The story of the little plum kettle

Once upon a time there was a girl who really liked to drink tea and eat toast. When the girl moved into a lovely new flat, she decided to treat herself to a special kettle. The kettle, which was a special as the flat itself, was plum-coloured. Liking the look of the kettle so much, the girl decided to buy a matching toaster.

They all lived happily together, and the girl enjoyed a few months of delicious hot tea and buttery toast.

One Sunday (last Sunday, in fact), it was late, and the girl decided to make a cup of hot chocolate before bed. She filled the little plum kettle and flicked on the switch, but the blue light didn’t come on.

She looked at the kettle, sitting next to the toaster, and sat down with a sigh. “No hot chocolate for me tonight then,” she thought. Try as she might, she couldn’t get the kettle to work. It appeared to have died.

That night, the girl went to bed with a heavy heart and a luke-warm hot water bottle. You see, she had bought the little plum kettle in September, and it was January now… and she hadn’t kept the receipt.

Two days later, having dug through her bank statements in an effort to prove that she had bought the kettle where and when she said she had, she picked up the little plum kettle and took it all the way into town.

The toaster sat lonely in the kitchen for a whole day, sad without its matching friend.

Arriving in town bright and early, the girl took the little plum kettle straight to the shop it had come from.

“Excuse me,” she said.

“Yes?” said the shop keeper.

“I bought this kettle here in September, but two days ago it simply stopped working. The thing is though, I don’t have my receipt. What can I do?”

“That’s ok,” said the shop keeper with a cursory glance at the girl’s bank statement. “Here, have another one!”

And with that, the shop keeper climbed up a ladder and fetched a brand new little plum kettle for the girl.

The girl beamed all day, and was so happy to finally go home and unpack the brand new little plum kettle. Placing it next to the toaster, her kitchen was complete again.

And they all lived happily ever after.

The end.

[The moral of this story is, when something breaks, remember your consumer rights. Once upon a time I would have simply cursed the cheaply made kettle, chucked it out, and bought a new one. Today, I learnt that I have the right to return it and get a new one, even if I don’t have my receipt!]

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The best things in life are free…

After having a bit of a splurge on my birthday with a trip to New York (more about that coming up soon!), I made my mum promise not to spend any money on Christmas presents for me. However, she still felt that Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a few presents under the tree, so she set herself a challenge: Freebie Christmas!

I received some really great gifts – way more than I expected – and my mum swears she didn’t spend a penny. Even the wrapping paper was free (she had a coupon). None of the presents cost anything  – some because of coupons, some buy one get one free, some free samples by post or handed out at train stations. It was really impressive.

I got loads of smellies:

Freebie Xmas

Some are travel-sized samples (always useful) but see that full-size bottle of shower gel on the right there? That was handed out at Waterloo Station!

I got sweets and drinks:

Freebie Xmas

Yes, that is a full-size bag of Waitrose fudge, AND a whole bag of Thornton’s continental chocolates!!

Some gifts were silly, like this Fitness First stress toy:

Freebie Xmas

And some very useful, like this Kikkoman calendar:

Freebie Xmas

One of my mum’s friends was clearing out some old books, so I got a couple of paperbacks:

Freebie Xmas

And finally, perhaps the best and most generous present of all, my mum’s Nero’s cards:

Freebie Xmas

That’s two free coffees!!

2012 is going to be the year that I learn to be a bit more frugal. I’ve decided that I’m going to be more mindful of how I spend my money – but this doesn’t mean I’m not going to have any fun. This Christmas has proved to me that it’s entirely possible to give and receive wonderful things without breaking the bank, and I’m so inspired that I’m going to make it my challenge to have a Freebie Christmas in 2012.

In these times of economic belt-tightening, most of us can’t really afford to splurge. However, it can make you feel quite blue if you spend all your time thinking that you “can’t afford” to do things  or “mustn’t” do things. Instead of those negative terms, I’m going to try to just think about the real value of money when I choose to spend it. For example, during 2011 I often spent £4.50 at Starbucks without giving it a second thought (coffee and a cake). If I did that once a week for an entire year I would spend £234. If I don’t go to Starbucks every week, I can save £234.

As well as being mindful of the treats I have, I’m also going to look out for bargains and offers. There are always “buy one get one free” offers on things I use, so I should stock up on those things when I see them.

Finally, for the first time in my life (and yes, I have just turned 30), I’m going to learn to save up for the things I want. I see people around me all the time wanting and getting, but they’re not happy. More often than not, they’re just in debt and surrounded by stuff. I can honestly say that there is nothing I actually need right now, so I’m going to watch my pennies and save up for experiences. I want to travel, I want to study, I want to have fun.

2012 will be the year where I remember that the best things in life are free!


Wishing our lives away…

As I was browsing the shelves in my local supermarket last weekend I happened to spot a nice little selection of chocolate reindeer. Beside them were gigantic tins of Quality Street. This can only mean one thing – Christmas is coming!

Except, unless I’m mistaken, it’s only September. Kids have only just gone back to school, and we haven’t had Halloween yet. Surely, if anything, the shops should be full of pumpkins and witches?!

I feel like every year is getting shorter, and people are in too much of a rush to move on to the next big thing. We all know Creme Eggs will be available to buy before Christmas Eve and, as much as I do love them and wish they were available all year round, that’s just wrong.

Let me compare England to Japan for a moment. In Japan, there is a very distinct changing of the seasons, and this is reflected in the goods available in the shops. But there is never any overlap. It’s simply not possible to buy Halloween goods and Christmas goods at the same time in Japan. In England, I sometimes wonder if it might actually be possible to buy reduced Halloween goods, Christmas goods, and early Easter goods all at the same time – late November, perhaps?!

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t getting excited about Christmas already. I’ve seen some lovely Christmas cards in the shops, and I’m already imagining where I’m going to put my Christmas tree in my new flat. But I think we need to slow down. If we’re not careful, we’re going to forget to enjoy the moment completely.

So, what am I looking forward to right now? Moving house (again!) next weekend. That’s just about as far into the future as I want to go at the moment.

If you can’t help get excited, there are:

35 days until Halloween

90 days until Christmas

198 days until Easter

(Image source: I think I received it in an email once, but I don’t know whose image it is originally.)


Christmas spirit?

“Bah, humbug!” No, that’s too strong
‘Cause it is my favorite holiday
But all this year’s been a busy blur
Don’t think I have the energy
To add to my already mad rush
Just ’cause it’s ’tis the season.

The above is a quote from ‘Christmas Wrapping’ by The Waitresses, a song I was appropriately reminded of this evening. I’ve been out finishing my Christmas shopping today and, while it is true to say that Christmas is my favourite holiday, I do often find myself wondering about the true spirit of Christmas.

I was raised in a traditional way – Christmas is a time to give presents to your nearest and dearest.  Buying presents is something I enjoy – it’s a great feeling when you find that perfect item for someone you really care about; something you just know will make them smile.  But what about all those other presents you have to buy?  The presents you have to give out of duty?  Or the presents you have to find for the friend who already has everything?  I can’t help wondering if somewhere along the lines Christmas has gone wrong.

To be honest, I found a whole bunch of things in the shops today that I would have really liked to receive for Christmas.  But I won’t get them, because people who buy me presents don’t know what I want, or aren’t in Japan to see what I see.  I’m not complaining, I’m happy for anything I receive for Christmas, and I would be happy receiving nothing, but I can’t help thinking “Wouldn’t it make more sense if we all bought ourselves the things we want instead of buying for others?”.

Would that take the fun out of Christmas?  I don’t think so… Personally, I LOVE shopping.  So, if I was allowed to go Christmas shopping for myself, that would be awesome!  Especially here in Japan, where most shops gift wrap (beautifully) for free.  I could buy myself all the things I fancy,  have them all wrapped, then go home and put them under my Christmas tree!

I think as we get older it becomes more difficult to buy presents.  My friends have jobs and houses now, and they can buy what they want for themselves.  I’ve known them for so long that it’s hard to think of something new.  And when you add having to post it to another country into that mix, well, it can be hard to find something good.  So, I say we start a revolution!  Take Christmas back and keep it for yourself… 😀