Times are tough and we all need to make our money stretch these days. As the cost of living increases it seems that, come the end of the month, there is always a little less cash left to enjoy life with.
The Living on Less is a section of Debtfree DIGI which looks at ways wise consumers can keep their living expenses down and save funds. We also consider ways to still have some fun for less.
Living on Less is about spotting a great deal and letting others know. It’s about changing our mind set to reflect the reality that times are tough and we need to get savvy.
Sure times are tough but you can still have fun while Living on Less.
When the ancient Incas of Peru felt like downing a cool refreshing pint, they fulfilled this basic human desire by means of their local brew – a corn-based concoction called ‘Chicha’. Probably the most interesting thing about Chicha is the list of ingredients, the principle ones being water, corn and human saliva. Which probably makes you wonder, how desperate for a brewski they had to be to drink this stuff. Then again, if it’s a hot Sunday afternoon and the liquor stores are all closed, and even if they were open it’s the end of the month and beer money is scarce, maybe you can relate. But in this day and age, does a shortage of funds for frothies mean that you’d have to resort to drinking a yellowish liquid that you know someone has gobbed in?
No, it doesn’t!
In fact, with a small up-front investment in some basic equipment and a minor sacrifice of time to read up on the method and do the job, you could cut your monthly beer-bill by a substantial amount and still have a ready supply of the golden nectar at your disposal.
In Europe and the US, home-brewing has long been a well-supported activity, catered to by many outlets that supply the necessary tools and ingredients required. It’s taken some time for the concept to gain a similar following here in SA, but in recent years some enterprising home-brewers have opened on-line supply stores that provide all that is needed to get started, and now more and more beer-lovers are finding that it doesn’t take much to produce a delicious, refreshing brew that makes the common shop-bought lagers taste like chicha.
That was what clinched it for me. I love tasty, well-made beer, and I enjoy the different styles – weissbiers, bocks, ales of all kinds – which usually cost a fair amount in local pubs, especially the imported varieties. However, when I tried my hand at home-brewing I was amazed by the quality of the product that can be had right from the start without much skill or knowledge, as well as the flexibility I had in being able to brew the styles that I enjoy.
Most home-brewers start with kit-brews, which are simply tins of malt-extract already prepared to produce the style of beer you want. Kits are available in a wide range of styles, from India Pale-ales to amber Lagers to rich, dark Irish Stouts. For the beginner, all that is required is to follow the instructions on the tin, which usually involves boiling the contents for around an hour in a pot, then pouring it into a 25l plastic bucket (the ‘fermenter’), adding the yeast packet (supplied with the kit), top-up with cold water and leave it for a week to ferment and produce beer. Then siphon the beer into your bottles and leave for another week, then…enjoy. While this is a very simplified description of the basic method, the product is still fantastic. After succeeding with kits, you might be motivated to try partial-mash or all-grain brewing, which allow you a greater degree of control on the end product, but requires a bit more skill.
How much money do you save? Before you get going you’ll need to buy some equipment. For a simple kit-brew, assuming that you already have some basic kitchen utensils (e.g a stove, a boiling pot etc) your initial outlay could be as low as R450 (includes 25L plastic buckets, plastic airlock, siphon hose, plastic bottles, and your kit). This would produce on average 20L of beer, or 10 six-packs. Given the average six-pack price of R40, your first 20L isn’t saving you much. Except that your next 20L won’t cost you nearly as much because you’ve bought the gear, and only need to spend around R120 on the kit – you do the math.
But what if you’re the sort of fellow who makes a hash of scrambled eggs? Don’t let that put you off – as long as you are clean, patient, and can follow simple instructions, a kit-brew is really hard to get wrong. For an easy-to-follow beginner’s course in home-brewing, I highly recommend starting with John Palmers’ excellent ‘How To Brew’ e-book, freely available on the internet from his own website (www.howtobrew.com). Additionally, check out the local home-brew shops and forums (e.g. www.thebeerkeg.co.za, www.diybeer.co.za), almost all of which are run by keen brewers who are very accommodating and active on the threads.
Get started with these resources and you’ll be brewing your own in less time than it takes to break into a Liquor City. It’s a great hobby, it will save you money and, best of all, you’ll always have a bottle of something to knock back, that doesn’t taste like spit.
I QUITE MY GYM
One Debtfree DIGI reader shares her latest savings tip:
About 5 months ago my husband and I decided that the gym was not working out for us anymore. We were drifting apart for various reasons. We would make it to the gym I’d say minimum twice a month. The drive to the gym would take 5 minutes on a traffic free day. But with the construction of the my citi buses it seemed like we were spending more time in our car to and from the gym than actually enjoying a good workout so as to feel refreshed! After eventually finding parking at the gym we would rush to get in do the walk/run on the treadmill then decided to do some weight training. Again we would have to wait to use certain machines! The greedy gyms have become so overcrowded that even when you are inside this germ infested place you still seem to waste unnecessary time and money (on petrol and sugar filled smoothies which we thought we deserved)
This frustration led to our decision to cancel our gym membership. One of the best decisions this year. My husband and i have found that doing daily 15-20 minute training in the peaceful comfort of our two bedroom flat had contributed To our well-being. Not only have we saved money on petrol and gym fees but we also have more time to be more productive on physical exercise. It’s also made us conscious of being outside and finding activities or exercise outdoors ie. riding bicycles, walking down the road or even going to a run on our beautiful mountain or signal hill! These days when we feel lazy we find ourselves saying ” it’s only 15 minutes and we can do it right here” and immediately feel motivated! Now we use our time energy and money on things that bring us happiness rather than frustration!