Exchanging Christmas presents

Christmas presents are such a difficult subject. I feel very lucky that my partner and I pretty much never started giving each other presents at Christmas. If I see something he’ll like, I either buy it for him and give it to him straight away, or I mention it to him to see if he genuinely would like it. Easy-peasy. Almost no consumerism, and no unnecessary or unwanted ‘stuff’. I do actually have a small present for him this year, but only by accident. It’s just a small thing that he can’t actually use until next year, so there’s no harm in boxing it up for Christmas day as a little treat!

The only people I really exchange gifts with are my parents. I’ve tried telling them I don’t want anything, but that means that I tend to get a large quantity of ‘little things’, many of which are very lovely, but some of which I inevitably don’t use or am unlikely to want, and often all of which I don’t actually need. I’ve tried asking for money (towards specific things), but it doesn’t always work very well, and I feel awkward. Particularly if I have to remind the person they said they’d give me some cash! Ack, no thanks 🙂

I love receiving the care and thought that the gifts represent – particularly as I know that my parents will have spent time thinking about me, and considering things, and I know that sometimes they really enjoy picking out things for me. But I am trying to reduce consumerism by/for me, so I don’t really enjoy receiving things I don’t really need that much.

So as a response, I’ve shifted back towards asking for specific things. Usually these are things I’ve thought about getting, and decided to get. Things that are either ‘needs’ or only just on the side of ‘luxury’ – not so much that I will feel guilty. There’s always the chance I won’t get exactly what I want as a gift, but I think it works out well overall.

In exchange, I make a lot of effort to ask for things my parents actually want. I get the impression that they also save up things to ask me for! I suspect I am not the best at buying presents, particularly for my mother – my idea of what is useful, pretty or cool does not align very well with hers! So I am very keen for them to tell me what they want. I even force myself to buy what they ask for, even when I find something similar but better (in my mind!) or I think it’s a bit useless. That’s part of the gift, right? It’s not what I want to buy, but what they want to receive.

Ultimately, I do hope one day we can stop exchanging substantial Christmas gifts. A favorite book, or piece of music, or special box of chocolates would be more than enough. Just a little thing to show we’re thinking of each other, but not the larger stack. I have to admit, I just don’t like spending the money, either, not as part of the orgy of consumerism that is Christmas, and particularly not when I suspect stuff will just be thrown away after a few months. But then we’re coming right up against a much bigger problem – what to do when people you care about and are close to have views on consumerism that are so far away from your own? That’s a thorny problem that I am definitely not ready to think about during Christmas!

Exchanging gifts the way you want to comes down to communication, and being brave, and ultimately, to compromise. If people want to give, you can’t stop them, but you can guide them. You can talk about why you want something, about why you don’t want other things. And you can be patient. I figure sooner or later, me and my parents will get there 🙂

Exchanging Christmas presents

Compromising on being Green and buying a dishwasher

I’ve never had a dishwasher anywhere I’ve lived. Despite living in lots of shared houses and flats, and despite having my own place for quite a few years, I’ve always assumed they were bad for the environment and unnecessary.

Ultimately, I guess they are. They’re massive hunks of plastic and metal which take lots of energy to be made, and lots of energy to be recycled when they’re done, and they’re made halfway across the world and shipped via massive oil guzzling ships and trains and trucks. They need electricity to run, when I could just do the dishes myself with my own energy. At least the water use is damn good now – six litres for an ‘eco’ wash is pretty impressive, when my own sink takes more than that and would need to be refreshed at least twice if not three times to do all the dishes that fit in a dishwasher.

However, even with that in mind, and even with the fact I hate buying new things and I hate creating waste… today I did buy a new dishwasher. There’s a bunch of reasons. My partner is not great at doing the washing up without reminding, and I absolutely hate having to do that. I also hate having to do loads of washing up, and I feel like I’m never defeating the massive pile on the side. But perhaps what’s really tipped me over the edge on buying a dishwasher, is that I’ve been diagnosed with osteoarthritis in both my hands. So washing-up is quite pleasant really, because the hot water does ease the pain. But at the same time, I’m very aware that there isn’t any getting better with this condition. The bones will slowly degrade and the pain will get worse. And frankly, if I have limited usage out of these mitts, I don’t want to waste it on washing up!

So I did my research, read a lot of reviews, went around a lot of websites, and bought a new dishwasher. After all the hours, days, of faff when we bought second hand fridge-freezers, I just don’t have the mental fortitude to go through that again. Particularly as my partner will have to alter the kitchen worktops and plumbing to fit the dishwasher, as this is the first time our house has ever had one. I didn’t intend it this way, but it also turns out that this weekend is a rather good one for buying consumer goods – what with ‘black Friday’ being two days past – so I did get a discount and I could buy it from John Lewis and get an extra year’s guarantee. Frugal, if not green.

It feels a bit of a defeat to spend £325 for a machine that basically does what I feel like I should be doing myself. But frankly, I think it will be good not only for my body, but for my brain – I really get down when the house is dirty and messy, and piles of washing-up on the side do not help. So here’s to treating myself I guess! Let’s just hope I can make the thing last many, many years. I guess sometimes you have to compromise on your Green hopes, to make life livable.


Compromising on being Green and buying a dishwasher

Friday’s Green and Frugal Five

The problem with November is that it’s the month where you have to pay for all the things you are planning to do in December for Christmas (book tickets to events, dinners, trains, transport etc etc). And joy-o-joy, my car has just refused to start and will likely need towing to the garage this week. And the cat got attacked by another cat and needed £90 of vet treatment last week. Ahhh…. the winter.

At times like this, I am deeply grateful that we are frugal, and save, and that I know we can afford these surprise costs without anything bad happening. And it makes me want to celebrate the few frugal things I have managed this week…

  • The NHS got me covered, with a free consultant appointment just ten days after being referred. Couldn’t imagine life without the NHS.
  • Treated to a free dinner in the city. Had to pay transport to get there…but made people happy and the wine was very, very nice!
  • Treated to lunch and the cinema in the city by my mom, which was absolutely lovely. Bumped into some old friends (recognised their voices when we say down next to them in the cinema!) and went back to theirs for tea and a catch up, all free and wonderfully serendipitous.
  • The car may have broken down, but we just did a big food shop, and there’s plenty in the cupboard, fridge and freezer that will keep us going quite a while without feeling too desperate to buy the more expensive local groceries.
  • Fanfiction. It’s endlessly inventive, fascinating, and easy to read. When I just want to unwind for an hour in the evening, it’s free and easy and I just don’t have to think too hard. Honestly, totally great right now.

As always, inspired by Katy’s posts on the Non-Consumer Advocate.

Friday’s Green and Frugal Five

Friday’s green and frugal five

What a month! I got back from holiday into one of the busiest periods of the year at work, and was asked to start take on the tasks of the new role I’m moving into in early November early. It’s been a hell of a month, frankly. 

  • My boss did give me carte blanche to work as much overtime as necessary, so at the end of this month I will be submitting a pay request for a straight 20 extra hours. Not to be sniffed at!
  • I renewed the car insurance, but with a new provider for less and through Compare the Market, so we have another year of buy-one-get-one free cinema tickets on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Honestly we probably save £100 a year doing this, plus the £50 we save on renewal by switching to a new provider!
  • Used the above this week, and treated ourselves to ice cream by packing our own spoons and hand towel and buying a tub at the nearby supermarket, which halves the cost and enables us to get better icecream.
  • Our housemates freezer needs defrosting, so we’re eating down ours so that there is room for their things. We haven’t spent a lot on groceries recently.
  • Haven’t put the heating on yet, just making sure we keep doors closed. I have a blanket by the sofa for when I get cold late in the evenings, and another on the bed.

As ever, post inspired by Katy’s blog.

Friday’s green and frugal five

Friday’s Green and Frugal Five

I’m on holiday! An actual holiday, amazing. It’s inside the UK, which I adore far more than foreign travel, and I’m going to see all the crinkly frankly coastline, ruinous castles and tasty food I can possibly cram into one week. So with that in mind:

  1. Travelled off peak on the trains. I couldn’t get a good advance deal, so still paid frankly extortionate prices for crap, ancient, late trains, but at least I travelled before rush hour.
  2. Packed lunches for work. Boring, but I did it.
  3. Ate leftovers my partner didn’t want. Also boring.
  4. Didn’t put a fan on or give into seasonal but brief desires for an air conditioner. Instead, I dragged my partner out to the beach, to paddle in cold water and lie on cool pebbles watching the sun go down and the stars come out. Free, and unexpectedly romantic. We even walked home.
  5. Did not buy the new rucksack I wanted for my holiday. Making do with an ancient shoulder bag that is now about fifteen years old.
Friday’s Green and Frugal Five

New Year’s Resolution – August edition

A good month! Fourteen days where I spent absolutely nothing! That’s almost half the month and more than the required eleven to keep up with my New Year’s resolution. Rather a relief after last month’s.

In a more general way, this month I have spent the least of all months so far in 2016. Mwahahah, go me. Well, in part that is because I stopped therapy halfway through the month, and it looks likely I will not start it again in the immediate future. So I should have less fixed outgoings, and I am keen for that to translate into higher savings.

My highest single outgoing category was festival attendance and kit; I bought a new giant (and astoundingly comfortable) camp bed, in addition to the usual petrol and higher food costs of being away. Second highest was medical costs, predominantly therapy but also the cost of a wrist brace for my dodgy right hand.

My partner largely covered groceries this month, so that’s a little misleading (perhaps I should start tabulating their costs as well?), but I spent nearly £85 on eating out this month, which I’m less pleased with. This is predominantly coffee when out in town, and lunch when I’ve failed to bring it to work, and food and coffee on the road to festivals. This is definitely an area I could work on, but one I struggle with the most. I find it really hard at lunch time, particularly if we’re just back from a weekend away and there’s nothing in the cupboards. Trying to avoid animal products doesn’t help either – there’s no handy cheese in the fridge that you can just stuff between two pieces of bread. Ah well, something to try and stay on top of in September.

After that we have a bunch of small costs; a tank of petrol, a couple of trips to the cinema, and an emergency taxi I had to take due to being a chump. All together, pretty good! This is good as I am on holiday in the coming month, and I still have a half-broken phone that needs replacing. But let’s leave it on a high note – fourteen days consumerism-free! Yes!

New Year’s Resolution – August edition

Friday’s Green and Frugal Five

Well, I’m currently not feeling great, but at least the sun is shining and the U.K. is enjoying some good summer weather. It is also excellent washing-drying weather too, and that’s good for saving energy and money!

  • I have finished therapy! I have never regretted paying for it, but it is very nice to be able to reclaim that £40 a week. It’s going straight into savings, but I did use it as an excellent excuse for lunch out on Wednesday.
  • I visited all of our local charity shops (and that’s a lot!) and didn’t find anything I needed. I have to admit to being diassapointed, but that is how it goes sometimes. Charity shopping is a bit hit and miss. I am pleased I didn’t bring any impulse buys I didn’t need home.
  • I have nothing planned this weekend but a few hours at my voluntary job. This should mean that I don’t spend very much (if anything).
  • Letter from the water company came this week, telling us they need to reduce our monthly payment by £10 due to our low consumption. We have built up £230 in credit with them! Our four person household consumes just two litres a day more than the average two person household.
  • Even though I have been forgetting to make my breakfasts the night before, I have made sure we have bread in the cupboard and I’ve been making jam sandwiches in the mornings. I have had a couple of lunches out, and bought one breakfast, but it wasn’t a total disaster. Gotta keep working on this, as packing lunches and breakfasts is such a relatively easy way to save money.

As ever, this post is inspired by Katy’s blog and readers.

Friday’s Green and Frugal Five