GUEST BLOG POST — 6 months of ‘Living Lagom’
At kakeibo we love hearing about stories where people have saved money or really benefited from living frugally.
We recently met Lisa Cole of www.less-stuff.co.uk as part of a social impact Facebook group #MakingGood (https://www.facebook.com/groups/makinggood/). Having read about her inspiring journey into ‘Living Lagom’, we asked if she would be kind enough to write a guest blog post, to review how this new way of living had impacted her life financially over the past 6 months — and here it is for your reading pleasure!
In December 2016 I was invited to become an Ikea Live Lagom ambassador. Ikea are promoting the Danish word ‘Lagom’ which means ‘just right’, or ‘moderate’. Living Lagom in Ikea terms is to live comfortably, waste less and save money. Initially I found it difficult to work out the motive behind the Lagom project. Why would Ikea, who’s remit surely is to sell more stuff, help me save money and spend less? My cynical attitude shifted through the 6 months of the project and I’m amazed at the difference small changes made to our expenditure over 6 months.
Heat and Light
I thought my energy consumption wasn’t bad compared to others although we do wear lots of layers in the winter. I thought it was normal to wrap up in blankets with a hot water bottle to work on the computer. I live with my son and too many cats in a 2 up, 2 down Victorian terrace house with an extension on the back for the kitchen and bathroom. I’ve taken a door out and removed a bit of wall so there is no barrier to the arctic wind that whistles from front to back during the winter. I’d dismissed the idea of heavy curtains because they block out precious light. I had old style incandescent bulbs in my dimmer lights and having once tried an LED bulb decided they were too bright and harsh and I couldn’t live with them. Grumpy and biased and bribed with £300 from Ikea I slowly started to come round to a different way of doing things.
Blocking out drafts
It is oh so obvious to stop the wind getting into the house, now I’ve tried it. I put a curtain at the front and back door. The one at the front is on a swinging rail and can be moved back out of the way. The back door curtain can be taken down for the summer. Truth be told, I hate and resent them but they do make the house warmer. The most shocking difference to our warmth and comfort has been with a draft excluder that fits under the front room door. I made it wide, with a flat section in the middle so it slides under the door and opens and shuts with it. There is an inch high gap at one side of the door and stopping that made a remarkable difference.
Just before the end of the winter I had a CHEESE survey done. Cold Homes Energy Efficiency Survey Experts came round with thermal imagery equipment and scanned the entire house for cold spots. I suspected that most of the heat went out the front and back door, but I didn’t know that it was also going out through the gap between floor and skirting boards. A quids worth of sealant will sort out that very easily. The CHEESE survey proved that the curtains and draft excluder really work to keep heat in.
Changing to LED’s
The switch to LED’s was a painful and steep learning curve. I can talk and think in terms of wattage, 100w being bright and 40w being dim, but LED’s are rated on their colour temperature and lumen output, not the amount of energy they suck out of the cables. I did what felt like hours of nerdy lightbulb research to work out that I needed warm coloured lights (lower lumens) in most of my house and bluer high lumen lights in the work area. I found out that you can’t just plug a dimmable LED into an old system, the old dimmer switches won’t be able to cope with the low wattage needed. You can’t use a dimmable LED bulb in a non dimmable system either, they flicker and give out a migraine inducing strobe effect. I replaced 2 dimmer switches and changed all the bulbs in the house to LEDs. The first electricity bill I had after the LED changeover showed a 26% drop in electricity consumption from the year before. Sadly this didn’t reflect in the bill, which stayed the same, so I think that means my electricity cost went up by 26%. I’m astounded by the huge difference changing to LED lightbulbs has made to how much electricity we use. Because I planned out the lighting system to fit the way we use the house better, the whole place feels brighter when I need it to. If you change one old style 100w bulb to a 6w LED you are going to save so much money it is worth replacing them. If you have the coiled energy saving bulbs it is more cost efficient to wait until they die, then change to LED’s. Please visit this post to see if changing to LED bulbs will save you money.
Cost of changing to LED’s £150, saving in first 6 months £75.
Useful little lights
Possibly my favourite lighting solution from the past 6 months are little automatic lights. They fit in the palm of your hand, take 4 (rechargeable) batteries and come on when anyone walks near them. We have one in the bathroom so my son doesn’t leave the main light on all night. There is one under the shelf that goes above my kitchen counter so I can see what I’m cooking. We have one on the stairs and one in a dark cupboard. They come on when the cats go near too so I’m hopeful that burglars would think the house is occupied when it’s not. Including batteries they cost £10 each but we have had months without needing to keep a main light on at night because of them.
Cutting down disposables
My weekly shop used to include a 6 pack of water in sports topped throwaway bottles. I’d generally go for value priced but even spending £1 a week on them is £52 in a year. That does not include picking up a bottle of water from a shop when I was out and about. I set myself a personal goal to give up the throwaway bottles in December and I haven’t bought a single one since. I have a 500ml sports topped stainless steel bottle for the car and a smaller one for my handbag. I’ve been caught thirsty in town once and used that as an excuse for a nice coffee and proper glass of water instead of buying a new plastic bottle of water. In 6 months I’ve saved at least £30 by not buying single use water bottles. The stainless steel bottle I have was not cheap but it does keep the water nice and cool and has a lifetime guarantee. There are many budget alternatives to my posh one and all you have to do is remember to fill it. Most coffee shops, bars and pubs are very happy to fill water bottles for you.
Cost of stainless steel water bottles £25, saving in first 6 months £30
Less food waste
Having just an inkling of what you are going to eat this week can save you a fortune. If you pair that with knowledge of what you have in the cupboards and fridge/freezer before you go shopping you are on a winner. It helps me to have a magnetic notepad and pen on the fridge. When I run out of something it is easy to write it down for the next time I shop. I buy groceries for the week by searching out protein sources first and I start at the reduced section, amending my list if I find anything on it cheaper. Since the Lagom project I’ve been doing more bulk cooking and freezing. I can make a soup or tomato sauce in the slow cooker and freeze it in portions for really easy meals later in the month. The key to all of this is making lists and labelling food so you don’t have to eat mystery meals from the freezer. If you garden, compost bins are a brilliant way to get more out of your waste food but it is fun to see what you can do with leftovers first.
My weekly food bill goes down by around £20 when I am organised.
Growing veg all year round
I like fresh salad but when I buy bags of it from the supermarket, I’m usually left with a bag of soggy green stuff in the fridge at the end of the week. This was costing me at least £78 a year (for £1.50 bags of salad). I can grow salad outside in the spring and summer, and some winter green stuff but I needed light to grow salad indoors all year round. Last year Ikea started selling indoor hydroponics units. They fit on a shelf and have a light specially designed to grow leaves so they are perfect for salad. They are not cheap, mine would have cost £75 and the running costs are £14 a year because the light has to be on 16 hours a day. If I had bought the unit it wouldn’t be paying back in salad savings until next year. You can save money on the Ikea unit though and just get the bare bones to get it up and running for £33. The pay off is fresh salad all through the winter and no more soggy messes in non recyclable bags. The extra bonus is that the light is so bright we don’t need to keep any main lights on at night now.
Initial cost £75 — running cost £14 a year, saving £78 a year
We had a great time with the Lagom project and I’m grateful to Ikea for the opportunity to be involved. I didn’t think we were doing too badly before we started to make tiny changes but I’ve saved both money and time, while being kinder to the planet. The most impact was made by changing to LED’s and it was well worth the hassle working out which ones we needed. If this has inspired you at all I’ve compiled a whopping big list of 50 ways you can live Lagom. I have learned that you don’t need to make expensive changes to see radical improvements in comfort and energy savings.
Lisa Cole is an author and blogger at www.less-stuff.co.uk.
Her book “From Piles to Files, Easy ways to sort out your paperwork in 5 days or less” is available on Amazon.