Thrifty Finds

This week’s Thrifty Finds (16-22 Jan)

 

This Week's Thrifty Finds via secondhandtales.wordpress.comSo now that I’m getting into a new working pattern my week is starting to look rather different. One of the biggest changes is being in Bath three times a week and having a lunch break. If I’m not careful I will be trawling charity shops a lot and my Thrifty Finds may grow ….

This past week, though, I was still quite restrained :

  1. I’ve had mixed fortunes  dealing with food waste this past week. I managed to use up the last of the Christmas mincemeat by adding it to a fruit cake. I also used up the water which I had kept after cooking some beetroots. I added it to some homemade playdough for the kids – which turned into a cool red colour.

homemade playdough made with natural beetroot dye

But, if I’m honest, I’m still struggling with the veg and fruit box and not using all the ingredients. I had to throw away a few mouldy oranges and a lot of lettuce 😦

2. I picked up a couple of books on Slow Living/Living intentionally at the library. I realised I hadn’t got a book from the library for well over a month. It was nice to have time to browse the shelves and, now my kids are older, I don’t have to head straight for the children’s corner.

library books as part of Thrifty Finds series on seoncdhandtales.wordpress.com

3. I finally received that refund for the delayed train last month (We were stuck on a train outside Sevenoaks station for over an hour!)

4. I went to a free lunchtime talk at Bath Guildhall. It was about the 50th anniversary of Bath Record Office. As part of my job I will be promoting this great service.

5. I’m struggling at the moment with the free coffee from Waitrose that I pick up every morning when I’m at work. I know I shouldn’t struggle with free coffee but I do wonder how it affects trade in the other local coffee shops. I’m currently planning a post on this. In the meantime I take my trusty re-usable coffee cup (and have already had a few conversations with people about it!). I also received double stamps on my loyalty card from another coffee shop because I brought a reusable cup!

Reusable bamboo coffee cup

And finally… not a Thrifty Find at all but I wanted to say that I marked last Friday by meeting up with the lovely Deborah from The Magic Jug blog. She had been in town earlier to help with the ‘Build Bridges Not Walls’ banner that had been draped over Bath’s historic Pulteney Bridge – to mark Trump’s inauguration  (see here). It’s always so lovely when you meet up with someone whose words you read on a regular basis. And last Friday it was even nicer to meet up with a similar minded person. I also watched and read all the coverage on the Women’s Marches which stirred my feminist soul and made me feel I really had to do something.

 

princess-leia via ladieswhodesign.com

You can download this poster via womenwhodesign website here

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Thrifty Finds

This week’s Thrifty Finds (8-15 Jan)

 

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

This past week has been fairly quiet (well almost…)

  1. I cooked a big Sunday roast and made use of some of the stewed apples I had frozen from the Autumn.

Food for free - Second Hand Tales

2. I continued with my post-Christmas clear out and filled another bag for the school jumble sale.

3. My two younger girls share a bedroom which is never quite warm enough. I moved around some furniture which made the area by their radiator a lot clearer. This really improved the flow of warm air and their bedroom is far more comfortable. I was really pleased with this very simple act.

4. I received some  great suggestions about my incomplete jigsaw puzzle, both on the blog and my facebook page. I have decided to keep the pieces and make some children’s birthday cards with them.

5. Finally, on Saturday night we threw our annual 70s, 80s and 90s party. It’s a very cheap affair: we book the skittle alley at the local pub (£35) and make up a great playlist on Spotify. Everyone dresses up and dances until 2am (!). Last year I wore a great 70s flared jumpsuit here but this year I spent a total of £2 on a pair of charity shop stilettoes and borrowed some dungarees from a friend.

charity shop stilettoes

 

Did you have any Thrifty Finds for the past week?

You can also share your Thrifty Finds on my facebook page, or use #thriftyfinds on 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.
(hmm didn’t quite happen – our youngest one was sick on Sunday morning so we came straight home. However it did give us time at home to put up the tree and get the decorations out)

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?

 

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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Thrifty Finds

This Week’s Thrifty Finds

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

welcome! week four’s Thrifty Finds were quite conservative in comparison to the previous weeks’.

Autumn leaves from secondhandtales.wordpress.com

1. We had a low key half term holiday which included getting crafty with some ‘free’ natural resources, such as conkers and leaves.

Thrifty Finds: decorating conkers via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

 

2. I was given a winter coat which is perfect for my middle child to wear.

3. In return I donated some jewellery that had been given to me by a friend.

4. We didn’t do much charity shop shopping. We are still searching for Seasons 3-7 of Friends and, despite trawling the shops, could only find Series 10 (in nearly every charity shop we stepped into!). However one of my daughters picked up a bargain Harry Potter cloak for just £3 (and she is a big Harry Potter fan!). Halloween costume sorted!

Second hand Harry Potter robe

 

5. We made use of our three year season pass for the Roman Baths and Fashion Museum in Bath, and toured the new exhibition ‘History of Fashion in 100 objects’

what were your Thrifty Finds this past week? Did you do any crafty activities with little ones?

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

Thrifty Finds

This week’s Thrifty Finds….and closure

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

Welcome to my third week of Thrifty Finds. I would love to hear about any of your Thrifty Finds over the past week – or things you didn’t buy (I hope you were more restrained than me in buying that £15 candle!)

This past week’s Thrifty Finds started with a rather large purchase. It came second-hand and was bought for a relative good price. It also ends a six week episode in our lives which has been rather scary…..

  1. Last weekend we purchased a new (to us) car. At the beginning of September my husband was involved in a car accident. Thankfully, he wasn’t badly injured but the car was a write off. As the other party admitted full liability the insurance process has actually been quite quick (or so I’m told as neither of us have ever been involved in something like this before). Of course, the payment didn’t match what the car was worth to us. Thankfully, we had some rainy day savings which we have had to dip into to fund the new car. Since the accident my husband has been driving a hire car and we only had one day without a car at all. This is something we’re used to (see my post here about not having regular use of a car). But it was still slightly unnerving to not know when we were going to get another car. In the end, a mechanic friend picked up a good quality car in an auction and delivered it to us last week. It’s the same make as our old car, but just slightly younger. The accident taught me three things: 1) you never know what’s going to happen to you; 2) how amazing my husband was throughout the incident, and how wonderful friends and neighbours were to us; 3) thank goodness for (some) rainy day savings. The purchase of the car has now (hopefully) bought closure to this awful period in our lives.

 

All my other Thrifty Finds seem quite small in comparison but..

2. I made my own blackberry cordial which I am rather proud of:

blackberry cordial

3.  We resisted to urge to get fish & chips on one evening, and instead cooked at home. I continued to bake bread and even had a go at making a fruit cake in the breadmaker, which turned out well.

Fruit cake made in breadmaker: Thrifty Finds from secondhandtales.wordpress.com

4. I went to a fundraising coffee morning and picked up a wonderful raspberry and coconut cake for £2.

5. I mended an item of child’s underwear, rather than throwing it away – which would have been far easier.

mending

 

What were your Thrifty Finds for the past week?

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Upcycled garden sheds

 

garden shed, made from two old sheds and fence panel

My very clever husband has spent the last few days building four sheds for our garden. Like our house, our garden is very small (we only have one garden as the back of our house is joined onto another). With three growing children we really need to maximise the space we have and so this summer we have lots of plans.

First of all we/he removed the three old sheds that were taking up too much space in the garden. We had a good sort out and recycled, freecycled and threw away stuff that we no longer needed (a liberating experience). He then made use of the old sheds, as well as an old fence panel from a friend, and made these four storage areas:

upcycled garden sheds

(l-r: garden shed for tools etc, wood store, closed bin shed, lift up storage chest for outdoor games and chairs)

The doors on the left hand and two far right sheds were taken from our old sheds. Some of the panelling was reconstructed from the old fence panel. We did buy some new material from B&Q, but found that we didn’t need as much of it after all.

I’m really pleased with the shed for the bin.

bin shed

Having only one garden we struggle with where to store our bins. In fact, this venture has forced me to contact the council and get rid of our large plastic & cardboard recycling bin. We only put it out for collection once a month/every six weeks so we have asked for a replacement canvas bag that will be a lot easier to store.

I have also discovered that I quite like organising sheds (?!) and have enjoyed decluttering and then re-ordering the tool shed.

shed

The location of the sheds against the house wall has freed up some much needed space. We now have a pleasant area in which to sit and the sheds have been relocated to a far more practical location.

 

upcycled sheds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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