If it’s the thought that counts, think about it.

I wasn’t going to do much blogging on holiday shopping, but people keep asking me what kind of stuff I’m buying for Christmas gifts or what are good gifts to give that give back to people in need?  So here it is… my brain dump on Christmas shopping.  Yes, I call it Christmas shopping, not holiday shopping.  I suppose we could also call it Black Friday shopping.  It seems as though that’s become a bigger holiday than the actual Christmas holiday we’re shopping for.

Now that I think about it, these principals could apply all year long and to any holiday where it is customary to give a gift.  Birthdays and Christmas are the two big ones.

So what gift shopping is considered good?  Shopping in and of itself is not bad, it’s some of the things associated with it that are bad.  Debt is bad.  Buying gifts for people you don’t want to buy gifts for because you’ve succumbed to the cultural purchasing pressure is bad.  Buying people stuff they don’t want or need is bad.  Spoiling kids with a bunch of stuff they don’t need is bad.  If it’s the thought that counts, then let’s think about it.  There are many positive ways to shop, supporting good for humanity, the environment and for your pocketbook.

Service, not stuff.

You might believe our country is using up most of our planets’ resources and you might be trying to lower your carbon footprint as much as possible, or you might even think that’s all an bunch of hype.  No matter which end of the spectrum you’re on, buying services versus physical goods is, well, all around good.  Why?

  • You’re supporting a skill or a trade.
  • You’re helping the economy without physical stuff.
  • You don’t have to worry if the recipient likes your gift, and the best part? No looking around their house to make sure they’re using the item you gave them and no getting your feelings hurt when they tell you the dog broke it.
  • Maybe the gift recipients will get this concept too, then they won’t give you anymore giant golf ball candles, Chia pets or Santa figures that poop candy.
  • Most service places have gift cards or gift certificates.
  • It takes less time to shop because you can shop at places you do business while everyone else is in line at W*%#@!t.
  • There’s a better chance they’ll have a need for a service than a need for more stuff.  If you need something, or even want something, you go buy it, right?  Why would your giftees be any different?  Well, they could be unemployed.  If that’s the case, they have needs, not wants.

So what are good services to buy?  There are many choices here, some more practical than others.  Some of these services could be provided by you, which means no cost to you other than your time.   Continue reading

food with more color than the package…

I don’t usually blog about food, but clearly this is a topic that falls into the “living differently” and “downsizing” categories.

Flashback to 6 years old.  I remember eating cereal called Kaboom.  Do you remember it?  The cereal itself was more colorful than the box it came in.  “100% minimum daily requirements of vitamins and iron in 1 oz. sugary oat cereal with marshmallow stars!”  As a child, I always wondered where they were hiding the vitamins in this stuff.  If I saw a funny shaped piece or a burnt piece of cereal, I would avoid it because surely that was the vitamin.  I didn’t need it, I already took my Flintstones vitamins, so leave my cereal alone.

My mom didn’t leave my cereal alone.  Apparently she didn’t think there was enough sugar in the sugary oat cereal, so she dumped 3 or 4 tablespoons of sugar into it.  When I was done with the cereal, I ate spoons full of purplish milky sugar from the bottom of the bowl.  I’m pretty sure I never got the hiccups.

So what’s the big deal?  They don’t sell this anymore, right?  As of about 10 years ago, I did find some at Big Lots.  An what makes Froot Loops any better?  I would love to get my hands on the nutrition info for this stuff and compare it to other cereal.  Here’s an interesting article I read this morning on the use of food coloring in food:  The dangers of artificial food colors  There’s always been lots of controversy about this topic.  Why chance it?  If there are non-colored foods available, why not buy those?  They taste the same.  The color is only for presentation and marketing.  Yes, I buy foods with coloring, mostly because I don’t pay attention to this very much.  I do buy low fat and healthy foods when there’s an option for it.  Honestly, I spend more time price shopping food rather than nutrition shopping our food.  I should be doing both.

The thing that made me think of all this food stuff is bacon wrapped asparagus.  I love grilled asparagus and I can even get my kids to eat that way.  My friend that was coming over to cook dinner with us said he would bring bacon to wrap around the asparagus I was cooking.  My kids would love this without a doubt, but I don’t want to even let them know this is an option.  If they like it grilled, without butter, fat or covered in cheese, why would I mess with that?  Trust me, I let them eat plenty of unhealthy stuff, but I do try to teach them to eat low-fat and low-sugar options when they are available.

This is an area where I really need to be rethinking good.  And if anyone can find me a box of Kaboom cereal, I would be forever grateful!

young man! you will eat every bit of that candy!!

Yes, I said candy.  If I ever needed to question how much I dislike wastefulness, this would be the telltale answer.  A few months ago, my youngest asked if he could get some Jelly Bellies at the grocery store.  I agreed after glancing at the rack filled with small packages of assorted beans.  I proceeded to finish my shopping when Joe says, “Mom, they came out really fast.”  What came out fast?  The lady with the runaway shopping cart?  No, the Jelly Belly dispenser.  The bag of beans cost Joe $15.81.

Fast forward to vacation a few weeks ago.  We were on vacation, and in a candy shop.  I told my kids they could each get one thing.  Here we go again…  My oldest wanted rock candy.  Those ‘fill your own bags’ might as well have drugs in them for as much as they cost!  I prefer my candy with price tags, none of this ‘by the pound’ stuff.  $10.00 later, we leave with rock candy.  

Once we returned from our trip, I found the leftovers and gave it to him.  My son says, “I didn’t like it that much.  It’s not as good as I thought it would be.”  Wha??!!!?  Dude, you will eat all of that candy!  I spent over $10 for it and you will eat it.  Seriously?  On my budget, $10 is a lot of money.  It’s so difficult to teach kids the value of a dollar when society says you can have, and should have, everything you want, no matter what the cost.  The candy might not be good for him, but hopefully the lesson will be.

minimalist challenge update… 88% depreciation?!

With a goal of 365 items, downsizing one item a day over a one year period, has proven to be more difficult than I imagined.  With the exception of my garage, there’s just not much left to downsize in my house.  When I open a cabinet or a drawer, thinking I might be able to find some things I’m not using anymore, I’m rarely able to find anything.  This is good, as I don’t have a lot of clutter and a lot of stuff, but on the other hand, I still have 214 items to go.

Now I still have a lot in my garage.  Way less than I had a few months ago, but still way more than I need.  The problem with that right now is the heat.  It’s too hot to clean anything out, as my garage faces west. It’s a sauna x3.

At 150 items, here’s some financial info… that makes me want to cry.  Think we don’t spend a lot on stuff we don’t need?  Take a look at this.

If I bought these 150 items right now at the store, full price, it would cost me $12,320.36.

I paid $8,523.89 for these items, mostly shopping second hand and discount stores.

I didn’t sell much, as I gave most of it away.  I have made $180.00, with an estimated potential of $1,487.00.  Best case scenario, my stuff depreciated by 88%!!  If this isn’t a reality check, I don’t know what is.

Wow.  Even I’m astonished at these numbers.  Even though I’ve had much of this stuff for many years, it’s still a disturbing snapshot of how much money I can waste.  Have you ever added up how much money you’ve spent like this?  If so, please share.

The 3 most difficult things to part with so far 

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