j4: (shopping)
Day 2 of plastic-free July involved a trip to the Co-op to buy potatoes for dinner and anything else from the shopping list that I could find in the 3 minutes or so before Img got tired/bored. This was never going to go well, because the Co-op (despite its supposed commitment to the environment) wraps pretty much everything in plastic, to the extent that I'm always slightly surprised to find myself not plastic-covered when I leave. So here's my shop:

Yes, literally everything I bought is plastic-wrapped. :-( But hey, I only said I was going to try this, not succeed.

Yoghurt and cream are, as far as I can tell, basically impossible to buy plastic-free. I bought the biggest pot I could get, i.e. the best yoghurt-to-plastic ratio. (Img particularly asked for the little Peppa Pig yoghurts.)

Potatoes: now this one was annoying. I specifically wanted big potatoes for doing jacket potatoes, and normally I don't need a plastic bag for those: I only buy 3 at a time (one for each of us), they're not squishy or wet or falling-apart-ish, there doesn't seem any reason to pack them. The Co-op had some loose potatoes, but these were the only baking potatoes in the shop. I could have just bought something different, but I was relying on getting these for dinner! (Although in fact in the end we had the quiche which I'd forgotten we still had in, and that came in a cardboard box, so the potatoes were not only unnecessary plastic but the cause of an unnecessary shopping trip. FAIL.)

The fish cakes were super-cheap (67p!) because they're nearly at their best-before date (I'll stash them in the freezer). I buy a lot of stuff that's nearly at the end of its shelf life because a) it's cheap, and b) I feel as though I'm saving it from getting thrown away. This is probably a bit irrational. (The strawberries were also reduced.)

Naan bread always comes plastic-wrapped. Even in our local shop which sells about 20 different varieties of naan, they're all wrapped in plastic so they last longer.

Now for the things I didn't buy. I had a long list of fruit and veg to buy but just couldn't bear to buy it all plastic-wrapped since I didn't need it right then; I'll try to go to the market tomorrow on the way home from work or at lunchtime. I was going to buy some bread but the Co-op only sells plastic-wrapped bread (and most of it is a bit plastic-tasting too, to be honest) so again I decided to wait. They didn't have any Coke in cardboard boxes, or any Shloer (glass bottles and bonus 80s nostalgia!), or in fact any non-alcoholic drinks I could see anywhere in the shop that weren't in plastic bottles or tetrapaks (apart from a few individual cans).

So what are the answers?

  • don't buy any dairy products
  • don't buy naan bread
  • be more organised about planning meals
  • don't give in to pestering (and/or don't take Img to the shops)

I guess nobody said it was going to be easy...
j4: (shopping)
Another mildly dull post over there, this time about selling phones and CDs. Sorry if the Serious Blogging is getting boring!

Actually, it's been a while, so how about a poll:

[Poll #1486425]

Brand new

Nov. 6th, 2009 11:55 pm
j4: (shopping)
Today's post is over at one of my other blogs, which I may even one day start posting to regularly enough for it to be of interest/use. Sigh.
j4: (shopping)
Today was Buy Nothing Day, a kind of general holiday from consumerism. I was going to say that I didn't "succeed" in spending nothing, but to say that makes it sound like a test of "willpower" rather than a choice; as if it was physically impossible to prevent me picking my own pocket, lifting my wallet out and handing over cash in return for something I'd deliberately picked up in a shop and taken to the counter.

To be fair, I did refrain from acquiring any more stuff, and at the moment I'm more concerned about reducing the amount of things kicking around than not spending money. So, in the interests of full disclosure, today I paid money for: several cups of herbal tea; a spicy muffin; a stilton and mushroom bagel, and a waffle with ice cream (the latter two were our evening meal, at G&Ds); and a concert by the Cherwell Singers of Catholic music from Latin America (which, incidentally, was very good. I had reserved the tickets for the concert before realising it was Buy Nothing Day, but had to pay on the door, so there was no getting around that one; the rest of my expenditure was just the result of trying to make the best use of the time between things. I had a choir rehearsal from 2:00-4:15pm, and then had to be back in more or less the same place (20 minutes' bike ride from home) for 7:30, and didn't want to spend 20% of the time between the two cycling to and fro in the cold. And if you want to find somewhere to sit and write in central Oxford in winter (in warmer weather I'd've been happy to sit on a park bench somewhere with my bottle of water) then you pretty much have to pay for it. I could have gone into work (and did, briefly, to pick up some stuff) but I knew that if I was in the office then I'd've got distracted by the internet.

I've found it's surprising how much I can get written if I don't have an internet connection there to hoover up all my concentration. To be honest, it doesn't seem unreasonable to me to pay £1.50 or so (the approximate cost of a cup of herbal tea) for a convenient, warm place to sit for an hour and for the distance-from-distractions necessary to get things done. I know that reasonableness or otherwise of expenditure isn't the point of Buy Nothing Day; I'm just making an observation on the usefulness or otherwise of spending money in cafés.

Cafés always seem to be one of the first targets selected in the ubiquitous "how to save money" articles. There's always something along the lines of "cut out that coffee-and-croissant on the way into work, you'll be surprised how much money you save!" -- which is infuriating if you already don't do that, in much the same way that the Motley Fool's endless maundering about how to save money by driving more carefully, driving a slightly smaller car, driving an extra 50 miles to get the cheaper petrol, etc. is infuriating to those of us who don't own a car and would like suggestions on how to save more money. (I did actually write to them suggesting that they write an article about how much money you'd save by not owning a car at all, but they ignored my email.) While we're on the subject of irritating money-saving tips... a survey I filled in recently (prize draw, natch) about the Cr*d*t Cr*nch included the following question: "Will you be doing any of the following to save money on alcohol purposes for drinking at home this Christmas?" with possible multiple-choice answers including "Having sparkling wine instead of champagne" (because obviously normally everybody buys champagne at Christmas), "Going to a hypermarket in Europe to buy my alcohol" (because as we know, flights don't cost anything except the continued existence of the human race) and "Making my own home-brew" (as if making your own wine was actually cheaper than buying a £2.99 bottle of Bulgarian cabernet sauvignon from Tesco ... though admittedly you've got more choice of flavours if you brew your own).

Saving money is a curious thing, though. [livejournal.com profile] verbal_tea recently mentioned a conversation on the Money Saving Expert forum where apparently
The posters have reacted to the news that Woolworths is in trouble by sharing tips as to how they can continue to buy from Woolworths, circumventing the stock problems in the shops and the website’s usability failures.
and says
Bear in mind that this conversation is taking place on a money-saving forum where people are supposed to be helping each other buy less unnecessary crap.
Unfortunately the Money Saving Expert site is, as far as I can tell (I didn't get much beyond the first eye-watering page) -- like most other money-saving tips sites, articles and books -- absolutely nothing to do with buying less stuff: quite the reverse! They're all about buying as much stuff as you possibly can for as little money as possible. And it's all about competition: beating the banks, beating the shops, beating the other shoppers, getting something for nothing. If you get nothing for nothing, how can you prove you've won? Compare these two anecdotes: "I went to M&S and I bought this fantastic skirt for £9.99, reduced from £40!" versus "I went to M&S, looked around a bit, and I decided I didn't really need another skirt." How can you tell how much money you've "saved" unless the shop tells you that you got that amount "off"? How can you tell the difference between not buying a £9.99 skirt and not buying a £59.99 skirt? I didn't buy the amazing metallic balldress I saw in the window of Karen Millen; did I "save" the hundreds of pounds it probably cost (I didn't dare look at the price-tag)?

This sort of "saving by spending" makes sense (kind of) if it's something you were going to buy anyway; if you'd already decided to buy that thing no matter what, and there's a special offer today where you get 10p off that particular thing, then hey, yeah, you saved 10p. But if you're only buying it because of the "saving", then it's not a saving, it's a spending. The problem is that without any concrete commitment to buy it's easy to delude yourself that you were going to buy something anyway -- whether to convince yourself that you're saving money by buying it ("I'd've had to buy one eventually so if I buy it now when the special offer is on, I'll have saved money") or that you're saving money by not buying it ("I really wanted it and I didn't buy it, so I've saved the amount that I would have spent on it"). The latter, of course, is fine until you use it as the basis for convincing yourself "therefore I'm richer by that amount than I would have been otherwise, so I can spend that amount now without guilt".

The logical conclusion of all this self-delusion is that only way you can be sure you've made a saving without buying things is by putting money in a separate account or otherwise earmarking it as "savings": by putting a value on your non-spending. "I saved 150 pounds this month [by putting it in my savings account]" is somehow much more convincing than "I didn't buy loads of stuff this month" (after all, how can you tell what you might have bought if you'd been feeling irresponsible?). Fortunately, despite being the logical extension of illogical thoughts, it's a fairly sensible approach to the problem of saving: I certainly find it helps a lot to set up a regular payment into a savings account. And, in the interests of cutting down on the amount of stuff in my life, it takes up less space in an ISA than it would in a box under the bed.


Mar. 24th, 2007 06:54 pm
j4: (back)
I've lost an earring. It's like this one, only lost.

They were probably my all-time favourite pair of earrings; purple (always good), made out of that paint-on latex stuff (really light, didn't lacerate my neck by bashing against it in windy weather), neat zig-zags that could look indie-ish when necessary but also quite plain and smart when worn with normal clothes. And they only cost a fiver. Unfortunately I can't remember the name of the place I bought them from: it was a stall at Erotica two years ago, but apart from the earrings I can't remember if they were selling latex stuff or silly spiky jewellery or both or what. If anybody can tell me where I can buy a replacement, I'll be enormously grateful. I know there are millions of goth/fetish (punk emo alternative lolita gay rockabilly DIY BNWT L@@K!) shops that do things like this, but I've been looking around the web for ages and can't find another pair of these anywhere.

also, a load of boring emo which you can skip )

Card work

Feb. 22nd, 2007 11:02 am
j4: (shopping)
A few weeks ago I finally got round to cancelling three credit cards (leaving me with just one, which is quite enough). The three to get the chop were:

HSBC - the card I got with my student account in 1996, heavily used until about 6 months ago
Egg - a card I originally got on a 0% balance transfer deal to help me pay off the HSBC card, and had used occasionally thereafter
first direct - ditto, except that I hardly ever used this card after the initial balance transfer

The banks' different approaches to cancelling the cards were interesting to note.

first direct eventually sent a clear and official-looking letter and form with a pre-paid envelope to confirm cancellation and return my card (cut in half).
Egg phoned me up fairly promptly to confirm that I wanted to cancel, to tell me that I didn't need to return the card so long as I destroyed it, to ask me why I was cancelling it (on being told "I just don't need more than one credit card" they just said "fair enough!" and didn't push or argue) and to read me the small print (I can't reapply within 12 months).
HSBC ... nada. Absolutely no checking, no acknowledgement, but I can no longer log in to my online banking, so I assume they have closed the account. (Some of you may remember that it took me FIVE MONTHS to close my current account with them, and when I finally managed to overcome their obstructiveness to achieve this -- after several phone calls and two visits to the branch -- I asked them to send me a closing statement; they said they would, and never did.)

I was rather hoping that HSBC would ask me why I was leaving, and they didn't even do that, so I didn't have a chance to tell them it was because of their consistently appalling customer service, uncompetitive rates, unhelpful staff, total lack of communication, and generally being as much use as a chocolate fireguard. A mouldy chocolate fireguard. It seems a bit pointless writing to them now to complain about a service I no longer use, but instead I'll just disrecommend them here.

The annoying thing is that HSBC are one of the (as far as I can tell) very few banks who explicitly offer a house-sharing mortgage for up to four people. Unfortunately I wouldn't trust them to organise the proverbial drinking spree in a drink-producing establishment, let alone to manage a mortgage, so I'm just hoping that some more competent banks will start to offer the same. (Not because I'm personally interested in it, just because I think it's a Good Thing!)


Feb. 4th, 2005 12:08 am
j4: (southpark)
Just call me Miss Moodswings. Today I have been mostly excited, but also frustrated. But the frustrated is mostly work, and that's boring. No fewer boring than anything else I write, but differently so. See?

So. Today I managed to win a hotly-contested game of Scrabble (not the one against [livejournal.com profile] verlaine, or the one against [livejournal.com profile] sion_a, in both of which I was given the PASTINGS I couldn't play at [livejournal.com profile] addedentry). I also managed to buy useful things at lunchtime, including a proper bag to replace my tattered work bag (an army surplus rucksack that I bought about 5 years ago for a tenner which (the bag, not the tenner) has developed a hole in the bottom THE SIZE OF A MAN'S HEAD [that's the hole that's the size of, etc., not the bottom]). The proper bag is a cunning convertible whatnot which converts, with two unclips and reclips (two of each) of the strap-clips, from a shoulder-bag into a rucksack. (Still with me? Good.) It also has a mobile-phone-shaped pocket into which my mobile phone will undoubtedly fail to fit since it is the size of a small family car (the phone, not the pocket [which is the nature of the problem (that is, the problem is the disparity in size, not the pocket per se, but even more so not the phone [so perhaps after all it is the pocket that is at fault])]). In addition to the bag and all its attendent grammatical complications I bought a stir-fry mix which made a jolly good salad (especially with half of yesterday's can of tuna in it), a haggis, some carrots, and some egg custard tarts.

This evening I tidied up the mountain of paper-based stuff on [livejournal.com profile] sion_a's chair, and did some mending that had been sitting around waiting to be mended for about FIVE YEARS, while [livejournal.com profile] sion_a played Sonic Spinball. (That is, I did the mending while he, not it sat around while he, if you see what I.) This makes it sound like I did all the work while he slacked, but really, normally he does everything while I procrastinate too much to even slack efficiently. The conversation (if you can call it a conversation) went something like this:

S: "Nooooo! That's not fair!!"
J: "God, I've completely messed this up. I'll have to unpick the whole row."
S: "Phew, I've bust through the door, now I've just got to get back up the barrels."
J: "It's only back-stitch, how can I make such a mess of this?"
S: "Aghh! Now I've got to get ALL FOUR HEADS again!"
J: "I'd have to darn this, for fuck's sake. I can't darn corduroy."

Men are from Nintendo, women are from haberdashery. After much thread-related frustration on my part and hedgehog-related frustration on his, we went to the pub and drank beer. I came away with one invitation to pancakes, one promise of a cgi tutorial, one plan for a party, and one absence of cornet music. And two pints' worth of drunkenness.

Now I am going to have a bath. Drunken conversations make more sense than normal conversations:

J: "[livejournal.com profile] sion_a?"
S: [silence]
J: "[livejournal.com profile] sion_a!"
S: [silence]
J: "MISTER [livejournal.com profile] sion_a!!!"
S: "Hm?"
J: "Are you having a bath?"
S: "Huh?"
S: "No!"
J: "Can I have a bath?"
S: "Yes!"
J: "Great!"

It's like Beckett, but with more baths in it. I have run a bath. My bath is going cold while I type this. It is like Molloy, ONLY WITH BATHS. Really. Take my word for it. Or not.

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