Category Archives: Bargain hunting

Bargain-hunting and a freebie

Darling daughter kept my plants alive!

Fresh back from my holiday, I need to be mindful of my spending. I have therefore gone straight into bargain-hunting mode.

I had to go and get a few essentials because lots of things had run low whilst we were away. First stop was B&M. I pop in there occasionally to stock up on cat litter as this is the cheapest place for the wooden pellet variety that I prefer.  £5.59 for a large 30 litre bag, which is so much cheaper than elsewhere.

I have a lot of birthdays coming up so I stocked up cards. These were mostly 99p each which is pretty much the most I will ever pay, since they end up in the recycling anyway! Home Bargains is even cheaper for cards but I thought I may as well get them whilst there.

More bargain-hunting in the toiletries aisle. I bought my hair dye as I always do my own. This one was only £3.49, which was a good price. I treated myself to a moisturising foot masque for 99p because my feet feel very dry after walking around barefoot on the beach. My daughter has tried it and said it is nice. The makeup was a revelation in B&M. More bargains! I bought a bronzer to keep my holiday tan going. Only £2.99! It seems very nice and I used it today.

What a beautiful day it was yesterday. It felt even hotter than Mallorca, although I suppose I was rushing around doing laundry and shopping rather than lying on the beach sipping a gin and tonic 😀😀. No more showing my all inclusive arm band and getting everything done for me!

I managed to get three loads of washing done and dried, doing my my usual trick of giving each item a big shake before hanging them on the line and folding them up as soon as they were dry to minimise the ironing. There is enough to do without a massive ironing pile.

Free Manufacturer’s vouchers

A nice little gift arrived recently: £10 in vouchers from Purina. I wrote and told them how much my cats were enjoying Felix and they were obviously delighted to receive the compliment. I was very pleased because I had heard that companies sometimes send you vouchers if you contact them but I had never tried it. It was worth the effort! I might write to a few more. Has anyone else done this?

This meant I got the cat food for free as 48 sachets of Felix were only 9.99. I wasn’t lying – my cats really do enjoy Felix!

So a good day for bargain-hunting! I will make this month’s money last 😀. As a plus, darling daughter had watered all the plants and the garden is looking green and lush. Mr S will need to get the lawnmower out.

£5 bargains – a review

I received my parcel from Everythingthing5pounds yesterday. It was all very nicely packaged – they use their packing as an advertising opportunity, as you can see.

I purchased 4 items. I am most happy with a black cold shoulder top. The label says Portfolio, which I think is Marks and Spencer’s.  I also bought a long cotton summer skirt, originally New Look, a floral vest top and a pretty long sleeved black top. I’m not sure where these were from originally. Annoyingly, I seem to have purchased the wrong size as the black top is an 8 and way too small. Never mind – the labels are attached so I will stick it on eBay and get my money back. 

Would I use the site again? Yes, definitely.  I won’t browse now though – I have spent enough this month and I need to focus on making money, not spending it. 

Talking of which, I bought a second hand pair of leather sandals the other day at a bargain price of £15. They were lovely quality and I was disappointed that they were too big. I listed them straight back on eBay at a cheeky £20 and they sold immediately 😀. I also sold a pair of Skechers that I bought used for the same price I paid for them. You can never tell how shoes will sell but sporty sandals are doing ok so if you are having a clear out they are the ones to list! Three things to pack and post from yesterday; as well as the shoes I sold a lovely little dress from Next. 

Let’s hope the sales continue. I will be out at the weekend looking for more bargains to sell on! 

(BTW this is not a sponsored post and all opinions are my own.)

The art of being gorgeous on a budget

A deceptive title as I am not talking about me! I am a low maintenance kind of woman. I don’t spend lots of time and money on my appearance; with limited amounts of each there are always more pressing (bills, food, petrol) or interesting (the garden, the house, holidays) things to spend them on!


As a consequence you won’t often find me leafing through the pages of Vogue (except to have a laugh such as here) or watching You Tube videos about how to contour my face.

However, when you are the mum of teenage girls, as I seem to have been forever, you can’t help but get dragged towards certain TV programmes (because they hog the remote) and  retailers, because you are buying them clothes, makeup, toiletries or presents, and end up enjoying them 😀.

If you too have young females to buy for on occasion, or love to buy fashion for yourself, MoneySavingExpert.com has just reminded me of a brilliant one for clothes. Everything5pounds.com does exactly what it says on the tin. It sells ex high street brands (detagged) and they are all a fiver! Because I am off on holiday in a couple of weeks, I purchased four brand new items for £20 yesterday. What a treat and a rare one for me! Better still, if you go over to MSE first they have a code to use to get free postage, but only until 6pm on Tuesday. 

The other two I find myself buying lots from on high days and holidays are Beauty Bay and Cosmetics Fairy, both offering bargain prices. I don’t know how my daughters need so much makeup, but apparently they do! Need to be gorgeous at all times I guess. The pic shows one of my princesses being beautiful for her Instagram feed. Go over and give her a follow and a like if you do that kind of thing: she is makeupbyisobel1. Thanks!

Have a great Saturday!

Anyone fancy some money back?

I was perusing Twitter in a sleepy state this morning when I came upon a great offer: £15 cash back on a £25 spend online at Asda. As I planned to pop in somewhere tomorrow to buy my Lactofree milk and cat food I thought I might as well have a look.

I signed up with a site called Top Cash Back and clicked on the link to the Asda site to get the offer. I will pop in to collect it tomorrow so I don’t have to pay the £5 delivery charge and hopefully my cash back will appear on my Top Cash Back account soon. Chuffed!

If you are interested in this, have a look. Be quick though as it only lasts until Monday. If you click through from my link I will earn a referral fee. Then if you recommend it to your friends you will also earn the fee. It’s win-win with this one!

Click here.
I plan to have a proper examination of the Top Cash Back website as it looks excellent. You can get money back on almost everything if you go through the site: fashion, beauty, furniture, holidays and hotels, eating out and utilities. I have recommended Good Energy on this blog before. I like their green credentials and very good customer service. I notice you can get £70 cash back if you sign up with them.  Broadband deals that are worth checking out are £150 cash back on Sky bundles, £250 on the same from Virgin Media and £150 on EE.

With the vacation season fast approaching, you can also get 20% cash back on airport parking, 6% on Holiday Cruises and 4% on Disney World holidays.

As this is the first time I have used the site and I don’t have my cash back yet, I am cautiously recommending it. It looks promising though! Has anyone else used it?

A thrifty bank holiday weekend

Meeting a friend at Abberton Reservoir


What a lovely long weekend! We have been non-stop busy here at Shoestring Cottage, mainly in the garden, but I have enjoyed every minute.

Our neighbour chatting over the fence said they weren’t going anywhere as everything cost so much to do. We suggested a walk along the coast, which we do regularly – we are only half an hour away. He said even that would cost £20 by the time they had stopped for coffee and cake. Not the way we do it! A flask and a home made picnic costs just a few pounds to make. You can spend a lot on a day out, but you don’t have to if you can’t afford it – there is loads of free stuff to do!

Starting to look tidier …


In fact, we didn’t choose a coastal walk but had one around the local wildlife trust reserve yesterday and a five mile one today from the house to our beautiful local cemetery and back.

I also hit the boot sale again this morning and found more fantastic bargains for resale on eBay. I am still frequently amazed at what people are selling. Today I discovered a lady selling her spendthrift daughter’s clothes. Everything was £2, even a brand new and beautiful Top Shop dress and skirt, both with tags still attached, a fabulous floral Zara summer skirt and top and a gorgeous Warehouse dress in perfect condition.  I got loads of stuff so spent a few hours washing and listing some and will finish the others after work in the week.

Who needs chocolate?


We had a family roast dinner yesterday with two of the three daughters here. As I am avoiding sugar we had a fruit salad for dessert, which we all enjoyed as much as a chocolate cake 😀.

It’s great to feel we are finally on top of the garden – or getting there anyway. It is a lot of work but so nice to get outside for some fresh air and exercise. 

We are completing our long weekend with a couple of glasses of wine watching the final episode of Broadchurch – what a  series! Who needs the cinema?

My weekend cost very little; in fact the money I spent at the boot sale should be an investment and make me a bit extra. A thrifty weekend in all – how was yours?

Using it up to save money

My food shop was minimal last week. I haven’t really spent anything on groceries apart from £8 on some yellow sticker stuff I found in my local Co-op.  We seemed to have quite a lot of food and it makes me more creative when I have to use up what we have.

We used the fish cakes for tea on Saturday with some salad. They were delicious but I wouldn’t have paid the original price.  On Sunday we had the chicken pieces, roasted up with some of the carrots and lots of fresh veg that was hanging around plus half a tin of potatoes that needed eating. We had this one tray supper with the spinach and it was lovely!

The kiwis still aren’t ripe – I just can’t think why they were reduced at all! We have apples and oranges to use up anyway as well as frozen berries.

I am saving the whole chicken as we will have a roast over the Easter weekend. I will need to get some shopping before then but I do intend to go to the supermarket on Saturday evening to see if I can get some big reductions before Easter Sunday 😀.

So I  am saving money on my food bill by finding bargains, not wasting fresh food and using up what we have in the cupboards and freezers. How about you?

How boot sales can help you reach your savings goals

Boot sales! You got to love them on a beautiful sunny morning. My usual one, at Ardleigh in Colchester, was absolutely packed with bargain hunters today. I queued for 45 minutes to get in. That’s a first. My daughter was selling and had arrived at 6.30,  but she queued just the same. 

Hannah and Bex as glamorous sellers


If you are on a budget, boot sales  are worth getting up early for. I know people who never go to them. Maybe they imagine them as one huge jumble sale. It’s true, they can be a bit like that but, amongst the junk, there are new and nearly new bargains to help every family stretch their money. Here’s how.

1) New parents: babies don’t care if their clothes and equipment aren’t new. They grow too quickly for their clothes to get worn out. Today I saw an almost new travel cot for £20, a baby bath for £1 and a steriliser for £3 and I wasn’t even looking at baby stuff!

2) Kids: although I would say it is generally more heavily used, it is possible to pick up some great children’s clothes and shoes for pennies. Toys, books and bikes were all available in quantity this morning. 

3) First homers: if you already have the cost of rent or a mortgage to worry about, you possibly don’t have the means to kit your abode out from new. You can get kitchen equipment, bedding, furniture, cushions, pictures, curtains and lots more. Of course, you don’t have to be a first home buyer or new tenant to benefit from the cheap purchase of other folks’ cast offs!

4) Students going to university: similarly you can easily kit out a student from a boot sale. Pots, pans, cookery books, bedding can all be had at a fraction of the price of new items.

5) DIYers: there are always plenty of decent tools on offer from some of the traders, as well as new pots of paint and items such as paintbrushes.

6) Foodies: in recent years boot sales have started to attract more traditional market stalls, selling great value fruit and veg, sweets, cakes and drinks just out of their best before dates as well as fresh meat. You can also pick up household items such as loo roll and household cleaners.

7) Gardeners: I have bought some excellent plants at boot sales over the years – much cheaper than garden centre prices. The professional sellers offer good quality products. The sales are also good for garden tools.

Boot sale haul


8) eBayers: if, like me, you try to make a little extra cash on eBay, then boot sales offer the best place for cheap stock. You will get sellers who are wildly optimistic when pricing their items but many who under charge. I watch out for those who look as if they have had a proper clear out and just want rid. I hit gold today; a lady selling brand new clothes with the tags still on. I asked how much she wanted for a new Phase Eight dress priced at £120 and she said £3!!!! When I had picked myself up off the floor I bought that along with a gorgeous Dorothy Perkins dress and two Tops for £10 – all new with their labels intact. Almost £200 worth! There are also antiques and collectibles for those who have a good eye – it is worth doing some research.

9) Fashionistas: as above. If you need clothes for home or work you can get a lot for your money. You can also find decent costume jewellery, makeup and toiletries.

10) Families searching for fun: DVDs, computer games, board games, bikes, garden swings and trampolines, I have seen them all. If you give the kids a strict budget it can be a fun morning out as well as teaching them the value of money and how to get the most from their cash. Avoid the bouncy castles if you can or they will spend their cash in five minutes flat…

10) Sellers: finally, if you need to make some money whilst clearing your junk, boot sales are perfect!

So… Easter is coming up and there will be boot sales aplenty. If you have never been this is the time to try!

Cheapskate Tuesday 

My Approved Food order arrived yesterday, just in the nick of time as I had run out of cat food. I ordered quite a lot of Felix but also some posh stuff called Encore, which apparently would have cost £8 for 10 sachets. £8!! I find that hard to believe. Anyway it is a treat for the cats and they loved it 😀. I also purchased a huge 1kg tub of Marigold bouillon for a fiver. I make a lot of soup so this will come in very handy. The smaller one in the picture also cost me a fiver from the health food shop so quite a saving.

I love a bargain! Am I very sad to get excited over this stuff?

The caravan in Wales for our summer holiday is booked so I am excited to go again and must give them a plug. If you want a cheap holiday in an amazingly peaceful, environmentally sustainable situation you can’t beat this place. They have a lovely old caravan with a compost toilet and a tiny little campsite if you are hardy enough. Check it out here. Tom and Liza are lovely hosts. Tell them I recommended them 😀.

If you are interested in buying from Approved Food and use my link, I earn a teensy but welcome commission.
https://store.approvedfood.co.uk/?afid=aab8d8

 

Cheaper groceries? I Approve!

Every now and again I have a look on Approved Food and get a few mega bargains. Last night, since I have my new bank card (the other one was used and abused by some scumbag and it was blocked), I decided to take a look and see if there was enough to tempt me to justify the £30 minimum order charge plus £5.99 delivery. As soon as I saw that there was the Felix cat food that my cats like (only £2 for 12 sachets), I knew it would be. I avoided all of the yummy looking sweets and chocolates, as I have given up sugar for the month, and focussed on purchases that would really save me money – items I either need now or soon would.

In case you haven’t come across them, Approved Food sells goods that are past their best before dates at huge discounts. The items are still perfectly good to use. The company doesn’t just sell food; as well as the groceries, they have alcohol (I took advantage and ordered some wine), pet supplies, toiletries, household goods and gifts.

You can’t do the week’s shop on there. There are some staples (I bought orange juice, teabags and Marigold vegetable stock), but no bread, milk or eggs. If you like branded goods such as washing powder and fabric softener you will really make massive savings. I bought a big tin of Vanish carpet spray (constantly clearing up cat sick in my house!) for £2 instead of £4 for example. There are often very cheap cook-in sauces as well for quick and convenient after work meals.

If you want to try Approved Food and you place an order using my link, I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

Try Approved Food

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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