Freebies From 2020 So Far

It has been SO long since I did a freebies haul post. When I first started blogging on a very relaxed basis back in 2018 I’d post one of these a month with all the items I managed to get in my haul. I’ve decided to pop together a post of the freebies I’ve collected so far this year (that I can remember!). Truth be told I haven’t been as on it with my freebie claims in 2020 due to having a very hectic start to the year. I hope to be back to end-of-the-month haul posts soon but due to lockdown I’m definitely claiming less than usual as in store obviously isn’t really an option. I’ve started to post freebies as I get them on my new Instagram account – forever.saving.for.a.rainy.day

Bloo Toilet Block – not the most exciting! But as far as free things go I’m open to nice smelling cleaning products that arrive through my letter box. I got this from a sponsored social media advert with SoPost.

Calvin Klein Everyone Perfume – again a sponsored Facebook ad in collaboration with SoPost.

Eucerin Anti Pigment Moisturiser – from a Superdrug online delivery. I was really impressed with this, the item I ordered was very similar to this product but out of stock, they sent this sample whilst giving me a refund. Definitely better than nothing!

The Body Shop Hemp Hand Cream – I filled out a form from one of their social media posts which sent me an email to show in store to redeem a freebie. This has been a total life saver with all the recent hand washing.

Lancome Perfume – from the Debenhams Beauty Club. I’ve been really struggling to get these as in London the freebies disappear in the blink of an eye!

Smashbox Photofinish Primer – Again from a sponsored social media advert with SoPost

Deliciously Ella Chocolate Cups – from a sponsored Instagram story

Boots Magazines – free for Advantage Card holders to pick up in store every couple of months

3 months of free unlimited minutes from O2 – which was announced to all customers once lockdown started to enable us to keep in touch better which I thought was really lovely.

Phase Eight Dress – I purchased a £120 dress for £7.99 in supposedly “immaculate” preloved condition. When it showed up it had a small stain on it, tiny hole in the top and pet hair across the bottom. I complained to the seller that I’d been misled and was immediately given a full refund. 2 rounds of stain spray later in my washing machine and a quick stitch job and it’s now wearable.

Avon Eve Perfume – again a sponsored social media post.

La Mer Eye Cream – another SoPost offer via a promoted advert through Elle magazine. The 3ml sample is worth over £30 and arrived within a week of ordering which was very exciting.

La Mer eye cream freebie worth £36

Lenor Scent Booster – I finally signed up to Super Savvy Me (part of P&G) and was instantly offered a free sample sachet of scent booster for my laundry which will definitely be used with my bedding!

I’ve heard about Shopmium but as I only live near small express supermarkets I’ve yet to give it a try as I can’t imagine I’ll be able to redeem very much. I plan to look into this for the future.

If you’ve any tips for picking up freebies I’d love to hear them in the comments!

How To Save Money When Online Shopping

Truth be told I don’t shop online very much. Instead I prefer to pick up items in stores when I need a few bits. I find this more enjoyable, I use my own bags so it saves shipping materials and it’s easier to see exactly what you’re getting. However; given the current lockdown situation I’ve recently been having to purchase my usual items online when I’ve run out and nipping to the shops isn’t possible so I thought I’d throw together a post on how to save money when shopping online. Some are very obvious whereas others are less so!

  • Browse sales / clearance first – and some sites you wouldn’t expect have online sales like Superdrug with generous reductions.
  • Buy items out of season – e.g a winter coat in the summer. I once got a long wool double breasted United Colours of Benetton coat for £40 new by buying it in the Spring from an outlet.
  • Online outlets – e.g TK Maxx or genuine eBay outlets for stores like Joules, Superdry, Office, Skechers, Jigsaw and many more all with up to 60% off.
  • Try preloved for cheaper clothes options – I’ve found items on eBay in “worn once” condition for around £7 instead of £50 and they’ve shown up immaculate. It’s luck of the draw but if you do your research / read full descriptions / ask for more details it works brilliantly.
  • Always search for discount codes – there’s almost always one available for either a % off or free shipping. 9/10 by searching ” ‘store name’ discount code” I manage to make extra savings.
  • Sign up for newsletters as most stores will offer you an introductory discount and if you choose, you then then unsubscribe straight after checkout. Recently I managed to get 10% off Liberty with free shipping by signing up.
  • Check for loyalty offers e.g if you sign up to Superdrug’s Beauty Card you get free shipping on all orders over £10 whereas for regular customers its higher.
  • Search around as some sites will have your item cheaper than others – I’ve saved over £30 on one item by doing this.
  • Wait for free shipping to save making your spend any more than it has to be.
  • Join a cashback site like Quidco or Topcashback to get money back on your purchases. The refunds are never 100% guaranteed but if you’re going to make the spend anyway you may as well try to redeem some of your money back. Sometimes offers will come through like £2 cashback on any £5 spend within 24 hours too.
  • Look out for strange anomalies for example – I fell in love with a winter coat last November and it was the only one not reduced in the store’s Boxing Day sale. I knew it would have to be reduced at some point in order for them to shift the stock as very few people would buy a full price winter coat in the spring / summer. I signed up for the store’s newsletter to keep an eye on further discount announcements and was then able to purchase it for nearly half the price with free shipping.

If you sell items on eBay when having clear outs its worth keeping hold of all your bags, bubble wrap etc from online deliveries as you can reuse these to save you money. I tend to keep the ones from deliveries at work to help with this also.

If you have any other tips please let me know in the comments!

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Beauty Hacks That Save You Money & Getting The Most Out Of Your “Empty” Toiletries

A few years ago I drastically reduced the number of clothes I bought and then made the decision to switch to buying preloved whenever possible. By doing so I hugely cut the amount of money my wardrobe cost me. I then began looking into ways to save on other big expenses such as beauty and toiletries. I started by claiming freebies wherever possible. A post reviewing the benefits of 2 free beauty club subscriptions can be found here and how to make the most of your free samples can be found here. I’ve also previously written about the different merits of high street shops (and their loyalty schemes) for these items which can be found here.

Before You Buy

  • Read reviews online – Boots.com tend to have the most and you can filter by age etc.
  • Web Chat Consultations are great to quickly speak to experts about if a product is suitable for you. I tend to do this after reading reviews. I’ve seen lots of websites with these including La Roche Posay, Olay, Clinique and Estee Lauder.

Toiletries & Skin Care

  • Buy the big size of products you know and love as they work out much cheap per ml. For example – one of my favourite cleansers is £12.50 for 200ml or £18.50 for 400ml – a saving of £6.50 if bought full price. The big bottle lasts me a year (see tips further down about this…) and I always buy it on promotion. Checking £/p per ml is a great way to work out the best deal.
  • Cut open “empty” tubes – if you chop the top 1/3rd off a tube of product you can then poke this back on as a “lid”. I do this with face moisturisers, hand creams, tooth pastes, body lotions, hair conditioner etc. Bread knives are great to chop up tough plastic if scissors can’t cut it!
  • For “empty” shampoo bottles if you remove the lid, quickly hold it in the water stream then swirl it about you can usually get another couple of successful uses out of them particularly if the bottles are odd shapes around the lid. This has the add bonus of meaning your bottles are then clean for recycling.
  • Write date of purchase on a new product using a marker pen. I find this helps me see how long a product lasts to help work out if it’s worth the price and buying again. For example, I once bought a £12.50 for 15ml blemish corrector which seemed pricey but it ended up lasting me a year even when used regularly to help keep acne at bay. All told it was a great product and cost me just over £1 a month so it made sense to purchase again.

Make Up

  • “Empty” lipsticks can go on for months longer if you use a lip brush to get at the product once it’s impossible to apply straight from the bullet. Travel lipbrushes are available with lids / retractable brush heads so won’t make a mess on the go. I find lip brushes keep the colour on for longer for me anyway so don’t mind doing this. If cared for and cleaned the brushes last years.
  • Mixing a little of your foundation with moisturiser works as a BB Cream if you want lighter coverage without having to buy another product. It can make the product paler depending on the moisturiser used – I find this super handy in the winter when I’m pastier!
  • Use a small make up brush to get foundation out of an empty glass bottle when you can no longer shake it out. This works really nicely with my Double Wear foundation. Another option is scraping as much product out in one go as possible and putting in into a small pot with screw lid and using from there. You can use clean lolly sticks, a spoon handle, whatever works for this but it’s best done in a sink as it can get messy!

If you have any other tips please let me know in the comments.

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Thrifty Healthy Quick Meal Hacks For People Who Aren’t Crazy About Cooking

I’m a convenience cook. I’m too cheap for takeaways and never had them growing up meaning I rely on cooking meals for myself that take 30 mins or less with minimal hassle and basic ingredients that are fairly healthy. Prior to lockdown I’d eat out at most twice a week and cook every other day but now am in the kitchen 7 nights a week. I know that some people swear by meal planning to save money but I’ve never been a fan as I don’t know what I’ll fancy a week ahead and in this day and age its hard to know what I can find in local shops. I also base meals around yellow stickered discount options after food shopping and you never know that you might find. With that in mind I thought I’d share some of my meal hacks which require little time or effort, nothing fancy (ingredients or equipment) and are frugal. Some also have the convenience benefit of saving time in the future.

I try to always focus healthy meals around basic, decent quality ingredients that I’ll use all of to avoid wasting food and money. I like to make the most of what I buy e.g. using honey in stir fries, with yoghurt and granola or even in tea. Long lasting food products are a massive staple for me in all areas and I always buy own brand / discount ranges. Good examples are tinned beans or fish, cheap cupboard carbs like rice, pasta and egg noodles and freezer basics like frozen peas, green beans and veggie products. Tips on keeping costs down when food shopping can be found here.

  • Batch bake jacket potatoes and freeze – once defrosted they take a couple of minutes in the microwave to reheat and in my opinion taste better than just nuking them in the microwave for the whole cooking process. It’s a handy way to use up spuds which are on the turn and they don’t take up much space. I like doing this with discount potatoes. McCain sell 4 pre-baked frozen jacket for £3 which is bonkers when it’s so easy to do yourself.
  • Batch make a mince ragu and freeze – mince is one of the cheaper meat products available that’s still decent quality and a ragu can be thrown together very simply in about 30 mins. It works with pasta or baked potatoes. I make 4 portions at a time with a £2.50 pack of mince and you can quickly just leave it be on the hob without having to nurse it. I tend to chuck cheap / discounted veg like carrots, frozen peas and an onion in mine along with some stock and tomato puree. Controversial but I use tomato ketchup as I usually have this on hand and don’t like puree enough to use a whole tube.
  • Tinned tuna is a brilliant cheap way to add fish to meals without paying loads for good quality fillets etc. I buy Tesco own brand 4 packs which work out at 70p a can (and they’re dolphin friendly!). I tend to fry onion, frozen green beans and peas before adding a whole can of tinned tuna and dollop of creme fraiche and warming through. Once heated through it’s a great addition to pasta. Adding tinned tuna to cold pasta with sweetcorn, peas, peppers, lettuce and cucumber is my favourite summer salad option. Being tinned it has a really long shelf life which is another huge plus for me as no planning is required.
  • Creme fraiche is one of my favourite multi-taskers for cheaply elevating meals. After cooking the recipe above I tend to have another pasta dish later in the week with grated cheese and creme fraiche stirred through it to make a cheesy sauce. Any left over can be added to mash spuds or eaten with fruit. It’s a great savoury or sweet product.
  • Omelettes require minimal ingredients and are the ultimate quick, easy, healthy meal and eggs have a long shelf life. You just need 2 or 3 eggs, a splash of milk and anything you want to add like cooked meats, cheese or even potato to bulk it out.

Embracing your inner vegetarian can help to save lots of money whilst being more convenient if, like me, you don’t want to plan your meals. I hate relying on remembering to defrost items regularly for meals so love that lots of veggie alternatives can be cooked straight from frozen whilst still being healthy compared to most freezer food meals.

  • Discover Quorn – Quorn pieces were a total game changer for me in the kitchen when I first discovered them as they’re a much cheaper and lazier way to cook healthy meals. 6-7 servings cost £3 for low fat protein that can be cooked from frozen in about 10 mins – so about 50p a meal. They’re super versatile and absorb the flavour of whatever you cook them in so they make great stir fries or curries.
  • Linda McCartney Vegetarian Sausages are another favourite of mine as they too can be cooked from frozen in about 15 mins. I never liked buying cheap sausages and as I only cook for me was always faced with eating them several times in a week or freezing and forgetting to defrost etc. I find it much easier to pick a box of these up on promo to have as an easy staple.
  • Halloumi is a brilliant centre for meals, can be picked up relatively cheaply, and usually has an incredibly long sell by date on it. As it lasts so long it’s a great back up fridge option that cooks very quickly.

If you have any quick, thrifty, healthy meal hacks – particularly when cooking for 1 – please let me know in the comments.

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Bargain Beauty – Garnier Micellar Water – The Make Up Remover Swap That Saved Me A Fortune

For anyone who’s read earlier posts of mine you’ll know I am incredibly particularly about what goes on my face due to having adult acne. With that in mind I’m always thrilled when I find a cheaper product swap that works just as well for me at managing the condition of my skin. More years ago than I care to remember I gave up buying generic drugstore skincare products after finding those targeted for acne prone skin were too harsh and led me to get eczema and the “all natural” gentle solutions did nothing to manage my blemishes. I became pretty paranoid about adverse reactions and was only able to find much more expensive products that ticked the oily / blemish managing box without drying out my skin.

Like many, after a LOT, of trial and error I became a fan of La Roche Posay’s Effaclar range which is formulated especially for acne sufferers whilst being suitable for sensitive skin and many products are brilliant multi- taskers. I started to use La Roche Posay’s Effaclar Micellar Water as my make up remover – it retails for £12.50 for 200ml. I’d always wait for promotions to buy this whenever possible.

About a year ago I was stuck in a very long queue in my local Savers branch and ended up making eye contact with a whole shelf of Garnier Micellar Waters. Having ignored generic high street brands like this for so long after finding them completely ineffective or aggravating I was surprised to see Garnier had launched products for a huge range of skin types and concerns. The most impressive product for me that I saw was the Garnier Micellar Water Combination Skin as is it suitable for oily skin that also suffers from sensitivity. Labels advertise it as perfume free, opthalmologically tested (so safe for eyes), dermatologically tested, mattifying, suitable for sensitive skin and they claim 400ml lasts 200 uses for an RRP of £5.99.

Via labels / claims it matched the La Roche Posay product virtually like for like which prompted me to try it and I’m so glad I did. The gentle product works perfectly for me to thoroughly remove make up whilst controlling oil levels without causing dryness. I can confirm it lasts a really long time. 200 uses divided by my highest average of wearing make up 6 times a week means this lasts me 33 weeks. 2 bottles last over a year and this is typically on offer in Savers for £3.99 for 400ml or £5.99 for 700ml.

The Saving Maths:

  • 200ml of LRP = £12.50
  • so 400ml of LRP = £25
  • 400ml of Garnier = £5.99
  • £25 – £5.99 = £19.01 saving (if based on RRP)
  • £25 – £3.99 = £21.01 saving (if based on Savers price)
A selection of the Garnier Micellar range – (original image)
Catering for combination sensitive / sensitive / dry sensitive / delicate skin

They have a huge range for all skin types as well one one formulated for oily blemish prone skin that isn’t a sensitive formula. I’d say the one I’ve fallen in love with does as good a job for me as Clinique’s Take The Day Off Make Up Remover which carries a hefty price tag of £19 for 125ml that I used prior to the LRP product.

I’m hugely impressed with the Garnier Micellar Water range for it’s thoughtful skin inclusivity, price and longevity. I’m now on about my 4th bottle and have no intention to try another make up remover as long as this is in production! Thank you Garnier for saving me over £20 a year and filling a much needed gap in the market. (Please note – this post was not endorsed by Garnier in any way and I’ve purchased all items myself – I’m just hugely impressed!)

If you have any comments or love this product too please let me know.

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Tips On Savvy Book Buying and Free Reading From An Avid Book Worm

I am a huge reader, I absolutely love books and e-reading does nothing for me. I read very quickly so can never justify buying new books full price for around £8 a pop. Below are some of the ways I’ve saved lots of money over the years when reading or buying books. Please note – growing up I read around 10 books a week borrowed from a library and owned next to none. Over the last 3 years I’ve been collecting favourite titles so tend to buy books I’m familiar with or authors I’ve previously enjoyed. When buying books I don’t tend to gamble on any title for that – instead I borrow “randoms” from a library… When choosing books I pick a random page and read 2 to see if I get on with it, if yes I buy and if not I try again.

Join A Library – It is free to join your local library and anyone who lives, studies or works in the area can join, all you need is proof of address. The average time you can borrow a book for is around 3 weeks, you can set up email reminders to return or renew them and even access free eBooks and audio books. Libraries also offer cheap DVD rental and you can order in and reserve books. It’s definitely worth popping in to see what’s available for you if you like reading, especially in London as I have 2 libraries within 15 min walking distance from my house. Belonging to a smaller library growing up definitely pushed me to read a wider range of novels and pick up titles I would previously have ignored.

Library Withdrawn Book Sales – You don’t even have to be a library member to enjoy these. Every now and again libraries withdraw books to clear space and tend to sell them off very cheap. I once visited a library sale where you could fill a bag full of books for £1 so I picked up 6. There’s usually a good range of reference books, crime novels, romances stories and sometimes children’s fiction.

6 books for £1 from a library withdrawn sale

Visit Charity Shops – The cheapest I’ve ever picked up books in charity shop is 50p each or 3 for £1 which is an absolute steal. I find charity shops are really good for picking up popular books from the last few years. I regularly see series like Fifty Shades, Me Before You, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo etc. The most I’ve paid is £2.50 for a large hard back which had an RRP of £18 so there are some amazing deals to be had.

2nd Hand Book Shops – I seem to end up searching for and visiting a 2nd hand book shop in every new place I visit as they’re a great opportunity to search for particular titles I’ve been after. For about a year I held off ordering 2nd hand books online for as long as possible for the sake of my bank balance and I enjoyed the lottery of what I might find in these shops instead. Most of the second hand stores I’ve visited have different sections for each genre and are usually quite quirky. They tend to be a bit more pricey than charity shops but there’s typically a much bigger choice and I find them a really fun trip out.

Book Swaps – Some cafes including a few branches of Nero I’ve visited have book shelves where it it free to take a book providing you leave one behind. It’s a great way to switch books you weren’t that keen on for something new free of charge.

Book Exchanges – In London I found a second hand book and magazine shop which allows you to trade in unwanted books for either money or a higher value of store credit. Their books are cheap too with some paperbacks at just £1 so by trading in things you wont read again you could easily get replacements without having to spend anything.

WH Smith x O2 Priority – A couple of years ago O2 Priority Moments teamed up with WH Smith to offer a particular title weekly for £1. I used these codes to pick up David Nicholls’ “One Day” and Steig Larsson’s “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” among others. Once this series of offers ended they began offering half price new releases enabling me to pick up a Lisa Gardner crime thriller paperback for £4. As she’s my favourite author I was really excited by this find.

Amazon / eBay

Given that the UK is currently on lockdown and the vast majority of my book collection isn’t with me I resorted to buying some new titles online about a month ago. I stuck with my tradition of buying second hand but didn’t like that it was harder to gauge the condition of the titles as I like my used books to look smart still. I’ve listed both sites here as I actually found cross referencing both websites enabled me to save money. Buying 2 books on eBay with “buy 1 get 1 15% off” deal actually saved me £2 compared to purchasing on Amazon and I only spent £3.98 including postage. Amazon Prime offers free reading of some titles to customers as well as magazines.

Free Magazines

I really enjoying flicking through magazines but never buy them. Living in London it’s usually really easy to collect copies of Time Out, Stylist and others. Boots offer a free glossy to loyalty card holders and Tesco have free magazine with recipes, homeware and style features. Both also have discount coupons in.

If you have any money saving or free reading tips please let me know in the comments.

Save Money and The Planet By Buying Pre-loved – Thrifty Tips on Second Hand Clothes Shopping.

About 2 years ago I discovered the fashion industry is one of the worst offenders for waste being sent to landfill. A quick Google showed some scary statistics of £140 million of garments per year simply being dumped which I think is horrific. Some people are turning their backs on the high street as a result and vowing only to buy preloved wherever possible, I found this admirable and decided to give it a go. I dabbled with charity shopping growing up and now turn to second hand shopping as my first port of call for fashion. I was never a big fan of having huge quantities of cheap poorly made clothes so shunned Primark and now opt for reputable labels in lightly worn condition. This change has saved me a lot of money and I’ve still ended up with items I really wanted. Linked is a post on how I saved over £300 buying 6 items I’d admired full price in stores preloved.

The only major difference for me if that after shopping I tend to give my pre-loved purchased a quick spin in the washing machine before debuting them. Also, probably a good idea during this day and age of global pandemic!

Electronics, Cars, Fashion, Collectibles & More | eBay

eBay is my first port of call when I’m searching for specific items second hand. It’s been my most successful way of adding to my wardrobe over the years whilst spending a fraction of the original RRPs. If you’re clever about your eBay shopping you can find exactly what you’re looking for and some great bargains by buying preloved. I’ve also found that buying reputable brands preloved also means you’ve got a higher chance of being able to sell them on yourself at a reasonable price should you decide to. Here are some of my best tips:

  • Be really specific with your searches Use eBay’s filters to shop by specific sizes, lengths, colour, sleeve type etc. For example when replacing a pair of worn out jeans I searched for exactly the same brand, waist measurement, leg length and style name thus ensuring my new purchase would fit and I’d get exactly what I was looking for. I paid £20.98 for my “new without tags” River Island jeans to be delivered to me instead of £40 in store.
  • Go for brands you trust that fit you. If you know exactly what size dress you take from a certain shop and are seeking a new one this is clearly a great place to start! This tip obviously makes your purchase less of a gamble of will it or won’t it fit. Working out your typical sizes from high quality brands by trying things on in their shops before looking on eBay to buy second hand is helpful.
  • Ask sellers for further photos or measurements. I sometimes ask for measurements and then compare this to an item in my wardrobe to be sure it will fit. If the item is a good brand and price but not hugely photographed I’ve asked for further images in the past.
  • Read the description to make sure items don’t have defects that you’re not prepared to deal with
  • Make offers don’t be afraid to make offers (if an option) or ask sellers if they’re happy to combine postage if you buy multiple items. If you’re polite and not cheeky with really low offers this can result in some great savings.
  • Save searches if you’re looking for something really specific
  • Downloading the app makes it easier to quickly search for something and keep an eye out if you’re looking on a mission for a particular item.
  • Be patient. For some items I’ve really wanted waited a couple of months and others even a year or more but this has made me treasure them so much!

Charity Shops come with a triple bonus – you’re saving money, the planet and raising money for good causes at the same time. They’re like the 2nd hand version of TK Maxx in that its a complete lottery of what you might find which isn’t for everyone but I really enjoy it. A couple of my favourite dresses are gems I found in charity shops, one a vintage Marks and Spencers shift dress for £9 and the other a Ted Baker little black dress for £16. The Ted dress was in fantastic condition, there’s no way I’d have bought it new and it’s a staple wardrobe item – the LBD.

  • Embrace the random and comb through the rails with care
  • Browse a size range e.g. if you’re a 10 try the section 8-12
  • Check items over thoroughly to make sure they aren’t holey, missing buttons, marked etc.
  • Please don’t bargain… I’m aware eBay has a “make an offer” feature where you can undercut the start price of a listing but please remember these stores are raising money for charity so don’t try to haggle – sadly I have witnessed this happening.
  • Look for good labels to make sure you’re getting a quality bargain as opposed to a Primark item close to its RRP but now used.
  • Try things on to make sure they fit properly.

Despite loving 50s and 60s colours, prints and styles I rarely delve into the world of vintage shops, largely because living in London the prices tend to be really high.

If you have any other tips on second hand shopping I’d love to hear them in the comments.

How To Keep Costs Down When Food Shopping

Life is very surreal at the moment due to the corona virus pandemic. I’ve returned to blogging as a therapeutic creative outlet whilst being on furlough but can’t help but feel a lot of posts I want to write about beauty and lifestyle savings could really be better timed. My only routine spend at the moment is on food and this has definitely risen in the last few weeks where I’ve bought more treats to have something to look forward to. I thought now would be a good time to share some notes on how I save money whilst buying food.

Prior to the virus outbreak I’d planned to do my first online supermarket order of long lasting cupboard essentials as I can only carry so much food myself each week. My local shops are also very small with limited choice and also pricier. In the last couple of days I finally managed to get an online delivery slot at 8pm for 10 days’ time for £3.50. Considering I’d have to pay £3 on public transport to get to my nearest big shop and then struggle carrying it home I’m over the moon with this. I had to spend £40 to avoid a £4 extra charge so decided to stock up on long lasting, heavy cupboard and freezer essentials mostly from own brand / discount ranges. I estimate I won’t need to buy anything but fresh food for at least a month and some items will last me twice as long.

Tips For Food Shopping

  • Consider an online delivery for long lasting goods / cupboard essentials / heavy items. Cheap slots can be the same price as public transport fares.
  • Take your own bags to save 10p per carrier and the environment. If you buy 3 bags each week this adds up to over £15 that you could be saving as well as reducing plastic waste.
  • Join loyalty schemes with supermarkets you visit regularly e.g Tesco Clubcard where you can convert the points to restaurant vouchers. I also collect Nectar points with Sainsbury (and other stores) and you can redeem these on your food shopping. You also get vouchers based on your spends for extra points or money off coupons.
  • Co Op offer 10% student discount for NUS/Totum card holders (although they aren’t the cheapest store by far)
  • Always visit the discount section and check what can be frozen.
  • Buy own brand and look for supermarket discount ranges. I typically get spaghetti packs for 20p by buying these.
  • Browse international isles for cheap supplies like tinned tomatoes
  • Bulk buy things you regularly eat like large pasta or rice bags.
  • Aldi / Lidl are great for low cost food options if local to you. Their cooked meats, fruit and vegetables I find to be much cheaper than elsewhere and good quality.
  • London local fruit markets can be great for cheap produce as everything in a bowl is £1 e.g. 13 kiwis. Items don’t always last as long but if you’re happy to cook and batch freeze this isn’t a problem.
  • Poundland is great for cereal bars, branded tea bags and dried fruit
  • Consider vegetarian dinners using products like Quorn as these require no meal prep, are healthy, can be cooked from from frozen for quick dinners and are cheaper than meat or fish. I’m a huge fan of Quorn pieces for curries and stir fries.
  • Tinned or frozen fruit and veg can be more cost effective and tinned fruit is great for smoothies.

At Home Tips

  • Leftovers make great lunches for the next day
  • Make the most of your freezer. 8p loaves of bread can be toasted from frozen for breakfasts and home baked potatoes can be frozen and reheated in the microwave. I’ve even frozen yoghurts with plastic spoons stabbed through the lids to make ice lollies a few days before their sell by.
  • Old veg make great soups
  • Old / bruised fruit can be blitzed into smoothies. Overripe bananas make for tasty banana bread.

If you have any tips on saving money on food shopping please let me know in the comments.

Home Decor – Personalising A Rented Room On A Budget

Given that I’m currently indoors on lockdown and becoming ever more familiar with the four walls of my bedroom I thought now would be a good time to write a post on how I’ve personalised rented rooms whilst saving money within house shares over the years. I always opt to live in homes that are furnished to save me buying large items like beds, wardrobes etc and then worrying about the hassle of moving them later. I prefer to buy quality items for less rather than just super cheap things that won’t last and my home decor tastes are very 1950s-60s in terms of colours and prints so there’s lots mustards, tropical vibes and Orla Kiely-esque items. Sticking to a loose theme or colour palette helps tie a room together without everything having to totally match. Below are some tips:

  • Be nice to your landlord. When I first moved to London I worked freelance and lived out of a suitcase. I explained this to my landlord who very kindly kitted the room out with clean duvet, pillows, bed sight table light, bin etc so it was totally live-able without me having to buy anything at all. In my current home I mentioned to my landlord that I wanted a desk for the room and he offered to buy one if I sent measurements. I got a really nice £60 desk delivered from Amazon within a week. It has a shelf which makes for stylish, neat organising.
  • Ex-Display Items are a great way to get good quality products really cheaply. Many years ago I picked up a £45 Pixar style green lamp for less than £10 if memory serves me correctly from Homebase. It’s stylish, a great colour and much nicer quality than other lamps at that price.
  • Work Clear Outs can be helpful to add bits and bobs to your home. Friends of mine have gained new office chairs when furniture has been replaced and I ended up with a beautiful mint green IKEA Pixar lamp.
  • Reversible Bedding Sets give you two designs in one so you can change up your room without buying more items. I own one bedding set as my home has a tumble drier and I love the patterns. I got my current set about 2 years ago from Dunelm Mill, it’s 100% cotton and the duvet and 2 pillow cases set me back around £20. Prior to this I visited Wilko for double polycotton sets from around £14.
  • TK Maxx / Brand Alley are worth a browse if you love a high end brand but can’t afford them. I got 2 Orla Kiely pillow cases RRP £25 for £10 in TK Maxx. The colours match my existing duvet set.
  • eBay has lots of brand-fabric cushion covers for around £7.99 that you can fill. John Lewis have an Orla Kiely one very similar to mine for £40 online.
  • IKEA are helpful for very cheap, boring necessities like a 95p bin as well as some pretty, low cost decor. I picked up a very ’50s patterned plant pot with cactus for £2 and a yellow flower shaped ceramic dish that I use as a plant saucer. Both match my Orla prints very well but cost a fraction of the price.
  • Charity shops are great for odd nicknacks.
  • I quite like leaving toiletries I use regularly on the side if they happen to match like my giant Batiste tropical dry shampoo (£3 in Savers) as its practical and still looks pretty.
  • Photos and posters can be a bit tricky. I tend to use whatever is available like nails already banged into walls or bed side tables for photo frames. In the past I’ve hung a length of cotton from a nail and used mini pegs or paperclips to clip photos on in a vertical line. I plan to tape a piece of cotton to the top 2 corners of a print to hang on the wall on a hook above my desk. I’ve seen some beautiful botanical print individual wrapping paper sheets in Paperchase and Liberty for £2-5.

If you have any low cost non permanent home decor tips please let me know in the comments.

Minimal Effort Home Manicure Tips & How To Save Money On Quality Nail Varnish

I’m super low maintenance when it comes to beauty but one indulgence I love is having painted nails which I do on a weekly basis. Keeping this routine up during lockdown at first felt silly but I’ve actually been really enjoying the moment of relaxing me-time its given me and its a reminder of normalcy. I’ve never paid to have my nails done professionally but being an ambidextrous l am blessed with steady enough hands that I’ve been asked several times which salon I visit. I thought I’d share a few tips for a great home non-gel manicure that lasts me at least a week whilst still being hands on, washing up twice a day and house cleaning once a week.

I buy cheap cotton pads – 50p for 120 from Primark – to remove my nail varnish and buy polish remover from Savers or own brand options from Boots and Superdrug. However; I now buy quality polishes and find these are worth the spend as they have nicer brushes for easy application, are usable for far longer and don’t chip as quickly on your nails. My favourite brand is Essie, RRP £7.99 a bottle, but I never buy them full price.

How To Save Money On Quality Nail Polish

  • eBay – I once found a lucky dip bulk listing of 6 bottles of brand new Essie nail polish for £15 including delivery. If you’re not bothered about colours or happy to split this with friends its a great option. I received a pistachio green, light orange, coral, metallic grey, pearl nude and electric blue.
  • Reduced post-Christmas gift sets – My first 5 Essie bottles came from Boots in a Christmas box set and were half price in the January sales. The set included classic red, nude, pale grey, deep burgundy and black. It got me hooked on the brand and was a great basic starter range.
  • Nail varnish advent calendars – typically 50% or more off post-Christmas. I bought a Ciate one from TK Maxx and split it with a friend. It included nail files, treatments, base coat, top coats, mini colours etc.
  • Beauty Outlet branches have a huge range of colours, base coats and top coats typically half price or less.
  • TK Maxx often have individual bottles 50% off and regularly have Nails Inc and OPI mini sets reduced. I once got an Essie bottle for £1 from their clearance section which was perfectly usable.
  • Boots points – I’ve used these in the past to buy 2 shades on a Buy One Get One Half Price offer. By paying with points they cost me nothing.
  • Freebies from magazines are a great way to save. In the past I’ve seen Nails Inc products free with glossy magazines in a range of desirable shades.
  • Start with buying miniatures or classic / favourite colours such as a great nude or red to test how you get on with a brand.
  • Borrow / exchange polishes with housemates and friends

My Super Basic Manicure Routine

  • Nail varnish remover – I use this as my first step to either take off the previous week’s colour or just to clean my nails before painting.
  • File – I’ve had a mini glass nail file for about 5 years that does a brilliant job for shaping. I go for a rounder shape as I find my nails are less likely to catch and break.
  • Base coat – This stops nails getting stained and helps grip polish on for longer. I use an Essie base coat purchased from eBay for £6.09 as a bulk listing with a top coat. This saved me about £13 for the two bottles.
  • Nail colour – I apply 2 coats generally with 3 brush sweeps starting at the centre of my nail. It’s better to layer thin coats as they dry faster and won’t get messed up.
  • Top coat – I only tend to use this if I’m not using Essie polishes as I find they don’t need it and it saves time. Any of my older Barry M polishes etc I use an Essie top coat with and it makes them last longer without chipping.

Little things I do to not ruin my nails whilst drying and make them last a week

  • Make sure you can be super inactive once you’ve painted your nails. I find working on my laptop or watching TV a good distraction whilst they dry.
  • Use the bathroom before painting…!
  • If I remember I’ll use hand cream or body lotion on my hands before sleeping. I don’t bother with cuticle oils or anything fancy like that at all.
  • Wear rubber gloves when doing household cleaning – I don’t bother when washing up but this could help prolong your nails further.

Please let me know in the comments if you have any bargain nail tips (and note that I’m not a beautician I just have many years of personal nail practice!)

Some of the Essie range at Beauty Outlet at Icon O2 – original image

Accidentally Saving Money During Lockdown & Trying To Look On The Bright Side

We are living in very strange times at the moment on lockdown in UK like many other countries across the world. It would be all too easy to get swept up with worrying so instead I am writing this post trying to focus on some of the little accidental financial positives that have come out of this situation. Below are some of the ways I’ve saved money since lockdown began.

£0 On Travel as we’re only allowed to make essential journeys and I’m able to run my errands locally thus avoiding any need to use public transport. I usually spend around £25 a week on travel and I believe we are now week 7 on lockdown in the UK so I’ve saved myself about £175 which is not to be sniffed at.

Staying In As Opposed To Going Out. As I’m largely stuck at home 24/7 I’m inadvertently saving lots as my usual activities like going to the cinema, meals out or drinks have all gone completely out the window. Normally I’d typically socialise like this about twice a week but since the government announced we stay at home I’ve spent a whopping £0 on my social life relying on WhatsApp video calls, live music streams on Instagram, blogging, Netflix, Prime and books for entertainment. My phone provider O2 have announced free unlimited minutes to all customers until the end of May so I’ve been making the most of these calling elderly relatives and staying in touch with friends.

Spur of the moment purchases like extra items picked up when out toiletry shopping, window shopping leading to purchases etc have all stopped whilst I’ve been indoors. I’ve been avoiding online shopping unless it’s for things I vitally need like shampoo and toothpaste that I can’t get locally.

Cancellations of events later this year are totally understandable due to the current climate. I’m due a £120 refund for 2 concert tickets that was supposed to happen in July. Naturally I’m really upset it wasn’t rescheduled but trying to see this on a positive note. I did get to see the band perform live last summer so it could be worse.

Make up and make up remover are things I’ve not used at all since we went into lockdown. I really don’t care about video calling friends without being made up, after all we’re in the middle of a global pandemic, so I’m more than happy to have an excuse to give my face a break whilst I stay indoors. I have to say so far being make up free has made no difference to the state of my acne prone skin!

Food is the one area I’ve understandably spent more on in the past couple of months but as I don’t have a lots to look forward to at the moment I’m happily allowing myself some treats from the supermarket. I’ve never bothered with takeaways and have probably increased my weekly food shop by around £10 buying things I wouldn’t normally like pizza, ice cream and mangoes.

I spent a Cath Kidston Gift Voucher after receiving an email saying all their stores were closing and a quick Google led me to believe they’d gone, or were quickly going, into administration. I had a £14 gift card from CK so thought now was a good time to spend it before it was too late, especially as they were offering free delivery on any spend. I picked up a roller skate printed bag in the sale reduced from £25 down to £16. I found a further 10% off sale code online bringing my total to £14.40. If CK went under I realised I’d no longer be able to collect their quirky prints that I’m so fond of so treated myself to a frog mug for £8. Cath Kidston offer 10% off full price items for new customers on their first order so (with permission!) I signed up my friend’s email address to get this code, saving me 80p which is better than nothing.

In total I paid £7.60 for the 2 items to be delivered to my door and saved £14.80 according to my order confirmation.

My new Cath Kidston bag – with an incidentally positive message for the current times we’re in…

If you have any comments on accidental savings you’ve been making since lockdown began please let me know.

Making Money From Unwanted Clothes, Accessories etc & My Best Selling On eBay Advice.

I am a huge fan of selling items I no longer use or wear to fund second hand spending sprees. I’m aware that lots of apps and websites are available now like Shpock, Depop and Gumtree but I remain a dedicated eBay fan as you’re not relying on a local audience.

Deciding What To Sell

Be ruthless with your wardrobe, accessories, footwear collection etc and ask yourself the following about an item:

  • Do I still love it?
  • Is it a good fit and comfortable?
  • How many times have I actually worn / used it in the last year?
  • Does it go with anything else I own and if not do I like it enough to buy matching items?

I started getting rid of clothes that I’d be glad to take off at the end of the day because they were too tight, small or uncomfortable. Sometimes putting items into keep, maybe and to-go piles can be really helpful. Anything in the maybe pile I tend to try on again before making up my mind of it if stays or goes.

Electronics, Cars, Fashion, Collectibles & More | eBay

Selling on Ebay

  • Download the eBay app – I find it the simplest way to list items. It allows you to take photos and write a full detailed listing with the option to accept offers over a certain amount. Anything lower is automatically declined.
  • List a batch of items at once. That way if you sell 3 or 4 things you can send them all at the same time with one trip to the post office so it’s less hassle.
  • Start with popular high street / designer brands that aren’t too cheap to buy new. People are more likely to be searching for a bargain Zara item than a Primark one.
  • Hugely descriptive titles use up as much of the allowance as you can e.g. “River Island Denim Light Blue Faded Ripped Jeans 10 Waist W 28 Length L 32” – the more you include the more likely buyers are to find your items. Check spelling errors as people won’t find your items if you’ve got the brand name / item wrong.
  • Try bulk listings for cheaper items like 3 same brand tops in similar sizing.
  • Take lots of good photos ideally in daylight. I usually photograph the sizing label, care instructions, fastenings, pockets, linings etc. It can help to take photos with a tape measure nearby. I found the more photos I added the less time I spent answering questions about my items.
  • Be honest with your description – if an item has any defects tell buyers upfront then you’re not at risk of having to refund them. If your photos do the item justice and it has no faults you could skip writing a description to save time. If the item is more pricey I tend to write lots of detail about it.
  • No refunds lots of private sellers opt for no refunds just to save hassle. I always do this.
  • Care for the items before selling e.g if it’s got a loose button sew it on properly, give it an iron, polish the scuff out of shoes etc. You’re likely to get more money if its in better condition.
  • Save postage bags from other online orders and package your items in these to save you spending on padded envelopes, bubble wrap etc. Shoe boxes and newspaper are other good free packaging options.
  • Check postage costs on Royal Mail website so you don’t lose money. Consider Signed For options to avoid buyers claiming items never turned up.
  • Remember eBay’s cut when pricing items. I usually start higher and then relist with reductions if they don’t sell.

I always leave the money I make on eBay in my PayPal account. It saves it getting caught up with my daily expenses and I use this as my separate clothes fund.

Car Boot Sales

In the past items that haven’t shifted on eBay I’ve collected to take to car boot sales. They’re a great way to have an all round house clear out. Sharing a pitch with friends can be a fun way to spend a morning, just don’t expect to leave loaded as people aren’t always willing to pay lots.

  • Display clothes on hangers on either a rail or clothes airer for people to rummage through
  • Put items on the floor on picnic blankets or bin bags to stop anything getting wet

If you’ve got any tips for selling items second hand on eBay or other sites please let me know in the comments.

Where To Shop For The Best Bargain Beauty – The Perks of Boots, Superdrug, Savers, Outlets and More.

One of my favourite categories in which to save money is beauty and I never pay full price for items. I do this by claiming free samples for make up, making the most of discounts stores and outlets, checking in-store offers and maximising loyalty reward schemes. Below are some of my best tips for saving the pennies on beauty products.

Boots

I’m a big fan of Boots particularly for their loyalty scheme and tend to visit for skin care products and their own brand items.

  • Get a loyalty card – it earns you 4 points for every £1 spent and once saved up you can use your points balance to buy items. It’s really easy to accumulate points for a treat.
  • Download the app – this is brilliant for maximising your points and getting tailored offers. Regular offers include an extra 150 points for spending £15. The best I’ve seen is 75 points for buying any conditioner including their own brand 75p ones.
  • Wait for 25% discounts or 3 for 2 offers – I find stocking up slightly ahead of when I need the products enables me to save lots as I have time to wait for a good offer.
  • 10% Student discount
  • Free magazines for advantage card holders with discount coupons in

Superdrug

If I’m unable to find items I want on offer in Boots I tend to try Superdrug as my next port of call purely because my local Superdrug store is much smaller than Boots.

  • Sign up to their loyalty scheme – earn 1 point for every £1
  • You can pay with a mix of points and cash / card unlike Boots so can knock the occasional £1 off bill totals.
  • Free gift on the day of your birthday with a loyalty card – I only recently became aware of this so have never claimed it. It’s apparently always a surprise…
  • Free standard delivery on orders over £10 with their beauty card. (Boots offer free delivery over £30 spend)
  • 10% student discount in store with a beauty card (but not online)

Savers

Savers are brilliant for discounted toiletries and I’m lucky to have one on my doorstep so visit regularly for basic essentials where I’m not bothered about exact products or brands. I tend to pick up:

  • Toothpaste – 75p-£1 for Colgate products
  • Time of the month supplies – Bodyform pads for 89p instead of £1.50
  • Deodorants
  • Vitamins – £1 for vitamin c effervescents instead of £2-3
  • Basic shampoo, conditioners and dry shampoo
  • Make Up remover
  • Razors

Poundland

Poundland is another great options for basics like deodorants and hair care if you’re not fussy about what you use. In the past I’ve found high end hair care products for £2 from makes like Lee Stafford, Tony and Guy and Charles Worthington. I’ve also seen a limited selection of Rimmel and Maybelline make up in sealed bags for £2 a piece but the products look quite dated such as magnetic nail polishes and lip glosses.

Home Bargains and B&M Bargains

If local to you these stores are worth a visit for cheap basic essentials like toothpastes, period products and vitamins. Previously I’ve seen sealed Max Factor make up products with really good discounts.

Primark

I largely shun Primark as I like buying quality items that last but can’t argue with some of their beauty offers. I buy their 120 double faced cotton pads for 50p. They’re brilliant and far cheaper than anything else I’ve seen in stores. I also buy their puffy shower scrubs and get 2 for £1.50 as I find these make my bottles of shower gel last much longer than just using it straight out of the bottle.

Beauty Outlet / The Cosmetics Company Store (part of the Estee Lauder brand)

I personally prefer these to TK Maxx for beauty products as the entire store is dedicated to branded discount skin care and make up products. The Cosmetics Company Store has sections for each brand with plenty of choice as opposed to 1 or 2 items and Beauty Outlet lets you shop by feature so eyes, lips etc. Outlet stores like these are great for brands like Nars, MAC, Estee Lauder, Clinique, Essie and Clarins among others. The Beauty Outlet offers online shopping. Benefits from these stores include:

  • Unopened packaging and products
  • Testers / Swatches for almost all items available
  • O2 Priority customers can get a further 20% off outlet prices at certain times from both of these stores at the Icon O2 outlet in London.
  • Worthwhile savings – e.g. £8 off a Clinique toner and half price Essie products new in boxes.
  • Popular products like Estee Lauder’s Double Wear foundation available from TCCS (albeit a smaller shade range)
  • Beauty Outlet’s most notable in store offer is 3 Clarins products for £20 etc.

TK Maxx

TK Maxx can be a good point of call for high end make up and beauty if outlets aren’t local to you but its very hit and miss from store to store. In past visits I’ve seen Chanel, Estee Lauder and Clinique products. However; it’s definitely a lottery and can be difficult to find items where the hygiene seals aren’t broken so it’s best to look for products sealed in plastic security boxes. Sample items are never available so be prepared to Google swatches of the product to get an idea of what you’ve found.

If you have any other recommendations please let me know in the comments.

Buying Clothes Pre-Loved To Save Money – How I Saved £300+ On 6 Items

I was introduced to charity shopping at a very young age and loved scouring rails for reputable brands at a pinch of their RRP. In my late teens I began selling on eBay and using this money to purchase specific items of clothing I’d loved in stores second hand. This post is just an example of some of the many pre-loved items I have and an estimation of how much money I’ve saved by not buying them new. I always buy lightly used / worn once clothing so it still has some life left in it. (All my coat hangers were collected free in New Look / Debenhams too!).

Seasalt Cardigan – This first one is a bit of a cheat. I was given this from a relative who, after many years of wear, managed to accidentally shrink it in the wash. A quick browse through their website suggests knitwear retails between £65 – £79. The higher prices being fairisle like this cardigan.

Fat Face Haywood Cardigan – RRP £49.50. I bought this is lightly worn condition from eBay for £13.90 including postage. It looked virtually new and if it bobbles I’ll run a razor over to remove them.

Orla Kiely Stem Print Top – RRP £14.90 (thanks Vogue article from 2012 when this collab with Uniqlo was released for this info!). It’s now impossible to buy tops like this new and I love the print and colours. I paid £7.75 including postage and have now collected 3 from this release.

Round Up – For these 3 items I paid £21.65 for approximately £129-143 worth of clothing. Saving £107.35-121.35.

Phase Eight Dip Dye Maxi Dress – RRP £120. I paid £7.99 including delivery for this from eBay in “immaculate condition”. It showed up with a mark on it and a small hole. I was able to wash the stain out and stitched it up. The seller gave me a full refund for mis-selling me the item so I effectively got it for free and its still wearable after my repairs.

Cath Kidston Rainbow Breton – RRP £45. Their tops are lovely thick cotton and last so well but I’m never willing to pay full price for them. I bought this one in great condition, which sold out on the CK website, for £15.53 including postage. It looked new on arrival.

Cath Kidston London Skirt – RRP £60. I fell in love with this in the store, tried searching for it in outlets a year later and then came across it on eBay in “worn once” condition. I paid £7.05 including postage and its immaculate.

Round Up – For these 3 items I paid £22.58 for approximately £225 worth of clothing. Saving £202.42

I love buying preloved as it enables me to afford better quality brands for far less. With these 6 items I saved over £300. I paid a total of £44.23 for 6 items of clothing and their delivery which averages at £7.37 per item and I love that its a more eco conscious way to shop.

If you have any preloved shopping tips please share them in the comments!

Things Not To Say To Someone With Adult Acne

I read and related to a brilliant article in Elle magazine in 2014 called “My Skin But Better” by Katie Mulloy. It covered how adult acne can affect a person’s life, things not to say to someone struggling with it and how all encompassing the journey to clear skin can be. The article, which sadly I can’t find online, began with saying that one day the author would write a book on all the things not to say to someone with adult acne and I loved this idea hence finally writing this post.

It’s an accumulation of my biggest pet hates of dealing with the skin condition, some heavy sarcasm, small rays of optimism and my hope for acne acceptance within the media and beauty industry.

“Have you tried…” I know people mean well when offering product recommendations, lifestyle changes and advice but the reality is… I’ve been dealing with this for over 5 years and experience on-off major dislike for my face. I haven’t just sat idly feeling sorry for myself for more than half a decade. I’ve tried countless things from cutting favourite food groups out of my diet to £20 a month skin care regimes and hormonal medication that made me feel terrible to name but a few. I can guarantee unless its wildly out of the box I’ve probably tried whatever you’re about to suggest and your occasional teenage pimples don’t qualify you for doling out acne advice. I was ready to verbally destroy a GP I once saw who, after hearing I’d tried over 10 prescriptions in 5 years including 8 month antibiotic treatments, asked “have you used Clearasil? It works for my teenage son”. I nearly died with exasperation because yes, its normal for your teenage son to be spotty, but not so much for a girl in their mid 20s. Unless you’re an acne sufferer, a dermatologist or a sympathetic GP I appreciate the thought but I don’t want to hear it.

But you look fine with make up on” Yes, I might look passable with my £34-a-bottle foundation on but knowing the only way I can look, feel somewhat OK and socially accepted is to cover up my face can be pretty deflating. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful that Estee Lauder’s Double Wear Foundation works for me and gives me the confidence to face the world without wanting to put a paper bag over my head, but hearing someone say this further enforces that my natural appearance just isn’t good enough. I once woke up late and in a hurry to get to work on time I was faced with running out the door bare faced and the idea made me feel physically ill and I’m not a vain person. Needless to say I clocked in late.

Imperfections / anti imperfections” I wish cosmetic companies would just stick to terms like “anti acne” and “spot prone skin” etc. By plastering “anti imperfections” all over products you’re hammering home that my face doesn’t match up to the world’s perfect clear skin beauty standards and it’s not a reminder I need. Instead why not just stick with the more medical sounding terms that lessen the blow? Garnier almost broke me when I was shopping for a non-comedogenic anti blemish sun cream a few years ago when it was labelled for “greasy acne prone skin”. Greasy hit me hard and felt excessive. I wish for the sake of my imperfect self esteem they’d just written oily / combination.

“Your face looks so much better today” I’d always rather we just not acknowledge the state of my skin. By telling me its better one day as opposed to when you last saw me makes me think the time consuming cover up mission I embarked on was a total failure. Its a bumpy road as opposed to a linear journey of success – just ask my face, it can confirm it is often literally bumpy.

Best acne treatments… 33 Skin Clearing products that work” – This is a genuine title from Teen Vogue and I despise articles like this because I find them borderline offensive when having a particularly low self esteemed day. I get they’re trying to round up helpful products but I don’t need it implying that if I buy THIRTY THREE items like serums, brushes, patches etc for hundreds of pounds that I might actually have clear skin.

Beauty and skin care campaigns…Last, but not least, my complaint is with beauty and skin care companies advertising everything from miraculous anti blemish serums to full coverage foundations yet countless models used for advertising said products don’t look as though they’ve seen a spot or blemish in their airbrushed lives. Show me a before and after comparison of someone with a real skin condition as your selling point if you truly want me to believe in your product’s capabilities rather than just another faultless face which we’re forever surrounded by.

La Roche Posay – whose products I really rate but am unimpressed with their chosen face for promoting anti-acne products.
Vichy doing it right with their models and incidentally making me excited about trialing their products

On a more positive note – Boots Health and Beauty Magazine almost reduced me to tears earlier this year when I saw a generic article about make up looks. Within the glossy pages one model, beneath the even skin tone of foundation, had a small scattering of noticeable spots as their images aren’t edited or retouched. She looked beautiful and for once I saw an image in a beauty magazine that felt relatable, realistically attainable and in the short term it stopped me feeling like my skin was being shunned completely by the beauty world. The image wasn’t traditionally airbrushed “perfect”, like none us in reality are, and for me that made it so. It briefly it made me feel represented, more positive and accepting of my face and it made all the difference that the portrait wasn’t included in an anti acne article. I wish there were more examples of this – a heartfelt thank you to Boots, long may it continue.

According to an Elle article from 2019 10 million people in the UK say that a skin condition has affected their mental health and that acne sufferers are 63% more likely to experience depression. I have to say hats off to Elle for naming this article “Is ‘Bad’ Skin Affecting Your Mental Health” – I appreciate the inverted commas around “bad”, thank you. Reading stats like this aren’t the cheeriest but they give me a little comfort knowing that I’m not alone. The NHS page for acne prompted me to see a GP for my skin in 2016 which made a real difference for me, so despite me saying earlier how much I hated the acne-advise givers, this is the one piece I will leave you with as it has over the years changed my life.

Comments welcome.

My Current Bathroom Toiletries and How I Saved £20+ On 5 Items

I never pay full price for toiletries and skin care is the one area that I am fussy with what I buy so always make sure to look out for savings on products. Below are some of the more exciting items currently in use in my bathroom and how I saved when buying them.

Cetaphil Oily Skin Cleanser – RRP £9.50 for 236ml from Boots

I on and off struggle with adult acne and started using topical prescription medication again early this year. I wanted a very gentle cleanser and this one claimed to balance oil levels without drying the skin. I checked with a pharmacist to see if it was suitable before buying to make sure I wasn’t wasting money on a product that wouldn’t work for me. I collected Boots point on this purchase.

RRP £9.50 – student discount reduced it to £8.55 – promotional offer took £3 off. I paid £5.55 saving £3.95

Clinique Anti Blemish Clarifying Lotion – RRP £19 for 200ml from Clinique

I typically buy the La Roche Posay Effaclar Clarifying Lotion for my toner which is £12.50 for 200ml from Boots. However; I picked up the Clinique one from the O2 Icon Outlet and then used my O2 priority moments app to reduce it further as they offer an extra 20% from lots of stores on a Friday night between 6-10pm (as well as a free glass of prosecco!)

RRP £19 – O2 Icon Outlet price £14.25 – further 20% discount meant I paid £11.40 saving £7.60

La Roche Posay Effclar Duo+ Moisturiser – RRP £17 for 40ml from LRP

This is my go to moisturiser and I only ever buy it when on offer usually from Boots or Superdrug. Due to the current lockdown situation and it being unavailable for home delivery from the usual stores I go to I checked Amazon Prime where I made a really good saving.

RRP £17 – Amazon Prime £12 including next day delivery saving £5

L’oreal Dream Lengths Rapid Reviver Conditioner – RRP £5.50 for 180ml

I personally find this works just as well as the Aussie 3 minute miracle conditioner products but is cheaper in Savers. L’oreal products are often on offer in Boots or Superdrug for half price so it’s always worth keeping an eye on those.

RRP £5.50 – I paid £2.50 – saving £3

100% Cotton Pads – RRP £1.70 for 100 from Boots

I buy the Super Soft 100% Cotton 120 Round Cosmetic Pads from Primark for £0.50. I rarely shop in Primark to tend to buy these in bulk, they’re great quality and such good value. Mine are stored in a repurposed glass dessert ramekin from GU.

I did some maths here… based on the RRP for 100 from Boots, their price for 120 would be £2.04 – from Primark I paid £0.50 saving £1.54… enough to buy 3 more packets for that price!

All added up compared to the RRPs on these products I saved £21.09

Fortunately I am usually fairly stocked up on toiletries, relying on Savers for half price toothbrushes, 75p Colgate toothpaste and 75p shower gels among other items. During lockdown our local branch shut so I’ve discovered Superdrug offer free delivery for members on any spend over £10 whereas the minimum for Boots is £30. I placed one order with Superdrug reaching the £10 by buying items for my housemate also. Amazon Prime has proved really handy for necessary items like £2 bottles of shampoo delivered within a couple of days and also cheaper than the limited range my local supermarket had to offer.

If you’ve any tips for saving on toiletries please let me know in the comments!

Reviewing Beauty Club Subscriptions For Free Samples

When I first vowed in 2018 to stop buying make up and instead up my freebie game to reduce spending I looked into beauty club memberships offering free samples and signed up to as many as possible. Below are some of the pros and cons to subscriptions I’ve joined.

Glamour Beauty Club

Pros – you don’t have to be a Glamour reader / purchaser of their magazines and it is free for anyone to join. You simply sign up at https://beautyclub.glamourmagazine.co.uk/ and fill in a survey about your beauty buying habits. They use this information to send you products tailored to your results so its best to engage positively with as many of the questions as possible if you want to try lots of products. e.g. pick the maximum number of options it allows for brands you use etc. All samples are posted directly to your house without you having to do anything which is a huge plus.

Cons – In around 18 months I’ve probably received less than 5 freebies. A friend of mine I suggested sign up to this completely forgot she had until about 8 months later she received one perfume sample. Don’t get me wrong – I’m still grateful to receive these I just didn’t expect my samples to be so sparse after answering questions about perfume, foundation, hair products, fake tan, hair removal, skin type, mascara and more. Ultimately if you’ve got 5-10 mins to kill I’d still say sign up, just don’t expect too much!

Sign up to Glamour Beauty Club online for free samples through your door

Debenhams Beauty Club

Pros: It is free to sign up here https://www.debenhams.com/content/beauty-club and Debenhams offer a range of perks including 3 points for £1 spent on beauty, 500 points becomes a £5 voucher to redeem, deluxe free samples, free delivery with online orders and birthday treats including a facial, makeover for 2 with Kat Von D and nail paint from Blow LTD. Some “samples” are even full size products and they’re always a good selection. You simply take your DBC into the store on a sample day Friday and hopefully collect your treats which are given out on a first come first serve basis.

Below are just a few of the items I’ve picked up in the past 18 months – 2 years including a full size moisturiser from Rituals, Chanel mascara and lipstick swatches, Laura Geller highlighter, Elizabeth Arden serums, Dior foundation and lip gloss. I’ve also grabbed miniature lipsticks from Givenchy, a full size foaming shower gel from Rituals and 5ml perfumes from Dior and Lancome.

Cons: I first started collecting the Debenhams Beauty Club samples when I lived in Manchester. They’re always released on a Friday and I’d easily be able to pick them up in store early Saturday morning. However; if you live in central London it is really hard to get hold of these even at 5.30pm on the Friday so it’s been a few months since I was able to grab any of these. There isn’t really a pattern to when the freebies appear so it’s best to follow their Facebook page and Instagram to keep tabs. After seeing some of my hauls my mum decided to join and as she doesn’t use social media she finds it impossible to know when samples are available so has missed out on quite a few.

Ultimately you can’t argue with any freebie in my opinion! I’d say if you’ve got 10 mins to spare you’ve got nothing to lose by signing up to the Glamour Beauty Club and Debenhams offer such good treats that are worth trying to claim. Definitely worth joining, particularly if you live outside of a big city or close to a store!

If you know of any beauty clubs worth joining please let me know in the comments!

19 Things I Don’t Buy To Save Money

I’ve recently seen posts on this theme on other thrifty blogs and really loved the idea so decided to jump on the bandwagon. Below is a pretty diverse list of things I don’t buy which saves me money.

  • Tupperware and Cling Film – I inherited this one from my very thrifty dad. To store food I use ice cream tubs or some yoghurt tubs which come with sturdy plastic lids which are a great 1 portion size for freezing things like ragu for dinners.
  • Lunches On Work Days – I always take a packed lunch to work either making sandwiches, salads or leftovers from dinner the night before. An average Tesco meal deal costs £3 and based on this I save £15 a week or £60 a month by making my own lunch.
  • Hot Drinks – As much as I love my coffees, I was raised on instant and reduced Nescafe Azera at £3 for a tin is more than good enough for me instead of a daily almost £3 spend in Costa or similar.
  • Full Price Meals Out – I often use O2 priority moments for deals like 2 mains for £10 in Pizza Express or try to visit places on discount days.
  • Water – I never buy bottles of it and in restaurants am happy with tap water.
  • Takeaways – In my family we never had takeaways as my dad was a frugal, very good cook. I’ve probably had about 3 in my whole life and personally don’t see the point of forking out on them. During the current pandemic I had a huge pizza craving so picked up a treat one for £3 in Co Op. Good enough for me.
  • Carrier Bags – I leave reusable bags by the front door for food shopping and fold a plastic bag up really small into my handbag just in case.
  • Alcohol – I’ve always been a minimal drinker and decided last December to give it a complete break for a while.
  • Ice Blocks – I reuse any plastic bottles in the house as ice packs by filling them up with water, freezing overnight and throwing into a picnic bag during the summer. I’ve even clean used 1pt milk bottles in the past.
  • Ice Cubes and Ice Lollies – I’ve never understood why people buy big bags of ice cubes in the summer! I make my own ice cubes in a £2 ice lolly mould I purchased last year from Ikea. The lolly mould is a brilliant multi-tasker for making ice cubes, freezing slices of lemon for cooking and making healthy desserts from frozen smoothies, juices etc.
  • Cleaning Cloths – I cut up old t-shirts when they’re past their best and use these. I tend to throw them in the wash with kitchen tea towels and baths mats and then reuse. Once they’re too tatty for this use I recycle them by taking them to H&M where they collect old clothes and fabrics to transform them into loft insulation etc.
  • Fabric Softener – Growing up this wasn’t something that was ever used and as I have sensitive fussy skin I wouldn’t be able to use any of the scented ones anyway so just stick to supermarket own brand non-bio washing liquid to clean my clothes.
  • Make Up – I rarely wear a full face of make up, my basic daily staple at the most will include foundation (used as concealer in areas) and mascara. I collect freebies from beauty club memberships etc to stock up my make up bag to save me spending lots of money. For me the miniatures are perfect and last a long time due to how infrequently I use them.

My favourite methods to collect high brand make up for free is to join the Debenhams Beauty Club, Glamour Beauty Club, check O2 Priority Moments and sign up to make up counters’ websites to receive free gifts during your birthday month. If there are specific items of make up I want to purchase, which maybe happens twice a year if that, I save up my Boots points and use those. I strongly recommend downloading the Boots app to maximize points collection.

My current collection of deluxe make up samples all collected for free
  • Perfume – Again, not bought due to having slightly sensitive skin. I can wear perfume for a couple of days before having to take a break and due to its short shelf life and price I’ve never been able to justify buying big bottles of designer fragrance. Instead I rely on free samples collected online via promotions or in store offers from shops like Debenhams who offer great sized minis.
My current collection of perfume samples either collected from online offers or via the Debenhams Beauty Club
  • Face masks, serums, eye creams etc – Anything beyond a basic cleanser, toner and moisturiser I don’t buy. This is due to having on-off problematic skin and suffering from blemishes. I don’t like to deviate from a routine that works for me and frankly haven’t the time, patience or spending inclination to add more than 3 steps to my skin care regime.
  • New Clothes – Wherever possible I buy second hand clothing from sites like eBay where I search for lightly used items in good condition. I still purchase things like underwear, socks and shoes new but whenever I can I buy pre-loved outfits from quality brands that I trust. It enables me to afford a wider range of better quality clothes than if I were to buy new such as picking up Cath Kidston dresses retailing new at £60-80 for around £18-25 pre-loved. I sell any clothes I no longer wear and use this to fund my second hand clothing purchases.
  • Full Price Fashion – Any clothing items I don’t buy second hand I tend to pick up from outlet stores or buy ex-high street items online or from markets such as Roman Road where I’ve bought £25 New Look jeans for £10 identical to ones I already own. If I have to buy something I always try to invest in good quality items that will last a long time to save me money in the long run.
Skechers trainers – RRP £75 purchased in an outlet store for £44.19
(These are still available full price on their website too!)
  • New Books – I either rely on the library, book swaps, charity shops or buy books second hand for a maximum of £2 – if its a particular title I’m after I’ll stretch to around £4 with delivery online.
  • Magazines – Living in London I pick up quite a few free magazines and tend to get the Boots’ magazine which is free for beauty club members whenever shopping in the store.

If there are items you don’t buy to save money please let me know in the comments as I’m always keen to learn new ways to save!

Saving On Streaming Services and Memberships

Given that we are all currently stuck in our homes I figured now would be a good time to throw together a post on how I save money on for online memberships and streaming services.

Amazon Prime – The Multi-tasker

  • Prime offers students 6 months free and thereafter costs £3.99 a month (instead of £7.99). This works for anyone with a .ac.uk email address so if you work for a school, college or university you are able to access this deal.
  • Make the most of everything the service has to offer and look into what’s available.
  • Free speedy delivery including gift options on lots of items.
  • Prime Music – stream over 2 million songs (get a free 3 month trial to Music Unlimited too)
  • Prime Video – for film, TV and Amazon originals
  • Prime Reading – for 1000s of ebooks, magazines and comics.
  • Sharing Prime Benefits – if you pay £7.99 for your membership you can link to another account by creating an Amazon Household at no extra cost so family members can enjoy the perks! You can then always split the bill between you.

I am a huge fan of my Prime membership and honestly must use it daily for one thing or another so for me it is definitely worth it. I’ve started using Prime to gift birthday presents to friends and family thus saving myself the usual £3 Royal Mail charge and packaging items.

Amazon follows Netflix's lead, reducing streaming quality in ...
Image from: https://pmcvariety.files.wordpress.com/2019/10/apple-prime-video-ios.png?w=640

Free TV / Films (with a TV License)

  • All 4 – Offers 270 shows in their Box Sets
  • BBC iPlayer – also offers a decent range of shows.
  • ITV Hub

Luckily a TV License is included within my rent enabling me to watch catch up TV free of charge. Film choice tends to be really limited but shows like Fleabag, Killing Eve, Doctor Who, His Dark Materials and many more have all their episodes available here. I’ve been able to find some shows I wanted to watch through these sites when they’ve not been on Prime. Personally I really don’t see the point of paying £5.99 a month for BritBox which features shows from these channels.

For Music…

  • I have an old school 160GB iPod Classic which is mostly full and I use this when travelling
  • Prime Music – free with Prime and includes 2 million songs
  • Prime Unlimited Music – offers a 3 month free trial
  • Apple Music – at the time of writing are offering 6 months free trial to 60 million songs
  • Spotify – you can access for free and just put up with a few ads…

Swapping Log In Information For Other Savings.

Like a lot of people I am extremely lucky to not have to pay for Netflix thanks to a very kind friend sharing her log in details with me. In exchange for this I share my O2 Priority moments deals with her whenever we meet up. This saves lots of money on restaurant bills e.g. 2 for £10 mains in Pizza Express or 2 for £15 for 2 Burgers and 2 Sides in Byron as well as often getting 20% discounts at outlet shopping centres. It’s definitely worth seeing what discounts and savings you can access and considering trades with friends so you both get perks!

Sign Up With Friends / Check The Small Print

When Netflix launched in the UK they offered a 3 month trial for £5 – I signed up with a friend and we gleefully paid £2.50 for our entertainment – if only it were still that cheap! Splitting costs can be a great way to save e.g. for 1 screen viewing on Netflix you’d pay £5.99 or for 2 to watch at the same time £8.99. Sharing the £8.99 membership between 2 would save you about £20 in a year which is certainly better than nothing.

Free Trials

Most streaming services offer free trials that can be anything from 7 to 30 days and there’s no harm at all in signing up, making a calendar note, and cancelling before you have to pay any charges. Most of us these days have more than one email address so if you really wanted for some services you could do this several times…

If you have any tips I might have missed please let me know!

Skin In A Spot Of Bother – A Journey of Adult Acne

A slight change in theme to my usual posts but something that, unfortunately, is close to my heart that I wanted to share. I’ve struggled with adult acne for 6 years after having flawless skin in my teens. Aged 19 I didn’t know what a black head was, fast forward, and I’m now fluent in acne-speak knowing terms from non comedogenic to salicylic acid to cysts. Twice during this period I’ve achieved clearer skin and wanted to summarise my skin’s history in case others may find it helpful. I’d really encourage others in a similar position to do their research for treatment options.

Skin Care and Make Up:

My first port of call of those years ago was to target my acne with skin care. Generic anti blemish treatments from drug stores left my skin eczema prone whilst gentle formulas did nothing for my spots. I tried the The Body Shop’s Tea Tree range before Clinique’s Anti Blemish 3 step system. Both ranges were too harsh and I settled on La Roche Posay’s Effaclar range and used this religiously for over 3 years. It didn’t fix my skin but equally didn’t leave it dry, was gentle for sensitive skin and whilst I still got blemishes it was the best skin care regime I’d tried. It was cheaper than Clinique and products like the large cleanser last up to a year. I swapped make up to anti-blemish and no comedogenic formulas. However; I still had spots.

Diet:

For 4 months I quit dairy, caffeine and massively reduced the amount of processed sugars and junk food I was eating after online research informing me this could help. There was no notable difference.

Prescriptions:

Desperation led me back to the internet and I came across the NHS page for acne which stated that if your skin was affecting your happiness to see a GP. I’d previously not thought to do this as I didn’t expect to be taken seriously. Prior to being given acne treatment I’d trialled 3 contraceptive pills including the progesterone only mini pill none of which made any difference.

Below is a list of medication trialled in 2016 when I first achieved clear skin and their pro’s and con’s;

  • Zineryt – topical lotion applied to acne prone areas – it wasn’t hugely effective for me and the active ingredients in the product only last 8 weeks meaning every 2 months you have to pay for a further prescription
  • Lymecycline – a course of antibiotics – after 4 weeks of taking tablets multiple times a day I began to see some difference but it was minimal. I luckily didn’t experience any negative side effects but these do render contraceptive pills useless.
  • Oxytetracycline – a course of antibiotics – I began to see real success with these fairly quickly and didn’t experience any negative side effects; however, as with lymecycline they also stopped birth control pills working properly. I had to have regular blood tests to check they weren’t causing my liver any damage and was taking multiple tablets a day which effected when I could eat. After 8 months I stopped taking these as my GP recommended around 6 months was the maximum course.
  • Duac Gel – topical benzoyl peroxide gel – used once at night once antibiotic course was over to keep acne at bay. This caused my skin to become red as if sun burnt, swollen and puffy so not something I was able to use. It can bleach hair and fabrics.

This route probably cleared my skin up for around 1 year.

2020 I began the journey again, this time reluctant to take 8 antibiotics a day that would effect my eating habits and contraceptive cover. Here’s what I tried second time around:

  • Lucette – a combined contraceptive pill with identical hormones to Yasmin which was thought to help acne but considered slightly lower risk for blood clots. This did not agree with me at all, week 2 I felt dizzy and nauseous. During the break I experienced extreme period pain, my vision half blacking out and unable to eat.
  • Zineryt – topical lotion applied to acne prone areas – this time I experienced horrible reactions leaving large, dry, sore, blister like areas that wept. I was using it as advised along with…
  • Adapelene – topical retinoid applied at night – Zineryt was used in the morning and Adapelene at night. Prior to the reaction my skin was clearing up in record time and I was excited. The side effects I experienced weren’t listed in the leaflets and after trawling the internet I learnt that Adapelene could react badly with salicylic acid in beauty products. I swapped by pharmacists’ advice to a rich moisturiser for sensitive skin that was non comedegenic by Cetaphil. Once the reaction cleared up I began using Adapelene in smaller quantities less frequently with great results. The medication doesn’t effect any other aspects of my life and whilst I still get the occasional blemish the difference is huge. All other topical medication I’ve tried in the past have either caused my skin to swell, be really sore or peel but this works wonders for me now I’ve found the right balance.

A note on some medications I refused and the importance of doing your research to work out what’s right for you:

  • Dianette – a contraceptive pill with male hormones known to be high risk. Fortunately, prior to doing any research I declined this pill from my GP purely because I didn’t like the idea of popping male hormones. I was offered it again after Lucette was unsuitable. This pill has been banned in several countries for being high risk for blood clots and known for causing depression leading to suicidal thoughts. It shouldn’t be prescribed to anyone with a family history of mental health issues. One GP said I could only take it for 6 months and another for 12. I didn’t want to take this pill and I shouldn’t have been offered it as I fall into the category of those to whom it shouldn’t be prescribed. I honestly feel really lucky that I researched this to dodge it.
  • Roaccutane – isotretinoin tablets – according to the NHS website they’re known to be very effective within 7-10 days but can cause side effects including skin sensitivity, headaches, general pains, nose bleeds, depression and it’s extremely dangerous to become pregnant whilst taking them . They’re supposed to be prescribed for “severe acne” as a last resort yet I was offered was a referral to an NHS dermatologist for Roaccutane. Whilst I was unhappy with my skin I definitely did not fall into the severe category and, in my opinion, given that antibiotics and now topical retinoids have worked for me I think this was a real error in judgement.

Things I found extremely helpful throughout my journey:

  • Doing research before a GP appointment. Having some background knowledge of what may work for you can be really helpful e.g. having blood tests to check hormone levels or allergies, considering contraceptive pills, topical medication etc.
  • Pharmacists’ Advice – After having a bad reaction to a combination of Zineryt, Adapelene and salicylic acid I was recommended a cheap, really effective moisturiser that helped in days. I was also told to stick with Adapelene in lower doses if it was really working. This advice saved me from my GP’s next option of 12 months of antibiotics or a Roaccutane referral that I didn’t want. They can provide really helpful information about medications that aren’t always covered in the leaflets.
  • Estee Lauder Double Wear Foundation – non comedogenic, huge range of colours, didn’t make my skin worse, made me happier to leave the house. One bottle lasts me 18 months when used as concealer daily.
  • Cetaphil Rich Night Cream for Sensitive Skin – non comedogenic, cheap, works well with prescriptions drying out skin.

In summary, be patient and if you do go down the route of prescription medication don’t be afraid to refuse things you’re not comfortable with. Sometimes trialling a few GPs can be beneficial but ultimately stick with it, don’t despair and DON’T PICK YOUR FACE!