Posts tagged ‘thrift’

13/08/2013

A Poor Girls Guide to buying Electronics.

Everyone loves shiny new electronics. Opening the packaging on a brand new laptop, peeling off the screen protector on a new phone, that first booting up moment when you just want to jump around from joy. The problem is that electronics are expensive. Terrifyingly so sometimes, so for the girl on a budget new electronics, even if they’re desperately needed, are often nothing more than a pipe-dream. (I was lucky enough to receive a loan of enough money to cover the cost of a brand new laptop last January; if that hadn’t happened I’d probably still be struggling along with a half-knackered netbook, which could barely boot-up, much less run any of my graphics programs. As of last month I have half of that money paid back.)

So for the girl on a budget, how can you replace that netbook that smells distressingly of ozone? Or that cellphone with the cracked screen?

1: Save.

Saving is not always easy, but sometimes it’s a necessity. When I bought my current laptop, the one I’m typing this on in-fact, I had saved up a little over 1/3rd of the cost myself. It had taken me over 6 months to do so. Okay, I still had to accept a loan from my Partner in Crime to cover the last 2/3rds; but thanks to that period of saving I’d already gotten used to giving up the money needed to repay her each month. That’s the key, making saving a habit. Once it’s a habit, it becomes easier to maintain, even if it does mean less in the way of day-to-day fun-stuff.

2: Sales.

Watch the websites of your preferred electronics stores like a hawk. Most of those stores will have something on special each week, or month. So with patience you can pick up what you want at a hefty price reduction. I once picked up a netbook which had been almost 400 Euro the week before, for just over 210 Euro. It wasn’t an end of line, or any other special type of sale. It just happened to be on special that week, and had been massively reduced. Of course I’d been sitting on that money for a few months at that stage, so patience and self-control are key to this working.

3: End of Line.

Almost every year, or at most every second year, most electronics companies will release a new version of each of their various lines. This is great even if you can’t afford those prices, because the stores have to get rid of last years line, fast, if they’re to have any hope of shifting those newer up-to-date models. (Never mind that sometimes the only difference is a slightly different casing.) Often this means that to get shot of those last few examples of last years model the stores will have end of line sales where the sales price is often just barely over cost-price. Meaning huge savings can be made if, as usual, you can be patient enough to wait, and quick enough to get in there first.

4: Display Models.

I love Hewlett Packard’s Ipaq line. I’ve owned two of them, and I quite simply think that they’re the bees knees, the rats arse, the…they’re really great. My last one gave me four years of sterling work, being carried from one end of Ireland to the other as an aid to my writing, an ebook reader, and even an emergency MP3 player on more than one occasion. It was also bought as an ex-display model. Bought in the box off a shelf it would have set me back 300 Euro, but as an ex-display model I got it for just over 100. It was undamaged, unmarked, and needed only a replacement battery (8 Euro plus 3 postage and packaging at the time) to make it absolutely perfect. This sort of find needs a lot of luck, as well as patience. But are well worth looking out for.

5: Accept Charity/gifts.

I have a house rule, “No unwanted computer goes without a home.” Simply this means that if someone offers me an old PC, tablet, laptop, or mobile phone I will always accept.

Why?

Because until my current laptop, all of my performance computers had been built from the best parts of older machines. My current ebook reader, is a gratefully accepted donation of an old Pandigital 7″ tablet which had been rooted; which may be reaching the end of it’s serviceable lifespan, but still gives me hours of joy every single week. I haven’t had a “new” cellphone in almost a decade. My friends know that if there’s an old mobile that they’re replacing, well Amanda will find it a loving home.

Charity is not a bad thing. Especially if it means that an old machine doesn’t wind up rotting in a landfill, or lying gathering dust in some forgotten corner of a home. And really especially, (I know, bad grammar.) If someone, if you, might find great use, and greater joy in using it until it finally just has to be taken behind the woodshed for a close encounter with a deer-slug to the processor. Of course you should do the same to with anything that may be useful to someone else, sharing is caring.

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05/03/2013

A Poor Girls Guide to keeping warm, when it’s frikkin’ cold outside (and maybe inside too). Part 2.

Last week I covered some of the things I’ve learned over the past decade, and a bit, of frugal living where it comes to staying warm. Staying warm when you’re on a tight budget is tough, sometimes almost impossible, but where there’s a will, and some prior planning, there is a way.

We left out topic last time with the importance of warm feet. But what else is there to cover? Well last week was all about keeping warm, and some of this week will be too. But all too often I found myself just having to cope with being cold, and that’s a totally different kettle of fish, so…

1. Get enough sleep.

When I was always cold, I was always tempted to climb into bed in the afternoon to hide from everything. The problem with this was that I then slept very badly at night, and felt constantly tired. This then had a knock on effect on my sense of well-being (such as I ever experience). If you feel tired/generally crap you will almost certainly feel even colder, which may make you want to hide under a duvet even more during the day, and thus a vicious circle is born. I can not put this strongly enough, don’t let this happen. The difference a solid nights sleep can make to your sense of well-being even when your cold is difficult to overstate. Of course this does mean you need to sleep well at night.

2. Love your electric blanket.

Nothing is worse than lying in your bed, buried under a duvet, and shivering. No, actually one thing is worse, having feet so cold that they hurt while your shiver in bed. For around five years of my twenties that was my Winter night-time experience. I would go to bed hot water bottle in hand, so tired my eyes just would not stay open. Get into my comfy, snuggley bed, and spend hours almost in tears from the pain in my feet. Move the hot water bottle to my feet and the rest of my body would get cold, and I’d start to shake.

I wish I’d known then just how big a difference an electric blanket would have made to my life. They can be expensive to buy, 100 euro’sish for a good double one, but they’re cheap as chips to run, and the difference getting into a piping hot bed will make to your nights sleep is simply impossible to state. And a rested body, is much better able to cope with the cold.

3. Never waste heat.

By this I mean, if you just cooked dinner in the oven, leave the oven door open as it cools so that heat gets a chance to warm you. Tumble drier just stopped? Leave it open so the extra heat can warm that room even a tiny fraction. Simples.

4. If you’re cold, wear a hat.

Back when I was a lot younger I was a hillwalker, and one of the many things I learned during that time was that if I was cold, wear a hat. The idea that you lose 20% of your heat through your head is a myth which came about because of a badly worded statement, but that said you will benefit hugely from insulating your head. Hats can be bought very cheaply, and on even the coldest day if you can make your head warm, you’re going to feel pretty much immediately better about everything. which leads me to…

5. Being cold makes you angry.

It really does. It’s makes you pissed as all Hell. You will be snappy, crabby, grouchy, and you will take it out on whoever is near you. And never forget that while the emotions are being caused by your bodies reaction to the cold, those emotions are still very real, and so are the repercussions. I strongly suggest having a small stash of chocolate, red wine, basically whatever your nearest and dearest likes the most to use as a peace offering if you blow up for no reason.

How does that fit into the thrifty lifestyle?

It’s a hell of a lot cheaper than a divorce.

6. Buy fuel over the Summer.

A lot of what I’ve written so far works on the assumption that you have no workable heating source. But many people have just one room they can keep warm, often, in Ireland at least, the living room and with an open fire. This is perfectly viable, and can be run if not cheaply, at least economically. I speak as someone in this precise situation, and as such I have to admit that I am guilty of a cardinal sin here. I tend to stop buying fuel for the fire over the Summer, and this is a big mistake. Buy less fuel, yes. But do keep buying a little each week, build up a stockpile of logs, briquettes, and coal for the Winter. Have a backlog that means if we’re unlucky enough to have a snowy Winter again, you can afford to keep the one room toasty. A little expense spread over a lot of time, is much more affordable than a lot of expense that hits you from nowhere.

7. Have a coping mechanism in place for when you get down.

Being cold is depressing, monumentally so in fact. Very little can bring you crashing down in the same way. I couldn’t begin to tell you haw many days I spent in floods of tears, so depressed I couldn’t even get out of bed. All caused by living with cold. And I LIKE the cold! For someone who doesn’t it’s nothing short of torture. So it’s essential to have someway of bringing your mood back up when it crashes in that way. My own at the time was an old Playstation 1 and SoulBlade. A game that would always bring me back up no matter how bad I felt. For other people it might be music, a book, a movie. But whatever it is to cope with being cold find it, and use it.

8. Exercise.

This should be a no-brainer, but anyway. When you live somewhere cold exercise is even more important. It will make you feel warm, it will help your body to set itself up to cope with the cold better. You will make your body more efficient, you’ll use your food better. You’ll sleep better, and the endorphin rush from exercising will all help you to cope better.

Oh, and you’ll live longer.

9. Finally. If you can, move.

Unfortunately there’s not really much you can do to lessen the financial hit of moving home. But if you’re that cold. If your life is a story of moving from warm spot to warm spot, through a freezing apartment/house, and if you can. Then get out of there. Leave. Being that cold for that long will cause long term problems, and most of them will be psychological. I, for example, start to get panicky when the fire starts to burn low. I used to be friends with someone who having lived in a similar situation was unable to sleep without two duvets (spelling?) on the bed, even if it wasn’t cold. She just had to have the security of knowing it was under her, and that she could nip underneath it if she needed.

Sometimes you can’t move. Finances, work, just life in general will get in the way. But you can always plan, and prepare to move. You can start looking around for a place to live, price accommodation in the area. Organise your possessions. Because if you’re that cold, I would be stunned if you didn’t want to move, and you never know when a windfall will allow you to escape to somewhere warmer. And when you do…well it’ll never be cheap, but I have a few hints for moving home on a budget. Watch out for that in the future.

In the meantime, stay warm, stay safe, Winter is almost over, and have a watch/listen to this and cheer yourself up.

A poor girls guide to being great with money.

A Poor Girls Guide to Being Great With Money – Christmas Planning. (Part 1)

A Poor Girls Guide to Being Great With Money – Christmas Planning. (Part 2)

A Poor Girls Guide to Being Great With Money – Grocery Shopping.

A Poor Girls Guide to Being Great With Money – Clothes Shopping Part 1: General Tips.

A Poor Girls Guide to Being Great with Money – Clothes Shopping Part 2: The High Street.

A Poor Girls Guide to Being Great with Money – Clothes Shopping Part 3: Thrift Shops.

A Poor Girls Guide to keeping warm, when it’s frikkin’ cold outside – Part 1

02/03/2013

Happy Birthday to me!

So the past week I’ve gone from one migraine to another, end result being that my concentration was simply not good enough to get much of anything done. This ended with my having to do a very quickly drawn filler art for my webcomic.

Filler Art – Migraine Ninja

But combined with my birthday being on Monday, and my shared birthday party being today means not really any blog for today either. So…yeah. Have a nice weekend and I’ll be back on Tuesday with Part 2 of the…

Poor Girls Guide to Staying Warm.

Oh and I’ll leave you with my idea of a birthday song. Enjoy.

26/02/2013

A Poor Girls Guide to keeping warm, when it’s frikkin’ cold outside (and maybe inside too).

When you live on a shoestring almost nothing will be more of a challenge than staying warm, and staying in budget. Heat is expensive. Period. There’s no way around it. Gas, oil, electricity, coal, and logs are all expensive now, and only going to become more so in the future. And being cold all the time is no fun, trust me on that, I know, in fact let me share a little about my past.

In the last ten years I’ve lived in two frigidly cold homes. One was an apartment in a hundred year old house in Cork City. I loved that apartment so much it was the first space that felt like it was mine. I loved everything about it. I loved that it was on the third floor above MacCurtain Street in Cork City with the view to match. I loved that it was just the right size for me, with a small kitchen/living room, tiny bathroom, and (to me at that time) huge double bedroom. I loved the radioactive orange walls, the 12 foot high ceilings, the panel doors with half an inch of white oil pain on both faces. Everything, I loved it all. But in the five years I lived there I spent every year from late Autumn to mid-Spring perpetually cold. Not chilly, not cool. No this was the real deal, genuine shivering while fully clothed, looking at my own breath cold. A combination of those wonderful 12 foot ceilings with hundred year old, single glazed, badly fitted sash windows meant that it was often even colder inside my home than it was outside on the street.

The second time I was that cold was in a beautifully refurbished apartment. Around 2500 square feet of 9 foot ceilings (not much higher than the industry standard for Ireland), three largish bedrooms, huge kitchen/living room, and a hot-press that was larger than my first childhood bedroom. I shared it with my Partner in Crime, and our slavegirlfriend of the time. I wish I could say we were happy there. I wish I could say we were warm. But despite triple glazed windows, 5 inches of high-efficiency insulation in every wall, and 18 inches in the attic space we froze our asses off for two Winters. So badly in fact that I honestly am not certain that over two years later my health has fully recovered from the damage it took during that time.

Funnily enough both of those apartments shared one trait that made them frozen hells for me, and that trait is my first piece of advice.

1. If you can avoid it at all never ever live anywhere large or with high ceilings that is heated exclusively with electric heating (actually, to be honest, just avoid it like the Goddesses damned plague). 

Heating in general is expensive, but electricity based heating is so expensive that it’s almost like a cosmic joke at your financial, and psychological expense. Those two homes I lived in both were heated with electricity powered storage heaters. Essentially big piles of bricks that are heated over about 12 hours during the evening and night, to then release that heat over the course of the following day. Except in my experience all they actually do is chew up huge amounts of electricity, and spit out hardly any heat worth talking about. Now admittedly these were apartments with either huge floor spaces or high ceilings which didn’t help. But any landlord who is stupid enough to put that sort of heating into that sort of space needs an intimate discussion chaired by Mister Lead-pipe.

How bad was it? Well in the first place I realised fairly quickly it was worthless and just refused to use it. So I sometimes shivered all day, but mostly I found ways to stay warm that were a lot cheaper, if sometimes a little awkward. The second time…well I wound up owing the main Irish electricity supplier, the E.S.B. almost 1200 Euro. It took the better part of two years to break even with them again. Two years during which my PiC and I were constantly harassed by a foreign based collection agency, constant bullying phone-calls, and threats of disconnection. This while we constantly paid it off. So when I say avoid electric heating, I mean it.

One exception to that though.

 2. Own a small high efficiency electric fan or halogen heater.

Yeah I know, after the last section I be you didn’t expect this but there’s a reason. For very small rooms small fan heaters can provide nearly instant, and as long as you use them very carefully, cost-effective heating. The halogen heaters are often rather cheap to run, and provide a lot of light as a useful by-product, though they won’t heat the room, only what the light shines on to. Used for short periods of time they can be a sanity saver if you’re stuck in a cold home, with a small bedroom.

I’ve found that they’re best used to keep yourself warm while you either change clothes or get dressed. Or in a particularly cold bathroom while you sit high upon your throne. So short bursts are the key.

 3. Hot water bottles are your best friend.

Between my moms house, and my own place I own four or five of these little joys. Boil a kettle, fill 3/4’s full, squeeze out the excess air, and slosh, you’ve got a source of heat and comfort for hours, and hours. And they stay hot even longer if they have a fleece cover, which has the added bonus of saving your delicate ass from getting minor burns from the bottle if it’s particularly hot. Even where I live now, with my log burner, and two puppies always willing to cuddle me warm, I often walk around with a hot water bottle stuffed under my top, or hanging/strapped from a sort of string-based harness down to the small of my back. But back when I lived in that apartment in Cork I never, ever let my bottle get cold once the Winter rolled around. It was my constant companion, my inanimate friend, perhaps even my lov…I kid, but it really was a life saver.

4. Sleeping bags are your other best friend.

Sleeping bags used to be ridiculously expensive. These days you can get a halfway decent one for maybe 20 or 30 quid. And they are a great investment. Not only are they source of extra bedding for when guests show up, but day-to-day they can keep you snug while you watch telly, be used to add an extra layer of insulation to your bed on really cold nights, and combined with a hot water bottle can really make up for a lack of heating on all but the coldest of days. At one point in my life I would often spend my time at home in a sleeping bag, with hot water bottle, on my couch, and not actually care that my apartment was so cold that the windows were iced over, on the inside. I would suggest getting the “mummy” type with the hood if possible though, you want to keep your head as warm as possible. Also if you find yourself sitting under it, zip it up and get in to it instead. Sleeping bags work best as traps for body heat, so use them as such.

5. Hot drinks.

This one must seem pretty self-explanatory, but you’d be surprised how often you find yourself wanting a cold drink simply because they’re often more refreshing. Well, when you’re eating a hot meal, ya that’s fine. But when you’re just chilling out (See what I did there? I crack myself up.) your body isn’t being active, and isn’t generating much extra heat, so drink something warm. Fruit teas make a nice, affordable alternative to the more traditional options (Ldle or Aldi’s own brands are rather yummy, and cheap as chips.), but bring to mind some forgotten traditional options too, Bovril is surprisingly tasty, Horlicks has a nice malty bite to it, and a cup of hot milk is both warming and relaxing.

6. Hot meals.

Eat them. Period. Breakfast cereal with hot milk is only 45 seconds in a microwave away. Soup is delicious, nutritious, warming, and if made by yourself as affordable as you choose to make it. Dinners, well if I have to make any points about hot dinners, you may have worse problems than living on that shoestring.

7. Foot warmth.

And finally for today we come to your feet. I’ve been assuming that you’re bright enough to know that you should dress warmly in general to feel warm. But I’ve genuinely seen people wearing multiple layers of clothing on their upper bodies, with a pair of light leggings on their legs, IN SANDALS! And they stood there shivering, and wondered why they were freezing their asses off. Well, there’s a simple rule of thumb I follow, that actually does seem to hold true for most people. If your feet are warm, the rest of you feels warm too. So wear socks, two pairs there-of. Wear slippers, big bulky ones will usually work best. This is all about trapping dead air against and near to your feet.

So two layers of thick socks means a reasonable amount of dead, warm air next to your toes. The big bulky slippers, mean even more. But when you do this don’t neglect your legs, a pair of leggings under your jeans will make a huge difference to your comfort on a cold day/evening. So will and extra pair of panties. Wear one pair of socks that go up to your knees or even higher, AND bring them up over your leggings. No-one will see, but they’ll trap even more warmth.

Staying warm when you’re poor is a mega-bitch. It can be heartbreaking at times for a single person. I can’t imagine the heartache of watching your children go to sleep cold. But I hope at least some of this proves of help to someone.

Part 2 of this article will be here next week.

A poor girls guide to being great with money.

A Poor Girls Guide to Being Great With Money – Christmas Planning. (Part 1)

A Poor Girls Guide to Being Great With Money – Christmas Planning. (Part 2)

A Poor Girls Guide to Being Great With Money – Grocery Shopping.

A Poor Girls Guide to Being Great With Money – Clothes Shopping Part 1: General Tips.

A Poor Girls Guide to Being Great with Money – Clothes Shopping Part 2: The High Street.

A Poor Girls Guide to Being Great with Money – Clothes Shopping Part 3: Thrift Shops.

08/12/2012

A Poor Girls Guide to Being Great With Money – Christmas Planning. (Part 2)

So last Wednesday the Irish Government hammered the living shit out of the Irish people with the sixth austerity budget in a row. And again it was the poor, the middle classes, but not the wealthy, who got their asses reamed with a cactus which had first been wound with barbed wire, then embedded with rusty razor blades. Thanks lads, we all really needed more to worry about right now…

Anyway around this time last year I wrote a short guide to having a somewhat thriftier Christmas. Well no sooner had I posted it than I started coming up with more ideas for having a happy, but affordable Christmas. Now I could have written them in a second guide last year, but let’s face it, I’m lazy, and that would have meant struggling to come up with ideas for this year. So with no further scrambling for excuses here is my second guide to enjoying Christmas without having to sell a kidney in the New Year.

Kriss Kringle: Let me start this by saying I HATE those two words. I loathe how they sound. When I speak them it’s like a pair of gnomes have climbed down my throat and are jabbing my vocal chords with ice-picks. But it is a great idea, and amongst a group of adults is a brilliant way for everyone to get a lovely gift, and save money. Seriously, if you have the option to do this, do it. You could reduce your list from say 6 gifts at 30 Euro a pop down to 1 at 50. For those who aren’t cheating by having a calculator in class (And why aren’t you cheating? Have you learned nothing over the past year of “Poor Girl” guides?) in that case you would have a saving of 130 Euro for each person in that group. Argue with the sense of that.

Boozing Up: The great thing about wine, and beer, and vodka, and delicious, delicious bourbon is that they don’t go off. (Or at least not quick enough to really matter.) This means there’s no reason, aside from self-control, that you can’t pick up those special offers on drinks over the course of the year. And in so doing save yourself a fortune on your Christmas shop. Also spreading the cost makes it far more bearable. Of course you could just not drink, but that’s madness, and crazy talk.

Sharing a Meal: I get the whole, “I have my own family now we should have dinner together, and visit ye later…” thing. Kids like to be in their own space, with their new toys. You like the idea of crawling back in to bed. You know all that jazz. But the thing is, if you all band together just for the meal, and share the costs, you can all end up saving big money, and still have a great time. Not to mention it’ll make Nanny happy. Of course you could do what I did one year, and spend the whole day alone in your apartment, watching telly, and eating reheated curry…fuck that was such a good day. Problem is it made everyone I love miserable thinking about me on my own. Anyway, ya share the costs people!

Re-use/Rebuild/Re-gift: People give out to me because I’m really careful not to tear the wrapping paper, because it could be reused. I’ve rebuilt PC’s using my MacGuyver like know-how, and my huge collection of spare parts are presents. Or given modified toys. I have even, it is true, given someone else, something which a well-meaning soul previously gave to me. They’re all valid ways to save money, and really, if you don’t use it then why shouldn’t someone else get some fun out of it?

Just frikkin’ make one!: Most of my friends have gotten pieces of chainmaile as gifts from me at some point. Usually at a point where I had zero money, but almost infinite time. I’ve also gotten beautiful gifts which were made just for me, my favourite of those being my hand drawn sketch of Pauley Perrette, the one that hangs over my bed, looking all sexy, and stuff. If you can’t afford to buy, make. I know the materials cost money, but usually for the price of one gift you can get the materials for several. And really most people will appreciate the effort more than the cost.

So that’s it, year two of my guides to a thrifty Christmas. Goddesses alone know what I’ll come up with for next years, ’cause I sure as hell don’t.

25/09/2012

A Poor Girls Guide to Being Great With Money – Clothes Shopping Part 1: General Tips.

Who doesn’t love shopping for clothes? You go out with a full(ish) wallet, but empty hands. And come home with an empty wallet and wonderfully full hands. That’s right no pizza money left for the month, but plenty of pretty new shoes, and tops, and bottoms, and jewellery, and even more shoes. Of course it’s all fun and games until your bank manager contacts you and utters those horrible words designed to bring you back to Earth with a coccyx shattering bump.

“Miss Harper, I’m very disappointed to see that you find yourself overdrawn.”

Okay, admittedly that phrase was only used once with me, and it was 12 years ago, a time when very occasionally in the smaller bank branches the manager deigned to endure contact with the merely mortal. But the point remains. A day of clothes shopping can very quickly go out of control when you see that “must have” item, even though your bank balance only stretches to very gently allowing your shadow to briefly play with its shadow. And even then only if no-one catches you.

But do you know what? There is light at the end of the tunnel. Over the next three weeks, starting today we are going to outfit ourselves with some basic skills which allow shopping to still be fun, and a whole lot thriftier.

Next week we will cover High Street Shopping.

The following Thrift Store/Car Boot Sale Shopping.

But this week, we will cover 5 points which are universal to all forms of clothes shopping. Enjoy.

1: Measurements:

So, what dress/chest measurement are you? What’s your waist measurement? How long are your legs? Oh I know, what’s your real bust size? A lot of you, perhaps even most of you know the answers to those right off the top of your head. But many of you won’t. many of you will hum, haw, and then eventually pop out a vague guess based on your measurements back when you were 17. Not good enough Madam, not good enough Sir.

Your actual physical measurements are your first line of defence against unfortunate, and possibly expensive accidental purchases. Because, let’s face it, if it doesn’t fit, you probably won’t wear it, and if you do you may well look ridiculous in it.

Knowing your size is not a guarantee of a proper fit, but it massively increases the likelihood of an outfit you’ll treasure, rather than one you’ll wear once, and never wear again.

How does this save money? You won’t waste time, or money having to return the damn thing.

2: What do you want? Really should be only what you need:

Let’s be honest here. We all want lots of things that we don’t really need. But the vast majority of those wants are things we would use once, and then promptly forget we have. Humans are like that, magpies, always looking for the next pretty shiny thing.

So the first thing to do when considering a piece of clothing is to put it on a list. That list is broken down in to “Need”, “Useful Want”,” Greed”.

“Need” is obviously essentials things like undies, bra’s that fit, comfortable jeans for day-today wearing, a few good “mix and match” outfits for going out.

“Useful Want” are those things which catch our magpie eyes, but which are genuinely useful. Like that delicious skirt suit, that would be perfect for interviews, or picking up pretty girls in the bar, (note to self don’t spill anything sticky on it.) They nay be expensive but they are the things which repay the investment over time. My own personal example are high quality gothboots.

“Greed” items are just plain luxuries. You don’t need them, they probably won’t be very useful, but by the Goddesses you sure as hell want them. They’re almost always expensive, usually rather non-functional, but they can be good for the soul. My ankle length black leather evening gown is one of these. Hardly the thing to wear shopping, or walking the dog, but when worn makes me feel like the living breathing avatar of some random Goddess.

The point here is not that you don’t have luxuries, useful or not. Simply that usefulness should usually take priority. Moderation is the key here.

3: Dead Man’s fabulous shoes:

New shoes are a joy, but you already have a wardrobe floor filled with them, the overflow from the wardrobe is of course stored underneath your bed, and the overflow from there under the stairs. How many of them have you worn more than once? How many have you not worn at all?

I was like that, though admittedly not nearly that bad. Then I decided on the Dead Man’s Shoes rule. To allow myself a new pair of shoes I had to go through those I already owned, make sure I didn’t already have essentially the same shoes, and if not then choose a pair to kill. Thus making space in my life for the new pair.

After all shoes are like the immortals in Highlander. In the end there can be only one, pair on your feet at a time. And too many lead to comparisons to the wives of certain Cold War era dictators.

I would also point out that this rule can be applied to anything you own, but work particularly well with larger items which you have fewer of, like dresses.

4: Mix and Match:

I mentioned this earlier in passing. But mix and match is a really great way to avoid wasting money. You’re in town one day, and see the most divine black silk blouse. But you really need a black skirt to match it, and the right riding crop (Only me on the last part huh? Alright.). Damn it that blouse is getting sort of expensive to own isn’t it?

So how many black skirts do you own? And do you have one which will look right with that blouse? Oh you do, mix and match for the win! Oh sorry I misheard, you don’t…hmmmmm I wonder would somewhere else, somewhere that isn’t so expensive that the staff are trained to see through their nostrils have something that would work?

The simple fact is that once you have an established wardrobe it becomes instantly much, much cheaper to build a new outfit. All you need is one new item, match it to some older items, a good make up theme and bish, bash, bosh new outfit.

If you have nothing that works, there are plenty of budgetish shops out there which make their money from providing a cheaper alternative, which will still usually look damned good.

For the girl, guy, or miscellaneous on a budget, mix and match is one of your best friends when it comes to stretching your money.

5: The Kava Principal:

This is my number one shopping tool for deciding if something is really worth the price. If this item were side by side with a delicious bottle of lovely, sparkling Rosé, all glistening, and carbonated, and beguiling in it’s alcholicy yumness, would I buy it?

If I would skip the clothes for the wine, then I obviously didn’t really want them as badly as I thought I did. On the other hand if I find that the wine has no draw for me, then I should probably buy that lovely kindergoth dress, go home, redo my make-up, go out and start looking for someone to bend over my knee, who should then call me “Mommy Amanda” while I spank her silly.

The Kava Principal could just as easily be renamed the chicken Wing Principal, or the Pizza Principal. And sometimes should be. The trick to using it is to tailor it to the value of the item you want to buy. Kava is about 20 quid a bottle so is ideal for items between 15 and 20 Euro in value.

On the other hand a Terry Pratchett novel in paperback form is about 8 Euro, So we would apply the Pratchett Principal to items priced between 5 and 10 Euro.

And it’s as simple as that.

Next week we’ll cover some of the tricks which I’ve tailored over the years to shopping on the High Street.

11/09/2012

A Poor Girls Guide to Being Great With Money – Grocery Shopping.

Food is expensive. We all know that, and it’s only getting more so all the time. So with that in mind it surely makes sense to take a thrifty approach to our grocery shopping? Well, I’m going to assume that you’re still reading, and responded to that question with a loud, clear “Hell Yeah!” Here are my five top tips for keeping that grocery bill under control.

1: Eat before you go food shopping. Going food shopping on an empty stomach is a really silly thing for anyone to do. Hunger taps into your reptile brain in a way that makes you want all the food in the world right, frikkin’, now! And grocery stores know this. That’s why they smell so often of fresh baked bread, a scent which, I guess, taps in to the bready doughy centre of our brains. So don’t go shopping hungry.

2: Be very careful before you buy anything that’s in a stand away on its own. these are usually “Special Offers”, often only being special for the company selling them that is. Look selling anything is a science. And the people who study that science know that we’re programmed to go after the lame member of the herd first. You know, the animal that’s standing away on it’s own, trailing well behind the herd, because that’s the one we’ll expend the least energy killing. So something standing out on its own in a shop is going to be “Special”. Sometimes these are genuinely good buys. But often they’re a “new” product, which is in fact an old product in new packaging, at a higher cost, for less.

Which leads us nicely to…

3: Pay attention to the price by weight part of packaging. Here we’ll use toilet roll as our example. There are two packages of toilet roll. Four rolls per pack, but one pack is 5% more expensive. Which should do you buy? Well you don’t really know until you look at how many sheets there are per roll, and work out the price per sheet. The same goes for buying most other things which we tend to buy in bulk. In fact the same can be true of buying just about anything. Whenever you can find out the price by weight, it could save you a lot in the long run.

4: Try to buy special offers, which really are special offers. Super Mega Frikkin’ Euro Stores is having a special this week on a your regular washing powder. Buy 5 boxes for the price of 3. Do you buy it? Or do you think to yourself “How much washing powder do I really need? And then I’ll have to carry it home, and store it, and the cost…nah I’ll just get the one pack.” WRONG!

Look, in my first article in this series I spoke about rounding up your weekly budget slightly to build up “just in case” money. Well this is one of those just in case situations. The fact is that if a special offer appears on something which you use constantly, which is a genuine bargain, then get it. You WILL use that washing powder. You WILL work your way through all that toilet paper. You WILL use all that dry dog food, unless scruffy runs out in front of traffic, in which case you can use it to pebble dash the back yard wall. So be smart, if it really is a bargain for you, then buy it, and save yourself some money in the long run.

5: Don’t shop for everything in the same place. Humans are at heart lazy animals. We’re all the descendants of a species which, barring special exceptions (the Da Vinci’s, Columbus’s etc) has lived by the creed “If there’s nothing needs doing, then do nothing.” Which as all dog owners know is the rule most adult dogs live by, and is I believe the source of the harmony which exists between our species. They like to chill out, and so do we. But if you have to live a thrifty life, you don’t have the option of the lazy route.

Sure, your fresh fruit and veg are cheapest in shop A, but fresh meat is cheaper in B, and cleaning chemicals are best bought in C. The problem is that it takes time, and effort to shop in all three. Your conscious brain says “I’ll save 20 Euro’s if I spilt my shopping.” your lazy primate brain is saying “Ya, but we could be home 45 minutes sooner to watch The Big Bang Theory, while our puppy is all cute, and snuggled up against us.”

Don’t listen to the lazy monkey brain. Let’s make the savings even more modest. You save 5 Euro’s on your weekly shopping by splitting it, and because the shops are close enough together it only costs you time. That’s 260 Euro’s a year. Or in another way of looking at it, that’s a really nice Xbox for Christmas.

Now ask yourself, this…

What would the (adorable) Master Chief do?

07/04/2012

The Joy of Thrift.

So, riddle me this. Where, if you have a lucky day, can you pick up a piece of designer clothing for the price of a couple of pints? And the answer is not “Five-finger discount.”

The answer is of course your local thrift shop.

It will come as no surprise what-so-ever to those who know me that I own virtually no new clothes. Aside from my underwear, and a handful of new pieces that I simply couldn’t walk away from, if I can buy it in a thrift store I will. I’ve basically done this my entire adult life, after all how else can you gather a wardrobe of often at this stage almost unique pieces for next to nothing, and support charity at the same time?

Over the years I’ve gotten some amazing pieces of clothing in these shops. One glorious day I found a designer ankle length black leather gypsy skirt, a brand new denim basque which the manufacturers had stopped making three years previously, and a pair of gorgeous black leather Mary-Janes. The whole lot cost me less than 20 Euro’s. How can you beat that?

Well on Thursday I did. On Thursday in my local thrift shop I found these for 12 Euro’s…

Why am I suddenly humming "Put on your shit-kickers and kick some shit..."?

Seriously, an essentially new pair of New Rock Reactors, boots that retail for a minimum of 120 Euro for 12 Euro’s. If they’d walked five miles before I got them I’d be stunned. I couldn’t believe it when I saw them, and I simply could not pass them by. The same day I found a pair of stunning brass and colored glass lamp shades for my soon to be steampunked bedroom, 8 Euro’s for them both!

Just after Christmas I found a bowlback mandolin, which is currently under reconstruction as my (also soon to be steampunked) mandolele, for just 15 Euro’s. After research I found that my pretty bowlback instrument is at least 40 years old, was handmade, and is as beautiful today as it ever was.

And there you have in three items why I adore thrift stores. You can go into in to your local ones for week after week, and find nothing worth buying. But on those wonderful days when you do find something special, it’s generally going to be something which, at least to you, is extraordinary.

All this, and you find yourself helping a charitable organisation as well.

So in closing I feel it is now appropriate to introduce to you my delightful readers, one of my favourite songs by the delectable Bif Naked. I’ve been humming this to myself since I found my new New Rocks, though I’ve been replacing “My new tango shoes” with “My new kick-ass shoes”. Enjoy!

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