Obviously, I still don`t quite understand charity in Britain. My colleague has been around the village fundraising, and she came back upset because she left one small shop empty handed. It was not that they didn`t offer her anything, they just couldn`t establish who could make a decision.

“She`s looking for a wee donation…” one of the ladies said into a telephone, and my colleague self reported interfering: “No, it`s NOT just a wee donation, I am looking for, I showed you a letter on headed paper from (our organisation)!” I bet she shouted. The lady offered to take her phone number, but my colleague proudly cited herself: “It`s alright, don`t bother, but thank you for your support to your community!”

But it`s voluntary… Or isn`t it?

about new shoes

My brown boots are getting worn, so I bought myself a new pair. I`m still not taking this for granted. I`ve also got a pair of tan boots, two pairs of black, one grey and one blue.

When I was still financially dependent on my parents, I had one pair, and there was no point in mentioning if they started looking shabby. If a hole appeared, or if the sole came of, I`d be careful not to wear them in the rain, but I still had to wear them for I didn`t have any others. Pumps. If it rained I`d just wear summer shoes so my feet didn`t get wet, even if it was February. Or my trainers, which were meant to be for PE only. If I wore those outside I could not let my mum catch me under any circumstances, for this was much worse than summer shoes in February or boots with the soles coming off.

I remember a horrible story from school in which I was slow getting dressed after PE and I had to run in my trainers to catch the bus. Back home, I noticed that I forgot my shoes, which were my only ones. The next morning, I went to the school secretary, and she said yes, they were found, but the cleaner has binned them because they are broken. She thought they were maybe left intentionally. I started to cry and said they are the only ones I`ve got, and I`ll not be getting new ones just because I`ve lost them. Miraculously, my plastic bag appeared from underneath her desk with my shoes inside. I can`t remember whether I was more grateful or more embarrassed, and I have no idea whether anyone has contacted my parents and what they would have said. It was a rather wealthy kids` school, and this was because we couldn`t afford the bus fare to go to the more mainstream one either.

When I started to earn my own money, I vowed never to wear old shoes again in my whole life, and I hope I`ll never have to.

Funnily enough, people who know me now think I look expensive. Because I moved to a new country, they don`t know how I grew up.

About Salary Transparency in Britain

I`m from Germany, so for the first 26 years of my life, I`ve been living in a country where one`s salary is one`s best kept secret only to be disclosed to one`s bank and spouse (no, probably not even fiancee).

I used to negotiate my pay every time I started a new job (and then again when I felt I deserved a rise) and remember finding out by pure chance that I was earning significantly less, and then more (same woman, few years later – I got rises, because I asked, but she obviously hadn`t) than a colleague who almost did the same job.

It felt weird coming to Britain and seeing the salary already stated in the advert. My Scottish husband advised me not to question it – if it was written in the advert, it was non negotiable.

I fiercely disliked it, and I had loads of questions. So, did this mean that anybody could look up anybody`s earnings, and will this not inevitably lead to jealousy, comparison, stigma and “assessments” in work and in personal life, e.g. when looking for a prospective husband? Indeed I`m still finding the question “What do you do?” (for a living), and then “What does your husband do?” (I hate this question!! People ask this before they even ask his name or how long I`ve been with him), is posed far too quickly when meeting new people, and it is obvious what this is aiming at.

The longer I live here, though, the more I grew to like this transparency, for several reasons:

  • I don`t need to waste my or anyone else`s time applying for jobs who won`t pay as much as I want to earn.
  • Where adverts are brief, the salary gives a good indication on what level of skills they are looking for.
  • I`m reassured that my salary will not depend on my negotiation skills or gender, and that the male colleague doing the same work as me will earn exactly the same as me.
  • If a mistake is made with people`s pay, the member of staff will become aware of this, because colleagues openly speak about their wage slips, and can then be rectified.
  • Pressure on employers to pay a good, or at least not extremely low, wage, if they want to attract good people (and press)
  • People are more accountable, particularly those with a higher salary, because others know what they earn and expect them to really “earn”** this.

** Note: in German language, the word for “to deserve” and “to earn” is the same – could this be why we are more private about the matter, because there`s more emotional meaning just to the word?

  • The issue of women who only want to marry rich men seems a bit tricky. Instinctively, I dislike like the thought of sussing out each other`s finances at dating stage, but what if this is really important to someone (and I know people to whom it is)? It seems rude to reject someone based on their finances, but if this was me, and you would substitute “lack of wealth” with “strong desire for children”, I would like to know early and say that I may not be the one, rather than splitting over it later on. Or am I wrong here?

Lifestyle Month: Rethinking my Spending Habits

Last year, I`ve reduced my working hours for a while, and I was determined to make do with what was just over half of my old salary. Listening to people around me, I very strongly suspect that most people need, or want, to save money, so I hope you`ll find it interesting to read what I`ve been doing, and what works:

  1. think before I spend. Not that I haven`t always done that, but while I used to think “Do I really WANT this item?” I`m now asking myself “Do I NEED it?” Also makes me appreciate the luxury of sometimes being able to buy the occasional item that I do not need (but want :-))
  2. I eat before I go out and/or take a banana. Cafe meals can be extremely good value for money if you can enjoy them with a friend and then linger forever, but if I just want to satisfy hunger and thirst, they`re expensive.
  3. I refuse to save on or downgrade groceries.
  4. when I go to town, I’ll do at least two things to justify the expense of the bus ticket.
  5. I stopped drinking alcohol, and although this was for different reasons, it also drastically cut the price of a night out. In a restaurant, I tend to have just the main course – highly likely, you don`t need a starter or pudding, unless you`re *very* hungry, or desperately want to try a particular thing
  6. I think we all know situations where we have bought something for a one-off, purpose (a dress for a particular night out, a couple of champagne glasses to serve six guests, when I only have four glasses) or to meet the approval of a particular group or person. Before I buy, I now make myself think: if this one-off purpose was not happening, or if this group or person could not see this dress – would I still buy it? Surprisingly often, the answer is NO, and then I know I didn`t really want the item but something else – approval for the dress or lack of embarrassment with the glasses, or it could be wanting to buy a new body by buying exercise equipment or a nicer home with new tableware. All of this can be achieved in other ways, and without involving money. If I crave social approval, I arrange to meet a friend who makes me feel good about myself regardless of what I wear or which glasses I use to serve her drinks. If I want to lose a couple of pounds, I`ll skip carbs. And if I want a nicer home, I`ll tidy it up.
  7. I`m planning to use up *all* my beauty products and carefully consider what to replace and what with.
  8. Although I gave away two jackets recently, I have not bought myself a new one. I still got two for winter and one for autumn/spring. I’ll get a nice new one once this are worn. Will do the same with other clothes.
  9. Charity shopping is fun 🙂
  10. I cancelled my gym membership. I just didn`t go enough to justify the expense.

Feel free to add. I`d love to hear 🙂


Lifestyle Month: Wardrobe Boredom

As my longer term readers may remember, I was on a lengthy no-shopping mission last year. Nevertheless, I get bored, which is when I`m usually looking to adding a few items. After some generally unsuccessful visits to charity shops, I finally came up with the following two cheats:

1. Dyeing my old Clothes

Suitable for things which still fit and are in a good condition. Works best with natural fabrics which are light in colour – it is not recommended to dye an item lighter than it was originally, as you cannot anticipate the outcome (other than that it`ll not be as advertised).

Seams don`t always take the new colour, because they are synthethic – I like the contrast as in the red skirt below, which still has its original blue seams, but this may not always desired. Also, you may not always get exactly the colour you bought if it`s so different from the original colour (same item – was hoping for plum, but still ended up happy:-)).

The white blouse had become just a bit too grey over the years but was otherwise still in good condition, and dying it makes it feel and look like new again.

White items, which may have become a bit too grey (as the blouse pictured below) are great to dye, as they take on any colour really vibrantly.

I particularly like the fact that I`m not adding to or taking away from the size of my wardrobe, but still getting one new thing for each old one for about £5.99. I wish I could be motivated to change buttons, but right now, while writing this line, I think I may give this a go… watch this space…


2. Design my own

I was looking for some more T-shirts but couldn`t find any at all that I liked. Eventually, I remembered this shop here: Their T-Shirts are so customisable I felt overwhelmed by choice (style and colour of T-Shirt, colour, font and direction of text, size of picture, border or not, where is the motif going to be placed and will there be something on the back and arms as well?), and it was a project which fitted in beautifully with my desire to start doing a bit more with my own photography. I even designed my own logo, which I placed on the back of each creation, between the shoulder blades.

For the highest available quality, I paid just over £20.oo each, they kept their colour, print and shape after a lot of wear, and apart from being unique, the Siamese cat T-Shirt especially is a great talking point – I feel properly proud to tell people that`s my own cat, and on the back, it actually says #catenvy underneath the logo.



Lifestyle Month: Wardrobe Audit

I `m always trying to cut my spending, but I also really like my clothes. It used to be a ritual every new season to set a (large) budget, go to town and shop to my heart`s content.

As I entered what is probably my third wave of a more solid interest in sustainable living, I started going to second hand shops more, but I still rarely find things I end up buying.

It was inheriting a large part of my friends` wardrobe that made me sit down and list every single item I own. I never thought I had a lot, and most importantly, I was kidding myself that I was wearing every thing I own at least once a year.

What I however found shocked me:

Shoes Boots – Black 1 smart, 1 biker
Shoes Boots – Grey sheepswool
Shoes Boots – Brown tan, chocolate
Shoes Boots – Blue sheepswool
Shoes Boots – red wine red
Shoes Boots – half aztec tan
Shoes Shoes – Trainers lilac
Shoes Sandals – Fitflops cream, yellow, red
Shoes Sandals pink, grey, brown, cream, red, blue, yellow, black
Shoes Shoes – Pumps blue, teal, black, green, lilac, pink
Shoes Shoes – evening gold, silver
Bottoms Jeans – short light blue and dark blue
Bottoms Jeans – long next, gap, shredded, dark
Bottoms trousers – relaxed 1 long, 2 medium
Bottoms trousers – short cord plum
Bottoms skirt – casual orange, blue, green, brown – all cord
Bottoms skirt – work winter black pencil, lilac short, lilac long
Bottoms skirt – work summer black, stone, brown, burberry style, floaty black
Dress Dress – maxi blue, colourful, stewardesses uniform, vietnamese, burgundy
Dress Dress – Casual Winter leopard, psychedelic autumn colours, psychedelic wine
Dress Dress – interview navy
Dress Dress  – work Winter RL leopard, wine
Dress Dress – Casual Summer daisies, black, cream
Dress Dress – work Summer stone, green, 2xblue, black and white
Dress Dress – occasion RL Blue, long black, short black, Cavalli black, chinese, tartan, gold
Dress Dress – holiday white, yellow
Tops Tops – T-shirts 3 cream, 2 white
Tops Tops – long blouses 3x black, 2x white, leopard, yellow, stone, lilac, blue mix, brown cord,brown, green
Tops Tops – short blouses stone, blue, 2x teal, white, black and gold
Tops Tops – winter pullovers lilac, grey, white, stone, orange, brown
Tops Tops – Summer Pullover 2x stone
Tops Tops – evening orange, orange mix, corset, black
Jackets Jackets – winter black, fake fur, leather
Jackets Jackets – summer jeans, black, grey, weather, poncho
Jackets Jackets – vest blue, yellow
Sport Sport – Bikini 2x black, pink, orange, green, white, multi
Sport Sport – top 3x football, pink
Sport Sport – Bottom 2x blue, 2x black, pink

I spare you the entries concerning my underwear and coloured tights, but all put together, I owned 198 clothes and shoes, not counting at all accessories. How on earth, I ended up with 13 long sleeved blouses, 11 pairs of sandals and 7 bikinis (I live in Scotland!!) I do not know.

Fact is – I do not need new clothes. Not for a long time. Or, let`s say, not until I stumble upon something I really like and that`s hard to get again. And since this list was done in May, I really only bought one more thing which definitely belongs to this category:


A Parisian Street Cafe motif from a boutique in Porto! That`s definitely one of the exceptions that should always be allowed.

I can really recommend making a list like that – it`s a real eye opener, but last month, I took my little project a bit further still: When I started my new job, I “downgraded” a few things to spare time only, and after I also just gave quite a few away, I  was getting concerned that I was wearing the same stuff all the time. So in order to find out how long it would take me to run out of outfits, I vowed to wear something different every day for the whole of December (same things were allowed, but not the same combination or acessorisation) and also took notes of them (one extra page in my planner, which I was simply moving along with me:

image(Hearts indicate compliments, and dark hearts mean many of them)

And I could do it. Despite my much reduced wardrobe. I still don`t need new clothes. I`ve got enough to wear a different outfit every day of the month. And there are still things I have not worn at all.

We all know that a lot of our reasons for shopping are more want than need, but I for my part still do it, and I feel the occasional reminder does me a world of good.


a Re-Blog from last year. I just find it so crazy.


As usual, my husband was watching the news yesterday when I came down for my morning coffee.

When I saw the pictures on the screen, along with frenetic screaming of men and women, I paused and watched in horror. People were punching and pushing each other, and then I saw something that looked like a big ball of people, fighting. There were a couple of policemen armed with shields, but they looked powerless.

My first thought was of another terror attack.

“No.” My husband turned round and then said slowly: “This is Black Friday!”

I just don`t comprehend it. Most people say they don`t think it`s a good idea, but when the day comes, they become… obsessed. At 8am I overheard a conversation on the bus about a woman who got up at 4am to get three Kindle Fires, and then she phoned her other half to ask if she should get one for Josh as well, since it was such a bargain. Our computer system at work crashed, and a colleague received a message about discounted computer games. She quickly took orders and passed it on to her relative who was there right now. And a substantial numbers of guests in the restaurant I visited at night took a table for four for just two people, so they`d have space for all those bags.

What is this? I don`t think it`s just about the bargain – there`s bargains all year now. Is it competition, excitement, or simply wanting to be part of something which everyone is talking about?

The Christmas Consumer Madness is certainly alive and thriving: somewhere in or around Edinburgh, a male called Josh will now get a Kindle he may not otherwise have had. If he has a sibling, this kid will now need to be found something of equal value, and of course, they cannot receive less next year. So they`ll get used to getting shitloads, and when they grow up to become the givers, it`ll come natural to be equally generous. Even if bargains stopped, and even if they couldn`t really afford it. Because it`ll be expected now.


But last weekend, I had a chat which gave me hope. A close friend, who is wonderful but very different from myself in this department, said she wasn`t doing Christmas gifting any more and had already told everybody. She doesn`t want any  more stuff, she decided, and she feels her family don`t need it either. She much rather wants more breaks, so they`ll use the  money to book themselves into a nice hotel over a weekend when all the frenzy is over, and re-charge their batteries. Love the woman! Always did, but her… fondness of things was something I thought I`d never see change. But if she can (and all by herself, her husband swears he has nothing to do with it!!) maybe all hope is not lost.

Stay safe! 🙂

Book Recommendation: Happy Money

This is a gem of a book which I was lucky enough to have purchased as a hard copy so I can force this onto every single one of my friends.


It`s about why it isn`t the amount of money you own that can buy you happiness but the way you spend it.

1. Buy experiences rather than material goods

Apparently, the most expensive item we buy in our lives, a home, does not make us any happier, while buying experiences such as socialising with friends or going on holidays does.

Makes total sense when I see the direct comparison, but personally, it`s an area I struggle with. To me, having my own home means security (I can`t be evicted, and if I`m ever in need, it`s an asset I can sell), and security is an experience which I value extremely highly. My dad however said they can take your home but but not the memories of your holidays.

2. Make it a Treat

Don`t buy the best things all the time, so you don`t get used to and stop appreciating them.

This one also makes total sense, but as so many, I often fail putting them into practice. Food items in particular are so affordable that it`s much too easy to, for example, have a bar of chocolate or a latte on our way to work every day. It stopped being a treat many, many moons ago, there may even come a sense of entitlement and then, when we have to let them go (i.e. a weight loss regime, or closure of the coffee shop) we sulk.

Or take holidays – so much more exciting for someone who hasn`t been for years than it is for someone who is used to getting away twice a year.

3. Buy Time

It`s okay to take a lesser salary if you can work closer to home and spend more time with your family. It`s usually not worth it to take a better paid job if you have to spend three hours to get there. And although it is, at least in my circle, regarded as snobbish, it`s also okay to hire a cleaner if you would find it hard to make the time to do your chores yourself, or if you simply detest housework.

4. Pay first, Consume Later

It`s so easy nowadays to consume immediately and put it on a card to pay later, but personally, II ever fflt comfortable with this.

There is also a lot to be said about delayed gratification. Apparently a nice holiday or Christmas (for most) gives much more pleasure while we are anticipating it than it does after it happened, while we remember . 

Also, if you pay for something in advance, when it finally comes, it will almost feel like a freebie. Think holiday paid at the time of booking rather than at the time of going, or a mobile phone bought outright rather than in installments via contract.

5. Invest in Others

Giving makes happy, be it time or be it money. Research shows that shopping was a much happier experience when people were given money to purchase something for someone else rather than treating themselves.

However, giving needs to be voluntary, e.g. charity donations rather than tax raises, or spontaneous gift giving rather than dutifully fulfilling expectations on certain calendar days.

Multilevel/Network Marketing

Over the moon about finally landing a permanent job, she saw it all ending after only two days, when it turned out that the rather swish sounding job title “marketing advisor” was a clever marketing ploy itself for a 100% commission sales position within a multilvel marketing position.

Her induction wasn`t yet training her on how to achieve the sales but focused entirely on the development of her own earnings (you move up for selling lots of product, and then start mentoring others, taking part of their commission in return. No recruitment with this particular organisation, but this, of course, takes you all the longer to move up), making new recruits hungry to line other people`s pockets in the pursuit of incredible, but for most unattainable, wealth for themselves.

When I was in my early twenties, I had a quick and rather unsuccessful dab into this kind of marketing myself, and though I didn`t earn a cent (I made a few sales and recruited one rep, but I also spent a dysproportionate amount of time and money attending seminars, meetings and mentoring my recruit. I was also tied to using the, still overpriced, product myself for much longer as I would have as a “normal” customer), I, too, gained a rather interesting insight about how those organisations work and motivate you.

My friend described that “they supercharge you and pump you up to the max” Every seminar I attended for “my” organsation ended with Tina Turner`s “Simply the Best”, plaid at just beneath unbearable volume, which we all sang and danced to while viewing the face of the organisation`s founder as always the same last slide of the big screen presentation, and I freely admit that all this did something to me – whenever I left a seminar, it was on a superpositive note – I was highly motivated, ready to conquer the world and so, so disappointed that it was 9pm at night and couldn`t happen until tomorrow morning. We often had parties at my mentor` s home, there was music playing, and all over sudden, there she was – always, but always kind of unexpected – Tina Turner, and we all jumped off our seats to scream and dance with her, and it all seemed to come so naturally to all of us. I felt part of something big and crazy, something that was special and wanted to be shared with my nearest and dearest. The product didn`t matter any more as we regularly collapsed laughing and hugging after “our song” ended.

My friend`s organisation takes this “buzz” one fine bit further still: every morning, their staff attend an (unpaid) 1hr pep talk in their office, which they cannot skip, as that`s where they`re also learning where they are going to be deployed to today, who with, and how they are going to travel. The pep talks involve singing, clapping, dancing, cheering to your boss, and plenty buzz words which colleagues (who work in pairs but actually compete against each other for the attention of passers by) will reiterate to each other throughout the day to keep the memento going. For that hour in the morning is all about positivity, oneself and one` s imminent wealth (“greed”, she said), but your 9 hour shift “on location” is all about rejection, as you approach passer by after passer by, trying to get them to at least listen to you. I`ve seen them. I bet you have, too. I didn`t know how they can still be as enthusiastic and upbeat at 4pm.

When I first encountered this scheme, I was really enthusiastic – I believed in the system, I believed in the product (in that order), and I believed in my own ability to succeed. By that time my manager in my full time job had already said to me “At the moment, you`re not a salesperson, but this does not mean that you cannot become one!” I wanted to show and impress him.

Never mind my own lack of success, I changed my mind ages ago, and my feelings about this system is perfectly summarised in this (sorry – long and a bit difficult to read) article.

If everyone is encouraged to both sell and recruit, the market quickly becomes oversaturated, and if you haven`t gotten in there really early, it is impossible for you to make money as an increasing amount of people are already using or selling the product. You don`t however know how imminent this point is, so you`will keep working hard, just in case, selling a dream which you don`t even believe in yourself. And you`re actively encouraged (pressurised, in my case) to pester family and friends.

Until you get promoted (sales based, which makes you work all the harder) you cannot make a living out of this work, for you are too busy lining the pockets of your own mentor, who, of course, has a personal interest in keeping you going. You`ll do the same if you want to succeed, and with this company, you need to, for the work is 6 days a week and does not give you time for a second job or look for another one.

It`s quite clever, actually. But so deeply immoral.And I cheer on my friend, whose chair will remain empty today – on day three and forever after.



Decluttering Toiletteries: Makeup

This is a photo of all the makeup (foundation) I`ve got:


Contrary to my seven body lotions, these did not accumulate by themselves – I bought each of them deliberately.

At the very front, you see my all time favourite ever since I first tried it in 2008: Bare Minerals. I use the compressed powder (£26.oo plus £24.00 for the special brush at the back), as I found the lose powder too messy (clothes!!), and the liquid make up too thin/light. I think I`ll keep using Bare Minerals forevaandevaandeva, but there`s certain days in the month, where this is just not enough, which is why, over some time, I collected some other items:

First, I bought the stick from Bobbi Brown (£26.oo), which is incredibly fast to apply: I just draw a number 3 on each cheek and then blend this in with my hands. Great coverage while very natural looking, but oil based and makes my skin break out if I use it continuously for, say, a week.

That`s why I bought L`Oreal True Match (£ 9.99) as well. This doesn`t give me spots, but use any more than just a thin layer, and you can see it (Did I buy the right colour???), which is why it was joined first by a Blur Cream (£7.99 – waste of money! It`s meant to smooth out pores, which it does, but my problem is breakouts, which this does not cover) and then the Mac product (£ 22.oo). This is a yellow liquid which, applied on red areas, neutralises their colour and makes them less visible underneath your usual makeup. This works, while still looking natural.

A couple of weeks ago, I was given a sample of Estee Lauder`s Double Wear (£32.oo) in the small plastic bottle. They take a close up photo of your skin and then mix a color to match in front of you. I chose medium coverage, and was properly amazed at how it made my skin look – smooth, dewy, and not at all made up – simply perfect!! I would have bought this on the spot, if I didn`t have so much already (but previously, I would have!!)! Unfortunately, oil based, too, so what I think I`ll do is use up all the other stuff and then buy just this to use alongside my Bare Minerals on acne days and special days. May need a different colour for summer and winter, but at the moment, this one is what I think the best looking makeup I ever had!!