Swagbucks – Earn Free Gift Cards during the Holiday Cookies Team Challenge!

I have a fun way for you to get in the Holiday spirit and earn some gift cards! Swagbucks is holding a Holiday Cookies Team Challenge and they’re a lot of fun! For those of you who don’t know what Swagbucks is, it’s a website where you can earn cash back on everyday tasks you do online like shopping, answering surveys, discovering deals, and watching videos. You can even earn for searching the web! If you’ve never tried Swagbucks before because you didn’t know where to begin, their Team Challenges are a great way to learn the ropes and earn points towards free gift cards and PayPal cash! The challenge runs from Monday 10th December to Friday 14th December.

Here’s how you can join the challenge and the site:

1. Click here to join the challenge and be assigned to a team.

2. In addition to earning SB, you’ll contribute to your team’s total as you complete different activities on Swagbucks.

3. Check back on the page often to see the scores and what you’ve contribute so far.

All members who participate and contribute at least 600 points to their team’s total will receive a SB bonus in the form of a SB Swag Up Shop Bonus on their next gift card! Not only that, but if you sign up under me this month and earn 500 SB before January 1st, you’ll get a 500 SB bonus! Members of the 1st place team will receive a 100 SB Swag Up Rebate, members of the 2nd place team will receive a 50 SB Swag Up Rebate! Which cookie team will you be on?

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More Shocking Truths About Frugalwoods!!!

The Truth about Frugalwoods is one of my all-time highest read blog posts. As this is a topic you all like to read about, I’ve been doing some more digging. I have even shocked myself with what I’ve pulled up about them this time – hold onto your hats people!!! I share this because I want to warn others to be very careful where and from whom you take advice, not just on the internet but in real-life too. Some close family members were recently duped out of their entire retirement and inheritance from someone purporting to give ‘financial advice’. Not only should you check out what you are being told, but also their background. Do they have qualifications to advise you? Insurance? Does it all add up?

I had heard some rumblings on the internet that the Frugalwoods are not being truthful about their income. All you ever read on their blog is that they had good jobs when they were working, in the not-for-profit sector and they make out that they are now ‘retired’ in the country. Well, everyone knows about working for a charity in Britain – most people would be lucky to be paid the National Minimum Wage. But even higher up the career ladder, you will not be getting rich. I guess we could probably lump together the Public Sector as not-for-profit, as the NHS for example, certainly does not pay most of its staff well either. A nurse starts out on around £21,000 a year here in the UK.

So it was a little bit shocking to dig around for Mr Frugalwoods tax returns online, (thanks to this MrMoneyMustache forum thread) and find out that he earnt a mere £209,735 in the financial year ending 2016, as the Executive Director of a company. Not retired at all! According to what I’ve read online, that would make him amongst the top 5% of US earners. But here in the UK that kind of income is only paid to the top 1%. Let’s put it this way – the Prime Minister of Great Britain only earns £150,402! Gosh, it must be nice for all those people who think they’re donating to a not-for-profit company in the USA – to find out how much they are paying their staff. Claiming only to exist to do good and then having people taking home salaries like that!!!! Mind you, there was recently a shocking episode of Dispatches on Channel 4 which uncovered similar ridiculous amounts that Housing Association bosses are making, whilst plenty of people are going homeless. We do live in a very unjust world.

Frugality, when one half of the couple is bringing home that kind of money is a very different thing from the likes of say….Jack Monroe (a single mother trying to exist on benefits with her child and struggling to feed herself). That’s 7x the average £30,000 income for men in the UK. And then Mrs Frugalwoods earns money on top from writing for various sources. I stopped following their blog a while ago, as it just didn’t seem to ring true to me and this confirms my gut feeling once again. Let me know in the comments whether or not you’re going to continue reading their blog.

Resuable Vs Disposable Nappies – Pampers Pure

I was all for cloth nappies before I had my baby – good for my pocket, good for the environment, right? Well, that may be true but then the realities of parenting hit – the lack of sleep, being out and about, not being able to leave the room long enough to hang out the washing, let alone the fact that our baby seems to hate cloth nappies. The first time we tried them he went from being a normal, contented baby who took regular naps –  to being sleepless, hot, uncomfortable and generally extremely grouchy. For no other reason than the nappy!

We’ve tried them again several times, but the wraps seem to cut into his skin and they’re so bulky, he can hardly bend his legs. They make him hot- granted we have had an extremely hot summer, but I really don’t get all these people who say that they’re breathable. And then there’s the fact he’s literally sitting in urine for hours, you have to change them much more frequently than disposables and that’s before we even get to the washing of them all! This is also all complicated by my health conditions which mean I have limited energy. I have very quickly realised that I want to spend the best of my health and time with my baby and not completing household chores (which have gone out of the window anyway, since I simply don’t have time nor energy to complete them).

So I was happy when Pampers sent me a packet of their new Pure nappies and wipes to try. We haven’t been using wipes, but I recently bought a packet of Water Wipes for our holiday as you can’t be out and about, trying to mess around with cotton wool and water, when your baby has had a poo’splosion!!! I’m certain from writing this blog, that there are plenty of other parents out there who want to choose a more natural option for their family, but practicality has to come first.

The Pampers Pure nappies are really thick and good quality, even more premium than their premium protection which is what we had been using. That’s a big deal, as so many natural nappies and similar products just don’t hold up in use, breaking apart. They have these cute little designs on them – there are a couple more which I didn’t have the opportunity to photograph, I’d describe them as abstract art. Pampers say they contain less chemicals than their standard or premium nappies, which I’ll have to take their word for as I’m not a scientist. I’ve had absolutely no leaks whilst using these which I know isn’t always the case with other nappies. They also don’t leave any red marks on my baby’s skin which is a major concern for me.

The only major downside for me, is that it’s really hard to tell which is the front and which is the back, so I keep putting them on backwards. The tabs are white which make them hard to see and these are just really difficult, compared to their standard or premium nappies which I’ve never had this problem with.

The Pampers Pure wipes are easy to use; aren’t all wipes?! Whilst remaining tough, durable and don’t irritate my baby’s skin. As with all wipes, I keep these for cleaning up poo and when out and about only because I don’t want to be putting a lot of these in the bin to respect our planet.

Overall, these nappies are made from cotton, plant-based materials and other ‘thoughtfully selected’ (not sure what that means)! materials. I like the fact that there is an easily available option out there on the high street, for those of us who want a purer option but for whom reusables are just not going to work. There isn’t a perfect option out there and whilst I’d prefer not to be clogging up landfill with disposable nappies, we have to choose something that works for both us and our children.

Things That Have Gone – 23

I said that I’d probably still manage to get rid of a few more items! Well it amounts to a cardigan and a pair of shoes sold on eBay, 2 bags of clothes returned to their original owners and 2 books sold on Amazon Marketplace.

Yet more things that weren’t actually needed! I expect the odd item will still sell on eBay in the coming months, as I have a handful left listed.

More Truth about the Frugalwoods!

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2018/mar/08/how-to-retire-early-frugal-spending?CMP=fb_gu

I just thought I’d add this recent Guardian article on The Frugalwoods for your amusement. The truth is that they did not retire at 32, but they both still work (albeit mostly online from home). Sure, they may have abandoned the city for the countryside, but their so-called ‘Living the simple life’ would not be possible without a high-speed internet connection. So please don’t believe the hype.

Oh, it also helps that they both earn ridiculous amounts of money from their jobs (upcoming blog post giving more detail on that). I don’t disagree that they may have decided to stop embracing consumer culture, like many of us have. But once again I just want to warn people who might think they can emulate them.

They may think that they are only spending money on the very ‘basest’ of items. But I love this from the comments section:

       “Food, our mortgage, gas for the car, electricity, an internet connection, toilet paper. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, 2018”.

Whilst I’m glad that only spending on these things helped them to realise their mindless consumption. I think plenty of people in the World would consider the essentials to be food, water, shelter, warmth and rest. They probably don’t realise how Westernised their basics are.

Obviously you can read the article, but I think the comments are hilarious and really call out the truth behind some of the lies! But most of all, I’m still curious as to how they can claim not to be reliant on a salary from a job. Anyway, here’s a selection of my favourites and it’s nice to see I’m not the only one thinking this way:

“Reading the comments has saved me from reading the article. Thank you one and all”.

“Such a small, modest house they have too! I think the book should be called the The Smugwoods: Our transformational journey from city work slaves to rural phoneys who live very far away from everyone, only because we are so annoying”.

“I’m staggered by the fact that you think that living frugally in this way is exceptional. Having to make many of the ‘savings’ you describe in this article is just normal life for many people – and many are worse off than that…”

“I’m too frugalized to buy this ridiculous book”.

“And according to the article it only took them three years. 2014: decided to be frugal. 2018: Retired (!), own 66 acres and a house, book published”.

“Dear Liz (frugalized your name), Will you accept my well thumbed copy of The Bonfire of the Vanities in exchange for Meet the Frugalwoods?”

 

The Concept of Commodification

More musings from the Story of Stuff book:

Because we spend so much of our time chasing after money, to buy stuff that we don’t need, that promises us the world but delivers none of it – our communities are suffering. We spend so much time on the above, that we’re not available to be present and useful amongst our local community. This feeds our discontent and unhappiness because people in our local community could meet our need for relationship. We can have our emotional needs met by having a chat with a neighbour. We can have logistical needs met, by a neighbour bringing us a meal, babysitting, dog-walking, offering a lift or taking in our mail whilst we’re away.

Ironically, all of these things have now been commodified in our consumerist society and are available to buy from strangers, at a price! Probably most people don’t even know their neighbours these days, since all they do is go to work early and arrive home late. They are too busy, too stressed, time-poor and over-scheduled. No wonder we have increasing amounts of isolated elderly, or even depressed and overweight adults and children in our society. And the solution is really so simple!

If you’re a systems thinker, than you might liken this phenomenon to a negative feedback loop. A problem or problems, that cause an effect that only serves to add to the original problem. We now have to work harder, to pay for the kinds of service that friends and neighbours used to provide for free. This only serves to add to our stress levels and lack of time. So you can see how the downward spiral continues!

More Musings on the Story of Stuff – Branding & Marketing

As I said yesterday, I’m currently reading this book:

Today, in the chapter on distribution I struck upon something horrifying. I guess I sort of knew this already, but seeing it in black and white is even more shocking. I’m sure we all know that most companies out there don’t actually make the stuff they sell, but they buy it in and have unknown manufacturers make it for them. We’ve seen this so much in the clothing industry where brands like H&M and Primark have clothes made up in India and take no responsibility for the working practices of those in their supply chain. This is all part of these companies plans to cut costs, basically by abdicating responsibility.

This efficiency driven, cost-cutting is pervasive. Companies don’t make the stuff they sell, they simply brand it. Apple don’t make computers, but they sure as heck have created a brand that people crave. H&M don’t make clothes, Nike doesn’t make trainers. They all simply buy the garments and items from producers, or the parts to assemble them and often not even from the same factory, but from multiple producers. It’s quite possible that one factory churns out the exact same product for multiple retailers.

So really, let’s face it – it’s often not the item we are buying, but we’ve been sold on the brand. The founder of Nike even admitted that the company once saw themselves as production oriented, but that they now understand their most important function is to market the product. So guess where they put all their money? Advertising. And often this advertising isn’t even for a specific product, it’s all about the image they want to associate with their brand. Nike aren’t selling your trainers, they are selling you a fashion statement that in this climate will probably be outdated in a mere 2 weeks!