3 Budgeting Tips – for the disorganised Christmas shopper!

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It’s inevitable – every single year I plan to start saving early for Christmas and before I realise it there is only one ‘proper’ payday left before the big day, and I haven’t given Christmas budgeting a second thought. On the plus side, this means that over the years I have had to become resourceful to get all my shopping done without re-mortgaging the house and so have a few tricks up my sleeve! Here are my top three…

Good old eBay

I admit this may not be the most revolutionary idea you’ve come across, but it is definitely an ‘oldie but goodie’ option. And with the age of Smart Phones it is easier than ever to sell items on eBay. You can literally snap a picture on your phone and upload it straight to the app to start the auction right away. Yes there’s the effort of having to package everything and take a trip to the post office, but if you sell in bulk and time it right you won’t have to make multiple trips. If you think you don’t have anything to sell you might be surprised; I’ve sold items such as an old pair of Ugg boots with a hole in, broken ornaments and even an empty (designer) shoe box! It’s quick money too as you can chose your auction length to be 1,3,5,7 or 10 days (although personally I recommended at least 3). Bonus tip: as a buyer I can find postage prices off-putting so when listing items I tend to offer free P&P and start the auction at the cost it will be for me to send it in the mail, so that at the very worst I break even.

Secret Santa

Not just for the £5 novelty office gift! If you have a big group or friends or large family a Secret Santa can be a great way to save money for everybody without forgoing presents completely. After all, Christmas isn’t actually about the presents anyway and surely quality is better than quantity? My family have been doing a Secret Santa for the past few years, each year setting a budget that suits everyone. The ‘secret’ element adds to the fun and I also find I put a lot more thought into the gift giving when I’m buying for one person instead of many.

Swap out a luxury for a month

This isn’t a ‘Christmas season exclusive’ tip but every year in the lead up to December I try and save a bit of cash by making a small lifestyle change. This year it has been coffee. I am a coffee addict and cannot function at work unless I’ve had my morning fix. And the instant variety won’t do which means I usually spend more than I’d like to admit on ‘proper’ Barista style coffee each month. I managed to get an at home coffee maker in a half price offer at House of Fraser a few months ago (it’s the Dolce Gusto in case you’re intersted) and cost of the machine aside, I worked out I have been saving over £40 per month by using this every morning instead of a trip to Costa! This is definitely a change I’m going to keep going well past the festive season. I bet everyone has a similar swap they could make, even if it saves enough money to buy one Christmas present or even to pay for one extra drink at a Christmas party!

Any tips for me? Let me know in the comments!

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Nars Audacious Mascara – review

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I’m definitely a drug store mascara fan. I find that you can get amazing results from plenty of budget friendly brands and that means it’s often not worth spending the extra money on high end mascaras. Even more so as mascara is the product that I repurchase the most because I try and stick to the recommended 3-month expiry date (which is usually how long a mascara lasts me anyway if I’m using it every day). Back in the early 2000’s I had a few high end favourites (you can hear more about these on my YouTube channel here) but other than a brief fling with Benefit’s They’re Real, since then I haven’t really felt the need to splash out on a more expensive mascara. That was until an email from Space NK dropped into my inbox back in September announcing the launch of the ‘Audacious’ mascara from Nars and I couldn’t resist a cheeky purchase!

At £21 the ‘Audacious’ mascara is around the price you would expect from a luxury brand. It promises “extreme volume, extreme length, extreme control” and claims the “exclusive lash-catching brush intensifies with every layer, over 200 hooks and bristles guide a silky formula from roots to tips with full precision”. Mascara is definitely not a ‘one size fits all’ product; we were all blessed with natural lashes of all shapes and sizes, and therefore have different wants from a formula. So, in this post I will let you know what I loved, liked and loathed about the product so that you can make your own mind up about whether it is worth a try for you!

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First things first, the packaging. I love the way it is in keeping with the rest of the brand packaging and the matte effect of the mascara tube means you can get a really good grip when applying (I’ve lost count of the amount of times a mascara wand has sprung out of my hand when a brand uses the more standard glossy finish). However, the matte effect also means it gets grubby really easily, just like the blushers from Nars.

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Onto to the wand. With so many mascaras on the market now and having tried a pretty huge selection out myself, it’s not often I come across a wand that is very different from others I’ve used. However, this one had me a bit surprised! There are four rows of ‘teeth’. Each row has smaller teeth at the tip which get bigger towards the centre, and then tail off again. In addition there are tiny teeth dispersed between the larger ones. The material is also really flexible and the main body of the wand itself is ever so slightly curved. In other words, this wand really ‘grabs’ each lash with ease and makes the mascara an absolute doddle to apply. I bought mine online (from the Space NK website) which shows the wand to be coloured red. To me this seems a little pointless as it is always covered in the product so you cant tell.

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No mascara

One coat

Three coats

So what about the formula? As you can see from the photos above just one coat makes a dramatic difference in terms of the length. If your natural eyelashes are very short, and it is length you are after this may be the mascara for you. Personally, I love a bit of volume and I don’t think this delivers from that point of view. Once layered, I also found the formula became a bit ‘clumpy’ for my liking but if you like the ‘spidery lash’ look you can layer this up and it does make your eyes look bigger. It was very easy to remove at the end of the day with my normal eye make up remover (unlike the Benefit They’re Real which is why I gave up on that) but I did find that after a long day at work it had started to flake.

Overall? This may not be a regular repurchase for me but if you are looking for a lengthening mascara with dramatic results and like a mascara that is quick and easy to apply, this may be worth a look. Let me know in the comments your thoughts on this product if you have given it a go…

Trying out the capsule wardrobe – the ‘Un-Fancy’ way

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When I started blogging, a friend suggested writing a post about The Capsule Wardrobe. As much as the idea intrigued me I thought it was something I’d never actually be able to do. However, after doing my research (in other words; reading a lot of blog posts) I decided it was something I definitely wanted to try out. I’ve now overhauled my wardrobe and created my first ever capsule wardrobe. Read on for the what’s, why’s and how’s of the process so far! (You might want to grab a cup of tea and a snack – it’s a long one!)


What is it?

In short, it’s a finite collection of fashion pieces that make up your wardrobe, and is designed to last three months (typically a season). I decided to base mine on the recommendations of Caroline who owns the blog un-fancy.com – completely dedicated to the capsule wardrobe concept. She recommends around 37 pieces (I ended up going for 39). If you are thinking of creating a capsule wardrobe I highly recommend browsing her site as this is where I got most of my inspiration. Included in the number is tops, bottoms (skirts, dresses, trousers), shoes and outerwear. You don’t include accessories as these can then be used to provide more variety to the outfits you can create, however I notice Caroline takes a very minimal approach to accessories too. Neither do you include underwear, workout wear, loungewear, swimwear or any cocktail dresses or ball gowns you happen to own! Reassess and swap or buy items every three months and Bob’s your uncle! You could argue that in the UK we don’t need to swap our clothes out every season given the unpredictable and mixed weather but I decided to start off with three monthly intervals as I’m new to the capsule wardrobe game and want a chance to be able to correct any mistakes sooner rather than later.


Why do it?

Personally, I wanted to start to develop my own personal style. I realise written down that sounds a bit pretentious! However at 32 years young I couldn’t tell you what my style is. A browse through old photos would just confirm that I jump on whatever fashion bandwagon happens to be going past at the time and as a result I’ve bought into the ‘throwaway fashion’ culture. Hopefully that will start to change now. I also really relate to Caroline’s points on her blog about the paradox of choice and emotional shopping. Being faced with an overflowing wardrobe and drawers stuffed full of clothes meant I didn’t get full use out of my items and ended wearing the same things a lot of the time. Too much choice is not always a good thing. And as for emotional shopping; if you look in your wardrobe now and find the things you have never worn or only worn once, there’s every chance they are a result of this. I know I haven’t made good fashion purchases when feeling panicked, stressed, tired or upset! In the long term this method should also save you money. It might seem like a big cost when you start, but you won’t spend any money on clothes for another three months, and the more practised you get the less money you are likely to spend each time you swap the clothes for the change in season.


How did I do it?

Taking lead from un-fancy.com first I thought about where I spend most of my time. Working full time in an office environment means I wanted a high proportion of the pieces to be work-suitable but I still needed plenty of items I could wear socially including just a few ‘party pieces’ (gone are the days of all night partying every weekend for me!) This is probably the most important step as everybody will have completely different requirements here depending on your lifestyle. Next, the big wardrobe clear out. This was eye opening! I naively thought I probably didn’t have that many more than 39 pieces as I’m pretty good at having regular de-cluttering sessions. Well, I was wrong as when it came to the crunch I had 198 pieces! I sorted everything into three piles;

1. Keep and wear. This pile went straight back into the wardrobe. It included everything I looked at and immediately thought ‘love it, fits me and is season appropriate’. This was the starting point of my new capsule wardrobe and I had 19 pieces (which further proves how little of my wardrobe I was actually wearing!)

2. Storage. In here went anything I loved and can still wear but is not suitable to wear in the next three months (so in other words spring/summer clothes). Also into this pile went anything that I’m not going to wear any time soon but for some sentimental reason couldn’t bear to part with. When it’s time to reassess the capsule wardrobe in a few months time this will come out of storage to be considered again. I bought some vacuum packed storage bags so that the clothing will be kept safe and dry for the end of December but is not easy for me to dip into if I feel like cheating!

3. Donate/Sell. This included items that don’t fit or I simply didn’t love enough to put into either of the other piles. I didn’t actually count how many items ended up here but this was definitely the biggest pile, I reckon around 75% of the whole lot! I ended up donating most of it, and keeping just a few items to sell on eBay, but if you have more patience than me you could sell the lot and use the money to fund your new capsule wardrobe.

You can also have a fourth pile for any items that cause you to hesitate and are unsure where to put. You can either store these away or reassess once everything else has been sorted. However, I was feeling in a ruthless mood so decided not to have this pile!

Finally, the fun part: shopping! But a different kind of shopping for me; carefully planned and every purchase considered to make sure it worked with most, if not all, of the other items in the wardrobe so far.


The result?

My first ever capsule wardrobe! Well, almost. I have 35 pieces so far and still need a coat, a jumper and two tops before it will feel complete so am still on the lookout for these pieces.  I will then have 39 pieces that I will wear exclusively for the next three months and I have to say I’m quite excited about it. Sadly, my photography and photo editing skills are not advanced enough to provide a visual of the whole wardrobe contents but at the end of the post I have listed all the items with links to the exact or similar items (some items are not available online or I already owned them so are not current stock).


Lessons so far

De-cluttering in any form can be therapeutic and this has been no exception. It’s also contagious and has made me want to take a more minimalistic approach to other possessions too. This will be a work in progress and I’m sure lessons will be learnt along the way. The biggest one this time was not to try and complete the shopping in one session; it needs to remain fun and you want to avoid buying things for the sake of it. It’s therefore a good idea to do the wardrobe sort out 2-3 weeks before you plan to start and before each season change. This time I did an initial shopping trip where I got about half the items I needed. After taking everything home and reassessing what was missing I finished with two online sessions and a further trip to the local shopping centre. And as I already mentioned, I have a little bit of shopping still to do.


My items

TOPS

Long line black cardigan – Primark (similar), Black blazer – ASOS, Sleeveless tuxedo jacket – Primark (similar), Wine roll neck – Boohoo, Cream side split jumper – Boohoo, Burgundy oversized jumper – Primark (similar), Grey turtle neck crop top – Primark (similar), Black jersey top with PU sleeves – Primark (similar), Denim shirt – H&M, Check shirt – H&M, Black cold shoulder top – Primark (similar), Blogger slogan tee – Boohoo (similar), Floral top – Miss Selfridge, Grey V Neck – H&M, White blouse – ASOS, 2 Tops & Jumper – still to buy

BOTTOMS

Blue skinny jean – Seven for all Mankind, High waist blue jeans – Miss Selfridge, High waist black jeans – Boohoo, Black treggings – Boohoo, Black tailored trousers – Next, Grey tailored trousers – River Island, Black pencil skirt – ASOS, Corduroy skirt – Topshop

DRESSES

Black jersey midi dress – H&M, Retro black dress – ASOS, Roll neck stripe dress – Miss Selfridge

SHOES

Black trainers – Nike (similar), Black loafers – Primark (similar), Black Chelsea boots – Primark (similar), Black heeled boots – Primark (similar) , Brown heeled boots – New Look (similar), Patent heels – TK Maxx (similar), Suede heels – River Island

COATS/JACKETS

Grey cape – River Island (similar), Black faux leather jacket – Topshop, Coat – still to buy


I hope you have enjoyed my ramblings the capsule wardrobe experience so far! I plan to do an update each season. Let me know in the comments if that’s something you’d like to see, and if you have any tips for me…