Category Archives: Bargain Hunting

Reflections: Six Months In….

love financesWell, I feel as if I’ve barely scratched the surface of creating a ‘homemade life’ and I’ve just realised I’m six months in to my Frugally Fabulous Year already.  And what a year it has been!

This month has really been a time to reflect on the past six months and, amongst all the list-making, I do feel that I’m starting to re-evaluate my goals for this year and make some long term plans for me and D, my career, our house (mostly patchworking) and our future,

With that, comes the ever-present need to continue watching, monitoring and (hopefully) growing our finances.  So what exactly is it that I’m ‘saving’ on this year??  I think I gotta get serious with the ‘nitty gritty’ side of being frugally fabulous – when I write about my ‘previous London life’, it seems almost a million years ago.  All that Starbucks-guzzling, Whistles-wardrobe-stuffing and band-chasing seems lost in the midst of time, babies and DIY-obsessing.  So how do I really know HOW to save on what I’ve already cut back?  So, six months in, I gave myself a little financial refresh – here’s what I’m doing…

BE METICULOUS – OFTEN

It seems like the most BORING job in the world, but someone has to do it.  And until you can afford an accountant to balance your incomings and outgoings, it needs to be YOU.  At the moment, I am finding it easiest to manage my finances on a fortnightly basis.  Every two weeks, I painstakingly go through my bills to stay on top of my finances.  YAWNSVILLE, I know BUT – at this point in the year I have paid off 75% of my overall debt, so it’s gotta be worth doing, right?

joy jarREMEMBER YOUR JOY JAR!

I had this Joy Jar idea back along – a little jar (beautifully decorated with lace, it was) for all the money you save each month (no matter how little).  Despite my retirement from High Street shopping, I’m still a great believer in treating yourself to something off the wishlist.  So, whatever the dream, keep your joy jar brimming with whatever you manage to save and that necklace, vintage dress or holiday will seem that little bit closer!

GIVE YOUR HOUSEHOLD BILLS A SPRING CLEAN

With my break up, came all the necessary paperwork, bills transfers and a new consetina file to stuff it all in.  BUT, it was also a great opportunity to give my bills a bit of an overhaul and I managed to lower my electricity and gas bill by £12 a month – based on current meter readings and usage over the past 6 months.  What’s more?  My electricity and gas company of choice, also recommend a re-check every 3 months so, to get the best out of your bills, take advantage of this regular overhaul.

LITTLE LISTS…LITTLE LIFESAVERS

List-making is a way of life for me! Shopping lists save time and idle wandering, meal planning saves precious time with Miss D and a little extra cash in the bank (not to mention space in the wastebin) and even wishlists give you a, sort of, focus.  Lists provide the limits that we need, sometimes BUT they are, in themselves, limitless.  Starting small, I’m in the process of setting myself daily, weekly and monthly goals and so on and so forth.  These aren’t all financial, it has to be said, but does put the four quarters of life into a stark (and often exciting) reality.

receipt reflectionsAnd FINALLY…THE BEST EBAY BUYS ARE SEASONS AHEAD

If there’s one thing to take from years in fashion retail, as discussed with my equally fabulous friend this week, who is busy scaling the dizzy heights of Liberty these days, it’s that you possess the unequalled ability to shop SEASONS AHEAD!  Once a fashion retail muggle, you will forever be shopping the trends rather than what’s just hitting the shops…so how does this save money?  Well, whatever your shopping style, you’re bound to find the best out-of-season bargains exactly then, out of season.  If you’re serious about bargain hunting in the wardrobe department, why not take a little bit of Pinterest and Vogue around with you and keep your eyes open for winter coats in the heat of Summer and Summer skirts in the January sales.  My mind is already turning to customising one of my favourite winter capes and just how I could integrate some Bradshaw-inspired dusk pink into my blacker than black wardrobe!

Do you feel the need for a little financial overhaul?  What tips do you have for penny pinching?

IMG_20140604_164025Stay Peachy x

 

 

 

Reflections: Exhausted Workers and ‘Vintage’ Overuse

Wardrobe 1Last night, I decided to opt for some quiet time and recorded the new programme ‘This Old Thing'; in which the ever-wonderful Dawn O’Porter tried to convince fashion and High Street lovers that Vintage is the way forward.  I had some great feedback about the programme from friends and visitors to my FB page, so great that, in fact, I thought there was just too much media fodder NOT to talk about the art of vintage/secondhand shopping.

In truth, has there ever been more of a prevalent time to shop second hand and source your clothes from somewhere other than the High Street, than now?  I’m not talking economic downturns, I’m talking about the shocking story in the media this week about the Primark shopper who found this rather sobering label in her recent purchase, presumably written by a despairing over-worked employee in one of their sweatshops, or a bunch of guerrilla crafty-minded activists. 6213002-large Sadly, this isn’t the only case like this that has been reported, yet Primark and its other fast-fashion conglomerates continue to rake in profits like no tomorrow whilst shoppers give little or no thought to how or why their beautiful, affordable clothing really are SO cheap.  Everything, no matter which way you look at it, or what side of the world you are fortunate to live on, comes at a price.

After catching up with ‘This Old Thing’, some of the attitudes of not-easily-persuaded shoppers feel almost alien to me, as someone who revels in rummaging through charity shops and thrives on the adrenalin of eBay bids.  I’ve said it plenty before on this blog and I’ll say it again, for all its fast fixes – I don’t miss the High Street at all.  But it does lead me to question, is a love of vintage and secondhand really innate, does it grow with your own personal style?  Or can it be taught?

Firstly, like some of my Facebook Peachy People, I’m not sure I like the word ‘Vintage’ being banded around as often as it is.  It is, after all, mostly a euphemism for ‘second hand’, just as ‘Nouvelle Cuisine’ was a euphemism for ‘hardly anything on your freakin’ plate’.  My love of vintage stems from my desire to not look like anyone else and the freedom a mix and match wardrobe of good quality pieces from all the very best decades can bring you.  I’m in love with fashion in the same way that Coco Chanel was, I love how clothes can accentuate your personality and make you feel.  I’m not a follower of trends, I like to think I look comfortable in my own skin and I like to feel unique, that has been a lifelong desire of mine.

I don’t think about whose bodies my clothes have previously encapsulated my ‘vintage’ finds, a common concern for the guests on Dawn O’s show.  I have a washing machine after all.  I really do enjoy the process of rummaging through the bits and bobs, as I know many people do.  I like the feeling of authenticity in my pieces, I love the stories and tales that could be hidden, pressed into each thread, I like that my wardrobe is a mish mash of one-offs and  quirky tastes.  It is a more rewarding hobby, in my opinion, to find your own fashion in the treasures of people’s pasts than in the racks of monotony.  But that’s just me.

Becoming a lover of vintage secondhand, in favour of all things High Street, is not a learned behaviour, I don’t think.  I think one has to feel connected to the past, long to relive decades gone by, to find their own sense of personal style in everything that has, sort of, been already.  Yes, you can do the ‘Mad Men’ trend, for as long as H&M stocks that shape, but a love of real secondhand fashion takes dedication, focus and a little bit of disappointment, sometimes.  Which simply isn’t for everyone.

But, with all this news of hidden labels and cries for help, can we really afford to be so in love with fast fashion anymore?  With news that H&M has a sweatshop running in the UK, the problems faced by these exploited workers – all in aid of all things ‘affordable’ – are even closer to home than we like to imagine.  So, with that in mind, I’d like to fly the flag for all things vintage, secondhand and even me-made, safe in the knowledge that I won’t be finding any hidden labels in my clothes anytime soon.

Are you following a Frugally Fabulous Year?  Fancy doing it?  Keep it here for more handy tips on life without the High Street!

meStay Peachy x

 

What exactly MAKES the World’s Most Ethical Company??

Recently, Swedish brand H&M was awarded a ‘2014’s Most Ethical Company’ award.  I was surprised to hear this, especially since it came just a short while after yet another factory fire, in which H&M’s name was implicated.  So I decided to go a little further and research what, exactly, has made them the ‘Most Ethical’ Company this year?

If you have read my blog from its conception, you will be aware that one of the reasons I decided to sack off the High Street at the start of the year, was down to my sheer frustration with the inethical way in which High Street shops churn out low-quality clothing; whilst their factory workers are forced to work in dangerous conditions for, quite frankly, pittance.  It has long been an issue of mine and is something I wanted to raise here on Frugally Peachy, particularly with all the ‘hauls’ I often read on other blogs.  It has long grated on me that brands such as Primark can win ‘High Street Retailer of the Year’ awards, yet turn a blind eye to the plight of their Bangladeshi workers who have suffered at the hands of poor health and safety in one of their factories (that we know of).  Which is why I had to question the criteria behind H&M’s latest award because, whilst on the surface it may appear our favourite go to for vibrant print tunics and cute, washable, kids’ clothes is, in fact, ticking all our ethical boxes – the truth really isn’t that simple!

H&M have always stood me in great stead and, whilst I don’t shop there for myself during the Frugally Fabulous Year, it has always been my one stop shop for Daisy’s bits.  Why?  Aside from having really cute collections, I find H&M’s kids’ stuff is wearable and washes up really well.  It is one of the few brands whose clothes have stood the test of time (‘time’ being 3 or 6 months) and have still emerged, wash after wash, looking half decent after Daisy’s constant crawling, scraping and spilling.  Not only that, their cotton quality is organic in many cases and superior to other clothing brands AND everything is reasonably priced.  What’s not to love?  Then you hear about the factory business that has been, unsurprisingly, brushed under the carpet and it comes as a harsh reminder that us lucky folks who dwell in the Western world, really know nothing of HOW our clothes come to be so reasonable without compromising on quality.

H&M’s recent award for being ethically sound, has been awarded courtesy of Ethisphere, a research institute with a focus on ethical best practice and anti-corruption policies; supposedly there to sort the wheat from the chaff in terms of compliance, best practice and ethical verification.  Excellent.  Or so you may think.

When it comes to the Most Ethical award, Ethisphere award in several categories – from Chemicals to Banking, Retail to Food – companies that show best practice against the criteria set by the institute, are awarded for their efforts.  What surprised me at first, was that H&M was right up there in the retail sector…with GAP??

This led me straight to the criteria and scoring section of Ethisphere’s website – I mean, you’d have to be living in a cave not to know the hot water GAP found themselves in over their use of sweatshops.  And it was here, I found the very reason for why this award didn’t ‘sit quite right’ with me – throughout Ethisphere’s criteria, there was absolutely no consideration of the manufacturing process or labour, why not check for yourself here!

The truth, in fact, is that the page contains most of the jargon I’ve had to sit through during my 13 year unintentional retail career; practices, phrases and talks of compliance are sort of shoved on a page without really answering any questions.  I bored myself starting to type up my take on the existing criteria, so I figured you can read it at your leisure, carefully mapped out in nonsense for you!  So I guess, after all that, brands like H&M and GAP are sourcing organic cotton, a process which makes them more ethically viable than their cheaper counterparts.  World’s Most Ethical Companies?  Bullshit, I say.

In my opinion, an ethical company deserving of this award, would be one that could quite confidently map the journey of the clothes you purchase from them, from design process to shop, without the use of David Brent-style business speak to cover up a whole load of ‘necessary’ evils in the modern world.  I feel somewhat deceived at H&M winning this award, thought confident in the quality of their cotton, admittedly!  So why do I care?  Ultimately, this isn’t a post written to judge the shopping habits of anyone else, it just doesn’t sit right with me that we, here in the UK, wouldn’t get out of bed for 7p an hour, neither would we work our fingers to the bone, in dangerous conditions, because we had no choice but to do so – at the risk of losing their livelihood.  So why are we expecting other countries to do it for us?  Simply put, exploitation in the fashion industry exists, even though we can’t directly see or feel it.

It is often argued, in my circle of friends, that ‘everywhere’ uses sweatshops and, if you can’t beat them, then join them.  Taking on this challenge has, so far, proven to be more difficult as the year has gone on.  But news like this has made me even more determined to not hand over my money to companies, that are simply ignoring the plight of sweatshop workers – two wrongs don’t make a right, in my mind.  You can argue that disused Primark and H&M garments line the charity and secondhand shops that I’ve come to rely on during my Frugally Fabulous Year, not to mention the virtual shopping aisles of eBay and you’d be 100% right.  But at least, sacking off the High Street for my own wardrobe, I’m confident that my money isn’t going directly to fund brands that use sweatshops, a thoroughly unethical process in our modern world, in my opinion.

What do you think?  Do you think sweatshops are a problem?  Would you like to see more of this type of post on Frugally Peachy?

Thanks for taking the time to read this – your thoughts and opinions really do mean a lot!

 

Frugally Mummy: The Cost of a Child

joy jarWhen Daisy hit a year old, I started to get questioned a lot about whether or not I was planning to have more children.  A natural assumption I guess, that I would, at some point, want to think about extending the family.  It’s often something I talk about with the Mum Mafia – and with recent events at Peachy HQ, I can’t help but think about the financial investment any child you bring into the world becomes.

Recently, I was sent an interesting report from LVE Insurance, who had put together a detailed analysis of how much a child is likely to cost – from birth, right through to University.  The results are staggering – an average cost of a child until the age of 21 is almost £228,000!  And what’s even more scary?  It seems to be growing every year!  the report is available here for you to feast your eyes on – costs have been averaged, explained and even mapped across different parts of the country.  In my Midlands dwellngs, it appears Miss D may well cost me £223,388 over the next 20 years which, if you consider the costs of University fees, school uniforms, trips and childcare, spread over the years, seems a fair amount – averaging £30 per day.  So imagine if that number was doubled or tripled with more than one child?  Do we all bank on just one of our children wanting to go to Uni?  How do we even begin to save for a secure future for our children, a future that offers the very best of choices for them?  Luckily for me, I’m not really a fan of averages – and I pride myself on not falling between the lines of average in pretty much any walk of life!  Rather than worry Miss D’s childhood away whittling about uncapped tuition fees, I prefer to be proactive with what little we have, in order to save for our future.

Babies are expensive, so they say – just a glance at the report details areas of expense such as furniture and hobbies, that I believe can provide real areas of financial growth – with a bit of creative thinking (what else would I be suggesting?!) and bargain hunting!  I can’t really comment on the school years or readying funds whilst your eldest is busy filling out their UCAS applications; but I can tell you that you CAN save during that first, tempestuous year of becoming a parent…here are my top tips to get saving for your child’s future during their first year.

1. Save a Little, Whenever You Can

You know that age-old saying, ‘Look After The Pennies And The Pounds Look After Themselves?’  I’ve come to learn there is a whole lot of truth to this and never more prevalent than when you’re adjusting to a new financial setting, with a new baby.

At the end of last month, I introduced a ‘Joy Jar’ into my home; a little jar of shrapnel, loose change and little bits I’d saved from our weekly budget, to act as a physical reminder of what we CAN save when we put our minds to it!   Well, month one brought us a fabulous £16 – saved without even thinking about it and ready to be put towards something special at the end of the year.  If you can’t put huge chunks of money aside each month, something like a Joy Jar serves as a great way to start saving just a little, whenever you can – no added pressure from direct debits and a great way to save for the future.

Daisy window2. Give Yourself A Regular Financial Overhaul

The most boring, but essential tip of all!  Nobody likes sitting down with spreadsheets and calculators – well nobody I know anyway, but in order to start saving in a year in which you have to adapt so readily to a new way of life, you need to know where every precious penny is going and how you can be continually making your money work for you.  I’m no Martin Lewis, but I like to sit down at least once a month and work out what I’m spending, where I’m spending it and how I can spend less – easily done for someone who is doing a year without the High Streets – but even food shopping can be made a little cheaper if you take the convenience out of it.

Equally, if you have a little debt to pay off, make sure you are taking the time, each month, to work out how much you have already paid off and what’s left to go – this can be so motivational to see how much of a dent you might have made already and can even encourage a bit of extra ‘thrift’ in your purse habits to get things paid off a little quicker!

I’m not suggesting you make best friends with your Excel program (unless you want to), but regular financial checks will help to keep you on top of your money management and will work better for you long-term.

3. New Parent?  Check Out What’s On Offer For You

As much as I detest the amount of junk mail that comes sailing through my letterbox on a weekly basis, as a new parent who (probably) sleepily signed up to Bounty and all sorts, whilst doing their rounds on the Maternity Wards, sometimes it doesn’t hurt to sift through and take advantage of some of the great deals that are on offer to you.

I’m not talking sale shopping here (I’m living without the High Street – it would be wrong of me to endorse that), but it’s worth tapping into the great Parenting events that are on offer at Supermarkets, which often offer fantastic deals on every day essentials – not to mention local events such as Tabletop and Jumble sales, which may really help stock up on clothing and toys, for a fraction of the full cost.

4. Thrifting and Sharing = Caring (For Your Bank Balance)

If you’re a regular reader of Frugally Peachy, you’ll know that I’m all about leading a creative and thrifty lifestyle – no High Street shopping, a unique approach to the word ‘savvy’ and I try to post as much handmade and homemade inspiration for your family, your home, your meal times and your own lifestyle as I can muster.  Being of the creative ilk has its benefits, but even if you’re not cut from that cloth, there are plenty of places you can look to save money when buying for your home and for your baby.

Whilst ‘kiddy consumerism’ denotes and displays the latest ‘must-have items’, simply checking your nearest computer for Gumtree and eBay can knock off huge amounts of money for life-saving instruments, such as the classic Jumperoo.  I’ve been very lucky to be given some fantastic traditional toys for Miss D that need little more than a quick wash and brush up with soapy water, before they are returned to their former glory.  Ultimately, D also doesn’t care where they come from, or how many children have loved and used them before – she sleeps with a stuffed cow that is visible in early photos of my birth, after all!  Aside from the over-loved, bare-furred cuddly toys of old, most ‘must-have’ toys are something of a short term novelty for any child during their first year – is it really worth piling hundreds into something that’s likely to be kicked around (by you – probably) for two months before it heads off to the great toy cemetery to rest in nearly-new, wasteful peace?

5. Curb Your Coffee Enthusiasm

Getting coffee has become something of a second nature in modern society and, truth be told, there is nothing better than sipping a piping hot, creamy Chai Latte on a Sunday stroll.  But, if you are looking to save money – this is one of the simplest ways to start.  Say no to the endless coffee dates – tempting as they may be and invest in a decent Thermos!

Back in my previous life in London, I confess to indulging in at least three Skinny White Mochas per week – that worked out to be a WHOPPING £33 a month I was shelling out for the comfort of a milky drink on a cold (or warm) day.  I decided to test the psychology of ‘getting coffee’, by purchasing a thermos flask and bringing my own drink to work.  Such a simple trick not only worked in the short term, but has served to save me almost £400 over a year – when you add up the annual cost, is it a habit really worth keeping?

6. Invest In a Little Second-Hand Karma

Just before D’s Birthday – I had a big sort out of old clothes that I had accumulated over the past year.  A whole 3 small cases later, I am about to invest in some second-hand karma with blog sales, eBay loving and a bit of charity thrown in too.

Aside from a few unfortunate items of clothing, children rarely over-use their clothes in the first year of life.  For 6 months they are almost immobile and for the other 6, you are trying to fathom how and where you managed to grow a wardrobe the size of the Theatre Royal’s costume department for your tiny child.  As a great believer in second-hand karma; what you put into the second-hand world, you will get back, threefold, I am constantly checking our local charity shops for bargains and projects for me, D and our home – why not sift through the teeny tiny baby clothes you’ve been clinging on to and get funding your little one’s next size wardrobe?  Better still, sift out your old maternity wear and make way for some fab eBay purchases for yourself!

wardrobe 3

So there we have it, not rocket science and clearly not avoiding some of the unavoidable costs of raising a young child.  But hopefully these tips are a great way to start managing your money differently and thinking about how you will fund the next twenty years – providing a little chink in that £228,000 you’ll be needing handy in future!

Stay Peachy x

 

#CraftBlogClub – I Re-Love You Challenge REVEAL!

craftblogclub badgeTuesday evenings are, undoubtedly one of my favourite times of the week!  Even if I’m not hosting, I love watching lots of crafty types getting together from across the globe to discuss all things craft and blogging!

One of things I love most about setting up #CraftBlogClub, are the challenges we do.  I always try and come up with interesting ideas that members can really challenge themselves on, or can ultimately show what they are capable of.  So, for our first challenge of 2014 and, of course, in keeping with my self-imposed frugality; I set an upcycling challenge on something you have around the house (or something you have purchased – if easier).  Wanna see mine???!!!

toy box 2

BEHOLD!  This is one of my first attempts at furniture upcycling!  As Daisy turns One this month, I had the brainwave a while ago that I wanted to do something memorable for her.  I love traditional wooden toy boxes and, after a bit of Pinteresting, decided that I wanted to paint a toybox for her Birthday.

After searching the length and breadth of eBay and Gumtree – I FINALLY managed to find a blanket box, going locally, for £20.  It was a little smaller than I originally hoped for but, upon arrival, it looked ideal for Daisy’s bedroom.

toy box 1

 

 

Being a little rusty with furniture painting, I took myself to Homebase to find the sort of paint I felt would work easily on the box. Paint brushes I found some gorgeous Dulux Satin Wood ‘Willow Tree’ green furniture paint, priced £14.99 and supplemented with a primer – priced £6.95.  My paint choice apparently needed no undercoat and, while the box wasn’t antique, I wanted to make sure the ‘mocha’ colour would cover easily.

I painted one coat of primer and two of the green to get an even, covered result and I am pretty happy with the colour!  I toyed around with different ideas and colour ways – D’s nursery is a pale pink Beatrix Potter theme; but I felt I wanted to paint something timeless, that she would continue to use as she gets older.  So, along with the decision to ‘go green’, came the decision to scrap my original idea of scripting her name on the box, replaced with tiny dotted vintage-inspired daisies instead.

Now, I don’t claim to be an artist or painter of ANY description, so this was the part I was most worried about!  To aid in my questionable cack-handedness, I decided to use the other end of two paint brushes to make my yellow and white daisy dots to make firmer, striking dots. toy box close up The result was pretty good, they aren’t perfect, but I think that’s part of the charm.  I decided to create the daisies in the corners of the lid, rather than cover it completely.  Once this last pain-staking part was done, all that was left was to give it a quick clear varnish.  The box came with the lovely horse paper inside, which I decided to keep, in keeping with the ‘vintage’ feel.

What started off as one idea, has become something simple, sweet and hopefully a lasting memory for D as she gets older!  I’m pleased with my handy work AND from a frugal point of view – I used less than a third of both the paint and primer, meaning this Birthday make totals in at £27.31 for the box and paints plus a little extra for brushes.  Compared to a personalised toy box price of around £70 minimum, I’d say we’ve done pretty well!

I’ve definitely got the bug and I’m eyeing up my next piece of work that I really think will suit the colour of my paint.  But you’ll have to stay tuned to see how that turns out!

For now, let me say a huge thank you to all the lovely #CraftBlogClub tweeples who tirelessly take part in my challenges and produce such gorgeous work!  I’m always truly inspired and I can’t wait to see what everyone has come up with.  I’ve popped the Linky below and I’ll be sharing these great posts in the coming weeks!  Fear not, if you haven’t quite finished – the link will stay open for two weeks!

toy box 3

The question is…..are you ready for another challenge??

THE BIG SPRING CLEAN!

In true Spring style, I’ve suddenly had the urge to have a huge clear out and get to grips with some of those left over crafty projects that have been building up!  So…due to the success of our Secret Santa, I thought we could do a ‘Spring Clean Gift Swap’ – make a gift using only products and materials you already have or by finishing off an old project you’ve left.  Fancy it??  Here are the rules..

1. To sign up – please drop me an email at missemmaberry@gmail.com to be added to the swap list.  All entries must be in by Wednesday 12th March.  I will then pair up gift swaps and email everyone with their swappees name, address and Twitter handle.

2. As this is a little more complicated, we will run the challenge over a two-ish month period.  All gifts should have been received by their recipients and posts ready to go by Tuesday 22nd April.

3. Unlike the Secret Santa, you only have to write a post about the gift you RECEIVE and it would be wonderful to link back to your gift maker’s blog!  You CAN tell you recipient who you are or even pop a little letter in there for them – it’s up to you!

I thought this would be a great way to see in Spring and, perhaps, all get to know each other a little better too!

I really hope you all want to take part – be sure to email me your full name, address and Twitter handle so I can pair everyone up efficiently!

And, in the mean time, don’t forget to link up your ‘I Re-Love You’ post below!

Stay Crafty x

 Come join us!


Reflections: Things Falling Apart

Mirror 1Well, I can’t believe I’m two months in to my Frugally Fabulous Year!  Time is marching swiftly forward and guess what?  I’m still somewhat withering around my sewing machine at the moment.  Those ace clothes are NOT going to sew themselves!  Luckily, for me, I have the wonderful Laura Strutt here – not personally but in book form, to show me the ropes and I’ve been looking forward to settling down and overcoming my fears for a very long time now!  I guess February just ran away with me…

What with the chaotic wonderment that was #MidsBlogMeet, our #CraftBlogClub challenge, Mr J’s Birthday, the arrival of Mortal Instruments from Lovefilm AND about 6 other writing and crafting WIPs – I have barely had time to sit down and think about my sewing machine, let alone fathom my fears.

The trouble is, whilst I’ve been busy with life this month, everything else is starting to fall apart; the buttons on my coat have nearly all fallen off, my oven gloves have seen much better days, my slippers are cracking on the soles and my wardrobe is starting to look somewhat lacklustre.  It’s time to face the music!

Wardrobe 2On the other hand….a good Tweeple Buddy asked me the other day about how I might track my savings through my Frugally Fabulous Year?  It got me thinking about how I could do this – without boring the pants off my readers with facts, figures and somewhat personal accounting!  It’s tough – the majority of our money comes from Mr J’s earnings and, whilst we are trying to live frugally, we are also paying off debt.  The good news?  My final payment from my previous job FINALLY arrived this month and has allowed me to pay off a debt I incurred whilst I ran Miss Berry’s.  It feels amazing to have that relief wash over me – I can only imagine what the end of my Frugally Fabulous Year will look like!  I spent just £8 on cosmetics this month – extremely frugal in comparison to an average of £20-30 when I was working full time.  But perhaps I need to start monitoring even more closely?    For now…here are my Frugal Tips for tracking your savings!

1. Budgeting

Mr J is not big on financial budgeting, but I see it as a necessity to ensure we know exactly what we have coming in and going out each month.  I don’t always profess to be as meticulous as I should be – but I’m definitely getting there.  In particular, setting yourself a food/entertainment/travel budget for the month is a great way to really monitor how you’re spending and also look at how/where you can save.

2. Change Your Ways?

Whilst we are on the subject of food budgeting, this is one of the areas I am really looking at saving.  For ease, I have often booked one to two online shopping deliveries a month, whilst stocking up on fresh produce at our local greengrocer’s.  Recently, I’ve turned my weekly shops into several smaller shops, where I can, whilst really looking at where I can make the best savings.  Ok, so carrying my shopping can be a bit of a drag, but I’m saving about £10 a month on delivery costs.  Plus, shopping with smaller, cheaper brands or local suppliers has also meant a saving of almost £12 a week (yup, I’m becoming THAT person) – which translates roughly to a saving of £624 over a year – that’s some festival tickets and a chunk of the ‘Swedish Dream’ right there!  I have already started to draw relationships between Money and Convenience, it seems if you are serious about saving money, convenience has to go out the window!

receipt reflections3. Don’t Be Loyal to Brands, They Aren’t Loyal To You

When I was pregnant, like most people, I stood in the middle of Boots baby aisle, completely befuddled by the sheer amount of branding, products and general colours being thrown at me.  I have always prided myself on keeping things to a good, but necessary minimum – I’m not easily sold on baby gadgets especially – the trick is to sort through what you need and what you don’t!  It’s easy to get bombarded with constant 3 for 2 offers and discounts – the new parent market especially is a hive of activity for offer emails, special events and what not.  But in making your purchases, no matter how ‘loyal’ you think a brand is, remember that all they really want is your money (I see Johnson and Johnson, I think ‘Johnson and Formaldehyde’)!  Clever advertising can go a long way to make you feel you are missing something important by not making that purchase, but the truth is you can most probably go without it – or at least go without the last minute eye-catching add-ons and special offers.

4. Don’t Turn Your Advantage Points Into Disadvantage Points

All that aside, if you shop religiously at one place, get all your cosmetics from Boots or drink all your coffees in one coffee house, then make sure their loyalty cards ARE working for you.  These days, most big names are offering a loyalty card at practically every paying counter you head to.  Prior to having D, I picked up loyalty cards for Starbucks, Holland and Barrett and Waterstones – to name a few.  Well almost a year on these cards remain redundant in my wallet, they’re not worth the space they take up and they certainly don’t encourage me to want to spend any more with these companies.  Now I’m probably not the best to judge, being that the whole point of my Frugally Fabulous Year is to NOT shop on the High Street, but it seems to me that if you do shop with one shop, you might as well make sure you get the very best of their offers and points benefits.  Why not have a look through the loyalty cards you have stashed in your wallet?  Have you got cards that are encouraging you to spend more than you should in places you know you shouldn’t?  Do you have loyalty cards that could work much harder for you?  This will take all of five minutes, but could save you a little bit of cash money AND make sure you are shopping in the RIGHT places for you!

5. Make Yourself a Joy Jar!

Once you’ve done the hard work – if you find you save a little bit – be it £1 or £10, why not physically take that money out and pop it in a ‘Joy Jar’? joy jar Here’s one I made earlier!  I think there is a lot to be said, psychologically, for being able to see, in the flesh, just how much money you are saving.  Once the jar is full, you can pop it in a savings account, sort yourself out with a much-longed for treat or p**s it up the wall, it really is up to you!  I intend to start using my jar to physically chart how much money I save each month – why not do the same?

Well, it is with a fondness that I bid my Frugal February adieu…it’s been wonderful, full of love, lust and knitting needle clicking – I shall see you on the other side in March, which wil undoubtedly be one of the most special months for me this year!

Stay Peachy x

 

 

Hello Frugal February….

100_0608Well, the cold really seems to have settled in and everyone is talking pastel palettes and Springtime already….what a weird and wonderful world we live in!  Hello February indeed!

Being on the opposite end of the Seasonal Affected Disorder spectrum, I like the cold and gloom a little more than most.  I love the dark winter nights, the warm casseroles and the general lack of going out – though it does get hard with a babe, who loves nothing more than trips to our local park to watch the rustling trees.  I brave the cold and rain and get on with it, then I relish with the home comforts of dry clothes, warm radiators and cosy socks. 

 Daisy windowJanuary went by in a flash, the easiest month of frugality indeed; everyone wants to save money after a Christmas blow-out, so it didn’t feel so different or difficult for me.  February, however, is a month of Birthdays, trips and meet-ups.  We are all awakening from our wintry slumber and are ready to face a bit of socialising. 

At the start of February, yesterday in fact, we celebrated Mr J’s Birthday!  This year was a quiet affair, but we did have babysitters and we did manage to head out to a local gig and had a delicious Sunday Roast with his family.  The most important gift you can give new parents, is the gift of time, people.  I also have my Step-Dad’s Birthday coming up towards the end of the month and, whilst I’m super-envious that he is embarking on a trip to Sweden – the holy land – in March, I want to put together something lovely for him!  Watch this space!

casserole pan

Not only that, but saving our bargain-hunting energy through January is really starting to pay off; look at this gorgeous *Brand New* casserole dish I found for £3 in a local charity shop!  And Mr J came home with this little bargain surprise for me tooelvis frame – a lovely retro print of Mr Presley – I’m still debating if I’m going to ask house guests to bless it as they enter the kitchen!!

So what else is coming in February???  Well, with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I’ve been putting together a couple of little, frugal ideas for the big day.  It probably won’t surprise you to know that me and Mr J aren’t so keen on the Big V.  Our first V Day was spent watching The Woman in Black, followed by a Hot White Choc at the wonderful Malt Cross – mostly to calm my nerves.  Last year, I dragged my bestie to Derby to a book signing with James Bowen and Bob the Street Cat.  Can you say Rock and Roll??!!

Amanda Cass - How to Mend a Broken Heart

Source: Amanda Cass – How to Mend a Broken Heart

Even so, I think it’s important to appreciate the little things in life and in your relationships and, this month, I’ll be posting a few little frugally fabulous ideas if you’re planning to acknowledge the Big V on a budget…look out for my ‘Frugally Ever After’ Posts coming in the following days….Hell, you don’t even need an occasion!

February also sees the first #CraftBlogClub challenge launched! This week, the lovely Katie from Katie Gets Crafty will be hosting AND launching the new challenge.  I’m excited and I hope you’ll join in the fun….I’ll be posting details tomorrow!

As if that isn’t enough fun for one month; one February 22nd I will be co-hosting our #MidsBlogMeet in Nottingham, a meet up for Lifestyle and Mummy Bloggers from the Midlands area.  I’m really excited to have organised this event with Kelly from To Become Mum and I’ll be sure to post some pics and updates of the event when it happens!!! Want to come along??? Read all about the event HERE and be sure to email while we still have a few places!

Aside from this, I’ll be getting my craft on ready for some big dates in March and I’m determined to make friends with my sewing machine…and I think I have the perfect tool to help me.  More on that later guys….I’m off to wrap up warm and hit the park.  

Before I go….. Did you enter my little handmade giveaway last week??? Well the winner of my little Oscar Mug Warmer is……….

MARGO PRICE

Congratulations – Please send an email to missemmaberry@gmail.com with your address and I’ll get the little man on his way to you!

oscar 3

Stay Peachy x

One Month In…Reflections

Mug 1It only seems like five minutes ago I was scouring the Interweb for a polkadot background that was ‘just right’ and racking my brainage to come up with exciting posts for the first month.  Suddenly, we have arrived at the end of the month, February is upon us and I have spent a total of £9.99 (from my Christmas money) on myself ALL MONTH.  I managed to kit out the rest of Daisy’s wardrobe with some lovely, hardly worn pieces from eBay.  I bought a gorgeous coat, 6 vests, 2 dresses and a pair of pyjamas all totalling under £28.00 inclusive of postage.  BARGAIN!  Not only that – I’ve spent a total of £5 on new socks for D from Next; I’m beginning to think this whole Frugally Fabulous Year may well encompass the WHOLE family, after all!

January has been easy – though it’s always the money-saving month for everyone isn’t it; paying things off after Christmas, changing our ways.  I haven’t had a single urge to go shopping, I’ve managed to keep cosmetic purchases to a minimum and my projects have, thus far, used materials and yarns I have at home.  I did spy some rather incredible Elvis fabric on eBay though – which gave me some great, kitsch ideas for my new Frugally Fabulous Wardrobe!

At the beginning of the month, me and Mr J (we got a thiiinnng….going oooo-ooonn), took a rare trip to town to spend our Christmas vouchers and money.  Being that most of our vouchers were for good old John Lewis, we headed there to decide which towel bale held the best value (2 bath towels, 2 hands towels AND 2 flannels for £20) and what we would put the rest of the money towards.  No sooner were we 5 steps and several slow-walking people away from the front doors of the homeware MECCA, Mr J helpfully turned to me and stated that, by purchasing from this shop – I had already failed my challenge.

It really got me thinking about the self-imposed rules and regulations of The Frugally Fabulous Year.  Was I really cherry-picking to make the challenge work for me?  No, I wasn’t.  And, NO I’m not.

Parts of this challenge feel easier than I thought they would, though I’ve yet to look at a dress pattern and I’ve cautiously stuck to little knitting projects that will keep me fulfilled (and not crazy).  The High Street hoarder of the dim, distant past feels a million miles away from who I’ve become. I can’t say I’m missing the atmosphere of a High Street store, nor the rails of (what I now deem to be) age-inappropriate cropped shit that I can’t say I’d even be keen to fit into.  Yet, when people question what I’m doing – I do realise I’ve given up the freedom of shopping as and when I want, with no scrutiny as to what I’ve bought and where I’ve been (on the basis that the Frugal Police are in operation).  I now realise that, if I was in sudden need of a black layering vest, I’d be pretty pushed to grab some fabric and try and make one.  That’s a scary thought.  Yet, a bigger part of me can only see the results of what I’ve been slowly giving up, cutting down and turning my back on over the last three or four years.

The thing is, we all HAVE to do it.  If you have a baby, you want to buy a house, you want to plan a wedding; there are no money trees from which we can pick.  Anymore.  This is what I’ve spent the last 10 years slowly realising!

January...it's been fun!

January…it’s been fun!

Picture an ever-so-slightly more youthful me, gallavanting through the sites of That London; I would indulge in at least 4 Starbucks a week from the top of the High Street, where I worked.  I hated my job.  I would spend about £70-£100 a month on clothing, not to mention fashion mags and books, partially due to the perks demands of the job.  The job I hated.  My housemate and I would regularly eat out locally or head to trendy Spitalfields where we could vent our rage over a ‘cheap’ Wagamamas.  We hated our flat, we had no living room.  I would easily spend £40 on gin-fuelled nights out.  I had no boyfriend or, sadly, decent taste in men until late 2011. That, right there, was an emotional shopper.

In late September, I took a trip to Camden to see a gig by a bloke I barely knew and, four and a half months later, I moved to The Midlands to live with him.  I started to find a new way of living.  I got creative with my work and my writing again.  I frequented Starbucks less and started to pull out and dust off all those beautiful dresses I had so taken for granted.  I started enjoying cooking and cococting recipes in MY OWN kitchen again.  We didn’t go out so much.  Then, along came Daisy and now, a trip to a restaurant with Mr J really is a treat, a snippet of time to ourselves.  A homemade chai latte is the perfect accompaniment to an afternoon, watching Daisy taking all the jigsaw pieces out that I just put back.  My morning make-up routine is one of my favourite times of the day – because it’s just for me and usually its soundtrack is the quietest birdsong, while all about the house, my family are snoozing away.  All those things have changed, I’ve changed.

So, no, I don’t think I’m cherry-picking a thing because, despite being a little scared of the task I’ve set myself,  I know that I’ve started my Frugally Fabulous Year, having already learnt the most important lesson of all.  Things do not replace people, emotions or experiences.  And that is the most valuable lesson I could have learnt so far.  All that remains, is to own it.

Stay Peachy x