As price rises continue to bite, I have realised that foraging for free food (as well as yellow sticker deals and loyalty card offers) are increasingly filling a growing gap in my budget and is the only way to keep my budget the same without putting less food table. This autumn, I have gathered enough rhubarb, rosehips, elderberries and blackberries – canned, jammed and frozen – to see me right through until next harvest.
Recently, I added mushrooms to the list, a luxury item in my food cupboard. I have enough in my cupboards now to last me quite a long time. None of these stores have incurred a noticable expense, and have saved me plenty. It is the tipping point between keeping food bills in control and not, and it does make a noticeable difference even at my very amateur level.
Many employed people now working from home on a permanent basis have started to take on multiple jobs. And a phrase I have discovered lately is ‘portfolio careers’. It’s like having side hustles except there is no main income from a particular career. People’s work styles and earning potential have changed over the last two years, and more people are turning hobbies and interests into something with earning potential, making their money from several skills and resources and mixing it up into one financial pot. Money will continue to be a challenge for a while yet, and these are essential and often interesting alternative incomes for many people.
I have been running side hustles for quite a while, and it does add up. This last couple of years I have added some new ones. After a quick calculation I’ve discovered I have had 11 income streams, which I am already building on.
The obvious way to keep costs down at the other end is to not spend money in the first place. Anti-consumerism, or intentional reduction, ‘includes practices such as refusing to buy, reusing, repurposing, repairing or otherwise extending the product’s life…‘ (source) I prefer this to finding apparently green or sustainable products which are often more expensive and are a false economy if you are replacing something you already own that hasn’t yet come to the end of its usable life.
A circular economy adds to this notion, and I treat free stuff as a side hustle, as it enables me to not spend money acquiring that item in the first place. Trash Nothing provides me with many of these items where I would have either bought or, more likely, gone without, and I list my own unwanted items on there too. It also provides a side hustle for my haberdashery resell business, which adds a few pounds to my monetary income and I use it to get hold of candles which is helping reduce my electricity bill.
LitterLotto may also provide me with another small income. I am making incremental amounts of money, and it also gives me some sense of wellbeing, as well as giving my daily walks another focus.
Interest on savings accounts, cashback on utility bills and account switching bribes all help to tip the balance and add pennies to the coffers. It may seem like trivial amounts, but it does add up.
Making a little bit of money here, a saving there, might feel like scrimping and scraping. It is by some standards. But it pays off in its own way and allows me to keep budgets in check, which is all some of us can hope for right now. I also like the ducking and diving that comes with finding ways to save and make money. There is clearly a bit of the ‘wheeler dealer’ in me.
For me, this has not been solely about getting by financially because of the pandemic. This has been a way of life since I moved into my flat in 2018. Whilst I moved out of my work studio and started working from home (a saving of nearly £300) a month, it did increase my rent by nearly £200, so there wasn’t much of a saving to be made, plus it has come with other responsibilities like utility bills and council tax which came as part of my rent before. But I also lost a part-time job income when I gave up my studio and that did make a huge dent in my income.
These small savings and cut backs have been instrumental to keeping outgoings down since all those changes happened. My situation hasn’t really been altered by the pandemic, but I think more people who have a frugal mindset and who are in restricted financial situations will start to rely on some of these methods more often to keep budgets in check and satisfy the make do and mend part of their nature.
I do get a lot of satisfaction from the way I manage my money. I don’t find it stressful, but I am not relying on this to survive or to put basic food on the table or a roof over my head. To an extent, I am playing at it. It is not a matter of life and death and I can afford to make it ‘fun’.