Sunday, 25 March 2012

Really long wear eye-liner

While I don't wear a huge amount of makeup, I am one of these women who won't leave the house without a certain amount of camouflage on (there is one very tired mummy underneath that concealer and pop of blusher). Frankly I just look knackered without it. And one of my makeup "things" is that I always have to wear eyeliner in a little feline flick. Now, back in my spendthrift days, I had something of a love affair with Bobbi Brown makeup. I still am in love with the stuff but we just can't be together. But one product I just haven't been able to replace for a cheaper substitute is Bobbi Brown's Longwear Eyeliner Gel. It comes in a little pot and at £12 a pop it isn't cheap. But it is fabulous. A little goes a really long way and my personal everyday favourite is the Bronze Shimmer - a lovely soft shimmery brown which really makes your eyes stand out without the slightly harsh look of the 1950's signature black eyeliner flick.
Trouble is the gel would often start to go cakey and dry before I'd even got halfway through the pot. I blush to think how many pots I threw away when that happened. Then last year I had a brainwave. I was trying to think of a way of rejuvenating the pot and went along the lines of the solvent you often use to remove makeup is often the one that can rehydrate it (think a drop of nail varnish remover can revive old bottles of nail varnish). I find baby oil is the best (and cheapest) eye makeup remover, so I tried a tiny drop of that. Low and behold - good as new eyeliner gel! So whenever my little pot starts to get thirsty, I pop in a drop of baby oil and give it a swirl round with my liner brush or the end of my tail comb and it's good to go again.
My current pot has now been going for... it must be getting on for three years now. It is getting low, but thankfully I have a £10 John Lewis voucher sitting in my purse that is earmarked for a replacement, so I can have the double joy of buying a new Bobbi Brown eyeliner gel for only £2.
PS I should point out that for hygiene purposes it is always advisable to look at the use by date of cosmetics (should be on the packaging) and if you have say an eye infection, throw out your old cosmetics to avoid reinfection.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Boot sale bargains

Time was when the mere mention of a car boot sale would have brought me out in hives. Yes, I will confess to having been something of a snob (in fact I do still turn my nose up at a few things despite myself – I still can’t bring myself to buy second hand clothes, daft eh?). But thanks to programmes such as Kirstie’s Homemade Home (but not Bargain Hunt you understand, urgh), my eyes have been opened.

The first boot sale I actually made the effort to explore was only about six months ago and I wondered why on earth I hadn’t been before. Particularly having a toddler at the time, I could not get over how many children’s toys, books and clothes could be snapped up for an absolute steal. Given my sons’ voracious appetite for books and how quickly they get bored of or grow out of toys, I discovered to my joy I could pick up sack loads of the stuff for a few quid. After all, what happens to all those toys when your children have no longer need or use them anymore? And at this age, they don’t know or care whether they’re new or second hand. A case in point – one of my first ever purchases was an immaculate Early Learning Centre cash register for £2. I saw the very same one the following week in the shop for £25. That first boot sale I also bagged a lovely old galvanised watering can for a fiver and an earthenware jar to put my kitchen utensils in for one whole English pound.

This weekend, my haul includes a beautiful little teacup, saucer and cake plate set for £2 (perfect to add to my little collection of mismatched cups and saucers), a perfect little jug for milk or cream, and for the boys three vintage Rupert annuals for £5, the collected stories of Winnie the Pooh for a pound (proper old school Pooh mind, not yer Disney muck) and an as-new Early Learning Centre work bench that had a very noisy drill, vice, circular saw and nuts and bolts for £2. The elder Belatedly Junior was chuffed to bits and I have to say I was pretty pleased with my treats too.

I did actually drag the mother-in-law with this time (a boot sale virgin) and bless her, she was quite game – coming away with a little ceramic jug which matched a style she collects and some books and toys for when the grandchildren stay. I do think she went home and had a shower though.

I am quite sure I’m preaching to many of the converted who are doubtless rolling their eyes at my stupidity for being so stuffy about them before. But perhaps there are still a few of you out there yet to dip your toes into the boot sale waters, in which case I urge you to dive straight in – you never know what treasures you’ll net.

The sweet smell of savings

It’s amazing what inspiration strikes in the shower. There I was lathering up this morning staring rather blankly at the empty reed diffuser sitting on our window sill (a Christmas present from the mother-in-law) vaguely thinking it was a shame it was now finished, when I had a eureka moment. Now I should just back track a little here and admit I have a (now suppressed) addiction to home fragrances – namely Yankee Candles, which I can no longer justify indulging as the large ones are about £17 a pop. Any kind of home fragrance permutation is therefore a very welcome gift at birthdays and Christmas, hence my disappointment at the now exhausted reed diffuser.

Well I suddenly remembered that tucked away in a drawer in the living room was a collection of very old refresher oils from back in the days when tea light oil burners were considered the cutting edge of home fragrance. Thankfully aroma technology has moved on since then as there was nothing more irritating than suddenly getting a whiff of acrid burning oil because you’d forgotten to replenish the little puddle of water. So on a hunch I took the reed diffuser, tipped in a bottle of the fragrance oil from the drawer and topped it up with a bit of olive oil from the kitchen. Low and behold – a new reed diffuser for nothing! Especially pleasing given that I’d noticed some in Sainsbury’s last week for £14. It really works too.

Monday, 20 February 2012

To Market, To Market

Ooh it must be a good couple of years now since I’ve stopped regularly buying fresh fruit and vegetables from the supermarket. Except in the direst of emergencies (such as plugging a screaming toddler with a face-full of grapes). Not only is the produce expensive, it is also generally horribly unripe and seems to go straight to mouldy or shrivelled without ever passing anything amounting to edible. For several years now I’ve tried to grow as many of our vegetables as possible (we don’t have flower beds, we have vegetable beds) and some fruit (strawberries and raspberries) but there is always a need to supplement this - either to fill the hungry gap in late winter, because a crop has been ravaged by some wee beastie, or because my growing family consumes faster that I can produce.

For a few years now I’ve been doing our weekly fruit and veg shop at our town’s high street market held every Friday and Saturday. It’s handy that I have a buggy to hang all my shopping bags on and push home, but I even used to shop there when I was at work – popping down the high street on my Friday lunch break and picking up a treat or two at the bakery stall at the
same time.

The fruit and veg stall is massive and run by a bunch of delightfully flirtatious cockney lads and lasses who are always good for a bit of banter and occasionally slip my eldest son the odd apple or banana as a freebie. In the deep winter months when the garden is pretty bare, for under a tenner a week I get enough produce to feed three hungry mouths (Baby Belatedly is still on milk). And boy do we like our fruit and veg. The fruit is always perfectly ripe and appropriately juicy or crispy and lasts a lot better than the supermarket stuff. I also come home with plastic carrier bags to line my waste paper baskets and lovely brown paper bags – the larger of which line my compost caddy and the smaller of which are used to wrap up Mr Belatedly’s sandwiches for work. Now that’s what I call a fruitful shop. (Sorry).

Sunday, 19 February 2012

In the beginning…

In the beginning a Girl created a whole lot of debt.

And the debt was large, burdensome and ever-growing.

And the Girl looked at the debt and saw that it was bad.

And She said let there be savings and it was so.

Yes ladies and gentlemen, that is me Prudence. And this is my blog. Why am I writing one? Well I’ll let you into a secret. I wasn’t always called Prudence. There was a time when I was known as Penny Golightly. Then one day I woke up, smelt the financial coffee and changed my name by Deed Poll to Prudence Belatedly. It seemed a fitting moniker. As a reformed spendthrift trying to negotiate the trials and tribulations of raising a family on one income in these current challenging financial times, I am constantly on the lookout for scrimping and saving inspiration and ideas. It seems there are quite a lot of us out there, and I’m not sure any of us would say you can ever have too many hints and tips. So for what it’s worth, here begins an on-going account of my journey. I reckon I’ve come a pretty long way so far, and I don’t imagine it’s a road I’ll ever stop travelling. Sometimes I skip along at a chipper pace, loving it as I go. At other times it seems like an uphill plod. But like trudging up most hills, it’s great to look back at how far you’ve come
and to admire the vistas ahead.

Where did it all begin? Do I start at the point I realised things had to change, or when things started to go wrong? Do I start when I moved to London and started living the city life, or when I started university and lived on money that wasn’t mine, or earlier still at my parents’ generous knee? Who knows when my slippery slide into debt actually began, but suffice to say by the beginning of 2008 my then fiancĂ© (now husband) and I found ourselves in £30,000 of debt (aside from our mortgage and my Student Loan). This was made up of car finance, personal loans, loans from parents, overdrafts and a number of maxed out credit cards – much of which was a hangover from student days.

Four years later and (again aside from the mortgage and my Student Loan*) we are now several thousand pounds in the black. Not bad considering we’ve been down to one salary for two of those four years and now have two extra mouths to feed. What gave me the metaphorical slap round the chops I needed? I honestly think it was the prospect of marriage. Being an old-fashioned kinda gal, I really saw it as cutting the apron – or rather the purse strings from my long-suffering Dad who had baled me out for years, and the beginning of my independent life (though some might say I am rather now dependant on another chap, although this one fares a lot better on the financial front) I determined that his payment (on his insistence) for much of our wedding was his last act of “enabling” to use a psycho-babble turn of phrase. From there on in, it was just going to be Mr Belatedly and I and our own wit. The ridiculous thing is we are now far better off on one salary then when we had two! All that money wasted! What was I thinking? Sadly, I don’t think I’m an isolated case. In fact, worryingly, I reckon I’m in the majority here. Years and years of thinking credit was a licence to spend indiscriminately on clothes, haircuts, manicures, makeup, meals out, nights out, trips, furniture, gifts… eventually it comes back and bites you on the bum.

So it was out with the credit cards and in with spread sheets, budget apps, ingenuity and will power. I now get my kicks from knowing I’ve saved x amount of money here, grabbed a bargain there, will have a nice little nest egg for our family and will be able to pass on some pearls of financial wisdom that I wish I’d learnt a long time ago. I have also, rather gratifyingly, learnt to increasingly rely on my slowly expanding arsenal of skills including vegetable growing, cooking, preserving, sewing and DIY.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not some hairy-legged, fleece-wearing, granola-munching new-age bumpkin (although I am actually quite partial to a bit of granola, shh…) I am however, a woman with a dilemma - to illustrate: my favourite TV programmes include River Cottage and Sex and The City. You see my point.

So what can you expect from my blog? Well, probably a lot of drivel about my triumphs and failures attempting to coax forth edible life from our garden, cook up a storm, stop the house from falling down around our ears, entertain two small children without breaking the bank and generally maintain a decent standard of living for as little as possible. Hey, a girl can dream. Hopefully however, there’ll be some useful tips and inspiration I’ve picked up along the way… I hope you enjoy discovering them as much as I do.


*I discount my Student Loan in this instance as I am not earning, therefore not required to make repayments and in fact by the time I am likely to be earning enough to do so again, I will have reached the age where the debt will be written off. Don’t get me started on university debt…!