Online Insights on FIVEaa Sunday October 2 2011

October 2, 2011

This month we explore what is meant by Australian Women’s Weekly when it claims that Frugality is the new Black, experience the fun side of HTML5 (who would have guessed), and a small video of magic and high tech blended into one. Enjoy.

Frugality is the New Black

Deception - from magic to the lure of a consumer society (Image via TED)
Deception - tonight's theme from magic to our consumer society

My wife told me the Australian Women’s Weekly has claimed that Frugality is the New Black and a quick Google search reveals that various media outlets have been claiming this since about 2008 when a book with that title was released to ‘cash in’ on the Global Financial Crisis.

Of course, there is nothing like a tight patch to teach us how to be less wasteful and more resourceful but it is probably best to practice some of these skills and approaches to life BEFORE a crisis FORCES you to adopt them.

To that end, I discovered a series of posts on this topic by Kim Sbarcea, a Kiwi who writes under the topic of ThinkingShift. What I like about her posts is that she does not come across PREACHY and in fact often acknowledges her failings and struggles along the journey to a more sustainable lifestyle. In her post about feeding the plastic pig (a piggy bank), she confessed that she goes through cycles of being very good for months on end and then indulges in a splurge although not with big designer brand names – she has kicked that habit.

Tonight we look at her post entitled, 10 habits for frugal living, which includes these three concepts:

  • Become reacquainted with your local library or second-hand bookshop. Earlier this year, I held my first garage sale to get rid of some clutter and earn some cash. I was amazed watching a book dealer swoop into the sale and rush off with over 150 soft and hard cover books. These books would have cost me $3750 and the book dealer picked them all up for $300 ($2.00 each on average). So I promptly decided not to buy a new book again if I could help it and once a month I go along to a second-hand bookshop where I can buy great books for $2.00-6.00 each.
  • 5-day rule: we are all tempted by the bright lights and advertising of retail shops and that leads to impulse buying. But if you spot an item you simply (think) you must have, follow the 5-day rule my father taught me. Say to the shop assistant who is pressuring you to buy it “I’m going to think about it”, walk away and if 5 days later, you still want it, then go and look again. But…ask yourself: do I really need it? is it going to change my life? will it help my family? can I do without it? I’ll bet that after 5 days, the passion you had for that object has died away.
  • Frugal exercise: you don’t have to splash out exorbitant money on gym membership. There is no better exercise than walking IMHO. I have always walked. Do whatever you can because exercise keeps you healthy and healthy saves money on medicines and doctors. (Here I urge caution because exercise done badly can cause injury and some exercises like sit-ups are now known to be really bad for us. In my experience, yes, avoid those glammy gym memberships but consider a burst of time with an exercise physiologist to get your fundamentals sound first. That itself will save you money in pain killers and chiropractors/physiotherapists!).

She also mentions other things like cancelling credit cards, saving in a planned way and, heaven forbid, firing your cleaner  – but perhaps that can be the last to go.

One thing that is likely to happen in our house shortly is firing Foxtel. We hardly watch the cable channels and just use it for Free To Air reception. The internet has other options and that will save use about $90 a month for rubbish. It just shows how little habits can sneak in under your radar.

Take a look yourself at her 10 tips for living a frugal life.

Surprisingly helpful home ingredients

Inspired by the first blog, I followed a link to a different site promising to show me magic and cheap cleaning products.

Here are some of the curious findings with various household products.

Bicarb Soda:

  • To keep drains clean, pour about one tablespoon of sodium bicarbonate in the drain, and follow it with half a cup of the cheapest vinegar you can find. Leave to bubble for a few minutes, and then pour boiling water down the drain. If you do this every week or so you will never get blocked drains! If they are blocked already, this process will unblock them if you repeat it several times.
  • Sprinkle on your carpets and rugs before vacuuming, in place of carpet deodoriser.
  • Keep a small open container of sodium bicarbonate in the refrigerator to absorb smells.
  • Make a paste of sodium bicarbonate and water to soothe insect stings and bites.
  • Use as a personal deodorant (dust on).


  • Buy the cheapest white vinegar you can find, (and buy in bulk if possible), and store it in among your cleaning products, because this is a cheap and effective cleaning fluid that neutralises grease and dissolves soap residues. It is environmentally safe in all systems, including septic systems.
  • Use it to wipe surfaces in the bathroom, to wipe the toilet seat and cistern. Clean the toilet bowl by adding about a cup of vinegar to the bowl and leave overnight. Scrub with a toilet brush the following morning.
  • Wash windows and mirrors with a solution of vinegar and water for a streak-free, clean surface.
  • Stubborn stains on clothes can often be removed by blotting with vinegar in soapy water.


  • Lemon juice is a mild acid, and therefore is a natural degreaser, deodorant, mild bleach and cleaning agent. If you have a lemon tree, the lemons are free.
  • If you are using a sodium bicarbonate paste, using lemon juice instead of water for the paste makes it doubly effective.
  • Lemon juice is also an insect repellant. If you have ants in the house, for example, squirt lemon juice at the entry point, and leave a piece of lemon peel to repel the ants. (Chalk, cayenne pepper, talcum powder, damp coffee grounds, and borax also work.)
  • (As an aside, did you know that lemons are also an anti-viral agent and a contraceptive, and are said to prevent the spread of AIDS? There is a campaign to get lemons planted everywhere that AIDS is in epidemic proportions and condoms are too expensive to buy.)


  • To trap cockroaches and other crawling insects, lightly grease the inner neck of a wine bottle or similar, and pour some stale beer in the bottle and leave out overnight. Alternatively, place the stale beer in a bowl, and leave a stick for the insects to crawl up. Leave overnight. The insects crawl up, attracted by the beer, and then drown. (I believe they have a pleasant death!)

You can read through this series of helpful hints here – there are plenty more to raise your eyebrows and lower your household costs.

Deception: part of an honest life

I am sure we have all told little lies from time to time, often for the most noble of reasons.

However in this TED talk, Marco Tempest, a magician, takes us on a short journey through truth and lies with the help of some iPhones and some new technology that sycronises movies over multiple devices.

Along the way there are some interesting tidbits:

The lie is a natural part of life

Men tell twice as many lies as women

Being a magician is to be part of the most honest profession in the world – they promise to deceive you and they do

Because we deceive we can be deceived, like gamblers forgetting their losses and moviegoers giving in to the magic of cinema

Art is deception but when you give over to it, it becomes magic

This is an interesting piece of performance art, storytelling and magic with a dose of high-tech. You can watch for yourself here:

HTML5 – an interactive future online

The term, interactive, has been used a lot with websites over the years but the next generation of website code called HTML5 is set to make it a more substantial experience that is also more inclusive because it should work no matter what browser or device you are on.

We have talked about HTML5 in the past but tonight I want to share a link to a small ‘doodle’ that shows you a simple, novel use of HTML5 technology.

If you visit this link to The Stickman, you will be able to interact with the animation and be part of the story. True, the storyline is contrived but the demonstration of how easy it is for a user to forge unique content on a website without any foreign software being downloaded is very exciting from a marketing and communication perspective. Have a play and see what you think.

The first of