two 'arctic-rated' Damart thermal vests under my shirt and jumper together with thick corduroy trousers - this saves on fossil fuel expenditure and helps save a bit of the planet.

The appliance that uses the most electricity in my house is the large fridge-freezer in the kitchen, so I made sure that I bought a really good energy-efficient one and it does not have a flammable plastic back for safety. Most other types of super-efficient appliances are not worth the extra cost for their A-rating and they don't seem to work as well anyway! 

I don't bother turning off small electrical appliances which are on standby or turn off wall-warts because I reckon I can afford the £5 a year it would otherwise save and so it's not worth the bother. Also, all my lights use low-energy LED bulbs now (as you cannot by Edison filament bulbs anymore in the UK) and so I only switch off the lights when I go to bed.

I only fill the electric kettle with as much water as I need for my cup of tea (my USA friends still don't use electric kettles even though they are 99% efficient when compared to a gas hob).

I now go to bed one hour earlier and can listen to the radio or watch TV whilst snuggled under the bed covers rather than heat the house. The central heating goes off one hour before my early bedtime so that if it starts to get too chilly I am reminded that it is bedtime! Can't wait for the warmer weather and longer days... If you really cannot afford to heat your cold lounge in the winter when watching TV, I recommend investing in a small electrically heated over-blanket. These are great and they use a lot less energy than an electric room heater even if you need to buy two double blankets for all four of you. They can also be used as an overblanket on your bed if it is a really cold night.

If I had to travel to work, I would probably invest in a 'smart' WiFi controller for my home central heating so that I could control it with my smartphone and thus prevent it from turning on when I know that I am going to be late getting back.

Stopping draughts

You should close all doors and windows to prevent draughts.

Steve's 'Cat-o-Matic' door closer (patent pending).

Because my cat, Theo, needs to go through the cat flap and visit my neighbour's garden on occasion, I have installed some very expensive self-closing door mechanisms on the internal doors (see above for an example). The Cat-o-Matic allows Theo to come in and out, but it still keeps the doors pulled closed (but not latched) and so cuts down on draughts. It also works for dogs too!

Shopping

Since it costs me at least £5 in fuel to travel to the shops (I live in a small village which has one gastro-pub and a very small corner shop), I order food online with free (or cheap) delivery. This also helps me to avoid any temptation which I would otherwise get when walking down the supermarket aisles!

The Closer

For various other goods, I mostly use Amazon Prime with free delivery. This provides me with free movies and videos too. If you want to watch all seven seasons of  'The Closer' (which is excellent!) and the 'Outlander' series (also excellent - especially the first season - not for young kids though) and get free Amazon deliveries, then you can sign up for a free 30-day trial of Amazon Prime here (#ad link).

Food

Recently, I have tried to avoid 'processed' foods and only buy 'fresh' fruit and vegetables. However this is more difficult than it sounds. For instance, did you know that the lovely shiny, fresh apples in the supermarket are covered in an artificial coating to make them shiny, and they are probably full of chemicals too. Apples often top the Environmental Working Group’s list of the most pesticide-contaminated fruits and vegetables. Also these shiny shellac-coated, individually labelled apples are probably at least a year old since they are put into cold storage with added CO2 gas for many months, so the vitamin content is a lot lower by the time you get to eat them.

Eating much less meat and far more fresh vegetables is cheaper and is a much healthier way to get rid of excess body fat too! I try to avoid processed food as much as possible - meat and vegetables should be in their original form (same cell walls and tissue structure as nature intended) and with only a few 'unnatural' ingredients on the label rather than ten! Our gut was developed over millions of years to slowly digest plant cells. Did you know that Orange Juice is a processed food and is bad for you? Oranges (the fruit) are OK, your gut will break down the pieces of orange and orange cells slowly, release the sugars (sucrose, glucose, fructose) slowly and your liver will metabolise them and convert them into glucose - but drink a glass of OJ and your liver is hit with a large quantity of fructose (as well as glucose) and so it converts the fructose into visceral body fat! It has been shown that you are approx. 5 times more likely to have heart/circulation problems if you have a lot of internal fat around your organs than if you have thick subcutaneous fat. Fructose alone in liquid form does not suppress your appetite very much, so you will eat more too and get even fatter! Guess why MacDonald's add a lot of fructose to their processed foods? Exercise causes muscle gain not weight loss, the easiest way to lose weight is to reduce your intake of fructose (but for some reason, the fructose content is never printed on the list of ingredients!).

Many soft drinks in the UK contained high quantities of sugar. It was believed that 'sugar' caused obesity and health problems, so in 2018 the UK government imposed a tax on sugary soft drinks

  • 18p per litre on drinks that have a total sugar content of 5g or more and less than 8g per 100ml
  • 24p per litre on drinks that have a total sugar content of 8g or more per 100ml

 So what did the drink manufacturers do to reduce the amount of total sugars in their soft drinks and get below the 5g/l and 8g/l thresholds? Well they took out the glucose and used more fructose (typically high fructose corn syrup or high fructose apple juice) which is cheaper and is also sweeter so that the drinks will taste just as sweet as before. Unfortunately, it is now believed by many scientists that is is the fructose that causes obesity (metabolic syndrome and diabetes type 2). So the UK government have in many cases made soft drinks worse for us than they were before! Now the UK government are talking about a similar 'sugar' tax for foods and they still haven't grasped the fact that sugar is a generic term and that our bodies can metabolise glucose but can't handle fructose and so converts it into fat! Personally, I think any good parent should never allow their children to drink 'sodas', sweets or snacks - they are just downright harmful. If you are thirsty then drink tap water, if you are hungry then wait until meal time.

A lot of fruit and vegetables are grown in countries which do not have tight control on the amount of pesticides and herbicides they use. There is a reason why your fruit and veg looks so 'perfect' - they poison the insects and thus the birds which eat eat the insects, kill all the other wild plants too and then 'season' them with polishing/preserving chemicals for us! For this reason, I try to buy fruit and veg which is in season and is from local farm shops in the hope that they will contain less carcinogens. There is a reason why the 'Mediterranean Diet' was once considered to be the healthiest in the world - they ate local, non-processed food which was not contaminated with pesticides, herbicides or 'cosmetic' chemicals. Sadly, these days, instead of local Spanish/Greek farmers markets, they now buy their food from supermercados and σουπερμάρκετ so now their 'fresh' vegetables are just as contaminated as the rest of us who live in Northern Europe and the USA and who coincidentally have the highest incidence of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer! These days it is recommended to wash and peel all fruit and veg to remove the poisonous chemicals. Even vegetables and fruit that are labelled with the price-enhancing 'organically grown' label may actually be a year old and coated with wax (even organically grown tomatoes). There is a difference between the labels 'organic' and 'organically grown' - the latter can be coated\treated with synthetic chemicals - subtle eh?

Most additives used in food are class as 'Recognised as safe' - meaning they have never been scientifically tested and so we don't know if they are harmful or not but they can add them to our food anyway (and it does not define who exactly recognises them as safe - perhaps just the food manufacturers?).

These days food can be grown hydroponically. The poor vegetable has probably been fed on a watery synthetic-chemical solution and it has never dipped its roots into real soil or felt the gentle rain on its leaves before being sent to that great packing shed in the sky. While these products tend to contain much lower levels of herbicides and pesticides, and are in perfect condition, they tend to be devoid of 95% of flavour too. Our fruit and veg. has been genetically manipulated to produce strains with maximum yield, good pest and disease resistance (i.e. high levels of natural toxins), to be sweeter (contain more sugar and fructose), have good storage properties and attractive visual qualities - with 'taste' coming at the bottom of that list, if at all.

Currently my favourite meal is very simple. I just wash, peel and chop up some fresh vegetables (onion, potato, parsnips, carrots, broccoli, halved brussels sprouts, swede, bell peppers, celery or anything else in the fridge or garden), put in on a tray with garlic and herbs, smother it all in unfiltered extra virgin olive oil and bung it in the oven at 210°C for 30 minutes or so. I microwave the potatoes and onion for 5 minutes first however so that they are perfectly cooked at the same time as the other veg. Add meat if you really want to (you can pop it in the oven at same time) and serve with Morrisons delicious Brinjal Pickle on the side and a glass of Shiraz or Retsina (or two).

Tip for feeding the kids veggies: You can even roast broccoli in this way too and then sprinkle on some grated parmesan and black pepper in the last 3 minutes of cooking.

Tip for the best chilli, homemade pizzas and spaghetti Bolognese I never use tinned tomatoes in the tomato sauce - instead I use a jar of passata. You will be amazed at the difference. Why waste a lot of money on high quality mince and then buy a 30p tin of dirt cheap, acidic tomatoes - instead buy a £1 jar of passata and a smaller amount of cheaper mince (and add more beans, etc.) - it will be better for you, cheaper and will taste better too!

Money

As mentioned previously, the few pennies I have in reserve are not in a savings account because they pay less than 1% interest, whereas the Retail Price Index is way more than that, so I would be effectively losing money not saving money! Instead I tend to invest in 'index' ETFs which follow the stock market (see previous blog). 

I do have a little cryptocurrency just for fun and I regard this in the same way as I do when I place a bet on the roulette wheel - I am quite prepared to have to wave goodbye to most of it!

If you Google for 'Side Hustle' you will see lots of ways to potentially make money in your 'spare' time. Now that I am retired, I prefer passive income schemes (such as writing blogs and eBooks) as they can generate income even while I sleep. If you need a few tips on internet side-hustles, you can try reading my eBook here and there are lots of YouTube videos to watch if any schemes happen to spark your interest. Just beware of paying a lot for 'get rich quick' schemes, they do exist and they do (or did) work (for them) - because you give them your hard-earned money! One wonders why they are making videos and selling us their money-making secrets instead of just keeping quiet and sipping a pina-colada on a sunny beach somewhere...

2 comments:

  1. Great post, I like theo, I love the patent pending door closer

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    1. Thanks for feedback. Glad you found it useful.

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