He didn't get where he is today by stealing somebody else's catchphrase.

The Other Side

Did you know that there’s ninety-one days left until Christmas?

You probably didn’t. In fact, the thought of Christmas probably brings you out in a cold-sweat, with the notion of false pleasantries uttered to unsavoury relatives and a credit-card bill akin to the national debt of Brazil - but I’m really looking forward to this years festive season and will be counting down the days like an impatient child. It brings forth a new year and a complete change of direction - something that I’ve wanted for a while. I need a fresh start, a kick up the arse.

On Christmas Eve, I’ll get that kick - when I join the other two-ish-million in the UK. I finish my job, clear my desk (although, I’d like a desk first) and join the rats leaving the sinking ship - to face a world of Jeremy Kyle, house makeovers and c-list celebrities giving DIY tips. Although, as I don’t have a television I’ll just enjoy the peace and quiet - a considerably nicer option.

But if I tell you that I’ve not been sacked, you might scratch your head a bit. If I tell you that I volunteered to lose my job, you would probably question my sanity. Hell, you wouldn’t be the first and despite my pre-festive exuberance, the eggnog hasn’t got to me yet. The situation is that I’ve been presented with an opportunity that’s too good to pass up and to miss out this time would probably mean that I’d never get another chance again. It’s now or never, as the saying goes.

After four paragraphs of waffling, I finally get to the point - I’ve taken voluntary redundancy and will leave my job after seven years of service, with a package that minimises the risk as much as can be reasonably expected. In these times of austerity and belt-tightening, the offer is miles better than many could hope for. I get to try something new with a secure buffer behind me, significantly minimising the risk.

You could be asking why I’ve even decided to do this. Surely, having a reasonably paid job is all the more important when economic conditions get tougher?

You’re probably right. I could continue in my current position, doing pretty much the same task for the next thirty years. I could carry on filling-in, signing and filing lots of little bits of paper until the day I die and be a truly hardcore paper-bitch. W00T.

Or I could just throw myself into the shredder now.

Truth be told, my interest (and subsequently, my performance) in my job peaked at the beginning of 2006, after which it has been on a downhill slope ever since. I don’t usually stay in the same job for more than three years and as a consequence I’d made a conscious decision back then to take the same package if offered (and it was), but like a fool I decided too late and missed the deadline. I’ve been kicking myself ever since, so this time I made sure it didn’t happen again by being first in the queue to cash in my chips...

...which leaves me with the dilemma of what to do next, which is not such a large dilemma as you would think. I aim to enjoy my Christmas, do a bit of travel during January and find a job - there’s lots of them still out there. Initially, I don’t really care too much what the job is and only have two criteria to validate it against:

- No call-centres.
- No contact with bodily-fluids.

I feel these are good metrics to work by. They preclude working as part of the drone collective for Yet Another Very Large Company Ltd and at the same time mean I don’t end up mopping up old-ladies wee, cleaning toilets or hosting sex chat-lines (a combination of both rules). Apart from that, I’ll give most things a go.

In the meantime, expect my posting frequency to get a little bit more regular than they have been of late (i.e. more than virtually non-existent). I’m sure you’ll find my adventures at the jobcentre to be interesting reading.

Google Cop-Out

You might remember a while back that I decided to buy an Asus EeePc. Whilst I eventually went into Toys-R-Us to buy it, I initially tried to buy it from an online retailer, who used Google Checkout as their method of payment.

Buyer beware.

The retailer in question (I'll keep it nameless for the moment), was totally unresponsive to my order - hence the reason for me cancelling my purchase. I've never actually known such an unresponsive e-tailer. I contacted them to cancel the order and they never replied - meaning that I'd either have to contact Google (who processed the payment) or my bank to lodge a dispute.

Try a search on Google Checkout and customers getting refunds - you may notice the rather unhelpful search results.

My bank initially advised me to contact Google in relation to this - but funnily enough, they don't have a phone number. In fact, most of their help is dedicated to the merchant, so this makes reclaiming the funds virtually impossible.

My only recourse was to log a dispute with my bank - and with any luck, I should get the funds back shortly.

The moral of this story? I guess that should be self explanatory - even Paypal has a number you call in the event of issues. The lack of a physical building to go to in order to get some results doesn't help, but I shall be a lot more wary when buying online in future because Google's payment system appears to be very one-sided. When things work, great, but when they don't, you're a bit stuffed.

Other web experiences: Here and here. (There's a lot more)

The Final Frugality Challenge Update

Total for December: £31.74
Total for 2007: £1,275.46

So, there you go - I aimed to save £1,500. On the face of it I've failed, although I beg to differ. £100 Per month is still a tangible sum. Unfortunately, the car break-in meant that I haemorrhaged money during the course of December. It was a shame, because I had quite a cheap Christmas. It would have been nice to fully reap the benefits and increase the total saved for the year.

That said, I could have tried harder in many other areas. I managed to do quite well with my shopping, but in other areas I could have been more aggressive. As the challenge was to save money as ethically as I could, I don't think I did badly in that respect. The Good Shopping Guide became my bible and at the same time as saving money, I managed to do so with a relatively clear conscience, so much so that my new habits have become second nature.

The challenge certainly hasn't been a lost cause. Most of the consumer choices I've probably made in not just the last year, but over the last several years have been influenced out of ethics, whether that be finance, food or clothing - it's just that there's more work to be done. For example, the fixed-rate on my mortgage comes up for renewal this year. I'm now in a considerably better bargaining position than at the start of the term and as a consequence I believe I should be able to lower my repayments, whilst using an ethical provider. I'll keep you posted on that one.

I'm also pleased to say that I've observed retailers changing their habits too (M&S is a big example). The optimist in me hopes that consumers consciously choosing to buy "good" products has spurred this on. This is a trend that I hope to see continue throughout 2008, because it'll make my life a lot easier when it comes to making the right choice on what to buy.

Finally, you could argue that the lack of a true motive meant that I had no real impetus to push the project further. For example, I don't have bailiffs knocking on my door, nor do I need to find a job. However, as you'll have seen from one of my previous postings, that might be a different matter - therefore I think I'll be continuing with the exercise, because you never know when it might happen.

It's been an interesting exercise.

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