Sunday, October 20, 2013

Why We Don’t Have TV by JD



We don’t have TV. More specifically, we don’t have live TV. We’ve got a TV, which we use for Netflix, our Wii, and DVDs. I’m just going to use ‘TV’ to mean ‘live TV’ here, because you’re a busy reader and that’s going to save you several words throughout this post and then you can more quickly get on with your important business.

There are a couple big reasons we don’t have TV. First: advertising. I’ll probably write another post on what I think about advertising, but for now I’ll just say that I believe advertising mostly exists to make you want something you didn’t know you wanted (and certainly don’t need), which results in money transferring itself from your pocket to the pocket of somebody who already has more than enough of it. Advertising does this in a lot of frankly ridiculous ways, like ads for toys showing all the children playing with it enjoying themselves so much they look actually crazy. You’re never going to enjoy that My Little Pony Playset as much as the insane child in the commercial, so don’t waste your money. As far as I can tell, Leigh and Erin generally aren’t interested in fad toys or fashions, and I believe a big factor in that is us not having TV so they’re not exposed to as much advertising as they would be otherwise.

Secondly, the attitudes displayed in a lot of TV shows are just awful. I’m talking about supposedly harmless shows like Victorious on Nickelodeon, which is about a group of high school kids that display a lot of attitudes I don’t think are ok for anyone to have, neither adults or children.  I don’t know this as a verified scientific fact, but I believe that there’s a part of your brain that doesn’t realize things on TV aren’t real. That’s why movies can be scary, because that part of your brain thinks oh my God there’s a killer cannibal rapist in this room with me right now Jesus Christ turn it off make it stop. In the same way, I think that part of your brain doesn’t realize a situation in a sitcom doesn’t actually involve real people (Not that they’re robots. Except for Bender, who is actually a robot.), and in some small way you’re influenced by the mean or stupid things those characters do.

That doesn’t mean I think TV doesn’t have redeeming qualities, though. There are some very entertaining shows, very educational shows, and sometimes you’re tired after a long day at work and just want to watch George Foreman infomercials. As I said earlier, we have Netflix, which we use for watching documentaries and TED talks (http://www.ted.com/talks), as well as plenty of movies. One day there’ll be George Foreman infomercials too, but for now we just do without. On the plus side, not having TV saves us £15 a month, and if you’ve got more than the basic package it could save you a lot more.

The main differences with Netflix are that there aren’t any advertisements and it’s not a passive entertainment stream. With TV, it encourages you to just sit there watching whatever’s on, even if you’ve seen it before, even if you’re not really that interested, because they want you to see more of their advertisements. With Netflix or any on-demand service, you’re making a conscious choice about what you want to watch, and when that finishes, you stop watching.

Not everyone is the same as us, and for many of you TV might work out just fine and fit in well with your life. For us, though, we’ve been without TV for almost two years now, and we don’t have any plans to bring it back.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Hungry Planet: What the Jacksons Eat

My husband JD and I have long been interested by a series of pictures showing what people from different countries eat.

Hungry Planet: What the World Eats

It shows families from 28 countries with the food they eat laid out and also details how much they spend.

Such as this picture of a family from Germany:


And this family from Japan:



It's really fascinating to compare our shopping habits with each of the other families. Recently we decided to show the pictures to the kids to show them how other countries eat compared to us. They were really interested in what foods they ate and enjoyed spotting familiar brands among the foreign ones. We asked them which countries seemed to eat healthily and whether they thought they got good value for money. It was great to feel like they understand which foods are good for them and which aren't. Although I think they wished we ate like one of the families from America that showed 2 massive takeaway pizzas!

This led to us wondering what our weekly food shop would look like all laid out like in the pictures. We shop twice a week, once at the supermarket and once at the local market so we had to do ours in two pictures. The week we took the pictures we spent £50. We usually spend between £50-60 a week but that week we already had some meat in the freezer to use up.


Our food shopping looks like less than most countries but we make a lot of food from ingredients like flour etc which we only buy every few weeks. Also we don't buy Coke in bottles every week but we saw these at the market and enjoyed the novelty of glass bottles! We make our own wraps mostly but bought these to make quesadillas as ours aren't as aesthetically pleasing, haha.

I feel like £60 a week is reasonable for a family of four. I feel curious how much other families spend on food. How much do YOU spend? :)

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A Wet Start to a New Challenge

We're a family who enjoys being thrifty but still fairly often I find myself wanting to treat myself to something new. I have an Amazon wishlist I keep topped up with things I'd like and although that list is really for family to give them ideas for gifts, I occasionally find myself looking through it with a view to spending some money. The trouble is that having a list of 'wants' makes me want them more.

Buying something can give you a buzz but more often these days I feel better if I know I'm buying something second hand and making use of something someone else didn't want. We seem to live in a world where our consumer culture pressures us into replacing perfectly fine possessions with newer shinier things for almost tenuous reasons. We're made to feel inadequate if we don't have the newest or most fashionable possessions.

So, I've decided to challenge myself to not buying anything new in October. I'm going to try go the whole month only buying things used or second-hand. Not including food, that would be gross!

Sounds good, right? Well, it all nearly went horribly wrong yesterday. I had to go into town for an eye-test and it was pouring down with rain. I mean really raining too not just a shower.



The kids had left for school taking the only two umbrellas in the house. I don't drive so I was going to get very wet on the way to the bus stop. Not that it'd help me immediately, my first thought was to Google umbrellas and buy myself one so in the future I wouldn't have this problem. I found a nice skull one for £12.



Then I remembered my challenge. Bah! I decided to have a look in some charity shops while I was in town. I dashed from shop to shop looking for an umbrella but there wasn't one in the 6 shops I checked. I really REALLY wanted to just go into Primark and buy one for a fiver. I didn't though, instead I just got wetter and wetter feeling more and more jealous of people around me with umbrellas. I even daydreamed about snatching an umbrella out of the hands of a smug looking old lady I passed.

I hope this challenge gets easier. Haha :D