Posts Tagged ‘Save money’

Shoe thrift

In Save cash on September 21, 2011 at 8:47 am

The advantage of this particular shoe-thrift trick is that it combines two of my  favourite vices – hoarding and stinginess – while offering a built in advantage to those of us a bit long-in-the-tooth.

How it works is this:

1) buy cheap shoes, wear for a bit, get bored.

2) stuff shoes that have fallen out of favour into bottom of wardrobe.

3) leave for 3-10 years to allow to multiply  and gather dust.

4) occasionally consider having a clear out and taking to car boot sale or charity shop.

5) fail to get round to having clear out or taking to car boot sale or charity shop.

6) come across years later when looking for something completely different (your notes form when you did Spanish evening classes, the children’s health records, the cat)

7) dust off and wear. Hey presto! ‘new’ shoes at no expense.

This is what I found at the bottom of my wardrobe. I’m hoping some of these are old enough to have come back into fashion. Probably twice. Read the rest of this entry »

#55 Loitering within tent

In holidays on August 19, 2010 at 11:46 pm

Hey! I thought camping was supposed to be a cheap holiday option.

I’ve just been to kit myself out for a long weekend in Dorset and on a pound-to-use basis, it could all work out quite pricey. Read the rest of this entry »

#38 Kitchen gadgets

In Food & Drink, White collar denial on March 29, 2010 at 9:12 am

Lékué lemon squeezer

Orange peelers from Farringdon

Are fish-boning tweezers strictly necessary in life? Read the rest of this entry »

#37 Sample sales

In Save cash, White collar denial on March 24, 2010 at 12:47 am

What’s the most extravagant thing in your wardrobe? Mine is probably the £5 skirt I bought from H&M. Or the £10 high street dress.

These aren’t the items that I paid most for I have to admit – they hang next to a Marc Jacobs jacket I bought myself as a wedding present five years ago, and a fabulous pink Paul Smith coat also dating back to times of full employ – but the ones that have been costliest.

The coat cheers me, and everyone else, up with its brightness and even if I hadn’t bought it at a samples sale, pound per wear it probably comes in at about 75p so far, making it about  600% cheaper than the  high street skirt which still has its price tag on. The Marc Jacobs jacket has been around so long it is now coming back into fashion.

To be a budget epicure, rather than just an underemployed down and out, it is important to distinguish between extravagance and luxury. The irresistably cheap item bought in haste for a knock down sum often ends up being a complete waste of money.

This is a roundabout way of justifying my trip last week to London’s famous Designer Warehouse Sale (once voted by Time Out one of the 100 best reasons to live in the capital). To be fair, I haven’t been for a year and I had just been paid for some work so a small treat was due. By sticking to a few basic rules, I manged to keep the credit card under control and still rejoice in some healthy bargains:

* only buy something you feel confident walking straight out of the changing room in (now is not the time for major image makeovers)

* only buy something you already have the shoes to wear with (buying a bargain dress is not an excuse to then go out and buy a pair of expensive shoes)

* avoid loud or unconventional patterns you don’t have the panache to carry off (me, not you)

* cash in on good tailoring rather than eye catching fashion statements (TopShop is adequately on trend if that’s your priority)

* don’t waste time on basics like T-shirts or vests when you can get something identical for less at Uniqlo

* and don’t imagine for a moment you’d ever get an opportunity to wear the Vivienne Westwood suit that’s down from £1,900 to £400. That’s still £400 pounds, bargain or no.

I came out with a Betty Jackson dress, shorts, cardie and a dip-dyed silk blouse, all for a total of £102 (£41 less than the original cost price of the blouse alone). Still a lot more money than I’ve spent on myself in a very long time, but I’ve already worn two of my purchases and, unlike some cheaper items from cut-price high street stores, I’m confident they won’t have fallen apart in five years’ time.

The next men’s DWS is this weekend (26-28 March) featuring items from the wardrobes of Elton John and David Furnish (raising money for their Aids Foundation charity); the next women’s is 18-20 June.

For other sample sales in London, visit Sample Sales London. If you live in Manchester, try the Manchester Fashion Network. If you live somewhere else and know of any others, then do let us know.

#36 Bring me sunshine

In Homeworking on March 17, 2010 at 10:54 pm

It could be the weather teasing me, but it looks like we made it through another winter, and a pretty miserable one, unless you are a penguin. (Apologies to readers in Berlin who still have another month to go from the sound of things. And to penguins.)

This week temperatures reached double figures for more than two days running. The sun has shone, bulbs have flowered, washing has dried on the line, hats have been shed, light jackets have been worn instead of big coats, and some people have even been seen in sunglasses. Passing a local private school I saw one groundsman mowing grass and another painting the white lines of a rounders pitch  – two of the textbook Signs of Spring.

After long dark months of hibernation and stodgy food, the first Signs of Spring traditionally fill me with unaccountable energy, and I can’t resist the urge to just get out and walk. Everywhere. All the time. While this can be inconvenient when there are pressing things to be done around the home or at a desk, this compulsive walking is saving money on bus fares, petrol and gym fees.

A 30 minute brisk walk (approx 5mph) burns off nearly 200 calories. I calculate that this week I have clocked up at least 3 hours on foot in trips to the South London Gallery to see Michael Landy’s Art Bin,  Herne Hill for a meeting and home made hot cross buns, and Dulwich Pots for, er, pots – plus roughly half an hour a day on weekdays to and from and to and from school. That’s 2,200 calories by my reckoning. Or nearly 13 Creme Eggs.

Looked at another way, I’ve also saved £4.80 on bus fares and about £2 on petrol. That’s still 13 Creme Eggs – proving the reliability of the Creme Egg as an SI unit of measurement, hereby officially abbreviated to  ‘Ce’.

To walk ‘correctly’ you should apparently hit the ground with your heel and roll through your foot and push off from your toes, hold your arms at a 90 deg angle, keep your pelvis in ‘neutral’, your spine and neck long, your chin up and your eyes forward. Not stomp along hunched up, handbag pulling on one shoulder, neck disappearing into coat, forehead pushing against the wind. You should start each walking session with some simple stretches and, here’s the bonus, make sure you keep up the carbs (but not after 5pm).

On my travels this week I have happened upon:

a derelict building filled with balloons;

a fight outside Primark;

South London’s smallest and newest independent bookshop, Herne Hill Books;

an eclectic junk shop, The Good Companion, selling sideboards, carrot cake, and taxidermied stoats;

Nemo Converse (with fin) for kids;

plus all the crocuses, birdsong and grass cutting.

That’s quite a lot of pleasing diversion. Or, in SI units, 13Ce.

#34 Eat better, not more

In Food & Drink, White collar denial on March 5, 2010 at 6:15 pm

Several months of comforting myself with comfort food (see post #25) have left me feeling slightly uncomfortable. Not least around the waist area. So I have decided to heed the advice of my veg box supplier which is sending me leaflets saying ‘Eat Better, Not More’ and my local wine merchant which has recently emblazoned across it’s facade ‘Drink Better, Not More’. Read the rest of this entry »

#29 How Low Can You Go?

In Homeworking, Save cash on January 30, 2010 at 11:50 pm

So, how low can you go? My husband is already complaining at 19. Some friends have made it down to 17. The headmaster at school just thinks the answer is for all children to wear vests.

There is plenty of advice dished out at this time of year about saving energy and cutting bills, in particular the idea that all the ills of the world can be solved if everyone just turns their thermostat down by one degree.

According to the Energy Saving Trust, this would not only slash the amount of CO2 I produce by 335kg (thus allowing me to eat more beef to compensate),  but save me £55 a year on heating bills. Other sources, such as civic-minded ideas machine We Are What We Do, offer a more conservative estimate of £35 a year. But you get the gist. Less heat -> less fuel -> less money.

Of course, if I were to actually turn my thermostat down every time a well meaning government department or eco charity told me to, I’d be pushing Absolute Zero by now (and presumably using far more energy getting there). So I need to know what temperature I should be aiming for.

So far I have failed to find a consensus. The BBC website suggests 18ºC. I seem to remember that for Physics A Level we took STP to be 20ºC. I’m told Standard Laboratory Conditions are taken as 25ºC, though I’ve no idea why chemists should get to be warmer than physicists (possibly something to do with all those Bunsen burners, and it might explain why so many physics teachers sported chunky knitwear and beards).

Regulation 7 of the Heath and Safety Executive workplace regulations says:

‘The temperature in workrooms should provide reasonable comfort without the need for special clothing. Where such a temperature is impractical because of hot or cold processes, all reasonable steps should be taken to achieve a temperature which is as close as possible to comfortable. ‘Workroom’ means a room where people normally work for more than short periods. The temperature in workrooms should normally be at least 16 degrees Celsius unless much of the work involves severe physical effort in which case the temperature should be at least 13 degrees Celsius. These temperatures may not, however, ensure reasonable comfort, depending on other factors such as air movement and relative humidity.

In other words, I’ve still got another 3.01ºC to go before my ‘workroom’ (ie house) falls foul of regulations and I can legally refuse to work. Or sue myself.

#28 Orchids on Your Budget

In Gratuitous nostalgia, Save cash on January 27, 2010 at 10:24 am

Browsing in Foyles the other day, I came across this charming little book in the ‘thrift’ section. It preempts HTBUTWCW by some 70 years.

First published in 1937, Orchids on Your Budget (subtitle: ‘Live smartly on what you have’) told Depression era New Yorkers how to economise on money, without economising on style.

It was displayed alongside some other reissued facsimiles (this seems to be a trend – presumably a cheap way for publishers to capitalise on works that are now out of copyright – but a nice trend) on frugal living. Some of you may be interested in Keeping Poultry and Rabbits on Scraps by Claude Goodchild and Alan Thompson (first published in 1941 and retailing at 1/6) which features step by step photos of how to kill and skin a rabbit, or Richard Mabey’s beautifully illustrated 1972 foragers’ bible Food for Free.

Back to Manhattan ladies… Written by Marjorie Hillis, who had already made her name with the best-selling Live Alone and Like It, ‘Orchids…’  is packed with sage advice on matters such as: how to assemble a smart wardrobe (the key is some cheap house-frocks, a smart black dress, and shoe-trees); downshifting your lifestyle; getting a job; the importance of face cream; and whether or not you can afford a husband.

She writes:

‘An astonishing number of the people you know, probably including yourself, insist that they have to do a lot of economising… This isn’t because of the size of their incomes, or the lack of size; it’s because they haven’t as much money as they wish they had, which would be true no matte what their income… What most people don’t concede is that, with a little planning and a dash of ingenuity, they might have what they want.’

‘A slight financial pressure sharpens the wits, though it needn’t sharpen the disposition. But it takes an interesting person to have an attractive ménage on a shoestring and to run it with gaiety and charm.’

‘It’s not difficult to have fun out of economising, both because of the sense of accomplishment it gives you, and because everybody else is doing it too. Today, in the smartest houses, you are apt to find ten-cent-store glass mixed with Crown Derby China and the hostess boasting about it. Ladies of unlimited means have themselves a time in bargain basements and second-hand shops and tell about it to anyone who will listen. They tell, because that kind of shopping takes wit instead of money, and wit is a far less common commodity.’

‘There are economies that nobody can afford unless they are so poor in purse and spirit that they don’t care much anyway, and there are forms of thrift that are so expensive that not even a millionaire can pay for them. First and foremost among these little errors is the extravagance of Letting Yourself Go.’

‘It is a regrettable, but undeniable, fact that the most delightful people are seldom big money makers.’

‘The point nowadays is not merely to know the cost of a thing and whether or not you have the money to pay for it, but whether it’s worth the price to you.’

‘Any wardrobe that doesn’t have a dress that makes you feel as pretty an elegant as you can possibly feel is a wash-out.’

I could go on, but the book is quite short and I’d end up typing out most of it. The crux is that, as Marjorie counsels, there is no social stigma in not having money, and ‘budgeting’ doesn’t have to mean giving up hope, or nice cheese, or orchids (ok, perhaps during periods when things are really tight), it is about thinking about what really matters to you, and employing a little intelligence, ingenuity and effort to balancing your life as well as your budget.

The smarter lady, in both senses of the word, will, she says, relish the challenge.

#25 What’s your favourite comfort food?

In Food & Drink on January 12, 2010 at 3:56 pm

In January, everyone needs chips.

Read the rest of this entry »

#20 Family

In Family, Save cash on December 24, 2009 at 12:25 am

At this time of year, it is customary to think of one’s family. Personally, I think of my Spinster Aunt and Glasgow Granny whose distinctive approach to gift giving is legendary among my siblings and cousins.

When we were children, the Christmas cards we received were traditionally the fronts of those from previous years detached from the bit with the signature of their original giver, and re-imagined in postcard form. Granted, my six year old recycled 2008’s Christmas cards this year, but at least he cut them up and made his own collages. And besides, I don’t give him any pocket money so he can’t buy his own cards. The more charitable might see my relatives as being ahead of their time, a vanguard of the eco war; more likely it was just a case of good old Scottish tightfistedness.

But it was their presents that were truly memorable. Usually these were free gifts obtained with cereal or un-pc pots of jam; occasionally they did splash out and one year we all received a book of second-class stamps. I didn’t use one.

This year I have become an ardent admirer of the art of belt-tightening, but my aunt and grandmother’s rational for their pursuit of it is less clear. Though by no means wealthy in the Tory-shadow-cabinet sense of the word, they were nevertheless a solidly middle class mercantile family who bought shares, sent their children to public school (at least until my father disgraced the family name and was swiftly removed), spent time in the colonies, had a billiard room, and ran an account at RW Forsyth. [Needless to say, two generations of layabout writers and theatrical types has ensured rapid downward mobility.]

And yet they never made home improvements or even installed central heating (which has meant the family home is now a rare example of perfectly preserved Edwardian domestic architecture, barely habitable but a fascinating historic record), bought job lots of everything when they saw it on special offer (even shoes) resulting in 50% of the food in their cupboard being well past its sell-by date (in particular a tin of WWII powdered eggs that by now must surely be worth something), and sat in one room of the house all evening to conserve electricity (in fact I doubt that billiard table was ever used for more than storing wine). Even pushing 77, my Aunt still travels by overnight coach rather than splash out on a train ticket, and part of her Christmas present this year is a laminated picture of herself and five loose crackers left over from a charity dinner. And I had to go to meet her to save on postage, though to be fair, she did buy me a sandwich.

I suppose the lesson is ‘look after the pence, and the pounds will look after themselves’. Plus, contrary to popular belief, expenditure on education does not equate to having lots of ready cash (all available cash having been spent on the education). Or perhaps it’s just that spending money was considered vulgar. My late father always said you could tell how posh someone was by the state of their furniture – the more battered the armchairs, the more old school their owner. A new three-piece suite, on the other hand, was a sure sign of being nouveau riche. Maybe that’s why we never got a new sofa.

My mother’s side of the family, on the other hand, lived in a (nice, neat) council house with an outside toilet and a tin bath (as opposed to an Edwardian bathroom suite with a shower that sprayed from the sides). Their husbandry took the form of growing their own vegetables, making their own cupboards, knitting their own clothes. This grandfather, Andover’s most sought after painter & decorator, didn’t trust banks, passed up the opportunity to start his own business, and refused to buy his own house when the council offered. Their currency of choice was Co-op stamps, which kept them in electrical appliances, and instead of a billiard room they had a shed. Whenever we went to stay for our annual summer holiday, we’d eat fluffy potatoes and succulent green beans; there’d be cake at tea time, and every Christmas (until arthritis got the better of my gran) I’d get a lovingly knitted jumper and a hand painted toy or picture.

Though as a child I obviously favoured the family who gave me the best presents, my older self has learned to be less judgemental, to accept that people have complex reasons for behaving as they do and to love them anyway, to realise that they all loved us equally, and to smile fondly at my relatives’ idiosyncrasies while exploiting them for anecdotal purposes.