Spending Experiment

Consumers on strike for 2012.

One month down…

So, it’s the end of January, and how have we fared in the Spending Experiment household? Well, I have certainly had confirmed what I already knew – just because you aren’t buying anything doesn’t mean you stop spending. A tax bill, car insurance, kaput washing machine and root canal surgery meant that I actually spent a painful amount of cash on just trying to stand still. I don’t even want to put the actual amount into words because it will make me cry (again).

Other than that, I’ve found not buying anything quite liberating. Shopping is way quicker and cheaper when you have a list and a mission not to look at anything other than groceries. Strolling through the city centre is now more about counting pigeons and hugging bollards with The Boy than gazing in shop windows. I’ve even managed to avoid all the sad closing-down-75%-off-everything-must-go sales, although there was a little tug towards Past Times and La Senza mid-pigeon count this afternoon.

So, all in all, I think we’re doing OK. The Boy has had a few new stickers (for bribery purposes), and a book (courtesy of Grandad’s unwanted book token), but apart from that, I’m feeling all pure and smug about it.

But we have a great big fat failure in our midst. Not that I ever thought Geek Boy would be able to rein in his desire for “more stuff”, but I’m a little bit gutted that he only lasted till, um, about 2nd January. OK, he didn’t actually spend anything at the woodwork auction, but he went, and that to me shows intention to spend if the opportunity arises. Grrr. And then, oh and then, I found a bag on the sideboard. A bag from the charity bookshop. A bag containing a book. A great big fat failure of a book. A book entitled HTML Complete, 3rd Edition. It will no doubt be added to the big fat pile of failure which will slowly emerge from Geek Boy’s desk over the next few months.

When I suggested this no-spend project, I thought it was all going to be about me overcoming my shopping addiction, but in fact, I think Geek Boy’s hoarding of man-stuff is the real issue, and in February I intend to address his problem ;-) Watch this space…

Winning the Battle?

Well, I’d like to think it’s all down to me and my little one-family protest, but it seems that a whole swathe of the UK population is saying ‘no’ to consumerism and driving down the power of the supermarkets. Tesco has announced massive losses over Christmas, and surely a part of that must be down to people wising up to their marketing methods. I was starting to feel like I was under attack every time I entered the store. Certain things that I bought every week were a different price each time. Last year, the price of a pack of nappies went up nearly £2, then a bit later they dropped it by about 8p and promoted them as part of the Big Price Drop. Is anyone really taken in by this? I used to find the little price per weight cards underneath the items really useful, but now each product has a different criteria. Eg. Jaffa Cakes – xp per biscuit; Tesco’s own Jaffa Cakes – xp per 100g. Unless you take a calculator and a maths graduate with you, how are you supposed to know which is the best deal? And those little yellow cards, which draw your eyes to the fantastic offers of 89p each or “2 FOR £2!” I could go on, but enough has been said by too many lately about how consumers are being poleaxed by the retail giants.

There’s obviously a large movement of people away from what we are increasingly finding distasteful and corrupt. This week I did the big shop in Aldi. Usually I only go in there for parmesan, mussels and welding masks, but we’ve decided that we’d rather our money went to them than to Tesco, so I gave it a go. Well, Aldi – you’ve changed! Actually, it’s not Aldi that have changed, but their shoppers. When I went in on Monday morning it was full of well, women (just a little bit) like me I suppose. Mid-life, mid-income types, with Olivias and Oscars in their trolley, buying smoked salmon and fennel and stuffed olives. The women you’d normally see in Waitrose. In fact, if Aldi started stocking organic baby food Waitrose would be stuffed. And I like Aldi, for the reasons I like Waitrose – nice quality food (especially the chocolate), wide clean aisles, and a calm atmosphere. So, we’re going to stick with it for a while and we’re currently testing their own brand loo roll (big hit), cat food (not so popular, but half the price of branded stuff, so Tiddles will have to lump it), washing powder,nappies and pasta sauce. My bill for a week’s ‘stuff’ came to £26.24, although I have to go and buy Quorn and Kenco decaff from an evil overlord. C’mon, Aldi, start stocking those and I’ll never shop anywhere else again!

On your marks

Well, it’s been a while hasn’t it.  I’ve been a naughty blog slacker, caught up in Christmas and my other writing work.  But today is the first day of our new regime so it seems only right that I get my butt into gear and put down some words.

So, what’s been happening since the last post?  Well, Geekboy and I have had many a discussion about “the rules”, what constitutes essential spending, etc.  And basically, he concludes that anything he takes a fancy to and wants to buy is essential (new colour laser printer, old bits of wood from dead men’s sheds at the woodwork auction [baffled]), whereas anything I want is mere frippery and definitely out of bounds.  Well, that’s me told then.

Being reluctantly in charge of most of the household finances though, it falls to me to make the spending decisions and so I have my own plan of action…

  • Firstly, I’m going to shop at Aldi every other week.  I actually love Aldi so that will be fun.  The hard part will be avoiding the random stuff in the middle of the aisles.  I often get tempted by welding gloves or snow chains.
  • And I’m going to start leaving my purse at home (but not when I’m going out specifically to shop – that would be most annoying.)  I am the world champion in going out to buy a pint of milk and spending £25.
  • Start using the little local shops more.  I can then buy just what I want, while helping our lovely local high street.  Going into Sainsbury’s, while being definitely closer, and probably cheaper, is not economical when I end up buying toys, comics, clothes etc for The Boy.
  • And, I know this sounds a little geeky and sad, but I shall try and record everything I spend.  In the end, this exercise/experiment is to look at my own spending patterns and identify my danger zones.

I think we’re making a good start anyway.  Yesterday I went into town to have my hair cut and I had a quick browse around the shops, thinking I may have a final blowout.  But dy’know, there was absolutely nothing I wanted.  There was a pretty little purse in one of my favourite shops that I would have bought without a second thought last year, but I’m already putting my rules to work.  Yes, it was pretty, but I have a purse that I love already.  Yes, it was cheap, but is the fact that I can afford something really a good reason to buy something?  We went out and bought a new bookcase after lunch, but it was something we needed, had discussed and planned for a long time, and anyway, the rules hadn’t started yet.  And it looks lovely.

Total spend today    £1.49 – bottle of milk.

The first cut

With just one month to go until I consign my purse and cards to the bottom of the kitchen drawer, I am taking small steps to becoming a non-consumer. Today I have been unsubscribing from all the millions of stores I receive emails of seduction from (seemingly every 5 minutes at the moment). So goodbye John Lewis, White Stuff (ouch), Aldi (got to love those Thursday specials!), H&M, Marks & Spencer, and…. yep, you’ve got to go too darling Amazon. Spending is so easy when all you do is follow a link from an email and press ‘buy’. I think just unsubscribing from these harlots can really make a difference to my monthly outgoings. So there, step one completed! Just have to go and make a last purchase of blinkers now for when I’m walking down the High Street.

Why blog?

I’m good at coming up with crazy ideas and schemes, but I’m by no means a finisher. I think this blog will help me sort out my ideas, make things right and proper, and also allow me to ask other people what they think. It’s also a good place to make funny comments about Geek Boy, and get in a bit of mummy-boasting too (though I promise that will be minimal) I’m hoping that writing things down, and being accountable to blog land will help us to keep at it and remain committed to our (somewhat wishy-washy) cause. I’m also going to talk about other stuff when I feel like it, but probably not Michael Gove, because he gets me very very angry and I need to take my super-strength tablets every time his highly-slappable face enters my consciousness.
Oh, and our “experiment” (had to call it that to get Geek Boy on board) doesn’t actually start until 1 Jan 2012, so until then I will be pontificating on all things, and probably doing a lot of shopping.

…or more accurately, the no-spending experiment

So, what we are going to do (along with thousands of others on our bandwagon of frugality) is stop buying stuff, for a year, a whole goddamn 365 days of no shopping.  Geek Boy thinks this will be very easy – for him, maybe.  The only things he ever buys are Private Eye, “components” which have no relevance to my (or anyone elses’s life) and old tools from auctions with 50 years of ingrained sawdust on them.  So, he’s OK then.  Me, on the other hand, well I do like shopping.  A lot.  It is my main hobby <flushes red with embarrassment>, so it is probably a good thing that we are doing this…thing.  I want to reclaim the more cerebral side of my life, enjoy simple pleasures, not have to have a massive clearout every 3 months necessitating piling the pram up with binloads of clothes and crap I’ve never worn/used/or even liked.  It may just save us some money too. 

Last week Geek Boy spent £10K on a car, and we are planning to get a new bed for The Boy before Christmas.  Other than that, we can’t think of anything else we may need in the foreseeable future.  The sofa is desperate for replacing, but we are going to look at other options – Freecycle, kind friends maybe?

Having a 2-year-old means that shoes and clothes will need to be bought, but I shall do my darndest to source from the myriad of charity shops we have on our high street.  And there’s always the grandparents…

All those hours every week I spend on Amazon, just hoping to be tempted by some special offer, and then suckered in to the ‘if you liked this, then you might like this’ baloney.  All those newspapers and magazines piled up under the coffee table, the ones we never get around to reading and then dump blithely in the recycling.  Evil online stores sending me sparkly emails offering an extra 10% off if you enter the word “sucker” into the voucher box.  And the traipsing, yes traipsing, around the town centre every time I have some time to myself, in the hope of finding something that will make me feel good about myself, when really I already know that the things which make me feel good are love, loud music, eating cake and wearing my pyjamas all day – all of which can be enjoyed without buying ‘stuff’.

The rules are that we won’t buy anything that will take up space in our house – no clothes, no gadgets, no books or newspapers (eek), no colourful new cake tins with chickens on, no gadgets.  Supermarket shops will involve buying the essentials and not wandering over to the clothes/toys/books aisles just to see if there are any ‘bargains’ to be had. We have enough bloody bargains, and they are invariably brief visitors to our home.  It’s not so much about saving money (though that will be nice).  It’s more about making more space and time for our family. We don’t need more pretty stuff, we ARE the pretty stuff!

So, this then is our declaration of intent.  Our intention to go on strike as consumers of all things tat and focus on the real and the good.  Ooh, it may even be a journey into our very souls… 

Care to join us?

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