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.

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.

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.

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, 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

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

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...