Friday, 6 January 2012

How to be Free - The tyranny of bills and the freedom of simplicity

I’ve mentioned Tom Hodgkinson on here before.  He’s the editor of The Idler, and has written books “How to Be Idle”, “How to be Free” and “The Idle Parent”.  I love the principles expressed in “How to be Free” (though not all the ideas in the book), and while I don’t agree with the term Idle I think The Idle Parent is a must-read and describes well how I was brought up and how I wish to bring up my own children.

I’m writing a series of blog posts exploring these two books, and the ideas contained in them further, in the hope that this will help me to explore further the principles behind my own way of living and parenting.

Chapter 3 - The tyranny of bills and the freedom of simplicity – CANCEL DIRECT DEBITS

This chapter starts out talking about how bills are oppressive, and how disorganisation or laziness are penalised in our society in the form of fines and charges.  Tom suggests that we should all learn simple book-keeping so that we can look after ourselves and avoid being at the mercy of big business.  Direct-debits might seem like a good idea, but unless you are organised, they can cost you more.  According to The Sun, £500 million a year is spent on nothing, just because we’ve forgotten to cancel direct debits!  Sadly, many businesses will charge you more for paying your bills consciously with cash or cheque.  The alternative way of getting rid of the tyranny of bills, aside from getting organised and dealing with them properly, is not to get them in the first place.  Without mobile phones, internet, Sky TV, car etc. you would do away with a lot of bills.  In the US this is called the Simplicity Movement – paying bills means that you are asking somebody else to do something for you for cash.  If you were a bit more self-reliant, then you wouldn’t need to pay them to do it.

How does this concept match up with the Ink Spots and Grass Stains life?

I’ll hold my hand up right now and say that while I agree with many of the sentiments in this chapter, it’s not really something which I can do much with at the moment.  I’m a stay-at-home-mum.  Hubby works his socks off to earn the cash and he’s in charge of the bills.  For my part I try to be thrifty.  I try not to spend too much (though I seem to spend a lot on snacks and meals while out and about in the cold season with a toddler and a breast-feeding baby).  I keep a record of everything that I spend.  I’ve also switched from what was a very wasteful mobile phone contract to a much more sensible and controlled pay-as-you-go service.  That’s really as far as I’m able to get at the moment.

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