Friday, 24 January 2014

New Years... New Dress?

One of the best things about festive or special occasions, is choosing your outfit, although at the same time, it can be the most difficult and frustrating choice a girl could make. We may have previously decided what bag we're using or the colour of our nail varnish, so have to revolve our whole outfit around that. But we also couldn't possibly wear anything similar to anyone else. In the eyes' of a man... we're crazy.
Being the bargain hunter I am and having only charity shops and car boots as my sanctum, it is just that little bit harder to find ''that specific something''. I know men always say, 'you don't need another new dress, just wear what you wore before'. Which seems sensible but how horrifying for us to repulse their idea of being seen in a dress you last wore to a big occasion that everyone saw you in. Like we're not a celebrity or something... but they don't need to point out the obvious. Every girl wants to walk into a room and feel famous.
So towards the end of last year and the build up to Christmas, I had in mind something special for Christmas day, bearing in mind I had no income and the little money I was earning from my small massage business, wasn't stretching far enough. I went out shopping with the Mother in Canterbury, for a morning coffee and almond croissant-the usual, then a browse through the shops helping mum finish her Christmas shopping. One shop I rarely buy from but love to browse the sale rails is Miss Selfridges. It's one of those shops you find a rare gem in. I was rummaging around the sale dresses and found a gorgeous coral and lilac striped dress in a thin cotton material, quite see through. luckily I had a nude slip at home to wear underneath. I thought it was going to be over priced even for the sale, but it was a grand total of just £7 and my mother kindly treated me as an early Christmas present. Such a lucky girl.

My New Years dress is an entirely different story. Once again, browsing through the local carboot, searching for that one thing to jump out at me, I came across two girls, vintage looking, squat at the end of their boot with a large clothes rails to the side of them. I sieved through the items like I was taking my time reading a good book and came across a lovely black dress, another LBD to my collection. It was open at the back to allow bearing of the skin, with a halter style front and it was longer at the back creating a floaty weightlessness to the skirt, a style I really liked. The dress still had the tags on and strangely enough it was originally from Miss Selfridges like my Christmas dress. The girl only wanted £5 for it, but at the time, having recently lost my job, I couldn't justify buying it. I told my boyfriend about it when I later bumped into him scrounging through tools, a true mechanic at heart. Anyway, he wanted to see it and then the next thing I knew he was buying it, another little treat for me. Money well spent I say though. I couldn't ask for a more perfect boyfriend, almost 5 years later and the love is still sparkling...... Alright, enough of the cheese.

So, basically, hunt through your local charity shops and never knock a carboot. There are great bargains to be had!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Christmas Crafting

One of the best parts of the build up to Christmas, is the crafting, baking and making involved. In my previous post I stated that handmade gifts, when half hearted, aren't always perfectly delivered as shown in the glossy magazines. However, I discovered a unique and fun way to hand over my family and friends gifts without having to go out and buy boxes or bags to finish off the somewhat passable wrapping. Without having to go out purchasing fabric, or even salvaging for cut offs in charity shops, I used lots of material my Nona had given to me and recycled old fabrics, already saving myself the pennies. I decided to make Christmas Stockings which I could use as gift bags and also it was an extra little present, something they could keep and use for decoration next year or even to replace their own Christmas Stocking.
 All I had to do, was; 
1: Draw around my own stocking as a template on the fabric of choice creating 2 sides. Then 2 pieces of plain fabric for the inner layer, (however if you want a stronger, thicker stocking then you can use wadding). 
2; Before pinning together, I stitched the pattern or buttons onto the outer fabric so the stitching would not be seen on the inside.
3; I could then pin the inner and outer piece's of fabric together making sure they were opposite to sew together. After, trim away any excess material and frays.
4: Once each side was stitched to the inner fabrics, I could then sew the two sides together inside out, folding out after to have a complete stocking.

I must admit, I thought they looked great. The buttons and detail certainly made them very attractive and they almost had a chic style. So cheap and easy, I shall certainly be doing this again in the future. 

Another great gift idea, if you have a slow cooker, is make some chutney. I recycled old jam jars and managed to get a preserving jam/chutney kit from Tkmax for just 99p in the clearance. Bargain! I was given a wonderful Tomato and Garlic chutney recipe that I tried once before and it was spectacular, beginners luck I was thinking. But I decided to try it again as homemade chutney makes for a wonderful Christmas gift. The best time to go and shop for the ingredients is, what I like to call, a late night super market sweep around 6-7pm to get the clearance items. You would be surprised the little prices you pay. Once made, jarred,  labelled, and decorated with ribbon or pretty string tied in a bow, you have yourself a wonderful, tasty gift. 

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

A Charitable Christmas

Christmas, a crazy, busy time of year when people become automatically altered to a higher speed level, Towns and Cities become covered in twinkly lights, the unnatural habitat of trees becoming an indoor feature decorated in sparkly items, tinsel, lights and topped with a fairy or a golden star... in our families case, both. A fairy hanging off the tip of the star, nothing being done half hearted. However, this year, being let go from my company back in October, I found it hard to get together money for my Christmas shopping. Having normally done all my shopping by November at the latest, I certainly wasn't prepared for this. I had to think of something spectacular to achieve this year for my Christmas shopping. Home made items are always a great idea, but depending on the quality, most things never look as the image itself in the magazine, they aren't always appreciated, nay, worth the time. A case of Super Scrimping was in the line up.
Being a great bargain hunter, in charity shops and car boots, this became my solitude of Christmas shopping. I had all the time in the world to browse all the usual charity shops and the local carboot, which fortunately for me, carries on until end of November before they open up the car park on Sundays for those eager christmas shoppers. You would be surprised what you could pass on as gifts from what people assume is all used, second hand items. This is where my imagination leads before my eyes.

Luckily for me, back in September I qualified in Body Massage and set myself up at home to have a hobby on the side. It has been something I've always wanted to do and been really interested in. It was also my intention to have something to do in the future if my Partner has to move around due to work or I become a house wife... just thinking ahead. It was always a back up, incase I was ever unemployed again and needed a little extra cash here and there to help get by. I bought a bargain professional reflexology/massage couch from a friends mother for just £100, towels, paper roll, oils etc...I was ready to go. This certainly helped me towards my Christmas shopping and the first two little munchkins were the most important to buy for... my Niece and Nephew.

Walking around the Canterbury carboot, I struggled to find any single present worth giving. I had an idea of hampers to give to a few family relatives but nothing was jumping out at me. I came across this one stall where there seemed to be a few great little items. A pair of security scissors or herb scissors, depending on what you need them for, stood out to me and immediately I thought of a Herb Garden Hamper for my Father. I also spotted a hangover ice pack and for a joke, bought it for my mum. So I decided to make my mum a Pamper Hamper.
Having accumulated all the beauty products, candles, and bargain buys in Boots and clearance items at Tkmaxx, I finally filled a box of goodies for my Mother. All unused and unopened items I may add. For my dad, I proudly got together all sorts of garden items from lovely porcelain pots at a bargain of £1 for 3 to jardin hand soap, 3 pairs of garden gloves, 3 packets of 6 assorted herb seeds and vegetable seeds for just £4 and many more other items, I put together a wonderful little hamper. My favorite item in the hamper was a clever idea of recycling broken pieces of china. A lady in Hythe makes herb labels for plant pots from broken plates (for just £6) which make a wonderful gift and a clever recycling tip.
All in all, with help from my boyfriend, I set a challenge of charity shopping for Christmas presents, scrimping for great deals and I believe I succeeded massively. Not all gifts were 'second hand'. I was given a pair of shoes from next that still had the tags on. Unfortunately they did not fit me and due to my unemployed state, I  returned them to the store and exchanged them for a beautiful sparkly top for my sister. Cheeky but clever.
I think after all the savings I made this year, or rather the little amount of money I spent as I had no money coming in to save, this may be my future Christmas shopping routine and why not!? It worked well for me. I challenge everyone else reading this to next time give this ago. You'll be amazed.