Books, life the universe

Saturday, 30 December 2006

More comments on this consumer society

Is it possible to do without the luxuries in life and not feel resentful? Were credit cards the worst things that were ever invented? Whatever happened to living within your means? Did the shampoo adverts which ended with the sentence - because I'm worth it - wreak havoc with our collective bank balances?

I don't blame commercial organisations as they're in it to make money so they have to push their products as much as possible or they go under. But are these products really necessary? How many brands of shampoo are there out there? Don't they all contain the same ingredients? Why are some shampoos marketed for men and others for women, and yet hotels always manage to produce unisex varieties in their freebies? Do the cheapest produce the same results as the most expensive? If they do then we're just paying for the name.

If an ordinary family saloon - cost say £12K - will get you from A to B comfortably and safely why do you need to spend £20k or even more on something which will do the same job? Why do people spend money on VWs when Skodas are built in the same factory to the same design but have different badges put on them at the end? If you're worried about the badge then you're in it for the status that you think purchase confers on you, rather than just buying something that you need.

I shall be watching out for examples of conspicuous consumption over the next few weeks and reporting on them here.

Friday, 29 December 2006

Today's thoughts

I am reading a book by Judith Levine called 'Not Buying It: my year without shopping'. It gives a fascinating insight into how we are all led to spend money on things we don't actually need. The author decided to try living for a year without spending money on anything other than necessities. Difficult in today's consumer society. The book is American so not everything is relevant in the UK but it still makes interesting reading.
Why do we feel the urge to go out and spend money on things we really truly do not need? A simple example. Where I live there are no coffee shops such as Starbucks or Cafe Nero etc, so I have no temptation to get a takeaway coffee on the way to work, or when I've been out at lunchtime. I am saving myself an absolute fortune! Assuming you might spend £3.00 per day on takeaway coffee - that's £15 per week and assuming you work about 45 weeks each year that's £675 per year. Admittedly if everyone stopped doing this then all the coffee shops might go out of business - but that's another topic entirely, and maybe one for another day.

Again thinking about food and drink and work. If you take yoour own sandwiches from home each day how much money can you not spend? Where I live sandwiches are relatively cheap and £3.50 will probably get you a freshly made sandwich, a cake or yoghurt and a drink. Other areas are more expensive. I mainly keep the wherewithal to make sandwiches in the communal fridge/freezer at work. Loaf of granary bread - £0.59, butter perhaps £0.69 - between them enough for at least two weeks' worth of lunches; cheese, ham etc to put in them - say £1.50 per week; youghurts £0.29 for 4 from Lidl. Then you can have fresh fruit - 6 apples for about £0.50. I have a reasonable lunch each day at work for probably about £3.00 a week.

In case you're wondering about the prices I try and shop at places like Lidl and Aldi. They are at least 30% and frequently 50 - 60% cheaper than Tesco or Sainsbury. Quality is as good if not better than the big ones. As an example. I buy unsalted butter - usually hovering around the £1.00 mark in Sainsbury. Same product - not a recognised brand - £0.69 - in Aldi. Every bit as good as its more expensive cousin.

There are plenty of ways that you can live well without spending a fortune.

Watch this space for further thoughts on the subject

Slogan for today - don't be a sheep - think for yourself!


Thursday, 28 December 2006

The second blog of the day

I seem to have taken a long time deciding to set up a blog and now I've set up two in the space of an hour!!

You might well wonder at the title but I happened to be staring at a large woolly toy sheep when I was trying to think of a name for this blog and this is the result.

I'll post more tomorrow, but this is a start.