Wednesday, 27 November 2013

How to: Give fabulous presents without emptying your purse

Christmas is coming so be a Pocket Money Princess and don't blow all your pennies! It worries me how many people get in serious debt every year for the sake of Christmas, and spend months suffering as a result. I'm not going to talk about how it's all too commercialised or how you should boycott Christmas because I understand why people love it and why they want to make it a good one for their friends and family. When people are struggling to get jobs, suffering from illness and we don't have enough time to see the people we love, we want to make Christmas extra special for them. But when did something being special have to be about how much we spend? I feel that there are too many occasions in life where an occasion being special is associated with spending a shedload of cash - weddings, birthdays and romance! So I'm here to talk about how you can save your pennies this Christmas but still make it special.

1. Make your own gifts, or put a personalised touch to a shop bought item
There is an amazing thread on Money Saving Expert where crafty forum members post photos of their handmade Christmas gifts, some of them are so simple to make but look amazing!! From pints of socks, to pots of gold and homemade selection boxes, the thread offers loads of ideas to make something a bit different for the ones that you love.
If you have a skill or are a bit crafty then use this to your advantage. If you're a dab hand at website design, create a website or blog for a friend. If you're a pro-baker make them some special homemade goods and present them in some decorative packaging. If you're an exercise queen then offer your friends and family some fun personal training sessions of your own. I knitted my dad a Dr Who Dalek using a pattern from Ravelry and he loved it!

If you're not the crafty type and you think you have no skills to offer, then think about making up your own gift sets or selection boxes. Those beauty gift sets that you buy in Boots sometimes cost more than buying the products individually, just because they come in some pretty packaging. I've noticed that most of the time, there's one or two items in the gift set that I'll actually use and the rest gets left rotting away in a draw somewhere! Make your loved one a gift set of the things that they'll really love and use and get your own pretty box/wrap it in some cellophane with pretty ribbon/put it in a nice basket. You can quite often get travel sized toiletries on 3 for 2 offers, or in your local pound shop. A fab idea that I've seen for selection boxes is to buy a plastic toolbox/organiser type box with separators and fill each section with the person's favourite sweets!

2. Get the best deal for the gifts that you want to purchase

  • Search around for the best price. Don't just buy it on the high street at the first place you see, this is the ultimate mistake of people who spend too much money at Christmas! Take a note of the price, go home and have a search around online. I find googling the item name is a good place to start, don't just check google shopping though, look in the main web searches too. Then check out other places that are likely to stock it. It doesn't have to take ages but you might just find you get a better deal.
  • Take a look on eBay. I am an eBay addict and I can quite often find what I'm looking for with a bit of searching and the right search criteria. Their money back guarantee can cover you if the item arrives broken/not as described/doesn't arrive at all, and I recently used this successfully when a camera I purchased arrived broken.
  • Is there likely to be a similar/the same last season item? Some shops sell the same item or something very similar year after year and so it's worth a look in their sale section to see if they have the version from last season at a cheaper price, or having a look on eBay. This is a particular point to note if you do want to buy a gift set, they're usually very similar year after year and no-one will know the difference or care if the packaging is slightly different!
  • Look for discount vouchers. Money Saving Expert have a great advent calendar which shows discounts and deals which happen every year and are likely to happen this year too, so take a look before you make any purchases. Websites like Vouchercodes and Vouchercloud list discounts for a variety of different stores. Sometimes vouchers can be used at events where stores are already giving a discount, a recent example is that Debenhams had a 25% off event but there was also a discount code for 10% off. Both could be used together which meant you could get 35% off, which is a substantial saving!
  • Join a cashback website. I don't know why more people aren't members of these!! I've been a member of TopCashBack for years and have had hundreds of pounds worth of cashback. My boyfriend recently bought a Christmas present where he received more cashback than he paid for the item, so essentially he got paid to buy his Christmas present! Sometimes the cashback is only 1% but every little helps, a saving is a saving. Quite often you can use a discount voucher and still get cashback via cashback sites which helps to save even more pennies. Check the top two cashback websites, TopCashBack and QuidCo before making any purchases.
  • Make use of loyalty schemes. My favourite is Tesco Clubcard Boost. If you shop at Tesco or even buy your petrol there, get a clubcard and start earning points. Points are turned into vouchers which can then be doubled using Clubcard Boost. Therefore £5 worth of vouchers is worth £10 in store. If the present that you want to buy is available in Tesco for a good price then the clubcard boost can bring the cost down even further. Another favourite is Boots Advantage Card. Either use your points to buy presents, or alternatively make use of special shopping events where they give you extra points for making a purchase over a certain amount. Last year my brother wanted a Chanel aftershave which was £50 and cheapest at Boots. I purchased it at an event where they were giving you 1500 points if you made a purchase of £50 or more, which is the equivalent of £15. This meant that the overall cost of the aftershave was £35 and I used the 1500 points to buy toiletries and make-up I would be buying in Boots anyway!
3. Decide a realistic budget and stick to it (or come in under it)
I think that setting a budget that is realistic for you is an essential part of not getting into debt over the Christmas period. Just because your sister spends X on you, it doesn't mean that you necessarily have to match or beat it. For my first Christmas with my boyfriend I was a student and I couldn't afford to spend as much as him, but it wasn't about how much we spent, it was about putting effort into buying gifts that the other person would love to receive!

I would also say that you should consider the cost of each gift as it's original cost rather than the cost that you actually got it for. If a loved one has asked for an item and you've managed to get it £10 cheaper, don't feel that you need to spend that £10 on something else! They don't know that you got it cheaper, you got it cheaper because you're clearly a savvy shopper and you've put the effort in and I believe that you should reap the rewards of that and not them! Likewise, if you've set a budget of £100 and managed to get items to the value of £100 but actually spent £80 then the same applies, well done you!!

Current Deals (as of 27th November 2013):
Debenhams - 30% off in store and online (on most, but not all departments), plus use 10% off code TM76 as well to get your pressies at a reduced price!
Amazon - Amazon have Black Friday deals going on all week so see whether you can grab a deal on a gift you were planning to buy anyway!
Selfridges - 20% off fashion, homeware and accessories, or 10& off fragrance, wine, toys and beauty using code SELF2013. Valid 28th Nov - 1st Dec.

So what do you think? Do you normally go over budget at Christmas or are you a savvy shopper like me?

Friday, 20 September 2013

5 ways to break the Jeans + T-shirt/Hoodie barrier

When I was a teenager I had a distinctly 'grunge' phase. Personally I think a lot of people tend to go one of two ways, the first is more Nirvana inspired, and the second is more Adidas inspired... At my school you were either a bit chavvy or a bit 'individual'. So in a certain period of my teens I favoured big baggy jeans, studded collars, fishnet (anything), stripy knee high socks and hoodies. After that period I still favoured the good old jeans and hoodie combination because I hadn't really figured out who I was, where I belonged and my self confidence was shot to pieces by a particularly mean boyfriend. My mum would pick up tops with frills or lace and I would be screwing my face up in disgust. Going out outfits consisted of jeans and a nicer top, never anything different.

You may have realised that this is not the person I am now, or even was by my early twenties. I'm now a dressaholic and I have seen the light, there's more to clothing than just jeans, hooray! However I do admit that once you've got stuck in the jeans and top/hoodie/t-shirt rut it can be very difficult to get out of. I remember putting on a skirt for an evening out and feeling like I was horrendously overdressed and thinking everyone would laugh at me. I'm not sure what compelled me to wear a skirt, maybe I'd seen something in a magazine or on someone else, maybe I was trying to impress a boy, I don't know, but I did it. And slowly over time I've turned into the clothing opposite of what I was. I wear dresses, I wear skirts, I wear nice shoes, and sometimes I still wear jeans. So I wanted to write a post for anyone who wants to embrace their
feminine side but is struggling a little bit, because I know that there are people out there that are like I was!

1. If you're not feeling brave enough to ditch the jeans yet, change your shoes
If you change your shoes then you can stay in the 'denim zone' where you feel comfortable but change the way your outfit looks. I find that if I put on a nice pair of ballet flats then I'm less likely to put on a hoodie because I think the combo looks a bit silly. For me, putting on a nice pair of shoes encourages me to put on a nicer top, and I already have a more girly, trendy looking outfit. If it's winter then you can wear a nice pair of boots, or in summer some cute sandals. If you shop somewhere like Clarks then you can get nice looking shoes that are as comfortable as a pair of trainers.

2. A denim skirt is a good place to start
I think that the denim skirt is ideal for women making their first tentative step outside of the jean rut. Mainly because any top you would wear with your jeans can be worn with a denim skirt and it helps you get used to wearing a skirt. Denim skirts can be bought in a variety of styles, from A-Line, to pleated, to pencil. I recommend an A-Line style to get you started. You might not be so keen on getting your legs out fully, so a pair of leggings can be worn under a denim skirt. I personally find leggings more comfortable than tights, and they can be purchased pretty cheaply in places like Primark. Here are some choices to get you started:
Denim Skirts

3. Purchase a skater style dress in a colour or print you like
I love skater dresses, they probably make up the bulk of my wardrobe. They are cut in a way that means that they are fitted around the bust and waist but then the skirt flares out meaning that if you have a bit of a tummy, or you're not comfortable in figure hugging clothing, then they're ideal, and I think they suit everyone. Even if you're 'big up top' and need to buy a bigger size then you can use a waist belt to pull the dress in around your waist. Skater dresses are comfortable and easy to wear. A dress requires less thought than even jeans and a t-shirt because you can just put the dress on and you're done. If it's winter then you can wear a cardigan/jacket/coat and leggings/tights. If it's summer then nothing else is needed.
As you get more confident then you can experiment with add-ons such as collars, belts, scarves. I advise you to pick a colour or print that you like so that you'll want to wear it. Here are my favourite low budget, easy to wear skater dresses:
Skater Style
All dresses under £25, click the one you like for more details!

4. Push yourself out of your comfort zone
Going outside of your comfort zone is scary. But if we didn't do it, where would we be in life? We'd never go for that new job or a promotion. We'd never put our heart out there and go on a date with a new person. In fact if we didn't ever go outside of our comfort zone then we'd never leave the house! The same applies to your clothing. When you're out shopping try on something that you wouldn't normally try. Even if it's just a different colour or print. Sometimes you have to try something different and even if it doesn't work then at least you know that and can move on. Sometimes leaving your comfort zone gives new opportunities and opens up new avenues for you. Don't be afraid to bet on yourself and if you don't feel confident my best tip is to fake it until you get to a point where it will start to come naturally.

5. No jeans doesn't have to mean more effort/time
A lot of people go for that jeans and t-shirt combo because they say that they don't want to spend lots of time and effort on how they look. Some people say that they're not that superficial. I'm here to point out that breaking out of the jeans and t-shirts doesn't have to take any more time and effort. Pulling out a pair of jeans and a t-shirt is no different to pulling out a skirt and a top. And a dress is even quicker. Just because you're wearing a skirt or a dress, it doesn't mean that you have to have a whole face full of make-up or perfectly blow dried hair. You can still go with no make-up and your hair in a ponytail. Wearing a dress doesn't have to mean 'dressed up' because you can wear a dress casually. Here are some examples:
Miranda Kerr, courtsey of DM
Taylor Swift, courtsey of The Model Stage
So there you have it, wear what you like and what you feel best in, but if you're wanting to break out of a rut but don't know how, I hope I've helped!

Thursday, 5 September 2013

How to wear 'occasion wear' for no occasion

I bought this gorgeous blue lace skater dress from F&F at Tesco to wear to a wedding, and I got so many compliments! Personally I love F&F clothing and have had some great items from there that are still going strong 2/3 years later, such as the purple dress featured in my last post. However, I notice that everyone else is still really surprised when I say that I bought said item of clothing from Tesco, I'm not sure why because they should really be cottoning on to the fact that you can get some stylish and great quality pieces from the F&F range! No matter, it just means that there's even more for me and my fellow F&F lovers!

So, when you have a dress that you love this much, you don't really want to only bring it out to play just once a year on 'special occasions'. I hate the idea that you can't wear your nicest clothes through fear of the 'you're a bit dressed up, aren't you?' comments. Why shouldn't we make every day an excuse to dress up? I do, because I like to make an effort, and I can't resist a cute dress for style and comfort! I'm going back to university in September and I hate the thought that everyone else will be rocking up in their PJ's because the 'dragged myself out of bed' look is in. I'm all about comfort, but you don't have to wear your PJ's and Ugg boots to be comfy!

Anyway, I digress. I want to wear my special occasion dresses and I'm sure other people do too, so here are four ways I've styled my F&F dress to fit into an every day wardrobe!

Wedding - F&F dress, Nude Heels from M&S, necklace from Sainsbury's
Date Night - F&F dress, T-shirt from Matalan, Belt from Peacocks, Wedges from Hush Puppies, Bag from Primark and Necklace from Sainsbury's
Summer Casual - F&F dress, Denim Jacket from Primark, Tan belt from Primark, Leopard Print Flats from Clarks
Work - F&F dress, F&F black blazer, Self Made Skirt, Polka Dot Scarf, Black Croc Mary Janes from Matalan

As you can see, one of my favourite tricks is to turn your dress into a skirt or a top and layer other items over or under it to create a different look. This is especially handy in winter when the more layers, the better!

Oh, did I mention that this dress is now in the sale at only £10? Unfortunately it seems to be sold out online now but I've seen it in my local store. On your marks, get set, goooo!

Tesco Clothing are currently running a competition to win a £25 voucher to spend on their clothing, just tweet a picture of yourself in an outfit featuring an item of F&F clothing with the tag #myFFstyle and following @ClothingAtTesco to win!

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Weekly outfit round-up: August 2013

I know some bloggers put posts with millions of photos of each outfit, but I don't have the time or the inclination to do that! Also, my camera wasn't working properly this week so you're having to put up with mirror images taken by my phone! So here's what I've been wearing this week, I didn't manage to catch pictures of every day but you get the jist! I've linked items where they're still available to buy, and linked to the posts on my sewing blog about self made items.
Working from left to right:

  • In the office: Grey Floral mini dress (DIY-ed from a maxi dress) - Matalan | Black skirt - Self made | Blue Bead necklace - Sainsburys | Navy Quilted Bag - Primark, Wedges - Hush Puppies
  • Out to visit clients: Purple Skater Dress - Tesco | Tan Belt - Primark | Navy Quilted Bag - Primark | Leopard Print Flats - Clarks
  • Working from home: Nude and Black bow top - New Look | Denim studded shorts - Matalan | Lilac Trainers - Reebok 'Fabulista'
  • Out to visit clients: Black vest - Matalan | Pink Aztec Skirt - Self made | Nude Heels - Marks and Spencer (Limited Edition) | Silver Heart Necklace - H Samuels
If you'd like to learn about how you can make your own clothes really cheaply then have a look at my sewing blog, Tricky Seams. My floral print dress cost me £3 and was just a shortened hem, and the aztec print skirt was really easy and only cost about £3-4 to make!
Other bargains include my nude heels from M&S which are still in store but I found brand new on eBay in my size and won them for £1.50! My purple Tesco dress was £15 two years ago and is still going strong and still one of my favourite dresses.

Everybody wants to be a cat: Feline Inspired Fashion

I've just recently started reading the Independent Fashion Bloggers site, and every week they set a new challenge. This week's challenge was 'Feline Inspired Fashion' and initially I thought, 'no way can I style that', but then I thought I'd challenge myself, not only to write a blog post about cats within fashion, but also to style a moggy inspired outfit, with hardly any cat related clothing. No easy feat, I tell you!

Part 1: 10 Feline Fashion Pieces under £40:
So firstly, lets talk about how you can bring a touch of the feline into your wardrobe without looking all 'crazy cat lady'. From cats eyes, to hats with kitty ears and big bold feline prints, there are pieces available to suit every wardrobe. Here are my favourite picks, and as usual, they're all available on a budget (under £40).
Everybody wants to be a cat...
Part 2: Inspired by my cat:

This is Bobby who is sadly no longer with us but was my feline best friend. Always there for a cuddle, always waiting for me when I got home from work and always keeping me entertained. When IFB talked about taking inspiration from your cat, I thought about how I could put together a Bobby inspired outfit as the ultimate homage to him. So I thought; black and white, furry, cute and a bit crazy! I decided to get into character as well...

Since Bobby has a white chest, white paws and black everything else I could have just gone for a boring suit style combo, but fashion is meant to be about fun and so I decided to have some fun with my outfit! My white furry shrug brings in the flash of white fur that Bobby has on his chest, the nude shoes are inspired by his cute little white paws and the jacket and dress bring in the black of his body without being too bland and one-dimensional.
Not only is this outfit inspired by my cat, it also nods to other trends such as texture mixing with the fur and lace, and the monochrome trend of Autumn/Winter 2013/2014 while staying true to my own personal style using items that I already own.
Shrug - Jasper Conran (a present from my mum for my 21st birthday) | Black waterfall blazer - Tesco | Black lace dress - New Look | Nude Heels - Marks and Spencer

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Supermarket Saviours A/W 13/14 - 10 Clothing Picks Under £30

Supermarket Saviours A/W 13/14 - Clothing favourites from Tesco and Asda

Get on trend for Autumn/Winter at pocket money prices with these gorgeous offerings from Tesco and Asda. I love all of it, but the tartan dress is a particular favourite of mine! I've tried to pick a selection of clothing that can be styled together because styling on a budget isn't just about getting your clothing items at a cheap price, but also about versatility and cost per wear. As the name suggests, Pocket Money Princess is all about being trendy on a budget and I want to stay true to that with my postings. All items featured are available now for under £30 each, and remember that if you're buying in Tesco and you have clubcard vouchers you can exchange your vouchers using Clubcard Boost for double the money (ie. £5 of Tesco vouchers = £10 in clothing vouchers) so it's even more of a bargain!

What do you think, what's your favourite item?

Autumn ankle boots for the chunky calf crew

As our minds wander to Autumn/Fall, and particularly for those of us in the UK, the impending rain, I start to think about how my tootsies are going to stay warm and dry. Autumn/Winter is a time that fills me with dread when it comes to shoe shopping because although my legs don't cause me problems at any other time of year, in Autumn I become acutely conscious of them. I have had to come to terms with the fact that my calves seem to be massively out of proportion to the rest of my body, and by that, I mean that they're huuuuuge! Every Autumn I'm drawn in by gorgeous boots and spend my life grabbing a pair and scuttling into the corner to try them on so that no-one can witness the inevitable moment when I can't get them up my legs. Thankfully the current fashion focus is on boots of the ankle variety and no-one could be happier about this than me! However, there is still an issue with ankle boots, and that's the discovery that flat ankle boots just emphasise my humongous calves, in a way that I do not want them to be emphasised. So it has become my mission in life to find ankle boots that make chunky calves look sexy. And with that, I introduce my favourite Clarks Yarra Desert boots:

I'm sure they're not everyone's cup of tea, but I love them. They're a lovely walnut coloured suede, they have a small wedge, they're amazingly comfortable and they're really versatile. They go with jeans but more importantly for me, they look great with skirts and dresses. The wedge helps to lengthen my leg without being so high that it makes them difficult to walk in. There have been numerous copies on the high street but these are the original and best! They are still available at Clarks and come in some beautiful colours, including a gorgeous petrol blue.
If you're part of the chunky calf brigade, like myself, then I recommend an ankle boot that is low cut and with some form of wedge or heel, dependent on your preference! I've already talked in my previous posts about why I think it's important to look after your feet and wear shoes that will give them the love that they deserve without compromising on style. I love Clarks for comfort and style, and they have some gorgeous ankle boots as part of their Autumn/Winter collection, here are some of my favourites:

Blog post inspired by IFB Project #110: Fall Boots.