Thursday, 26 June 2008

Poor But Happy; leisure and pleasure - staying in

Part of the idea of all this is to have as good a time as possible, not to live like a hermit. It’s easy to cut the cost of leisure and pleasure, with a bit of imagination.
Staying in.
DVDs; Just now there’s a real growth in online DVD rental services. You visit the website, choose a wish list of films, and the DVDs are sent by post with a free post-paid return envelope. The flat monthly fee can work out as low as 85p per film, depending how many films you watch. As this system’s quite new, many companies are offering free trial periods of up to 4 weeks. Check for a list of free trials available, but read terms and conditions about cancellation and return of DVDs as late returns can mean paying a full month’s rental. Currently there’s about 5 months’ worth of free trial going begging that I’ve happily worked my way through. Averaged over the year that’s a saving of £1.44 per week (11mins). I suggest starting with the smaller companies as they’ll probably have more obvious titles that you might choose first. Some companies do DVD rentals but their service is ‘powered’ by either Screenselect or Lovefilm. As you can’t sign up twice for a service run by these two big firms, select whichever option is most advantageous; e.g. Sainsbury’s offer a 28 day free trial, but Lovefilm, who run Sainsbury’s service, only does a 14 day trial so it’s better to start with Sainsbury’s. Alternatively, borrow DVDs from the local library; charges are about the same as a video shop but you may get a longer loan period and the money made supports other library services that aren’t charged for. Public libraries might be run by smug, paternalistic fossils but they still provide pretty cool stuff.
CDs. Libraries have got a far better selection of music to borrow than they used to. Charges are about 50p per week. Industry watchdog, the BPI, rules that new CDs mustn’t be available for loan in the first two months after release, because apparently a lot of people borrow them and copy them. Hey. I decided I wanted to divert money away from major labels, so assuming I might have bought 3 albums over the year for £45, instead I spent the money with tiny CDR and tape labels I’d come across. To investigate the world of tiny labels, visit . My £45 got me the equivalent of 17 albums; that’s an average of £2.65 each, including postage, from every corner of the globe. Bargain! At those prices I felt comfortable taking a punt on stuff I’d never heard before – I was only disappointed occasionally and I came across some right gems – all hail the Capstan Shafts!
Books. I like reading but I’m not bothered about owning books, so I stopped buying them last year. Instead I borrowed books from the library, and where they didn’t have what I wanted, I requested it, which is a handy way to influence what books get stocked. At a guess I’d probably buy three new books in an average year at £7 each. Instead, I spent the £21 on a total of 18 zines from UK distros Cause & Effect, (, All That Glitters (, and Shoebox ( ). If you need to own books try Oxfam. As well as their shops they’re Europe’s biggest online second-hand bookseller. Do a book search at . Also see where you can buy and sell used books, or , a free service letting people swap books they’ve read. Libraries often sell off withdrawn books at prices like 10p - 20p. If you only need a book for a short time, buy it at Borders and keep your receipt. If you return it in ‘as new’ condition within 28 days they give you a refund - the mugs. Fuck them – this offer seems generous, but nearly all their stock’s held on sale or return from suppliers so it costs Borders nothing.
Newspapers and magazines. Read them for free at your local library. Libraries often bin newspapers at the end of the day, so you may be able to rescue them at closing time, but ask first as staff might want to read them on the bus home! If you fancy saving a few trees, as well as some money, you can subscribe to a free daily email digest of the Guardian, delivered to your inbox each day at 9am. Sign up at If you want a different take on the news try which does a weekly email digest. If there’s a magazine you always read regularly, you may save a bit by subscribing; I get Time Out delivered for £1.50 per week when the cover price is £2.50, a saving of £1 per week (7mins).
Television. I felt alienated by the shite on telly so I stopped watching and cancelled my licence. If, like me, you only watch pre-recorded DVDs or videos, you don’t need a licence – just unplug the aerial, detune the stations if possible, and tell the licensing people. They’ll send a reminder which you should return to their policy group. They might visit to check up on you but they’ve got no right of entry unless you invite them in. Weekly saving, £2.42 (19 minutes). Technically this saving’s outside the terms of the zine as it involves giving something up, but (a) fuck it, it’s my zine, (b) it’s worth encouraging people to turn off their TVs. In the 1960s the average person watched 13 hours of TV a week, now they watch 26 hours; which makes you wonder at all the cock that gets talked about people being cash rich and time poor.
Computers. Two million working PCs get dumped in the UK every year, so try repairing or upgrading your existing machine, and if replacing it, buy a refurbished model. One of the cheaper suppliers of refurbed PCs I found was who do one for £297.28 including vat and delivery with an 80gb hard drive, DVD and CD rewriter and Windows XP. More expensive are these people, connected to Oxfam; . If you’re ditching an unrepairable PC, see for recycling advice and info on charities who collect old PCs for reuse. If you want to save on software, visit to download a decent freeware package that does most of what Microsoft Office can do. For the more techy, try . Drop for drop, printer ink costs more than vintage champagne but you can save by buying recycled printer cartridges from these charities; and . Only print when you need to. Cut the amount of ink you use by selecting ‘draft’ from the properties dialogue box; the results are fine for most uses. If you print something with email or website addresses in it, either change the font colour to black or choose ‘print colour images in black’ in the options box – this stops you using up your colour cartridge unnecessarily. If using new blank paper, print double sided.
Stationery. You can use scrap paper from work or elsewhere for most things; 86% of paper used in offices ends up in landfill(2). Every tonne of recycled paper saves 17 trees, and 5 cubic metres of landfill space (5). Reuse envelopes. Open them carefully and use sticky address labels; Friends of the Earth, Amnesty International and other charities sell these cheap. A big empty washing powder box makes a handy holder for old envelopes. It’ll also work as a zine rack.
Condoms. These are available free from family planning clinics.
Booze. If you regularly drink at home the supermarket’s cheaper than the local offy. Based on drinking 8 cans of supermarket lager a week at home I save £2.40 (18 minutes). Homebrewing is even cheaper, and better environmentally as you can reuse the same bottles over and over. There’s some initial outlay for the basic equipment but the process is easy, and beer works out as cheap as 20p a pint.

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