Under the influence

Posted April 27th, 2010 by Penny Wise

Apr 27, 2010

I've come to the realisation that if it wasn't for Simple Savings members I wouldn't know what was going on in the world half the time! I stopped watching the news years ago. Call it sticking my head in the sand but I couldn't handle sitting there night after night, shaking my head at man's inhumanity to man, or going to bed and laying awake worrying that the latest escaped axe murderer was going to get me. Give me good news any day! In five years of Simple Savings membership, I've discovered that all I really need to keep me up to date is the Forum. I can 'tune in' and get the top stories any time I want. The Forum has thousands of reporters with their ears to the ground, broadcasting the latest news. The difference is, the Forum is full of news that I want to hear. News that is relevant to me. News that makes a difference to my family.

Over the years I've lost count of all the ways that the Forum members have helped me. They help me choose something for dinner when I'm lost for inspiration, or feel like cooking something new. They give honest product reviews and have saved me a fortune in the past by warning me off wasting my money going to see crap movies or buying rubbish books. When I'm tempted to buy the latest gadget, you can guarantee there'll already be a Forum discussion in full swing, most of the time telling me what I already suspect - that it's just a five minute wonder and if I buy it I'll just regret it. If you think it sounds as though I'm too easily swayed by the opinions of others, think again. Time and time again they have been proven right - and on the rare occasion I go against their advice and buy something anyway, I end up red faced and trying to resell whatever rubbish I bought for a pittance on Trade Me.

In the last month alone I've been truly grateful for all the things I have learned about through the Forum, that I would otherwise never have known about. Like the Thermos Foogo food jars that my boys take to school every day so they can enjoy their lunches piping hot or icy cold. With no disposable packaging they reduce waste and means we can make greater use of leftovers. Now the whole family can enjoy yummy hot food for lunch, not just me! While these are widely available in Australia, you can only currently get them online from Yum Yum Kids in NZ. Their service is excellent and the products are well worth the outlay. No more leaky drink bottles or yoghurt covered schoolbooks! Thank you Forum!

And then there are the books I've been reading lately that I've loved but would also have never read or even heard of if not for the Forum. I've never seen a single episode of Masterchef but the title alone would be enough to put me off. I'm a cook, not a Masterchef and could never hope to be. On hearing of Julie Goodwin's book I immediately had connotations of hopelessly impossible recipes, using horribly expensive and obscure ingredients. But I heard so many good things about the book on the Forum that I decided to risk a look - and discovered I was wrong. The book is beautiful. I absolutely love it and want to make everything in it. Who would have imagined that a Masterchef could also be frugal? I can't wait to get better so I can try out the recipes!

Another book I have just devoured is 'Living Oprah', by Robyn Okrant. I heard about it through - where else! - the Forum. In a nutshell, it's the journal of a woman who decides that, for one year she is going to do everything Oprah Winfrey tells her audience to do, through her show, magazine and website. It's an absolutely fascinating read that takes the reader through a huge range of emotions. Brutally honest and very enlightening, I wouldn't think that Oprah would have appreciated being so thoroughly analysed! I haven't watched Oprah since the boys were babies, back when the guests were 'ordinary people' and the audience got to ask questions and yell out things like 'Kick him to the kerb girlfriend!' It sounds as though the show has changed a lot since then. The project cost Robyn thousands of dollars, as whenever Oprah said 'You need this' or 'You've GOT to see this' and so on, she literally went out and did it, saw it, cooked it or bought it. Talk about devotion!

I never realised until I read the book just how great an influence Oprah has had. The day after I finished 'Living Oprah' I happened to be reading the TV listings and it read as follows - 9.00am - 10.00am The Dr Oz Show,12.30pm - 1.30pm Dr Phil, 1.30pm - 2.30pm Oprah, 2.30pm - 3.30pm Rachael Ray. All of whom are Oprah's proteges. Yikes! As I went through the book I discovered that there were actually a lot of similarities between Oprah's show topics and the Simple Savings way of life. Happiness does not come from material things. Turn off your screens and spend time with your family instead. Nothing beats home cooked food. Live your best life. But that was where the similarities ended. In the next breath viewers are told that their lives won't be complete without a pair of Christian Laboutin shoes and that they haven't lived until they've made turkey burgers using the recipe from Donald Trump's personal chef. These burgers cost Robyn Okrant over $50USD. I was feeling a bit disillusioned after finishing the book so I picked up a copy of 'O' magazine from the library in the hope that I could prove Robyn wrong. I loved the articles, I loved the letters, I loved the inspiration. What I didn't love was the running thought that everything has to be perfect. I opened the front cover to a double page childrenswear ad - for Ralph Lauren. Our houses have to look perfect. Our husbands and partners need to look perfect. We need to look perfect. It made me wonder how many other people out there were sucked into parting with thousands of dollars a year in their attempts to 'live their best life'.

And then I got to thinking about Fiona. While not word for word, her message through Simple Savings is also 'live your best life'. But her message is constant, unwavering. It's as natural to her as breathing. She doesn't tell us to do one thing and then go and do the complete opposite. I remember Robyn Okrant being horrified when Oprah told all her viewers to join her on a 21 day diet - then the very next day doing a show sampling decadent desserts and telling the viewers 'I'm starting MY diet tomorrow'. Do as I say, not as I do. Could you imagine our Fiona doing anything like that? Tell everyone it's No Screens Month, then go out and by a 42 inch plasma TV the next day?! Sorry Oprah, I know you do some fantastic work and help a lot of people but I would still rather live my best life Fiona's way. Still, I'm really glad that I read the book - thanks once again to the Forum!

Unlike most news channels, the Forum is always chocka with good news and things that make me smile. If it wasn't for the Forum I would never have seen or heard Susan Boyle's first performance on Britan's Got Talent. Or 20,000 people doing the same dance to the Black Eyed Peas. Or the beautiful video for 'Lost Generation'. Things like that make my day but you'll never see them on the news. So thank you Forum members for sharing all your good news and for being SS's very own frugal versions of Trinny and Susannah. Thanks to you, I always know 'what not to buy!'

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