Friday, 30 March 2012


I once rented a flat in Barcelona for a minibreak instead of a Hotel – it was much more affordable, in the centre of town and you felt like a local.

Now, I thought I was savvy.....until a work colleague told me about this website: Airbnb. She managed to go to Paris with her friend and stayed in the heart of the Marais district in this flat:

Here is her review:
Four nights in Paris by Marisa Bate

This was my second experience of airbnb (; a website where users can rent out their homes for short periods of time, and in turn, where you can find cheap places to stay in cities all over the world.  The first time I used the website, myself and five other girls squeezed into a two bed apartment in the Lower East Side, NY.  But we knew exactly what we were getting. Amikole, the owner, posted pictures of her apartment on the site. The flats and houses advertised on the site are vetted and users can rate and comment on places based on experience. It all feels very legit. We spoke over email with Amikole. She was out of town for the same long weekend we hoped to be in town. She had plenty of spare duvets and blow up beds and we saved loads of money. Everyone was happy (perhaps apart from her two cats who had to deal with six excitable girls from London).

So I didn’t think twice about using airbnb when I went off to Paris just before Christmas with my best friend. We knew we definitely wanted to stay in the Marais, in the 11th, and that’s how we found this ‘Mini Loft ‘. Through the online form, we contacted Pablo and within a day he’d got back to us saying the loft was available and for a super reasonable 80 euros a night for the both of us. He even sent through directions from the airport, how much a cab should cost and the metro lines to use. His step-father met us at the flat, let us in and gave us some great tips about nice local restaurants, supermarkets and bars.

The pictures were great on the website so we were anxious to see if we had really found an amazing loft in the Marais for 40 euros a night each. And we had. The light flooded in through the sky light. The design was simple; lots of wood and cream with good attention to detail. Tucked away in the roof of a beautiful old house, the open plan was perfect for sharing with my best friend. In one corner, on old leather sofa sat round a coffee table with a CD player. Each night we’d come in, fall on the sofa, have a cup of green tea and dissect our day.

Renting someone else’s home is a great way to stay in the heart of where you want to be at an affordable price. And there is the potential to save so much money. We had our own kitchen which meant we could cook the odd dinner, have breakfast and have a glass of wine before we went out. One trip to the supermarket covered our four nights and saved us no end.

Since our trip I have raved about airbnb and Pablo’s apartment. As well as the smug feeling of knowing you’re saving money at the same time as being in one of the hippest parts of Paris, the experience gives you an sense of authenticity that you just don’t get from a hotel or B&B.  Soon you have a local bar, a bakery and metro stop. For four nights and days, I lived in a beautiful apartment in Paris – or at least it felt that way.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

City Spy Maps

For a European city-break, if you can get your hands on one of these, your holiday is complete. Originally made for Backpackers (I stumbled across them whilst Hostelling in Europe as a student), these cute, cartoon illustrations make it easy to find your location. And they have humorous translations on the back such as the Spanish equivalent of ‘I want to be your dog’ or ‘I have bed bugs’ in Polish. Now, with the wonders of the internet, you can download your specific destination.

Downloadable map of Barcelona, City Spy

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Carboot Sales

Carboot sales are amazing. Recycling your unwanted items, making money, as well as finding some fab vintage finds. We always earmark a sale in our diaries a week or so before our holiday, to save a bulk of spending money for our holiday.
I tend not to let myself look around too much at Carboot sales, as it defeats the object of selling your old stuff if you come home with more than you took! But I also love the buzz, the feeling of selling something you no longer use and it going to a good home. There is also lots of bartering and good banter to be had!

Sadly, the weather you get is the luck of the draw and the last carboot we did suffered from a total downpour. Such a shame as we had a lot to sell but the die-hard carbooters were still out and we managed to make £300 from selling old clothes, shoes and homewares!

Top carboot sales around London:

Hemel Hempstead – recommended by a fellow bargainista, who regularly goes to pick up bargains rather than sell them. Apparently lots of good antiques and vintage finds but an early start (gates open at 6am).

Wimbledon – one of the biggest in London, be prepared to get up early for a long slog, but worth it. People come from all over and of all ages. Starts at 7:30am on weekends and you don't need to book.

Battersea – this is the one we do – it doesn’t open until 11:30am (so you get a lie-in) and you can pay extra to set up an hour early (rather than punters rummaging through your car!). You do, however, need to book a week in advance as it gets booked up quickly.

Pimlico – recommended by a friend. It also opens later (earlybird entry 10:15am), it is indoors and you can borrow a table. Definitely caters for Londoners who don’t have a garage to store their carboot gear.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Can't Travel Without...

When it comes to travelling, I'm probably not very frugal. I think comforts are important. Here are my investments I couldn't holiday without...

I bought this wallet from Red Direct last year and take it on every trip I go on. I use it to carry my currency - it keeps all my receipts safe and is easy to find in my bag.

£19, Red Direct
I've been using Liz Earle products for years and as a spot prone adult, I make sure I've still got a sufficient holiday supply. Whenever you buy a full-size product in a Liz Earle store, you get a mini (hand luggage friendly) bottle as a free gift.

Available at Liz Earle
Watching films on a plane with these headphones makes for a whole different experience. You forget you're on a flight with crying babies and believe you're listening to surround sound. They were expensive at the time (I bought them duty free), but 5 years on, they're still going strong and I have never regretted the purchase.

Bose noise-cancelling headphones, John Lewis
Dermalogica and Clarins suncream are the best for my skin. Dermalogica are based in Santa Monica, so I'm hoping to stock up!

I often buy 'Fashion' frames for holiday, but always take these Ray-Bans as a classic alternative. They never date.
Clubmaster by Ray-Ban
I love compartmentalising. I love that Anya Hindmarch loves it too and designs functional, beautiful items that make my life easier. I travel to the US so much now, that I actually have a pair of straighteners with the correct US voltage, which I keep in this bag.

Anya Hindmarch at CoutureLab

I love to save a good book for holiday. I've been waiting to read 'The Beautiful and Damned' until a time when I can really get my teeth into it.
I've been flicking through this Time Out guide to Las Vegas with my jaw-open, there is so much mad stuff to see!
I rarely buy travel guides anymore as I find I go to a country once, and the book becomes out of date. I go to the local library for travel guides now, and then I don’t have to worry about where to store them!

The rest:
Laptop: well, I need to keep the-frugality up to date!
Lipbalm: goes without saying
Travel adapter: you'll be surprised how many people forget these!
Contact lenses: holiday is the rare occasion you'll see me without my recogniseable frames on.

I'll be keeping the-frugality up to date with frugal tips whilst I'm away, but will fill you in on the LA trip when I'm back!

Friday, 23 March 2012

Spiced lentil and cauliflower curry

From M&S Magazine
(Serves 4)

  •  1 tbsp olive oil
  •  1 large onion, sliced
  •  3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  •  1-2 green chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
  •  30g ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  •  3 tbsp balti curry paste
  •  75g red lentils
  •  250ml stock
  •  1 small head cauliflower, in florets
  •  400ml coconut milk
  •  220g spinach
  •  Half a 25g pack of coriander
  •  Half a lemon
  •  2 x 300g packs microwaveable pilau rice
1. Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the onion and cook for 6-8
   minutes. Stir in the gralic, chillies, ginger and curry paste
   and cook for 3-4 minutes.
2. Stir in the lentils, pour over the stock and bring to the boil.
   Simmer for 10 minutes, then add the cauliflower florets and
   coconut milk. Return to the boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes
   until tender. Stir through the spinach and coriander, and add
   lemon juice to taste.
3. Heat the rice and serve.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Tip of the day

Illustration, Haley Austin
This is for all those out there who love being organised like me! This week, we’re embarking on our one big holiday: Las Vegas, Santa Monica, San Diego and Los Angeles...we are staying in 3 different hotels, travelling by Greyhound bus and lots of trips in between. I usually book everything before I go and and take my confirmations in a folder...and then a friend told me about this incredible website which has changed my travelling life:

You register, then every confirmation you receive by email you forward to and it files your whole schedule for you – then you can print everything out on one sheet, or just keep it on your iphone. No more printing 100 different confirmations for me. It even automatically adds a map of the locations and the temperature of the destination! It's safe to say I've found my new obsession...

Tuesday, 20 March 2012


As much as I love eBay, I can't help thinking that the fashion world needs something a little more stylish. And then Vestiaire Collective comes along, with its French 'je ne sais quoi' and its chic layouts and takes the buying/selling of second-hand clothing to a whole new level.
Originally hailing from Paris, the website has just launched in the UK and its point of difference lies in its unique authenticity process. Every item that is sold is sent to the buyer via Paris, where it is regimentally checked by a team of experts to ensure it is legitimate and in exceptional condition (this service is free of charge).
The clever team at Vestiare pride themselves on only accepting the sale of 'on trend' pieces in excellent condition and items are sold at a fixed price (decided between Vestiaire and the seller), so no checking every five minutes in a bidding war. If you want it: you purchase it, simple as that. Safe in the knowledge you're not parting with your well-earned cash over a conterfeit.
Oh, and did I mention it is free to become a member? You can start browsing today.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Uniqlo Orla Kiely UT Collection

Orla Kiely, the designer famous for her sought-after retro prints, has launched an exclusive collection with UT, which launches today. Comprising of great shirts, dresses, t-shirts and stoles, the collaboration still abides by the sleek Uniqlo aesthetic, as well as the affordable prices we expect:

Cotton shirt, £29.90
Cotton vest, £14.90

All available at

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Dispelling A Myth: Lidl

My partner and I started shopping in Lidl about 3 years ago. We had previously shopped in Sainsbury's and believed Lidl was a bit 'cheap' and for some reason, I didn't think it had shelves! But when we went in, we were pleasantly surprised - our branch (Tooting) actually does have shelves, it also has fresh flowers and freshly baked bread. It is cheap, but this is its charm, not its downfall. And its meat is all British, and far better quality than Sainsbury's Basics...

And if you needed anymore convincing, I've done all the hard work for you, and compiled a list of Sainsbury's vs Lidl prices on 11 key items (which make it onto most of our weekly shopping lists). The products from Lidl are their main range, the Sainsbury's products are either own label or basics:
This is just a small example, there are plenty more bargains to be had. We save between £10 and £15 a week from shopping at Lidl and have become accustomed to its foreign brands and large selection of cheese! We thoroughly recommend it enough, my only tip is TAKE YOUR OWN BAG!

Illustrations by Ruth Lewis

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Jewellery Storage

Well, you'll need somewhere to put all those new earrings, won't you?!
Thank goodness for Muji. Just when I started to think a chic and subtle place to store my jewellery (that didn't involve velvet or those necklace hanging 'trees') did not exist......a colleague reminded me of the wonderfulness that is Muji. Practical, compartmentalised and modern, these jewellery dividers are also really reasonably priced. You can customise the levels too - I bought the ring section (£2.95 each) and dividers for all my necklaces separately.
2 drawers, £7,95, Muji

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Must Buy Now: Earrings

Images from
 If ever there was a time to start wearing earrings, it's now. Prada, Jil Sander, Marni and Dolce all sent their models down the catwalk with bejewelled ears and the High Street has come up trumps with some amazing counter-offerings.

OR, you can, like my friend Christine, make your own! She has launched a fab Crafts Blog called I love her quirky earrings, inspired by the Dolce & Gabbana S/S show:
Visit this 'how'to' here

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Store of The Month: ZARA

Trousers, blouse, bag all Zara, jacket, Topshop, shoes, Jimmy Choo

What a beautiful Sunday we had! The sun was shining, the perfect day to take my parents out for a joint birthday (dad's) and Mother's Day treat, we went to Automat on Dover Street where we had gourmet burgers, followed by 'The Artist' at Curzon Mayfair cinema.
It was the perfect opportunity to try my new Zara purchase - these jogging bottom trousers. Great for when you want to look smart, but not overdressed. Zara is fast becoming the number one spot for fast, affordable fashion and its turnaround on designer copies is astounding. I am loving their pyjama print silks at the moment and will definitely pay another visit before my holiday.

Trousers, £35.99, Zara

Instore now (and soon to be in my wardrobe, hopefully!):

All available from

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Recipe: Sticky Toffee Puddings

This is the first time I have used my Rose Bakery Cook Book and sadly, I think I undercooked them a little. They were still, however, absolutely delicious but *health warning*: if you don't have a sugary sweet tooth like me, this is maybe not for you!

Ingredients (serves 8):
  • 220g dried apricots, very finely chopped
  • 215g dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 205g unsalted butter
  • 8 tablespoons single cream
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 225g plain flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  1. Place the apricots in a bowl, pour 300ml boiling water over them and add the bicarbonate of soda. Set aside until cool.
  2. Put the dark brown sugar, 115g of the butter and the cream in a saucepan and cook over a low heat, stirring, until the mixture is smooth.
  3. Pour into eight ramekins (about 3 tablespoons in each) and leave to cool.
  4. Preheat oven to 180c.
  5. Beat the remaining butter with the caster sugar and vanilla extract until light. Add the egg and beat well. Fold in the flour, baking powder and salt. Fold in the dried apricots.
  6. Mix well and divide between the ramekins. They should be about 3 quarters full.
  7. Put the ramekins in a bain marie with enough water to come one-third of the way up their sides, and cover with foil.
  8. Bake for about 30 minutes until just set. Turn the puddings out onto individual plates.

£12.96, Amazon

Friday, 9 March 2012

Monsoon Fusion and Burt's Bees (told you there was a collaboration)

How sweet is this collaboration? Raising awareness on the plight of bees all over! Each Monsoon Fusion purchase comes with wildflower seeds and a Burt's Bee's lipbalm. The honeycomb and bee prints are getting me excited for Spring.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Happy Marni for H&M Day!

I'm sure your day will be filled with news of queues, the preview party, and bargains bought at the Marni for H&M collection out today (Thursday 8th March).

You won't, however (bar this post), hear anymore about it from me. For once, I am giving this collaboration a miss, this is especially hard for me as a) I love Marni b) I could never afford it full price c) H&M is my favourite store.

I have decided, in true frugal style, that I need to save my money for my Californian vacation later this month. There is also something about the queues and hysteria that makes me a little crazed, and I always end up impulsively buying things I wouldn't usually wear (hark back to the Stella McCartney for H&M days, where I never wore a single item).

The collection has been the topic of much discussion in our office, and here is the shortlist of what seem to be the must-have pieces. So, if anyone does manage to get anything, I'd love to hear about your bargains! Tweet me @TheFrugality

You can also buy online at from 9am

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

My Beauty Obsession

If anyone asks what my desert island beauty product would be, it is lipbalm, without hesitation. There is rarely a time when I don't have at least two on me at a time: one on my desk, in my bag, on my bedside table. Also, it's quite a frugal treat. Better to be addicted to £8 lipbalm than Jimmy Choos, right?!

My Top Five (and it doesn't include 8 hour cream!):
  1. Lucas Paw Paw: I was always told this was good, and then I tried it. I have had a tub on my desk which has lasted over 4 years (and still going). It is made purely from crushed fruit, so is free from Petroleum. I used to get my friend from Australia to send, but realised they stock it £12 on
  2. Smith's Rosebud Salve: I must admit, when I first stumbled upon this on a trip to NYC, I fell in love with the packaging. But this gleamy lipbalm is more than just a cool retro tin. I love the minty rose fragrance of this flavour, and now Anthropologie has moved over to our shores, and also stocked in American Apparel, it's so much easier to get hold of.
    £6, American Apparel
  4. Kiehl's Lip Balm #1: ever so lightly glossy, but absorbs like a dream.
    £9.50, Space NK
    4.  Perfumeria Gal: I still haven't found a UK stockist of these,
        which is perhaps why I love them even more...that, and the
        gorgeous Art Nouveau tin decorations. I pick them up in bulk
        from Malaga airport whenever I go.
    5.  Burt's Bees Beeswax Lip Balm: I had to have a good old
        'stick' lipbalm in here, and for £3, what a treat! It is
        quite a dry balm, but rich in vitamins and sunflower and 
        peppermint oils, so feels both tingly and soft on your lips.
        They are also working on an exciting collaboration, which I
        shall let you know about soon!

    £3, Feel Unique

Monday, 5 March 2012

Brand in Focus: Monica & Joe

Since launching The-Frugality, I have thought a lot about what it means. Affordable luxury; sacrificing for the important stuff...and I'd like to do a regular post about websites, shops and concepts that inspire me when it comes to this idea.

'Bridge' collections is an important area of the fashion market which represents the grey area between Designer and High Street; where the fabric and cut becomes higher quality, but without the extortionate price-tag.
This is where Monica & Joe step in...Founded last year (they're soon to be celebrating the site's first anniversary), is a husband and wife team, previously working for top High Street retailers, who edit these mid-priced Bridge labels to bring us the best, new, under the radar designers. The website heralds the best of British brands such as Pyrus, as well as cool brands sourced on buying trips, including Scandinavian favourites By Malene Birger and Bruuns Bazaar.
Plus, it's happy shopping, as most pricepoints are around £200, and you will rarely find anything above £400.

People always ask me where to get a unique, smart outfit for events and weddings, but better quality than the usual High Street culprits. Monica & Joe have the answer all of those queries.

Free shipping on all orders over £175 at Monica & Joe

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Framed momentoes

Tired of the same old Letterpress posters on every website? I've started to keep interesting invites/memories and frame these instead (see above, all Fashion week invites). This way, you can spend more money on the frame as you've saved on the print. The quirkier, the better, and at least I know none of my friends will have the same.
 This invite hangs in my bathroom....

Markus Lupfer LFW invite A/W 11 (free), frame £35

Tamara Mayne's Cheap Interiors Tricks using stamps in frames for The Guardian

Stamp collage, Shelbyville blog

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