February Accounting

This year I have decided, wherever possible, to not buy anything new, and at the end of every month I will be exposing all my purchases here as a kind of confessional.. because if I have to do that, I will certainly be thinking twice before I pop into a big box store.. I am using you shamelessly, dear readers, as my virtual conscience, my interweb Jiminy Crickets.

Why not buy new? In a word, externalities. All of us, my darlings, who can access the intenet on an electronic device, are more or less the 1% of the world's population who benefit unfairly from the sweat, habitat destruction, pollution, ill health, exploitation and death of the 99% whose lives are degraded in some way so that we can have machines to wash our clothes and make our toast, and have access to cheap t-shirts and chocolate.

One day I woke up and the invisible wake of destruction that trails behind my trips to Target suddenly became unbearable, so I have started on a different path to providing for my needs and wants, and those of my lovely children, dog, two cats and two budgies.

Here are my guidelines:

1 Make do with what I have.
2 Try to find what I need second hand - there is a world of stuff out there that needs to be rescued and used again.
3 Buy from a local craftsperson.
4 As a last resort, buy from a local, independent store, so that at least my money stays in my community.

And here is how I fared in February:

Bought new: Two pairs dance shorts for the girls' new dance class. Bought at the local ballet shop. Australian made.

Pair dance shoes for Rosy. Bought at Kmart:( Usually dance shoes are about $80 and only available from the ballet shop. The dance teacher was very chirpy as she informed us that the shoes the girls need this year for their street/jam/funk class are black canvas flats available from Kmart for $10. She thought I would be pleased..

I bought them, of course. And then while we were there Rosy 'needed' a t-shirt and cardigan as well. Which I bought, of course. Because I am not quite ready to get between a teenager and her need to be 'normal'. Well, not all the time. I did buy some second hand clothes for the girls this month, but I think we are going to have to ease into buying absolutely everything second hand for them. Baby steps.

Meanwhile, I felt very, very uneasy in Kmart. I was surrounded by ridiculously cheap footwear, and cheery $9 cardigans. And what made me feel uneasy was that I wanted those cheap and cheery clothes and homewares. It is so easy to buy All the Stuff at Kmart. No wonder there is a thriving decluttering industry. In Kmart you can buy All the Stuff, then you will have to pop back to buy All the Storage Tubs to put All the Stuff in, then when you run out of space completely you will have to pop back to buy some books on decluttering. They really have you all stitched up at Kmart.

Anyway, I scuttled guiltily out, and am more determined than ever to avoid the horrid place completely from now on.

A new filter for my vacuum cleaner. When it lost suction completely, I feared the worst, but it turns out that my vacuum cleaner has TWO filters. I had only ever found one, which I washed occasionally, and which did indeed generally make it work better. The second one is non-washable (of course), but has lasted four years, so hopefully this new one will give me another four years of non-stop good behaviour from my excellent hard-working friend, the vacuum cleaner.

Bought secondhand: Posy talked me into getting a second budgie (offered to us by the grandmother of one of Posy's friends). We bought the cage from a friend whose son's cockatiel had died. The cage was originally green but a while back when I was organising The Man's shed I found a whole shelf full of spray paint, so we used a few cans of satin black to create an elegant boudoir for the birdies..

..who are very chuffed at being able to fly around in their cage now..

Also, during February, we went on a retail adventure to a pre-loved clothes market where we all found something new for our summer wardrobes.

It Followed Me Home Mum, Honest..I have been helping my lovely friend Cindy to pack up her house ready for moving, and inevitably some of Cindy's stuff has found its way into my house - a stack of foodie magazines which I swear I was going to give to a foodie friend, but my girls found them first..

And two lovely cast iron pans which I am hoping will help my iron levels to soar. One of them is a Le Creuset pan, because Cindy only cooks with the best, and I am a very lucky girl. Thanks Cindy:)

And a pot which will be very handy to store chicken feed in (when I get those chickens, which are the most well-appointed imaginary chickens ever), and a little shelf which I NEEDED, but can't quite decide where I need it yet..

Now, an extraordinarily wonderful thing that happened in February was the response to me mentioning that I was hunting for a second-hand lap top - and my old friend and dear reader Jen has a Very Useful Man indeed, who saves and reconditions unwanted laptops, and sent one to me! I am so excited about this; it is currently in the post, and I am hopping up and down with joyful anticipation. Jen and Chris, you are bright, shining stars:)

There we have it - everything that arrived in our house in February. Not much left the house- some more of Posy's outgrown clothes and school uniform passed on, some more clothes came her way as hand-me-downs.. the rhythm of life for sensible parents everywhere:)

So actually, I bought less new this month, had an awful experience at Kmart, but know not to repeat that. What I am really enjoying is the freedom to not go shopping. My errands day is much briefer. I go to the bank, the library and pay the bills. Sometimes I have a particular thing I need to shop for, but I don't feel like I have to look in any shops in case I am missing a bargain, because I know the best bargain is to not go shopping!

My next month's accounting will have to include gifts, which is exercising my brain a bit at the moment. We have had one child's birthday party to attend so far, the present for which was supplied by the 'present box' in the top of the wardrobe. But soon the present box will be bare. What then? And then I have relatives and my own children's birthdays to cater for... I actually made a gift for Rosy's birthday last week, which I am still in shock about - but it will be a couple of months before I can reveal it on the blog. Stay tuned for some unexpected creativity! And tell me about your best hand-made or second-hand sourced gifts. Please.


Judy said…
Well done Jo!

Activity gifts are good and keep local people in work. My eldest daughter had a go at Zorbing, which is where they strap you into an inflatable ball with your best friend and roll you down a hill! (Yes, they felt sick but luckily weren't sick!) Then I am taking my niece and nephew camping for their Christmas present. Youngest son wants rowing lessons and youngest daughter just money for her Birthday (because she says she always needs things after her birthday and can never think of anything before :-) )

My son's friend gave him an iTunes voucher, so no physical shopping involved. And I always give my parents an Oxfam Unwrapped gift, such as a goat or a toilet! http://www.oxfam.org.uk/shop/oxfam-unwrapped
Then my daughter received an 'Adopt an animal' gift for a pygmy hippo at London Zoo and it comes with info about the animal and a ticket for the zoo.

Hope that gives you some ideas.
Anonymous said…
We've had a flurry of birthdays lately - don't know what goes in the water in June each year, but by crikey there's a lot of birthdays in February/March. I had to get a Steam voucher for a kid's birthday - it was a receipt. Very unexciting.

My thing at the moment is birthday cards - possibly because of throwing out about 30 years worth of saved cards when I was culling the spare room, but really - they're read for a moment, admired for a week (or so) then turfed. It's Wasteful. I'm trying to avoid them.

I totally hear you on the Kmart thing - Chaos has sport on Thursday nights, and it's a little far to drop him off then come home then go and get him again. Last night, I wandered around Kmart looking at All The Things. It's horrid and cheap and nasty and just, no. I actually need some storage tubs (four more 30l tubs and I'll be able to use the bath again!), but the storage tubs were cheap and nasty and liable to break before I got them home. I've found some that are possibly Australian made (they have a kangaroo on the label at least), and while they're twice as dear ($15, cf $7), they'll survive under the house for at least 10 years.
Bek said…
My main shopping of late has been purely due to bad planning on my part, and needing to pick things up on the run, which I had ample supplies of at home but was not able to get to said home to assess said stuff. Lesson learnt!
I too hate Kmart, target, best and less and all their ilk. I actually feel uneasy in the stores now. Why is everything so brightly lit, with rows and rows of cheap crap everywhere. I was in and out very quickly on my last visit!
Bek said…
I forgot gifts!
I am an avid proponent of the re-gift. Best way to use things other people have felt obliged to buy me, despite my assurances I don't really need anything, and if I really felt it was worthy or necessary I would have got it for myself already. However I appreciate that this strategy may not work for children's/teenager gifts.
Jo said…
Judy, yes, activity presents, excellent. And I love the Oxfam gifts. I got a goat for Christmas!
Miss Maudy, hilarious on using your bathtub for storage. Wonderful!
And yes, Kmart=dire. I think it is probably evidence that our civilisation has completely degenerated to an unacceptable degree. I hereby secede.
on waiting for children at sport activities - I love it! My solution is to always have a book in the car. An hour of uninterrupted reading = priceless. In the winter I steal Posy's book light.
Jo said…
Oh Bek, planning is my nemesis, and one of the greatest challenges I face on this project!
And regifting, oh yes, a very important component of those good Rs - reduce, reuse, regift, recycle - isn't that how it goes??
Anonymous said…
I'm seriously considering adjourning to the pub for the hour of sport - where I can read my book in a comfy chair with a raspberry and lemonade and salt and vinegar chips ALL TO MY SELF! Roll on term three when he can stay for the 90 minute class and it's worthwhile going home. (Yers, forgot my book last night)
jj said…
In recent years I make yummy treats (don't mind if I say so myself!) for presents which are now eagerly anticipated. My son has had the good sense to partner with a very good cook, so the families swap yummy hand made treats at Christmas & Birthdays. We hand make cards, mainly with funny photos or sayings that are just tailor made for the person, lot's of fun! Another idea I saw that a card swapping friend & I have started is just putting a message on lovely hand made paper inside a very special card & then it keeps circulating. Or the idea of two sisters I heard of that exchanged the same card for many years back & forth with a special message for each year, I so like this, showed the babies born & grown, just lovely....
Jo said…
Julie, that card-swapping idea is gorgeous - you are right, who needs a whole card every time, when you generally just write a line or two? Brilliant! And food, yes, I do that, and sometimes The Girl makes her fab home-made fudge for friends' birthday presents too, and maybe that could work for teenage and 11yo girl presents? What kind of food presents would be exciting enough??
Miss Maudy, mm, the pub yes, I think you are onto something there..
Anonymous said…
Gifts=tickets to places or events! Do you remember what gifts you got for your 5th, 10th or 14th birthdays. I bet you do remember when you were taken bowling or out for high tea or to the theme park though. ;)
Well done otherwise and yes, I feel totally what you feel about Kfart as well.
Jo said…
I do distinctly remember my 18th B'day present from my auntie. She bought me a lovely pot, some potting soil and a tomato plant, with instructions.

That was the beginning of my gardening career:)

But yes, there does seem to be general agreement that activity gifts are the go..
Anonymous said…
I share your unease at Kmart. Luckily we know the stuff is shite and, for me, the poor production techniques means strong odour from the cheap glue and plastics. So I just can't buy stuff from there. That said, I too have weakened.
heather said…
Uggghhh, kids' birthday presents and parties!!! I almost experience getting those invitations in the backpack as a hostile move! This is of course just because I suffer the same crippling crisis of conscience (like the alliteration?) over how to gift within my values without looking too cheap or just plain weird, and too often resort to Target or Amazon for the plastic consumer garbage ransom, I mean present. I do make my kids craft all birthday cards, though- there I draw the line.

The best present we've done was when my daughter painted a terra cotta pot for her friend and planted it with flowers in her friend's favorite color. This was for friends we knew would appreciate such. I also give myself special dispensation to buy books as presents, maybe because my favorite auntie always gave all us kids books at birthdays and Christmas. I was also going to suggest a "kit" type present such as your tomato from your auntie. Really neat colored pencils (I found some made of the whole twig, with bark and everything) and a sketch pad, while not meeting your buying criteria, might at least keep little eyes and hands and minds busy and away from screens, which is a major goal of mine.

Can we not all declare some kind of universal gift-giving truce, or at least sign a pact saying all gifts must be spontaneous "hey, this made me think of you" acts, not scheduled tributes? I mean, I get it, birthdays should make you feel special, blah blah, but can't I just show up at your party and sing to you and kiss your cheek? Do I have to bring "stuff" too? As you can tell, I am a closet birthday Grinch.

--Chicken Heather

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