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Showing posts with label volunteer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label volunteer. Show all posts

Friday, May 27, 2011

Fun, Feel Good, Free

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
I know many of you are busy with work, home, and family. The last thing you need is something else on your calendar. Maybe you'd make time for something fun, but money is so tight right now it's tough to figure out what to cut in order to afford it. I'm going to recommend you look into event volunteer opportunities in your community.

Non-profit organizations have their regular staff and scheduled volunteers. If you have the time and inclination to commit to a weekly volunteer position, by all means go ahead. But this post is about having fun - cheap thrills. Those same non-profits probably put on an annual fun fundraising event or two. And they're often going to need extra volunteers for that. As folks that volunteer know, giving of your time to help others is reward enough in itself. But there are usually other perks for event volunteers.

Maybe it's just a t-shirt. But there's also the sense of camaraderie - the building of your community. Find groups or events that fit with your interests or objectives. I'm active in a local group that advocates for pedestrian and bicycle safety and access - more paths and trails within our community. As an informational outlet, plus as a service to the community, we staff a free bicycle valet booth at our Farmers Market throughout the summer. I've signed up for a couple of Saturdays that fit my schedule. And I love it! Usually, when I stop by the Market to shop, I've got other things on my mind - a whole list of things to do. But the couple of times I work it, I know I'll be there the whole morning. I treasure the time to visit with friends and neighbors I haven't seen in a while.

Or maybe it's some time to yourself - time to just be. I recently spent a Saturday morning working a fun run/bicycle event for kids. Most folks worked the sign-in and start, but I volunteered to work the turn-around spot for the 5K. I spent a quiet couple of hours with my music and a thermos of coffee, gazing out over a green pasture watching the sunlight play over the clouds and the mountains beyond, clapping and cheering on each participant as they made it up to my spot then started back.

But sometimes, volunteering earns even greater rewards. For lots of events, volunteering is the ticket to get in free; oft-times even a chance for some quality time with someone special. My sister and I both like music - together, we'll volunteer-usher concerts we want to see. I've signed up my husband and me to work the local Taste of Downtown event next month. Instead of paying $70, we'll work as greeters at the door at one of the restaurants for part of the time, then "taste" for free the rest of the time. We'll also be working a few evenings at the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare and summer concert series. Since we always volunteer to work both before and afterwards, we get a meal too - gourmet dinner for two and a show under the stars. Date night, free! What's on your schedule?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Creative Ways To Save Money On Food

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

















We've all heard some of the best ways to save money on food include: shopping with a list, planning your meals, taking a lunch to work, bringing cash to the supermarket and rarely eating out. All of those have lowered my own grocery budget significantly. But recently I wanted to cut my grocery budget by another 35% in order to live on an "Extreme Frugality" budget in this season of my life. I wasn't sure how I would do it, but I've found a few creative ways which have made a huge difference & are saving me time and money.

1. I remembered how important it is to shop at home first. I have a small kitchen and for a few weeks I skipped this step and it showed in my grocery spending. Shopping at home first works because I don't purchase items I already have, I'm more aware of what I'm low on {and therefore able to look for good deals to stock up}, I'm able to cut down on food waste & I can visibly see how much I already have to use up and plan my meals around!

2. I've completely cleaned out my fridge, organizing it so that everything is clearly visible and organized. No more thinking I don't have enough to stretch, because I can actually see that I have a lot I can use up. I've found this also helps me see what I can substitute. I may not have leeks for a soup, but I have celery. A clean fridge really has helped much more than I thought it would.

3. I've learned that I need to focus on what is right in this season of my life. I blogged recently that I felt this overwhelming guilt {for about 10 minutes} that I don't make my own ketchup. But in my household, ketchup is probably used less than 5x a year, so it makes no sense to make it. Remembering to think about the time/money balance has really helped me focus on what I can do which will have the biggest impact on my food budget.

4. I've enjoy slow cooker Wednesdays & soup night! Generally these are both very frugal veggie recipes making use of lentils, chickpeas & veg that needs using up. What's more they pretty much provide my lunches for the week and add to my freezer stock pile!

5. I've joined a lunch co-op group in my building at work. We basically all bring a salad ingredient and make a massive healthy salad one day per week. Generally I contribute about $1 worth of food {radishes, cucumbers, onions etc} and have a really lovely salad to enjoy & good company to boot! If your work/building doesn't have a lunch club, think about starting one.

6. When friends suggest eating out, I suggest a pot luck. It's a great way to socialize & spend time with friends, without having to come up with the money to eat out.

7. I'm in the process of joining a food co-op, I donate 2 hours of labor a month and I get a significant reduction on locally sourced foods.

8. Where possible I try to buy eggs from people who have chickens. Where I currently live this is nigh on impossible as people aren't allowed to raise chickens, but where I used to live I was able to source local eggs and support local hobby farms while saving money. It was a win-win-win situation.

What creative ways do you use to save money? Do you have any tips to share?

Friday, February 25, 2011

One Hundred Simple, Green or Frugal Ways To Make A Difference Part I

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

I've been thinking a lot lately about giving back, largely because I ran a little charity program over the holidays where I asked readers of my blog to donate something warm {could be something they made or something they purchased} to a special program I had recently volunteered with {ChinaKidz}, which cared for palliative care & special needs orphans in China. The results were simply incredible, with each child receiving parcel after parcel of warm clothes. If you're interested in viewing the photos they can be viewed here. Many of my readers from my own blog & this co-op wrote to me afterwards and shared that they often find it very hard to find simple or frugal ways to help people in need and participating in this project really was a simple & frugal way for them to give back, but now they need other ideas.

So I thought today I'd begin a new series about the many many ways you can give back and/or support a worthy cause which fit in with our simple, frugal and green lifestyle and choices. And the truth is, I certainly don't have all the answers, so I'd love if readers contributed some ideas too!

One Hundred Simple, Green & Frugal Ways To Give Back: Part One

1. Knit a scarf, hat or a pair of gloves for the homeless
2. Volunteer to teach ESL to newcomers to your country
3. Host international students for the holidays
4. If you have chickens, see if a women's shelter or homeless centre will accept egg donations
5. Teach a knitting class to people with special needs or experiencing hardship {many women's shelters are keen to find volunteer knitting teachers!}
6. Donate your no-longer-needed items to charity shops
7. Take your old books and magazines to shelters, recreation centres or medical clinics
8. Volunteer to paint a shelter
9. Become a block parent
10. Volunteer in your local school - many schools are desperate for people to read with children
11. Make some soup or baked goods for someone who is isolated or sick.
12. Help someone plant their first vegetable garden {many people don't know where to begin with seeds and find it a tad scary!}
13. Buy someone a compost bin!
14. Sponsor a child in the developing world.
15. Host a bake sale and give the proceeds to your favourite charity.
16. Collect blankets from your friends, religious organization or work & take them to a homeless shelter
17. Volunteer to be a Big Brother or Big Sister
18. Volunteer with your local Child Protective Services, they often look for safe adults to become mentors for children in care.
19. Host an alternative baby shower - ask everyone to bring something to donate to shelters or low-income families
20. Donate breast milk to a legal/certified milk bank in your country
21. Send something to a child in an orphanage
22. Volunteer to clean someones house for them
23. Make up a green cleaning hamper and give it to someone (with instructions) who would like to try green cleaning
24. If you have a car, offer to take others with you when you go grocery shopping!
25. Donate some food to food banks in your community!

Now I'd love to hear your suggestions, please feel free to share them in the comments!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

One Hundred Ways To Save Money in 2011 Part II

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

Part one of this series can be found here! Hopefully people found some helpful suggestions in the previous post, today I'll be looking at another 50 suggestions!

51. Keep 15% to 20% of your weekly grocery budget for stocking up on items when they are on sale.
52. See what you can produce/make {hats, scarves, gloves, soap, jams etc} and organize a swap with someone else whose items you need, such as someone who keeps chickens/hens and has eggs to give away.
53. Search for local farms and see what they sell in bulk, friends of mine buy gallons of wheat & honey for 20% of the cost the shops by purchasing it in very large quantities.
54. Can produce in the summer.
55. Buy bulk produce from farms in the summer and make pies, tomato sauce, crumbles, apple sauce, pear sauce. One year I made 18 apple pies,18 apple crisps and 12 peach pies and froze them!
56. Get your pets from rescue centres, my local centre charges $50 and that includes all the vaccines needed as well as neutering/spaying and micro chipping!
57. Keep a large stock of pet food, if you happened on lean times it is one less worry!
58. Consider getting pet insurance!
59. Learn to knit
60. Learn to sew
61. Learn to make your own shampoo & conditioner
62. Learn to make your own soap
63. Keep a list in your purse of household needs and always pop into second hand shops and/or garage sales to see if any of your items are available at a reasonable cost, but be strict with yourself no purchasing of anything that isn't on the list!
64. Ask your friends if they'd be willing to sell you the clothing their child has outgrown.
65. Organize a clothing swap with friends
66. Attend mom to mom sales and twin sales
67. Start a baby-sitting coop
68. Search for any shops the specialize in second hand furniture - I bought a wonderful couch and a fabulous retro chair for less than $100 {and they both look new!} at a wonderful charity shop that specializes in furnishings!
69. If you are buying new, always arrange to purchase items during the sales.
70. Do your research on prices pre sale {so you know if you are getting a good deal!}
71. Don't be afraid to ask for discounts on large purchases.
72. Consider buying the store model - I did this today as I needed a table, the table was $199 on sale but the sales person gave it to me for $50! $50 for a beautiful new table that was the store model {and it was right at the back of the store with very little traffic so is in great condition!}
73. If you don't have a good rapport with a sales person, go find another one or go back another day!
74. Ask the shops if they have any sales coming up!
75. Buy yourself gift cards, I purchase a couple of cards and put a balance of about $20 on them, this means on the rare occasion I choose to purchase a coffee {usually because I'm meeting a group of friends at a coffee shop} it doesn't cost me anything.
76. Ask for gift cards for Christmas gifts.
77. Get your DVD's from the library
78. Join a wool co-op if you knit
79. Keep lights turned off
80. In the evenings light candles
81. Keep your TV & computer off when not in use {and ensure the power is fully off and they aren't on standby}
82. Turn the tap off as you brush your teeth
83. Take quick showers
84. If you go to the gym or swimming shower there
85. Learn to love simple meals, like a baked potato with salad.
86. If you eat meat, make it an accompaniment to a meal not the main part of the meal!
87. Use nuts, seeds and beans to get protein
88. Shop around for medication, prices vary greatly
89. Ditch the make-up {or at least use bare bones!}
90. Ditch the perfume {or keep it only for special occasions}
91. Hang clothes up after you've worn them, this helps keep them looking nice & reduces the amount of washing you have to do
92. Find a cobbler and see if your shoes can be repaired rather than thrown out
93. Buy plants instead of flowers, they last for years!
94. Keep a tally book in your purse/handbag with average costs of items, this helps you know when something is worth stocking up on
95. Only allow yourself to go to the shops once a week at most
96. Suggest pot luck meals when getting together with friends and family
97. Volunteer - a great social activity at no cost!
98. Do your taxes - you never know when you'll get a refund!
99. Pay yourself each pay day - put a set amount of money into a long term account that you don't touch!
100. Get rid of your sense of entitlement - just because you work hard it doesn't mean you have a "right" to buy what you want. I ran a series about how damaging a sense of entitlement can be, part one is here, part two here and part three here.

In thinking about it, I think the greatest way to save money is to: enjoy life, find joy, search for beauty, commit to reducing your carbon impact, live purposefully and be thankful! The simple, green & frugal life is a beautiful life!

What are your tips for saving money?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Preparing For The New Year - A Simple, Green & Frugal 2011

By Notes From The Frugal Trenches

Slowly but surely I find my confidence growing. I've blogged before about a little internal battle I faced, feeling like I wasn't ever going to succeed at the green or frugal life because I couldn't knit or sew and didn't have a homestead for my own chickens, bees and garden. In 2010 I finally understood the truth, there isn't one prescription for a simple, green and frugal life, in fact I imagine if there were it wouldn't be so simple!

Looking back 2010 was the year I accomplish many changes in my life that were simple, green & frugal. 2010 was the year I semi learned to knit, I canned fresh produce (under expert instruction), I volunteered overseas, I learned how to make my own shampoo & conditioner and I began using re-useable toilet paper. It is only through recognition of the little changes I made in 2010 that I'm able to think about realistic yet optimistic goals for 2011.

One of my main goals for 2011 is to drastically change how I eat. The plan is to have a whole foods year, nothing pre-packaged, everything ethically sourced and made from scratch. I hope 2011 is my vegan year, or at the very least 95% vegan with a bit of ethically sourced feta cheese from a local farmer. Yes, my name is Frugal Trenches and I have a slight addiction to feta cheese! ;-)

My simple, green and frugal goals for 2011 are:
1. Begin using a worm composter
2. Volunteer to clean up a community garden or park
3. Make my own soap
4. Follow a 100 mile diet
5. Veganism {or as near as possible!}
6. Foster dogs or cats for the local animal shelter
7. Take sewing classes
8. Give up caffeine

All are realistic and represent changes I feel I'm now ready for and looking forward to!

Some may think it is a bit early to discuss goals and plans for the new year, but one thing I've learned on this journey is that I need a "settling in period", a time to adjust to change and get my head to follow my heart. So for the month of December I'm eating vegan 5-6 days a week and reducing my caffeine. On top of that I just found a sewing class which starts in January and while I'm not taking the path of insisting from January 1 I've made all these changes in full, I'm slowly getting there one simple, green and frugal step at a time.

What are your plans for 2011? Do you set yourself & your family goals for the New Year that will help you in your simple, green and frugal journey?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Simple Green & Frugal Dating/Date Night

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches






















Who says a good date isn't apple picking?


I am very blessed to have friends from a variety of different backgrounds, who live in a variety of different ways. Recently the topic of money & dating/date night (for partners/married couples) came up over dinner and it was interesting to see what the priorities and ideas were about what constituted quality time together and how much people felt that would cost! On the one hand, I have friends who are just preparing to marry and have (in all these months) spent a grand total of $6 on dating - going out for 2 frozen yogurts. The rest of their dates have involved home cooked meals with family and friends or walks in the park. They have decided to forgo eating out, flowers, gifts, movie or theatre tickets or anything which costs money. On the other hand other friends shared that for them date night costs at least $100 + by the time they've paid for dinner, two movie tickets, a large popcorn and 2 drinks. Other friends shared their dates cost upward of $500 a month because they like to do something to really relax like go to the theatre or get a massage. The consensus was that dating and romance is expensive!

Like most things in life I'm both somewhere in the middle and I do like dating to reflect my simple, green & frugal values! I don't think you have to be as extreme as never spending money (unless you want to!), but I also think most people don't realize that you don't need to spend money to have a good date or a good night out.

Here are some ideas:

Long country or seaside walks - it's quite easy to find out about good walks in your area on your local government website or via a guide book at the library. Pack a picnic and you have almost a whole days entertainment!

Coffee and dessert - this is generally cheaper than having a meal out and you can still choose a coffee house or restaurant with a nice atmosphere!

Last minute tickets - Many theatres and concert halls sell off their available tickets for the matinee or evening performance that day for a fraction of the cost of a regular ticket bought in advance! I know in London, England I can usually get theatre tickets for 25% of the cost by buying the morning of the performance! Obviously seating can be more restricted!

Make date night a "different" night - My local cinema offers dinner & a movie for $15 on a Wednesday and my local movie theatre has a movie for $5 (instead of $12) on a Tuesday. It may not be Friday or Saturday night, but for the budget conscious it works!

Volunteering together - Whether you work on a conservation project like planting trees or counting wild animals, there are plenty of things you can do together that are unique, simple, green & frugal!

Making something for each other or doing something for each other - It can be as simple as making a meal, giving each other neck massages or knitting slippers or socks for each other!

Using airmiles and reward points for more expensive options - This is a great way to afford a more elaborate meal out, cinema tickets, rental cars, hotels, spa days or travel. Saving them up for Anniversaries and Birthdays can be an extra special way to treat the other person!

Make use of things that are free - Many museums and art galleries offer free admissions or at least free admission one evening a week. Add to that festivals, city fairs, book readings, concerts in the park and farm open days and pretty soon you have many new options that are budget friendly!

Do something unique - a local community centre and vintage theatre offer an evening once each week with a variety of local musicians who want to perform, there is no cost for admittance, they simply ask you buy one drink. The atmosphere is stunning (the building is over 100 years old) and the lighting and acoustics are beautiful. For the cost of $8 for two drinks, it is a wonderfully romantic night out! Other unique ideas include visiting animal sanctuaries (my local one is free, another one a bit further out is $4) or going apple, blueberry or strawberry picking! There are so many ways to enjoy some quiet and fun time together when you think outside the box!

I think the key is variety, maybe once a month you do something with a higher budget like dinner out and the other times you stick to low cost romance like walks, coffee out or volunteering. I've learned that being frugal doesn't mean no romance and it is pretty easy to transport your simple, green and frugal lifestyle to all areas of your life!

I'd love to hear from you! Do you have any simple, green and frugal ideas? Do you budget each month for dating and romance?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Positively Committed

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

















For just shy of the last three weeks, I've been volunteering with children in orphanages some of whom are special needs and others are in hospice care. It was, hands down, the most amazing experience of my life. There was intense sadness and grief and yet incredible joy and peace. I learned so much about simple happiness and joy from those special special souls. And I came away with an incredible determination about how important the simple life is.

While I was away a friend emailed me the saying "living simply, so others can simply live" that phrase had made her commit to sponsoring another child bringing the grand total to 3 and making the commitment to build a school in Africa next year instead of taking a holiday. Like me, these decisions will mean what most would think of as major sacrifices. Personally, apart from buying 1 new pair of leggings pre-trip, I couldn't tell you the last time I bought clothing, or books or mindlessly spent. I don't have a lot of money but I love what my money is spent on since I left the rat race behind and began to embrace the true joy found in simple living.

This trip provided much needed affirmation about just how much I love that I no longer need expensive girly weekends away taking money from my budget, when I can use the money in other ways or simply work less. I no longer need to meet friends on a Saturday and shop for things I don't need, when I can hike, volunteer at my local animal shelter, bake or sit around with a wonderful group of women discussing books and knitting.

On my trip, I had four outfits, limited choice of food, a tiny tiny room to call my own. I was with the children 10 hours + a day and yet everything about it was simple, through the whole trip there was no need to go anywhere or stress and nothing to distract me from my calling. It was simple, it was joyous.

Since I arrived home, I've been thinking about just how amazing a reminder of why we are on this path is, just how necessary and important. I had mine over the last three weeks, I'd love to hear yours?

What reminds you that making these simple, small changes is important? What helps you keep focused on the goal of living how you want to live and what your success is vs. what society thinks success is about?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Volunteering and the Simple Life

By Notes From The Frugal Trenches

















Somebody recently said to me if you are going to have a simple life you need to focus on you, yourself and I, that people must learn that simplicity is about focusing only on yourself, your home and your direct family. I found this quite an interesting, if not sad, perspective, I guess because I don't equate giving of oneself as complicating my life in any way. I do find that running around shopping, errand doing or bombarding myself with media images or too much tv complicates my life immensely, but would never say that any of my volunteering roles have done anything but add another beautiful layer to my life.

As a teenager I volunteered with children in a hospital, doing admin for a new hospice which had just opened in my home town and collecting for various charities. While studying at University I volunteered in a health centre which provided medical appointments as well as health education programs, volunteered in a speech and language centre and a school, and voluntary tutored two children with learning difficulties whose parents could not afford private tuition. Since I've officially become an adult I've volunteered as a youth group leader, lead a youth group, volunteered as a cat socializer and dog walker, volunteered in a cafe whose proceeds went to charity and had various roles through Church. For over a year I cared for four children in my home while working, obviously at that time my roles needed to change so instead I was able to volunteer in their schools and collected for charities - I did this not because I had a great deal of extra time on my hands, but because I knew how rich and beautiful a life of volunteering is and I wanted the children to understand the importance of serving others and appreciating all that you do have. This wasn't learned through grand gestures, but simply every day actions like sending cards or notes, making soup for sick friends and taking food to the food bank.

It is conceivable that volunteering could add stress to your life, but I don't think you limit stress by focusing on oneself. Through my volunteering I have learned to appreciate what I have, I've been able to peek into the life experiences of someone with no vision or with no legs. I've made friends, basked in the beauty of knowing there are good people everywhere and begun to understand what simplicity truly is - it isn't shutting everyone else out, it's appreciating the richness from little.

Next week I board a plane, I'm off to volunteer overseas in an orphanage and working with special needs and dying children. People comment that I'm doing something good or mention how much they'll learn from me. The reality is, the blessings are all mine, I'm the one who needs to learn from these children what beauty, richness and simplicity is all about.

I'd love to hear from you! Do you find volunteering fits into your simple life? What have you learned about simplicity through volunteering and serving others?

For those interested, I will be blogging while I'm away!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Of What Do You Dream?

By Notes From The Frugal Trenches



















Lately I've been privy to many conversations about what people want from life. As a pretty young downshifter, it is something that interests me greatly, especially as I've always believed one's ideal/dream life is a window into their soul. It seem like most people want enough to not have to worry about money, due to my curious nature I've asked people to further clarify what they mean by enough. Not surprisingly most people don't really mean "enough", answers given were enough to take 3 or 4 "good" vacations a year - a week or two in the Bahamas, or winters in Florida. Enough to eat out several times a week without having to worry, to meet up with friends to golf or horseback ride a few times a week, enough to have no mortgage, maybe a holiday home or a few weeks timeshare, a couple of rental properties for extra income, a bit of help around the house and enough left over to see a good six figures in the bank account and a good monthly pension. Everyone shared that they wanted to be able to go to the mall or shops and buy furniture, clothing and kitchenware as they wanted, without ever having to worry about their bank balance or a budget. The reality is, most people's "enough" isn't what one would call enough, instead it's a time of more luxury living. A friend of mine shared that seeing her parents retire and lead such an easy life financially, really skewed her understanding and desires for her own life, instead of working towards retiring with no mortgage, a decent pension and being able to afford a week in Europe each year, she's desiring more and feeling like she's failing in comparison.

Our conversation made me really think about what my dream is, what type of life I want to lead, making it as realistic as possible and a true representation of who I am now. Of course financial security, especially in retirement is important and yes having enough in the bank to cope with unexpected housing or medical expenses is something we should all aim for, but I think life is about so much more than being able to buy what you want, when you want, or vacation for 12 weeks a year.

So what is my dream? It's a mix of being self-sufficient and truly living as part of a community. I dream of a small plot of land where I can live off the earth, being able to foster a donkey or two and give a home to animals which are hard to place, the ability to work part time, have a full emergency fund, several children (I am hoping to adopt). Days spent volunteering, writing letters, knitting, sewing and baking. Time to care for others, provide meals for those in need, hold hands with people who are dying, care for family members or friends who need help dressing or preparing meals. I'd like to make my own jams, sauces, preserves, pasta, breads and cakes. I would like to be able to give each month to the charities I feel passionate about and volunteer abroad, both in disaster relief and in preventative education programs. I would like to journal, write, sing and pray. In the evenings, I hope to curl up by the log fire and read until my eyes are weary, and retire to bed with a back sore from gardening and chasing donkeys, sheep and goats around the land. At least once a week, I'd like to walk by the sea taking photographs and giving thanks, for a life with purpose - the ability to serve, the ability to work and the ability to see the beauty all around me.



















What is your dream life? Does it represent the changes in you and your desire to live a simple life?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Simple & Frugal Ways To Give

By Notes From The Frugal Trenches

The current situation in Haiti is grave, it is hard to actually imagine what it must be like to see people being operated on by the side of the road, families starving to death, thousands of people dying in front of you and millions or orphans with nowhere to go. Before I downshifted and simplified I often felt overwhelmed by need and struggled to understand how I could help. As life has become simpler and I have more control of my finances it seems a lot easier to find different ways to help, different ways to encourage others and different ways to use the talent and time I have. I have so much less financially than I did last year or the year before and yet I'm able to do more. A few friends has said to me that they can't even watch the news because they know there is nothing they can do, their comments have made me think about putting a post together with a list of things you can do - for big budgets and small budgets, for those with time and those without. I would love if any readers contributed ideas as I hope this post inspires people to realize their talents big and small and find ways they can help!

Giving Money

  • Allot a certain amount each month into the budget for giving! I find this helps me budget for helping others in the same way I budget for my rent, bills, car etc!
  • Find a charity whose philosophy you agree with - I sponsor children through World Vision and their updates and letters just bring me such joy!
  • Keep a jar in your home for coins which you can allot for spontaneous giving! This means when there is a disaster or when someone in your circle of family/friends is trying to fundraise you have money handy to give!
  • When there is a disaster or need, look at areas of the budget you can cut out! For example, I have a budget for a weekly hot chocolate or coffee with friends, that £3 a week is a very easy luxury to go without over the next few months so that I can give more to projects in Haiti!
  • Look for tiny yet still important ways to give - spare change after the weekly shop to charity boxes or people collecting!
  • Remember charities in your will
  • Remember giving in your yearly plans/goals
  • Remember that we all have different gifts, you may not be able to go to Haiti to help, but your small donation might help someone else be able to go to Haiti to provide care for those in need!

Giving Time

  • There are thousands of charities which are collecting for Haiti and other countries in need - could you donate a few hours to collect money or fundraise?
  • Several charities are packaging items to send to disaster areas, could you give an evening or 1/2 a day at the weekend to help box up items?
  • Could you organize a fundraiser? Even having a meal at your home and asking friends or family to attend and make a donation which you will give to a charity like Red Cross or World Vision or Doctors Without Borders?
  • Could you make something to sell with the profits going to a charity?
  • Could you attend a fundraiser put on by a Church or charity or group? I am all set to attend one this weekend and am really looking forward to it :)
  • Could you send an email to friends and family with links to organizations collecting or fundraisers?

Giving Things

  • Do you have anything you could sell where you could give the profits to charity?
  • Do you have any clothing, jewelry, shoes, books, knick knacks that you could give to a charity shop?

Spiritual/Faith

  • Could you say a prayer, light a candle, hold people in your thoughts?
  • Could you talk to others about the need, which might encourage them to act?

None of these ideas are time consuming or earth shattering, I hope they are simple and easy and encourage others to think about the ways they can give. In this season of my life, which includes both unemployment and opening my home to friends who are homeless due to burst pipes, it can be very very hard to believe that you are in a position to help and yet the more I commit to simple, frugal and green living, the more I see the opportunities to help are all around!

I do so hope some of you might be able to share any giving ideas you have!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Fun, Free, Frugal and Social
















By Notes From The Frugal Trenches


I'm currently in a season of unemployment which means apart from job hunting I have a lot more time on my hands. The only problem with having more time, is that human desire to fill it, which I'm certainly trying to remain on top of. Practically, this is a very good season in my life to spend time with friends who live farther afield and friends it can be difficult to catch up with normally, as it is the holidays it is also a time when family and friends really do want to meet up. For the vast majority of my family and friends catching up means dinner and a movie or dinner and drinks, which is costly and not within my meager budget. Slowly but surely I've found there are many ways to enjoy frugal fun and while it may take some encouragement with friends who are not accustomed to more frugal endeavors, it is amazing the fun you can have on very little money. Here are some activities that have worked for me over the last month and provide a fun way to spend time with family and friends over the holiday season!


1. Games Night - host a games night at your home! A friend of mine is very good at this and everyone brings a game plus nibbles or a bottle of wine. We end up having a fabulous evening for little or no money!


2. Get hiking and walking - even though it is certainly colder right now (unless you are reading this in Australia), I've found with a hat and mitts you can convince most people to take a nice walk. If I invite friends who prefer expensive coffee shop catch ups, I might suggest we pick up a hot chocolate or coffee on route or I offer to make us one from home to bring. I recently convinced two friends to go for a long walk in a beautiful park, both admitted they hadn't enjoyed a walk in 5+ years and while they admitted they were unsure at first we've already made a date for another walk!


3. Movie Night - invite friends around and ask them to bring their DVD collection or you can rent a movie from the library or even during the Holidays choose a movie that's on the TV. This can be such a fun, frugal activity and a great way to spend time with a group of friends.


4. Accept dinner invitations or invite others for dinner - hosting people in your home doesn't need to be expensive, you can accept the offer of each guest bringing one dish and I've found with a little forward thinking I can feed a group of six quite easily while staying in my weekly food budget!


5. Join a book club, knitting group, running club etc - I am a member of a knitting club and a book club, both of which I adore. A friend of mine recently bought a house and was struggling to maintain social relationships and keep her exercise costs low while paying her mortgage, I suggested she join a local running club which was free, she has now not only found a free social form of exercise twice a week, but she's also made loads of local friends!


6. Find out about local events - over the Holiday season there are many workshops, fairs, movie events and activities around my local area that are very reasonable. Have a look for signs and advertisements at your local library, Church or recreation centre.


7. Be honest with people about your budget - I've had many offers from friends to come and stay for the weekend which is lovely, but it could create a lot of stress if friends make plans for you that are costly. I've found being honest and upfront about your budget can help you choose activities that won't get you in debt!





















8. Get in the garden, learn a new skill, write a letter, listen to the radio, watch the snow/rain, host a baking day or cooking day - there are so many wholesome, relaxed, simple and frugal things we can do each and every day!


9. Volunteer - you can volunteer on your own or invite friends to volunteer with you! It is such a wonderful way to give back, learn a new skill, help others and spend your time! It can be as simple as making meals for people you know or giving a day to help at a food bank!


10. Use gift cards, vouchers etc - sometimes we have to spend money, I always try to have a few gift cards on hand with enough money for a couple of meals and drinks out. I used these when all my other simple plans fail :)


I think it is also important to remember you can't do everything and it is OK to say no. As I fine tune simple living I find there is a peaceful acceptance and joy which comes from choosing how to spend my time and having the confidence not to accept every offer. There is a freedom found by saying no that money simply can't buy.



Do you have any ideas for frugal ways to spend time with friends and family during this holiday season?

Finally, if I don't get the chance to do so before the Holidays, I wanted to wish every single reader a wonderful Holiday Season! Thank you for enriching my life this year.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Creating a new normality!


By Notes From The Frugal Trenches







We live in a completely over-scheduled society. Gone are the days of working 8-4 and spending evenings with your family or within your community, now a significant percentage of people spend evenings running errands, chauffeuring their kids to one activity & another, working, working from home, checking emails, hitting the shops. When I lived in North America, my local shops were open until 9 or 9:30 pm every night, my chemist aka pharmacist was either 24 hours or open until midnight, the book shops were open until 10pm as were coffee houses, cafes and many other establishments. Even though I wasn't necessarily accomplishing anything I was often out 3-4 evenings a week just doing "stuff" aka buying stuff. Then I moved back to England and a smaller town in the West Country where shops shut at 5pm, coffee shops 4pm or 6pm if you are lucky. And I hated it, yes this anti-shopping, simple living girl hated that there was "nothing open". Oh how I've changed.

Once I started my simple life, I started living. My evenings became time to be home, time to learn to cook, bake, sew, knit. I began joining activities like book groups and knitting clubs within my community, I began to volunteer an evening each week and 1/2 a day at the weekend. I began to meet people, neighbours, people in surrounding villages.

Today it hit me, as I sat looking at the sea in front of me, at a social event in the community next to mine, that my turning away from consumerism, from buying, from "stuff", I had created a new normality. A normality that gives me time to help others. A normality that gives me time to reflect and pray. A normality that gives me time to learn new hobbies and explore my interests. A reality that means I can work part time and follow what I really want to do in life, rather than working for a paycheck. None of this happened overnight, I had to pay off my debts, I had to have an emergency fund, I had to have changed my spending, established a difference between need and want, turn my back on the latest anything, but I for one couldn't be happier.

This week I lost a very good friend, far too young (early 40's) with young children and it was such a stark reminder for me about how important really living is, how important it is to have time rather than money or a bigger house; to follow your passions, to make a difference; to really live.

I'm really living now. Are you?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Willing Workers


Posted by Bel
From Spiral Garden

Willing Workers On Organic Farms (WWOOF) is a cultural exchange whereby guests offer volunteer assistance and hosts in turn offer food, accommodation and hospitality.

We have been WWOOF hosts through WWOOF Australia for about two years. We have hosted many WWOOFers from Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Malaysia. Each of our guests have brought something special to our home by way of their knowledge, sense of humour, enthusiasm, patience, eagerness to learn, willingness to help, caring, travel tales or love of animals and children.

Feedback from our WWOOFers has been positive, and many have kept in touch with our family. Everyone has loved the food and felt very comfortable here, just as we have felt comfortable having them in our home and lives.

The scenery has impressed all of our guests, and seeing a tree kangaroo, platypus or echidna has been an added excitement.


Together we have enjoyed camping, juiced oranges, built a bonfire, picked fruit, planted seeds and trees, done lots of general farm maintenance, visited waterfalls, walked in the rainforest and laughed... among many other things. Hosting WWOOFers keeps our enthusiasm and energy high with regard to the many improvements and jobs we have here on our little farm.

WWOOF hosts aren't only organic farms - there are urban and suburban households, tourism ventures, animal shelters, hobby farms and other rural landholders in the WWOOF listings.


And WWOOF is also great for the traveller. All of our guests have explained how WWOOFing has enriched their travel experience and their lives. They have learnt a lot and lived cheaply (or free) but well for the duration of their stay with us. It is sweet to see how relieved they are to have free laundry and internet facilities, not to mention good fresh food and a comfy, quiet, warm bed! WWOOF is for young folk, couples, families, mature age travellers and everyone in between.