When I started writing, twelve weeks ago, it was really just as a journal for myself. I wanted to see how hard it would be to cut back on my shopping habits, and to start living within my means every … Continue reading
Author Archives: @TheWritingHalf
If you’re anything like me, you finished your Christmas shopping last month. My presents are wrapped, and cards written, just waiting for the Big Day.
I realise, however, that some people don’t do all of their present-buying in October, and I know that some of my friends are struggling with the amount of “compulsory” December spending.
In my office alone there are two Christmas lunches (£25 and £14), and an ice-skating trip (£18) as well as a general Secret Santa (£10) and a bargain one for just our cohort (£1).
That’s £68, before we even get a drink.
Then there are presents for family and friends. This year I’ve cut down on gifts for other people; I’ve bought things for my parents, my little sister and my godson, but nothing for the extended family. None of my friends are getting presents either. What a tight-fisted shopaholic, hey?
Well, I’m not expecting presents from those I don’t buy for. It’s a mutual agreement.
I stopped giving and sending out Christmas cards a while ago, too. It seems like a generational shift. None of my friends post me cards, but I still get them from aunties and uncles, godparents and long-time-no-see family friends.
These days the price of a stamp is surely prohibitive for most people. A pack of 10 Oxfam Christmas cards is £3.99. Even if you sent everything second class, at 50p a go, the stamps for those cards will cost you a fiver. So that’s £9 for cards to ten people. Supposing I sent a card to each of my Facebook “friends” that would set me back £221.
As for gifts, my advice is to set your budget before you shop. Don’t go rushing out to the shops on Christmas Eve, desperate to find something. The sales assistants know you’re desperate.
A couple of my favourite sites for Christmas prezzies:
Unless you’re shopping with me in mind, in which case:
Day 79: Hymn 317
Day 78: You know you want to…
Day 77: Romantic Christmas Break for Two…
I’m trying to sell on this hotel booking because I can no longer use it. Sorry for spamming my own blog! If you’re interested, click on the link underneath. Thanks.
Day 76: The 8p Voucher
So, today I got handed three different vouchers with my supermarket receipt.
9p off per litre of fuel when you spend £20 on toiletries and healthcare
To make a saving: buy more than 222 litres of fuel (in one go, of course)
8p off per litre of fuel when you spend £20 on clothing
To make a saving: buy more than 250 litres of fuel (in one go, of course)
My car holds 47.7 litres. So I’d have to bring along 5 and a quarter of my little cars to make my money back (assuming I’m not that into the supermarket’s fashion range). Who has 5 and a quarter cars?!
Literally just an 8p voucher.
Come on, supermarkets. . . Are you just trying to bamboozle people who aren’t accountants?! I don’t actually want twenty quid’s worth of toiletries, or of supermarket-branded clothing! I certainly don’t want to have to bring my own fuel tanker along to the petrol station to just break even on your super-generous offers. . .
Your vouchers are going straight in the bin. Stop wasting paper, stop wasting my time, stop giving me stupid 8p vouchers.
Day 75: Coppers
On Saturday I picked up my Tardis money box (okay, it WAS my little sister’s, before she upgraded to a pin-code locked one) and took it to the supermarket. Before I left the house I emptied all my coat pockets and coin purses of small change. I even stuck my hand through the ripped lining of my handbag and pulled up some silver. Even those little storage spaces in my car yielded a couple of coins.
It took a while to tip them all into the machine, but when I’d finished I had a voucher for £37.27. Pretty good, huh?
I paid in an old cheque, a tenner I’d found in a pocket in a rarely-used bag and the change I’d poured into the counter. Altogether I had £76.37. Wow. Given I’d had a minus number in my account, money that I hadn’t noticed not having suddenly transformed my finances.
So how about running your fingers down the back of the sofa? You might have enough to set up your own arcade attraction. . .
Day 71: Control Freak
Are you taking me seriously?
I’ve said it before, but I’d like to reiterate that an addiction to shopping is similar in many ways to other well-known addictions. It’s not fun, or light-hearted or even to be smiled upon and indulged by others. It doesn’t come from nowhere; there’s always a reason.
This is not just buying the odd thing you don’t really need, or a big shopping splurge. Being a real shopaholic means that your life is totally consumed by it. Addicts devote huge amounts of time and energy to it. Some are bargain-hunters, and spend hours hunting for the cheapest version of a product. Others are serial buy-and-return types. Still others never actually buy very much at all, but spend so much time window shopping or browsing online that it dominates their life. Of course there are some who do spend in an out-of-control way, buying regardless of product price or bank balance. These people end up in crippling debt, all as a result of their “fashionable” addiction.
Shopaholics are not taken seriously, instead they’re derided or glamorised. Unlike alcoholism or an addiction to narcotics, there is no compassion for those “greedy”, “silly” or “materialistic” (usually) women who over-shop.
“Having more things means enjoying life less.”
– April Benson, PhD
There’s a vicious cycle to the addiction.
When I get upset or stressed out I buy myself a treat (or ten) to cheer myself up. Buying more “stuff” makes me feel like a failure, and rocks my financial stability. I get upset and stressed. I’ve lost control.
I feel rubbish when I lose control; in fact, I’m a control freak. I’m extremely uncomfortable when I’m not able to direct my life, like a play.
Getting dumped, being made redundant or losing a loved one; these are the kind of thing we can’t do anything about. I handle this kind of situation spectacularly badly. I try to find a reason, or some way that it was “my fault”. At least if it’s my fault, that means I can just go back and change whatever I was doing wrong, and then everything will be alright again.
Sometimes the company you work for can’t afford the staff salaries. Sometimes he’s “just not that into you”. Sometimes someone dies before you get a chance to tell them how much you love them. It’s not in your sphere of control; there’s nothing you can do.
When things like this happen, joy and self-esteem are sapped, and I snap. I shop. I think it will bring me joy, boost my self-esteem. Perhaps it will give me back control; over what I look like, what I own. The reverse is true. The cycle begins.
Life’s sometimes like a pressure cooker, and it’s tough trying not to explode.
Somehow, you have to release the tension. Whether that’s through exercise, yoga, meditation or whatever. Just please don’t make the mistake of thinking that a trip to the shops will help. It won’t.
Day 70: Getting on Like a House on Fire
When I was little I had a recurring nightmare. My Mum and I were trying to escape a burning building, while being chased by a scary figure. Several floors up, all the stairways were blocked, but we couldn’t use the lifts. I was, and still am, pretty terrified of fire. I think this is fairly understandable. After all, when out of control, fire is deadly.
Let me ask you, then, the clichéd question. Imagine your house is on fire. Imagine that all humans and animals are safe. In this hypothetical scenario, you can only save three things. What do you go for?
When researching this post, I came across a whole range of different ideas.
In no particular order:
Boxes of trinkets
Baby books (or first pair of shoes, etc)
First or favourite teddy bear
Laptop/ hard drive
Did that give you any ideas? Had you already thought of some of the above?
Obviously, in a real fire, you’d be in a state of panic; I might think to grab my handbag, which contains ID, access to cash, and my mobile phone. Other than that, though, I’d just be concerned with getting out.
There are lots of possessions which are important to me, though, of course.
I have a charm bracelet, which has been added to since my eighteenth birthday. Each charm added represents a milestone or special occasion in my life. Perhaps, with difficulty, it could be replaced, by repurchasing a similar chain and trinkets. Really, though, it wouldn’t be the same.
I also have a few things that belonged to my late, biological, father; his copy of The Lord of the Rings, a bible he gave me for my Christening, a fountain pen he gave to my uncle for his birthday.
Over the years I have created a kind of scrapbook, with letters and cards, and pictures my sister made for me when she was little. This would have to be in my top three!
Lots of my music and photos are now in "the cloud", so my priorities have changed on that score. I suppose that's the reason so many people choose their laptop or hard drive; now that our lives are digitised, it would be a devastating loss, if you didn't have a back-up (outside of the burning house).
Looking around my room, though, I don’t see much that would be irreplaceable.
Bed, printer, alarm clock, cosmetics, clothes? Whatever.
Actually, if I got the "replacement cost" insurance money, I'd have a whale of a time walking around Covent Garden compiling the new contents of my wardrobe. Upgrading to the latest versions of all my electrical goods wouldn't bother me too much either. Equally, choosing new decorations and knick-knacks for my bedroom would be my idea of heaven.
Oh no, look what I've gone and done now! I've potentially made myself look so materialistic that I'd enjoy setting fire to my home!
I'm begging you, please don't think that! Admittedly, I would love being given the opportunity to overhaul my wardrobe, redecorate and refurnish, or invest in a new bookcase full of tomes. I certainly wouldn't give up the irreplaceable things in my life, though. A home holds memories as well as those nostalgic trinkets. Even now that many of our possessions reside in "the cloud", we don't. Experiences like your first bungee jump or sky dive or a gap year travelling can't be replaced (although, to be entirely fair, couldn't be saved from a fire either!).
I don't want you to think that I'm criticising all material possessions; I certainly have my fair share. However, given that my main purpose in writing this blog is to reconsider the way I live, and what I spend my money on, I hope that this thought exercise provides a useful opportunity to consider what is most important to you. It may well be a Kindle, iPad or Playstation, and that's fine, I wouldn't berate you for it!
I also don't want you to think that I'm being all high and mighty, looking down on you. I'm honestly not. I just wanted to point out that some things are replaceable, while others are not.
Mulling on this might influence what I spend my money on. How about you?
Thanks for reading. xxx
Day 68: Helping you to do the things you love for less!
Shopaholic Cuts Back – helping you to do the things you love for less!
I don’t want you to feel too deprived if you’re trying to save, so let me give you a whole load of cheap (or free!) options on how to go out and enjoy yourself, while still looking after the pennies.
You must know about Orange Wednesdays, right? Well, what about everyone else, who can’t afford an astronomically priced cinema ticket? Never fear, I have some options for you.
There are a couple of websites offering free tickets for previews. Show Film First and Tell Ten (website addresses below) ask you to sign up, and will then e-mail you when tickets are available. This means that not only can you afford to go the silver screen once in a while, but you can see brand new films before any of your friends do.
The TasteCard is a good option for anyone who enjoys dining out on a regular basis. You can get up to 50% off a meal, but this can involve eating at anti-social times. Membership for a year costs £80, so it’s worth having a think about whether this would benefit you. Although it seems like a lot to shell out initially, you’d only have to use it on four £40 meals out for it to pay for itself. If you’re not sure whether you’d really use it enough to make it worthwhile, you can always get a month’s trial for free.
Vouchers for individual restaurants are available via MoneySavingExpert. These are updated regularly, though, so check the website often if you’re looking to go somewhere specific. As I write there are deals for Prezzo, Ask, Strada, and many more.
Going for Drink
I’m not going to suggest you go hunting for discount vouchers on alcohol; there are not many around, and for good reason! Still, there are ways to spend less on drinks, if you follow these nifty tips. How about pairing up with friends, to take advantage of Happy Hour 2-for-1 cocktails? Where I live there are loads of cool bars (not just national chains) that do this.
Don’t drink. Okay, this tip is slightly cheeky, I know. But how about alternating between alcohol and mineral water, if you’re on a big night out? If you go out a lot, how about alternating between this and water-only on different nights? Another way to do it is to get an alcohol substitute, such as non-alcoholic wine or beer, or an alcohol-free cocktail. My favourite drink is a virgin mojito, which also conveniently saves me a couple of quid on the rum.
Going to the theatre is my favourite thing to do on a Friday and Saturday night, and the way I do it often makes it cheaper than going for a drink with a friend. I’ll readily admit, being young helps. Living in London, and being under-26, can do wonders for your cultural life. As soon as the National Theatre releases a batch of ticket, I will be pouncing, grabbing the £5 tickets for as many shows as I can. You just have to sign up to their Entry Pass scheme, which not only gives you cheap tickets, but also exclusive access to fantastic workshops and talks.
The Barbican also has a programme for youngsters like myself. “freeB” offers discounts and free tickets. Again, signing up is free, so head to: https://www.barbican.org.uk/eticketing/fbmembership1.asp
As if I haven’t given you enough options already, if you’re under 26, you can also bag one free show per year. Check out this government initiative: http://www.anightlessordinary.org.uk/