Amazon Prime Day, Rainbows + Bestseller Lists,

So the book I can’t tell you about on here has now made it (quite a long way) into the Amazon Top 100 Bestseller List for a third week!! SQUEE I WROTE A GODDAMN BESTSELLER, BITCHES!! (…and my in-laws and assorted relatives still think I’m an unemployed layabout loser working occasional days as a substitute teacher. And I can’t tell them otherwise. They probably wouldn’t believe me if I did. It’s like being a superhero only my secret power is NSFW).

Oh and in case you’re wondering, the money doesn’t get good until you hit the top 5, so no, I’m still poor. This person had a #1 bestseller and still didn’t make anything. And I’m sure some sanctimonious middle class person will try to say “but that’s not why you should write” because you *should* write to be poor (which is fine if you’ve never had to choose between eating or paying rent I suppose), to be unappreciated (which is fine if you believe you’re Van Gogh or something), to be ignored (see prev. re: Van Gogh), because that’s the stereotype we imagine for writers and what we tell ourselves to feel better about the fact that some people are spending 16 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week doing something they actually want to do (yes, I actually do, come hypomania or depression, I work very hard and some days I only write 50 words but it’s 50 more than I had the day before, other days what I write makes no sense, but that’s okay because it clears my brain out, it’s like scraping the gloop out of the sink so you can wash dishes in it, instead of letting that gloop touch your crockery). Like we imagine that all the pretty people are dumb and all ugly people have hidden depths, instead of seeing that some pretty people are clever and some ugly people are very shallow. I will never stop appreciating being able to write. So I will look forward to writing being my full time income one day but obviously, the money I’ll get in several months’ time (bookstores pay s-l-o-w-l-y) is a LOT better than nothing and while it isn’t going to pay all my bills that month, it at least goes a long way towards it and therefore validates my Goddamn life choices. And I didn’t even have to take my clothes off this time.* ūüėõ

*I am neither confirming nor denying having done this in the past although I do feel it’s high time my cat** wrote a guest post because it would make interesting reading.

**I don’t have a cat. That’s sort of the point.

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And apparently every year Amazon has some special deals that are only available to Prime subscribers. This year, that’s happening on July 12th. From today up to July 12th, Amazon has loads of special pre-prime day deals to get you in the mood (or something).

My personal opinion? Signing up for a free 30 day trial of Amazon Prime, including free shipping and loads of TV shows, makes a lot of sense if you want to do some bargainous shopping. This is a very good month to try Amazon Prime for free, just remember (if you don’t intend to keep it) to cancel before the month is up, and sit back and reap the rewards.

I had Amazon Prime for about a year but I cancelled it in favor of Netflix because they didn’t have such a good range of TV shows. I think I’d consider it again now that the Clarkson Hammond and May show (formerly Top Gear) is on there. Also did you hear about the BBC’s so-called “Top Gear” that they’ve been trying to flog as a replacement to the (not-quite-original but definitely best) Clarkson version? Chris Evans, the show’s main host, and seasoned TV presenting veteran, has just quit. They’re flogging a dead horse, and I’ve been saying since Clarkson got sacked, that nobody in their right mind would sign up to take the place of Clarkson Hammond and May, the audience for that show is too pre-prejudiced against change. They’d have been better off doing a total re-format, since Clarkson invented most of the stuff they did on there anyway. Those of you who know me in person know how much I appreciate Jeremy Clarkson’s contributions to journalism (oh God, the way he can get you from the opening sentence, I wish I could do that), he literally invented new ways to write/talk about cars, and no-one can really replace that. But you can watch Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond messing around in cars IN OCTOBER on Amazon Prime with the 30 day trial in the UK; the BBC was really shitty about copyrights on all the stuff Clarkson came up with while he worked for them, so Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May have renamed their new car show “Grand Tour.” I wish I was eligible for another free trial of Amazon Prime now ūüė¶

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Also, this rainbow wig is legit gorgeous I wish I could afford it, its so beautiful, and I wanted to show you all, but WordPress doesn’t allow image links from Amazon. Last time I accidentally pasted the wrong link onto a WordPress post, WordPress actually shut this blog down within seconds, not giving me a chance to fix the problem, and I had to email them 5 or 6 times over 2 days to get them to understand that it was an honest mistake. I totally don’t get the weird and wonderful policies that various blogging sites have regarding their smallprint. I think now I have my own domain I’m allowed to do more advertising, but I look at some of the sites that have come up in reader over the past few months, wall-to-wall advertising, and I simply want to vomit in disgust. The whole marketing model is messed up if they make money from that shit. It’s like those trees falling in the woods and concussing bears who are trying to take a dump.

Tripod or No Tripod?

In this article, I want to discuss the question: tripod or no tripod? ¬†Should I use a tripod for photography? ¬†The above picture is what happens when you don’t use a tripod on a long exposure.

‚ÄúA photograph can be an instant of life captured for eternity that will never cease looking back at you.‚ÄĚ
–¬†Brigitte Bardot

Tripods are a three legged stand that you can attach your camera to, so it stays put on the tripod. ¬†They are very useful for a range of photography and video situations. ¬†I’ve done several Youtube videos that wouldn’t have been possible without a tripod, because they stray from my usual camera setup, but I rarely use the tripod for photography. ¬†Should I use my tripod more? ¬†It got me thinking about when is an appropriate situation to use a tripod, and when they’re just a faff. ¬†Here I want to share my thoughts about¬†when it’s a good idea to use a tripod, and when it’s better to not bother. ¬†Add your own thoughts in the comments!

Pro’s of using a tripod:

1. They steady the camera.
If getting those horizontal and vertical lines is a challenge for you, then the spirit level on your tripod can be a fantastic tool, because you can just adjust the legs until you get a perfectly level picture. ¬†A lot of lenses these days have image stabilization but nothing beats a good tripod. ¬†I’ve said it before, but if you know how to take a good picture first time, it saves a lot of lost opportunities.
2. Your hands don’t get tired.
Holding a camera in an awkward position while you wait for the subject to get arranged can really tire your hands out – and hand shake is the enemy of a good picture.
3. Essential for longer exposures e.g. astrophotography.
You literally cannot hold a camera still enough to get 30 second photos of space, unless you don’t have a heartbeat.
4. You can spend more time setting up the shot to make sure it’s perfect.
If your camera has a movable viewfinder, you can leave the camera in place and check whether everything you’ve arranged is in-shot.
5. You can learn how to compose the perfect shot.
This will probably¬†improve the quality of your future pictures. ¬†Pictures taken with tripods tend to come out either very static or very dynamic. ¬†There’s no way to really compose the perfect dynamic shot (e.g. sports pictures) because the subject is generally moving independently of the photographer’s control, but for static shots, having a tripod can help you practise framing and using different focus techniques (for example) on the exact same shot to see what works and what doesn’t.
6. You can use the 10 second (or longer) self timer
This enables people to take pictures, and get a good shot without needing anyone to hold the camera, e.g. for family portraits.

Con’s of using a tripod:

1. They add weight to your setup. ¬†Especially the ones that extend enough for you to stand up straight whilst using them – when you add a dolly (wheels) you’re looking at even more weight, and soon you’re going to need a trolley to cart it all around. ¬†There’s a reason cameramen tend to have very strong arms!
2. They add money to your photography expenses. ¬†Granted, you can pick up a tripod for pretty cheap on Amazon, but it’s still another thing to pay for, on top of all the other things you’ve already paid for, and some people simply don’t have the money for a tripod.
3. The ones for outdoor shots tend to be bulky. ¬†The flimsy cheap ones can blow over easily (or get knocked over) if you’re not careful because they’re too top-heavy; would you risk a $1000 (often significantly more) camera and lens combo on a $20 badly made tripod?
4. You can get lazy in your composition
This comes from not snapping pictures whilst holding the camera, and it can lead¬†to poorer quality pictures without the tripod. ¬†Some pro-tripod people don’t even believe it’s possible to get good pictures without using a tripod!

Conclusion:

I have just one tripod, a medium sized one of moderately good build,¬†but I think there’s a time and a place for using it – I generally use it in my house or for astrophotography, as I said. ¬†When it warms up, I’ll start using it for infrared photography as well. ¬†I’ve never taken it up a mountain with me and I’m not sure I ever would (although who knows what the future holds). ¬†I’d like to play around with it more, but the weight is off putting because my camera setup is already fairly hefty.

What do you think? ¬†When do you use your tripod? ¬†Are there any times when you would say it’s essential?

No-One Wants To Know The Real Truth About Parabens

Parabens. It’s seen as a dirty word amongst the “natural beauty” movement and the “mainstream” cosmetics industry is trying its best to ignore it, right? Because of parabens, many people are spending more money than ever on cosmetics and personal care products to avoid those scary-sounding paraben ingredients.

Today I want to step (mostly) aside from the quibble over whose scientific paraben research was more inaccurate, to examine the bigger question; who really benefits from the fears surrounding parabens?

To get at the answer, we need to do some digging. You may have noticed the unbelievable number of very expensive “natural beauty” paraben-free organic natural companies that have sprung up over the past couple of years. They charge you an arm and a leg for beautifully coloured, luxuriously scented containers of goop with names such as “thermal spa minerals bath elixir” “cleansing water mist” and “nourishing body souffle.”

Paraben free products are not necessarily being marketed by ethical companies.

Okay, so some of you are thinking “what is going on? Has she been paid to say this?”

I am an independent researcher, sitting at home writing this, and I look at all the information I can get my hands on and I base my conclusion on the information I find.

Here’s some things you need to know about the people telling you to avoid parabens:

1. The “natural beauty” companies who are selling the paraben free products are operating on a much higher profit margin than conventional companies. It doesn’t cost them more money to avoid putting an ingredient in a product because they’re not replacing parabens with something else that costs more. Here’s an analogy: Think of a cake, if you made a cake without chocolate powder, so it was a plain flavoured cake, would it cost you more to make that cake, or a cake which used chocolate powder? When all the other ingredients stayed the same, the chocolate cake would cost more to make. So why is the plain cake costing so much more to buy? Why are the paraben free products costing up to ten times more than their paraben-containing counterparts? It’s very profitable to make paraben-free products.

2. The “big beauty companies” that some sensationalist self-styled “health journalists” are criticizing? Most of them are benefiting from the paraben myth in some way. Here’s a list of well-known beauty companies who have at least one product that they’re marketing as paraben free:

Clarins, Clinique, Ojon, Pureology (and by extension, L’Oreal), Dead Sea Spa, Aveda, Morrocan Oil, Vaseline, Revlon, Dr Organic, Physician’s Formula, Burt’s Bees, Bare Escentuals (and Bare Minerals), L’Occitane, Origins.

This is where the biggest money behind the anti-paraben hype is overtly coming from, but that doesn’t mean they’re the only people making megabucks from scaring you away from parabens.

3. A lot of the smaller start-up companies (such as all the new startup sellers of natural, paraben-free, organic, very expensive products) don’t have to list their board of directors or key shareholders, particularly if they’re not floated on the stock exchange or aren’t incorporated. This means that, to start a smaller start-up company that makes big bucks from the current “natural beauty” craze, a larger company can finance it for a share of the profits, guide product development and marketing, then step back and let the smaller company turn a profit – who then repay a percentage of that to the larger company. We’ve seen this time and again on Dragon’s Den, you think they’re the only people doing it? Everyone in business with investment capital is doing it! If the smaller company goes bankrupt (such as “organic skincare” company Davina Peace… they had a waiting list of clients when they launched in 2010. You can find Davina Peace halfway down this list of insolvent companies in administration in 2012, along with the date of insolvency), the larger company washes their hands of the whole thing because it was nothing to do with them. If anything, they end up on the list of creditors (people owed money). If and when the current “natural skincare” craze ends, and the consumers start looking for something else, the larger company comes out of this beauty trend totally unscathed, with their reputation in tact when everyone goes back to buying “normal” stuff again. It is impossible to know behind the scenes who is financing and guiding these companies. It is impossible to know if any company is truly independent because corporate accounting strategies are inscrutable. Smaller companies are less accountable than larger ones.

4. You know whose products still contain parabens? The Body Shop! They’re an independent company not affiliated to any others, they are all about “natural” skincare and beauty, but their products are still packed with parabens. Why? Because they want to kill you? Uh, reality check, if cosmetics companies kill their customers, who’s going to be left alive to buy cosmetics? They use parabens because the evidence for the current paraben-noia is flimsy, it all comes from studies where at least one of the same people were involved, they all use very small sample sizes (the latest one, the one that “proves” parabens are dangerous? 40 participants. ¬†All in Britain. That’s 0.0000000006% of the world’s population (or 0.000000012% of the population of America). And the researcher was forced to conclude that parabens are “only part of the bigger picture” which is scientist speak for “I’ve spent nearly a decade of my life barking up the wrong tree.” Why was this conclusion made? Well 7 of the 40 participants didn’t even use any cosmetics in the underarm area, so they weren’t getting any parabens from those products and yet the tissue samples still contained parabens. No deodorant, no body lotion… do you know anyone who doesn’t use any deodorant, any lotion, anything at all under their arms, who ALSO wears face cream or make-up? Who bathes regularly?? I don’t. These things tend to come in groups – people who don’t use deodorant (including natural ones) or body lotion tend not to use other products. Such as shower gel. And that’s if we totally ignore her first study on the effect of parabens, published in January 2004, which had a sample of twenty participants (also in Britain) and didn’t have a control group (a group of people who didn’t have cancer, or who didn’t use parabens, for example, to check if their paraben level was the same), which is the study everyone keeps misquoting.

5. Research is driven by funding. ¬†Without funding, people don’t research things. ¬†Every job in science has to be paid for and accounted for. ¬†Researchers have to justify why they need money in most fields. ¬†By studying parabens, an oncologist (for example) would no longer need to depend on funding from public health bodies (such as the nearly-bankrupt British NHS, Britain being the country where all of the¬†research on parabens was carried out by the same lead author) or charities specialising in cancer research, and instead, that researcher could open up a huge avenue of funding for the university they work for, from cosmetics companies (or subsidiary research institutes funded by straw-man companies funded by cosmetics companies) who stand to gain from the results – if those results mean they can sell more paraben-free products. ¬†Additionally, these big companies don’t require the results to be very rigorous (unlike health organizations) as long as they’re sensational.¬†¬†Just like the beauty blogger who sells her scruples for a free mascara, the researcher claims that “all opinions are my own” although in science-speak, that’s “the research method was robust.” ¬†For good measure, the researcher could get other people they know to peer-review it (everyone in the same field knows each other). ¬†This is sadly how a lot of corporate-relevant scientific research is being done nowadays – fund a university, they can claim they’re independent, the company might even guide the university’s researchers about sharing the results with the world to get maximum impact but because it came from a university lab, we believe every word as infallible. ¬†This is how many people get a PhD these days! ¬†It all depends how financially malleable the researchers are, but there are¬†hints that this¬†happens all over academia, especially in the research areas most relevant to the pharmaceutical, nutritional and cosmetics industries. ¬†If the research had showed parabens were not implicated in cancer, the cosmetics companies would gain less overall. ¬†When was the last time a newspaper ran a story that said “fresh broccoli doesn’t cause cancer” (for example)? ¬†It doesn’t sell products.

Cashing In

So what, exactly am I trying to say, and who do I think I am that I can say this? Just like animal testing, the truth behind these “natural beauty” companies is surrounded by a mystique of obfuscation, corporate financial backing and bad science… which makes them no better than the regular cosmetics companies. I wrote this because I value honesty and I was compelled to show that you don’t need to spend large amounts of money on “paraben free” products. These companies are cashing in on our biggest fears.

I think that in order to really get to the heart of¬†the paraben issue, we’ve got to examine why we react so strongly to allegations that products are dangerous: Fear.

The Role Of Fear

We fear cancer more than anything else because we feel powerless, most of us know someone who has died of cancer. Breast cancer is terrifying because we don’t know why some people get it and others don’t. We don’t know why cancer seems to be getting more common than ever before. Personally, I believe it’s down to processed food; I think there’s something about all those condiments, sauces, ready meals and so on. But that doesn’t net an attention grabbing headline, that’s never going to produce viral content, so nobody writes about it or researches it for long because they can’t get funding. ¬†Research is driven by funding – especially at universities. ¬†Who funds research? ¬†Companies who stand to gain from it!

Look at the recent evidence linking bacon to cancer. What was the public’s response? Oh, I love bacon, I’m never going to stop eating bacon! It hardly made the news for a week before disappearing! These are the same people avoiding cigarettes and parabens! The reason I wanted the world to know what fuels the paraben myth is because people think that if they avoid parabens they get some kind of points, that they can then use to smoke, drink and eat bacon. It doesn’t work like that. The things you eat, drink and smoke are the real culprits here.

Japanese women have a lower incidence of breast cancer than anyone else in the world because of their diet. Tokyo is a very polluted urban environment; have you ever been there? Huge skyscrapers, people’s living space is tiny, ventilation is complicated, and yet those women are getting breast cancer less often than women living in the Great Plains. Do Japanese women use parabens? Of course they do! They may use some “traditional Japanese” products, but when was the last time you used a “traditional” product of your own nationality? The only traditional English beauty product I use is rosewater from the supermarket (the stuff in the beauty shop is full of alcohol – which DOES cause cancer when ingested), and if I’m honest, I don’t use it as often as I should.

By avoiding parabens, consumers are being given a false sense of control, a false sense of security, a false sense of everything’s fine. Clearly, everything is not fine. Vegetarians and meat eaters are getting cancer at similar rates. Natural organic homeopaths are getting cancer at the same rate as people using branded products full of parabens and “chemicals.” The lie is that we are safe if we avoid parabens and other molecules labeled as “nasties.” We are not safe. None of us are. That’s the truth about parabens: You can avoid any ingredient with more than ten letters in the name as much as you like, it’s not going to help you. All this is doing is letting the real culprits get away with murder for longer while the cosmetics companies get even richer than ever from people’s fear.

Cosmetics companies are experts in using fear to sell products – fear of looking old, fear of really being old… those anti-ageing creams are cashing in on people’s fear of mortality. Fear of being ugly, of not looking attractive… make-up cashes in on people’s fear of being alone, people’s fear of rejection. The cosmetics industry has a long track record of subtly using fear to motivate women to buy their products. I’m not telling you to start buying products full of parabens, or to stop buying cosmetics; you should look how you want to, but you need to be aware of the truth about parabens. Avoiding parabens is not going to save you. We will all get old. We will all be alone sometimes. We will all die one day. And that’s the real truth about parabens. ¬†It’s a shame¬†everyone’s so busy being scared of parabens to understand what’s really at play here.

We may experience some technical difficulties

Invoke Delight is moving to http://www.delightandinspire.com

When I started this blog I wanted it to be called inspire delight, but that domain was taken by an online lighting store. ¬†In May 2015, inspire delight was bought up by someone claiming to have been blogging since 2010. ¬†Clearly not, since she has filled out three or four pages (all dated between 19-21 May 2015) then got bored and not bothered again. ¬†But she had time to configure an online shop… go figure.

In the meantime, I bought up invokedelight.com back in November 2014 and had numerous problems with GoDaddy refusing to let me uninstall their really awful “website builder” and connect a WordPress.org plugin instead, including many, many emails back and forth, before I finally capitulated and registered for WordPress.com instead, leaving invokedelight.com as a redirect to this site.

In November 2015, invokedelight.com expired, and I got an email (actually several) telling me that if I didn’t pay renewal to GoDaddy, they were going to de-register it and after that, that it would cost hundreds of dollahs for me to restore my site. ¬†I was looking forward to this happening because then the site would be purged from the domain name, and I could buy it again through WordPress and finally achieve my goal of making this blog invokedelight.com.

It’s the end of January. ¬†GoDaddy claims InvokeDelight.com is owned by someone else. ¬†But the domain registrar lookup claims InvokeDelight.com is owned by GoDaddy.

Registry rules state that an expired site should be held by the registrar (GoDaddy) for 4 weeks plus five days before releasing it back to general sale. ¬†It’s well over that time now – invokedelight.com expired on 17th November 2015 – so I can only assume that GoDaddy are holding onto it because they want me to pay the hundreds of dollahs.

Me being independent and contrary, I decided to brainstorm site names for this site and check what was available.  All the invoke delight -derived names just looked really shit so I checked some inspire delight names (they were all taken in November 2014 but I wanted to see if any had expired).

Delight and Inspire had expired so I aspired to purchase it.

Over the next 72 hours there may be some technical problems as WordPress gets it working, then it should start to redirect. ¬†If you’re subscribed via WordPress (less than 2% of my viewers), it shouldn’t affect you being able to find my site. ¬†If you use Feedly or another RSS reader (I use Feedly) you may have to “add new” and put http://www.delightandinspire.com into your subscriptions so you don’t lose me!

Google and WordPress should handle the re-indexing of the site so all my hard-earned SEO results keep bringing people to the right place.

My Youtube Channel will remain Invoke Delight and so will my Twitter handle @invokedelight and email invokedelight@gmail.com because they don’t let you change such things without signing up for a whole new Gmail and Twitter account.

Once it’s all sorted it’s going to be LEGEN (wait for it… ) … … ¬†… … DARY!

A Little Clarification About My Blog:

1. I don’t get free lipstick and I am not PR friendly (I don’t work with any ¬†brands).

2. I have never published a paid post on my blog.

3. I write about whatever the damn hell I please.  My remit is joy and understanding, these are the purpose of my blog; sometimes other stuff for variety.

4. When that meshes with talking about a product I bought that actually worked to solve a problem I had, I drop an Amazon link so I can get a commission for matching people’s problems with solutions. ¬†It doesn’t affect the price you pay and comes from their profit. ¬†I am a member of Amazon Associates USA, as I have stated in both my “about me” and “contact me” pages, and referred to in a number of posts.¬†¬†I have been using Amazon Associates for 21 days so far, since about 11pm (my time) on New Year’s Eve, and so far it’s netted me about $10 which is about ¬£6. ¬†At the end of February I will re-evaluate whether I feel this has been a successful venture or whether I’m keeping my association with Amazon.

5. I currently ONLY have links to Amazon Associates USA on my four most popular blog posts. ¬†All other links to Amazon (e.g. pictures of rabbit hutches) are just normal links and I don’t earn money from them. ¬†I felt this was ethical. ¬†I never link to a product I haven’t paid for and found useful. ¬†If it doesn’t meet both of these criteria, I don’t link to it.

6. Amazon and Amazon Associates have literally no control over my creative content (I’m not sure they’ve ever seen it) and I do not now, nor have I ever, written posts with the sole purpose of making money from affiliate links. ¬†All the articles that currently have links in them are articles that I wrote many months ago, I wrote them to help people, and they¬†have been here on my site for all that time with NO AFFILIATE LINKS. ¬†Then one day I decided to run an experiment to see how well¬†Amazon Associates USA worked with my current traffic compared to how well it had worked over a sample time period about six¬†months ago (when there were zero clickthroughs i.e. I made absolutely no money) when I had significantly less traffic.

7. I will write an article with my recommendations/otherwise about Amazon Associates USA when I have had enough time to fully evaluate it.  I have no British affiliate links or links for any other country because 97% of my traffic comes from America, from search engine queries (I did some math today).

8. I am planning on¬†charging people to post their links or infographics on my site as of next month, because quite frankly I don’t want to post 99% of the links and infographics people email me about, and I thought this would make people think about whether their link was really appropriate to my blog before contacting me. ¬†I have made this clear on my contact me page. ¬†All links currently on my blog are ones I found myself¬†and I will make it clear if/when I accept payment for any link or infographic. ¬†I will also still be just as selective.

9. I also make money whenever anyone buys a copy of any of my books, although I do not use Amazon Associates affiliate¬†links to promote these as I feel that would be a conflict of interest. ¬†I make money from book sales via royalties paid by my publishers. ¬†As far as I am aware, none of my blog readers have bought copies of any of my books and it doesn’t bother me one bit.

The whole point of yesterday’s article was to try to tell new bloggers, particularly those wanting to start a beauty blog, that there’s another way to blog. ¬†That they don’t have to copy what everyone else does, they don’t have to accept free products in exchange for their integrity.

I want the internet to shift it’s balance in favour of talented and thoughtful content creators instead of people writing any old crap¬†to make a quick buck or get a free lipstick, and I was trying to say that, if you’re creative, you can find other ways to monetize your site, and you can find other definitions of success beyond how much money/how many followers/how much free stuff you get. ¬†The success of helping people or explaining¬†something they didn’t know, or bringing joy to someone else’s life, were specific examples I can think of.

I have since yesterday been contacted by several individuals asking me how I work with PR people, do they tell me what to say etc etc.  I will reiterate:

I have never worked with a PR company or written a post about a product in exchange for either a free product or any sort of payment or discounted product. ¬†I do not let PR companies draw my attention to products either. ¬†I wrote before about why I don’t do this and how I feel it biases the sample (of products being reviewed online) unfairly in favour of companies¬†with the biggest promotional¬†budget.

I hope that clears things up so we can get back to normal because I got a new bunny last night and he is awesome and I wanted to post bunny pictures today but felt I needed to clear this up first.

I would like to also assert that I do not get paid by my rabbits to talk about them.

New bunny timmy1

Sponsored Posts: The Best of The Worst

So as I mentioned in this post, I often get asked to write sponsored posts for companies wanting to improve brand presence. ¬†After a deep moral dilemma, I made it a policy to always turn them down due to my standpoint as a minimalist (although recently I’ve not had a lot of time to respond), but they keep coming. ¬†I do take a look at what they are proposing, particularly when it sounds dreadful, and mostly out of morbid curiosity. For your viewing entertainment (and to fight back against the consumeriarchy), I have included the best of the worst, the factual inaccuracies and old wives tales type information that is all over the internet already, and which people have offered to pay me to perpetuate (which all seem to lead back to consumerism):

1. Quinoa is a good source of protein.  This has to be the most blatant lie; it was followed up with an amount per cup that was a) several times the actual amount of protein in a cup of quinoa and b) still not a great amount of protein.

2. You need to lose weight to get married: ¬†Yep, those “how to lose weight before your wedding posts” you see all over the internet, that are firmly designed to make women hate themselves and feel insecure (so they can sell women more clothes, diet pills, cosmetics, and when all else fails, food) are sponsored. ¬†Do yourself a favour: ¬†Learn to love the size you are before your wedding. ¬†That’s who your future husband/wife fell in love with.

3. People get too much protein in their usual diet, so vegans shouldn’t worry about protein. ¬†This is not only untrue but it’s very dangerous advice. ¬†See my list of sources of nutrients for vegans post (with the amazing spreadsheet of sources for EVERY nutrient) to find out the truth. ¬†It’s especially interesting that this sponsored post wanted to “inform” vegans that they¬†can pay for recipes that don’t contain enough protein, because it makes money from the recipes in the first place, then they’ll get a protein deficiency, and be back supporting the dairy/meat industry in no time. ¬†That’s win-win for paid meat/dairy people. ¬†That’s the result of the “protein myth”-myth. ¬†You need protein to live, and you CAN get it from a vegan diet. ¬†It’s like “big pharma” became “big farmer.”

4. SEO is apparently all about keyword density. ¬†If that was true, a page of “buy computers online¬†buy computers online¬†buy computers online¬†buy computers online¬†buy computers online¬†buy computers online¬†buy computers online¬†buy computers online¬†buy computers online¬†buy computers online¬†buy computers online…” etc would be at the top of each search result. ¬†Instead of being excluded for being dumb and pointless.

5. If I only BUY a bunch of items from some hitherto unheard of fashion house, they will apparently pay me to write reviews (but only if those reviews are positive – that’s the rules of reviewing things for paid posts in blogging). ¬†Listen up, potential bloggers and those of you who are considering paid reviews, because this is a basic rule of making money: ¬†If you have to spend money to do something that someone asked you to do, the chances of it netting you any cash is minimal, unless you have it in writing that they are going to pay you back (at which point, you’re giving them a loan, so charge them interest). ¬†They like to make you think that they are going to give you a return on any “investment” you make e.g. by buying a product, but at the end of the day, as far as companies like this are concerned, YOU are the customer, and they are making money from bloggers, not any readers (the readers are just icing on the cake for these scams). ¬†This is the consumerist myth, and you do NOT have to spend money to make money unless you have¬†a shop.

6. Am I interested in a free sample of these AMAZING new diet pills which have heretofore been tested on mice, rats, rabbits, giraffes and monkeys, and have helped them all achieve the figure YOU deserve??? This one particularly makes me laugh because I have mentioned time and time again on my blog that I am clinically underweight. ¬†The only time someone my size would say yes to diet pills would be if they had anorexia. ¬†At which point they need a free sample of a cure for anorexia, not diet pills. ¬†The whole concept of diet pills really makes me fume, like we can’t just be the size we are (and yes, I fall into that trap too – sometimes wishing I could put weight on to be the “perfect” weight, because all this crap about weight isn’t just “fat shaming” it’s “non-normal shaming” for a made-up value of “normal” – hey, we’ve felt the results of “non-normal shaming” before in other aspects of life such as mental health). ¬†The lunatic fringe of the pharmaceutical industry had to rear its ugly head, and my big question to all these “supplement” pill companies is, if what you’re selling is so good, why don’t doctors ever recommend it to patients? ¬†They can never answer that.

That was six of the best examples of bad paid-posting proposals; obviously I have left company names out because of legal mumbo-jumbo, but I thought these would be entertaining examples. ¬†A lot of the crap I receive in my inbox is to do with either perpetuating myths (e.g. the “protein myth” myth) or perpetuating the¬†LIE¬†that my readers are inadequate unless they spend money on a specific thing (e.g. a weight loss course, diet pills, beauty products). ¬†I respect my readers so could never flog this crap to you all. ¬†If you are a very furious company reading this, and your company has approached me with one of these pitches, perhaps you should look at what you’re offering and try making/selling a better product. ¬†Content is king.

Content is king.
Content is king.

Wedding Wednesday: The Rings

I struggled to write an introductory paragraph for this post on choosing wedding rings, buying them, etc, but I hope this post is helpful for anyone struggling with decisions such as: “Is it okay to buy a second hand vintage wedding ring?” Or:¬†“Is tungsten carbide a good material for a wedding ring?” The answer is yes to both, by the way.

My ring was ¬£249.99 from a Vintage/2nd hand shop in Bradford. ¬†It is platinum and 1/2 carat diamond (round cut) solitaire in size J, because I have tiny fingers. ¬†It took ages to find because a) A lot of jewellers don’t stock my size b) I was very indecisive.

I looked at a lot of things and I fell in love with an antique 1920s ruby ring that was sadly sold before we could afford to buy it (I’m glad, though, now) and later, I nearly bought an opal and 9 carat yellow gold dress ring (5 opals in a row). ¬†The reason I didn’t (I was literally on the payment screen) was because I realized I have to wear this ring every day. ¬†Every single day. ¬†So I needed it to be fit for purpose. ¬†Opals have a big drawback – their beautiful colours are caused by water trapped under the surface of the stone. ¬†If you get them wet over a period of time, that water comes out and you are left with something that looks like a white plastic bead (I should know, I have a lot of opals in my crystal and mineral collection). ¬†This means I would need to take my ring off like, all the time (I wash my hands a LOT and I do all the cleaning in my house). ¬†That wasn’t what I wanted to have to do with my wedding ring. ¬†Additionally, I wanted something that looked equally at home if I was wearing my ripped denim jacket or my beautiful wedding dress. ¬†I needed something neutral, that looked good all the time. ¬†So I chose a diamond, and I chose a silver metal for travel reasons – if I’m travelling, chances are, people will disregard it as a silver/cubic zirconia ring and not worth stealing. ¬† An advantage of it being second hand is that its recommended retail price is ¬£1700, so someone else absorbed that depreciation, and another advantage is that there’s less pressure on me, as it’s not perfect or pristine, just like me (not that you can tell from glancing at it). ¬†Taking the pressure off the bride was the only way I was going to walk down that aisle, so YAY. ¬†Before this, I had an engagement ring made of white gold, diamond and tanzanite, I got it for about ¬£39.99 from Argos on offer, it went up to over ¬£79.99 and stayed there for years, and I don’t know if they’re still selling it. ¬†We got engaged in 2011.

My future husband chose a tungsten carbide alloy ring with the “One Ring” inscription from Lord Of The Rings. ¬†It’s durable, it was cheap (like, under ¬£10), and he assures me that it is comfortable to wear. ¬†He doesn’t generally wear it; he seems to struggle with rings, and I think a lighter ring would have been easier for him to keep on his finger, but he wanted this one, so most of the time it lives on the mantelpiece in our living room. ¬†His engagement ring was ¬£19.99 from Argos; it was stainless steel with a Greek key pattern on it.

Our wedding rings.
Our wedding rings.  If you squint you can see the inscription on his.

Would you buy a second hand or vintage wedding ring?  Let me know in the comments.

21 tips for writing a bestselling travel article

This article will give you 21 tips and tricks to help you to write a bestselling travel article: In the style of a well known travel website which also sells guidebooks.

I look to magazines to show me the best examples of how to write. Sometimes I have to wonder why these people get paid in money rather than in bananas. That’s right, I’m implying a relationship between monkeys and typewriters. Bearing that in mind, here are some tips on how to write the perfect bestselling travel article, including photo editing tips:

1. Pick a place that’s easy to get to, but far enough away that normal people can’t actually afford to go there.

2. Take one or two photos that are probably unrepresentative of the place as a whole, particularly if it involves the sea, rugged landscapes, or any view you can only get from a helicopter.

This is exactly what you will see if you go to Egypt.
This is exactly what you will see if you go to Egypt.

3. Touch up the picture with Photoshop to enhance the colours, to make it even more unrepresentative of the place, and edit out the unsightly evidence of real life taking place, such as litter, insects or children.  Your aim is for travellers to be disappointed when they get there, so they go somewhere else (and buy a new guidebook) next year.

Those peaches have been colour enhanced to make you disappointed if you really see them.
Those peaches have been colour enhanced to make you disappointed if you really see them. Source: Wikipedia.

4. Write a story, embellish the details and make up interactions with semi-stereotypical characters who are always unusually aware of their global context for a farmer/mechanic/factory worker, to really show people an unrepresentative slice of life in the place where they’ll never go (because if they did, they’d find out you made it all up).

5. The opening paragraph – use at least four adjectives per sentence, the whole paragraph must be exactly three sentences long. The first sentence should have no more than 8 words in it. The second sentence can be a little longer.

6. The body of the article: Basically the first paragraph serves to describe the place in its entirety, from here on you will be talking about the history, climate, etc, and never, ever tell people anything useful such as what they could find there, how to get there, what petrol is called, what side of the road to drive on. Instead, you should find the most obscure language in the area and throw around one or two words that don’t mean anything, because it makes people feel like they now know enough lingo to go there. You never know, they might just find that one person who speaks that actual language and talk to them for long enough to use the two words they can now understand. More likely, it’s an insular community who are sick to death of white people, since their only contact with white people is when they turn up, gawk, take pictures of them as if they’re objects, then talk loudly at them and leave.

7. It is probably a place of conflict. Briefly mention the conflict, and don’t hasten to embellish on exactly how this conflict has changed all the people who live here, even if it only happened a few years ago or only happened for two days, or only affected one village that was eight hundred miles away from where you stayed. The only exception to this is if the conflict is ongoing. If the conflict is ongoing, you must mention it in less than one sentence, or even better, don’t mention it at all. They can find out for themselves when they get shot.

8. Don’t mention cultures or customs (with the exception of high days such as Carnevale or Divali, people need to know what they could have done, had they picked better travel days), after all, wouldn’t it be really funny if all the unescorted white women got arrested for immodesty, driving or being out unaccompanied. Better still, don’t tell them about the kidnap/rape problem, because that’s no biggie if it happens. The absolute best practice, though, is to tell your audience all about the cool exciting awesome things you can do in this country, which women aren’t actually allowed to do, and adding a tiny sentence at the end saying ‚Äúwomen are not allowed in/on/at the …‚ÄĚ

9. Do mention pickpockets or begging children, people will then think your article is honest and reflective of the ‚Äúreal‚ÄĚ place.

10. Do mention that drugs are illegal. After all, the fact that they’re illegal EVERYWHERE is such a good deterrent that telling people what happens when they get caught abroad will REALLY stop them doing it. Seriously, this is like secret code for ‚Äúeveryone does drugs in this country.‚ÄĚ Those are the only countries they ever point out the legality for.

11. Don’t mention any of the potential diseases you can get in the country you’re writing about. Or any of the necessary vaccinations. Who cares if some tourists die of malaria, AIDS, dengue fever or cholera as long as they bought your guidebook before they departed on their trip?

12. Don’t mention the state of the hospitals or other emergency services. People won’t take out travel insurance if they find out it’s utterly useless due to the fact that there aren’t any hospitals within 800 miles. And then you won’t get money from advertisers.

13. Don’t mention whether the destination has decent food for coeliacs, vegans, Muslims or Jews. They don’t need to eat. As a travel writer, you don’t know any of ‚Äúthose people‚ÄĚ personally, so clearly they don’t exist.

14. Do talk in great detail about the ‚Äútraditional dish‚ÄĚ or ‚Äúnational dish‚ÄĚ (which nobody really eats who lives there) which is usually meat stuffed with meat in meat sauce with meat and/or possibly cheese.

15. Leave out information about electricity. No-one charges their phone when they’re on holiday.

16. Keep pushing those sponsored hire car articles, but don’t tell readers ANYTHING about the various highway laws. Getting tickets abroad and putting the wrong fuel in your car is fun! Hey they could even get their car impounded!

17. Keep talking about budget options, but don’t actually make an effort to include anything that’s truly cheap. Whatever the hell you get paid to write those shoddy articles is too much if you think ¬£80 a night is a budget hotel/hostel.

18. Never mention anything to do with accessibility. People who are disabled, people who have a guide dog to accompany them (or other support animal) and people with kids in pushchairs don’t travel. Only rich able bodied people do that. That’s why there are ramps and lifts and things all round the world.

19. Don’t discuss travel money options. At all. That’s not worth a single word of an article.

20. Don’t mention which religious groups reside in the area or where the local churches are, or what denominations can worship here. People stop believing in religion when they’re on holiday.

21. DO mention architecturally famous places of worship. Particularly if nobody can worship in them any more. Because travellers want to see the stunning results of religious buildings but don’t want to actually thank the people that made it all possible.

If you follow this guide, you too can produce financially lucrative, but boring and uninformative travel articles with exaggerated details, that editors will pay to publish. That’s a highly popular¬†way that you can make a living off travel writing – because selling out and selling lies to the Man is everyone’s dream come true right?

Travel Tuesday: Travel Money Guide

Copyright notice:  This post is copyright to Invoke Delight.  If you are reading it at a site other than https://invokedelight.wordpress.com then you are reading stolen content that is taking my hard work and presenting it as their own so they get the amazing Google search rankings that I have worked very hard to optimize.  You should redirect now.

It’s Travel Tuesday so in an attempt to get back to my usual posting schedule I have decided to put up this article, which is not an exhaustive guide but should help point you in the right direction for travel money for short and long term travelling and trips.

Cash machines, banks, travellers cheques, pre-paid credit cards. You have loads of options.

Most people take their money out at a bureau de change (or travel agent) before they leave their hometown. Some people do it at the airport before they depart, or on the ferry. The exchange rates on both are poor and you tend to get very little for your money. There are plenty of other options for sorting out your money abroad, as I found last year when I drove from York UK to Rome Italy in my car.

A laid back attitude can save you loads in exchange fees, and don’t worry, if you can’t find an ATM, most places (including every toll road between here and Rome, every petrol station we went to, and every hotel we stayed in) take credit and debit cards, they’re not baffled by chip and pin, and when you’re at the till, facing a helpful attendant, you’ll probably find trying to articulate your petrol pump number more difficult than the actual paying part. That was my experience, anyway.

When I got home, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my bank hadn’t charged me all those crazy fees they scare you with for using your cards abroad, either. I used both my credit and debit card, depending what I felt like at the time. I was working for minimum wage at a supermarket at the time so I wasn’t well off and bank charges were my biggest worry. Banks love to charge you for accessing your money abroad.

Here’s what I found out about your money options when you go abroad:

1. Cash machines.
The absolute easiest thing to do these days is to just put your card in a cash machine when you get abroad and take some money out in the local currency. I take mine out in blocks of about ¬£200 to make sure I’m making the most of currency charges. I’ve found this to be a LOT cheaper than any bureaux de change either here or on the ferry, and it’s more convenient than carrying round all the money for a longer trip. If you’re staying for a month or two, a foreign bank account might be worth opening. You usually need your passport, proof of address, proof of UK address, and sometimes they want a signed reference e.g. from an employer or college at the country you’re staying in. Check with individual banks for details.

2. Travellers Cheques/ Cheques de Voyage
Nobody uses/accepts these any more, and places probably shouldn’t be issuing them nowadays. It’s like the financial equivalent of a gramophone.

3. Pre-paid credit card
If you’re venturing off alone for the first time, these are a great idea, because you can leave your main bank cards etc at home, so if you get pickpocketed or held up at gunpoint, you can feel safe in the knowledge that your Boots Advantage Card is safe in your house. Unless your house gets robbed. Personally, I would take my usual card with me because one call to the bank gets it cancelled anyway, but it’s up to you because confidence is really important when travelling (especially if you have anxiety) and if this makes you feel more confident about venturing abroad, then go for it.

4. The following banks have branches outside the UK: HSBC, Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland, and Deutsche Bank (obviously, this is a German bank, but they have a few branches in the UK so you could open an account here before you go abroad and would be an excellent choice if moving to Germany for more than a few months as they have branches EVERYWHERE). Citibank offer a service where you can open a 2nd account in a destination country before you leave the UK if you have a UK account with them (their branches are all in London), and they’re fairly well represented across Europe, so could be a good choice if you are looking to work abroad for a while – especially since you can transfer up to ¬£50,000 instantly between your UK and foreign Citi account, perfect for trips home. All these banks are mentioned because they have branches in several countries across Europe. Outside of Europe, you are probably looking at Barclay’s or HSBC, although they tend to only have branches in capital cities. HOWEVER accounts tend to be country specific so there is generally a more limited range of things you can do in your own bank abroad, check each bank individually to see which ones would be most useful if you’re going abroad. If you’re spending more than a couple of months abroad, it’s well worth opening a foreign bank account and if it’s with your own bank that you bank with in the UK, you should be able to transfer money between accounts and currencies more easily, and some will even do it for free (although this varies, so check).

Here’s a handy link for a list of banks in every country in Europe (and some countries that are clearly NOT in Europe, such as Azerbaijan; thanks Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_banks_in_Europe

Those are the travel money options (unless you want to take a flock of chickens for bartering instead). What do you do about money when you go abroad?

Wedding Wednesday: Setting The Budget

This is my 100th post, and I just want to say how amazed I am that you guys read stuff wot I write.

This is another of my wedding articles, today we talk budgets; this is probably the most serious, judgemental and opinionated post I will ever write. ¬†Remember folks, this is my opinion, if you don’t like it, there are trillions of mainstream wedding websites filled with articles that can suck you back into the safety of the lunatic idea that ¬£5000 to ¬£10,000 ($10,000 to $20,000) is a budget wedding. ¬†It’s an idea that many of my friends’ weddings subscribed to. ¬†This article¬†will be unashamedly one sided in favour of not wasting money,¬†because I pride myself in trying to show brides-to-be that there is another way, that you don’t need to buy into the stuff you were culturally conditioned to accept, that one bride –¬†this bride – had a modern wedding for vastly under ¬£1000. ¬†Yup. ¬†I’ll write that in words in case you’re lost. ¬†My wedding didn’t come near costing a thousand pounds. ¬†Yours doesn’t have to either.

As a child, I think I only ever drew a wedding picture once. ¬†I didn’t like them because the dresses had to be white which meant you couldn’t colour them in. ¬†That was super-boring. ¬†I preferred drawing princesses in huge flowing dresses of yellow, green, blue, purple and orange. ¬†Never pink. ¬†I think my mum threw out all the pink crayons before they ever got to me. ¬†I might have been four. ¬†You know what else I wanted to do when I was four? ¬†Be an astronaut and eat chocolate and live in a castle and have hair that was blonde and longer than my feet. ¬†In Hawaii. ¬†I also wanted to be the greatest composer who ever lived, learn how to sing like Pavarotti and for it to snow every day. ¬†I also wanted to go to Argos more often, because it meant we sneaked chips¬†from the chip shop when my dad-who’s-not-my-dad was at home growing peas in the garden. ¬†I also wanted to be a mouse and drive a tank and hang out with Berk from TrapDoor, Snuffy and Big Bird from Sesame Street, and Thomas the Tank Engine, and play Lego with them.

My point is, four year old me had no freaking clue what was reasonable or practical. ¬†Being an adult is about having major fun and happiness but in ways that are possible, do-able, and ensure you get to have future fun and happiness. ¬†That’s why they let us cross the street on our own. ¬†Basing your financial decisions on something a four year old came up with results in such disasters as The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl In 3D. ¬†It’s worse if you were the four year old, because one day you will wake up and be unable to believe that a responsible adult (future you, in fact) actually threw inconceivable amounts of money at turning one adult day into something better suited to a little girl’s birthday party. ¬†And forced a boy to go along with it.

While researching things for my wedding I came across loads of “budget bride” articles and websites and every single one of them had a “budget” in mind that was a) many times what I was willing to spend and b) treated it like it was the booby prize. ¬†Oh, you’re poor, but you can still fritter the money you don’t have on a wedding, said the subtext. ¬†A dress for ¬£500. A starter ring for ¬£600. ¬†A cheap theme.

We knew from the outset that we absolutely did not want a super-expensive wedding. Our relatives assumed that we wanted a low cost wedding because we didn’t have much money. We were both bringing in a comfortable amount of money at the time, and I didn’t really know the word ‚Äúminimalist‚ÄĚ so couldn’t articulate why I/we felt so strongly that we didn’t want to waste ¬£5,000 or more on a one-day event.

I had a lot of conversations that ended with me being steamrollered into tears by relatives trying to throw money at me and suggesting more and more ridiculous and extravagant ideas. One example¬†was when a relative asked to take me dress shopping, after I’d bought my dress, and when I politely declined (she knew I had a dress already), she said ‚Äúbut that’s not your real dress, is it? Five hundred pounds is a good price for a wedding dress.‚ÄĚ I pointed out that it was my real dress, and that it had cost ten pounds. She then asked if my ¬£10 wedding dress needed any alterations, because she would like to pay for that. I have never needed a single clothing alteration in my life that I couldn’t do by myself with my sewing machine or my bare hands. ¬†I politely tried to explain that we were happy paying for our own wedding, that we were very flattered that (assorted relatives) wanted to take an interest in the wedding, and that we were fine for money. ¬†I will discuss how we survived the relatives a lot more in a separate article, later.

Additionally we had just bought a house (the sale completed in mid-September) when we started making these big wedding decisions, and we’d just ploughed all of our life savings into our deposit, so we could take out the smallest possible mortgage, which meant we weren’t very keen to make another large-scale expenditure any time soon.

I looked around at wedding ideas and made some pricing enquiries before finally settling on a complete budget of ¬£500 (with a ¬£200 tolerance, because weddings always go ‚Äúover budget‚ÄĚ). We felt that this would enable us to have the wedding we wanted, on our own terms, without having to pay for it in ten years’ time. ¬†My biggest way of saving money on the wedding? ¬†Buy most of your stuff from China. ¬†I didn’t buy my dress from here because Chinese sellers¬†seemed singularly incapable of producing a dress that was anything like the pictures, but my veil and shoes came from China. ¬†I wrote an article about this for Offbeat Bride, which details what you need to know about buying from China. ¬†You can find it here.¬† Naming specific sellers to recommend is pointless because they often have multiple selling IDs and the one who was good at one point isn’t necessarily going to have what you want to buy in the future.

As a side note, Offbeat Bride is an excellent resource if you’re looking for inspiration and encouragement for your non-standard wedding. ¬†They aren’t geared up towards the sort of budget that I had, I’d say they’re representative of all budgets, but they do have a wide range of different ideas and whatnot. ¬†I will refer to them more in future articles because they really helped me keep my sanity and if you’re doing a non-standard wedding I highly recommend you sign up to their forum because the Offbeat Bride Tribe is the most supportive wedding community you can find; my favourite part is that there is a total embargo on talking about weight loss. ¬†No-one’s asked me to say that, they don’t even know I’m writing articles on weddings, but they are amazing so go check them out.

There’s a lot of scaremongering about how you can end up with a disaster if you spend less money on a wedding, but I am here to tell you that, while that’s possible, it’s also possible to have an awesome wedding. ¬†It comes down to how much work you, as an individual, are prepared to do and how flexible you are about the whole thing when it comes to specific wedding ideas, and at the same ¬†time how rigid you can be in the face of mainstream criticism. ¬†This is where Offbeat Bride really came into its own for me – there are loads of examples of weddings that attracted a lot of mainstream criticism, but the brides went, “this is how I’m doing it.” ¬†You also need to be a bit cynical about anything you buy from overseas¬†(see my article on buying from China). ¬†My ¬£10 dress was anything but a disaster:

My £10 wedding dress, on my actual wedding day.  That's about $20.
My ¬£10 wedding dress, on my actual wedding day. That’s about $20.

Other ways I saved money included driving myself and my future husband to our wedding in my own car, cooking all the food myself (because there were no vegan caterers that remotely covered my area), buying a pre-loved ring (my ring would have cost about £1700 brand new), and using a public park as the celebration venue.

What I found really hilarious during the budgeting phase was the amount of articles saying ‚Äú20 ways to spend ¬£500 on your wedding‚ÄĚ which always began, ‚Äúgot an extra ¬£500 to spend?‚ÄĚ and always featured 20 items which were always *just over* ¬£500. Because they haven’t squeezed enough money out of a bride until she’s actually had a heart attack from the pressure of all that money.

That was another big reason I didn’t want to spend on the wedding – with a huge expenditure, non-refundable deposits and items that are out of their refund period, comes the weight of having to live up to that expectation. To perform, to be perfect, and most of all… to not back out of it at the last minute. These were stresses that I didn’t need, especially since I quit teaching in February 2014 due to a newly-formed anxiety disorder that was directly caused by my previous teaching job.

Seriously though, who even thinks to themselves, ‚Äúwell I spent ¬£15,000 on the wedding, it is a little over-budget, but y’know what? Sod it, I’m gonna buy me a ¬£589 glass bowl to put fruit in. … and some fruit to put in it. Because it’s my wedding.‚ÄĚ

I felt a bit sick when I saw what some people had spent money on for their wedding. I felt even sicker when I saw the amount of ebay listings for the shoes I was after, which had the line ‚Äúbought new for my wedding but I ended up buying another pair so they are unworn.‚ÄĚ These shoes retailed at over ¬£100 brand new. I couldn’t buy them in the end, the consumerism was just too tragic. I felt the sickest when I saw the wedding drama that some people had created for themselves by demanding tens of thousands of pounds from their poor parents then getting all bitchy that mom or dad wanted some kind of say in what that money got spent on. If I gave someone that kind of money, I’d want it invested. This was the stirrings of the start of my journey into minimalism.

The thing that really gets me is that people don’t actually notice all that crap that clutters up the modern wedding. Ask your average wedding guest what they thought of the seat covers, the tablecloths, the *insert superfluous accessory or item of decor here* and they’ll maybe notice one or two if they were unique or interesting. Mostly they won’t care. People who you should care about go to weddings to see other people get married (and party together afterwards). The rest of them don’t matter.

We didn’t really save up or put money in a separate account or anything, we just used money as we got it to buy things as we found them, and kept track of it in a spreadsheet that looked like this:

The formula to get the total is "=SUM(B2:B13)" (you change the letters and numbers inside the brackets depending where the stuff you want to total up is found).
The formula to get the total is “=SUM(B2:B13)” (you change the letters and numbers inside the brackets depending where the stuff you want to total up is found). ¬†As you can see, I was ¬£20.49 over tolerance!!!!!

At the end of the day, no matter what all the mainstream wedding media tells you, you can have a beautiful, moving, happy and, especially, memorable wedding without gorging yourself by frittering money away.

This was for about 80 guests, by the way.

Is there anyone else out there who is totally unwilling to waste gajillions of pounds on something that was generated in four-year-old crayon pictures;¬†drawings¬†that should stay where they belong – on your parents’¬†fridge?