At the end of every month I write up all the freebies I claimed that month as well as where and how I got them. I tend to post them as they arrive over on my Instagram. I’ve written several previous blog posts on how to get beauty freebies, my main tips can be found here.
La Mer The Concentrate 5ml – I got this by following La Mer using my Pinterest account the sponsored advert then popped up in my feed for me to apply to. This was the first freebie I’ve ever found via Pinterest! I tend to find with sponsored adverts it helps if you “like” or “follow” the brands social media accounts, interact with a few posts, then refresh your feed and see if this works. Not all always appear, sometimes visiting the website and allowing cookies can help too.
Allinsons Wholemeal Loaf of Bread – I used Shopmium to get this for free. I bought the exact item listed on the app from the store it specified, uploaded my receipt and scanned the barcode item to be given cashback which arrived in my PayPal 2 days later. The affiliate code g2ye4k will earn you a free tube of Pringles if you download the app and add the referral.
Lego – I was given these at a Lego store as an apology for the waiting times to get in. I honestly waited around 5 mins so was really pleasantly surprised with the free key ring and mini pack of Lego.
McVities V.I.B Biscuits – I used Shopmium to get this for free, I bought the item listed in the app and then requested cashback.
Toffifee – Again a freebie from Shopmium, I sent in a cashback request and received the full amount back via PayPal. I plan to add both the biscuits and these sweets to Christmas hampers as both products have long dates on well into 2021 and I’m currently trying to avoid dairy and excessive sugar.
Nars Climax Mascara x 2 – I filled in a sponsored advert on Facebook to receive this and used Send Me A Sample to receive another. I love mascara freebies, they’re one of my favourites as they save me lots of money. Despite being very frugal I love a good designer mascara so always claim freebies like this whenever I can to save me having to buy one. I’ve now claimed 4 high brand mascaras this year.
Paco Rabanne 1 Million Perfume from a sponsored Facebook advert
Lancome Idole Intense Perfume from a sponsored Facebook advert.
Ted Baker 50ml Body Spray – I paid £1.56 for this but received 200 Boots points worth £2 because I loaded an offer from the Boots app. This will also be put away for Christmas gifts.
Lancome Advanced Genefique 7ml sample + Renergie Multi Lift Ultra – from a sponsored advert found on Pinterest which I believe is still floating about. If you interact with Lancome’s account it should hopefully pop up. I’ll be adding these to a Christmas gift for a relative who loves this brand.
YSL Libre Perfume Sample – again from a sponsored advert
Dior Perfume Samples x 2 – also from a sponsored advert found on Facebook.
Elizabeth Arden Hyaluronic Acid Ceramide Capsules – from a sponsored Facebook post. It’s a really generous sample size with 7 capsules in a bottle.
Freebies With Purchase
Dare Magazine – I paid £3 for this and received beauty freebies worth up to £13.90. Some of these will again be added to Christmas gifts like the Revolution primer which is worth £8. I rarely buy magazines so am pleased to have this one to read as a nice treat and the freebies will help me keep present costs down.
I feel as though I applied for lots of freebies this month but delivery was very slow so I am hoping items turn up next month!
I have to be honest, I don’t exercise. My exercise regime, if you can even call it that, has predominantly always been limiting to walking with the odd run for a bus so I never thought I’d be writing this post. I’ve never had a gym membership, I didn’t join hoards of others in lockdown doing Couch to 5K and couldn’t think of anything worse than a Body Pump or Spin class with a screaming instructor. I’ve very on and off attended, with strong emphasis on the off, Zumba classes and been swimming but ultimately when my life gets hectic exercise isn’t a priority. I’ve never experienced any great joy from sport and am fortunate that I’ve always been blessed with being slim so haven’t actively sought enjoyable exercise that works for me on a budget, as if I’m being honest, I really didn’t think it existed. As much I like dance classes I’m even less inspired to go to any gym given Covid.
My First Yoga Experience Since School
Through a local community group a month ago I joined a free online yoga class. I somewhat begrudgingly attended as something to do that would theoretically be good for me, could be done from the comfort of my own home and didn’t cost me a penny. I’m not flexible. I have distinct childhood memories of ballet classes around the age of 6 where we were told to sit with our legs out front and backs straight which even then I found impossible. I was shocked during this 60 min session, which overall wasn’t aimed at beginners, to find myself sweating. 20 mins in after achieving a cobra position I laid face down on the floor needing a breather thinking I was intensely unfit. I made it through the class and actually found it relaxing overall. I was really pleased with myself for doing it so signed up for the following week.
How I Found The “Yoga With Adriene” Videos
It wasn’t possible for me to attend this class long term and I felt it was a bit beyond me even with “a scarf to extend your reach” so I looked into free online beginner classes and found Yoga With Adriene’s videos. In 4 weeks I’ve now completed 10 sessions between 20-45 mins each and much to my surprise I’ve been really enjoying it. The beginners classes really are achievable for someone new to yoga and out of shape. Of the 6 videos I’ve done now (many I’ve repeated) there was only one pose I really couldn’t do due to tight leg muscles. I found my success rate much higher with poses than the community group I attended as these videos start from scratch without being dull. She clearly explains everything in a calm, friendly, non irritating way and mentions it’s normal to feel exerted and sweat as a beginner in certain poses as we’re stretching muscles that are usually neglected which made me feel a lot better.
As I didn’t have to go anywhere to attend the classes I found it really easy to fit 2 or 3 in a week, either 20 or 45 mins depending on the day, without making excuses as I can fit them around my schedule. I love how her videos make yoga accessible as I’d never have felt confident enough to attend an in person class for many reasons including my huge lack of upper body strength making the yoga favourite Downward Dog, an inverted V, a borderline impossible mission at the start.
The Mental And Physical Benefits I’ve Noticed
I’ve found the sessions a nice switch off during my day that isn’t time consuming or a chore to get through. The breathing associated with yoga helps me to relax, de-stress and take time for myself to unwind. The stretching itself has helped me with aches associated with working from home computer life. I feel as though I’m more conscious of rounding my shoulders and stand a little taller as practiced in sessions as opposed to being hunched.
However; the most surprising change I never expected is within 3 weeks I noticed physical changes in my body such as added arm muscles and more defined muscles in my thighs. Within 5 sessions I could hold a 5-10 second plank and hold Downward Dog more comfortably for the duration Adriene specified. To give a better idea of this achievement I’ve not been able to do a full press up since my teen years as I have minimal strength in my arms. A couple of times when I’ve dropped things and bent to pick them up I’ve realised I can stretch slightly further than before towards my toes. I started yoga as a relaxation method, I thought it would be good for my overall health and tight shoulders. The physical results I’ve seen in such a short space of time came as a pleasant surprise and have definitely spurred me on to keep this up. I’m still an incredibly long way from touching my toes, doing a bridge and still feel clumsy completing some of the transitions but the pay off has been impressive.
As someone who usually doesn’t exercise and is far from flexible these gentle yoga videos are a hit for me and I never thought I’d say this. I bought a reasonably priced yoga mat from TK Maxx for around £10 to make my wooden floors a bit less painful and encourage me to keep this up as my life starts to get busier.
Money is always tight for students, I survived my years of university without an overdraft or loan to live on by following the tips included in the post below. The first major tip was very spending money I didn’t have and trying to make my money go as far as possible.
Make The Most Of Anything Free
Santander offer students a free 3 year rail card if you open a student current account with them. My rail card saved me a small fortune even though I didn’t think I’d use it much when I first got it. For any students travelling within London you can twin your rail card with an Oyster card and save 1/3rd on all off peak travel.
Student Beans / Unidays are both are free to sign up to and offer discounts in high street stores and chain restaurants.
Topcashback gives you cashback on purchases made online. It is free to have an account and although it can take weeks to months to receive the cashback it all adds up and is worth doing if you intended to buy items anyway. They offer new member deals £15 cashback from various retailers, at the moment these include Iceland, Superdrug, Matalan and Brewdog but these do change. I’ve used the £15 Superdrug one which you can read about here.
Amazon offer 6 months free of Prime which includes Prime Music, Reading, Video and free delivery on loads of items.
Get A Part Time JobOr Side Hustle
Whether you decide to do this in term time or during the holidays doesn’t matter but working through university really helped me. I had a 4 hour contract in a high street shop and then was able to do over time during the holidays to save up. Some stores offer 1 1/2 time for bank holidays which are always worth doing. I also received free fashion items from the store which, years after graduating, is still saving me money as I haven’t had to buy things. Selling unwanted items on eBay can be a great side hustle. I noticed when I first moved out anything I didn’t take with me or miss I probably no longer needed so gradually sold.
Set Up A Budget
It’s a really obvious one and goes without saying. Check what your monthly expenses will be such as rent, phone bill, food, household bills and contributing to savings before working out what you have left to spend.
Free Santander rail card as mentioned above
Booking trains as far in advance as possible with your railcard can result in some amazing savings.
National Express coaches offer student discount which can work out even cheaper than the trains
Local bus companies to your university should offer subsidised tickets if you show your Student ID
If you plan to travel a lot by bus look into monthly or yearly passes to save even more. I bought a yearly pass as a student and it paid itself off within 4 months because of the amount I used it to travel to campus, to my part time job and for socialising.
If you’re going to get taxis share them with as many people as possible to keep costs down. I mostly used night buses when travelling home with housemates as this felt safe and was cheaper.
Stores like Lidl and Aldi I find are by far the cheapest supermarkets
Stick to own brand items as much as possible
Buy from the reduced section and always stock the freezer. For example a 7p loaf of bread can be toasted from frozen and be breakfast for a week.
Packed lunches are better for your bank balance and the environment.
If eating out Groupon often has good deals. O2 Priority moments is worth checking too.
Avoid takeaways by having a similar junk food treat in the freezer to avoid temptation like a frozen pizza and chips.
Cashback apps like Shopmium can result in food freebies once the money is paid back into your PayPal account. g2ye4k will earn you a free tube of Pringles when you sign up.
A full blog post on money saving food tips can be found here
Embrace happy hour and 2 for 1 offers
Pre-drinking before going out can save money equally so can not drinking excessively
Co-Op offer 10% student discount for NUS card holders which works on alcohol too
Swap plastic bottled water for a refillable bottle
Make your own hot drinks instead of buying or take a flask / keep cup.
Toiletries and Beauty
Try any bargain shop like Poundland, Savers, B&M Bargains, Home Bargains etc. for every day cheap essentials.
Look for own brand items in Boots or Superdrug for bargain basics like shower gels for 50p-75p. Shop around to look for 3 for 2 or % off deals if you need particular items.
Superdrug and Boots offer students 10% off and if you sign up to their loyalty card you can earn points to knock money off your shopping. The Boots app is totally worth downloading to collect lots of points which will save you money in the long run.
Signing up to be a hair model can result in free or very discounted hair cuts. Looking out for salon promo days and skipping blow dries can also help keep costs down.
Collect beauty freebies – a whole post dedicated to this can be found here
Collecting pots, pans and kitchenware doubles from relatives was how I first started out
Check what communal items your student house has before buying anything. This saved me buying crockery, mugs, pans and cutlery sets.
Charity shops are great for cheap home basics.
Look for student sections in shops like Wilkinsons or IKEA which offer cheap deals on bedding and culinary items. Poundland is another one worth a visit.
Only buy items you really need
Consider asking family for gift cards to shops you like for birthday presents etc
Embrace second hand clothes shopping with via Depop, eBay or charity shops.
Have clothes swaps with friends / family.
Try to buy the best quality you can afford as items will last longer – this is why I love second hand shopping
Make the most of Unidays / Student Beans offers – sometimes they increase to 20% discount
Where possible buy items second hand and you’ll be able to sell them on when you no longer need them.
Join your local library as well as university library
I wrote a post around a month ago, found here, explaining staged dietary changes I planned to make for at least 4 weeks hoping it would benefit my acne which I’ve lived with for 5+ years. Since finishing a 9 month course of antibiotics for my skin in 2016 it returned to its original blemished state. As this medicine isn’t a long term solution for me I don’t want to take it again hence trying alternative options. Alongside these changes I’ll be using my regular topical prescription – Adapalene which has improved my skin 30%-50% since January.
During this experiment I journalled for my skin noting dates I’d started swaps with once or twice weekly skin updates. Please note – this isn’t the first time I’ve tried making lifestyle changes for my skin and I previously saw no results but the rise of veganism making food choices easier, lower stress levels and the length of time that’s passed I decided I had nothing to lose trying again.
My ‘New’ DietDuring My Experiment
My Decaf Swaps
I’ve been drinking Kenco decaf coffee which to me is identical to normal coffee so don’t feel like I’ve made any negative compromise. The warmer August weather meant I mostly drank lots of water with occasional Appletiser treats which is just 100% carbonated juice. A friend swears Tesco own brand decaf tea tastes the same as regular tea so will test this out when the weather cools. I’ve never been caffeine dependent, I found this swap easy and actually feel better in myself for not having it so will stick to this regardless of my skin.
My Dairy Free Swaps
Milk & Butter etc : 10 days after the decaff switch I bought dairy alternatives like Oatly whole milk and Flora buttery. I initially found the milk bitter but adjusted after 2 days and haven’t looked back. It doesn’t split in hot drinks like others I tried a few years ago like almond milk and cartons stay fresher longer than dairy milk. The semi-skimmed version was watery so needed lots in hot drinks. I bought Oatly “creme” fraiche and was impressed with just how many dairy free substitutes now exist. After around 4 weeks I’d forgotten what milk tasted like and happily drank unsweetened soya in coffees when my local ran out of oat milk.
Yoghurts& Desserts : Unsurprisingly coconut based yoghurt despite being flavoured still had a strong coconut taste and was very thick. I wasn’t a huge fan. I found oat based yoghurt despite being no added sugars incredibly sweet which was a shock as the milk is anything but. The best yoghurts I found were soya based. I even found some from Alpro Soya which are sugar and sweetener free. The Alpro 30% less sugar dessert pots are amazing without having the soya aftertaste. The GU free from cheesecakes with coconut based cream didn’t taste coco-nutty and were brilliant as an occasional treat.
Cheese : Cheddar is one of my favourite foods and giving this up altogether would have made me feel like my skin was ruling my life so I opted for lacto-free cheddar instead. I’ve tried the Cathedral City one and Lacto-Free brand and both taste exactly like normal mature. Tesco also have lacto-free mozzarella. I’ve been eating far less than prior to this experiment, around 1/3rd of what I’d eat previously.
I learnt the hard way that lots of crisps contain dairy so became a serial packet checker to make sure dairy wasn’t creeping up on me in unexpected places.
Other Dietary Swaps/ Inclusions
I said in my earlier post I planned to eat more foods that I already like thought to help balance hormones whilst eating my normal diet of low sugar and minimal junk food. I’ve eaten a protein source with every meal after reading this could be helpful along with centering more meals around oily fish like salmon and tins of tuna. I won’t go gluten free for my skin but realised there were easy ways I could reduce my gluten consumption by having more new potatoes or sweet potatoes with meals instead of my usual cupboard carbs. I read oats, nuts and seeds could also help so added seeded bread, low sugar granola and seeded crackers to my weekly meals. For snacks I’ve had frozen fruit juice lollies I’ve made at home, gluten free vegan Trek bars, dried fruit etc. For occasional treats I’ve had fruit with soya based ‘cream’, free-from cheesecakes, very dark chocolate and homemade low sugar dairy free baked goods.
8 WeekUpdate On Vitamins / Supplements
My first natural attempt at managing acne was supplements from Nature’s Best which my previous post has full details of why I’m taking them. I think they’ve helped enough to warrant a repurchase. I’m happy to take a multivitamin for my general health anyway particularly given the current pandemic so plan to keep taking them. After 4 weeks, pre-diet changes, I noticed less deep cystic painful spots under my jawline but the oiliness of my T zone didn’t change and I still had breakouts. Nature’s Best offer free nutritional consultations via their website which I’d recommend for tailored advice as everyone is different.
Acne Update – 2 Weeks Into Dietary Changes
6 weeks into vitamins and 2 weeks into no caffeine or dairy my skin was the best it’d been in months. This shocked me as last time dietary changes made no difference over 3 months. My clearer skin was consistent for a few days in a row which was unusual. I woke up with less breakouts over a week and less painful lurking spots under the surface. At the end of week 2 I nearly cried with happiness because I barely recognised the left half of my reflection. I still had spots but whiteheads were smaller, a bit less frequent, hurt less and went away more quickly. For the first time in years I began to think maybe clearer skin like I had post Oxytetracycline antibiotics in 2016 might be possible which was huge. At this point I was ready to whole heartedly abandon my love for cheese forever if I meant I could keep this up.
Acne Update – 4-5 Weeks Into Dietary Changes
Early to mid week 3 I was disheartened and very upset as I had a few days of small to medium breakouts on the sides of my chin after continuing with all these changes religiously. I woke with multiple new spots a few days in a row and was back to waking up and subconsciously patting down my face to assess the overnight damage. By early week 4 this all stopped leaving me with hyperpigmentation but few to no actives. Looking back through my journal made me realise the spots I had were smaller than pre-experiment and they did clear up fast, one huge cyst I thought was coming under my chin became pain free and vanished in 2 days rather than hanging around for weeks hurting. Week 5 my skin was behaving really well again. I did notice a few spots appearing after drinking regular PG tips that weren’t caffeine free.
The Final Word
Journalling at least twice a week really helped me keep track and see improvements I may otherwise have missed. It helped me realise things weren’t as bad as I thought. Back in 2016 when I made dietary changes I was less informed about alternatives so had soya milk (sometimes sweetened), more lacto free options as opposed to dairy free and definitely didn’t check full packaging. I’ve been far happier on my dietary journey for my skin this time. I’m happy to stick to immediate dairy swaps like oat milk, soya yoghurt, lacto-free cheese and vegan chocolate. My skin isn’t suddenly clear, but I can’t ignore that for 3 out of the 4 weeks there have been improvements. I strongly suspect hormones played a part in the one week of break outs. At the time of publishing this post I’ve been dairy free for nearly 2 months and I feel a lot more confident in my skin.
There definitely seems to be a generation shift in attitude towards buying second hand which I think is fantastic. I’ve seen many savvy blogs and Instagram accounts I follow run by people who embrace buying preloved saying its something their parents or grandparents would never consider. My parents are much the same, however my Nan whom I sadly lost recently, was the biggest charity shop lover I knew and she got me hooked at a young age. I can safely say that if it weren’t for her I probably would never have set foot in a charity shop let alone consider buying preloved online leading to my wardrobe being 1/3rd second hand since I made to decision to turn my back on fast fashion as much as possible.
If you can embrace second hand shopping there are some incredible savings to be made. Being unable to always find what I wanted in charity shops or thrift stores led me to buying preloved clothes on eBay enabling me to own £85 dresses for £9. Buying second hand is now my go-to way to shop and it has been for nearly 2 years. It isn’t dirty or scruffy at all as some people think. I’ve thrifted Ted Baker, Emma Bridgewater and Cath Kidston items all in great condition for absolute fractions of their RRPs. I still get compliments on my wardrobe and frankly, people will never know your item was worn by someone before you unless you tell them. Buying second hand has the bonus that it’s better for the planet, your wallet and charity shops are obviously raising money for good causes. Preloved purchases mean I now own brands previously out of my price range.
Advice For Charity Shopping
Embrace The Random. Charity shops are a like TK Maxx but of the preloved variety meaning you never know what you might find. Don’t go in expecting to see certain things, just have a browse and prepare to be surprised.
Check Every Section. I always skim round the clothing, homeware and book sections just to see if anything grabs my attention as when you succeed in grabbing a brilliant thrifty find it is so rewarding. One of my best charity shop finds was an Emma Bridgewater cup and saucer set which looked new. I paid £1.75 for it and they retail new around £25.
Look Out For Gifts. In the last week in my local charity shop I’ve seen a brand new boxed Yankee Candle set so don’t always assume everything is second hand, I’ve picked up some great “new” gifts for people in the past in charity shops very cheaply.
Browse Beyond Your Typical Size Range for example if you’re typically a 10-12 I’d say browse from an 8-14 as you’ll find a wide range of brands all with varying sizes as well as vintage pieces whose sizing doesn’t quite correlate to sizing nowadays. As changing rooms are now out I often take a tape measure with me to quick check the waist of a skirt etc to see if it matches ones I have at home that fit so my buys are less of a gamble.
Basic Homeware always features in charity shops. They’re a great way to kit out a kitchen on a budget. You can often find entire full crockery sets really well priced. If you’re a new student leaving home for the first time looking to get kitchenware or a budget I’d definitely recommend trying local charity shops before trekking to IKEA or Wilko.
Check For High End Fashion Labels. Don’t shop just for the label but it is worth baring in mind. For example you’re getting better quality for less if you spot a Hobbs, Zara or Ted Baker label as opposed to Primark or BooHoo. One of my favourite dresses is a classic little black shift in great condition from Ted Baker and it set me back £16 in a charity shop in London. An LBD is such a great wardrobe staple that I was happy to pay that price, especially as I’d never be able to justify buying a dress from this brand new. A quick Google helped me find a brand new Ted dress similar to mine with an RRP of £169. Another long term favourite is a vintage M&S, St Michael, red tailored shift dress that set me back £9 and is the perfect dress for any “I don’t know what to wear” occasion. I don’t mind paying a bit more for quality labels but am less fussed about paying charity shop prices for high street items that are almost as cheap new.
Visit Charity Shops In Posh Areas. In the past I’ve found Karen Millen, Massimo Dutti, Seasalt and Ralph Lauren all under one roof for between £10-20. Whilst the prices tend to be higher than your average thrift shop you’re scoring a designer item so it’s to be expected and still a bargain compared to the RRP.
Give Clothes A Thorough Once Over. Its always worth checking if items have all their buttons, zips work, lining fabric is ok, there are no marks or holes etc.
Books. I’m a huge reader and estimate that of all the books I own only 3 were bought new and the rest were picked up preloved. I’ve found some charity shops which sell paperbacks as cheap as 50p or 3 for £1. If you’re keen to read series like The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Fifty Shades, Me Before You or others that have been hugely popular in recent years don’t bother buying them new as a good 50% + of charity shops seem to have copies!
I tend to give any preloved items a wash once home which seems sensible given the current climate.
I recently visited a shopping centre for the first time since lockdown and ended up browsing a few clothes shops which I’d hadn’t done in at least 6 months. I honestly felt like I’d become a bit of a fast fashion snob somewhat by accident. Yes, there were lots of sales on reducing items but… More
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… More
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… More