Festive Thrifty Finds (11-18 December)

Are you ready for Christmas?

I still have quite a few things to get on my list but, having spent last weekend, travelling to visit family I feel ready to settle down and spend Christmas at home.

  1. We visited family near London and my husband and I got to spend some time browsing the vintage shops of the capital on our own. I picked up this homemade 70s/80s style dress from the Rokit store in Soho for just £9! The material is quite thin but I plan to wear it over the Christmas holidays with layers and tights. I think it’s a really cheerful festive colour!

vintage red dress Rokit London

 

2. I’ve been given a couple of jars of homemade mincemeats from friends, so I need to start making those mince pies!

3. At work we took part in Christmas Jumper Day for Save the Children. My cardigan comes from a second-hand shop in Bath and was bought for me a few years ago by my family.

 

4. I also got to wear that new (to me) green top to our works’ Christmas meal last Friday.

5. Finally, I am really determined to reduce my food waste this Christmas. Lately, I have been throwing too much food away, despite meal planning. This time we have sat down and written a detailed list of all the meals we will be planning for and eating over the holidays. I found this US site here (courtesy of the Zero Waste Chef) really useful for estimating how much you need to cook for Christmas lunch. And I find the UK site LoveFood HateWaste really useful too when planning how to use leftovers.

What are your plans for feasting over Christmas? Do you stick to a meal plan or do you like to have lots of leftovers? (personally I think Boxing Day is the best day of the year for leftovers!)

Wishing you a wonderful, peaceful and merry Christmas!! xxxx

 

Thrifty Finds

This fortnight’s Thrifty Finds (27 November – 11 December 2017)

 

This Week's Thrifty Finds via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

Well the past couple of weeks have been really busy. My dad had a (planned for) hospital operation and it was my birthday last week so it’s been quite hectic and our routine was a little up in the air with hospital visits, childcare etc.

But I’m pleased to say I received a couple of second-hand gems for my birthday:

  1. My gorgeous husband tracked down an original vinyl version of the Fleetwood Mac album, Rumours. This is one of my all-time favourite albums and one I have wanted for absolutely ages. I was amazed he found it for a fraction of the new retail price and in great condition.

2. I also received a pile of books, one of which was a rare second hand edition of ‘Greenery Street’ by Dennis Mackail.

3. Following my birthday we brought down from the loft all of our Christmas decorations (minus the tree). A lot of our decorations are second-hand and this post here explains a little more about them.

4. We have received a few party invitations this December and I have tried really hard not to buy anything new. However having gone up a dress size 😦 means I’m going to have to invest in something new, or try to be more inventive. We went to a ceilidh last Saturday and I ended up wearing my comfy jeans but did invest in a new (to me) charity shop top from Dorothy House. At £7 it was slightly pricey but I know I will get a lot of wear out of it. The green colour is perfect for Christmas and the sheer sleeves makes it feel quite dressy. I also wore it with an old brooch of my nan’s that I have recently found.

5. I had another pre-Christmas clear out and donated some children’s clothing and old dvds to the Shaw Trust charity shop. In return for gift aiding, they gave me a loyalty card and a discount voucher – something I’ve not come across before!

 

I’d love to hear about your Thrifty Finds too! Please  share your Thrifty Finds on my facebook page, or use #thriftyfinds on Twitter or instagram

Advent: a calm space admist the seasonal madness

 

 

Today (3 December) marks the first Sunday in Advent, according to the Christian calendar.

And, apparently, it is not about chocolate advent calendars and frenetic Christmas shopping.

Although I dip in and out of attending our local Church of England church (mostly dipping out) I thought I knew a little about the seasons and festivals throughout the year.

However I have to say I was pretty ignorant about what advent actually meant.

According to tradition, Advent is the time for preparing and awaiting and, in the past, was also treated as a period of abstinence and fasting (similar to Lent) – a far cry from today!

In our church the building will be simply decorated with greenery instead of flowers- although there will be a tree.

Strict observers of Advent don’t take part in traditional Christmas activities  – which includes Christmas parties, putting up decorations or listening to Christmas music – until Christmas Eve. But, for them, the seasonal celebration continues until 6 January, with plenty of time to puruse these ‘Christmas Bucket List’ activities during this period.

I’m not sure I could adhere to this as I am a sucker for the Christmas feeling you get when wrapping presents while listening to Christmas music, or putting up the tree.

 

So I could never observe Advent this strictly. But, saying that, there are things I like about it. And I don’t believe you have to be a church goer – or Christian – to appreciate the idea of quietness during this time of year. I like the fact that Advent is not about:

  • doing everything on that Christmas Bucket List, which you pinned to your Pinterest board.
  • running around to every Christmas lights switch on and Christmas-themed event at your local stately home or country park.
  • spending a small fortune on the above events.
  • not having a moment to yourself because you’ve scheduled every day to the minute and forgotten to give you and the family some time off from Christmas.
  • following stupid – and expensive – ‘traditions’ which, it turns out, were only invented a few years ago (‘Elf on the Shelf’ and ‘Christmas Eve pyjamas’ being two of my bug bears)

I like the idea of being lazy during the run up for Christmas and saying ‘no’ to things as well. I like the idea of having some headspace and being quiet and still admist the busyness and over-consumption of this season.

Last year I ran a series on my facebook page here. called A Simple Christmas. I wanted to create a little ‘time out’ where I posted a link to an inspirational website, thoughtful blog post, or my own ramblings, to share another view of the festive season. Posts included the thoughts of minimalist bloggers and writers, websites on mindfulness and, in the final week before Christmas I shared the posts of a couple of family bloggers whose catholic faith inspired how they viewed the season.

 

If you are on Pinterest you can also take a look at my A Simple Christmas board here.

 

However you decide to spend Advent I hope you find some time to yourself and get to enjoy the quiet….

 

 

 

Advent Calendars: love ’em or hate ’em?

 
Every year my children receive chocolate advent calendars from their generous grandparents. However this year I was able to buy paper calendars for the girls from Oxfam – which received a mixed response 😦
I personally believe that traditional paper calendars are better than chocolate ones – but am I being mean, and a little old fashioned?
These are my thoughts on why they are better:
1. A paper advent calendar gets better day by day: each door reveals a new picture and by the end of advent you have a joyous Christmas scene.
2. However by 24 December chocolate calendars are a mess of torn cardboard, ripped foil and plastic packaging: hardly festive!
3. Why do multi national confectionary companies (such as Kraft) get to tell us how to celebrate advent? And don’t get me started on the £95 L’Oréal advent calendar, or the heavily criticised £50 one created by Zoella.
4. At the end of the day, traditional calendars can be recycled. However the mess that is left behind by the chocolate ones makes them difficult to recycle, only adding to the 736,571 tonnes of rubbish that is created each Christmas.
5. There is enough over consumption and debt generated at this time of year anyway. Why not buy a simple charity calendar and enjoy the mindful task of opening a door each day to reveal a picture, rather than wolfing down chocolate (which doesn’t even taste that great!)
What are your thoughts on advent calendars?
Paper or chocolate?
Or do you own a perpetual calendar: one that can be used again and again? Some families also take part in ‘reverse advent calendars’: donating an item a day to a local foodbank.
I really enjoy reading the ideas and projects from New Dream, a not for profit organisation which is working to challenge American perceptions of consumption and consumerism. They produce an online advent calendar here, filled with ways you can step off the consumption conveyor belt at this time of year.
I really recommend reading their website and looking at some of the ideas they have to ‘Simplify the Holidays’.

Thrifty Finds

This week’s Thrifty Finds (19 – 26 November 2017)

 

This Week's Thrifty Finds via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

 

 

 

How was last week? Did you pick up any bargains on Black Friday – or did you shy away from the stores?

Here in Bath the Christmas Market has begun. As a Bathonian I feel I have to love it and hate it. Working in the local tourist industry I realise how important it is to that sector. It does also make Bath look even more beautiful and it’s hard not to feel Christmasey when I look out at all the chalets. But the streets are crowded (I can’t get out of the office at lunchtime), the traffic is bad (I have resigned myself to being late home because the bus is stuck in traffic) and I wonder how much debt people accrue by buying things from the market that they don’t really need.

Having said that, I have made it my mission to explore those lesser known stalls; the ones tucked at the back of a street or located across the road that not many people visit.

  1. So last week I bought two small decorations:

The Nativity scene came from a cooperative based in Bethlehem and the Father Christmas ornament was from a stall run by nuns from a convent in Belarus. I also plan to visit the charity stall in the Christmas Market, and pay a visit to a homemade candle stall run by a friend from our village.

2. Speaking of candles, I spent some time melting and re-moulding some old candles at home. You can see a tutorial here.

3. I picked up a couple of our favourite Denby side plates for half price. We received the Denby set for our wedding 18 years ago and use it on a daily basis. A while ago we lost a few plates, due to general wear and tear. They are expensive to replace, though, so I wait for them to go on sale and buy a couple at a time.

4. At the weekend my husband and I went to Wales to celebrate a friend’s birthday. It wasn’t the most thrifty weekend but it was wonderful to spend some time together, and enjoy the company of good friends. We were supposed to bring a hat to wear to the meal on Saturday night. Having scoured the charity shops I decided to make do with an old  hat I had at home, rather than buy anything new.

5. We were also very lucky as the hotel upgraded our room at no extra charge.

 

 

I’d love to hear about your Thrifty Finds too! Please  share your Thrifty Finds on my facebook page, or use #thriftyfinds on Twitter or instagram

Today is Buy Nothing Day

You could be forgiven for thinking that today is all about Black Friday: the shopping phenomenon that seems to mark the beginning of the Christmas season.

Here in Bath our annual Christmas Market has started, with an ever increasing number of stalls and crowds, making the city centre almost impossible to navigate.

But did you know that today is also Buy Nothing Day: an alternative to the frenzied festival of over consumption. Organisers of Buy Nothing Day suggest you stay at home or meet with friends and family – do something free and step off the consumption treadmill for just one day.

Alternatively I like this idea here from Barnardo’s The Thrift blog, suggested by the blogger love a good stripe: The Black Friday Black Bag, Why not sort through your clothes, books etc and donate a bag to your local charity shop today?

 

Thrifty Finds

This week’s Thrifty Finds (13-19 November 2017)

 

This Week's Thrifty Finds via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

 

 

Hello, and welcome to another week of my Thrifty Finds.

This past week my Thrifty Finds included:

  1. I received a Tesco voucher in the post. I rarely shop at Tescos so it wasn’t worth much. However I was able to get money off a small shop so it didn’t go to waste.
  2. I’m starting to – very slowly – sort through the children’s toys, books and dvds before Christmas. I managed to exchange a couple of dvds they no longer wanted at the Games Exchange shop. They were only worth 61p (!) but we currently have £12+ worth of vouchers to be spent there: we might pick up a couple of new films for Christmas.
  3. Speaking of Christmas, I bought these three books from the Oxfam Bookshop in Bath. They had three for the price of two, so they cost me £2.99 in total:

 

4. Having bought a lot of second-hand books over the past few months (see my recent post here) I decided to sort through my existing books. I have been trying very hard to re-read those books that have been sitting on my shelves. That way, I feel happier about getting rid of them if I know I’m not going to read them for the third time. I managed to sort through and get rid of about a dozen books.

5. Last Thursday evening I had to work late at a function. My colleague and I popped out for tea before the event, using some money off vouchers I’d received for McDonalds.

 

 

I’d love to hear about your Thrifty Finds too! Please  share your Thrifty Finds on my facebook page, or use #thriftyfinds on Twitter or instagram

Thrifty Finds

Christmas Thrifty Finds

 

This Week's Thrifty Finds via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

Apologies for not having listed my Thrifty Finds for a couple of weeks. Now that we are back to normal and the decorations taken down I thought I’d share our Thrifty Finds for Christmas – and would love to hear about your Festive Thrifty Finds too!

  1. We only bought a couple of second-hand presents for the girls this year. Our eldest is a big fan of ‘The Walking Dead’ and we found this first volume of the original graphic novel in the Oxfam store:

The Walking Dead (vol 1): secondhand copy via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

Our middle daughter is really into Harry Potter and we picked up this board game based on the first book, ‘Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone’. It’s a bit like Cluedo but you have to identify the student, room and the spell they cast.

second-hand Harry Potter boardgame via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

2. My husband bought me this second-hand copy of The Jam’s ‘Setting Sons’ album which I was very excited about!

The Jam vinyl

3. We also paid a trip to the gorgeous town of Marlborough before Christmas and enjoyed trawling the charity shops there (hint: if the town has a famous public school it’ll have some good quality items in the second-hand shops!). While I didn’t pick up – or need any – clothing we did get some second-hand puzzles and games:

charity shop puzzles and games via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

The Forbidden Island game was a great find. I have had that on my Amazon wishlist for a couple of years but, at £27, it was quite expensive. This second-hand game was only £5 from the PDSA shop and (minus one playing piece) is complete. We enjoyed playing it over the holidays:

second-hand Forbidden Island game

The Horrible Histories puzzle, however, was a bit of a disappointment. There were a couple of pieces missing (to be expected for 99p) but some of the other pieces didn’t fit correctly. I wondered if it was a manufacturer’s mistake. Now I’m not sure what to do with it as I can’t really pass it on to another charity shop to sell. Any suggestions please?

Horrible Histories jigsaw puzzle

4. While I wrote in the last of my Saving for Christmas series here about our food and drink expenses over the holidays I have been really pleased that we created very little food waste. I have made soups, bought wisely and made great use of our freezer so I’m hoping we can get through the rest of the month without buying too much extra food.

5. Finally, the decorations are stored away, the cards have been turned into next Christmas’s gift labels and the thank you cards are (almost) written. Today I started to blitz the girls’ bedrooms and de-clutter and I now have a big bag of old clothing, unused Christmas gifts and old books and toys to donate to the school jumble sale in March.

So, how was your Christmas? What were your Thrifty Finds and have you tidied the house yet?!!

You can also share your Thrifty Finds on my facebook page, or use #thriftyfinds on Twitter or instagram

Saving for Christmas…what happened?

Saving for Christmas - the results

Happy New Year! May 2017 bring you happiness, peace and lots of joy!

We had a lovely festive break and, now that January has arrived (I’m trying to stay positive about this!) I have been looking back at our spending to see how we did in our ‘Saving for Christmas’ series.

Sources of Funding:

In my first post here I listed different sources of money from which to fund our Christmas:

  • Dedicated Savings Fund £180. Actual: £178 I came in slightly under budget on this one. This was where most of the money for buying presents came from.
  • Nectar points. £10. I did have £10 in Nectar points but made use of the Sainsbury’s ‘Double Up’ promotion in November and spent £20 on wine.
  • Boots Advantage Points. £15. This was about right but with the use of ‘3 for 2’ gifts I actually picked up £25 worth of gifts this way. These were spent on stocking presents.
  • Quidco rewards.   £96.40 £73.82. Actual £66.82 (I didn’t realise that when I rented a couple of Love Film/Amazon films the payment defaulted to my giftcard balance so took £7 away from my Christmas budget). Although this wasn’t as much as I had planned for – and I did have issues about using Amazon- it really saved money taking my Qudico rewards this way.
  • Loose change. £3ish. Actual: £2.35. This was spent on whipped cream and marshmallows for homemade hot chocolates.
  • Usual food & drink budget. £150. Actual: £168.73. This was for two supermarket shops and my veg box and lasted until 28 December (when my regular monthly shopping took over). It really helped to meal plan and that we were eating Christmas lunch at my parents. So far we have eaten everything we bought, although I don’t think I would buy a salad box again.
  • Facebook Sales. £50. Actual: £35. Boy, this was hard work! Lots of postings, re-postings and non-collections. As always I find these online sales a lot of effort. Still it managed to clear a few things we no longer needed and anything unsold was donated.
  • Other sources: My husband and I hadn’t really spoken about present giving and, as I hadn’t budgeted for this, it was a stupid thing to do as he bought me a couple of gifts at the beginning of the month (including a second-hand The Jam album which I am v excited about!). Thankfully I had been given an Amazon gift voucher for my birthday so I used some of this to get him some books. Other sources for unexpected gifts came from my existing present drawer and we made quite a few biscuits and mince pies.

With regards to present giving I didn’t do so well with friends and relatives and ended up giving out gifts when I should have said no. Conversely, I also wish I had spent more money on my nephews and nieces. My children had a small budget of £40 each but didn’t seem to notice that we gave them fewer presents (incl some second-hand) than their grandparents gave them.

Talking of presents, we did persuade my in-laws to buy the girls an amazing experience as their Christmas present which was a ticket to the Harry Potter Studios (one of the best family days out we have had!!). They also bought (quite a) few other presents so it would be good to see this pile reduce and focus on the experience giving in the future.

Harry Potter Studios Tour: The Great Hall

Christmas ‘Bucket List’:

In my third post in this series here I wrote about what we were -and were not- going to do as a family this holiday. Our restricted budget meant we weren’t going to see a film/show, or go ice skating.We didn’t really miss these excursions, though.

Those activities that we did take part in were split into a) paid for and b) free:

Meals out with friends & family: We met up with friends for a grown up curry night as we do every year. For 2017 I will factor this cost into our Christmas savings, which I have failed to do so far. Similarly my husband and I had a day trip to London (while the children were with grandparents) and we could have saved better for this too. However I had budgeted for a pub lunch and meet up with the in-laws and we had enough money left to have tea and cake afterwards with my mother-in-law.

Works’ dos: Neither of us went to our works’ dos (due to illness, lack of planning) so this did save some money. We also received a couple of invitations to friends’ houses over the festive period and I made sure we had some bottles of wine in stock to take along (as well as some small candles I had upcycled)

With regards to free activities we took part in the following:

 

Boxing Day night Sleepover in the lounge (for the kids!)

Baking

Homemade mince pies

Lots of Hot Chocolate (decorated with marshmallows and whipped cream bought with my loose change, as above)

Putting the decorations up

Family Games We picked up a couple of new (to us) board games and a puzzle which we played over the holidays, accompanied with homemade popcorn and toffee sauce. Still didn’t manage to play Risk, though (!)

Church Crib Service

Christmas Day visit to the pub

We also enjoyed a fantastic New Year’s Eve party at friends’ and were fortunate enough to be invited to a birthday party in Bath last night too!

Now that the festive season is drawing to a close I can look back and realise that: there are some things I didn’t need to buy;some things I want to buy for next time; and where I need to save more.

I am pleased that I stuck to my present-buying budget but want to work harder at cutting some presents, and spending more on a few other people. I also know there are a couple of food and drink items I can cut for Christmas 2017. But one of the biggest spends I hadn’t accounted for was meeting up with friends and families in restaurants.  For 2017 I need to set a realistic target for this one so that we don’t go into debt.

As with every Christmas, though, it’s the actual spending time with family and friends that really counts. Whether this has to be budgeted for (if you meet with relatives who live a long way away)- or is free – it is these moments that make the festive season a memorable one.

FamilyTraditions: Christmas decorations via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

How was your Christmas break?

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Simple Christmas – hope you have one too!

A Simple Christmas

Today is my last post in A Simple Christmas series that I’ve been running on my Facebook page here. I finished with a blog post from Ginny Sheller, a homeschooling mother of a large brood of children. She writes about her Catholic faith, but in a non intrusive way. I loved the post she wrote about not getting everything done in the run up for Christmas but that it doesn’t really matter. In her faith, Christmas is not the end of the festive season: it runs until Epiphany on 6 January. So there’s plenty more time to celebrate, spend time with the family and relax…. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a peaceful New Year xxx

For a snapshot of the articles I have linked to in this series visit my Pinterest board here.

pinterest-board: A Simple Christmas