Top Tips for Charity Shopping

There are many reasons (read excuses) people don’t go to charity shops. They may be worried about the quality of the items or think that they wouldn’t stock what they are looking for. These days charity shops actually have a big variety of quality stock. Most is donated but many shops also sell brand new stuff.

I think it’s always worth visiting charity shops on a regular basis. A lot of the clothes I come home with still have labels from the original shop on it. Even if they aren’t brand new they are always good quality – I’ve never seen anything in a charity shop that looked dirty or overworn.

Then there’s the ethical side of it – items that have been used time and time again have a lower carbon footprint. Buying from a charity shop helps to raise vital funds for whatever cause that particular shop supports.

Well, there’s why you should go to charity shops. Here’s how to get the most out of shopping for good:

  • Go to an area where there are several shops near to each other and visit them all on the same day. Make a morning out of it!
  • Take along  a list of things you’re looking for (like a Christmas Gift Cheat Sheet) to help you stay focussed.
  • Make sure you have plenty of cash with you as lots of charity shops still don’t accept cards.
  • Go to posh areas for qood quality stuff with the same price tag (@kateonthinice)
  • Be friendly and regular – they may keep stuff back for you if funds are tight (@kateonthinice)
  • Keep an eye out for valuable stuff with a view to selling on (@kateonthinice)
  • Don’t be afraid to ask what they have in the back room if you’re looking for something in particular (@kateonthinice)

Many thanks to the wonderful Kate On Thin Ice for giving me lots of extra tips. I am clearly more of a novice than I thought

How To Legally Change Your Name For Free

A few months ago I sent my provisional forms and ID to the DVLA, hoping that soon a shiny new provisional would arrive in the post. I was quite dismayed then, when they sent back the deed poll my mother had done on my behalf when I was a child with the accusation that it was a photocopy.

Whether or not it was a photocopy still remains unclear – my mother said there was nothing else at her house so I had to find another way. Imagine my frustration when I found out that my name had been changed just a few months before they started archiving the documents! My deed poll was essentially lost and I would have to create another one. An initial search suggested I’d have to pay around £30 for one – up to £200 for a solicitor.

Why on earth would anyone spend that when you can create a deed poll for free? has an easy to use, simple form. No email address needed, no cash required. Just fill it in with your old name, your new name and the name and address of your witnesses (you need two, they can’t be relations). Print it off and voila! You have a new name!

There is plenty of information available on the website including the reason it’s free and what restrictions there are in place. (Did you know you can use Miss, Mrs and Ms regardless of whether or not you are married?)

Money Makeover Part 2 – The Food Shop

Food prices have soared in recent years and feeding the family now takes a large portion of the income of many households. With prices still on the rise and food waste still sky high, there’s no denying something has to be done.

Step 1 – Know What You’ve Got.

Week after week we drag ourselves to the supermarket with no idea what is in our cupboards and no idea of what we actually need to get. By the end of the trip we are in such an exhausted (and often hungry) state that anything we spot that we’d usually buy makes it into our trolleys. I have so many tubs of passata in my cupboard it practically needs it’s own shelf yet I still catch myself wondering “Should I get some passata?” every single week. So before your next trip be sure to check your meal plan and take a quick peek in your cupboards. Make this a habit!

Step 2 – Make Offers Work For You.

You won’t go shopping anywhere without seeing some form of special offer – BOGOF, 3 for 2, 10% off and extra loyalty points are some of the most common. Knowing which ones to go for is key to keeping that weekly shop open. Ask yourself –

  • Will we use it?
  • Is it worth it?
  • Does it keep well?
  • Do I have the space/cash?

If you answer no to any of those questions, ignore the offer and walk away.

Step 3 – Make A Meal Plan.

I find making a meal plan one of the easiest ways to reduce the cost of food. I know exactly what ingredients I need so there’s no waste and I always know what to cook so takeaways become almost non-existent. It doesn’t work for everyone (Martin hates meal planning) but if you can do it, it’s worth the effort. When making your meal plan, be sure to think about what days are busiest so you can plan a quick, easy meal to suit.

Step 4 – Shop Online.

No matter what time I go shopping I always end up tired and insanely hungry by the time I’m done. Most of the time, with three equally tired and insanely hungry children in tow and that’s not even counting Martin, whom I often mistake for one of the children! This usually means a stop at McDonalds on the way home. It’s our magic potion that lets us put the shopping away in peace while they chomp away on their happy meals. It’s also bloody expensive – £20 a time and sometimes more! When you compare that to a £5 delivery fee and the hours you don’t spend shopping, it’s really a no-brainer.

Step 5 – Get In The Kitchen.

While ready meals can be gloriously convenient, they often lack both taste and value for money. Get in the kitchen and start making your favourite meals from scratch – they’ll taste nicer and more often than not they’re cheaper too. While you’re at it, why not discover some new meals to enjoy with your family? There are lots of websites out there that offer loads of budget-friendly recipes.

Step 6 – Grow Your Own.

My last tip is for you to grow your own ingredients wherever possible. Whether it’s a few herbs on the windowsill or an entire allotment’s worth of veggies it will save you money and be friendlier for the environment too.

Give Yourself A Money Makeover

April marks the start of a new financial year and is the perfect time to have a sit down and really think about money. It doesn’t matter if you need to tighten your belts of if you can afford to loosen them a little – this is one area in life you really can’t afford to guess at. Grab yourself a cuppa, a quiet hour or two and some bank statements and let’s go!

Step 1 – Outgoings – Cut The Crap.

First look at your statements for anything you don’t use anymore. Do you have old subscriptions to magazines, gyms or DVD rental? These things are so easy to miss. Locate and cancel those direct debits and card payments! You may need to speak to your providers directly for this bit – a quick email explaining you no longer wish to use their services should do.

Step 2 – Outgoings – Negotiating Prices.

Are you getting the best deal for all of your monthly outgoings? Search several comparison sites to see that you’re getting the best rates for regular bills such as energy, TV subscriptions, landline, mobile phone and broadband. If you’re able to get these prices cheaper with another supplier, consider switching or calling your existing supplier to haggle a better deal. If you can’t do either right now (for example, you can’t upgrade your phone for another 6 months) set the date in your diary, set reminders if you can and do it at the first available opportunity.

Step 3 – Income – Need Extra Help?

Managing your income is a toughy – it’s one of those things that seems hard to do much about. If you’re struggling, help may be available. Take a few minutes to visit the online benefits adviser here to see if you’re entitled to some help. You can use the “What if?” feature to compare different circumstances at once.

By taking these three simple steps you will have a great start to the new financial year.