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Have I been confusing love and consumerism?

If that post title makes you want to do a little bit of sick in your mouth, bear with me.

I've been thinking a lot about gift giving recently. I went to see some relatives in a distant city recently.  Every time previously I've visited them, I've taken them cupcakes from Ms Cupcake - it's a cakey way of showing my love and appreciation of my family. It didn't matter if I was near Ms Cupcake, or picking up six delicately frosted cakes meant a one hour journey across London, I would always do it. I'd always go buy the cakes even if I couldn't afford it, so we could all sit down and share some sponge and icing together.

And then, when the journey to Cakesville was too far, and my student loan was too stretched, I just didn't. I felt terrible. I thought my relies would be unimpressed that I'd turned up empty handed. I thought they'd think I didn't care, or couldn't be bothered. I thought that they'd throw me out the door and chuck my suitcase after me.


You know how this story ends. No one noticed the absence of the cupcakes, and instead me and one of my nieces made a cake together (due to the allergies of the assembled group, it had to be dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, and egg-free. We adapted this recipe to make a lemon drizzle cake with coconut yoghurt. It was incredible!) We got to spend some time together getting creative in the kitchen, and bake a cake that we could share with everyone else.

Something kind of similar happened at Easter. I saw a company had brought out a vegan, low waste (the packaging was made of foil and cardboard) and so I yomped across London to go and pick one up for Mr Flicking the Vs. I got it into my head that he'd really enjoy it, so I set my heart on acquiring one. Because then he'd know I really rate him, of course.

Did he enjoy it? I reckon so. Would he have known that I think he's great without that egg? Of course he would! Would a bar of (vegan) chocolate from the local shop have been less packaging and less of a journey for me? Absolutely.

In both cases, I'd manage to convince myself that I really needed to buy someone a present to show them I loved them, because that's what convention dictates. It's Easter? Buy everyone a chocolate egg. Visiting someone? Take them a little something.

But just because it's what you've always done, does it mean that you should keep doing it?

If you've been reading this blog, you'll know that I've been trying to do my bit to cut the amount of waste I create, and tread a little bit lighter on the environment. You'll also know I've had variable results, and sometimes I can't resist buying some amazing new vegan product I've seen. Often, they're great, but wouldn't I have been better not buying it, saving the waste, and not spending the money?

Because waste for me isn't just about packaging: every time I buy something I don't need, I'm spending money that I have to earn or pay back to the student loans company, and I'm not wild about either situation.

The way I figure it, the less I buy, the better for the environment, the better for my wallet. So, as well as my ramblings on veganism and attempting to cut my environmental footprint, expect a few more posts on my attempts to cut my financial footprint too!


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5 comments

  1. This is a great post Joey and I look forward to reading more about your efforts. A side effect of having a child is that I buy less 'stuff' for myself because I don't have time to go shopping, or if I do have bit of time, heading to the shops doesn't appeals so much. (We do buy more child stuff but that's a whole different issue and one I continue to grapple with!) It has made me realise that making do is entirely fine - and conversely, that spending a few pounds on a morning cup of coffee (in my reusable cup!) is a luxury I'm ok with these days whereas once I'd have thought it excessive. I am not sure what I'm trying to say here other than I like having these posts to make all of us reflect on our actions and learn from others' efforts too.

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  2. Ooh, that's a tough one! I do something similar, except with homemade food rather than purchasing things. I realised I feel like I have to express love through cooking (which is fine, I think), but sometimes to ridiculous levels (less fine)...like if I don't slave over preparing a loved one a meal for 3 hours, they won't know how much I care for them.

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  3. I think you have to do what feels right and makes sense to you. If something you're doing is making you unhappy, it's time to rethink it and make adjustments, as you are doing. You are especially sensitive to issues of waste and consumerism right now, and I applaud you for it. I try to do likewise. But, don't forget to allow yourself (within reason, of course) to make occasional exceptions and break the rules!

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  4. Yes yes nodding at running about for presents to make me feel good about making others feel good - I enjoy it through now I have less time and cash for it than I once had. And my life and others are filled with so much detritus so I am more aware of people not needing one more thing. So for a recent birthday a few things got in the way of my plans and I bought some presents at a supermarket that would be used but were a bit nicer than the usual stuff in the trolley (such as nice soap). It was good. I like presents. I like giving. But I admire friends who do a lot of regifting and often just meeting up and spending time together is much better than any present. Great post Joey and I will look forward to more reflections on this issue.

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  5. Good for you! I noticed this is happening to me too in recent years. No one really cares about the bought things, they just want to spend time together. :-)

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