The Truth about Frugalwoods is one of my all-time highest read blog posts. As this is a topic you all like to read about, I’ve been doing some more digging. I have even shocked myself with what I’ve pulled up about them this time – hold onto your hats people!!! I share this because I want to warn others to be very careful where and from whom you take advice, not just on the internet but in real-life too. Some close family members were recently duped out of their entire retirement and inheritance from someone purporting to give ‘financial advice’. Not only should you check out what you are being told, but also their background. Do they have qualifications to advise you? Insurance? Does it all add up?
I had heard some rumblings on the internet that the Frugalwoods are not being truthful about their income. All you ever read on their blog is that they had good jobs when they were working, in the not-for-profit sector and they make out that they are now ‘retired’ in the country. Well, everyone knows about working for a charity in Britain – most people would be lucky to be paid the National Minimum Wage. But even higher up the career ladder, you will not be getting rich. I guess we could probably lump together the Public Sector as not-for-profit, as the NHS for example, certainly does not pay most of its staff well either. A nurse starts out on around £21,000 a year here in the UK.
So it was a little bit shocking to dig around for Mr Frugalwoods tax returns online, (thanks to this MrMoneyMustache forum thread) and find out that he earnt a mere £209,735 in the financial year ending 2016, as the Executive Director of a company. Not retired at all! According to what I’ve read online, that would make him amongst the top 5% of US earners. But here in the UK that kind of income is only paid to the top 1%. Let’s put it this way – the Prime Minister of Great Britain only earns £150,402! Gosh, it must be nice for all those people who think they’re donating to a not-for-profit company in the USA – to find out how much they are paying their staff. Claiming only to exist to do good and then having people taking home salaries like that!!!! Mind you, there was recently a shocking episode of Dispatches on Channel 4 which uncovered similar ridiculous amounts that Housing Association bosses are making, whilst plenty of people are going homeless. We do live in a very unjust world.
Frugality, when one half of the couple is bringing home that kind of money is a very different thing from the likes of say….Jack Monroe (a single mother trying to exist on benefits with her child and struggling to feed herself). That’s 7x the average £30,000 income for men in the UK. And then Mrs Frugalwoods earns money on top from writing for various sources. I stopped following their blog a while ago, as it just didn’t seem to ring true to me and this confirms my gut feeling once again. Let me know in the comments whether or not you’re going to continue reading their blog.
Minimalism is hitting the UK, with Millennials spending in excess of One Billion Pounds less on clothing last year. With firms such as M&S, French Connection failing to turn a profit and High Street stalwart Jaegar going into administration – it really seems that the tide is beginning to turn. Fashion is just not in fashion any longer!
So what exactly are UK shoppers spending their money on instead? The answer is experiences. The High Street chains are now getting in on the act aiming to flood you with a choice of ‘shopping experiences’; with nail bars popping up in Superdrug. Mintel reports that people are spending much more money on going out and eating out. Retailers are looking for ways to encourage people to come into their physical stores, since the explosion of online shopping. Each is looking to create a unique shopping environment, to encourage you to part with your cash.
Next are planning to incorporate florists within their stores, along with upmarket restaurants and a Prosecco Bar. River Island has a style studio, complete with a personal shopper. They will whisk you into a VIP area, ply you with Prosecco and then you’ll get to try on lots of personally recommended products. Trainer retailer Superga has introduced artists into store, so that you can select a trainer and have the artist paint it for you. Topshop have employed virtual reality in their stores, to take things to a whole new dimension. Their Oxford Street store has recently had a virtual water slide installed which includes a virtual whale – the experience is called ‘Splash’! Along with pumping the smell of suncream into the air. It’s all to promote their swimwear range.
Oasis have ‘Saucer and Spritz’ cafes in some stores now; offering cake, champagne, cocktails, afternoon tea and Unicorn Toast (no I don’t know what that is either!?!) Activewear brand Sweaty Betty offers free in-store exercise classes. Beware though – obviously these brands still want to actually sell you stuff. These exercise classes will not only take place in-store, so everywhere you look, you will be exposed to temptation. But the instructors will not only be looking svelte and toned; they will of course be clad from head to toe in Sweaty Betty! These are the new lifestyle ambassadors, also put forward through online associations with lifestyle bloggers. All in a bid to help push their stuff.
What do you think of this change? I have mixed feelings about it because I know there is an underlying motive. However, it does at least encourage people to acquire less (in part anyway, depending on the store). I guess I’d just rather see people using their spare cash to more profitable ends, like building community and helping those in need.
EDIT: September 2018 – I’ve stopped using this site as it’s now taking almost 2 years to receive a £50 payout, despite doing almost every survey they send me. In my eyes, that’s a ridiculously low return and they’ve added in a lot of ways to take more of your time and effectively get extra info for free.
YouGov is another survey site, although it’s more of a slow burner for me, as it takes me about 1 year to work up to the £50 needed to receive a payout. Most of the surveys are either related to the UK Government and politics, or ITV. Occasionally they also have product surveys. I guess that’s because of their major clients?
They regularly send out email links to surveys which pay usually from 50 points upwards. The great thing is that most of their surveys are short 5-7 minutes, some 20 minute surveys and occasionally a longer one for 45 minutes to 1 hour (usually when you watch and rate a TV programme).
You need to be careful at the end of the survey not to click to enter the prize draw (unless that’s your thing) and keep your points in your account, so you can withdraw them as cash. Personally I’d rather have cold, hard cash than a ‘chance’ at a prize! I’ve never had a problem receiving payment. But details of the prize draw can be found here if that’s your thing, there are 5 cash prizes each month and then some bonus points. I feel that the chances of winning are small, given that they claim to have 800,000 UK respondents. If you got 50 points for completing a survey, I believe that would equate to 50 entries into the draw.
Sometimes their surveys require you to watch a to programme, either from a video link or occasionally in real-time, in which case you need to download some software onto your smartphone in advance. But they email you about this in plenty of time and with full instructions. It’s quite nice being paid to watch TV and rate it, unless it’s an awful programme (which it often is in my opinion, but then I’m not a massive fan of ITV!!!) But then, at least you can tell someone that you hate it!
You must be over 16 years of age and reside in the UK to sign up. There may be a YouGov panel in your country, since they do operate worldwide, so I’d advise you do an internet search.
OK, so it’s only a small selection but it’s a start. Over the last few months I’ve been able to cement a new shopping routine into my life. I incorporate buying fruit and vegetables each week at one of the local green grocers. I buy my eggs at the local butcher where I can re-use the egg box, as he keeps a big wicker basket of eggs in-store. I recently purchased these 2 stainless steel canisters at a charity shop (I’d been looking for ages!) So now I can take these to my local whole foods store and they fill them directly from their big bins. They have dried fruit, nuts and spices loose. I wish they sold more, but they package all their loose flours, rice etc into plastic cellophane bags 😦 As yet, I haven’t been able to persuade them otherwise. I hope that leading by example may change their opinion over time, as I recently found another lady is shopping there to break the plastic habit 🙂 This is easier than trying to take glass Kilner jars, as they are heavy and liable to break. I tend to park my car out of town and walk a good mile to the store with my shopping trolley, so I don’t need the extra weight.
I’m not perfect and I’m still trying to establish these new habits. Sometimes I forget to buy something and end up having to get it at the supermarket. However there are still quite a lot of vegetables that you can buy sans-packaging there too. Like onions, garlic, carrots, leeks, broccoli and more! The big plus point for me is just how much cheaper it is to buy food this way. I am literally shaving ££ off my shopping bill, presumably because I’m no longer (surreptitiously) paying for packaging.
There are still many, many (most) things in the UK that in my area are impossible to buy unpackaged so we still have a long way to go. I’d have to travel an hour to my nearest city in order to find a store that sells more food in bulk. Next time I go, I will stock up!