This blog will not be adding more posts but will remain open for you to access the information that will remain here.
Showing posts with label Saying no. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Saying no. Show all posts

Sunday, November 27, 2011

We're Different And That's OK

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

Yesterday, my email provider had a front page article about the biggest mistakes people make when giving Christmas gifts; totally out of my character, I clicked on the article and began to read it. Lo and behold, one of the biggest mistakes, according to the author, anyone can make is to give homemade gifts, particularly knitted items. Apparently such things are ghastly and embarrassing for the giver and receiver. Who knew?!

When I got over my initial one second check in (I had just, the hour before, finished putting together a few little handmade gifts) I enjoyed a little laughter at the hilarity of it all. Not only did the article suggest homemade things are totally inappropriate, but so is anything useful, including some items of clothing, giftcards etc. And I began to think of the hilarity of it all, one person, who came across as incredibly spoiled and pampered, a person who is probably quite young and used to having money spent on them, is dictating what is acceptable/normal/OK. Well, here's the truth, his/her norm is certainly not my norm.

And there in that little article was the theme of my life over the last few months. As I navigate motherhood and find what other parents view as normal is vastly different to our life and the norm I want for my children. As I chat with colleagues and hear their views on necessities (a family can not live in less than 2500 square feet, apparently, nor can they function without TVs in their van), I've come to really think about being different and being OK with being different.

We are all on a journey. In my teenage years I desperately wanted to fit in and truth be told, for most of those years didn't. Sometimes, when I compare "notes" with the lives others have, I fleetingly think how nice it would be to have what they have, because in the throws of it, we are all human beings with needs and emotions. But the truth is, I'd rather be different. I'd rather put thought into what comes into our home, than accept the toys a manufacturer tells me my children need. I'd rather give money to help causes, then fret over which new car/van/TV/laptop to buy. I'd rather spend a couple of hours making a dishcloth, then pick up 10 for $2 and I'd certainly rather have to shop at 4 or 5 local shops/farmers stalls, than go to one big conglomerate and feel proud of how much more I could get for the same money.

Sometimes being different is challenging. Sometimes I can feel too different. Sometimes it would be easier not to think critically about each choice, not to have to wonder where something came from, or how its production impacted others. Sometimes it would be lovely to simply roll up at a particular fast food joint and be done with dinner in 2 minutes flat. But the truth is, 99.9999% of the time, I am totally head over heals in love with this different life, bad gift giving (knitted items!) and all. My greatest hope, is that 20 years from now, my children are OK with being different too.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Swept away

Francesca @ FuoriBorgo
sweeping

Is the vacuum cleaner an essential appliance? I've always thought so. But in the last few months, pushed by mechanical failure, we've discovered that, in fact, it may not be.

Our vacuum cleaner was a 4 year old small-size cylinder model of a well known Italian brand, mid-price range. It came with a 2 year warranty, and it worked very well. For two years, that is.

A few days or so after the warranty had expired, the hose split open. I sealed the crack with duct tape, and it continued working for another few months.

Then, one of the plastic wheels broke off. So I decided to do without wheels. At this point, my three year old vacuum cleaner looked like it'd been through the wars (which, in all honesty, is what vacuuming my house sometimes feels like), but it was still chugging along.

Then, just a couple of months ago, it stopped dead while I was using it, and no amount of coaxing, unplugging and re-plugging it back in, no gentle (or firm) tapping, did the trick. It was a goner.

Now, the repair shop is about a 3 hour round trip from my house, in a town where I rarely go unless strictly necessary. Partly because I don't have that time, and partly because gasoline has shot up to €1.60 a liter. But also because, in Italy you pay just to have an estimate for repairs, which these days cost far more than to buy a new item!

So I decided to do without a vacuum cleaner, at least temporarily, and to see whether a vacuum cleaner is in fact an indispensable appliance. In fact, where we live, this was a real test, with the mud and dirt of the surrounding forests and fields, the sand from the nearby beach, the ash and bits of firewood in a house that's primarily heated by wood, the dust and sundry bits and pieces from our ancient house. Not to mention our the three children (need I say more?)? So it's not like a vacuum cleaner wouldn't be handy.

My conclusions? A broom & dust pan don't quite measure up to a vacuum cleaner in three main ways:

1) Efficiency: much dirt and dust are left behind after sweeping, and there are many areas in a house that a broom can't reach properly.

2) Time: since sweeping isn't as efficient as vacuuming, I have to sweep the floors all the time.

3) Cost: though sweeping the floors is free (unless I pay myself an hourly wage!), since sweeping is less efficient I have to wash the floors much more frequently, which means paying for hot water and detergent -- hence, I'm not saving much money, and may actually be spending more.

In my opinion the vacuum cleaner is an essential appliance to get a necessary (and tedious) household task done efficiently and in a short time. Yet still I hesitate to have my 4-year old vacuum cleaner fixed, because I dread the inevitable diagnosis, and refuse to accept that things these days are made to cost less instead of lasting longer.

Does this mean that I'm coming to a new definition of "essential"?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Simple, Green and Frugal Parenting

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

In one more sleep I become a mummy, it has been a long and hard journey and one I'm delighted is finally happening! I've been thinking a lot about how to encorporate a simple, green and frugal life into parenting and the truth is I know no one can accomplish it all, so I'll need to focus on the most important things. So far I've been focusing on a couple of key points/ideas so that I don't feel overwhelmed.

Simple
- Establishing a rhythmn that meets everyone's needs and is flexible, yet predictable
- Not over-committing and prioritizing time to adjust

Green
- No disposable products
- Get a community garden membership
- No plastic
- Shopping for locally sourced products and/or fairtrade

Frugal
- Focusing on what is really needed vs. what people tell you are needs (I'm shocked at what people believe you need in order to parent)
- Buying second hand where possible
- Establishing a "norm" which isn't about commercialism or materialism

But here is where I turn it over to you. I'd love to know how you encorporate a simple, green and frugal life into your parenting and family life? I feel like I have a lot to learn and am most probably only scratching the surface!

So dear co-op readers: what advice do you have for living purposefully while parenting? How do you explain raising your children so differently than most people they will come into contact with?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Weddings and Frugality

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

Recently I was invited to a friend's wedding. When I make that statement it sounds simple enough, only as details of the wedding & pre-wedding showers emerged, it became incredibly complicated.

The Wedding

Takes place on a weekday = a day off of work (unpaid)
Reception takes place 2.5 hours north of the Church in a very rural area = renting a car and possibly an overnight stay (it is assumed guests will book rooms as the hotel is so rural and there are events the next day).
A new outfit because I have nothing to wear having just moved overseas

Shower One
In a rural location, absolutely no public transport there. On a Sunday which means renting a car for the day
Required to give $50, which they will use to buy things
Everyone attending will also need to pay towards the costs of the shower

Shower Two
On a weekday afternoon which means taking a day off work unpaid
All guest (even if you already attended the other shower) are required to give $50 towards the honeymoon
There will be a charge for activities but it is not known how much yet

Anyone trying, through necessity, choice or circumstance, to live a frugal life will know where I'm going with this... Firstly and perhaps most importantly I want to clarify that it isn't my friend's fault that I would need to rent a car or buy a new outfit, those are because of my circumstances and my circumstances alone. But it is increasingly difficult to attend showers and weddings because of the financial implications and expectations of brides & grooms. At the very least, attending each shower will be almost $100 per event, and I was specifically asked to attend both. On top of that it was made clear that the shower gifts do not replace the wedding gift. This week, before I purchased what I planned to give to the couple, I asked if there was a registry for the wedding, I was told everyone invited was asked to give money because they already own 10 homes, already live together and don't need anything, so they want to use the money to splurge. What's more the wedding coincides with my friend's 30th Birthday, so there will be a separate party so that the Birthday isn't over looked. I didn't ask if I'd be asked to contribute financially to that too, because my then I was already doing the math in my head ;)

Doing my sums and taking all the costs out which are because of my individual circumstances (renting a car, time off work unpaid, a new outfit etc), attending the wedding and two showers & paying the minimum suggested for gifts, the total comes to $455, the suggested contribution towards gifts alone is $175.

When I first found out all the facts, I was a tad disgruntled about it all, many people commented on my blog & emailed in outrage that a bridge & groom could expect their guests to contribute so much. There were an array of similar stories and others shared they to have had to send regrets to events because expectations were too high in their particular season of life.

I wish my friends well, marriage is a gift and I hope they have truly found their life mate. For a while I felt incredible guilt about not being able to be there on their special day, but the more I put into practice the skills and thought process' this simple, green & frugal life has taught me, the more honest I was able to be with myself. Right now it simply isn't possible. And there's no guilt with that!

I'd love to hear from you. Do you think it is OK to charge attendance for showers? Is it OK to request monetary gifts in specific amounts? Have you ever had to say no to a wedding or shower because of the financial implications?