The Rough Guide To Ethical Living

Today I want to recommend to you a book I discovered recently in a charity shop; The Rough Guide to Ethical Living. This book covers climate change, sweatshops, fair-trade, ethical investment, organic food, finances and more. Pretty much every issue you could face in life.

You know, life can sometimes seem like a moral minefield – particularly when you start to pay attention to ethics, zero waste, fair trade or green principles. It’s so hard to know which products or companies we should support and those we would be better avoiding. Also, there are so many claims out there today, despite advertising standards some can be dubious. I sometimes feel overwhelmed by it all.

If you would like some help to decide which ethical claims can you can trust then the Rough Guide to Ethical Living cuts through the ‘greenwash’ to answer your questions. This guide literally looks at all the problems and ethical options. It’s a relatively compact tome, but it covers all the main issues. Where there is more information available, it points you to relevant, trustworthy websites where you can find out more.

It’s particularly aimed at UK readers and recommends websites, books and magazines. It also includes tips on reducing your carbon footprint at home and on the road. I would consider this book to be an essential handbook for responsible consumers and it’s very easy to read. It’s definitely one that I plan to keep on my bookshelf for reference.

According to the blurb, there are a couple of other Rough Guides out there; The Rough Guide to Ethical Shopping and The Rough Guide to Climate Change. I’m going to add these to my reading list!

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The cheapest way to own a Smartphone

I have just started the 4th year of owning my iPhone 5s 32gb. It’s holding up well and I hope to get another couple of years out of it. I thought a bit differently when purchasing my phone and I believe this is the cheapest way to own a Smartphone.

I purchased my phone outright from the manufacturer, Apple. It was unlocked, so I wasn’t tied to any network and this meant I was free to select the cheapest deal. I had read great things about GiffGaff and a family member had been with them for a couple of years, so they were able to benefit from me switching too (as GiffGaff is run by its members, they pay you for introducing new people). I chose a 30 day, rolling SIM contract which I am free to change each month to suit my usage. Best of all GiffGaff email you with details of your best plan, or you can switch to Pay-As-You-Go at any time.

So, let’s crunch the numbers.

  • Upfront cost of unlocked handset £524.17
  • I’m currently on their lowest priced bundle, paying just £5 a month for calls, texts and data.

The //ws-eu.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=GB&source=ac&ref=qf_sp_asin_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=minimaexposu-21&marketplace=amazon&region=GB&placement=B00F3J4B5S&asins=B00F3J4B5S&linkId=&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true” target=”_blank”>iPhone cost, split over 4 years works out at £10.92 per month, so with the bundle on top I’m paying just £15.92 per month. £191.04 per year and that’s £764.16 over 4 years, not a lot more than the cost of the phone! O2 were the cheapest nearest competitor when I was purchasing, but buying outright won hands down on a new phone.

O2 are still selling the //ws-eu.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=GB&source=ac&ref=qf_sp_asin_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=minimaexposu-21&marketplace=amazon&region=GB&placement=B00F3J4B5S&asins=B00F3J4B5S&linkId=&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true” target=”_blank”>iPhone 5s, but only a 16gb model and they want £15 a month for that, plus £9.99 upfront. They’ll also tie you in for 2 years. But, it’s not really a fair comparison as I bought the newest model. So, let’s say you want an //ws-eu.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=GB&source=ac&ref=qf_sp_asin_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=minimaexposu-21&marketplace=amazon&region=GB&placement=B01LW1VU9E&asins=B01LW1VU9E&linkId=&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true” target=”_blank”>iPhone 7 the minimum cost is £45.00 a month (on the cheapest data package!), plus £9.99 upfront. You’ll be paying £1090 over the 2 years they’ll tie you in for. Then you’ll probably have to pay someone to unlock it, if you want to move away.

You’ll only pay £599 to buy the same phone outright, unlocked direct from Apple. So let’s compare that over 2 years for a fair comparison, adding £5 a month for your basic bundle. £719 is your cost of ownership, saving yourself an enormous £371! More if you keep your phone for longer, as there will be absolutely no need to upgrade it. But if you’re a serial upgrader for whatever reason, then you’ll still get a decent trade-in/ re-sale price for your phone. So my advice, if you want to do this (or for anyone really) is to buy a screen protector and great case so you keep your phone in pristine condition!

You don’t have to purchase an //ws-eu.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=GB&source=ac&ref=qf_sp_asin_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=minimaexposu-21&marketplace=amazon&region=GB&placement=B00F3J4B5S&asins=B00F3J4B5S&linkId=&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true” target=”_blank”>iPhone, to be honest – I probably wouldn’t again. My other have has an Android phone, a //ws-eu.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=GB&source=ac&ref=qf_sp_asin_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=minimaexposu-21&marketplace=amazon&region=GB&placement=B01IF51GYU&asins=B01IF51GYU&linkId=&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true” target=”_blank”>Motorola ‘Moto G’ and it’s been very good. We bought it outright on Amazon for £160 a couple of years ago, plus £11 on a //ws-eu.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=GB&source=ac&ref=qf_sp_asin_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=minimaexposu-21&marketplace=amazon&region=GB&placement=B014IX0202&asins=B014IX0202&linkId=&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true” target=”_blank”>memory card. Although it hasn’t been quite as reliable, it broke once and had to go away to be repaired. But you can expand the memory.

I might even go so far as to suggest that you might want to put some of the cost of buying a phone outright on a credit card, if you can’t wait to save up (which is what I would advise), since you can see how great your savings are! GiffGaff also sell phones now, which they didn’t when we were buying and I would imagine they have a competitive offering. If you would like to sign-up to get GiffGaffed, then you and I will both receive £10 credit – twice as much as usual. This great deal only lasts until 31st January 2017, so you’d better get moving!

My final word on this subject – don’t forget to go through a cashback site, wherever you decide to purchase from!

A Short History of the Second-Hand Clothes Market

Anyone who knows me well will know that I love to shop second-hand, be it charity shops, jumble sales, car boots, eBay or anything else! During the many years I have been a part of the second-hand market, I have built a working knowledge of the value of items and particularly those which are sought after (hint: it tends to be the good brand names, as people know those are quality items). I also have been able to develop my love of vintage style, as I find genuine vintage items in the charity shops. One of my great loves is vintage Laura Ashley garments and I hope to be able to share a little more of that on my blog soon. I recently discovered a book published by Laura Ashley in 1983 and it’s a really fascinating read. It’s called Fabric of Society – A Century of People and their Clothes 1770-1870 by Jane Tozer and Sarah Levitt. You can pick up a hardback 1st edition for 1p, plus P&P on Amazon so it’s a real bargain!

I was very interested to come across this information about the history of the second-hand clothes market. As still is the case nowadays, second-hand clothing provides a way for poor (and financially savvy) people to buy the essentials. Then, as much as now, people were often too busy to sew or make their own garments. The Primarks of the day were known as ‘slop’ shops! I’m not sure if that’s where we get the word sloppy from. But just as today, the quality was poor and the garments did not last. The savvy people knew to buy second-hand, high quality garments that had come from the large houses. People who knew the market were very shrewd and able to judge which were the high-quality pieces. This meant if you were buying through a dealer, you’d pay a higher price than if you found the bargain yourself. Nothing changes eh?

Certain items of clothing were only worn by the gentry, such as dress coats and so, there was no second-hand market for these. They had to be turned into other garments, so they could be sold on. So, people either bought them and turned them into wool hats or caps, or traders did. These coats were also used to patch other garments. If a waistcoat began to wear, then it would be cut down into a smaller size or used to create cloth tops for boots. I think we could learn a thing or two from those days, don’t you?

Woollen garments which were so worn, they could no longer serve as clothing were sent for recycling. They would be ground down and mixed with new wool, into a fibre known as ‘shoddy’. I wonder if that’s where we get that word from also? This fibre was used to make cheap, mass-produced clothing. They didn’t waste anything and the dust from the mills, was used as manure on the hop-fields of Kent. This of course is safe with natural fibres, unlike the plastic micro-fibres that are clogging up our oceans today because we like to wear micro-fleece garments.

Old boots and shoes were patched up with anything they had to hand, even cardboard! Although that can’t have been great for anyone concerned, as it’s hardly durable or waterproof. Then they would be blackened to look good as new, if only temporarily. For this reason, people who worked outdoors often purchased new boots, even if they had to save up for them because they knew that quality footwear was essential to do their jobs safely and well!

In the 1700s and 1800s, women’s dress was less subject to change and this was because they knew how to sew! They would carry out any alterations themselves if fashions changed, or either repairing garments or cutting them down into child-sized ones. They would also tend to sell garments on themselves, after cleaning them. Old silk garments were used to line new clothing, or work boxes or dressing cases. They could also be turned into childrens or even dolls clothes!

Wool and cotton were recycled into shoddy thread and linen rags went to paper mills, but silk was not salvageable once damaged or worn. Cotton gowns were the most popular as they stood the test of time well and could be cleaned. Woollen dresses were less popular, as they did not last so well- probably prone to bobbling. Then of course, there were the furs. Any second-hand furs were mostly sold to prostitutes, as most people could not afford them – even second-hand! So much of this bears true today, if you buy a quality cotton garment it will be very long-lasting, as opposed to cheaper man-made fibres. I suspect that wool is more long-lasting today, as we know to hand wash it to keep it looking good.

The items that were most worn, such as trousers obviously tended to wear out and that’s why we don’t see many of these types of items, or working-class items at all in museums today because people actually wore their clothes out in those days. That really is a testament to the thriftiness and historic success of ‘the rag trade’, which really abhorred waste. A story that really is so relevant today!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year Everyone! I’m excited to see what 2017 will bring.

My New Year’s resolution is to share even more money-saving, frugal, minimalist and zero waste tips with you. Over the past 4 years that have been my foray into this ‘alternative’ lifestyle, we have accumulated over £30,000 by selling our excess possessions, online earning opportunities and matched betting. We have learnt to save money in a myriad of ways, including swapping from supermarkets to local shops and the environment has benefited too, as we have ditched excess packaging at the same time. We cook from scratch almost every meal time, buy second hand items and have learnt how to use coupons and apps to our advantage. I have lots more exciting things to share with you this year, but for today – here is one small thing that has made a big difference to the dry skin during wintertime in our household.

I’d like to share a recent discovery in T.K. Maxx (but also available on Amazon here).

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Bee Bar Lotion – it is completely natural, smells divine and comes in this great re-usable tin. Inside it’s the cutest hexagonal block, wrapped only in greaseproof paper. I grabbed them when I saw them, at only £9.99 each in T.K. Maxx they were comparable with Lush’s massage bars which I normally use as they are completely packaging free. They are made by an American Brand (which I’d never heard of being here in the UK) called Honey House Naturals. It appears they will ship outside of the USA, but can only advise of the shipping and customs taxes at the time of dispatch.

They are utterly portable, great for travel, no chemical nasties and last around 2-3 months.

Do share any great products you have found, as sometimes it’s very hard to come by good zero waste items.