How to make gift cards work hard for you

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So, what do you do with all these gift cards you’ve been earning on Swagbucks or given for Christmas? Today I’m here to explain how to make them work harder for you. It’s tempting to hit the sales with them immediately after Christmas and before New Year, when the shops are pushing the fact that they have a sale big time. And whilst, if you really want a certain thing (especially something that’s bound to be popular) and want to be sure you don’t miss out, then that’s a good idea. Generally, it’s not – by this point in January most retailers are getting desperate to shift their old stock. We all know from the news, that retailers in the UK are generally having a very tough time out there and so, most of them have shed loads of stuff still left to shift.

By waiting until this point, and picking your day – you can hit retailers when they mark things down to 70%-75% off (or greater if you’re prepared to wait another week or so). This is when stuff becomes as cheap, or cheaper than buying it second hand in charity shops. So, take that stash of gift cards and hit the shops (but only if there’s stuff you really want or need).

Marks and Spencer went to 70% off in-store and online yesterday. I shopped both methods and found that the discounts were greater (nearer 80% in store, where they have shed loads of stock) and slightly less online (usually differing by between £1-£2). Mothercare have gone down to 75% off. Debenhams and H&M are at 70% off. You get the gist of it, most retailers will be dropping their prices now, on the stock that’s left. Just be aware that you have more rights when purchasing online, as they still have to give you 14 days to change your mind, under the distance selling regulations. Whereas, if you buy these items in-store – you’ll likely be told they’re non-returnable (unless faulty). This is certainly the case in M&S. So try things on, if they’re clothing or take the sizes you need with you, or a tape measure!

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What Impact Does Our Consumer Culture Have On Our State Of Mind?

It’s the New Year, a time when many of us make resolutions to stick to good habits. Many people will be committing to buy less and spend less this year for all manner of reasons, be they thrifty, green, minimalist, zero waste and or just plain skint! Today I’m going to explore the impact of our consumer culture. Some people even choose to enforce a ‘No Spend Year’. This often comes after people have been pursuing the Minimalist lifestyle for a while and they start to realise how meaningless all their stuff is. Some people have triggers for this, such as; having to box up all their possessions to move which really forces you to evaluate absolutely everything that you have.

The ‘No Spend Year’ concept is simply an extension of ‘Buy Nothing Day’ which falls on Black Friday each year. An academic from The University of Sussex, Dr Helga Dittmar has been exploring the effect of our consumer culture on our well-being and identity. She has been examining what she has termed as ‘a materialistic value orientation’ or ‘MVO’ where people pursue and strive to spend money on expensive possessions to gain status. Alongside this, people who do so also have beliefs that these things will lead to a better life and make us happy.

She and her team have conducted a meta-analysis of over 200 research studies, where they have looked at all the existing studies that link MVO to personal well-being. This is a very robust study of the evidence and in the case of the aforementioned, means that the results are conclusive. MVO is linked to lower personal well-being, lower subjective well-being, increased negative self-appraisal such as low self-esteem, mental health problems (in-particular depression and anxiety) and also poorer physical health. As you can see, the more MVO a person is, the worse they are affected and interestingly, there are no positive attributes according to this study!

The advantages of spending less are that you are more organised with your time, organising free or low cost activities to replace your previous expensive habits. Your health may benefit as you spend less on eating out, junk food and alcohol. It may even force you to find new things, that you may never have considered before.Buying things can easily become addictive behaviour, bringing along with it a pressure to spend more and more due to our consumer culture. We are constantly bombarded by advertising which tries to persuade us to buy yet more. Advertising has become totally pervasive in our culture, it’s literally everywhere these days – on TV, on radio, on the internet, on billboards, in magazines and newspapers and more! It partly plays to our fear of not wanting to miss out on something that everyone else has. But they also ply us with subtle messages – ‘buy this and you will be happy’, ‘buy this and your relationship will be better’, ‘buy this and you will achieve the perfect body’ and so on. Consumer culture will try to sell us everything. However, the research shows that buying all this stuff has actually made us less happy. Psycho-pathologies have increased since the 1930s.

Ultimately, stripping away all this stuff will expose the real you and what matters is that you are a good person, happy and positive in yourself. Having stuff won’t necessarily make people like you. The research demonstrated that the most crucial aspect in getting the balance right in your life, is getting the right orientation towards money and material things. Having things is not inherently bad, but you do not need to have certain things in life. You can use the MVO in either a positive or a negative way, for example- if you seek status, you might become depressed which leads you self-medicate and this is a bad use of MVO which leads to lower well-being. Conversely, highly treasured personal possessions, are a record of your history and tell a very personal story of who you are and who you’ve been over time, who you’re connected with, they are symbols of your personal relationships and are a form of self-expression – these can have a positive effect. The study particularly looked at life transitions, such as going into a nursing home in older age. In this situation, if you are allowed to take your treasured personal possessions, you are not only happier – you actually live longer!

So, in the light of all this you might want to consider taking up a musical instrument, singing in a choir, learning a new art or craft. I also think this research shows that we should make time for small items that can make a big difference to our well-being; like flowers, perfume or a good moisturiser. Of course, what brings joy to one person will be completely different for another but try to keep it simple – so no purchasing of a Ferrari! Consider purchasing items that allow you to spend time with others; like a meal out, or travelling together, or to see someone important.

This blog post was inspired by today’s episode of Women’s Hour on BBC Radio 4. If you are in the UK, you should be able to catch up on iPlayer. If you are interested in the work of Dr Helga Dittmar, then you can look here for more information or read her book on the topic. The author of this book was also featured in the podcast – Michelle McGagh – The No Spend Year: How I Spent Less and Lived More. I have added that book to my reading list!

 

Start the New Year as you mean to go on!

The New Year is here! Take a minute and reflect back on all the goals you set your for yourself for 2015. Did you accomplish all of your goals? Great! Did you fall short on a couple? Not a problem, it’s important to always try and better yourself!   New Year’s resolutions are a time-honored tradition. There’s is nothing better than giving yourself an official start date to a new you. And what better time than January?

It’s no secret that better health is at the top of most people’s New Year’s resolution lists. Improving the health of your mind, body, and spirit is an integral part to success in almost all facets of life whether it be in your relationships or business! Hopefully this month’s Search & Learn from Swagbucks is a step in the right direction:

Swagbucks Search & Learn: Mind, Body, Spirit.

For those of you who haven’t participated in a Swagbucks Search & Learn, Here’s how it works (Official rules here):

1. Go to the Search & Learn page (you can get there from the button on top left of the Swagbucks home page) each day from January 4th – January 8th.

2. Each day Swagbucks will have 5 new questions related to one of the following categories:

  • Health Nuts
  • Yogis
  • Meditation Dedication
  • Gym Rats
  • Couch Potatoes

3. You can either click on the category card OR search from your defaulted Swagbucks Search Engine to find the correct answer!

4. Once you find the answers to all 5 questions, click on the button that says Win 500 SB on the Search & Learn page and complete that day’s survey.

5. Each correct answer (up to 5 each day) will enter you into a drawing to win one of 5 prizes of $5*!

6. Swagbucks will announce the 5 winners the following day at 10am PDT/1pm EDT (Friday’s winners will be announced the following Monday).

ALSO – when you use Swagbucks Search as your defaulted search engine during this promotion, you will be entered (up to 5 times per day) into a drawing to win the following prizes:

Grand Prize – $500*

Runner Up Prizes (20) – $5**

All winnings will be paid out in SB. Winners of the Grand Prize and Runner Up Prizes will be announced on Friday, January 15th.

This post was sponsered by Swagbucks. But I fully endorse their website, as I earn £30-£50 every month for very little effort. Please use my link to sign up. Thank you!

New Year- let the clearing our recommence!

Well, I have got back to downsizing our belongings. So far, I am quite impressed with how this month has gone.

  1. I have given away 2 1/2 Christmas cakes to appreciative homes
  2. I have sold 3 brand new photo frames that we unearthed in our loft
  3. I have bought a new pair of boots because my old ones were wearing through, but I have even managed to sell the old ones to someone who wants to re-heel and re-love them
  4. I have sold over 50 books, both on Amazon, eBay and through We Buy Books
  5. I have sold around 25 DVDs both on eBay and We Buy Books
  6. I have sold 3 shirts and given 3 away
  7. I have cleared the window sills in our lounge and bedroom again, with the aim of keeping these clear!

Now it’s time to start looking for more items to get rid of and ways to downsize. How is your minimising going? Do fill me in on your story.

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2014 on Minimalist Exposure. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, that’s been a resolution of mine for many a year. However, the New Year has given me the motivation to get back to minimising with avengeance! My husband and I have agreed to get serious about this now and really start shedding items, even ones we previously thought we ‘needed’. So I plan to seriously downsize our books, cds, dvds and computer games as a starting point.

Whilst I would love to live in a tiny house, it’s not a realistic option for us here in the UK at present. We recently moved to a cheaper area, but the distance from family and well, EVERYTHING is something we’re not happy to stick with. So we are planning to get our finances in order to move again and also this is the reason to begin minimising again. I am actuvely looking forward to April, when car boot season starts again!

So this blog is going to veer off ever so slightly into frugal living and money-saving, as we seek to achieve our aims. Our goal is to move to a detached bungalow which is step-up the housing ladder for us. We started off in a flat which may be minimalist (although this was before our minimalist days and with the amount of stuff we had, it certainly was a squeeze!) Anyhow, we have 0% desire to go back there due to terrible issues with the neighbours which culminated in a legal dispute to get one of them evicted and multiple insurance claims due to irresponsible neighbours who refused to maintain their flats and repeated water leaks. So for any of you considering flat-living, I’d urge to carefully consider all the potential costs!

We are currently living in a semi-detached house, but again we have problems with noisy neighbours and poor maintenance of shared areas. So although it may be expensive, we have 100% desire to get outta here and never have shared walls again!!! Whether this goal will be achieved this year or next mainly depends on our ability to clear our debts which mostly consist of a large student loan to fund a PGCE which was a necessary expense.

We currently save 30-50% of our income each month through a minimalist lifestyle, but this year I’d really like to increase this. It’s around 30% because what I earn is variable because I’m self-employed. But right now, virtually all of this is going on clearing our debts. I’d love to share tips to reduce the findamental living expenses. We are already certain we are on the best deals for everything possible, like phone and insurance. The main area I think that we can cut back is on our groceries. Again, we already make major savings in this area by buying reduced items, down-shifting brands and taking advantage of the freezer. However, I think we could save more by going vegetarian 1-3 days per week (or more, but I don’t think the husband would agree!) Again, I would love to share ideas!

Let me know how your minimising is going!