Living cheaply

When you suddenly stop receiving a salary after 30 odd years, it feels a bit scary. You find yourself looking at stuff and trying to figure out ways of getting the job done using what you already have around you. There are some costs you can’t avoid, but with some canny planning it is possible to keep these to a minimum. Sometimes a one off investment in something is a good way of saving money long term.

We still have some money in the bank, but are trying not to go through that where possible. Our stuff doesn’t arrive from England until the middle of next week, so we’re living in the house with what we had in the tent and what is around the place. As we planned to be on solar over here, there’s not much coming from the UK that needs electricity.

Our one run of kitchen cupboards was made up of 3 different kitchens, so instead of replacing it, I’ve hand sewed some curtains to replace the odd doors – for the princely sun if €10! Last year in our old house we replaced the kitchen and spent £14k! And I like my €10 cupboards just as much to be fair!

We were delighted to see the previous owner had left us a weed wacker, chain saw and rotivator, but as they have been left standing for years none of them worked. There’s a workshop in town that could repair them for us, but Rog set about doing it himself today – total cost was €4 for s new spark plug, some fresh petrol and half a day – excellent result in my book, as we now have what will eventually be our vegetable garden all ploughed. Rog has also found a myriad of old tools including a massive grim reaper style scythe! With a bit of attention they can be serviceable again soon.

We have a very basic solar system at the moment – we had one 100 watt solar panel and a small 150 watt inverter. We have added one 165 watt panel and upgraded the inverter, but we have much more to do to the system. So at the moment we have light and the ability to charge phones and a battery drill, and that’s pretty much it. We want to wait until we have our residency before we invest in the solar system, so what we have is it for a few months. When we upgrade we want to include a hot water system so the gas boiler will be an emergency back up only, cutting more costs. The fridge currently runs on gas, costing €12 per month, so we need to include the fridge when we plan the new system. Cooking is also gas but I’m not sure I’ll change this. I use a countertop camping type hob which isn’t expensive on the gas, so I think we’ll stick to this and add in a small convection oven to run off the solar, or invest in a gas oven and accept that there will be a monthly gas cost for cooking. I have considered cooking in the open fire, but who wants a roaring fire when it’s 30 degrees outside! The solar system will undoubtedly be our biggest investment, so we need to plan it carefully and shop around – not to be hurried!

And I have been washing the clothes by hand … washing, rinsing and wringing – it took almost a full day each week. So I did splash out €90 on a washing machine – a non electric one with a crank handle – it’s a revelation! I can do the washing now in an hour (quicker than my spaceship modern washing machine back in England) with minimum effort and fab results:

I can wash and rinse in this but still have to wring everything out by hand, so I’ll be adding a salad spinner to the mix to get this done more efficiently – after all, being off grid doesn’t mean living in the dark ages!

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