Christmas: A time for giving

Give and take, actually. Christmas is full of unspoken family rules about present buying. Who are your staple recipients, who gets a higher budget, what can you actually afford. Even what does that person deserve.

Last year I posted about a family member who crosses me off their ‘shopping list’ because they had heard I wasn’t buying presents. I did end up buying everyone a small gift each as I felt I wanted to acknowledge them all! There was a little confusion and this one family member was embarrassed that I hadn’t let them know and that they hadn’t bought me anything. This is fine because I do not buy to get a present back. Just a thank you is a nice acknowledgement.

Anyway, this year the same family member made a comment (almost a complaint) that they felt obliged to buy a gift in return for receiving one. This exaplains the year before, however I felt I needed to share that although I am always thankful for receiving and I never expect it, I didn’t feel a pressing need to go and buy a present in return.

I explained how money, time and size of family can play a part in my thinking and my value of Christmas present buying itself.  I like to give thought to gifts and spend time with people rather than buy some rubbish they dont actually want or need! The family members reply was that I could go to Poundland and buy anything, just something, in return. The point was evidently missed. I choose not always return with a gift!

The people who I buy for are the people who I feel are a part of my everyday world. I give to them because they are kind people who deserve a little treat! I sometimes give a small chocolate or I offer to babysit, or even just give a framed photo of me and them. But I do not give because I know someone is getting me something or they have got something. If I didn’t think of you before, there would be a reason. Harsh but true!

Martin Lewis from Money Saving Expert says:

“Perhaps the real gift is to release someone from the obligation of buying you a present.”

I could not agree more. Do not buy gifts just to receive them and do not go overboard so that the recipient feels a need to return a gift as a way of saying thank you. You make the choice and the recipient should not pay to receive. It’s like getting a card in the post but having to pay for the stamp!

– Lauren


No more ‘nothing to wear’

The sun has been making a lovely appearence recently encouraging me to go shopping for new spring/summer wardrobe goodies. I’ve spent way over what I should have done but I am in love with my new pieces.

Following my start of year clear out of clothes in an attempt to have a more minimalist wardrobe, I have been more fussy and selective with what I purchase. I no longer buy for a future non-existing occassion and I wear my new items as soon as possible to prevent me from hoarding new with tag bits that end up on my ebay!

Because of spending too much I have decided to start photographing my clothes and possible outfit ideas. I will collect these and print them to make a handy outfit bible! This will encourage me to be more creative with how I partner up items, love my clothes more and save money by upcycling what I already own. So far I have been amazed at how changing one thing about an outfit can transform it!




This gorgeous dress cost me £8 in the George sale. I love everything about it and as it is navy blue the colour combinations are endless making this a new staple piece for my wardrobe.

This little project has also identified my style. I never thought I had a particular dress sense but actually I am quite girly and romantic. I love floral prints, light floaty fabrics, simple designs like shift and a line patterns and I love a good elasticated waistline. This will come in handy for when I do go shopping as it should stop me from buying bits that just aren’t me.

With this collection of pictures I will never have the excuse of having nothing to wear!

Pump it Up!

I’ve been using the Tresemmé hear defence spray for years now and after running out I made a quick cheap replacement purchase for the summer. I used Tesco curl defining heat defence spray which smells lovely and really boosted the beach waves look all summer long.

I keep meaning to try new products to see if there are any better suited to my already thick hair. I wanted to poof it up a bit and not weigh the natural curls and waves. I didn’t want shiny or too soft to touch hair as I like texture when it’s in an up-do.

This VO5 Pump it up spray describes itself as ‘volume & thickness with natural bounce’ – first box ticked. It said it would do what I wanted it to do!

In Tesco this was in part of a two for £5 offer so I bought some more hairspray making this just £2.50 – box two ticked.

I’ve tried it for a while now and the bottle appears to be never ending! Because it has a very watery texture it has good coverage on your hair. I like the clear packaging because I can see how much I have left and how much usage I can get for my money. This is something I didn’t get with the Tresemmé spray.

I officially tick box three as its defined my natural bounce, given me texture, extra thickness and has a lovely smell.

Excuse the tired eyes, it’s been a stressful week!

Smart Shopping

Living off what I call a ‘student salary’ can be really difficult when you love to shop. Especially for those much needed clothes. My wardrobe is bursting at the seams but pretty much all of it is second hand, part of a multi-buy offer or a sale purchase. Over the past few years I’ve developed habits I wasn’t even aware of until now! So here’s a few pointers to becoming a smart shopper:

Charity Shops
Don’t be afraid to step inside a charity shop – especially alone. For ages I avoided these shops because I didn’t want to be seen to be going in and when I did start, I did it with a friend. A few years on and I walk in with pride, knowing that I am giving to a charity and will probably walk out with a bargain no one else will get!

eBay can be pricey when bidding wars commence, so try and search for items without using brand names in the title. This way you will find items you like for what it is rather than for the shop it was originally from. Also sort your search results with ‘Time ending soonest’, it can be dangerous for impulse buyers like myself but it does feel good when you win a dress for 99p. Always keep in mind how much the seller is charging for postage and just add this to the value of the item so you don’t go overboard with the spending.

Hold on to labels and receipts
Keep labels on your new purchases until you wear them. From past experience I have learnt that things that look and felt like a good decision in the shop often do not give the same satisfaction when you look in your bedroom mirror. If you remove the label right away you will have trouble trying to return.  To return you will most likely need the sales receipt too so learn to clear your purses and pockets and keep all proof of sales in an envelop or basket at home. If an items gets lost in your wardrobe for a year and still have the label on, you can sometimes sell these for a profit!

Discounts and sales
Try and always look for discount codes before you hit the shops or proceed to checkout online. Most high street shops always have some kind of discount running and I always found out about them after I had made my purchases and the discount had expired! For students, your student card is as much of a necessity as your bank card whenever you go shopping.

Try new shops
Shop around! Many people can get used to making purchases just because they want to be known for having a certain type of style, like the Topshop girl or Burton man. River Island is the new favorite in this town. If you are sad like me, when you read the labels of clothing you start to notice that a Zara jumper is made of the same materials as a Primark one. So you can just be paying for a logo. Speaking of logos, I can’t stand items with brands being shoved in your face. Subtle works well for me.

Primark, also known as ‘Primani’ isn’t as daunting as it once was and their prices are creeping up so you have to be wary that you can’t fill your basket with 5 new outfits for £10 anymore. It still is a place which sells pretty much anything you could need in a clothing emergency. They are a staple for everyday items like vest tops, pants, socks and they have a great range of PJs! Most people are already aware that they sell very similar items to other high street brands and a cheaper price, and I personally haven’t found much of a different in quality. They have a great developing range so if you refuse to shop there, you are missing out.

Don’t overlook the supermarket clothes departments. F&F, George and TU all provide good value pieces and they have started to introduce other branded items for sale online, such as AX Paris and Billie and Blossom. So if there is something out of stock on one site, always check these sites! Every item I have worn from supermarkets has attracted compliments and people rarely know that my clothing is from Tesco or Asda! I love that I can go food shopping and casually pick up a dress on the way out too!

Banking rewards
Money saving is always a hot topic and you sell your old clothes to get some cash back. But if you haven’t got the time check your what your bank has to offer! Halifax have an automatic cashback scheme and all you have to do is log on and see what offers are there for you to enjoy! I love it when I shop somewhere and see I’ve got 10% coming back to my account! There are no fees to pay and the money you have earned via cash-back comes into your account monthly.

Online shopping
Quidco are a cash-back website that you shop through and you can earn back all sorts of amounts! If you are a regular online shopper this could save you lots of monies.

Loyalty Cards
Use your store loyalty cards. A lot of people don’t bother with them and some people don’t understand that you do not have to spend a penny to get one (unless it’s The Body Shop and it’s a pricey £5). Boots give you 4 points to a pound, each point is worth a penny! If you’re a regular shopper there than you can soon end up having enough points to grab a free lunch or nail polish. If you’re a keen saver you could save all of your pennies earned on your loyalty cards over a year and save lots on next years Christmas presents! Loyalty cards also come with the perk of additional discounts on products.

Know your limits!
Enjoy shopping but be aware of the money you are spending. Avoid those Credit Card shopping sprees wherever possible and try not to get store cards unless you’re in a position to pay off your statements in full every month. Interest rates are high and add so much money onto your purchases if
you don’t keep up with payments!

Be green, recycle an reuse clothes, sell on and pass on. Give to charity! It makes you feel good and it helps those who are less fortunate than you.

Happy shopping!

Hibernating Clothes

I own a fair amount of clothes but before I caught on to the selling frenzy on Facebook and eBay I had a lot more! Despite this, I still can never really love my wardrobe and think ‘yes I have a dress perfect for that occassion’ or ‘my shoes will really compliment my dress’. This could be because I am one of those people who finds something that fits and flatters and buys it in different colours. So if I take away all of the doubles in my clothes, I actually haven’t got much at all!

I’m always buying clothes for the future too. Nice sparkly skirts and dresses that will do for one day but not today. So I have a box full of hibernating clothes. For the remainder for this year I’m challenging myself to not purchase another dress for Christmas or New Years but to use the ones in my wardrobe.

And then of course, I think about those who aren’t fortunate enough to have clothes at this cold time of year all over the world and throw all of the new clothes in a big charity bag just in time for shoppers at Christmas, because the charity needs my unused clothes more than I ever will.

First Impressions on The Body Shop ‘Vitamin E’ Range

This week I am introducing my very dehydrated, tired and neglected skin to a bit of a pamper with the Body Shop Vitamin E range.  I purchased a travel size gift set to give the products a go over a period of time before committing to a more pricey purchase!

Starting with the Hydrating Toner, this product was much more oily than I expected compared to my usual Seaweed toner. It is alcohol free, so so far it hasn’t affected my sensitive skin. Once I had gently rubbed this over my face I felt refreshed and the subtle scent is lovely. It kind of reminds me of Johnson’s Baby Lotion!

I’ve been using the Moisture Cream which is creamy in texture and again smells lovely.  It was smooth to apply and left my face feeling smooth and well moisturized yet a bit stodgy to touch. I am giving this one a little more time because I think I put a bit too much on, a small amount goes a long way and since starting using this product I have adapted the way I apply it. I now dab tiny dots around my face and slowly rub in in circular motions. This worked much better!  Normally my skin gets oily during the day, even with the Seaweed matte day cream, and with this moisturizer I didn’t notice my skin being any more oily than usual. Nothing a bit of powder couldn’t sort.

At night I have applied the toner and followed on with the Nourishing Night Cream. This is very thick in texture and I can imagine on a hot summers night this is not what you want to be on your face. But while it’s cold it felt like my skin wasn’t going to dry out during the night and I went to sleep feeling quite pampered! Again, I will give this more time and repost an updated review on this product.

Of course beauty products are much more appealing when they are packaged nicely. I love The Body Shop packaging because it is simple and uniformed. It is not filled with pointless pictures or taglines which make you feel like you are buying a personality not a product.  The Vitamin E range is in a lovely soft rose pink colour and I love pink so this is great!

One thing that is driving me crazy, is the day and night creams. The night cream has a pink lid, whilst the day cream has a black one. For me, this should definitely be the other way round, because black is just associated with darkness and nighttime right?

Aside from that, so far I am pretty pleased with these products and if they continue to please me, I will be adding them to my winter skincare routine. Thank you Body Shop!