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Living Lightly

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Conor Pope is popping in to talk about the new series 'Living Lightly', co presented with Ella McSweeney, which airs tonight on RTE at 7pm,

In the current economic times with job losses, salaries falling, banks no longer willing to lend money, many families who have learned to worship at the altars of our shopping centres are having to dramatically alter their consumer ways!

'Living Lightly' takes three families who are living way beyond their means, still addicted to 'must-haves', little luxuries, spending patterns and ways of life more suited to 2006 than 2009. And now, all three face a challenge.

For ninety days, they'll be advised, monitored and mentored by two sympathetic taskmasters: consumer expert Conor Pope, who'll audit their spending and set targets designed to reduce it, and 'frugal enthusiast' Ella McSweeney who'll suggest alternatives and offer practical help.

Living Lightly is also a part of the Spend Clever Live Better initative which RTE is running for the month of September. RTÉ Spend Clever + Live Better brings experience, advice and encouragement on how to survive these challenging times and improve your quality of life. Reuse. Repair. Research alternatives. Borrow. Barter. Break Bad Habits.

Why should we Spend Clever, Live Better?

. Money is tighter than ever and with 440,056 (September figures from CSO) people on the Live register we need to learn new ways to save money and resources.
. We have become a nation of consumers. - Shopping is the new national pastime!
. The average person consumes twice as much as we did 50 years ago.
. The sizes of our houses have doubled to make room for all the stuff we buy.
. We are working more in order to spend more and it is costing the earth!
. In the past 30 years over one third of the earth's natural resources have been consumed.
. If we continue buying and consuming, as we are now it will take 3 earths to sustain us.
. Instead of consuming - spend more time with your loved ones.

Conor Pope

. Conor Pope is a journalist for The Irish Times and has a particular interest in consumer protection. He writes a Pricewatch column in The Irish Times every Monday. On the page, he reviews products ranging from the most cutting-edge mobile phones and digital cameras to the cheapest pasta sauces and disposable razors and champions the cause of consumers fed up of shocking customer service and shockingly high prices.
. He is the consumer agony uncle on Ray Darcy's morning radio show on Today FM and is also a frequent contributor on the Last Word with Matt Cooper as well as a number of RTE Radio and television shows.
. Born in Galway, Conor moved to Cork at the age of six and returned to Galway at 13.
. He studied English and Philosophy at UCG.
. After getting his degree he did a six month FAS course in computer programming.
. He taught English in Spain for a few years and then decided he should come home and do a postgrad in UCG in Journalism.
. From there he did a placement in the Connaught Tribune which then led him to joining The Irish Times in 1996 working on (now

Living Lightly
. Living Lightly is a six part televsion series that centres around three families and their spending habits.
. It's about embracing thrift and trying to live a more enhanced life on less material goods.
. The good times are over and now it is time for 'The Good Life'
. Being thrify makes you feel good about yourself and that is something you can't buy!.
. With the help of Conor and Ella the 3 families will learn how to spend less, how to waste less and to have a good time doing it.
. Living Lightly is about three families being creative in getting the things they need in their day to day lives and learning more about the community they are living in and the resources that are available.

The 3 Families taking part in Living Lightly:

Des and Mary O'Connor from Longford have always had difficulty saying 'no' to their four daughters especially when it comes to their spending habits. Mary also has a problem with spending far too much money on unnecessary items in the weekly shop. But when Conor sets out to reduce their spending by a third, the family realise that big changes have to be made.

Paul and Maria McGregor from Howth are about to celebrate the arrival of their fourth child but with maternity leave and a stay at home husband radical changes have to be made to keep the family finances in check. Conor and Ella reckon it's high time they developed a grown-up attitude to money.

Laura and Dave Murray McArdle from Stepaside, have three children and seen their comfortable life change overnight. But how can they economise when there's no money left to save?

Helping these three families - and more dauntingly, their kids - to see the light will be no easy task. Conor and Ella will have to be innovative, resourceful and immensely patient. There'll be failure as well as success, not to mention frustration, denial, confusion and the odd tantrum!

Programme 1
In the first programe, we meet all three families, Conor analyses their expenditure and he and Ella decide what to tackle immediately.
The O'Connors in Longford are challenged to reduce their food bill to €150 a week.
The Murray McArdles in Stepaside were given a reality check when they find out how much their house is work and the McGregor family in Howth have to give up their €1800 a year cappuccino habit!

Conor's best tips for living lightly?

In terms of how to save money I would tell people is to stop wasting money. We were in a pattern of going shopping without a list and buying whatever took our fancy. First thing I would say to people is that they need to get their grocery and domestic shopping bills under control and the only way you can do that is by planning carefully - you make a shopping list and you plan your meals for the next seven days and you have to stick to it!

There is a whole range of different tips then for when you go shopping.
. Don't go when you are hungry, pay attention to own brand products as you can sometimes save up to a third in most cases you won't be sacrificing in quality.-
. People need to keep their credit cards under control.
. You need to shop around for the best value on credit cards, electricity, heating and insurance.
. We need to stop consumers from being so passive. They need to know exactly where their money is going and that their money can last longer.

How did you get the families to keep their spending under control?
They had to keep a spending diary for one month. That had to include everything they were spending from a cappuccino to their bank loans. When you see everything on paper you realise where it is all going and what areas can be cut down on.

Did any family members break the rules?
We took what they said at face value. On some occasions they weren't the best at keeping their spending under control.