Running out of Energy Choices?

We’ve gone through various periods of financial stability or instability in the house over the years; we’ve had times when were were literally living one month to the next, or more often than not, more like last month encroaching only to soon on the one ahead. We’ve had fortunate times where we’ve had a little more than we needed, perhaps even savings and times like now when we’re needing to budget closely each month and begin to cut back on activities, new clothes, shoes that aren’t essential and fripperies. I’d be a liar to say that we’re on the breadline, because we certainly aren’t but I’m more cautious than than I was in the past. I’ve learned my lessons about credit cards and spending next month’s money too soon, even if I have yet to learn the knack of saving for a rainy day 😆

There are of course plenty of positives to being open with the children about financial pressures on the family, though I try not to worry them about it because I spent too much of my childhood frightened about money and I wouldn’t want that for them. But they are children of the credit crunch and so they understand that times are tough and they see in very real terms how the family money is earned. They know when the shops are busy or quiet and the affect that has on available cash. And then they are also environmentally conscious and aware of the cost of fossil fuels; over the last year they’ve become more in tune with the ideas of heating the house less, not only because ever fluctuating and increasing of gas prices, but because of the cost to the planet. I think there is going to be more of this in the future.

Being able to knit blankets, may be a good thing!

More than anywhere else, the place I feel the pinch these days is diesel. Although it isn’t possible to run a 7 seater on a low budget, I tended to content myself that at least the car is normally fairly full. These days though, with pump prices rocketing and our monthly cash needing to be carefully managed in order to still have occasional holidays and feed and clothe six people, we are genuinely cutting back on the places we go. I can’t afford to visit friends so often, or do days out so often and when we do, we really have to make the most of it, tick lots of boxes and make the fuel worth while. I miss just bundling people into the car for a night or two away or a hurried afternoon out. And I’m sad, life lesson worth learning or not, to be at a the point where the girls have to make choices now on what they do and cut back if they want to try something new.

Has the current economic climate changed your family habits much? Are you more conscious of how you use heat, or petrol or any spare cash? Have you got towards the end of what you can stretch to?

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  1. says

    I think the biggest noticeable change for us is the cost of petrol. We definitely have to consider whether it’s worth the trip out. Where we live the buses are very unreliable and costly so it actually works out cheaper for us to drive.

    • says

      I know! We don’t live far out of town (3 miles) but it would still cost something like ??8 to get us all there and back by bus. Car doesn’t cost more than that, even with parking added.

  2. says

    I’m not sure if it’s the economics of it, or just my on-going desire to try and reduce my/our family’s impact on the environment..

    We’ve always grown veggies of some sort or another, and I’ve always knitted and made things – although none of these things has made a huge impact on the family budget overall. However it starts at the margins, and the more we go on, the more central these things are becoming to my life and thinking. For example, my daughter has recently grown out of most of her shaped cloth napies, and 4 years ago (when my son was little) I would have probably just bought a few bigger ones. Now, instead of buying new ones, I’ve been making a few of my own shaped nappies to keep her going until potty training. I would never have done that in the beginning. But now, I looked at the pile of terry squares which weren’t doing much and thought I could turn them into a few nappies. So I tried one out, it worked well, and I’ve sewn a few more since then too. For about ??5 on aplix, I’ve got 8 new nappies and reused some things (e.g. crib sheets) which we won’t need again (no more babies planned, sniff).

    Diesel isnt such an issue for me, but I dont drive our car very much. When I’m at home with the children in the week, we walk and catch the bus and on work days daddy drops us all off (nursery is at the campus where I work) and then picks us up on his way past in the evening. So, we try to use the car/fuel wisely, and certainly do that thing us academics call ‘trip-chaining’ where one outing fulfils several purposes.

    I could go on and on and on, but I’ll spare you. Thanks for making me think!

    • says

      I am very impressed with the nappies. What I notice now is I tend to sit and wait for kids at things, rather than nipping home. Doing more growing and stuff is feeling good too. Don’t think I will ever knit fast enough to provide the wardrobe they need though!

  3. says

    Woody and I are both crap with money, not utterly frivolous crap, just generally crap. He faces the possibility of redundancy later this summer…apparently the biggest bank in the UK can still pay their bosses heaps of money, while the staff have to reapply for their own jobs!
    We pretty much have our heads in the sand over it. I guess we’ll get by. ( I hope we do)

    • says

      Urgh :( to redundancy :/

      I am the crap one here; Max would be Scrooge, if he had the choice (except over Motorsports and motorbikes!) and frankly I have no idea how he puts up with me.

  4. Sarah says

    We’re both careful with money as a hangover I think from a childhood where money was tight and frugal student days when the loans mounted up just to pay for basics. I do tend to spend whatever on the children though, perhaps too much, probably as compensation as I hated not having money as a child. Have been through redundancy for my husband twice (took a year this time for him to find another job) and just about to embark on a mortgage having spent the last three years living in a shoebox waiting for a suitable house. I agree about the diesel. Filling the car up is incredibly expensive but for me that’s the trade off for living in a rural area.

    • says

      Big family makes being perfect with money just impossible really I think. Something ALWAYS crops up. We’re starting to have expensive dancing exam bills, TKD gradings etc etc and I could say no to them doing them but it doesn’t really seem fair. Fran (bless her!) has gone through 3 shoe sizes in less than a year and when you are talking ballet, tap, trainers, theatre shoes, summer shoes, something smartish et etc – sheesh!

      • Sarah says

        I wonder what the perfect balance is? I imagine unless you’re a multibillionaire extra money would always be welcome. I suppose having enough money to not to have to worry too much about spending on the things that make life more enjoyable whatever that might be. For some that will be less, for others more.

        At the moment we are lucky in that if we want something we can buy it. We’ve been through the patch of having to save up for things (have never spent money I didn’t have on credit – wouldn’t be able to sleep doing that and feel fortunate never to have found myself in that desperate situation), have both faced unemployment at the same time and had a redundancy coincide with basic maternity pay so am enjoying a momentary breathing space before taking on a mortgage again. We will undoubtably head back to tighter budgeting in the future when we have to make the decision over secondary education which isn’t brilliant in our area outside of the private sector.

        At least being the eldest of a large family I only had to wear things that were second hand rather than third, forth, fifth etc but a fairly awful wardrobe as a child (evidenced on photos as well as memory) does push me towards spending to make sure my children are decently turned out – at least when they leave the house and has put me off sewing for good. It’s important for them to learn the value of money but I was acutely aware of our lack of funds as a child and would hate them to be constantly worried about whether we have enough or declining invitations to do things because they worry about how we might afford it.

  5. says

    Not having a car at the moment and being a childminder means the crunch hasn’t really affected me that much. I have recently bought a bike, and once I’m a bit fitter Ill buy a trailer for it, so minded children can go in the back. My son has just learnt to ride a pedel bike straight from a balance bike. so the plan is even once I do have a car, I will still use my bike for local trips.

    Regarding the diesel car, do you know anyone who makes biofuel? A friend of my mine makes it, and it costs them about 26p per litre to make! With prices so high, I don’t think it will be long before they make back their initial investment, perhpas if you have friends who have diesel cars you could consider sharing the cost of buying the equipment to make the the stuff yourselves?

  6. claire says

    our biggest cost has always been electric until a couple of years ago – it got ridiculous as we live in a drafty converted barn that was heated with storage heaters. A couple of years ago we installed a pellet boiler and haven’t looked back since. it has even lead to us starting our own business as suppliers of wood pellets and I have to say that we have felt very smug about all the reports on the high cost of heating oil over the winter!

  7. says

    Nope the law has been changed hun:

    “Since the law was relaxed to allow people to make 2,500 litres a year for their own use, most are working legally, but as the price of fuel rises inexorably, so criminal elements are moving in. ” (source, the Guardian)

  8. says

    Great pic and love the blanket btw!
    I’m off work now with M.E and we really feel the pinch big time. Petrol is a nightmare but food is too as my weekly bill just keeps rising. Although I only have 2 kids I find stuff they need for school, scouts, drama, etc etc just seems never ending. I hate the fact we find it hard to treat them to all the nice things in life and all the lovely days out :(

  9. 'EF' x says

    We’ve been directly impacted. It’s been really tough but I have fallen back on the advice my grandparents always gave, and knowing that they lived through periods of what people today would consider abject poverty and got out of it with their dignity and health (or near enough) gives me strength. Nobody can go through worrying about how to feed the kids from one day to the next without being scarred in some way though, and it’s this that I work on every day: how to find the silver in every cloud. Sometimes it’s not there, sometimes we have to make it up, but the day to stop trying to make up the silver when there is only cloud is the day being hungry becomes starvation.

    On a more practical note, we don’t have a car, we live on the kindness of others and what bits of work we can find to be paid for, we try to cover the holes we can’t mend with our big cheerful smiles and we do our best to be compassionate. That being said, I have turned into a Daily Mail type because it bothers me that I got this far through being completely ‘straight’ and I have my share of ‘it’s not FAIR!’ moments when I see I could have got more by being a claimant. The worst bit about ‘poverty’ has to be what it can do to one’s psyche. The big fight is to keep an honest heart. I hear myself bitching about how people who get dole money or state handouts are having it large, or loaded people who ‘just don’t know what it is like’ when in actual fact, I am just jealous of what seems to be like any easy route to financial security. But really, most people are feeling the pinch in some way these days, because it’s so out there and we are all aware of it, of what might come and that the worst isn’t over yet. My advice to people is to find a safe bolthole, surround yourselves with loving people and ride it out….possible even on the lowest of incomes.

  10. claire says

    being a family business is good fun but quite hard work – we also have 6 children and balancing everyones needs is a skill that i am still trying to learn!
    We are now finally (after far too much dilly dallying) starting to home ed some of the children which feels so liberating! I must thank you for sharing your lives through this blog – you inspire me from a mother point of view, from a small business point of view and from a home ed point of view. I have dipped in here for a very long time while trying to make the decision to home ed, i rarely comment as my words always seem wrong when written but you are an amazing woman with an amazing family!

  11. says

    Yes, prices have shot up in Cyprus recently. It used to be rather cheaper to live here than in the UK – no longer though. We’ve always been careful about money, never having a great deal, but even more so recently. I’m cooking almost everything from scratch these days – I mean, really from scratch, even down to ketchup from fresh tomatoes (which are inexpensive here). I’ve also recently been experimenting with what US sites call ‘no poo’, which doesn’t mean getting constipated (!) but not using commercial shampoos or soap … just bicarb (once a week) to clean hair, and lemon juice (or vinegar) also once a week to condition. And water to wash in. Better for the skin and much better for the budget.. and my hair is better too, though the first few weeks weren’t so good.

    Oh, and checking Amazon weekly to see what’s on free offer for the Kindle means I’m hardly buying any books :-)

  12. says

    we’re rural so I have to drive everywhere.. no pavements, no bus route. So diesel is one of our big expensses, we’re not on mains gas either so its LPG which is constantly going up.

    We’re thinking about a pellet boiler, solar panels atm.

    Claire is it possible to contact you as I’d be interested to hear about your pellet boiler.

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