frugal things 1


You can either spend your free time doing unproductive or even wasteful things such as watching TV, shopping, and using £10 notes as toilet paper or you can spend them doing things that will either save or make you money. Maybe this isn’t for everyone but I find myself drawn to things that are more productive anyway (not just in financial terms) as they make me feel happier, like I have accomplished something and am not just frittering my life away. Obviously there is need for downtime in everyone’s lives but for the most part I think people waste far too much time on activities that add little to their lives.

Here are some “productive” things I’ve been up to (or am planning to do) this week.


brewing beer

It was my birthday a couple of weeks ago, and it makes me feel bad when I receive gifts that are a waste of peoples money! So this time I really thought hard and remembered that I had been wanting to brew some of my own beer for aaaaages 1. And, well, it costs at least a bit of money to get the specialised kit to do this. I decided to ask for the following kit from various friends and family:

Thermometer* 2 – for measuring the temperature of the brew, it has to be at a certain goldilocks temperature for the right speed of fermentation (or something)

Swing Top Bottles* – These cost slightly more than normal bottles (I guess you can just save those up for free) but they are reusable and don’t require the purchase of a bottle top capper and bottle tops, so I thought I would give them a go. The thread on this beer brewing forum had mixed reviews but there were enough people on there saying they work fine for me to try them out!

Hydrometer – This is to measure the specific gravity of the brew and apparently this tells you how much alcohol is in it. Exciting stuff!

Beer Kit* – As I’m a total novice I don’t fancy cooking up the hops on my first go so wussed out and got a “beer kit” which is basically just the malt and a pack of yeast. The price seemed very reasonable and it got some good reviews on the brewing forum I checked out. Fingers crossed!

I borrowed a stainless steel bucket and some milton tabs off my mate who has been cooking up some elderflower champagne and insists that if I just cover the bucket with cling film the chances of infection are very minimal. He’s a microbiologist so I am trusting he knows his stuff on that one! 🙂

I haven’t actually started brewing the thing yet but it’s pencilled in for tomorrow night so wish me luck!

If the brew is ready in time for the York meet up I will be sure to bring a few bottles along for others to try, so let me know if you are going and would like to sample a bottle!


switching energy suppliers

We’re not on a horrendous deal right now with EDF but I am constantly being reminded (by them, of all people 3) that there are better deals to be had.

None of them so far really seemed worth switching to as the current deal had a “low carbon” element to it. While that sounds a bit wishy-washy for my liking, it’s better than no low carbon guarantee IMHO. Anyway the email the other day mentioned a green tariff from Ovo, who I’ve kinda wanted to switch to for a while now anyway (I’m not really sure why. Maybe I just like the palindromic nature of their brand name?!). So I checked out their website and found they offer a 100% renewable electricity green energy tariff.

I figure if I could save a few shillings and make the switch to 100% renewables then everyone is a winner!

Obviously I didn’t just get a quote direct through their website… I went via my reliable ole buddy TopCashback* and searched for “Energy switch”. The top amount of cashback was through Simply Switch (£42 for a dual fuel switch) and luckily the Ovo green tariff was on there, so I went ahead, clicked through and made the switch.

I did this on Mrs TFS’s TopCashback account so once we’ve received the £42 and have made it up to the £55 threshold I will cash those out into Tesco Clubcard Vouchers, where we can up to quadruple them in value. A full guide on how to go about this is described in my TopCashback/ClubCard Hack article.

All of this will net us up to £176 worth of goods and services via the clubcard rewards scheme, all for spending 20 minutes of my lunch break switching energy suppliers.


growing some vegetables

frugal things 2

Yea yea so I cheated a bit and bought some pregrown plants. I’ve missed the start of the growing seasons I tells ya! Next year, everything from seed!

As per the beer brewing section, I also asked for some “self watering” pots for my garden for my birthday. I first heard about these on Under The Money Tree’s post here. They are basically pots with a hole in the bottom that sit on top of a water reservoir. You put a porous material through the hole and it draws water up into the soil as and when the plants need it. It’s a simple yet genius idea and they sounded like the perfect solution for a lazy time poor gardener like me.

Please note you can make these sort of things yourself if you wanted to save even more money, I just decided that seeing as I “needed” to think of something for my birthday these seemed to fit the bill very well. I also wasn’t sure where to source the 5 gallon tubs that most home made guides recommend. See ERE’s post on the subject for more information on making your own.

If you don’t fancy making the pots yourself then you can get 8 pots (2 banks of 4) for only £65 here (On amazon it is £80 for 1 bank of 4 so that is a really good deal!)


What productive or frugal activities have you been up to recently ? 🙂


  1. I asked for a few charity donations last Christmas which actually went down surprisingly well, but instead of doing that again I just ramped up my personal donations this month to compensate somewhat.
  2. This page contains affiliate link(s) to amazon, each one is brought to your attention with the ‘*’ denotation. What is an affiliate link you ask?! OK well it’s fairly basic… If you click through and then subsequently buy anything (not just the originally linked product) on amazon I may receive a small fee, which will help to support theFIREstarter blog. The key thing is that it will not cost you anything extra to use these links, although don’t go clicking on them willy nilly just because it may help me! If you think you will find the product/service useful and do click through, then a sincere “thank you” for your support.
  3. They have a Blue+ Price Promise whereby they email you when they find a better deal out there! Hah!