Christmas can be really depressing. Don’t get me wrong – I love all the decorations and the food and everything, but it’s so damn expensive. Even if you don’t have a lot of people to buy presents for, those you do have to get can really add up. On top of the expense, there’s always the feeling that most of the things you buy are unnecessary and perhaps even unwanted, too. How many of us can honestly say we’ve never received a Christmas present we didn’t want? Come on, be honest. We all have. Each and every one of us has, at some time or other in our lives, received something hideous and groaned at its inappropriateness. But did we stop to think that the present had cost someone money? That perhaps the giver had agonised over whether or not it was the right gift?
Choosing gifts for people can be a minefield, and even more so when you’re on a budget. That’s why last year my Mum and I started ‘Freebie Christmas’. Throughout the year we collect as much free stuff as we can for each other, and save it all up for Christmas. The aim is to spend nothing at all (although I did pay a few pounds postage on a couple of items this year, which I suppose is technically cheating), and we’re allowed to get things through any legal means (that means, using your Boots points is ok, buy one get one free is ok, stealing is not ok – except in the case of tea bags in hotel rooms, which we all know is not really stealing). 😉
If you missed it, here’s last year’s post. This year I think my Mum outdid herself:
Not only did we both have a lot of fun collecting things and rising to the challenge, all of the usual pressure was off. There was no concern over one person having spent more than the other, just a fight to see who could collect the most. There was some thought (some of my presents are really cool!), but there was also some silliness (but really, who doesn’t love free tissues?). I didn’t receive a single thing I didn’t like or couldn’t use, and even found joy in the surprise of opening things.
I’ve mentioned Freebie Christmas to a few people and everyone I’ve spoken to seems to think it’s a good idea. It’s amazing how much good stuff you can get for free (just see above!), and think of how much stress and money you could save yourself if you agree to a Freebie Christmas next year.
I hate Valentine’s Day. Besides my personal reasons and the ghosts of Valentines past, the main reason I hate Valentine’s Day is because it’s just SO commercial.
I know, every holiday and special occasion is commercial these days, but if I see one more fluffy pink heart I might scream. Who actually buys that rubbish? What kind of girl is actually happy to receive a giant stuffed bear on Valentine’s Day? And don’t even get me started on the chocolates. It must be a minefield for the guys – buying chocolates is traditional, but what if she says she’s on a diet? If you buy the chocolates you’re not being very supportive of the diet, if you don’t, you’re berated for not celebrating Valentine’s Day properly and not caring enough. Dammed if you do, damned if you don’t.
As a singleton on Valentine’s Day it’s easy to come across as cynical and bitter. I’ve decided to focus on the positives: money saving and dieting!
Let’s start with money saving:
Participating in Valentine’s Day is expensive. Not only are you supposed to buy a card and present for your loved one, you’re supposed to go out somewhere special, and you’re supposed to look nice. It’s the looking nice that can get really expensive, can’t it ladies? New shoes, dress, frilly undies… Easily £100 or more spent on an outfit for one night. Of course, you might let him pay for the meal, but when you’ve spent so much on looking nice, it’s hardly a saving.
And then there’s the diet:
You go to a nice, fancy Italian restaurant… Imagine all that pasta dripping with creamy sauce, a dessert oozing with chocolate, a few glasses of vino… There are easily 1500 calories or more in the average restaurant meal. Then there’s the box of chocolates he gave you, which you start eating as soon as he’s gone. Diet fail.
As a singleton this Valentine’s Day, I feel quite satisfied in knowing that I haven’t had to shed out all that cash for one night of “romance”, and I can enjoy a nice healthy meal which I’ve cooked myself. I know what some people will say though – why not have the healthy, home-cooked meal with your loved one and save on the new dress too? Of course – but the rules of commercial society say that most people will feel obliged to go out on Valentine’s Day.
Next time I celebrate Valentine’s Day, I hope I can remain mindful of the meaning of the day rather than allowing myself to get caught up in the commercial aspects. Surely a handmade card and a cupcake baked at home says “I love you” just as well, if not better, than anything you could buy in a shop.