Have yourself a second-hand Christmas

second-hand gift buying for Christmas

There has been quite a lot of talk on blogs, twitter and other social media, about cutting down on presents for Christmas.

Jen Gale from my make do and mend life blog wrote this article for the Daily Mail about why she is not buying anything new for Christmas this year.

A new study from the Money Advice Service  showed that, in Yorkshire, 36% of people will go into debt this season in order to buy presents.

I know how hard it is to avoid going over budget at Christmas. Although we have three children it is actually the spending on other people (distant family relatives, teacher’s presents etc) that I find can break the bank. It’s silly really because we’re just buying things that other people don’t really need. Yet it takes a brave soul to say they are not giving presents this year, and it’s something I know I need to work on.

In the meantime these are my present-giving resolutions for this Christmas:

  1. Make a budget. Stick to a budget. This is something I’ve got better at as I always budget for Christmas. The money is saved into a separate account and I try to withdraw this and spend as cash as I find this is easier to budget with. I have strict limits on the amount of money I spend on people. With the girls this is fine but, as I said, it’s the damn gifts for distant relatives, teachers etc that I struggle with.
  2. Don’t give. Gosh this makes me sound like Scrooge! Over the past few years my husband and I have come to an agreement with our siblings that we only buy for each other’s children. This has saved such a lot of stress and money. I now need to work on this for those cousins, aunts and uncles that we rarely see.
  3. Do Give. It’s really important for us as a family to donate some funds to a local cause (usually the Julian House charity based in Bath).
  4. Make. This year I bought £2 bath bombs from Lush for teachers and assistants to say thank you. However in previous years the girls and I have made gifts such as bath salts, tree ornaments, chocolate biscuits and homemade hot chocolate sachets to give. The girls also tend to make small presents for their friends.
  5. Buy local. This is a new resolution for me. I will not be buying from Amazon this year but instead will be physically walking into shops and buying from as many local suppliers as possible. Ironically this will make sticking to a budget harder as I know prices for books etc will be higher. But I feel Christmas is the time of the year when we should support local businesses.
  6. Buy second-hand. Of course! Last year I wrote here and here about our second-hand Christmas. This year I bought some new fairy lights (not strictly for Christmas as we’ll use them all year) and for the first time in ten years we will be buying a new, real Christmas Tree from the village (to go with our new look lounge). However all the old charity shop and homemade decorations will be on display:

I will also be scouring the charity shops for presents, in good condition, to give to close family members. The girls always get a selection of second-hand books for Christmas (and never notice the difference).

second-hand books for Christmas

For us playing board games is an important family tradition. We picked up this mint condition game of Risk for £4 a couple of years ago:

second-hand board game

I would like to find a second-hand ‘Mastermind’ game as my youngest enjoyed playing it over the summer. I am also ‘re-gifting’ some presents, i.e. saving unwanted gifts and passing them on to someone whom I think will appreciate them more.

What plans do you have for cutting costs and ‘thinking outside the box’ when it comes to Christmas gift giving?

Board games

I recently started playing Monopoly with my daughters and realised that the set we play with is about 35 years old! I distinctly remember saving up my pocket money to buy the board game from WHSmith and, until recently, it still had the price tag on of £5.95!

playing on old monopoly board

The box is very battered now and I have lost some of the money along the way (story of my life!). However the metal counters, cards and plastic houses and hotels are still in good condition. The numbers on the dice are rubbing off though and may have to be replaced soon as it’s hard to tell if you’ve thrown a 3 or a 2.

However we’ve really enjoyed playing this game again and I have realised that, even at the age of 43, I still don’t understand what a ‘preference share’ or ‘annual annuity’ is!

Do you have any old board games that you still play together as a family?


A Charlie & The Chocolate Factory Scrapstore Birthday Party

Today was my youngest daughter’s seventh birthday. She had requested a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory theme as they had been reading the book in class.

In my usual cheap way I decided to make use of what we already had at home, while also taking a trip to the wonderful Wiltshire Scrapstore. I have blogged about this great resource before. We are very fortunate to have the scrapstore (and its High Street shop) only twenty minutes’ away in the beautiful village of Lacock. At the beginning of the school holidays we took a trip the scrapstore – a great holiday activity  in itself. For just £7 I got this massive bag of scrap paper, foam, ribbon, cellophane wrapping and other odds and ends:

Wiltshire Scrapstore bag: ideal for party decorations!


At home we got creative, making large liquorice allsorts from black and orange foam. We also blew up some balloons to make giant jelly beans, and then hung them all from ribbon to make a sweet-themed entranceway.

oversized sweets made from Scrapstore materials

Having scoured Pinterest (of course!) for other decoration ideas I stole this idea for balloon lollipops. They were wrapped in cellophane (some scoured from the scrapstore, other sheets left over from floral bouquets) and then attached to the inner tubes of wrapping paper:

Not pictured is the purple bunting that I picked up from the rubbish bin at Cock and Bull festival last weekend. Having given it a good wash and iron it was as good as new.

We also used the bag of Scrapstore materials, and other ‘junk’ to make a couple of party games. Imagine our delight at finding the sheet of gold card, which was perfect to turn into golden tickets for both a treasure hunt, and party thank you notes.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: golden ticket game

I also used my ‘art’ skills to recreate this Willy Wonka for party guests to pin the hat on (apologies to Quentin Blake!):

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory party

The Scrapstore also supplied us with a craft set as a prize for pass the parcel:

Wiltshire Scrapstore craft set

Finally, as I may have ranted on about before I HATE party bags and all the plastic tat and waste that they create. I haven’t given out party bags for years and, instead, tend to hand out birthday cake and a craft item that the children have made during the party. This time I scoured local charity shops for second-hand Roald Dahl books. These were wrapped in the plain brown paper from an Amazon delivery, and a golden ticket thank you and small bar of chocolate was attached.

The party was small scale but everyone seemed to have fun. We’ve also got loads of scrapstore materials left over which will keep us all occupied over the summer – and I’m sure provide decorations for the next birthday party in our household.




second hand books as party thank yous

Second-hand games for the summer

In my recent trips to charity shops I’ve been able to pick up a few second-hand games to keep the family occupied during the summer (and our holiday to Scotland). I bought a couple of packs of Top Trumps. I hope these will be of interest as we’ll be camping on the West Coast and islands where there should be plenty of marine life (although hopefully not sharks!):


I also picked up a times table card game and was delighted to come across this box of Jack Straws which I had played as a kid:


I so remember playing with the tools and even using them for my dolls. The girls had started playing the game as well although, like me, are finding they are very useful for their Barbies to play with! Funnily enough having bought this game I then found an identical box in a completely different charity shop!

Finally I found this magnetic version of Ludo which may be handy for our long car journey:


We’re now away for a couple of weeks so no blogging but will be back later in the month (hopefully with some more second-hand gems).

Second-Hand Shopping in Windsor (well one shop at least…)

I confess this is a slight cheat of a post as it only features one second-hand shop in Windsor but it’s such a fantastic shop I had to wite about it.

We recently took a visit to the Royal town to meet with family. While wandering the streets we came across a great charity shop run by Thames Hospice.  The Retro & Vintage shop on Peascod Street is one of those places that makes your heart beat quicker and your purse quiver. Inside was an aladdin’s cave of eighties, seventies and sixties clothing, post-war knick knacks, old toys, games and records.

My daughters were fascinated by the old wooden toys and we talked about the typewriters which are an object (like vinyl records and telephones that you dial) that they weren’t familiar with.

I tried on a couple of items, including a great pair of homemade red polyester flared trousers, but nothing fitted. However my husband picked up a jacket and a stylish duffel coat. We also bought a mint condition edition of the game ‘Risk’ for £5.

I’m fascinated by the change that many charity shops are currently undergoing. It’s interesting to note that the Windsor shop appears to be the only one of the 12 shops run by Thames Hospice that has a ‘vintage’ branding. I think it worked really well: the slightly jumbled appearance of an old-fashioned charity shop coupled with savvy stock from an organisation that knows vintage is where it’s at and customers are looking for more than last season’s throw away t-shirt from Asda.

If you are ever in Windsor I would highly recommend a trip to this city-centre store. I’m already trying to engineer an excuse to visit again….