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The case for cutting the small expenses

The case for cutting the small expenses

If you want to spend less, you can cut big expenses or small expenses. Or you can cut a combination of both.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that cutting big expenses will save more. But that’s not to say you shouldn’t worry about the small expenses.

When you’re stuck with big expenses

There are some big expenses that we can choose to go without, or that we can reduce. Obvious examples are holidays and luxury vehicles. You might not want to cut back in these places, but they can make a big difference quickly. If these aren’t things that are in your budget in the first place, this doesn’t really help.

There are other big expenses that we can’t choose to go without, or at least cannot do so easily. For example, the cost of a rail season ticket or a car that you need for commuting, the costs of accomodation or the costs of child care.

You might be able to make slight savings here and there, but ultimately you’re stuck with significant costs that you have little control over.

Just because most of your income might be tied up in some big, immovable expenses, that’s not to say it’s not worth trying to cut the small expenses. It definitely is.

Why it’s worth cutting small expenses

Cutting out a daily coffee or weekly takeaway isn’t going to make you rich, but it could help you get a more firm financial footing.

Let’s say you spend £20 per week on a takeaway. By cutting the number of takeaways that you order in a year in half, you’ll save £520.

Having £520 in savings will allow you to pay your home insurance premium as an annual lump sum, rather than a monthly premium with interest. You’ll also have the amount that you were paying monthly that you can save for next year’s premium.

In the following year, you might find that you save £520 on takeaways, save money paying your home insurance as a single premium, AND get lower home and car insurance quotes that allow you to pay your car insurance as an annual premium too. Now you’re not paying interest on your home or car insurance. Plus, you’re freeing up the monthly payment that will allow you to save up for next year’s payment.

Life gets cheaper as you get richer

It’s crazy but it’s true, everything is more expensive when you have no money. Pre-payment meters and insurance, the cost of credit and availability of deals. Even food shopping is cheapest when you have the money to bulk buy.

The number of small expenses that you have and control will affect how much you can save. It might not be enough to afford a house or counter the astronomical costs of childcare, but it can give you a bit of breathing space, a firmer footing and some peace of mind.

What are your thoughts on cutting the smaller expenses?

They’re probably doing it with debt

They’re probably doing it with debt

Have you ever looked at someone’s life and wondered how they’re doing it? How they’re affording nice cars, days out, designer clothes and overseas holidays?

Perfectly curated Instagram feeds and glamorous Facebook statuses mean everyone has more people to keep up with. It’s difficult to see how people are affording lavish lifestyles but easy wonder how people afford a seemingly constant stream of expensive things.

Behind the scenes

Firstly, it’s easy to show what you want to show on social media. Secondly, there could be any number of reasons behind someone’s ability to spend lots. They may get family help or have received a large inheritance. Lots of people make extra money side hustling for cash (perhaps your neighbour is a huge, anonymous blogger!) Some people will be reaping the benefits of buy to lets or other investments.

There’s a good chance that lots (most?) of them are paying for it with debt, especially since credit card debt is supposedly growing at the fastest rate since the recession (theweek.co.uk). At some point, they’ll need to pay that debt back, and that will hamper them from being able to build their savings and invest for their future.

You do you

Is it likely that the people you’re seeing are astute financial guardians? If you’re seeing lots of lavish expenses, the answer is probably not.

Being frustrated or disheartened that people have what you don’t have isn’t going to change your situation. Instead, you need to do you. So whether that’s changing your expectations or desires, slashing your costs or increasing your income, or taking some time out from social media, focus on what you’re doing with your life rather than looking longingly at other people’s lives.

There’s a good chance, a few years from now, they’ll be looking back at you wondering how you’re so with it and financially secure.

Socking more into stocks and shares

Socking more into stocks and shares

They say that time flies when you’re having fun, and I can hardly believe that this is my fifth tax year of investing in a Stocks and Shares ISA!

It’s fair to say that I felt nervous about investing in stocks, and as though I didn’t know enough. I knew I had to take the plunge whilst I was young enough to bounce back from any silly decisions, and had time to learn.

My investing style

To refer to ‘my investing style’ makes it sound like something planned out, but its not as planned as I would like! Basically, I’ve invested an amount monthly (between £50 and £200, which has fluctuated based on my employment status) and now and then, topped up with chunks of money.

We’re not talking huge chunks of money, perhaps £500 here, and £1000 there.

The result has been pretty good. We are definitely in a stronger financial position because, for short and medium term planning, we act like the money in investments doesn’t exist. That means we delay purchases for longer and a less tempted to dip into savings for treats than if we held the money as cash.

On the other hand, this isn’t a ‘how I saved a gazillion pounds in 5 years’ article and I want to make larger contributions to ‘future me’.

Investing aim for 2018/ 2019

I’ve decided to set myself a goal for the 2018/ 2019 tax year. The only goal I’ve had to date is to make a minimum monthly fund subscription (£50), which I was really thrilled to be able to make even during the period where I was unemployed in 2016. Fifty pounds is a lot of money to find when you’re down to one person’s income.

I was going to aim for investing £1000 more this tax year than last tax year (without giving specific numbers, you can perhaps tell I’m quite a way off a gazillion pounds yet!), but to push myself that bit further, I’m aiming for £1500 more instead.

Slow and steady wins the race

Investing isn’t just for wealthy business men, contrary to what the media would have you believe. In fact, there’s evidence that women make better investors than men (reuters.com).

It took me a while to find the courage to dip my toe in the water, and once I did, I made very few mistakes (I learned a lesson from the few I did make), and overall my performance far surpasses what I could have achieved in cash savings.

For me, slow and steady is proving to be winning the race.

What’s your approach to investing, are you doing as much as you want to and what is life looking like for your future self?

Breaking news: Frugality is not a competition

Breaking news: Frugality is not a competition

You could be forgiven for thinking extreme frugality was going to be a sport in last year’s winter Olympics. There are lots of degrees of frugality, and it takes a lot to win. Except its not a competition.

I’d write about frugality more- I’m pro living below your means- except its a difficult subject to write about without appearing to be a sanctimonious know-it-all. I also know that being frugal is easier if:

  1. You have enough money for it to be a lifestyle choice, or
  2. You can see a beacon of light at the end of your tunnel

A fine line

I read the most perfect advice on a money forum recently; “There’s a fine line between being frugal and a joyless tightarse”. And that line will be different for everyone.

What seems frugal to you might seem spendy to someone else.

What someone considers a simple pleasure might be a feat of endurance for someone else.

I could profess my frugal prowess by boasting that I’ve never spent money on avocado toast. It’s not exactly relevant, as someone who doesn’t particularly like avocado. Or I could boast about making coffee from home. But living in a town that got it’s first proper coffee shop around 3 years ago, I’ve never had the daily latte habit to give up.

Ask me about holidays, and I’ll look sheepish though. Christmas too, whilst controlled, still isn’t what many would deem frugal. I did once make homemade pickled onions as a Christmas gift, but the cost of kilner jars resulted in it being rather pricey. It wasn’t very joyful either.

Choose your frugal comfort level

If you can enjoy a cup of tea with a thrice used tea bag, that’s great and you needn’t feel like you have to do otherwise But if those posh tea pigs tea bags bring you joy every morning, you don’t have to give them up in the bid to become the Emperor or Emperoress of Frugaltonia. Use your money to enjoy your morning cuppa.

Frugal articles are a great source of new ideas, and just because something doesn’t appeal right now, that’s not to say it never will.

I’m pretty sure (or would at least like to think) that most people who share frugal ideas do so to inspire rather than show off, so try to take those ideas that appeal and leave those that don’t. Every now and then I go too frugal, make myself feel stressed and miserable, and bounce back by spending money on a takeaway. I’ll probably do that dozens more times, but it doesn’t matter too much.

We have one life; it shouldn’t be spent going for a frugal gold (second hand) medal if doing so makes you miserable. What matters is reaching a balance that’s right for me and recognising when something isn’t for me. How do you deal with the frugality competition?

Nudging your finances

Nudging your finances

When you start taking control of your finances, at whatever point that is/was for you, there’s a lot of big things you can do.

The first time you switch gas supplier? Kerching! Shopping around for insurances? Kerching! Cancelling subscription services? Well, you get the picture.

Once you’ve gone through your finances with a fine toothcomb three times, it can feel frustrating not to be able to do more. This has especially been the case for me, after a lavish trip for my 30th last year plus a new-to-us car at the beginning of this year. Both purchases were saved for, but I never like to see my savings balance dip, even though they’re there for a purpose.

Nudging your finances

Every now and then, you can still give your finances a nudge. It might not save mega bucks straight away, but over time you’ll notice a difference.

Pay rise? Nudge up your pension contributions and/ or investments

New car more fuel efficient? Replenish your savings or nudge up your investments

Spending less on gas and electricity? Absorb the increase to your council tax bill (And be glad you’re netting off an increased expense)

 

Nudge, then look away

Nudges can take a little while to see satisfactory results. In the meantime, if you’ve automated everything to get on with it, you don’t need to obsess over it everyday. You can get on with your life, safe in the knowledge that your ‘nudge’ is adding up and ready to take advantage of the next nudge.

I’ve actually managed to follow my own advice. Not only have I been ignoring my blog (sorry to anyone who’s missed me), I’ve been ignoring my finances. Now I’ve had chance to look, I can see several of our nudges really taking hold. Proof that I don’t need to let money consume my thoughts in order to keep my spending sensible!

Looking after your finances. And our planet

Looking after your finances. And our planet

Since you’re here reading this, I’m guessing that you try to consider what you can do to minimise your impact on the planet without needing to spend a lot of money.

Sometimes, I invest a little more to make green choices, and if you’re able to do that, it’s really cool. Like choosing to offset your carbon emissions, or choosing a 100% renewable energy supply.

But, making positive environmental choices doesn’t have to cost you money, and the good news is that it can often save you money. And we all love a win win situation!

After watching the extent to which we are killing our oceans and marine life in Blue Planet 2, I have a renewed energy* for making more changes that help protect our planet and I know from various news stories and twitter chatter, I’m not the only one. I may have no power to reduce how much China and Indonesia (Ecowatch.com) dump into our oceans but that shouldn’t stop us taking responsibilities for our actions.

Saving money and the environment. As easy as 1, 2… 15

There are lots of ways you can save money and the environment. Rather than bombard you with a list of a million things you could or should do, this list of 15 gives you a good selection of easy options to get started with, or to continue with, your money and environment saving efforts.

  1. Clean with white vinegar. THIS is on my to do list this year. Plastic bottles of chemical cleaners are not cool.
  2. Carry a reusable water bottle. Please tell me you do this already? Oh, and you can put squash is reusable bottles, so you’re not gonna need to take fruit shoots everywhere for the kids.
  3. Repair broken items. If this concept is new to you, start small. If you’re good at it, gift it! Fixing something that your friend or family member loves is much more meaningful than buying a new something-or-other
  4. Drink less wine. Yikes! I went there! But wine production has a huge environmental impact, mostly due to the production of glass bottles and the machinery used in the manufacturing process.
  5. Choose loose fruit and vegetables. This week, loose broccoli at Sainsbury’s was 19p per kilo cheaper than broccoli in plastic wrapping. Why wouldn’t you?
  6. Use the library and buy used books. If you have an E-Reader, its an awesome way to enjoy loads of books without a physical copy.
  7. Reflect on a purchase for at least 24 hours before buying. This is just good ol’ money advice, but hey- buying less junk is good for the environment too
  8. Walk instead of drive. 
  9. Switch off lights when you’re not using them (and yell at others to do the same! Seriously, why are all the lights on all the time??)
  10. Eat less meat. It could be a meat free day each week, or just a smaller portion.
  11. Wash clothes at a lower temperature. And be sensible about what you’re washing. Washing clothes too often is only going to wear them out faster.
  12. Eat fewer packets of crisps and bars of chocolate. They’re individually packaged in non-biodegradable packaging.
  13. Challenge yourself to get a low cost per use of every item you own. Using an item only once is NOT cool
  14. Don’t drive like an idiot. Accelerate slowly. Like, not ridiculously slowly… you know what I mean. Driving fuel efficiently is going to do wonders for your wallet as well as reducing your car’s emissions.
  15. Research your purchases. Otherwise you’ll end up with a shitty kettle or TV that makes you want to throw it out of the window. Yes, I’m talking about my kettle and TV, which I failed to properly research.

Getting started

There’s a good chance that you do some of these already, which is great! Next up is adding a few more into your normal routine.

You could add reminders into your calendar, or on your shopping list, put a post it note on your car dashboard, or just pin this post for later and come back to it.

If you’ve had any success or particular challenges in making environmental choices, or have any cool alternatives,  please do join in the conversation and add a comment!

 

*Pun not intended but I’m quite pleased with it, so it’s staying in!

The small, big wins

The small, big wins

You don’t have to look far to find some pretty incredible achievements, be it paying off thousands in debt in a few short years, amassing a million pounds plus in investments or retiring (years and years!) before hitting 40. And they’re just financial achievements.

Naturally, these are the kinds of accomplishments people celebrate, write about, and share. They’re the kind of accomplishments that you and I most likely devour word by word, reading how they did it and wondering if we can emulate that same success ourselves.

Sometimes these stories are hugely uplifting and motivating, giving us new ideas, renewed energy or even being part of our epiphany- financial, or otherwise. Sometimes, while this isn’t their intention, they can leave you feeling a little lost, frustrated or even- dare I suggest- envious.

Often, achieving these huge goals becomes easier as time passes. That’s not to say a gargantuan effort didn’t go into them for a long period of time. Just that, by the time you’re at the point of reaching this kind of achievement, you have built up momentum, you have got used to doing things a certain way, you have formed strong, positive habits, and you’re springing upwards from solid foundations.

My small, big win

I realised today how much bigger the small wins are than we give credit for. Because I’ve done something that, for ten years, I didn’t have faith that I could do. It sounds like the smallest, most irrelevant thing that someone could tell you.

Today, I made a pie.

For ten years, I avoided making pie, specifically making pastry. I don’t believe it was deliberate, but at some point I erected a barrier in my mind and never questioned it. The barrier that said ‘you’re not a pastry maker’.

Perhaps this is the most ridiculous thing you’ve read. How someone could spend 10 years of their lives avoiding making pastry out of fear? I wasn’t even aware I’d built this up in my mind until I gave myself an ultimatum to use my rolling pin, or else it would be banished from my house.

Though there can be few more simple achievements, it has genuinely set the tone for the year. A tone that says more is possible than I permit myself to believe. 

In itself, it is a small win, but it paves the way for more success.

More small, big wins

So the pie is probably irrelevant to you. That’s fine. It’s big deal to me, because it’s my barrier that I broke down.

Unless you have a similar irrational fear of making pastry, I don’t particularly recommend making a pie. However, I do recommend identifying what barriers you have in your mind and taking the first small steps to your big win.

Maybe your fitness is really low. Choosing to go out for a run is a big win.

Maybe you overspend on takeaways. Choosing to home cook a meal in favour of another take out is a big win.

Maybe you’re living paycheck to paycheck. The first time you can weather an unexpected bill without resorting to borrowing more money is a big win.

Maybe the fear of losing everything is stopping you from investing. The first investment is a big win.

The incredible journey can’t begin if you don’t take a step.

 

It’s a new year. You don’t have to feel ready for it.

It’s a new year. You don’t have to feel ready for it.

As you may have noticed, we’re a few days away from the start of a new year. I’m not going to tell you whether or not you should set resolutions or goals or challenges. Partly because I did that last year, and partly because only you know what your mindset is right now. Maybe it’s the year for a resolution and maybe that just won’t work for you.

I’m just going to talk. Because sometimes it’s good to pause and think about how you feel about the new year. Whether you feel confident, optimistic, anxious or fearful, or have a mixture of feelings.

Success and happiness don’t always look like we expect them to

Sometimes life doesn’t go to plan. And sometimes it does, but we don’t expect it to feel as it does.

In 2016, my husband and I had our most financially successful year in our then 5 years of marriage.

It was also the hardest due to a period of unemployment, ill health, family crises and a life lost too early.

I have been extraordinarily fortunate in many respects, but life isn’t plain sailing for anyone. Our huge financial achievement seemed irrelevant and unimportant.

This time last year, I couldn’t muster excitement for the new year. I couldn’t orientate my thoughts towards moving forward with greater purpose, or clarify my goals. Maybe you know this feeling too. You don’t have to feel like you have to kick start, reboot, triangulate, or any other fancy word for changing your life. You can just keep tackling each day, because in the tough seasons of life, that is more difficult that broaching a life altering mission in the good seasons.

Do you feel ready for the new year?

You don’t have to feel ready for the new year. Most years, I haven’t. It is only having a different feeling, an excitement for January, that has made me recognise that I don’t normally have the same thirst for a new year that many writers at least have you believe.

This year is different. I don’t know why, and if I work it out, I’ll share the secret! But for possibly the first time ever, I’m actually excited about January.

But you don’t have to feel ready. You don’t have to be excited or feel like you need some life altering challenge to tackle. If January is a month to get through that gets you closer to spring, then know that you aren’t the only person to have ever felt this way. You will get through it and spring will be a month closer.

You don’t have to deprive yourself of niceties or burden yourself with a challenge that you feel that you’re supposed to do in the most miserable month of the year, which is how January has always felt to me.

Take care of yourself. Keep tackling each day. And if periods of time come when you feel energised and excited, seize them as they appear.

This new year, I don’t have a resolution, but I have a renewed enthusiasm for looking after myself.

I don’t understand why the start of this year feels different and I don’t feel like January is going to be a chore. Nothing ‘amazing’ is expected to happen, there are no big events, and the main thing on my mind as a ‘2018 must-do’ is re-potting my cactus without a) prickling my fingers and b) killing it. Suggestions in this regard most appreciated!

Take time to appreciate what you have

This isn’t a golden bullet and some days, in spite of everything I have, I find myself feeling a little lost and lifeless. Honestly though, the most powerful way of creating happiness is recognising how lucky you are.

After that challenges of 2016, I know that  I’ve never appreciated any year as much as I’ve appreciated 2017. Rather than telling myself not to count my chickens until they’d hatched, I realised that many of them had already.

That doesn’t stop me getting more chickens in the future and maybe I won’t keep all my chickens forever. But it does mean I’m going to enjoy and appreciate the good times. Even when they may be a little mundane to outsiders!

You’ve heard this before because it’s true

Increasingly over this year, I have become more and more aware of the abundance and opportunity in my life. I’m far from the first person to say this, but recognising the good things in your life and being genuinely grateful for them does much more for happiness than measures and metrics.

I’ve always hit (or come extremely close to) the financial targets I’ve set myself but finally I may have learned that money doesn’t equal happiness. And when you look a little beyond the numbers, life is altogether more exciting.

How are you feeling about the new year? 

 

 

2017: A year of ill discipline… and self doubt?

2017: A year of ill discipline… and self doubt?

Well you’ll no doubt have noticed that the year is drawing to a close, and as it does, I think most of us are thinking back over whether it has been a good year or not.

A year of ill discipline

For me, there has been no year since 2010 (when I moved out and no longer relied on my parents’ financial support) where I have been less disciplined financially.

I am in the fortunate position of having developed certain habits, admittedly, that make my spending look pretty frugal. But I have not pushed to make the best used of every pound that has come into our household, not made the most efficient windfalls that come along now and then. When insurance prices have come down for example, or when replacement items have come in under budget.

Not only that, but if you pop by my blog now and then, or follow me on twitter, you’ll notice I’ve lost my discipline of posting here regularly too.

 

A year of self doubt

Perhaps my self doubt is the cause of my ill discipline. You see, last year (and the start of this) I was unemployed. Being unemployed, but in the fortunate position to not need to work to cover our bills, was like a mini taste of early retirement. And I realised that maybe the relentless slog to early retirement wasn’t the way I wanted to live my life. Of course, I want financial comfort, and the freedom of choice and flexibility. I’ll continue to be a good steward of our resources. But I won’t sacrifice quite as much of our today.

 

Was anything about this year good?

Looking at those two things, you’d think my year had been pretty disappointing. But it hasn’t. In fact, it’s been a great year for me personally.

The slight let up in focus on the pennies has made day to day life more relaxed, more focussed on what is important to me. If you’re the sort of person that has money spinning round their brain all the time, seemingly without an off switch, you’ll know how much of a success that actually is.

This year, my husband got his health back, and I got a new job. 2016 felt like we were wading through treacle that was slowly setting. It was tough and frustrating and some days we felt that all we could do was put on a brave face and trudge on. By comparison, we have glided through 2017. And jumped and leapt and danced. We have recovered and made up for lost time and we’re ready for whatever is next!

What else? Well writing a bit less was a deliberate choice. And instead of writing, I’ve gotten into a board gaming group, which has provided a lot of fun this year. AND, I’ve spent more time my with my sister and nieces. The eldest is learning to read, and being part of that is such a huge, huge privelege. I can blog any time in my life. She will only learn to read once.

So I put less than I could have in investments? Big deal!

 

 

The perfect gift for minimalists (and people who realise they have too much stuff)

The perfect gift for minimalists (and people who realise they have too much stuff)

I should start out by saying I’m not a minimalist. With the exception of my blog, which hasn’t seen a sniff of a post for around 6 weeks, every part of my life seems crammed with stuff. I most definitely fit into the camp of ‘people who realise they have too much stuff’, and I have realised this for a couple of years.

Now, I could have answered the question in a 140 character tweet (a minimal response, as it were), but though the answer is simple, the feelings behind it are not. (I also liked the idea of a minimalist pin to fit the theme. It actually suits my attitude towards designing pins, an activity that adds annoying clutter to the blogging journey. Anyway, I digress…)

So what is the perfect gift for minimalists and people who realise they have too much stuff?

To my mind, there is one answer and that is: Time.

Why?

Oh you know the answer to this! But still, I can’t help but answer it!

Time is the most precious thing we have. It’s why I’ve been quiet lately, as I’ve been spending more of my time with family and friends. It’s easy to forget, to think money is important, but money is the thing we get in exchange for our exceptionally precious time. Yep, time is the winner here people. And it’s the best gift you can give.

But what about experiences, that’s a great gift too, right?

Well, you know how retailers know how to trick us into buying stuff we don’t want or need? They’ve clocked our switch from stuff to experiences and are now merrily manufacturing experiences for us to buy.

That’s not to say no experience ever is worth paying for, of course I don’t mean that. I just mean that taking part in some kind of experience on the same day as 10 other people, that’s been designed and marketed as an experience… well, I’m not convinced it’s always the best use of your time or money.

Giving an experience as a gift can also cause problems on when to use it before it expires. So, you lose the enjoyment by having to wrangle something into your calendar that suits certain experience providers’ calendars. Red Letter Days and Virgin Experience Days- I’m looking at you here!

So you’re going to only give time as gifts this year?

I never said I’m any good at this. Just like thousands of other people, I buy things that I know I don’t need to buy, that the recipient may not have a need for, because I know they will still love it and I want to spend my money (already exchanged for time) on something they will absolutely love.

In this respect, I am a selfish giver. I give because I get joy from giving. Unfairly, I don’t consider that the person receiving the gift will need to store it with all the other gifts they  have received, and likely don’t need, and all the stuff they already own.

I am cramming their house with stuff. I know from personal experience how hard it is to get rid of gifts that have been lovingly chosen by someone for me. And yet, I have not completely learned that not buying a gift is sometimes better.

This is what I tell myself. It is how I have reduced my gift list, replaced some of the material gifts with time, and have become more cautious with what I buy.

I get better at this each year. For a number of years, my friends and I have each paid for ourselves to go somewhere nice together or do something fun, rather than buying each other Christmas gifts. I have met up with my mum and sister, arranged day trips for my neice and cooked meals for my Nana when she was with us.

And even with my love for buying and wrapping a lovely gift, I have loved giving (and being part of) these gifts of time.

Any ideas?

You know your friends and family better than I do… and lots of you will be more creative than me. Here are some of the things I’ve done and plan to do over Christmas (and throughout the year, in fact!)

Babysitting I-O-Us, spa days, orienteering, baking cakes and home made pies, visiting museums and gardens, visit to the zoo, go on a hike, have a garden party, host a board game night, go to a pub quiz, afternoon tea, sunday lunch, have a film night, brunch, go to the theatre, watch a meteor shower, enjoy a sunset, and a visit to a food festival.

Think about what the recipient would appreciate, your time doing something on their behalf (like cooking or babysitting) or time doing something with you.

Now some of these involve spending money, and it’s up to you whether  you want to pay for someone else, or whether it suits you both to each pay your share and treat the experience as a gift to yourself and each other. Let’s face it, many of us are in the habit of exchanging £20 gifts, so you may as well each keep your £20 and use it towards tickets, lunch or whatever you decide to do!

What do you think?

There are tonnes of articles out there giving you advice on gifts and the perfect Christmas. Quite honestly, only you can decide what gifts to give. But I’d be interested to know how you tackle gift giving for those who don’t need anything and whether you’ve been able to tame any selfish gift giving tendencies (I can’t be the only one!)