Thrify Finds: Christmas Planning

 

As I don’t have any Thrifty Finds from the past week (sometimes it just happens like that), I thought I’d post about my plans for Christmas. Sorry to mention that word but it is only six weeks tomorrow!

A couple of years ago I wrote a three part series here called Saving for Christmas which detailed how I intended to save – and spend – for the festive season.

Although our finances have changed slightly (now that I am working part time) I will be using the same sources to fund Christmas 2018:

Annual Savings Every month I put aside some money for summer holidays, large family birthdays and Christmas. I plan to have saved £350 from this fund.

Nectar Points I’ve earned about £25 of Nectar points this year which I hope to exchange for £50 in Double Up points this week. I intend to buy our Christmas drink and some festive treats with this.

Quidco I’ve written about the Quidco shopping site before here and here. While I haven’t been as strict using it this year, it will still yield £43.16 in vouchers, which I will put towards Christmas presents.

Boots Advantage Points Every year I save my Boots loyalty points and spend them at Christmas. If I buy ‘three for two’ on gift toiletries I can actually get quite a lot for my money. At present I have about £13 in points but I’m hoping to grow that to £15.

Shopping in advance At the beginning of the year I shopped the January sales and bought all my Christmas cards and wrapping paper, plus some new (to me) decorations. I have also been buying a book of stamps with my monthly food shop to spread that cost.

Days Out Budget Every month I also save some money for family days out – whether it’s cinema trips, eating out or visiting attractions. I will use the cash from this to pay for an annual family meal and a few smaller treats on our ‘Bucket List’.

With regards to where I will shop for presents, I think that the days of buying charity shop gifts are drawing to a close. That is for my daughters, at least, who (at 16,12 and 10) are more fussy about first hand presents. If I can find some small, well presented items in good condition, though, I may still buy them. At present I’m looking for money boxes as they have a big summer holiday next year which we all need to save for. I will still be looking for Christmas tableware (esp napkins), books and games, though, for us to enjoy at Christmas.

Whatever I decide to buy, though, the one message that I stick to every year is don’t get into debt for Christmas!

Thrifty Finds: first week November 2018

This past week we have enjoyed a half term break from school and celebrated Halloween – I also got to use some money-off vouchers:

1.As mentioned last week we were given three huge pumpkins from a friend. Two were carved for Halloween…

The remaining one was turned into soup, toasted seeds and (I’m hoping) pumpkin pie!


2. As it was half term, I treated the girls to a McDonalds, with a voucher I’d received from WHSmiths.

3. We also took a trip to our local garden centre which already has all its rooms decorated for Christmas. This is becoming an annual family tradition and doesn’t cost a penny.

4. As it’s November we now have money in the budget to buy some clothes (having spent A LOT on uniform back in September). I bought coats and boots for two of the girls and picked up a new (to me) pair of work trousers from Dorothy House. They are originally Per Una and cost me £7.

5. I bought some shopping from Sainsburys with a money-off voucher.

Now that we’re into November I’m going to have to start planning my Christmas spending, working out budgets etc. Where has the year gone?!

Thrifty Finds: last week of September 2018

thrifty finds2Yes I know it’s been a couple of weeks since I last posted 😦 I just found that I didn’t have any Thrifty Finds to write about, and had lost a bit of my writing mojo. But a weekend away in London with good friends has got me writing again …..

1. I finally got round to my mending pile which had been waiting all summer! I sewed buttons on a few items that had been missing them.

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2. For my weekend trip away I downloaded an audio book and magazine for free from my library app.

3. I also borrowed a colleague’s phone charger as I was leaving straight after work and had forgotten to pack mine.

4. While in London I visited the Frida Kahlo exhibition at the V&A which I’d been wanting to see for ages. Her story is such an inspiring one: suffering all her life with pain and bad health, she still lived a fulfilling, creative and vibrant life. Her bright clothing, taken from her Mexian heritage, is such an inspiration.  I got half price admission with my Art Pass, which has been one of the best purchases all year 🙂

5. And despite being on a no ‘new’ clothes freeze I did buy this cute top from the Mind Charity shop for a fiver…Oops…

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This week’s Thrifty Finds: August 2018

 

 

Today (4 September) is the beginning of the school year and it’s time for me to get back into routine and post my recent Thrifty Finds. This is what we’ve been up to since our trip to London at the beginning of August (was it really a month ago?!):

1. We went on a short break to West Wales to visit friends who moved there last year. They have enough land for us to camp on BUT we forgot to bring our tent poles!! Thankfully they had a tent which we borrowed! We had a lovely break exploring the beautiful scenery of Cardigan Bay: an area that is completely new to us.

 

2. While there we did the obligatory scouring of charity shops (charity shops prices in Wales are a mere fraction of the ones we explored in London!). I picked up a dress for £3 and three champagne glasses for a grand total of 30p!!

 

3. For the first time I downloaded an audio book for free from our local library. When camping I find it uncomfortable to read at night so an audiobook is a good compromise. I ‘borrowed’ the latest Philip Pullman novel: ‘La Belle Sauvage’.

 

4. One thing I didn’t buy last month – despite trawling the charity shops – was a summer sun dress. I really thought I’d need it in the heatwave in London, and after we returned. However by the time we went to Wales the temperature had dropped and I’m glad I got by without.

5. However it can’t be said that I made ANY savings purchasing the girls’ school uniforms. At a total of £333 this was NOT a Thrifty Find! Most of this was spent on kitting out my middle daughter for her new secondary  school (despite getting some things for free from a friend). This means I have used up our clothing budget for the next couple of months, partly due to bad planning on my part 😦

Thankfully I have been able to pay for a termly bus pass for two of my daughters as I had been saving for the past year.

 

Have you had to spend a small fortune buying back to school equipment an uniform?

This Week’s Thrifty Finds: London Trip August 2018

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Hello! We’ve just come back from a short family break in London – where we sweltered in the 30plus heat but had a brilliant time! As with all holidays, there were some things we made savings on, and others that we splurged on. We also had to change some of our plans because of the heat – which led to some savings and some expenses:

  1. The most useful thing I found for the trip was a holiday budgeting app called Trailwallet. This allows you to set a budget for your trip and then input everything you spend, using different categories. It gives you a running total and warns you if you are going over your budget. At the end of the trip you can see how much you have spent on items like eating out, entertainment and transport. It cost £4.99 but was well worth the spend and really helped with daily budgeting.

2. Before leaving for our trip I applied for Zip Oyster cards for my 16 year old and 11 year old. You have to allow time to do this as you need to apply for a photo card (and pay an admin fee). But it meant my 11 year old got free/child rate travel at a cheaper price than a daily travelcard. My 16 year old also received a reduced rate, rather than having to pay adult rates with a regular visitor Oyster card. Our 10 year old was still young enough to travel with us for free.

 

3. I also made good use of my Art Fund pass with free visits to Kensington Palace (including the Diana Dresses exhibition) and The Courthauld Gallery.

 

4. We celebrated two family birthdays while in London – including a birthday trip to see ‘School of Rock’ for our youngest 🙂 We were also able to make use of a couple of birthday vouchers to receive three free Krispy Kreme doughnuts and 1/3 off a family meal at Yo Sushi.

5. As I mentioned earlier the unusually high temperatures meant we had to adjust some of our sightseeing plans. On one day we spend about four hours at Somerset House with the kids playing in the water fountains and picnicking in the courtyard. We also got to see an amazing juggling show – and all for free!

6. On another day we swam in the Serpentine Lido in Hyde Park. This was such an amazing experience: to be swimming open-air in central London! And it only cost £13 for four children and two adults 🙂

7. We drank a lot of water while we were exploring London. Every evening I put our reusable water bottles in the freezer so that they were partly frozen before we set out in the morning. We also made use of free water fountains to refill. I also made a couple of home made water spritzer bottles (using water and essential oils).

7. My husband and I went charity shop browsing in wealthy Fulham and Chelsea. As much as I was tempted to buy half price items from Orla Kiely and Cos I realised I didn’t really need them – so came away empty handed.

 

Not all of our expenditure was thrifty, though, and I’m sorry to say I didn’t do so well on the waste-free side of things. We did discover the amazing Whole Foods store near to where we were staying so I was able to buy some unpackaged items. But our use of takeaways and convenience food meant we created more plastic waste than I would have liked to. We also end up with some food waste too 😦

And, on a final note: although not technically a ‘Thrifty Find’ we did experience the amazing care and professionalism of the NHS when we had to call an ambulance out for our daughter who was having a bad asthma attack. The paramedics and the A&E staff at the Chelsea and Westminster hospital were wonderful and, after a few hours, she was discharged and able to enjoy the rest of her holiday without any problems. Once again I feel so privileged and thankful to live in a country where care is so good and we don’t have to fill in complicated forms, or pay a hefty fee, for it 🙂

This Week’s Thrifty Finds: Week One July 2018

As I briefly mentioned in last week’s post we took a short break to Dorset, which is one of my Thriftiest Finds ever….

1. With the weather being sooo hot and my eldest now out of school as her exams are finished, we decided to take a last minute break to Poole in Dorset.

Poole, Dorset as viewed from Ham CommonThis isn’t something we’ve done before as we had to take the younger two out of school for three days (they are in years 5 & 6, aged nine and ten). They don’t break up until 25 July and the heat is really getting to them and they are really tired.

Anyway we booked a static caravan via Air BnB in a holiday park in Poole and spent three days swimming in the pools and playing at the beach. It was one of the best family holidays we have ever had! And as we took the girls out of school the accommodation was a fraction of the price 🙂 They have now gone back to school refreshed and ready for the  last few weeks of term.

2. On our way home from Poole we stopped in Shaftesbury (famous for Gold Hill and that Hovis advert). My husband and I used to live in Shaftesbury before we were married and we enjoyed showing the kids around. My youngest spotted the free to enter Gold Hill Museum and all five of us really enjoyed it. The girls particularly enjoyed the 20th Century artefacts including the rotary dial telephone and the manual typewriter:

Gold Hill Museum in Shaftesbury

3. While in Shastesbury we HAD to browse the charity shops and, despite my pledge to not buy any more clothes, I did pick up this top and dress for £10 in total from the Naomi Hospice Shop.

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4. My daughter also picked up a pair of dungaree shorts from another charity shop.

5. Since coming home I’ve made a conscious effort to reduce our food waste. As we are away again at the beginning of August I’ve decided to ‘shop the cupboards’ ie see what we already have in the cupboards and freezer and cook from that. I took an inventory of everything we had and am now trying to create some meals so I only have to do one small food shop before the end of the month.

Hope your July is going well. I’d love to hear some of your Thrifty Finds 🙂

 

 

Second-hand book haul and ‘Les Parisiennes’ book review: June 2018

[note: I really thought I had posted this a few months ago but it’s actually been in my ‘Drafts’!]

 

If you have been reading my recent posts you will know that I picked up a few books while on a trip around the charity shops in Marlborough, Wiltshire.

It’s only been a week but I’ve already devoured the first book, Les Parisiennes by Anne Sebba.

This had been on my wish list for about a year and I was delighted to spot it in the Oxfam Bookshop. Anne Sebba writes a balanced and very readable account of what it was like to be a woman living in wartime Paris. Her careful research has identified scores of Parisiennes, from very different backgrounds, who chose to either get on with life (as much as was possible), resist the invasion, or collaborate with the German occupiers and Vichy government.

Sebba writes about those women who chose to resist the occupying forces through simple acts (refusing to socialise with German soldiers) or violent and clandestine actions (often leading to arrest, torture and internment at a concentration camp). She also attempts to write sympathetically about those women who, through naivety or a sheltered life, or out of desperation, chose to collaborate with the Germans, or supported the puppet French government of Petain.

The author also examines the post war legacy of women who were affected by World War Two. She calls out the immediate post war treatment of those women accused of ‘collaboration horizontale’ i.e. sleeping with the enemy. Approximately 20,000 women were publicly humiliated, sometimes on the basis of flimsy evidence. She also talks about the length of time it has taken for France to recognise the heroic actions of those women who resisted (because they were not ‘soldiers’ in the traditional sense), and the disparity in the post war treatment between Jewish survivors of concentration camps and those from the Resistance.

Les Parisiennes, is such a well written, researched and enthralling read. By focusing on women in Paris in the Second World War, it allows a new voice to be heard and, as a female reader, makes me ask the question “what would I have done?”

This question is asked again in ‘Resistance’, another book from my recent haul. I have read this book before, based on an alternative history where the Germans did invade Britain during World War Two. The author, Owen Sheers, is also a poet and what struck me at the time was how beautiful his writing was. It is quite a few years since I read it- and saw the film-so I’m looking forward to discovering it again.

Finally, I picked up another Nancy Mitford novel, ‘Love in a Cold Climate’. Last year I found ‘The Pursuit of Love‘ at a charity stall and really enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to reading the follow-up.

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What’s in your reading pile at the moment? Have you got a summer reading list?