Now, I know what you're thinking. Outrageous! This is not frugal behaviour At All! You're right, of course, and I'm not going to make excuses, but sometimes you have to spend something, and on those occasions I like to make sure I'm getting the best deal I can.
Good value tea and cake
On my first cafe trip, for example, I could have had a super-duper deluxe parsnip and maple syrup cake, or a giant scone, or an enormous piece of victoria sponge, but instead I chose a 50p oat cookie, and very nice it was too. For lunch my friend and I had the cheapest thing on the menu - Welsh rarebit for £3 each. Our morning out, which lasted well into the afternoon, cost £6.30 for tea, enormous biscuit, lunch, and parking. Not too shabby at all.
My second cafe trip was to Waitrose, and I have a My Waitrose card which means a free cup of tea when you buy something else in the cafe. I believe that even a 25p banana counts as 'something else' but on this occasion I bought my friend a cup of tea, making mine free (or making both 90p each I suppose).
Slightly less interesting: household appliances
This week we also had to replace our vacuum cleaner. We've ruined two cheap ones in the last year or so, hoovering up plaster dust and DIY rubbish and goodness knows what else. Peter is confident that he can repair at least one of them, so if he manages we'll keep that for DIY, but in the meantime I wanted a new one. I'm not particularly houseproud, but even I like to vacuum more than once a month.
After a bit of investigation, thanks to a suggestion from a friend, we looked on Gumtree. We've bought loads of stuff from there, but it just didn't occur to me to look for a vacuum cleaner, so I was delighted when I found a second hand, refurbished Dyson for £30. My floors have never been so clean! And cheaper than our 'cheap' new ones were. Second hand pretty much always wins for me.
Gumtree is my new favourite thing (apart from Freegle, of course - I did check that first...). Our microwave came from Freegle too - always worth a check when something breaks.
Even less interesting: utilities and insurance (yawn)
This month we've also had to renew the house insurance (yes, it's been a thrilling month). Each year I (reluctantly - it really isn't very interesting) follow these instructions from Money Saving Expert. It usually takes about an hour, including finding last year's paperwork, remembering if we've bought anything expensive (usually not), and entering details in various comparison sites (handily, these usually save your details from one year to the next so you just need to check them).
The first time I did this, after the insurance had been automatically renewing with the same company for years, we reduced our annual payment by £650. This year I didn't manage to find anything cheaper than our renewal quote but it's always worth checking. We'll do the same for car insurance - I've always found a cheaper deal for that.
I had to check the gas and electricity deal this month too, as we had a fixed price deal which had come to an end (see, I told you, January has been a hoot from start to finish). There are instructions for comparing suppliers here, which I've done in the past, and you can compare only green electricity suppliers here.
This year we chose to stay with the same supplier - we have a smart meter, and I don't want to faff about changing that (and risking the gas being shut off - again - by someone who doesn't understand that ancient boilers don't have to meet current safety requirements). We're also very happy with our current supplier, Ovo, who have a 100% green electricity tarrif, and pay 3% interest on credit balances, which is higher than our savings account.
Phew, need a cuppa now
I confess that I do find price comparison, particularly of insurance, extraordinarily tedious, and I was most vexed this year when it didn't even yield a saving. But really, what else would I have been doing with that hour? Poking around the internet looking at nothing-in-particular, I imagine. Well worth a bit of concentration, I reckon.