Old wins out in shopping quest

Last weekend I spent hours traipsing from shop to shop without luck.

On the hunt for a new winter coat and some new work outfits I had set off armed with my saved pennies ready to spend.

I began at the mall working my through boutiques, high street chains and department stores but by the end of the first weekend I had failed to buy anything. Nothing was quite right, and, even if it was I bulked at the price tag.

I also fretted over the quality of the item and whether the brand fitted my ethical criteria – namely how high it ranked on the Australian Fashion Report Card on worker exploitation. In the end a decision became too hard and I plodded home empty handed.

This weekend I was adamant I would buy something. I headed off to the same old shops hoping something would jump out at me or I would get to a point where I could convince myself spending $200 on a jacket was justifiable.clothes

A couple of hours later without opening my purse and with my energy flagging, I decided to head home via a visit to two second hand clothing stores.

The Brotherhood of St Laurence op-shop proved to be an undiscovered treasure trove. I picked up two basic tops in great condition and a comfy blue and white striped Yarra Trail cardi for $16.

I then hit the local Salvos store which I visit regularly. This time the clothing gods must have been smiling down on me as I rifled through the well organised racks.

I found a Wish button up cream coat with matching belt that, with a dry clean will be as good as new, plus a cute cropped charcoal Portman’s jacket.

The loot didn’t stop there – I also got a soft grey Zara basic blazer, a short A-line black and white patterned skirt, one Sunny Girl grey jumper with a studded neckline, a black Esprit cardigan, a Ladakh striped shirt dress, two fitted dresses perfect for work or a wedding and two necklaces. The grand total? $98.

I returned home triumphant in the knowledge I had enough new clothes to get me through winter and ethically, my mind was at ease.

Next time instead of leaving the op shop until the last resort, I’ll head there first and save myself a weekend.

What have been your best op-shop finds?

Trim these expenses and save

Since turning 30 I’ve had an epiphany that I need to start saving more of my monthly income. A looming European holiday has also helped focus the mind (and bank balance).

So I decided to go through my expenses to see if there were any areas where I could tighten up. I decided I wanted to keep my gym membership but that a hedge trimmer could be taken to the following:

Phone

I’ve been incredibly lazy with my phone plan for years, and know that I’ve been paying far and still only have an iPhone 3 (Siri? Who’s Siri?). So finally I decided to make the switch. I’m BYO’ing my own phone (acquired second hand) to a different company and a cheaper phone plan.

Savings: $35 a month

Subscriptions

I’ve been paying for a mainstream newspaper subscription which gives me the papers on the weekend as well as full access online. But when I think about it, I don’t use the subscription to access news online and I’m quite happy to trundle up the street to buy the papers on the weekend.

Savings: $26 a month

Health insurance

I’m an advocate for private health insurance – I think it’s important that those who can afford it pay for it. I reviewed my policy and decided I could probably take off some of the extras I’d put on there, particularly since I quit playing netball to save my poor ankles and knees.

Savings: $20 a month

Reducing charity dollars

This one was a hard decision to make but I consoled myself with the fact that I’d been regularly upping my give to this particular charity since I’d signed up 10 years ago. I’ve reduced my donation a little for the time being but have every intention to increase the amount next time they call for a chat. I’ll also continue to give to one off charity asks throughout the year.

Savings: $80 a month

Bank fees

I’m pretty hopeless at keeping track of bank fees but there is one that I’m determined never to pay again – the $2 fee you cop when you withdraw money from an ATM that isn’t your bank. Now, $2 isn’t much but it adds up and it makes me think more about what other fees I might be paying unnecessarily.

Savings: $40 to $50 a year

I hope these changes will result in a few more euros for my trip. What are your smart money saving tips?

Gift giving made easy this Christmas

I’m not big on Christmas – I don’t have a tree and Christmas carols were ruined for me after working in a department store. I don’t like the tacky nature of decorations and the sheer volume of stuff that fills the shops. But I do like the food….and gift giving.

I managed to do about 80% of my Christmas shopping yesterday afternoon – all locally from up the street. I’m lucky to live in walking distance to a high street of eclectic shops making it easy for me to buy nearly everything for those on my list. The rest I’ll probably do online to avoid the crush of big shopping centres.

I appreciate why many don’t like gift giving at Christmas – the stress, the expense, the time wasted, the waste created… but I like to give, and let’s be honest, I also like to receive gifts.

Christmas is the one time I truly splash out – I don’t really give presents during the year, only for milestone birthdays or weddings.

This year my family and I have given each other a list of ideas to help make the process easier. Some think this is pointless and it’d be easier to just give money instead but I like it. I pick a few items from the lists but also throw in a few surprises.

I find Christmas a great time to get those things you wouldn’t normally buy yourself. Things like perfume, lip gloss or lipstick, jewellery, books, gym bags, or stationary.

For couples it’s a great time to stock up on bath towels, beach towels, and new sheets.

I also like to add some edible gifts such as homemade biscuits or granola, spice mixes (easy to make yourself), a bag of fancy coffee or some preserves.

Experiences are also a winner, especially for those who don’t like things cluttering up their home. Try a voucher for a workshop, cooking class, a restaurant, outdoor cinema, or year’s pass to the movies.

Have parents or grandparents that have everything? Give them a ‘voucher’ for a day out to the beach, or the hills – wherever they’d like to go for a drive and a meal.

To top it off why not add in a donation to the charity of your choice such as The Smith Family, Oxfam or the Asylum Seekers Centre.

Don’t let gift giving overwhelm you – shop locally where you can or online, and think outside the box to keep things on the cheap and easy side.