Get 300 bonus SB when you sign up for Swagbucks in April

Spring is here, and there’s no better time to start earning free gift cards through Swagbucks!

All throughout April you can earn large bonuses when sign up as my referral on Swagbucks. Swagbucks is a rewards site where you earn points (called SB) for things you’re probably doing online already, like searching the web, watching videos, shopping, discovering deals, and taking surveys. Then you take those points and exchange them for gift cards to places like Amazon, M&S, or PayPal cash.

When you sign up through me this month, you can earn a 300 SB bonus! Here’s how:

1. Sign up using this link

2. Earn 300 SB total before May 1st, 2019. You’ll get a 300 SB bonus for it!

3. That’s it. It’s super easy, and Swagbucks is for real. I use it myself, and I’ve earned almost £3,000 to date. I use Swagbucks to buy gift cards for my favourite stores, like: M&S, John Lewis and Amazon. Then I can treat myself or my family at no cost!

Philanthropy – A Potent Motivator for Decluttering

It seems I have finally found my biggest motivator for decluttering – philanthropy. I guess it’s the most logical too. I have finally concluded that having items sat in my cupboards that I am not using, is preventing them from being used by someone else. Talk about wasteful! That is your most potent motivator, right there – for being Zero Waste and decluttering.

I don’t know if something has changed in me as well, but it’s like a pair of fresh eyes for me. I’ve got 2 pairs of sandals in my wardrobe, both were bought to go with a specific outfit to wear to a wedding. Neither the shoes or the outfits have been worn since! Let that be a lesson to me, never to buy something ‘just for a wedding’ again. Well, I’ve decided to donate them all. I’m sure plenty of people will be thrifty enough to use a charity shop for their one-time wedding purchase. That’s what I should do next time! Far better that someone wears that Bridesmaid dress, perhaps to their prom than it sits in m wardrobe forever. I am never going to be that slim again and besides, I have photos and my memories.

Another great motivator has been recognising that there are some things I am just not going to fix and therefore, it’s either time to throw out those items or Freecycle them on to someone who might like to fix them. There are a great deal of people out there, looking for a project. I had to admit that I was never going to glue those shoes back together, I had moved on. And that fridge magnet, no-one cares enough to glue that back together and it probably wasn’t going to last, even if I did! There are plenty of other fridge magnets on my fridge, but I felt attached to it as my parents had brought it back from holiday for me. Yes, I was ‘attached’ to a fridge magnet. Like I felt they would notice if I threw it out!

I am getting much better at putting unwanted gifts straight into the bag to go to a charity shop. I just don’t want to even have to deal with that kind of guilt anymore. What matters is that the person wanted to give you a gift and that you graciously accepted it. That doesn’t mean that you have to keep it. I often receive gifts that are duplicates of items I already own, so however thoughtful the gift-giver thinks they are being. I am sure they would rather someone use them, than they sit in my cupboard forever and a day. It’s also better for the planet if we use the things that have already been made, rather than storing them.

Over to you, what’s your biggest motivator for decluttering? I think big life events can also be a great initiator – especially if you are boxing everything up for a move (as we have done several times before), or preparing for a life change – like the arrival of a baby or an elderly parents coming to live with you. All these things mean that you need to clear some space and take some time to sort through your belongings with a more critical eye.

Fighting for a Simpler Christmas

Season’s Greetings to one and all! How has you Christmas been? I’ve come on here to air some of my frustrations about being a Minimalist at Christmas. I know you’ll understand.

We’ve been Minimalists for 4 years now and certainly our wider family and friends know about this by now. We are the butt of regular jokes about Minimalism which we try to take with good humour; since we also laugh at some of the lavish spending of our family and friends. However it really does start to grate with me now, 4 years on when we’ve specifically asked for people to respect our lifestyle and values at each seasonal celebration when we still get gifts we’d rather not be receiving. With the odd and rare exception, however thoughtful people think they are being, they are buying something that quite bluntly – we don’t want!

The fact is that we buy the chocolate we like to eat and don’t particularly enjoy the seasonal boxes of chocolates that people like to give. If we need biscuits, we go out and buy the ones that we love to eat. If we wanted seasonal fruits and nuts at Christmas, we would buy them. Inevitably also, all these things come wrapped in plastic which we try so hard to avoid with all our purchasing. We don’t want wasteful novelty gifts – no matter how much fun the giver thinks they will be – they will end up going to charity and I strongly suspect they have to bin them. We’d rather they weren’t created and resources weren’t needlessly wasted in the first place. Whatever hobby we have, we buy the tools that we have researched and would like to have, so it’s not helpful when people give us more. Do I sound ungrateful? Because I worry that’s how it comes across to family.

Sadly, they all seem to think we’re boring asking for gift cards  and ‘need’ something to open on Christmas Day (which we don’t and have tried with all our might to get this across). So every gift card seems to come attached to a box of chocolates, box of biscuits or other Christmas novelty – sigh. Actually the best gift we received this year was from a family friend, who via Unicef had donated a pair of warm, winter boots to a child abroad in need. Opening that card gave me a really warm feeling on Christmas Day which I didn’t get with any of my other gifts.

The trouble is that whether we don’t create a list and ask for nothing, or whether we create a very specific list – we still end up receiving gifts that we don’t want and then have to dispose of in a responsible manner. However for the largest part, our family did stick to either money or gift cards (although I worry  a little about the plastic waste those create, but surely a little plastic is better than whole items you don’t want or need?) A friend of ours (who is not a Minimalist) only ever asks for the essentials at Christmas, like socks and deodorants. That way he never has to worry about buying them for himself and gets to spend all his money on computing which is his first love. So perhaps I will start asking for bags of flour, oats, sugar and that kind of thing instead?! My family will probably then start to assume we are living in poverty but hey ho!

My husband and I have agreed that we need to try and find some alternative traditions to fill up Christmas Day with. We always enjoy a couple of good meals together, a short walk and usually a board game. Perhaps we just need to accept that that is special enough. Since most people do congregate under a loaded Christmas Tree and that is some sort of expectation around which the day centres. How do you deal with it, especially when celebrating with non-Minimalist family members? I promise I’m not Scrooge really, but still aligning my newer Minimalist values with older traditions. Any tried and trusted methods to get family to STOP buying you things you don’t want or need?

Bah humbug! 😉

False Advertising

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What’s with all the Christmas advertising this year regarding having your best Christmas ever?! It seems worse than usual to me, it’s the mainstay of several UK stores campaigns. Wilko’s tagline is “Bring home your best Christmas”. Asda’s tagline is “Christmas made better”. Swarovski are saying that you must ‘give brilliant’. Since when did stores get so arrogant? I’m all for retailers helping you to achieve ‘Christmas’, after all we all want to buy a little special food to celebrate the day. We may wish to buy a few gifts, or experiences. That’s what makes Christmas different from every other day of the year. But it’s this year I’ve really noticed them piling on the pressure for people to buy more and more. Maybe it’s just that I’ve got fresh eyes now I’m further down the road on my minimalist journey.

In fact the only retailer I’ve seen peddling a different message is Sainsbury’s, who are pioneering an advertising campaign centred on a harassed dad who’s trying to find his family ‘the greatest gifts’. It ends when he discovers the greatest gift he could give anyone is his time. It’s refreshingly different, even if I find the song that accompanies it rather irritating. At the end of the day, a huge part of Christmas is meeting up with people you love and sharing a meal. I think that is a truly great thing – sharing conversation, food, laughter, a few silly hats and a walk in the afternoon.

But, Christmas IS just another day – albeit a special day – but it doesn’t need to be perfect, you don’t need to keep ‘besting’ last year and no amount of stuff, including food is going to stop the odd family argument. After all, you’re probably going to be couped up with these people for a few days! So relax, enjoy it for what it is and take it as it comes. Happy Christmas Everyone!

Black Friday- Deals Week

You may sigh about Black Friday making its way across the pond. But if there is something you need to buy or perhaps you like an early start on Christmas gifts, it can actually offer a genuine opportunity to make some decent savings. I would absolutely prefer to do my shopping from the comfort of my sofa, rather than brave the craziness that goes down at the shops! I don’t shop Black Friday every year, but I may buy a few gifts this year. Aside from retailers slashing prices, you can make sure you get an even better deal by shopping from home. Always, always, ALWAYS click through a cashback site when shopping online – those extra pennies and pounds really do add up.

If you’re looking for the hottest cashback deals, especially with Black Friday and Cyber Monday coming up- you should take a look at Swagbucks. They are offering increased cash back from stores like Amazon, Argos, Boots, or Debenhams. You can turn this into cash back from Paypal or gift cards to your favourite stores!

Swagbucks will also offer amazing one-day deals to try out new products and services, earning you even more free gift cards. This page has everything you need to take advantage of some great “shopportunities” for Black Friday and Cyber Monday and the entire week leading up to them! The page will be updated each day with new deals and opportunities to get free gift cards. So remember to keep checking it!

If you still haven’t heard of them despite how much I rave about them – Swagbucks.com is an easy, quick way to earn cash back and gift cards by shopping online or doing other everyday activities like taking surveys or watching videos. When you do those things, you earn points (called SB) that you redeem for PayPal cash or gift cards to places like Amazon, John Lewis, Argos, Starbucks, and many more!

Just for signing up through me, you can earn a 300 SB bonus if you earn 300 SB before December 1st 2016. If you spend at least £25 shopping through Swagbucks during that time, you’ll get another 200 SB bonus! Why not take advantage of these great deals and sign up now?

Mintvine

Mintvine is a great survey site, although it also has polls, offer walls & other ways to earn. They send surveys very regularly (several times a day), so it’s easy to rack up points. Like most survey sites, you need to spend a short amount of time filling out your profile. This means that you will get sent relevant surveys & get screened out less frequently.

The plus points of this site are that it’s really easy to use, surveys are frequent, always credit & you can cash out via a variety of methods. I am currently receiving the cash via Paypal. But you can opt to receive a gift card from; Amazon, Debenhams, House of Fraser, iTunes, New Look, Pizza Express, Tesco, Starbucks & lots more! They also pay a small number of points even if you are disqualified.

The only real downsides of this site are that they keep you waiting for at least a week whilst your points are approved & that they pay in US dollars, so you need to convert the currency which means you lose a bit.

This site is a great little earner & I highly recommend it.

Clearing out before Christmas

I know that Joshua Becker recommends clearing out before Christmas, so that you have the opportunity to give things away to others who might need them and clear some space for the inevitable gifts that you will receive. (I say inevitable, as we have not managed to eliminate them completely in favour of experiences- despite our best efforts at Christmas Lists! I would hate to offend those family members who want to give them, so we try to put useful things on our list to guide them).

With that in mind, I was spurred on to have a clear out- also prompted by a number of items breaking down. I wasn’t organised enough to take pictures, so it will have to be a list.

  1. Broken telephone (inherited from my grandparents and was no longer functioning properly)
  2. Wallpaper steamer (unfortunately a bad purchase as did not last, as we could still use one). However I have found that a re-fillable spray bottle works as well if not better.
  3. 3 ceramic tiles- found in our garage- hideously 1970s, but maybe cool and retro now?!
  4. 2 Laura Ashley dresses ( I purchased a bundle on eBay for a really good price, kept the ones I liked and donated or sold the rest. I made back twice what I paid, so a good purchase!)
  5. Ironing board hanger (bought it with us from our last house, just incase it might be useful. No it wasn’t- should have left it behind! When will I learn about those ‘just in-case’ items?!
  6. Coat hook rack (taken down from our current house, left by the last owners. We just don’t have enough coats for 2 racks, even with visitors- talk about overkill).
  7. 2 books that my OH had bought in charity shops and finished reading. We send them back and don’t keep them.
  8. 2 DVDs (again we buy second hand and send them back once we’ve watched them).
  9. Retro/ cool 1970s light fitting (or not!)- left by the previous owners, not something we wanted to keep.
  10. Probably some more miscellaneous small items that I’ve now forgotten, that I found on my clean up mission.

I actually sent all of this to the charity shops, incase someone wanted items for re-use, parts or crafting. I have now decided to keep a charity bag on-hand- since unfortunately despite my notice, we still get 2 or 3 a week put through our letterbox. I turn them inside out and use them for any charity- silly, but I don’t want to offend them by bringing another charity’s bag. I put items straight into it which helps with the out of sight, out of mind thing. If I can’t see them item or don’t go to retrieve it, then I don’t need it. Once the bag is full, I can just take it and donate it.

I also cleared out a cupboard of old papers, so we have a lot more free storage space now. Last weekend, I traded in a box full of old CDs, DVDs and books that we have finished with to We Buy Books. They had a 15% extra code which was my incentive. We use charity shops and CEX like a library as it’s cheaper to buy them than rent from our local library. After using them, we trade them in or sell them on eBay/ Amazon. This nets us some cash to watch/ read something new and often we get back more than we paid! Win, win.

I’ve been selling a bunch of stuff on eBay- my motto is to try and sell it first, then donate. So packages have been going out several times a week.

I’m also really happy that now it’s December, I can start wrapping and giving gifts I have bought for others which also frees up space around my home.

My decluttering/ Minimalist efforts continue…

Re-use- wrapping presents

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There are lots of Birthdays coming in August! So, I thought I’d share some of my re-use tips with you. It helps to have some storage space, as I rely on my craft ‘stash’ to help me minimise and re-use items. In the picture above, you can see this beautiful gift bag- I have a whole load of these stashed from presents that have kindly been given to me over the years or other occasions when I’ve rescued them from other people who were going to simply throw them away after one use! Think of the expense people go to to buy these and they’re usually very sturdy, so could withstand a lot of re-gifting.

This one came with a lovely little circular, matching tag attached- which you will be able to spot if you are eagle-eyed. Sometimes people don’t even use these, but on this occasion they had. So, you simply need to snip of the tag and find a new piece of card to stick it to- thus hiding the old writing behind. Again, I turned to my craft stash- I keep pretty printed papers whenever I see them. This pink patterned square came from one side of an old Kleenex tissues box! Yes, you really can find inspiration everywhere. I applied some sticky squares behind to give the circular part a little lift and voila! One beautiful, custom-made tag- just write your message on the back.

To re-attach, use a hole punch to make a hole in one corner. This bag was very straight-forward as I simply had to undo the knot in one end of the ribbon, thread on the up-cycled tag and re-tie. I think it fits in nicely with the patchwork theme of this bag.

I wrapped the gifts in tissue paper- I usually keep any that I get from any source- like bunches of flowers or gifts, but this time I had run out, as I’ve been using a lot of it lately. So this is new, but I fastened each gift (you can’t quite see this in the picture with re-used ribbons- so no need for sticky tape! I save ribbons whenever I see them- I snip out those ribbon tags you are supposed to hang your clothes with, but you rarely ever use. Sometimes boxes of chocolates have ribbons, or other gifts, bunches of flowers, cakes etc. So ribbons never cost me a thing and I stash them all at the bottom of my workbox- I have every colour, width, shape and pattern you can think of!

A friend recently gave me some gifts wrapped in sheets from an old calendar, they had wonderful photographic prints on them. You can also use pretty paper bags you may get given in shops from time-to-time. Or how about simple brown paper, tied with jute twine? You can add twigs, or pine cones or anything you like as decoration.

I frequently make my own cards, by saving the fronts from old ones that have been given to me and attaching them to a new base. Some cards have paper inside to write on, if you rip that part out- the card is often like new underneath! If there is a rip mark left, then why not glue in a new piece of paper? You can also save photographs from old calendars and anything else you like.

So there you go- just a few ideas on how to wrap presents on the cheap and also in an eco-friendly way 🙂 I’d love you to share your tips. Do you re-use wrapping paper? My dad used to smooth it out and carefully peel off any sticky tape and then iron it flat, well he did grow up in war-time. He’d still do it now, but it makes my mum cringe.

Food Waste- Emptying the Cupboards of Out-Of-Date Foods

I had to concede it was time to empty the kitchen cupboards of out-of-date foods. I try to keep things longer than their best before dates, but I even I had to admit it might have been risky to consume any of these foods at this point. It should teach me a lesson because a) most of the items related to home baking and b) many of the items I had bought short-dated in the hopes I would use them up, so ultimately I just ended up wasting money. Lesson learnt!

I shall list the items now as a point of personal interest and reference for the future.

  1. 2 tubes of liquid glucose, 1 full, 1 3/4 used. Bought on a special offer at the supermarket for my attempts at making fudge. I think I lasted 3 attempts. I really enjoyed making it, but my first attempt before I purchased a sugar thermometer seemed to be my best one. After that, I just burnt it- maybe the thermometer is not accurate. But it is blooming tricky stuff to make and although very tasty indeed when you get it right, it is such a waste when you get it wrong. Overall, I believe I would be better off to purchase some quality fudge when I fancy some because of this. The quantities you make when you try it at home are too vast for one person to eat!
  2. Half a packet of marzipan- left over from making the Christmas cake. I need to diarise to make a cake, like a Battenberg that uses it up much sooner. Or, alternatively I am thinking I won’t bother making a Christmas cake anymore. I’m usually the one left eating it up, by which point I’m sick of it. If I just bought a tiny one from the supermarket- I could have that taste and then be over it!
  3. Half a packet of white roll on icing- again left over from Christmas (not only this year, but the year before!) Even though I attempted to use some of it up on Christmas biscuits, I’ve still ended up throwing it away. I actually hate the stuff- I think it’s overly sweet and tastes nasty. Another reason not to make a Christmas cake and just stick to un-iced biscuits.
  4. 1 packet of dried egg whites- used about half of one packet making an experimental dessert for my husband which he had seen on the Great British Bake Off (GBBO). It turned out to be totally disgusting! What a waste on every level.
  5. 1 packet gelatine- again from said dessert above. I guess I should have made more effort to use these up and make lemon meringue pies or my own jellies. But I think the fact I didn’t shows that we rarely eat these foods.
  6. 1/2 packet pudding rice- for a while I made my own rice pudding, often to use up coconut milk from my husband’s favourite soup. However, whatever recipe I used- it always came out thick and stodgy and we never enjoyed it that much. So we went back to tinned and this lay forgotten in the back of the cupboard. The plan from now on is to stick to tinned!
  7. 1 packet creme brûlée mix- again, this was a real favourite for a while. But I went overboard and bought too many because it wasn’t stocked often at the supermarket. Trouble is- everyone else got sick of it, so I stopped making it and this packet got forgotten at the back of the cupboard (lesson learned).
  8. 3 squares of Green & Blacks dark mint chocolate- we were given this as a present and no-one liked it. I tried to plough on to the end, but it was pretty grim!
  9. 1/2 bar nougat-Given as a present, again- no-one really liked it!
  10. 1/2 box meringues- bought on a 2 for 1 offer as we had guests coming to stay. Shows that mostly 2 for 1 offers are wasteful!
  11. Tin of dried yeast- I was given loads of flours and a recipe book as a present one year, as I have to eat gluten-free. But my experiments were short lived because the results were so poor! Actually, this got forgotten because I passed everything else on to a friend who was gluten-free for her to try it all out!
  12. A handful of pistachios- my favourite nuts, but I obviously don’t eat them enough
  13. 1 packet scone mix- bought on an offer and then languished at the back of the cupboard for too long!
  14. 4 tubes writing icing- bought reduced because I thought I’d use them. They actually turned out to be rubbish because they were all natural, made from fruit purees and didn’t show up on anything! I guess they were just a bad choice all round.

Overall, I would estimate that’s around £10 of wasted food here which disappoints me on every level. Often we have suggested food gifts would be more suitable to us as Minimalists- however, ultimately they can create just as much waste. I would much prefer that people don’t send us gifts or postcards. However, there are some older members of my family who just can’t break this tradition. I guess the solution is to quickly and discretely pass the items on to those who really can use them. Or possibly try talking to them again about the fact we really don’t need gifts etc.

Have you looked in your cupboards recently? What strategies do you have to try and avoid as much waste as possible? How do you deal with gifts from well-meaning friends and relatives? I’d love to hear your stories and suggestions.

The difficulties of a Minimalist Christmas

We really tried hard this year to have a Minimalist Christmas. The biggest hurdles I’ve found were being minimalist about food, so as to create less waste and also with gifts. To be honest, we did Christmas on a budget and I’ve managed to combine most of the leftovers into other meals. So big plus points there!

My biggest frustration has been with the gifts exchanged. Firstly, we agreed no gifts to the extended family. We rarely see each other and so, we don’t know what each others likes and dislikes are. It’s more important that we spend time together. We’re also aware that many of our family members struggle financially. We carefully created a very minimal Christmas list, stating our minimalist aims. We specified ONLY items on the list and that we would prefer people to give a gift to charity if they were unsure, on our behalf. Now, I’d say a good 75% of the family grasped this and we have received an abundance of gift cards that will allow us to have experiences all year long. The most exciting one is a Segway trail through a forest. We can also enjoy the cinema and coffee which are real treats.

However, I am unsure how to approach the rest of the family about the gifts we received, but did not ask for. In fact, the ones we specifically requested NOT to have! The incidental little items that people think would be fun, but which have no use and simply add to the clutter. The things that people think will be useful, but you already have and so will just add to the clutter. Or the multitude of plants that people think you would like, maybe I can forgive those more because they do provide an experience of sorts. But I only have so much room on my window sill. Do we just take them all to a charity shop or car boot and say nothing? I would love to hear your thoughts.