The First Stumble

Not surprisingly, I have already made a minor mockery of my intentions. This morning my shower was definitely in the 10-minute ball park so that’s £5 I owe to charity, on top of £3.05 for a coffee whilst out shopping. So that’s £8.05 so far…

Being more aware of my finances has proved quite enlightening – just in terms of how much things cost. The bus I caught into town earlier cost me £4 – which I could almost argue is un-necessary because I could walk it in just over an hour. I had to pay for a drink and a sandwich for dinner which was £2.50 (should have planned my day better!) and the bridge toll to Wales was £5.70. So in a day I’ve spent over £20 just in cash.

What puts that into perspective is that someone living in crisis hit sudan is now earning less than $10 a day. What puts it into even more perspective is that in any given day, I pay about £16 in bills as well. So there I am, spending nearly £50 in one day (and earning twice that) whilst some are living on less than $10. Yes, some things are cheaper, but the gulf in quality of life is reflected in the difference in cost too.

Advertisements

A Clean Break

Recently I was having a discussion with my housemates about the use of electricity in the house. We’re at least vaguely conscious about usage – both for selfish reasons and out of a care for the planet.

One of my housemates pointed out that electric showers cost £1 per 10 minutes to run. I’m terrible with showers. My parents always used to mock me, I think in the hope I would cut down, about how long I used to take!

It’s also a bit of an insult to those with no clean water to indulge so heavily in it. A 10 minute shower uses more than twice as much water than a typical person in a developing country slum uses in a whole day (Source: water.org).

Anyway. So I’ve decided that a sensible limit on shower time in any given day is 5 minutes. Plenty of time to wash. If I go over those 5 minutes, I’ll pay my usual double, i.e. £1 for every 5 minutes extra. We’ll see how that goes when I’m tired and grumpy!

 

Challenge #1: The Sandwich

Most days at work, I could take in sandwiches, some fruit, some crisps and have a drink of tap water. But I’m lazy. I want that extra 20 minutes in bed, so I almost invariably give making lunch (and eating breakfast!) a miss.

I live with other people – and we share food, and the costs of food. It’s ridiculous to think that given I am even paying for it, I don’t use this for my lunch! Instead I spend anywhere between £3 and £5 a day on lunch.

It’s true that we always end up living at our means, isn’t it? It’s all well and good to suggest that having a higher salary means giving more. It probably does, but we’re always happy to improve the standards of our own lives first.

So starting on Monday (my next day back at work) I will be taking in my own food, and saving £3  a day. If I slip up, I’ve got to give the £3 (or more) to the appeal. If I don’t, I’ll give £5 a week (£1 for each day I’d normally buy lunch) to the crisis appeal.

That means after one month, I will have bought enough Jerry cans to enable one family to transport and store water safely (according to The Red Cross).

Think of how many families we could help out together by all cutting back on buying lunch!

A Roar for Africa

 

It was only last week (or was it two weeks ago?) that Twitter was a-buzz with all of my friends raving about how good/different/bad/ugly/fun/slow/stupid/clever/awesome Mac OS X Lion (10.7) is. At that point, Lion had been released for approximately 24 hours and at a steal of £21, I was heavily considering it too.

But then I remembered that amongst the media hacking scandals and the instability of the global markets, there was a famine going on in Africa. Now, I don’t want to get all on my moral high horse and blow my own trumpet and all those other cliches, but in that moment I realised something. I don’t need Lion – I’ll give the money to people who actually need it, instead.

So I did. And it felt good – it felt right. It felt just. Here I am in my comfortable house in England on my lovely MacBook wearing nice clothes. Wanting an upgrade for something that won’t really impact my life in any great way. Instead my money provided clean water for a day for 175 people.

That’s 1 person, impacting 175 people. For 1 day.

Better than nothing, I suppose.

But then I thought, what if I don’t just do this with Lion. What if, instead of buying anything surplus to my needs, I give the money away to the crisis, until it is over. A lovely idea but totally unsustainable – not because I would be lacking in anything, but because I just don’t think I could tear myself away from materialism quickly enough.

The more I dwelt on that thought, the more I realised I wanted to be less materialistic. And it occurred to me – instead of replacing the value of something with a donation, what if I bought the item in question anyway and donated its value to one of the charities dealing with the crisis. That will both help those in need and help me to reduce my materialism.

Above all, I think it’s biblical. I’m a follower of Jesus, of God. Some might call that a ‘religion’. This is what the writer James had to say about religion:

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress”.

Orphans, widows, those dying in famine, those suffering in war torn nations, those in prison … anyone in need.

Why I am I blogging about this? To share my experience, to encourage other people to join me in the experiment of ‘spending double’. Above all to encourage my friends, co-workers, family and anyone else willing to listen to stop feeling sorry for people in these situations and instead do something about it.

So, friends, join me. Spend double and send out an almighty roar in your actions for Africa.