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Thrifty

Six steps to a thrifty Christmas

22 November, 2012

For the first time since we were students Tim and I are REALLY having to reign it in, money wise. We don’t have a lodger for the first time since having this GIANT mortgage, both of us only work part time and we just spent every last penny on a beautiful van called Betty. Of course, we aren’t poor, we just don’t have any dosh, if you know what I mean. We could get all entrepreneurial, and take extra hours and craft things up and sell and things, but Alan Sugar we’re not. Every spare moment is bound up in Enjoying Life and Committing to the Things We Value, of which money simply isn’t one.

So, this Christmas is becoming Seriously Frugal. Fortunately we have been practicing for a few years now, and here are six ways we are doing it:

Christmas Trees
Every year for the last few years we have picked up a discarded tree from a school or college. It does mean waiting a bit longer- at least mid-December but sometimes you don’t find one until the 20th. But these trees are ENORMOUS and WONDERFUL! Big fatties, we had to push it through our giant front window last year as it wouldn’t squeeze down our hall. The schools are normally thrilled to have it taken off their hands. We gloat as we sail past other massive trees going for £70.

Presents
For the last 3 years we have only do Secret Santa in our family. We agree a price and use an internet service so it is all proper hush, and someone else is in charge. (The one year I did it I managed to know exactly who was buying for who, I well messed it up.) This way someone gets something really thoughtful and there are not piles of pressies sitting around that provoke only pseudo-thanks.

For other people, dear friends and children, I don’t tend to do much, and if I do it nearly ALWAYS involves a jar. (These 18 ways to upcycle your jars should provide some ideas.)

Tim and I have never done proper Christmas presents, we stick to a £10 budget, and I suspect we will do the same with Ramona. I feel pretty passionate about helping Ramona to understand that Things don’t Equal Happiness, and that love can be shown in millions of ways even throughout a traditional period of gift-giving.

Decorations
I haven’t bought any Christmas decorations in my life, I am the opposite of my sister who is obsessed with them. But I have crafted some up over the last couple of years using pegs, old fabric and scrabble letters (sound gorgeous, don’t they?!) and have been rather pleased with myself! This search on Pinterest will hook you up with millions of possibilities.

Food
I have only hosted one family Christmas before and we simply shared the food gathering out. I think this is becoming increasingly normal, as people struggle to find the bulk of money to lay on an exceptional festive spread at their party.  I have a friend who every year does Christmas with  her old school chums and each year each one brings a different traditional contribution. Just this weekend someone wrote in to the Guardian Money supplement, questioning this practice and the overwhelming response by readers was that guests contributing food made for a special and wonderful celebration. Don’t be shy.

Wrapping
I am officially the world’s worst wrapper  (Wrapper that is, not Rapper- in terms of Rapping I am actually rather excellent, particularly with Do the Bartman and Ice Ice Baby). Often my gifts look like I have pulled them out of the bin (I usually have) (JOKES, honest, I only get things out the bin for myself.) (Cor, now I sound bin selfish) because wrapping requires a finesse I don’t have. I always use recycled paper and my pressies always look ugly.  However, I have a dear friend who wraps everything with newspaper and her gifts look AMAZING! Just check out the possibilities of using recycled wrapping.

Christmas Frocks
Christmas time is a time to look nice, no? To feel happy with your outfit, to feel fresh. For me, a new frock is synonymous with the festivities and has been since I was a tot. If this is the same for you I have to say: Get ye to a Swap Shop now! I already have a swap organised, at a local cafe down the road. A little google could show up one in your region, and if not just organise one for your street or even just your friends. It is THE thriftiest way to clear out your wardrobe and get some new things in, and have a whale of a time whilst doing it. I could not be more of a fan!

As you can see, I only have 6 areas that I have attacked with my Wand of Frugality. I am sure there are a million more. For those of you who have been doing a thrifty Christmas for yonks, how do you do it? Would love to collect some ideas on here.Awesome ways to have a thrifty and fantastic Christmas

Finding things, Green things, Thrifty

Best Charity Shops London: twenty shops in three spots

23 March, 2012

If you are stuck for something to do this weekend and love bagging awesome shit check out my three top spots for the best charity shops London style. These are my favourite because they are either part of a route of charity shops or close by to some other fantastic activities. I have gone the extra mile for you, beloved reader, and have created some google maps to guide you around these routes. No one likes traipsing around with only the rumour of a vintage palace spurring you on. Trust me on these routes, they are not the ones featured in some posh newspaper by a journo who has wandered past a fancy looking charity shop with Vivienne Westwood in the window. These are the best charity shops London locals know of and love…Best Charity Shops London

Pimilico Charity Shop Circuit
Pimlico – such an easy area to get to, just a five minute walk south of the huge, central, Victoria Train Station. I know this circuit like the back of my hand- I get to do the rounds at least once a week on a lunch break. What a treat!

There are EIGHT, yes, EIGHT, shops in this tiny circuit. Fara really rule the roost here with Fara Retromania (with a fun £5 rail outside), a normal shop and a Fara Kids. The Oxfam shop is excellent for shoes, and smart clothing. The Sue Ryder is a fairly cheap one, the Trinity Hospice is great for fabric ends and wool, the Fara Kids has brilliant -if pricey- stylish kids clothes (but jawdropping sales.) I have bought lots of lovely items from the normal Fara and a few crazy bits and bobs from Retromania. I have worked in this patch for FIVE YEARS and it was only last summer that I found out about a sneaky little shop hiding one block back, where I have since found some beautiful jewelry. I felt so ripped off, imagining five years worth of bargains I had missed out on!
Here is the public Google Map of the Pimlico circuit for you.
It is easy to make a day of it by having a delicious lunch at the market by Fara Kids (check out the falafal stand) and then a wander a bit further down towards the Thames to Tate Britain, where they have a spectacular crafty kids corner. You wouldn’t know such a cultural hotspot could be five minutes from the back of the concrete jungle that is Vauxhall Bridge Road.

Blackheath
There are only two charity shops here but I count this as one of my favourite areas as thrifting fits so easily into a wonderful fun day and I have got some incredible, beautiful clothing here. There is an Oxfam here and a Cancer Research, both of which can be a tiny bit more expensive (average £7 trousers/ £4 top) but the quality tends to be quite high. We will often train into Blackheath, hop the shops, grab a delicious lunch at one of the delis, then wander over the Heath via the icecream van, into the wonders of Greenwhich park and down to the antique markets. This is a whole Saturday with something for every member of the family. I have highlighted the shops on the map here.

Central London
This is not a route for the faint of heart but for the stoic bargain hunter wearing hiking boots. If you want a real experience of central London tourism and all the best charity shops London offers up this is the route for you. You will find some swag! Begin at Goodge Street, there is a wonderful Oxfam where I never fail to buy something (often brand new stuff), a Sue Ryder and a Notting Hill (both of which are good for a browse but can be quite dear- average £8 trousers, £5-6 top). There is also a high end vintage shop on the other side of the road.

Head south west down to Oxford Circus stopping at the Salvation Army on Princes Street. It is worth the diversion this is quite a massive shop and they often have brand new designer items, alongside average shoddy (but cheap!) gear. They often have very glamorous shoes and boutique dresses. Whatever you do though, DON’T USE THE CHANGING ROOM WITHOUT ASKING. You will be embarrassed if they catch you (!!!)

If you still have wind in your sails, grab some lunch and keep heading west, but back North a little to Marylebone. This is a little area jampacked with charity shops. They are filled with designer goods and the prices do reflect this but if you are looking for some good quality shizzle, Marlybone has your name on it. It is also full of lovely little independent shops and is right on the edge of glorious Regent’s Park where you can catch some music in the bandstand, or collapse under a tree with your bags of bargains!

Check out the route here and PLEASE add more if I have missed any gems!

What do you reckon- have you visited these patches? Have you got a favourite charity shop London circuit you do or a place you could wile away a whole day?

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