Welcome!

A Simple Christmas series on facebook by secondhand tales

Welcome to my second-hand tales blog where I attempt to chronicle my adventures in second-hand shopping, and other greenish ventures. A special welcome if you’ve come to me from The-Thrift – try browsing my Second Hand Vinyl page for more of my thrifty record finds (from the drop down menu if you’re on a mobile, or the left hand menu if you’re on a pc)

Like many personal blogs my ideas have changed and expanded over the years. While my love of thrift store rummaging has not changed (see here and here) I have also dabbled in zero waste (here), plastic free (here) and simple, slow living (reading list here). It is here on my blog that I write about the things I have discovered and ideas I have tried to follow to minimise my impact on the environment.

I hope you enjoy reading my random(ish) posts: please leave a comment on any post that interests you – or you could  follow me on facebook , twitter or instagram

 

Saving for Christmas…Part Three

Saving for Christmas Part Three via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

Hello and welcome to Part Three of my series on how we are saving and spending at Christmas. In my previous post here I wrote about what we were planning to spend our money on. As well as buying presents, food and drink I also planned to put some money aside for family experiences: the ubiquitous ‘Christmas Bucket List’

Christmas traditions via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

We have written a few ideas together as a family and also hope to incorporate a few traditional activities as well. As money is slightly tighter there are some things we won’t be doing:

Christmas Theatre/Cinema Trip

Although we did go and see ‘Fantastic Beasts’ last month there are no plans for any cinema trips this Christmas. In the past we have also been to see a local theatre show or the village panto, but have decided not to go this year. However we still have our (accidental) Amazon Prime subscription which seems to have a few seasonal movies in its collection. We will also be swapping some unwanted dvds and old DS games at the local Games Exchange for a few (new to us) films to watch over the break.

Ice Skating

While not a strict family tradition we have taken the kids to go ice skating in previous years. We have already received two invitations to visit the local ice rink but, because of costs, we have declined. My eldest has been ice skating with friends,but she paid for this herself.

Christmas Meal using Tesco Clubcard vouchers

When we have accrued enough Tesco vouchers we usually exchange them for an (almost free) lunch out as part of our Christmas activities. However this year we barely shopped at the supermarket so have no vouchers to use.

There are some Christmas events that we will take (or have taken) part in as they involve meeting up with friends and family.Some of these I have saved for already:

Meeting with old friends for a Christmas Curry

This is a tradition for the adults! We meet up once a year with old friends over a curry in Bath. We actually got together last Friday and had a lovely evening. However this is an event I always fail to budget for and had to come out of our rather tight bank account. Next year I must add this to the Christmas budget.

Meeting with in laws for a pub lunch

Last Saturday we met with family for a lovely pub lunch in Oxfordshire (half way for both of us). Having failed to budget for this last year I saved for the lunch this time. We also pre-ordered so we knew what we were having,knew how much it would cost, and the kids didn’t have to wait too long for their food.

Trip to more in-laws and a day in London

This coming weekend we will be travelling to my father-in-law’s which is a Christmas highlight! The girls will enjoy a day of being spoilt,eating loads and making lots of crafts. My husband and I will be packed off to London where we plan to visit a couple of galleries and do some vintage shop browsing. I’m hoping we will only have to budget for a cheap lunch for the two of us and our Oyster cards are already topped up for travel.

Works’ dos

Something I never plan for but just hope to ‘wing it’ and spend for it out of our weekly budget. It would be good to have a bit more money put aside to cover these. We will also have a few invites to friends’ houses (we live in a very sociable village with its own traditions) but I have already bought bottles of wine for this (taken from my Sainsburys ‘double up’ vouchers last month)

 

Champagne_flute

Then there are the best Christmas activities: the simple and traditional ones that don’t cost a thing but bring a lot of joy!

Christmas Sleepover

This is a tradition the girls created a few years ago. One evening over the Christmas break they bring their duvets into the lounge,watch a festive film and have a sleepover in the lounge, amid the lights and presents!

Baking

We’ve already made some mince pies and biscuits for friends and neighbours. We will, no doubt, be making plenty more once school has broken up. There’s nothing more Christmasey than putting on some cheesy music and doing loads of festive baking.

Putting decorations up

This goes without saying! We will be digging out a lot of our second-hand decorations,which includes an old tree,baubles, signs and our traditional Christmas mugs (picked up from a charity shop of course!)

charity shop Christmas mugs

Viewing the Christmas Lights

At the end of our road is one of the village’s biggest Christmas lights displays. No doubt we will wrap up warm and wander up the road to view this tradition. We will also be taking the girls to central London this weekend to look at the lights on Oxford Street, Regent Street and the upmarket Bond Street. For both my husband and I this is reminiscent of our own childhoods. If we arrive early enough we should be able to gawp at the windows of Selfridges, Fortnum & Masons and visit the John Lewis roof garden – and all for free.

FamilyTraditions: Christmas decorations via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

Family Games

We have a few board games (new and pre-loved) that we dig out this time of year to play. This year my husband and I have agreed we must learn to play ‘Risk’ which we picked up from a charity shop a couple of years ago!

Church Crib Service

Even if you enjoy a more secular Christmas there is something really special about attending a church service at this time of year. We always go to the church’s family friendly Crib Service on Christmas Eve. It’s the time of year when the church is at its busiest, we see neighbours (even those with grown up children) and there is something truly touching when you think of the 750 past Christmases that have been celebrated in our village church!

Christmas Day visit to the pub!

A slightly different tradition,although I would argue that the village pub,like the church, is an important community space. For an hour on Christmas Day the two village pubs open their doors (one of the pubs even serves free drink!). It’s a really lovely opportunity to catch up with friends and neighbours, before heading home to cook the Christmas dinner!

(We also have one amazing Christmas trip planned as a surprise for after Christmas, courtesy of grandparents!!)

I may have a little more money left in the Christmas budget but we’ll have to see how that goes as you never know what you may end up spending for. If you are interested in looking at Christmas spending in another way I have started a series on my facebook page here which, this week, has been focusing on alternative present buying and even a ‘Buy Nothing Christmas’. I plan to continue to post daily on ‘A Simple Christmas’ so follow the Facebook page or my Twitter account for info.

What activities do you have planned for Christmas? Or do you prefer to take a step back and not organise too much at what is a really hectic time of year?

 

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

This week’s Thrifty Finds

 

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

We have now reached Christmas Shopping Frenzy in my corner of the world. Last Monday I had to travel to Bath for a couple of work appointments. I had forgotten that this coincided with the annual Bath Christmas Market. Although the market does bring lots of revenue to the city and – if visited at the right time – gives you that ‘Christmas feeling’ it is still a heaving mass of consumption.

But, despite some planned Christmas shopping, I stuck to what I had to do and resisted any impulse buying. Instead I secured last week’s Thrifty Finds from other sources:

  1. I picked up a couple of packs of ribbons from a second-hand shop in the nearby market town. At only 50p each these will add a festive touch to my gift wrapping

50p ribbons for Christmas 2. Talking of gift wrapping, I started to package some of the presents I had bought (with brand new paper I’m afraid, unlike the previous years’ use of plain brown paper). However I did use last year’s Christmas cards to turn into gift labels.

Re-using Christmas cards via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

3. I forgot to cancel my veg box so have been busily making soups and cakes (not sure this is a Thrifty Find as I have to factor the cost of this into my December food budget). Can you guess what I put in this chocolate cake?

Chocolate courgette cake

4. I made a couple more Facebook sales and sorted through some paperbacks to sell onto the second-hand bookstore in Bath. This has helped to raise some funds for my Christmas budget.

5. At the weekend we had a Big Baking Session and the kids and I made lots of mince pies, gingerbread ad biscuits for gifts. Some of them I’ve attempted to freeze so we can hand out closer to the Christmas break.

Have you started any festive baking yet? What are your favourite recipes?

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

A Simple Christmas series on facebook by secondhand tales

A Simple Christmas series

A Simple Christmas series on facebook by secondhand tales

I’ve started a new daily series on my Facebook page here and thought I would share it on the blog. Daily blogging can be time consuming- although I cherish the interaction with readers and it feels like a genuine community of like minded souls here. But sometimes other formats (Twitter and Facebook) can also work to share and communicate ideas as well.

But enough rambling… I created a series for the month of December featuring daily posts that will make us rethink the busy-ness of Christmas.I think many of us look on the upcoming festive season as a time of wonder and dread. Wonder at the joyful and exciting time of sharing special experiences with friends and family, and the general feeling of goodwill to all. Yet we also feel dread at the mass consumerism that surrounds us. From Black Friday to Boxing Day sales, and much more in between, Christmas can become a time of frenzy, consumption and debt.

But whatever your feelings at this time of year I wanted to create a little ‘time out’ where, every day, I will post a link to an inspirational website, thoughtful blog post, or my own ramblings, to share another view of the festive season. If you get the chance do pop over to my Facebook page (or follow me on Twitter where I will post a link to the daily thought). Please add any comments or your own links so that we can share our vision of a Simple Christmas together

Second hand tales Facebook page

PS here’s a link to today’s post on Slowing Down at Christmas by the minimalist mom: http://www.theminimalistmom.com/2011/12/one-simple-thing-slow-down/

Tomorrow I will be posting a link to Small Business Saturday.

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

This week’s Thrifty Finds

 

This Week's Thrifty Finds via secondhandtales.wordpress.comHow are you getting on with your Thrifty Finds? With the festive season drawing ever closer are there some things you are choosing to buy, or not buy?

Did you shop last Friday or did you boycott the shops on Black Friday? I have to say I did buy something on Black Friday but it was a couple of birthday presents and I picked them up from the local independent bookshop. I did need to go to Argos, as well, but was determined not to do this on Friday and even changed my plans so that I went on Saturday – stupid I know but I really didn’t want to be doing my Christmas shopping on that day!

Anyway these are last weeks Thrifty Finds:

  1. We invited my mother-in-law for a meal to celebrate her birthday. The younger two girls made a cake for her (from scratch, I was very impressed as they’re only 8 and 10). I also made a couple of quiches, using pastry scraps that I had previously frozen. We also had enough food left over for a meal the next day.
  2. Over the festive season we plan a few family outings. These normally include a theatre or cinema trip. We all wanted to see the new film ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’.  So I booked  tickets for our local cinema which I really try to support. Plus they were almost half the price of the Odeon chain. We all enjoyed the film.
  3. While I didn’t go to Argos on Black Friday I did take advantage of a gift voucher we had and picked up a Christmas present for one of my daughters.
  4. I finally defrosted my freezer (having not done it for two years!). The freezer  is nearly 20 years old but still works. However the top level has been frozen up for a while. By defrosting and cleaning it I now have more space to store food, and hopefully it will be more energy efficient.
  5. Finally, not a Thrifty Find I’m afraid. My online supermarket delivery, due for Friday night, broke down! So it didn’t arrive until the next morning. As I had meal planned from Friday we had absolutely nothing in the (newly defrosted) freezer or cupboards. I’m afraid I had to pick up an easy to make dinner from the local corner shop, which wasn’t part of the budget😦

 

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

This week’s Thrifty Finds

 

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

This past week was a busy one as I worked a lot. However I still have a few Thrifty Finds to write about:

And it would be great if you could share your Thrifty Finds too.

 

  1. More apples! I think I’m the only person helping myself to the wheelbarrow of apples on the walk to school. By the end of the week they were getting quite wet and, on Friday,  covered in snow! However I managed to make an apple cake and freeze another batch of apple sauce.

2. I donated some books to my work’s Book Swap, having taken some for myself the previous week.

3. I met friends for a lovely vegan lunch in Bath, browsed the charity shops and started Christmas shopping but kept very strictly to my plan. No impulse buys at all

4. Some local artists in our village put on an exhibition and fair. I bought a small wooden bowl for a friend and some beautiful birthday and Christmas cards. Not necessarily cheap but supporting the amazing talented people we have in our village!

Colerne artists cards

 

5. I do a monthly food shop online, and supplement it with buying veg and fruit from the greengrocers or veg box, a doorstep milk delivery and eggs from our village shop. By now we are running low as we approach the end of the month. While we will get another supermarket delivery by the end of this week I spent some time last week baking and making use of store cupboard ingredients to get us through i.e. Homemade bread, cakes and muffins, homemade hummus etc.

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

Saving for Christmas Part Two

Saving for Christmas….Part Two

Saving for Christmas Part Two

In my previous post here I talked about how I was going to fund Christmas this year. In this post I wanted to talk more about what I plan to spend the money on – and a couple of issues I’m struggling with.

Presents

simple christmas wrapping

Who am I buying for?

Over the past few years we have gradually reduced the number of people whom we buy presents for. The shopping list now consists of:

our children,

nephews and niece,

our parents,

and a couple of aunts, uncles and cousins.

We decided a while ago not to buy presents for our siblings (and vice versa). Depending on what money is left in the budget, my husband and I tend to buy just a small item for each other – or put the money towards a shared item.

I am struggling with buying presents for aunts, uncles and cousins (6 in total) whom I haven’t seen for years. So, this year, I’m going to send a card instead, stating that we don’t need presents and a donation to charity would be wonderful instead.

I’m also putting a call out to a couple of close friends/children’s godparents  to suggest we only buy birthday presents and forego the gift giving at Christmas. My children don’t really need that many presents anyway. Speaking of which, we have asked one set of grandparents to buy an experience for the girls this year. These grandparents, generous though they are, do buy a lot of throwaway plastic for the kids. But paying for the amazing day out (which I daren’t share with you yet!) will be far more memorable.

The other issue I am struggling with is Teacher’s Thankyou presents. I have written here and here on my past experiences. It is really nice to thank teaching staff for all that they do for my daughters but the shopping list can really grow. I’m thinking of getting the girls to make something simple this year, but still need to budget for materials.

homemade for Christmas: bath salts

 

Where am I getting the presents from?

This is a hard one…I mentioned in my previous post I have collected points from the Quidco/cashback site. While it is not as much as I previously thought the amount I will have for Christmas will be £73.82, which will help to buy a few presents.I can claim this as cash, Paypal credit or… gain a 5% increase by transferring to Amazon gift vouchers.

Last year I didn’t use Amazon at all for Christmas presents but I’m not sure that I can afford to do that this year. I suspect I will give in to the higher financial reward of taking my Quidco vouchers as Amazon credit instead😦

However I am also determined to spend some of my money locally and, as always, shop second-hand for some of the Christmas gifts. I met a lovely lady a couple of months ago who said she was determined to only buy presents from local sellers and second-hand sources.

I’ve already started by buying one small decoration from a great local craft fair that happens every month. I also picked up a couple of Christmas cards from an exhibition held in our village by resident artists.

Food and Drink

 

credit: katielips

Now this category can really mount up. While I have a strict budget for presents I tend to lose it a bit when it comes to food and drink. This year we are eating at my parents so that should reduce some of the food bill. We do tend to meal plan over the Christmas season. However it’s the sneaky extras that always get us. This year I’m going to stick to:

my usual online supermarket delivery (so that I can’t be tempted by the whole supermarket experience),

order an organic veg box

Pick up a couple of pieces of meat from the local butcher.

I’ve also got a few vouchers that I can buy our Christmas wine with as well.

I’ll keep you updated on what I actually spend and I will also write another post on how we plan to enjoy Christmas as a family – without spending too much!

How is your Christmas planning going? Do you try to shop local or, like me this year, end up using Amazon?

 

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

Thrifty Finds

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

Did you have any Thrifty Finds this past week? Or was there something you didn’t buy – and feel proud because of that? I really feel we should celebrate those things we choose not to purchase as well, especially as it gets closer to the season of mass consumption.

This past week my Thrifty Finds were:

  1. A neighbour had a huge wheelbarrow of apples to give away. I helped myself to a few and made some more stewed apple to freeze (I now have a few containers of apple and blackberry frozen for later use)
  2. I started my pre-Christmas de-cluttering and put some unwanted clothing up for sale on a local facebook site.
  3. I also donated another bag of clothing to the clothing bank at school.
  4. I picked up a couple of books I’ve wanted to read for ages from the book swap at work (only just noticed they’ve both got ‘life’ in them!)

Free books via book swap from secondhandtales.wordpress.com

5. We really needed some new picture frames as a couple of old ones had broken. I picked a couple up from the Save the Children shop for 50p each. At last we can frame a beautiful picture that a friend gave us eighteen months ago!

Second hand picture frame via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

 

What were your Thrifty Finds for the past week?

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