Category Archives: Second-hand

When is cheap a waste of money?

‘You get what you pay for’, so the saying goes. But is this always true? Does spending more guarantee better quality or are you wasting your cash? Will you live to regret buying cheaply?

When it comes to new furniture, I think it is likely. Cheap flat packed stuff rarely stands much family wear and tear. However, good quality second hand items are a whole different ball game. An old but solid wooden wardrobe can be painted to fit in with your decor, chairs can be cleaned or re-covered, and a sanded pine table can be a thing of joy to last and last. 

I frequently pick up designer dresses to sell on eBay and I have been shocked at just how shoddy some of these are. When you consider that they cost hundreds of pounds new they should be top quality.  I buy basic vests and t-shirts from cheap shops and market stalls sometimes but they don’t wash well or last long. I prefer second hand decent quality finds from eBay, charity shops and boot sales. I go for Marks and Spencer, Monsoon, Phase Eight and Laura Ashley if I can find them as they are well made with good fabrics that wash well.

With food you get what you pay for up to a point. I don’t like really cheap baked beans, but I’m happy with supermarket own brands. However, the vegetables I can buy on offer in Aldi or Lidl don’t taste any different to the more expensive ones in the bigger supermarkets. My taste buds aren’t sophisticated enough to to detect the difference between decent supermarket teabags and the premium brands. 

I have written many times about the racket that is the makeup and toiletry market. With the most expensive brands I really believe you are paying for the marketing and packaging. Sprinkle a bit of pseudo-science in an advert and some people will believe anything. Really cheap shampoo is usually a mistake, but again the supermarket brands are pretty good. 

It is always worth trying cheaper when you are on a budget but you don’t have to give up on quality.  What do you think? Is expensive always better?

Frugal achievements 

Although March wasn’t a no spend month as January and February were, it was a low spend period. I am forever trying to make my money go further in many small ways. There is nothing life changing in this list, but every little helps! Here are some of my steps towards frugality for March:

Listed and sold several items on eBay

Took cuttings from our unusual multicoloured wallflowers – free plants!

Made a cake as a gift for my parents

Saved some old wine by freezing it in ice cube trays for cooking

Made chicken stock from old carcasses.

Reduced the amount of sachet food I give the cats and increased their dry food (cheaper and better for their teeth).

Took advantage of the Aldi super six offers to buy butternut squashes for soup at 49p each. This should cover our work lunches.

Sowed tomato seeds for the greenhouse. These were free Heinz seeds my daughter picked up! Should be interesting.

Sowed courgettes and broadbeans.

Purchased a lovely pair of curtains for our upcoming redecoration of the lounge. These were from eBay in great used condition for £20.

I think I must also have saved money over the course of the month by not eating sugar. This was much easier than I anticipated. I broke the sugar fast with a slice of lemon drizzle cake yesterday. However, I still intend to keep my consumption of refined sugar very low. I feel better for it!

It is a glorious day here and we have been using the green gym in the garden, i.e. digging and weeding! So I am saving more money and getting my exercise for free! Have a great week.

How to save money on clothes

I wasn’t surprised to read in Good Housekeeping that the average UK woman spends around £600 a year on clothes. I know quite a few who spend a lot more than that! I was quite shocked to find in the same article that women’s wardrobes also contain around £300 of clothes that never get worn. I addressed this in my Great Wardrobe Challenge post a few months back. 

I don’t spend anything like this amount. Last year the items  I purchased new were as follows:

 One pair of leather boots, reduced from £60 to £14.40.

Several vests in assorted colours from Primark, about £15.

3 long sleeved black tops, also from Primark, about £12.

A Wallis top, my one extravagance, bought with a 20% discount for £25.

One pair of black suede loafers, £20.

Some socks and underwear, around £25.

Mr S also  bought me a pair of Next jeans as part of my Christmas present, but I won’t count those towards my total.

A blue lace blouse from eBay, £6. 

I honestly can’t remember buying anything else new. I did make several second-hand purchases, including some tops, skirts, a cardigan, shoes and more jeans from charity shops and boot sales. I would estimate I spent about £40 on these, so a grand total of £111.40. I never look like a tramp – I’m sure my friends would tell me if I did 😀. If you need to save money you can easily do so by hitting the boot sales – the time to do this in the UK  is right now! Boot sale season is underway.

The article also said that families are spending more than ever before on their children’s clothes: an average annual figure of almost £800 per child! I was fortunate in that mine were more than happy to wear used clothes and hand me downs, and never demanded expensive designer brands. Now that they are all independent they all buy far too many clothes in my view, but are still savvy bargain hunters!

We also all sell items we no longer use on eBay if they are in good condition.

If you are trying to budget and save money, first take a long look at what you have. If you don’t wear it, sell or donate it. Then consider what you actually need. Don’t buy stuff just for the sake of it, even if it is secondhand. Consider quality used items of clothing rather than new. If you have to buy new, take advantage of the sales. 

It is also worth checking eBay for new items. I wanted a Zara coat a few years ago. It was £120 in the shop but I found  exactly the same one for £70 brand new. The same with some leather Hotter boots. £135 in the catalogue: I got mine for £50 online!

Finally, look after your clothes and footwear. I keep mine for years. I don’t launder them every time I wear them unless they are actually dirty as they diminish with each wash, and I keep my shoes and boots clean and polished. 

How much do you spend? How do you save money on clothing?

Why are you always broke?

‘I don’t know, I hardly buy anything!’

Some people are broke because they genuinely have very little money coming in each month. Maybe they live on benefits or have to support a large family on the minimum wage. However, in my experience there are many people out there who claim they have no money and can’t save who have decent jobs and salaries.

I knew a woman who lived in a large house with two family cars and sent her children to private school. She told me she never had any money and they were struggling. The pleas of poverty did not ring true, even when she once had the debt collectors at her door. It doesn’t take a genius to see that her lifestyle was too extravagant for what would to many of have been a fantastic income! She was more concerned about keeping up appearances than she was about the state of her bank balance. 

So, before you say your money never lasts and you have no savings ask yourself these questions:

Could your accommodation be cheaper? This is likely to be your biggest monthly expense. If you have over extended yourself buying or renting it will hurt. Could you move to more modest accommodation or rent a room out?

Can you travel more cheaply? Cars are a huge expense. If you have more than one car consider whether at least one of you could take public transport instead. If there is only you, could you downgrade to a motor scooter or cycle?

Could you holiday more cheaply? I hesitate to say give up on holidays, although many people do enjoy the odd ‘staycation’. However, if you go skiiing every winter and to Disneyland each summer you will need a very full wallet.  Could you invest in a tent for some cheaper camping holidays instead? Some of our most enjoyable family vacations have been under canvas.

Do you smoke? I have little sympathy for people who literally burn money whilst putting their good health at risk. Nuff said!

Do you insist on buying everything new? From clothes to furniture, whatever you need you can almost certainly buy secondhand if you really want to save money. And reusing can help save the planet!

How much do you spend in pubs/restaurants/cinemas/theatres each month? If you are in the pub three times a week your bank balance will feel the strain. 

Do you enjoy a regular takeaway? How much would you save if you knocked this habit on the head and cooked from scratch instead? Even if you don’t waste money on takeouts, do you use a lot of convenience food?

Do you love a brand name? If you can wean yourself off designer clothing (or at least buy it secondhand) you will save yourself a packet. When you are in the supermarket, try some supermarket own brands – the big names make you pay for all of their advertising and fancy packaging. 

Do you have too many clothes? If you buy a new outfit every time you go out the answer will be yes. 

How much does it cost you to look that great? There are so many ways to waste money on hair care and beauty products and treatments, but if you are short of cash you probably don’t need to get hair extensions or your nails done every month and could knock the designer perfumes and makeup on the head in favour of some cheaper versions. 

How often do you use your expensive gym membership? If you don’t use it then cancel it ASAP! If you are a gym bunny and there every night then good for you, but could you get it cheaper elsewhere?

Do you have hundreds of TV channels you never watch? You could save a lot by switching to a cheaper package or cancelling it altogether and investing in a Freeview box.

They are obvious questions really but people are very good at sticking their heads in the sand. Don’t be an ostrich. If you live from pay cheque to pay cheque and have no savings but you walk around in designer gear then you only have yourself to blame! 

Save-it Saturday 

I took Mr S’s coin collection to use the Coinstar machine yesterday afternoon. Despite all the comments about how I could avoid the 10% service charge, it is still the most convenient way for me to cash it up as it’s hard to get to the bank during their opening hours. However, if I had realised that he had put so much silver in there I would have taken that out first! He had £10.40 in 20ps! 

I came away with over £34 to spend on the week’s grocery shop. I actually spent £45 in all in Asda, but the £13 that I cashed in from my own penny collection meant that our pennies paid for the lot 😀. We will keep throwing in our coppers and small value silver coins and use whatever we collect towards Christmas. 

I made a frugal favourite for dinner last night – my version of cottage pie. I like to fry the mince up with lots of veggies (in this case celery, mushrooms and carrots) and cover with a mix of mashed potato and swede, with some grated cheddar to give a yummy topping. Cheap and filling food that doesn’t take long to make.

I had to pop to the post office before it closed to post a couple of things I had sold on eBay so that was another £30 for the pot. My daughter had a mega clear out of her wardrobe as well. She has so many clothes crammed in her bedroom I don’t think she knows what she has. I went through to see what could be listed on eBay and what needed to go to the charity shop. She had one top that still had the label! She is her mother’s daughter when it comes to money much of the time but clothes are a weakness. She does buy a lot secondhand though thankfully 😀. I will try to get some listing done in the week. (Incidentally my post How to Make Money Selling on eBay has proved one of my most popular so I have given it a page to itself 😀).

It was a beautiful day yesterday  and pottering around listening to Joni Mitchell and getting myself organised put a smile on my face. I am hoping today will be equally lovely and warm so I can get outside. I hope you have a lovely Sunday!

How to make money on eBay

I have mentioned before that I make extra money selling on eBay – mainly clothing, but anything that comes my way that might make a few pounds as well. In addition to selling our old unwanted stuff, I actively buy in order to sell on. It is quite a bit of work, but can be a nice little earner. Here is what I have learned.

People will pay a lot for secondhand designer items

Certain brand names sell well and, as long as they are in good condition, they can command a very good price. Brands such as Karen Millen, Phase Eight, MonsoonLipsy and Jane Norman all sell well.

Give a good description

You need to provide a detailed description of the item you are selling, but be honest. If there is a small stain on the hem or a pull to the fabric say so and provide photos. This will avoid battles with disgruntled customers if the item isn’t as they were expecting.

Take some good pics

A decent photo really does speak louder than a thousand words. People cannot try items on or feel the fabric so will be reassured to see several good shots from various angles. If you are going to sell clothes on a regular basis it is worth investing in a hanging dummy. I bought mine from eBay for around £8 (some examples are here. Dress them as they do in the window displays in the shops. Make dresses ‘fit’ with a few pins and add some jewellery.

Grab attention with the heading

Your title is also important. Think about what key words people might use to search for particular items. Make sure they are spelt correctly too! Include the brand, colour, style, size and if it is new, say so. I bought a Karen Millen dress from eBay for £4.50 – it didn’t sell because the photo was dreadful and the heading was ‘Lovely Dress’. Nobody was able to identify it as a gorgeous designer dress so mine was the only bid. I later sold it on for £25.

Research prices

It is worth looking at how much similar items sell for to try to establish a good price for whatever you are selling. If you’re not in a hurry you will get more for an item if you sell it at a fixed price – I tend to do this with higher end designer clothing. If you want to sell it quickly go for an auction,  I tend to choose this option for items that are worth less than a tenner. Sometimes the prices you get still take you by surprise!

Set reasonable postage prices

Don’t be greedy with postage – customers aren’t stupid and will be put off bidding if you are charging £10 P&P for an object that will only cost £3 to send. I usually weigh the item and check the Royal Mail price finder to get guidance on costs, then add a little extra for packaging. For heavier or bulky items it is worth checking out Collect Plus as it is often cheaper. I would recommend sending using recorded delivery if the item is expensive. Even if you send by standard post, always get proof of postage in case the parcel goes missing, as you can refund your customer and get a refund from the Royal Mail to keep everyone happy.

Pack well

Take a bit of time to pack items carefully. Make sure you use lots of bubble wrap and a decent box if you are posting anything breakable. When selling women’s clothing I wrap it in coloured tissue paper and pop it in a matching plastic envelope. Again, I buy these from eBay as I have found this to be the cheapest place for packaging materials.

Include a little message thanking the customer for their purchase. Ask them to leave you positive feedback if they are happy with the item or to contact you before leaving negative feedback if not so that you can try to resolve any issues. If you are selling regularly, it is worth getting business cards printed with this message. I got mine quite cheaply from VistaPrint, but there are lots of companies offering good deals on these.

The power of feedback

If a customer is not happy with the item for any reason, don’t argue. If you want to make money selling you need good feedback and it’s not worth risking that by quibbling over a return. In addition, if you buy on eBay be sure to leave reasonable feedback for the seller. I would never leave bad feedback unless the seller was obnoxious or unreasonable in some way and I hope buyers are the same (they aren’t always, but I have only had one customer leave me bad feedback – completely unfairly!).

Good timing

If you are selling by auction think about your timing and schedule your posts to end at peak periods. For example, it is better to time your auction to end on a Sunday at 8pm when people have time to browse rather than on a Monday at 10 am when they are all at work! eBay has a scheduling feature for this purpose.

Sell overseas

Don’t be afraid to sell abroad. I have seen so many adverts stating that sellers will only post within the UK. Why? If you are going to the Post Office anyway it is no more complicated to post abroad. You can use the Royal Mail Price Finder for this too!

Buying to sell on

I felt a bit like Del Boy from Only Fools and Horses when I first started doing this, but I soon got over my discomfort when I realised that eBay could seriously help my budget. It is only what antique and collectible dealers have been doing for ever – buying and selling and taking a cut where they can!

Whilst you are feeling your way selling on eBay, I recommend you don’t spend too much on buying stock. Boot sales are brilliant places to find bargain items to sell on. You often see brand new items with the tags still on for just a few pounds. I got a gorgeous new Monsoon dress in pristine condition with the tags in place for £1!! I would have happily paid five or even ten pounds for it. I later sold it on for £30.

As mentioned previously, I have purchased items cheaply on eBay itself because I knew I could present them better and sell them on for more. This can be a risk; if you are buying from sellers who aren’t savvy enough to do a good presentation they may also be vague about the condition of the item. I bought a dress for £6, another Karen Millen number, which was absolutely filthy when it arrived. Dry cleaning is expensive so I risked the fabric on a delicate wash and it came up as good as new, but it might just as easily have ended up in the charity bag.

Charity shops often know the value of high end brand names so aren’t always good places to find good stuff to sell on. Occasionally you will find some great stock though. I went into a hospice shop and they were selling all their dresses off for £4 each. I filled up three carrier bags! I know that some people feel uncomfortable making a profit from charity shops, but I don’t. I buy so much from them I think I support their causes, and sometimes they need to move their stock on to make room for the next lot.

It is also possible to get some superb bargains at the end of the sales in regular stores and sell them on at profit. Mr S’s sister does this regularly. She has a great eye for the styles that will still be in demand when they are no longer available in store, and has found that sometimes people are prepared to pay more than the original retail price.

I know others that have found objects on Freecycle and sold them on. This is where I draw the line. It goes against the whole ethos of giving something for free to stop it going to landfill in my view and means the sites can be awash with greedy dealers.

So, that is my experience of selling on eBay in a nutshell, which I hope you will find helpful. I am sure I still have much to learn, so please feel free to add your helpful hints and tips!

 

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Shopping for a hobby?

I had to pop to town to pick up my new glasses yesterday. It was really busy. Lots of people apparently shopping for fun it seemed. I do not shop as a hobby. I used to! I remember I would tell myself I was ‘just window shopping’ and before I knew it I had spent £50 on clothes I didn’t need or books I might not get round to reading or expensive glossy magazines. (These are a killer for the money saver. They give you a vision of a impossibly perfect lifestyle. Your life will be complete if you spend money on the right home decor, clothes, beauty products, right? Actually no. They are one of the first things I knocked on the head when I decided to get my financial act together).

Anyway, I digress…these days many people shop as a leisure activity. They park, they shop, they coffee, they lunch – it can be a very expensive pastime. I sometimes fancy a spree but I rarely indulge as I don’t enjoy the shopping hangover: the dent in my bank balance, the strain on the credit cards and the worry about how to pay it all back. 

My idea of shopping heaven is a £10 note and a couple of hours at a boot sale on a sunny morning. I get more of a thrill from spending a pound buying a top second-hand than I would have if I had bought it new for £20 😄. I can get a couple of books I fancy, a DVD and some CDs for the car for the price of a fancy coffee in town.

Instead of buying lots of books to clog up my house I can borrow them from the library. If there is a book I would like to keep I can get it used – the internet makes it possible to locate practically anything second-hand.

If I want furniture you won’t find me hanging round a fancy showroom; I will be in the local charity shop or looking on Gumtree. 

Shopping isn’t a hobby if you are trying to save money. How about hiking? Walking is free! If you don’t fancy that you can download exercise classes of any description online for nothing. How about yoga? All you need is a good book (from the library) on the subject and a non-slip mat. You can learn almost anything on You Tube so the possibilities for finding a new hobby (knitting, crochet, painting, woodwork?) are endless. Just don’t take up something that involves you buying lots of fancy equipment before you begin!

Cutting my own hair

I am getting so into this no spending lark I couldn’t quite face booking myself in for a £30 cut and blow dry. I haven’t even been that happy with my last couple of haircuts. But my locks were looking a little lank and frizzy so I thought I might have a little snip myself. After all, I have witnessed many haircuts over the years. I have watched how my layers have been cut by pulling sections of hair up and cutting them straight across. I always cut my own fringe as hairdressers tend to take it too short.  How hard could it be?

I had a look at some of the many tutorials on You Tube and decided not very, especially if you have long hair and want to add a few layers. Mine isn’t that long so is perhaps a little more complicated. I decided to divide it into four sections with a fifth section at the top of my head where the shortest layers are. I pulled this section up towards the ceiling and cut an inch off. I took the side sections and pulled them horizontal and took an inch off those too, then pulled the back sections out and up on the diagonal and snipped those. 

I was cautious as it was the first time I had attempted to be my own hairdresser but it seems to have turned out OK so I will take a bit more off next time 😄. At least the dry ends are off!

Anyone else cut their own hair?

We got our new (to us) freebie sofa yesterday. It needs a throw but is really comfortable. I also got a call back from the British Heart Foundation to say they can collect my old one after all on Wednesday. Until then our sitting room looks a bit like a furniture shop but we will cope! 

How about you? Any good freebies? Have a good Sunday everyone.

Still not buying it and getting stuff for free…

So…this morning we have the engineer to look at our boiler,  which has been misbehaving. It randomly refuses to come on. Most of the time we persuade it but yesterday it simply refused. The engineer is confused. This is the third time he has looked at it but can’t work out why it is going wrong. It doesn’t appear to be anything too major, but as I said a few weeks ago, this is why we need an emergency fund!

I would normally be in Aldi or Lidl first thing, but I bought quite a lot last week so I am going to make it last. I have plenty of pasta, rice, vegetables, fruit, chicken, pulses and some Quorn. DD2 is coming to stay for a couple of days and she is vegetarian, so we won’t need much meat anyway. I am planning spaghetti and cheese casserole and cheesy mushroom and lentil cottage pie. She does tend to guzzle lots of milk so that is all I need to buy, along with cat food for my furry princesses. 

I did buy some vitamins for DD3 as she hasn’t been well and is very run down. Apart from that I am still buying nothing unless absolutely essential.

Sofa anyone?

Honestly having a second super frugal no spend month is oddly liberating. I don’t worry about what I can’t have – I already have so much! 

Sometimes the things you would like just fall into your lap if you are lucky anyway. I was hankering after a new sofa as ours (secondhand from the charity shop) isn’t as comfy as it could be. My friend James and his wife decided to upgrade their still rather smart and very comfortable cream leather one so offered it to us. He helps me when WordPress leaves me confused and confuddled as it does on occasion, so he is very familiar with the theme of this blog and my thrifty ways. 

Today we will go and collect it. I am now frantically trying to get rid of the old one for free on Gumtree and Freecycle. One charity shop doesn’t want it as they have enough furniture and another can’t collect it until the end of the month. It is too good to send to the tip so I am hoping to find it a new home. 

Sofa anyone? Anyone else on a super frugal no spend month?

Tightwad Gazette remembered

Recently reader Sam commented that my blog reminded her of the old Tightwad Gazette from the 90’s. She said it was a compliment and I definitely took it as one because I love that book. It is an absolute classic. When I first came across it about ten years ago I consumed it from cover to cover, and have read it several times since. I often take a look through if I need some frugal inspiration.

It is a fantastically inspiring text totally packed with money saving ideas, with great drawings throughout. The author, Amy Dacyczyn, was a graphic designer who had always wanted to live in a historic New England farmhouse and have lots of children. She didn’t want to go out to work and leave her kids with a nanny to pay for her dream and set about proving she didn’t need to.

Amy decided that by saving money on every single thing she purchased, by making things last and by only buying what she really needed her family didn’t need two incomes. She became a ‘student of thrift’, buying clothes from yard sales, carefully costing food purchases to work out the cheapest way to eat healthily, learning to make and repair rather than buying new, and planning ahead and saving for big purchases rather than buying them on credit.

She shared what she had learned in a newsletter, and the first edition of the Tightwad Gazette book was born from that. As well as her own sensible advice, it contains correspondence and moneysaving tips from the readers of the newsletters. It is aimed at an American audience and somewhat dated in places (how to make typewriter ribbons last longer by spraying them with hairspray 😄) but is still a fantastic course for those who want to find ideas and inspiration to help them save money. It is a real game changer and I really recommend it. Mine is well thumbed and rather dog eared now so it really was worth every penny.

I wish Amy would come out of retirement and write her own blog. I think we need her common sense approach to life more than ever!

I have signed up to the Amazon affiliates scheme so if you choose to click through and buy this book on my recommendation I will earn a small commission.