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Cutting your bills / a simpler way of life

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bardsandwarriors:
Some of you might be interested in how to cut your household bills - it also has the advantage of being greener and less wasteful, and quite empowering - you feel more in control of your outgoings.

My total outgoings right now are about £20 a week including food, excluding rent:

Elec £75 a year (see energyhelpline.com - Switch and save on gas and electricity bills - impartial and free!)
Water £50 a year (on a meter).
Gas - no heating until December (see below). LPG tank in garden - quite expensive apparently; I haven't used this method before.

Phone line £120 a year - std line from bt or onetel.
Mobile £10 a year, pay-as-you-go for misc texts, emergency calls, etc.
Internet - £60 a year with Tiscali 'Daytime' (For cheap dial-up, also consider: Onetel, Tesco, TwentyFourSeven, Topletter. For broadband, try ntl, telewest or e7even at £120 a year; or Pipex at £180 a year - all give you free hardware. If you have cable, consider using a web-phone service and eliminate the landline.)

Transport, about £150 a year including the cost of buying the bicycle, and costs of public transport and hire cars.

Food about £10 a week. Lots of home cooking. Shop at Tesco, Lidl, etc. I've made a spreadsheet of economical recipes, with calculations for 'calories per penny'. It's amazing how well you can eat for £10 a week.

I admit to liking a simple life. I dislike the clutter, speed and waste of modern western society, and all of the crime and fear that comes with it. I'd live in an anglo-saxon thatched hut with a big steaming cauldron and a blazing fire if I could... well, maybe! Maybe it would get to me and I would wish for a cosy home again, who knows. While I'm living in normal society, here are some things I do to simplify life / save money / be greener (which, to me, are all part of the same thing)...

I save on hot water, by only switching it on for a bath or to wash my hair; everything else is done with cold water - kitchen washing-up, food prep, shaving, washing hands, etc. Takes a little getting used to in winter, but no big deal.

Lighting - all light fittings have energy efficient bulbs, except bathroom (which needs instant brightness). Running costs are almost nothing.

No fridge, no freezer. Long life milk is very tasty these days; in the winter I buy normal whole milk and use a home-made milk bottle cosy - it keeps for about 6 days. Frozen food is mostly over-processed junk which I avoid. Eggs etc can be bought on the day that you want them.

No washing machine. Clothes can be washed quite easily in the sink, although I admit it can be time-consuming, and they take ages to dry in our humid climate (I point a big fan at them + leave them overnight). I use a Wonder Washer for the hi-temperature cottons.

A combination cooker/microwave. I wish I had a lighter, more compact one though - an internal space the size of 2 loaves of bread would be enough. I also use a camp stove sometimes. No toaster or other gadgets - just the cooker.

Clothes - Recycling and re-using is good. I make some, buy some from charity shops, and occasionally buy  in the sales.

Heating. I don't switch it on until November or December. It can get quite chilly, but it forces me to be productive instead of slouching about. Take a bike ride, or do something mildly physical, and I'm fine in 10-12C. That has taken some time to acclimatise to - if you're used to a well-heatd home (typically 21C), a car and an office, it might be a shock to the system. I like feeling the progress of the seasons aswell, instead of insulating myself from reality in an artifical life.

I've de-tuned my TV and only use it for pre-recorded things, so don't need to pay the license fee. I'm much happier since doing that. I miss the discovery channels though, and some of the better Ch4/BBC2 programmes. (NB: to do this, de-tune both tv and video, and disconnect the aerial; when the license people send you a letter, send it back saying you've detuned your equipment and don't watch the damn thing!).

Also no newspapers - same principle, it's all rubbish designed to ensnare you with things you have no control over, in a pretence aimed simply at selling newspapers or boosting viewing figures.

No car - a bicycle and the train can get you anywhere you want to go. I hire a car occasionally, eg. to move home or transport stuff. I might buy a small economical car if I could afford it / needed it.

Growing my own veg in the garden. This is experimental; not keen on it due to toxins from passing traffic.

Having said that, I do keep a tidy and clean home. The main thing you'd notice that is different, is the lack of furniture. But that's another story.

speedy611:
Bards,
A very interesting post. I'm a fan of keeping things simple where possible, and it seems that you have taken this to a point that is extremely stripped down, and works for you. I'm curious as to your motivations- part of you post suggests this is a choice you've made, yet in some of your replies you indicate that you might like more 'things' such as a washer/dryer if you could afford them. What are the circumstances that cause/force/ you chose that puts you in this position?

Cheers,

Mark

bardsandwarriors:
Speedy - it has been a gradual process of de-westernising my outlook. Initially, I have for a long time lived on a very low income, and I've at intervals needed to prune my outgoings very hard; and that has over the years given me an outlook which tries to avoid waste. I'm not a miser as such (actually, I'm quite generous when I have things to give), but more concerned with spiritual and intellectual matters than with status in society, or with acquiring money.

Last year was a case in point, when I was unemployed and my last £200 was stolen, so I decided to put my brains to good use and went on a mission to cut everything to the bone. When forced into that position, I have always found that my finances, and even life, becomes simpler and more controllable.

I am trainbed as an architect, amongst other things, and I read in an architectural mag a long time ago, a famous american architect saying he liked drawing the curtains every day (americans often have remote controls for that) and adjusting the heat on his boiler (instead of having a fully automatic system), and it rang a few bells. There is something tactile and direct in doing these things, which western life has lost in many ways. It's like the difference between cycling and driving. Western automation seems to make everything too smooth and non-physical; but that removes a person from a sense of reality, and I've found I like doing physical things - in moderation.

So, knowing the great advantages of keeping my life tactile, simple and controllable, I have often pursued it in a less urgent way. There are other advantages aswell -
- you can move home as + when you choose, and are not tied down by your possessions. I love being mobile.
- you have a pretty good idea of every thing you own, and aren't so fearful of losing stuff.
- you realise that possessions don't really make that much difference; and some things are worth doing manually, just for the satisfaction of doing them.
- with less furniture (something else I'm big on) you have stacks of floor space to spread out on with a map, or a load of papers you're reading, or just to play games / practice martial arts / dance / or whatever you like to do, or simply to walk across the room unhindered, etc.
- you appreciate other ways of life, eg. in rural africa or japan; and historical ways, eg. saxon or medieval.

There is something philosophical about my approach, which is zen-like in its lightness. I don't mean this in a pretentious way; but I do find that decluttering my stuff also declutters my mind - an unexpected bonus. You only discover it when you try it - especially if you can give it to charity, rather than just adding to the rubbish tips of the world. With less stuff, certain unspecified worries at the back of your mind are lifted, which lead to a lighter and more enjoyable outlook. When you go camping, for instance, you feel it; or when you go on holiday - you just take the minimum of stuff that you need, and yet somehow, you are better off for it.

But although I'm taking it to an extreme at the moment, to me it seems fine because I've learned to live without those gadgets. It's only extreme to british people, in the year 2005. 50 years ago it would have been normal. 500 years ago, my life would be pure luxury. If I lived in a little village in africa I wouldn't have those things, but the sunlight in the morning and the friendship of other people make those things irrelevant, if you see what I mean. It really doesn't matter how I choose to live. I can cut it back, or add a few things back into my life, as I like. If I had kids or a job with long hours I would certainly add a washer-dryer back in. If I had my own family to give me a reason to pull my finger out, I would no doubt end up with plenty of money to spare, and I might live in a mansion in a few acres of land, although I still wouldn't be happy about wasting resources or pollution, and so on. It's all changeable, and what you think is important, isn't; my best friends tend to be people who realise this as well.

Ahem.

I could write a few more pages worth if you want... and still not quite understand what basically drives me, but I'll stop now!

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