Confessions and pleas (please!)


I realise I haven’t said much about my ‘free pass’ purchases this year. I’ve been thinking about writing about them, honestly I have. I just can’t find a way to do it because… well because they’re so, appallingly, mind-numbingly DULL.

If you remember (or not, it’s cool if you don’t have every single post etched onto your subconscious, I won’t hold it against you, really, not much) at the beginning of this year I was looking for a way to extend the ‘No Spend’ project into another year and update it – make it a bit shiny and new, and also make it a bit less scary, a bit more friendly, a bit more ‘this project won’t bite, honest’ but mostly, a bit more sustainable and practical for our future as a family.

A number of you suggested that I should allow myself a few ‘free pass’ purchases a year and so The New Rule was written up – 12 purchases allowed this year (6 per kid, for those of you for whom maths is not your strong suit or who have yet to have their morning coffee). Six of these can be new, but six have to be second hand and from either a charity shop or bought direct from another family so I know the cash is going to a good place.

So here we are in April. Four purchases down. And I’m ready for the big reveal. Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, so far this year our glamorous shopping opportunities have extended to:

January: a pants and socks set for Johnny (new)

February: a MASSIVE pack of size three nappies (new)

March: The uniform J needed for his new pre-school (new)

April: A very tatty old rocking horse (second-hand)

I’M SORRY. Really I am. I tried to be more exciting. But the reality is, these are the kinds of things that were a massive pain in the backside last year. From experience I feel qualified to tell you that you do NOT want to spend hours scrolling through Facebook forums and Freecycle groups begging for toddlers’ underwear. It makes you look, well… odd. And when you know you could pop down to Tesco instead, spend a fiver, and be home in time for Under the Hammer and a bourbon biscuit, it’s less rewarding than, say, using a plant pot to catch a child’s sick (yep, I’ve done this, and yep, I realised too late that it had massive holes in the bottom).

So after a year of the above, it was actually, sadly thrilling to stick some pants and socks on the online supermarket order. Does that make sense?


Oh and the uniform: well, there’s no decent story there. We needed it. That’s all. J started a new nursery and though getting it second-hand was totally doable, it was quite nice to be able to hand over some cash for it and tick it promptly off the long list of boring bureaucracy rather than cobble it slowly and painfully together for free. Oh, and look: here he is on first day. We hid Fireman Sam* secretly in his pocket in case he needed a brave sidekick to help him out with an attack of the wobbles midway through the day.


The rocking horse IS cool though, see?


It’s quite little, perfect for a small toddler, and I bought it off a local mum for a bargain five pounds. I’ve totally got into the swing of swapping instead of handing over cash. And mostly, it’s great. At the start of last year, I was a little intimidated and scared of asking strangers on online selling forums whether they minded taking a cake or a home-made ready meal or some jam instead of cash. I don’t know why but… perhaps it’s just not very British. We don’t really do that, do we? Talk about money or stand out from the crowd and expose ourselves like that in public… I guess I also didn’t want to put pressure on anyone, does that sound silly?

Well, anyway, it proved an empty concern. Because 9 times out of 10, people were thrilled, really thrilled, to get a cake or a wholesome meal for their family when they themselves are so busy. And I really enjoyed putting thought and care into cooking something for a stranger. It was a strange thing. Almost intimate, yet usually for someone I’d never met before.

BUT… I did the maths last night and I think, over the course of a year and a bit, I’ve baked 21 cakes, cooked 9 shepherds pies and handed over 12 jars of homemade jam in exchange for kids’ bits and bobs. And trust me, somewhere around your 18th cook-up, baking fatigue sets in HARD. So handing over some cash for once was an absolute joy. I’m not done with baking swaps, not at all, but now and again… phew.

It’s hiding in the car boot because I’m planning to give it a little TLC and jazz it up before giving it to Frida for Christmas (pimp my ride?) It needs some new dowling for its crossbar and, I think, a little colour. Maybe some bright ribbon in its mane? Any ideas?

Last but not least… the nappies. Since our free trial of the reusable nappy laundry service ended, I’ve been really happy using (and washing) our own reusables every day, all day. At the beginning of 2013 I would never, ever, have imagined myself saying that.

Instead of wipes, I mostly use the same cotton wool pads I use on my face (not EXACTLY the same ones! Eurghhh… Just out of the same packet…)

But one last hurdle remains: nights. I’ve yet to man-up to using cloth nappies at night. She needs changing every three hours (roughly) during the day. Surely she’d never make it through the night in them? And I just cannot bear the thought of going back to those dark (in all senses) nights of multiple wakings. So we’ve been using one disposable every 24 hours, to get her through. Am I being a (wee) weed? Are there nappies that would see her through the night? Really?

So. Eight months to go. Three new purchases and five second-hand ones left. Bet you’re holding your breath with excitement.

*Sam comes from a sticker book J got as a gift from his grandparents on his birthday…