How do you make kerching or cashless choices?

Lola starts to unscrew the needle, then brush out the bobbin case.

The irony is that the best gift  bought at Christmas from a shop for me – a mum of two – was Mark Boyle’s book, the Moneyless Man, see http://www.amazon.co.uk/Moneyless-Man-Year-Freeconomic-Living/dp/1851687548.

Freeconomic aint daft
In the book Mark charts his year of life without using money, an astonishing achievement with plenty of inspiring moments. Admittedly he does lose his girlfriend, and he doesn’t have kids at nursery/school who need cash for lunch, Secret Santa, class photos, pantomimes etc… but he does managed to enjoy himself, get published and run two huge free-food festivals in Bristol. He’s also shown that life without cash is completely possible and unravelled the concept of “Pay it forward” that I keep overhearing during 2010 but not quite understanding. (It’s rather like karma, just keep doing good and good will bank up for you).

You can find out more at his Just for the love of it  website which already  has 27k members in more than 100 countries – and it’s free to join.

Doing it differently
I definitely need to earn money, but I’ve noticed that the less I earn the more I search for ways to swap skills and the more effort I make to do things I enjoy (eg, go for walks, spend time with my daughters, stand and stare at snow melting and learn new skills – basket weaving, knitting, blog making, enovel creating etc). So when my sewing machine ground to a halt I put out the word that I needed some help, rather than pass out it to a museum and buy a new one via the net.

Need a sewing machine hero? Bronwen rescued my old Singer.

I’m not a complete sewing beginner – indeed I’ve been just about able to cope with sewing on the hand-operated machine that my mum was given by her granny for her 21st birthday. But trying to explain how to  deal with bobbin jams and stitch tension to my children (and their friends) was beyond me. So when Bronwen, a mum of six, answered my call, arriving on her bike, immediately asked for a screwdriver and started pulling my Singer machine apart I was open mouthed with fear. How would we put it back -it’s been unmaintained for close to 20 years…

Learning skills is all about “feel the fear and do it and anyway”…
Bronwen soon revealed jammed screws, red fluff I recognised from making a coat for my teddy when I was 10(!) and various other mini problems that were really quite easy to resolve with oil and tools.

It took us about two hours – Lola watching and helping (admittedly some of the time with irritation), but gradually getting the hang of how to clean and fix a machine – and I think we all learnt something unexpected.
Me: you don’t have to lose your temper with technology or worry about not being able to put it together because you can go to YouTube and watch a video or even download the manual.

Lola: it’s worth it – she’s now sewing at one of her projects and has enough energy to start helping her dad kick his new phone into operational mode (he’s one member of the family less keen on swaps but naturally resistant to spending too).

Pay it forward
So now Bronwen’s weaved her magic (it was simple fixing really) I’m just hoping she is amply compensated with more than a pot of our homemade organic strawberry and free range snail jam (it’s a joke, dear vegans) and a bottle of regifted – and hopefully delicious – red xmas wine.

Making clothes/dress up outfits is fun to do with a friend.

The point of my book Homemade Kids: thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children was to make life simpler – and I’m just so pleased that writing it has helped me live it. I’m so glad that living the dream helps me find someone  as skilled and patient as Bronwen (modelling her own home tailored wool trousers) to unravel the Singer mysteries. Today she paid it forward, I wonder what her hours of patient sewing machine tinkering are going to win her? After all this afternoon taught Lola and I a bucket loads of skills, exactly what the moneyless man ordered.

Good luck with your efforts to skill up your self and children in 2011.  We’ve been lucky as 2010 has been a great year for our family (just as long as I don’t think about climate change) and thank you for joining me for some parts of it. And yet again I find myself realising that to raise children well takes a village – the more you can share experiences and time with other people the better for your child’s longterm outlook simply because we all do things differently, and we all do different things well.

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