The festive season and the Life Energy Experiment

The festive season and the Life Energy Experiment

Although the John Lewis Christmas promo’ is arguably the most eagerly-anticipated television advertisement of the festive season, it’s the Marks and Spencer one that has made the bigger impact on me. With its film-quality production values and multi-layered messages, it works on a number of levels and is a very clever piece of advertising.

If you haven’t seen it, simply check out #MrsClaus on Twitter and you’ll find it.

Actually, the particular advert I’m referring to appears to be one of a little series. It depicts the wily Mrs Christmas providing a last-minute gift solution in answer to a letter from a little boy whose tearful sister has lost her best shoes… to the dog.

The advertisement is clearly aimed at women, who are still the most likely members of any family unit to be doing the bulk of the Christmas shopping (even in 2016). There’s the clever product placement in the clothes Mrs Claus wears and the mince pies she eats, as well as in the gift she delivers. Let’s face it, Mrs C is stylish, sophisticated and she would probably have a trolley if she shopped in M&S (the ultimate sign for my family that you had “made it” when I was growing up in t’ North).

Further, there’s no need for traditional methods for our heroine, unlike her bearded husband who departs in the usual way on Christmas Eve with sleigh and reindeer. With a magical vault of ready-prepared gifts (ready-meal, anyone?), Mrs Claus moves fast, using skidoo, helicopter and fast car to reach her destination. She eschews the chimney in favour of a more magical entrance and beats Father Christmas back home to the North Pole, her secret kept safely to herself. As the advertisement mirrors life (and gift-giving), we have a tension between ‘tech vs. traditional’ where technology wins hands down. We also see the savvy woman beating her man at his own game, but letting him think that he’s done it all himself.

In spite of evoking the spirit of Christmas, I can’t help feeling that, for some, this type of advertising might not resonate quite as much as intended. In 21st Century Britain, the nuclear family has evolved. It now takes many forms. The formulaic 2.4 kids and dog is still prevalent in my part of the world but I would wager that this wouldn’t be the case thoughout many cities and towns across many parts of the UK. Hard-working partners will also remind their spouses that whilst they might not be doing the actual shopping, they’re certainly contributing to the actual paying.

Yet, as I watched the advertisement, it still brought a tear to my eye, as I remembered Christmases past with loved ones no longer with us. Will it make me rush out to Marks and Spencer to buy presents? No, of course not. But as my own husband reminded me, we give and receive gifts as tokens of love. We shouldn’t be so cynical if we remember that the John Lewis and Marks and Spencers of this world do perform a service for weary workers who appreciate a quick gift solution this Christmas.

As for Minimalist me, I have written about gifting here before. I’d urge you to think carefully about your Christmas shopping this year. Who made the gifts you’re buying? Will the presents on which you spend your hard earned cash bring you or their recipients value, fulfilment and satisfaction? Join me in my Life Energy Experiment this month, as I continue to ask this question of everything I buy.

Reasons for buying and the Life Energy Experiment

Reasons for buying and the Life Energy Experiment

Why do we buy the stuff we buy?
1. To please others?
2. To satisfy a bigger, emotional need?
3. To keep up with the Joneses?
4. To tell the world something about ourselves (look how successful I am!)?

Do you return from a shopping spree laden down with bags but find it hard to remember – just shortly after – exactly why you bought the things you did? Can you even remember what you bought? Maybe you shop online and love the feeling of winning when your bid comes out top?

Our ‘why we buy’ can be any number of things. Do these resonate?

– it was a bargain

– my friend got one

– I just love those little gift bags they give you when you buy one

– they had ‘buy two, get a third free’

Take stock. Think for a moment.

– was it such a bargain if you didn’t really need it?

– just because it suits your pal, it doesn’t mean it’s right for you

– no-one else cares whether you’re carrying a status symbol or not

– did you need that many? really?

Believe me when I tell you that the one ‘winning’ in this scenario is the organisation or individual who’s made a sale. Your ‘why did you buy’ becomes less convincing when you consider that you’re not buying what you need; you’re buying an idea. Aren’t those marketers very, very clever?

So, join me this month on my Life Energy Experiment as we ask the question:

What value, fulfilment and satisfaction did I derive from what I bought in relation to ‘life energy’ expended?




It’s not what you spend, but what you buy that matters


I’m reading a book* about our relationship with money. As I read, I realise that a lot of what we learn about money management suggests that tracking our spending will help us ‘tell our money where to go.’

We all know that if we look after the pennies, the pounds will look after themselves. Right?

Was what you bought really worth it?

Whilst establishing (and sticking to) a budget works for a great many people, the authors offer a fresh perspective. They argue that, if you first work out your proper hourly rate of pay, you’ll then be able to consider how many hours of work (translated into life energy’) you expended in order to buy something. Then you can ask if what you bought was really worth it.

When you look at your spending in this way, it takes on a whole new perspective. It might even impact on the choices you make about how you spend your hard-earned cash.

For example, if you earn £10 per hour, that £5 glossy magazine has effectively cost you half an hour of ‘life energy’. When you know this, you can then ask:

“Did I receive fulfilment, satisfaction and value in proportion to life energy spent?”

If not, then you might think twice about purchasing a similar item again next time you’re presented with the opportunity.

Why we spend

In the book, we read that US organisation Debtors Anonymous asserts that we go into debt to avoid feelings, especially feelings of deprivation. Like other addictions, debt allows us to deny pain, sorrow, loss, anger, loneliness and despair. I would say that you are more likely to be struggling with debt – or on a very tight budget – if your spending doesn’t align with your values or bring you real satisfaction.

So, I’m curious.

I’m going to conduct an experiment: a ‘Life Energy (Expenditure) Experiment.’ I’ll do this for the whole of next month.

My ‘life energy experiment’

Rather than tracking my spending or recording ££’s spent, I’m going to track what I buy and ask what value, fulfilment or satisfaction I derived from these purchases. I don’t have any particular plans to buy anything in November (no Christmas shopping for me – see my earlier post on gifting here).  So, I’ll be curious to see how the month unfolds. I’ll be posting my purchases on Twitter, along with their related ‘fulfilment factor’.

Will you join me? What will we notice? How might our future buying habits change by conducting this real-life experiment?

Follow the story using #LifeEnergyExperiment

And let me know how you get on!

*”Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence: Revised and Updated for the 21st Century” by Vicki Robin, Joe Dominguez, Monique Tilford.

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