What did I spend?

As I can’t figure out how to reply to the notes on my previous posts, I’ll just have to answer here instead: I have been to Guildford Cathedral (the first set of photographs, taken last Thursday afternoon) and the Cotswolds (Moreton in the Marsh, Stow on the Wold and Bourton on the Water, the second set of photographs, taken on Monday afternoon).  It was an unexpectedly blissful few days, combining trips to lovely places, time (& food!) with family and friends, walking, relaxing, and even some work thrown in!

I feel I should come up with some hybrid term for this experience.  It was sort of like a mini-break, except that I was still working and hadn’t really travelled very far.  I slept in my own bed (well, beds, as I live split between Warwickshire and Surrey).  It’s not the first time that I’ve had this mini-break-esque experience during what appears to be an ordinary week.  I guess I could just use old-fashioned language and say it’s ‘having a nice time’.  Time with no pressure to hurry somewhere (even though I was busy and went to several different places).  Time with no pressure to be someone (even though I was lots of different things: auntie, daughter, friend, niece, tour guide, flaneur…).  Time with no pressure to do anything (even though I did lots). 

Funnily enough, I didn’t even spend a lot of cash during my ‘having a nice time’ experience.  Although it helped that I had a couple of meals out bought for me (& free beer at the pub when quiz marking), my spending was still pretty scant:

£6.20 lunch; £5 donation to Guildford Cathedral; 50p on lighting a candle in the cathedral; £1.65 milk; 5p in a charity box

£2 towards some wrapping paper and a card being jointly purchased

£10 on a second hand coat purchased in an ice cream shop; 50p on a drink

£1.52 + £5.30 on lunch and dinner

Today so far… 49p on orange juice.

Once again, I’m coming to realise how completely divorced spending cash can be from how I feel and what I value, as it would take at least a million pounds to quantify how lovely the last week has been.

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Just watching The Ten O’Clock News. No reports of any more trouble so far. It’s a relief – perhaps only temporary, it’s too early to say – but we’re no closer to understanding what’s behind it all. However, a French journalist said something on the radio this morning that has stayed with me, gnawing away, since. What do you expect, she suggested – in a country that prizes money above all else, that puts a value on finances and wealth above all else, in a country where the bonus-led City slickers operate within a mile of one of the poorest boroughs – sooner or later those who perceive themselves as the have-nots will vent their frustration at the haves. Uncomfortable words. Uncomfortable truths. The fact I only spent £5.90 today does nothing to assuage my own discomfort.

Part of my motivation for recording my cash expenditure for a month is my increasing resistance in recent years to trying to find satisfaction through consumer culture. From a new lipstick to a cinema ticket, it’s all too easy to look for answers in consumer “solutions”. With my malaise about consumerism has come a desire to notice, observe, study alternative sources of satisfaction. Today I was aware of quite a common one: a good day’s work. I have spent no cash. Instead I’ve been nurtured by working hard on some pieces of writing, following up some other bits and completing a few tasks. Before I begin to get too smug, though, I have to admit that today’s feel-good vibe was also enhanced by confirmation of my place on a bike maintenance course in a few weeks. This only happened because I made the £40 payment online. Not cash, but a card payment, hence not under the auspices of my mini-mission. The joys that can result from spending money (in whatever form) are clearly hard to avoid or deny, even if buying experiences and not objects.

Monday

It’s almost impossible to do this task without modifying your behaviour in some way, however slight.  This afternoon I had to get some bits for work.  Rather than just pulling up in the Pay & Display car park that I normally use, I took a different route so I could see if there was any free kerbside parking available nearby.  I normally only do this if I’m feeling particularly brassic.  Today I didn’t feel hard pressed, but it seems that writing down every penny that comes out of my purse is making me uber-conscious of where those pennies go.  So where did they fly to on 8th August?

£20 to my mum as I owed her for some vintage magazines I’d picked up recently – this was the remains of my birthday money

£10 extra contribution to my friend’s baby’s collection; I put it in on behalf of someone else, who’ll pay me back when they see me next

£3 on some bits and pieces for work, which I’ll also get back

‘Neither a borrower nor a lender be’ was the advice given in Hamlet, but I’ve managed to be both in the space of an hour or so.  I just hope that some tragic Shakespearian fate doesn’t now befall me, or my finances.

Sunday

Finally took the big step of moving a large storage unit out of my bedroom.  I cleared its contents back when I was off work, but it has been stood there empty since.  It’s now on the landing, waiting to go to a jumble sale in a couple of weeks.  The space vacated looks enormous, completely altering the sense of proportion within the room.  Not only does it look better but I’m struggling to remember what I actually kept in it.  It’s astounding how we fill our lives with so much stuff.  There’s still a long way to go in my efforts to simplify my life, and my belongings, but saying goodbye to that unit was an important move in the right direction.

Sunday’s cash spent: £5 towards a collection for a friend’s new baby.