Monday, 31 December 2007

New Year’s resolutions are doomed to fail. That’s because they’re usually said without conviction, in too general terms and often under the influence of alcohol. The best resolution for 2008 would be just to expand your world, embracing the Do Something Different philosophy that underlies Sheconomics (and it’s sister the No Diet Diet). It just involves a resolution to make a small, achievable change every day.

So if you like…. You could try…..

Fiction............... Non-fiction
Running............... Walking
City............... Country
New............... Second-hand
Listening............... Talking
Thinking ............... Chilling
Serious............... Trivia
Noise............... Silence
Brilliance............... Candle-light
Attention ............... Being in the background
Home............... Exploring
Safety............... Risk-taking
Hoarding............... De-cluttering
Buying............... Giving away
Secrets............... Revealing
Boozing............... Juicing
Bingeing............... Nibbling
Arguing............... Agreeing
Cuddling............... Being cuddled
Moaning ............... Smiling
Pessimism ............... Optimism
Colour............... Black & white
Neat ............... Rough
Tradition ............... Radicalism

We’re perhaps all too guilty of retreating into our comfort zones and, by definition, into ourselves. And people who are wrapped up in themselves, says A C Grayling (my current guru!) make very small packages.
Here’s to an expanded self and bigger worlds in 2008.

Sunday, 30 December 2007

Estimates vary, according to different sources, but it seems that over £1 billion was spent on unwanted Christmas presents this season. That’s more than the national debt of a small nation splashed out on fluffy slippers, novelty soaps and nasty tat. According to the economist Waldfogel (who’s as enthusiastic about Christmas spending as the Pope at an Anne Summers party) gift-giving only works if you can give someone exactly what they would have bought themselves. Since most presents fall a whole bath-salts-with-matching-flannel short of this mark, the result is a gift worth between only a tenth and a third than it actually cost! I’m really keen to research this and to find out what people really feel about getting gifts that peeve rather than please. Even more interesting, how do we really know if people like what we give them? What does ‘just what I always wanted’ really mean, if it’s said through gritted teeth or while trying to suppress a gagging reflex?
Here’s my survey into gift receiving and giving – give it a go!
Click Here to take survey

Sunday, 23 December 2007

If you’re last-minute shopping today, remember gift-vouchers really are the last resort of the imaginatively challenged. However seriously stuck for ideas you are, just don’t kid yourself your teenage niece would like a Homebase voucher. According to research, £3 billion gets spent every year on vouchers in the UK. And 15% of them never get redeemed. That’s a whopping….well, a whopping amount (it’s too early for maths). It seems that some gift-vouchers are for life and not just for Christmas, as they get left in drawers to collect fluff and silently drift by their expiry date. Others get resold on internet auction sites for less than their face value. If my kids received gift tokens when they were younger, I’d always end up buying them off them. But I didn’t have the heart to negotiate a 15% discount.
Happy Christmas.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Hoorah for the lovely Liz this week who made me a Christmas present.

How much more valuable is it to give of our time and talent than to pluck an item from a shop shelf? I wonder how much time goes into the home-made present…and how much time goes into the shop-bought one? I’ll certainly value her gift more than many others I’ll receive … and hope to learn an anti-consumerism lesson from it too.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

I’ve been having a bit of a rant on the radio this week about the commercialization of children’s Christmas. We know they’re after our money –I’m talking about advertisers here. But our research showed that kids think that nice man on the telly, extolling the virtues of the latest tamawotsit, has their interests at heart. That’s why they’ll believe whatever the ads tell them and are ready prey for marketers. Never was this more apparent than in the letters to Santa that we analysed. When 6-year-old kids write in their Santa list ‘available from all good toy stores’ and ‘only £19.99 from Argos’ you know that the training of the next generation of consumers is underway with a vengeance. The government’s Children’s Plan announced this week talks about educating children about television advertising. All very commendable but what about educating them about the ‘off’ button?

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

What oh what is the point of store cards? Next time the shop assistant asks if you'd like one, just offer to have the letters m-u-g tattooed on your forehead at the same time. Because their interest rates are so astronomical they really should be morally outlawed. Some charge as much as 30% interest.

People in the UK are expected to dole out an average of £863 each this Christmas.

If they whack this on a store card the interest alone will be at least £179 during 2008, if they make only the minimum repayments each month. On a credit card (the lesser of the evils) they would face an interest bill of £123 - again making only the minimum repayments.

Some shoppers might argue that the store card is the only way they can treat a loved one with that special gift this Christmas. Who do you know that cares for you so little they'd want you to go into this much debt for them?

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Shopping as therapy?

Our survey for Sheconomics tells us so far that more than half of the women who responded hit the shops when life is getting them down.

Yet research from the mental health charity MIND ( suggests this will only make them feel worse and that walking is a better mood-lifter than shopping. They found that people were 22% more depressed after visiting a shopping centre. After going walking however, they were 71% less depressed. Walking also boosted self-esteem, whereas the shopping centre sapped people's self-esteem along with their cash. All good reason to grab your hiking boots and not your store cards when life's not going the way you want it.

Or, to quote Janet Street Porter, Shopping: The loser's route to happiness

Monday, 3 December 2007

Hands up if you know your own credit card number off by heart.

If so, you’ve probably been typing it into your computer at an RSI-inducing rate today, along with millions of other people.

Mega Monday - as the press are calling today - is the day when most people will do their Christmas shopping on-line. Apparently shoppers have been disappointed by their foray into the high street at the weekend and are turning to the Internet for pressie solutions. Why did they bother getting off the sofa in the first place, one wonders? The internet is usually cheaper, offers more choice and the only parking place you need to find is for your own bottom.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

How much of our life is planned and how much do we just 'let happen'? My fantastic friend Jessica phoned me the other day and suggested we have a special pre-Christmas get-together. Cool, I thought.
But Jessica's no ordinary girl and I knew it wouldn't be an ordinary lunch or dinner outing.
'Let's do some reflecting on what's gone well this year and what we want to go well next year and how we're going to make it happen' she chirped excitedly. 'Round your house, bottle of wine, I'll bring nibbles'.
Fantastic. Planning, in any shape or form - whether its financial, family or life planning- injects life with excitement, meaning and a sense of purpose. I also know that good things happen to people who make them happen - and Jessica's one of those people (I'll even give her a plug here - go to