Category Archives: The Rules

The rules: revamped


So. You have spoken. And here’s the result. The grand reveal: our new rules for 2014…

In essence, the old rules stand. No spending AT ALL on kiddy products: not on kids clothes, not on toys, not on activities, or kiddy foods, magazines, haircuts, nappies etc etc. Nada. EXCEPT, this year…

We get 12 ‘get out of jail free’ purchases. As suggested by a few people in this post. The idea is that by allowing ourselves 12 purchases in the year (one a month, in essence) we’ll find a model that cuts out the crappy merry-go-round of kiddy consumerism but is a little more do-able, a wee bit more sustainable, a bit less full-on than last year’s epic adventure. A way of living that we might, conceivably, be able to pull off for the foreseeable future (whether we’d actually want to… well, who knows… ask me at the end of the year…)

So 12 purchases allowed. BUT – only six of these can be new things. The other six have to be second-hand. Not only that, but these second-hand purchases have to come either from a charity shop or direct from another family (via a local swapping site, for example) so that I know that the money’s doing into a deserving pocket.

I’m not going to set any rules about the six new purchases. I think it will be more interesting that way. It means that if I choose to make a frivolous purchase – a gorgeous dress for the baby, say – well that’s cool. But I’ll know that it means one less essential purchase (kids’ underwear for example) that I’ll be able simply to pop to the supermarket for. One more thing I’ll have to find as a swap instead. One more hour hour spent on freecyle instead of in front of The Killing.

And it’ll be different this year for other reasons too. Is getting kids clothes for free even possible when you add a baby into the mix – a wee person who grows out of her clobber not roughly once a year but every three months? And how about the four-year-old-boy Johnny will be by the end of the year? Will he be as easily fobbed off with second hand toys? He’s already far more aware of products and trends than he was at the beginning of last year. Far more influenced by what his friends have and play with. Far more often overheard to say, “we need to buy…”

Who knows. As ever I can only make three promises:

1) Mama don’t preach. This isn’t about telling anyone else what to do. If you’ve read my blog before, even a couple of times, it should be pretty obvious that I DON’T KNOW. I have no answers. Just a few jumbled ideas and a wobbly will to try to do the best thing I can for the kids. Most of the time. When humanly possible. On good days.

2) Liberation not deprivation. If it turns out that any of us (Johnny, Frida, my husband, me) are less happy, more stressed, less healthy, or just generally flourishing less (wilting?) due to cutting out spending in any area, we’ll reintroduce that thing. This isn’t about being stoic, or even doing without. It’s about blundering messily but happily towards a way of life that makes us happy and content.

3) Honesty is the best policy. I will be honest. I’ll always tell you what’s going on. No sneaking purchases past this blog. Hand on heart.

So… what do you think?!

The Rules



Mama don’t preach. I’m not here to tell you what you should be doing, for one simple reason: I don’t know. 

This isn’t my scene. The only time I tried to cut the kid’s hair, even his father laughed at the results and he gets his hair cut for £4 by a one eyed Albanian off the Holloway Road. The idea of reusable nappies makes me want to sprint to the nearest bar (just wait till you see me trying to sprint… in these shoes?

There are millions of mothers in the UK in millions of different situations. I can only write from my own perspective and I’m no expert. But I’m going to talk to as many as possible along the way to better inform myself and share their answers with you. I’m just going to try. Really hard. And where I fail, Ill be frank about it here. 

[If you were after more info on the extent to which these rules apply apply to me too, see here.]

Liberation not deprivation. The first rule of Free our Kids? No rule is set in stone.

There will be some inevitable bumps along the road. Possibly mountains. Followed by some craters. If it turns out that the kid needs me to spend money on something in order for him to be healthy and/or happy then we’ll revert to spending on that thing and, of course, come clean about it on this blog.

The promise isn’t that I will absolutely, definitely be able to stop spending any money for a whole year. The promise is to start that way, so that I have to re-examin and consider all the different things I was spending money on without, really, being able to afford it and without, really, stopping to think whether they were adding to the kid’s wellbeing.

Of course, I hope we can hold to our rules and find creative ways for him to have just as much fun, food and love as before. Only without spending money on them. So here we go….


1)   FOOD

No buying of kid specific food. No snack bars, apple rice cakes, smoothies, tiny plastic cheeses. Some of these are brilliantly useful in a tight spot (Organix snack bars, how I will miss you). But most have to be the biggest con of all and I’m done with them.

Did you know that infant ready meals were so rare in 2006 that they didn’t exist as an industry category? Five years later, they’re worth £25.8 million and growing by nearly 25% every year.

Not in this family. Not anymore. From here on it’s weekly menu planning. Three meals a day that suit all three of our tastes and nutritional needs. Snacks that Tom and I will eat too.  If the kid doesn’t like something, I’ll tuppaware it up and eat it later myself. Less waste, less angst.


We aim to spend £0 on the kid’s threads in 2013.

Kids grow criminally fast. They should stop, really they should. But in the meantime, it just compounds the crime not to use second hand clothes. And thirdhand. And fourthhand.

This boy is two years old. He doesn’t need to be on trend. He needs to be warm and dry so that he can explore the world.

We’ll have hand me downs and freecycle. Have you seen the things people throw away? There’s no need for your kid to look like this (except for reasons of personal mirth):

photo (39)

The only thing I will miss, here as with toys, is supporting Oxfam and other brilliant charity shops. There will, I think, be times when I know I can cut out all spending, but I’m not sure if I should. Stay tuned for further ethical dilemmas…


£0. For pretty much the same reasons as with clothes.

Last year the Evening Standard estimated that there were 474 million unused toys gathering dust in British homes and a study by Ribena found that one-in-six parents bought their kids the latest gadgets because they wanted to “look good in front of other families”.

The Telegraph interviewed one Mrs Goddard Blythe (director of the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology) who said that British parents had been duped into ”thinking that the more they provide for their children in terms of material, electrical goods and, in turn, the more money they spend, the better parents they are”.



£0. I’ve been to enough ‘Mini Music’, ‘Monkey Madness’, ‘Mummy’s making a Muppet of Herself with a Maraca’ classes to know how it works.

We’ll make our own classes, at home, with friends. We’ll paint, do ‘sensory’ stuff (ropey box full of pasta shells and string, yeah?) go out for walks to collect mud and stones and sticks and bring them back to smear into the floors.

It’ll be harder work for me. But just as fun for him. And the coffee will be better.


Oh god. Here we go…  Apparently, the average, sane, poo-rinsing-averse British family spends £922.74 on disposable nappies in the first 2.5 years of their child’s life. So yeah, I’m going to swap Pampers for reuseables. Even if the washing kills me (I think there’s a real chance of this).


Laugh all you want, Daddyo. The DIY haircut is making a comeback. But this time I might get a professional to teach me (and write a ‘how to’ post for readers too).


This is the one expense I can’t cut out. Johnny has childcare three days a week. And since a girl’s got to work (this one does, at any rate), and his grandmas are busy ladies, the childcare has got to stay.


I’m not an idiot. Calpol, bonjella, and any other form of medicine doesn’t count.

That’s it right? Oh wait….


What do I do about shoes? Aren’t they the one thing you’re really supposed to spend money on? Anyone got any smart ideas?

And what else have I left out?