Today I though’t I’d run you through our meagre expenses this month, how we live on very little, the coronavirus situation in Crete and rescuing tadpoles. Let me ask you a question. Amidst this coronavirus chaos, have you been spending more or less than usual? Are you quids in, or dipping into your overdraft? Keep reading to find out how we’re living on even less than normal. If you’re incurious and just want to know about the tadpole rescuing, then scroll to the bottom.
Along with everyone else in the world, the coronavirus has scuppered our plans and disrupted normal life. Greece went into strict lockdown on the 23rd March, and for the last five and a half weeks, we’ve been eating far too much food, waking up late and binge watching tv series. In-between the guilt of watching far too much tv, we’ve relished trips to the supermarket, mostly because we get to see the cute cat who hangs outside the shop, but also because we can buy another bar of chocolate. In response to my slight weight gain, I’ve implemented a chocolate rationing rule. I’ve calculated that there are eight rows in a bar, which means that Mr SN and I can eat one row per day, leaving an emergency row for dire situations.
The tourist season should be well under way by now, but instead, all hotels and restaurants are closed and the beaches are deserted. I was due to begin work on the 1st April, at the same little guesthouse I worked at last summer. That date has come and gone, however there’s talk of the hotels reopening in July. Consequently, I’m not able to earn any money at the moment. We don’t qualify for any government payments, either in the UK or in Greece, so we’re being forced to dip into our savings pot. Mr SN is due to travel back to the UK on the 15th July to work for four weeks, but we’re not sure if he’ll be able to get there, or if there will be any work for him.
Planning for the worst…
All in all, we’ve accepted that we may not earn a penny this year. We always plan for the worst case scenario, so if we manage to earn anything, it’ll be a bonus. It’s at these times that we feel so grateful to have no mortgage, rent, loans or debts. We don’t have to worry about missing repayments or having the banks on our case. Additionally, we can survive on a meagre amount of money. Plus there’s the emergency row of chocolate when we want to feel sorry for ourselves.
What we spent this month: April 2020
|What we spent:||Costs||Total|
|Food shopping and pet food||€111.42|
|A rug and car seat covers||€20|
|Plants, compost and a pomegranate tree||€24.90|
|Running the car||€54.90|
|Running the bike||€11.34|
*We haven’t received any bills lately, so we’re estimating based on previous bills.
I’ve broken the expenses into two sections; ‘what we spent’ is money that actually left our account, whereas the ‘living costs’ have either been paid or will be paid in the near future. For the sake of transparency and being realistic, I thought I’d log the living costs too. So, as you can see, we only needed €327.94 to live this month. Although it’s very little, it’s being funded from our rainy day fund, which we always keep for just this reason.
Let me outline what we did this month to spend so little:
Free bamboo canes:
We were on the look out for bamboo canes for growing climbing beans. Fortuitously, on the way to the shops, we came across some growing by the river. We pulled over and stashed a few in the car. We love anything natural and free. Did we have a gladiator-style bamboo battle at the side of the road? You bet.
We’re lucky to have access to a friends piece of land. She no longer uses it anymore, and so we’re allowed to pick the fruit. We don’t buy oranges, as the trees on her land are dripping with fruit. Moreover, they taste divine.
We haven’t bought vegetables since the lockdown started. Instead, we’re living off of wild greens, salad in the garden, and gifted homegrown vegetables. It won’t be long until our garden is producing lots of vegetables, so I’m hoping we can avoid buying any vegetables for quite a while.
Lending and sharing with friends and neighbours:
The positive outcome from the coronavirus has been the opportunity to get to know our neighbours better. Everyone is around, rather than being at work and school. This month we’ve lent out our cement mixer in return for hair clippers, and swapped homegrown food with our neighbours. We’ve given away walnuts, salted lemons, and marmalade in return for broad beans, eggs, dinner etc.
You may have already read my post on solar cooking, in a nut shell, we rarely use the electric cooker or kettle. This keeps our electricity bill very low. Additionally, we charge our phone every day with a solar panel, and our hot water is heated by the sun too.
Repurposing and reusing:
Mr SN has been using his extra time to focus on making villa Theodora the home we always dreamed of. Over the last few weeks he’s been converting half of our wood store into a utility room. Almost everything was left over from our villa renovations, plus a few up-cycled items. It’s given us the perfect place to store our shoes, coats, olive oil, jams and chutneys, chicken feed etc.
We rarely spend money on activities, instead we go for walks, cycle rides, swims etc. This month we went for a very interesting walk with a couple of new friends from the village. They took us to the church of Paraskevi, where we then followed the river. We admired old abandoned house and saw hollows in the stone, where the women used to wash clothes in the river.
Home cooked meals:
We rarely buy junk food, fast food or fizzy drinks. Meals are cooked from scratch and are healthy and wholesome. We treat ourselves to a packet of crisps or a bar of chocolate from time to time, but on the whole, ingredients are purchased in their raw form, and cooked. This saves a lot of money, and food tastes far better. If we want a lemon drink, we pick a lemon, if we want orange juice, we pick oranges.
We feed chickens on scraps from the kitchen:
All of our compostable scraps are saved in a bowl and given to the chickens. Anything they don’t want is then put on the compost heap. They really look forward to scratching through the scraps looking for tit bits they want.
Drying herbs from the garden:
We grow herbs in the garden, and have begun to dry them for storage. So far we have mint, oregano and wild chamomile stored in glass jars. We use them for tea and in cooking. My new favourite thing is oregano tea – I know, it sounds strange, but I love the taste.
We don’t buy cleaning products:
I make our cleaning products for the house. I don’t want to spray toxic chemicals all over my home and would rather go for a natural approach. This also saves us a lot of money as the ingredients are really cheap and last for ages. Our home is sparkling clean, even if I do say so myself! I want to share our cheap eco cleaning recipes and methods with you in detail, so stay tuned for a dedicated post.
I sew up Dora-dog’s toys:
Dora-dog LOVES destroying her toys. She particularly enjoys removing the stuffing from the middle and leaving the remnants strewn all over the floor. Instead of throwing them away every time, I wash them and sew them back up. This means that the same toys have lasted years.
What we didn’t do this month:
We didn’t put any money on our Greek phone. The Greek phone companies take a high percentage of your credit in tax, and any unused credit is also taken. Seeing as very few people ring or message us on our Greek phone, instead, we use the internet on our English phone to use whatsap or messenger.
We avoided buying any fuel this month, as we weren’t really allowed to go anywhere. The fuel we purchased, rolled over from last month, and we still have plenty to keep us going.
Enough about money and the coronavirus, what about those tadpoles. One afternoon, a friend invited us for a cuppa. The April sun was hot but very welcome. As we sat sipping on tea, we admired views over neat olive groves, sprawling villages and the sea in the distance. In the next garden an apple tree was smothered in pale pink blossom and the geraniums were a brilliant pink. Two orange trees stood side by side, one surrounded by falling rotting fruit, the other bare of orange baubles. The swimming pool, devoid of sparkling water, had a few feet of murky green sludge and an impressive amount of mosquito larvae. On closer inspection, we discovered that there were also tadpoles and a frog. Our knowledge on amphibians are lacking, so it may well have been a toad.
Depending on your preferences, there’s nothing more exciting than watching tadpoles turn into frogs, and we have a pond in desperate need of wildlife. As the sun glared down, we wrestled with a net on a long pole, and re-homed the little wiggling creatures (along with a few bits of floating polystyrene) into empty pickled beetroot jars.
The journey back to villa Theodora involved a slow tentative drive with me on the back holding two glass jars full of wriggling pond life. I think the frog/toad in particular liked the village tour, but it was hard to gauge the reaction of the tadpoles. We passed the little church, a flock of sheep, a vineyard and ferocious sounding guard dogs with wagging tails. It was a short but concise drive, interspersed with me reprimanding Mr SN for driving over a bump too fast.
We made it home without any broken glass and in the late afternoon sun, we set our little amphibians free. They swam with renewed freedom, into the depths and out of sight, to the soundtrack of born free.
So there you have it. This month has been frugal, yet full of home improvements and the larval stages of an amphibian. Do you have any money saving tips? Has the coronavirus made you think of your expenses too? Have you eaten too much chocolate as well? Oh, and lastly, please can you help us to identify whether this is a frog or a toad?
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