Friday, 27 January 2012

High St Pick of the Week

This is a personal selection and after my other post you'd be forgiven for thinking all I've been doing is shopping! I have made a few purchases but within my £100 budget from now until May. The budget is now spent.

The shops are still awash with sales items and the trickle of new seasons clothes is just that a trickle. Tucked away in a corner of the Oxford Street branch of Zara was this dress. I wouldn't have been in there had I not been working with a client. I like to think it was fate that found me the most palest of pink dresses. It is a colour I love and I grabbed the item and it became mine!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012


I don't know why is all I can say. I don't know what drew my eye to this, a Versace Cruise design for H&M priced £34.99.

From the moment I saw it I loved it. I didn't go to the shop nor did I try to buy it online on the day the collection went live. The following day I was checking items online for a style event and I happened, I repeat happened to perchance upon above item. Before you could say Donatella Versace I'd clicked and paid for it and it should arrive tomorrow.

Given my propensity to ignore, lambaste and generally ignore all the hype over designer collaboration on any level, I've officially shocked myself. Of course it is true than when I heard about the Marni collaboration I was dancing in the streets. My love of Marni knows no bounds. But equally I'm not surprised that I've fallen for another Italian label's offering at H&M because I freely admit to being a faux/wannabe Italian and when I was teaching yesterday a student asked me would I choose Paris or Milan to go and see the shows. My answer was despite the fact Valentino shows in Paris it would be Milan.

I will post a picture of myself in it if it passes muster and I keep it when it be continued...

Thursday, 19 January 2012

High Street Pick of the Week

Being busy always reflects in what can only be described as bad blogging! Truly I am super busy so the blogging suffers, apologies. However in my busy-ness I spied this number which is a perfect transition piece at a good price. Wear it now with cardigan or jacket, over tights or skinny jeans and come the warmer weather slap on some glow tan thing for legs and well ..your good to go a la the spring and summer.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Making a Statement

Statement costume jewellery is a favourite of mine for making my budget and high end clobber look better. I always buy one piece of costume jewellery every season to give that nod to the trends and micro trends. This season is no exception and of course I'm selecting something from my Stella and Dot range.

I haven't decided yet which necklace it will be since I'm not a natural wearer of statement necklaces in the way the chief (and best) statement necklace wearer Mary Portas is. I want to be bold and go with the Indira necklace

It is a necklace I would wear with a stripy top, a plain top under a white shirt or with a dress. I want my statement piece to be versatile and love it enough to wear loads. I'm more likely to play it safe with this Bianca Tassel necklace

What about you are you bold or bashful when it comes to choosing a statement piece?

Wednesday, 11 January 2012


This is the beginning of trumpeting the soon to be launched on Kindle my new book Girlynomics. I started the concept and preliminary writing back in July 2008. It was interrupted by my MA studies and it has taken me a while to polish up what was a untidy mess into a proper read. Initially I was lucky and Curtis Brown were my agents for the book but with the first crash it was hard to sell in books by unknowns and my agents real interest lay in Asian literature. Not to put a too fine a point on it I was dumped.

After my previous experience and the subsequent changes due to Kindle and iPad I finally felt motivated and inspired to pick up the Girlynomics mantel again. I've been researching and writing for over a year now and my deadline is looming - fast!

So watch this space, be prepared and the next post will be to say Girlynomics is published.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

The Tin of Hope

It isn't all baton down the hatches and credit crunch gloom in the MDS house. No! We have the Tin of Hope. The tin houses all the loose change, it lays there dormant until full upon whence it travels to the coinstar machine. I did used to go to the bank with bags but coinstar is so easy and no moody cashiers to deal with.

My tin will bring me joy. Once it is full I will be able to use the money to spend as I wish. I love the Tin of Hope.

Monday, 9 January 2012

The eBay marathon

Five days into my blitz on my wardrobe and now my listings and I'm only halfway through it. Listing on eBay is hard work and takes a lot of time and effort. The hard part is inputting information and once upon a time I was exceedingly particular about all the clothing measurements but now I stick to the required minimum.

When writing the descriptions and how to wear the items I sort of think why am I selling this and then snap myself back into reality. I have plenty in my wardrobe to wear and I have a target for this year to pay off my credit card. All the items are in good condition and some of them are in the list as they are a little too big for me.As hard as it is I feel motivated and on course to clear the debt. Ironically I was returning a Christmas gift in Cath Kidston on Friday which isn't my favourite occupation nor my favourite shop (although I do love a bit of Cath Kidston at times) and the lovely lady who served me was at LCF and did her MA at the same time. It was a great reminder to me of achievement. I went there with nothing bar my deposit and took out a career development loan (CDL) via the Dept of Higher Education which I luckily got in 2008 as the banks collapsed because I choose to apply to the Co-operative bank. This month 2 years later I finished paying off the £2,800 they lent me to further my mind. The repayment was a manageable £124.22 per month due to the low interest rate for a CDL

Now I must tackle the credit card that paid my fares and bought my books and paid for all the sundries around my studies. I worked as well as studied but it was a big drop in income and now the petit garcon has started school plus the current climate I've never gone back to the level of earnings pre studying. It does make me appreciate that I wasn't saddled with a bigger student debt and whilst my studies were completely wonderful it does call for a lot of self sacrifice ...hence unto eBay!!

You can view the list at my ebay page And here is a selection of the items for sale (weeps, less and less now)

From top to bottom: Whistles Carrie midi skirt, Warehouse blouse, M&S dress, H&M Conscious Collection skirt, Toast shoes, Jigsaw bib necklace, Toast necklace & M&S bag

Saturday, 7 January 2012

High St Pick of the Week

It is that time of year when every purchase is a forward thinking option. It might be blustery outside but in your heart Spring is around the corner. If hope springs eternal then so must your shopping. You might be wearing thermals or heat tech garments underneath but your top layer will be more directional and bring some cheer.

I survived the magazine onslaught of S/S12 with merely a minimal wish list of a Valentino dress, a Dolce & Gabanna dress, a Louis Vuitton skirt and some Chanel sandals (sighs). Fundamentally this translates to a pale blue dress or two, a white skirt and flat black or silver sandals. When I spied this jumper in Whistles - okay I'll admit I was on a indoors washing drier dash to John Lewis after mine finally collapsed. I actually upgraded to one that could take two loads of washing. We might look like a Martian has landed in the kitchen but the joy I felt upon finding the dry well aired loads done this morning was immeasurable. I saw the Whistles jumper in a concession area on my way out and gave it the nod.

The apricot hue will work a treat as a contrast to the forthcoming pale blues and with white. Immediately you can wear it with skinny jeans or over a black dress showing your fashion forward credentials to all.

The Make Do Baramoter test

Do you love it?
Have you got something similar?
Do you need it?
Quality v Quantity
Unit cost per wear excellence mark - minimum of twice a week for 20 weeks = £2.75

Friday, 6 January 2012

The declutter begins

My drive to attain less is more and clear my credit card debt has started in earnest. I culled my wardrobe and this includes designer items. It was cathartic and hard at the same time. My rational is I cannot stand items languishing idly in my wardrobe and I have just got to get rid. There is no point telling myself, any more, that I might wear that French Connection dress from 2001 again. I will never wear any of the items I'm ebaying ever again. I have neither the lifestyle, wit or priorities to store the items or keep them. It seems I need to be free of clutter. It is hard to part with items because for some unknown reason I attach emotion to them so I have to harden my ways!

Since cutting back my work and focussing on the safe deposit of the petit garcon at school on a daily basis my clothing requirements have changed. I still dress up more than most but I don't have the variety or daily need to change outfits a lot. I'm choosing to style myself in a more simple understated way (I hope!). The idea is it will be more style less fashion and ultimately a cheaper way to dress. I have always been a performer when it comes to clothes. I've never been one for a simple elegant look unless I feel like it. I don't feel I'm losing my love of clothes but I am opting out of being a fashion magpie. It was with dread I received my Vogue & Harpers subscription magazines not because I don't like them but I will succumb to the newness of it all. My head will be filled with fashion flights of fantasy but for a change I will ignore it all.

Over the next few days my eBay listing will continue and then after clothes it will be the house. The decluttering is a month long commitment - yikes!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

How I did it - skiing that is...

Let's get straight to the crunch the cost of a Christmas Ski Spree. With flights, chalet accommodation with food, ski passes, ski hire, petit garcon ski lessons and his daily lunch then our lunch plus car parking, petrol and sundries - i.e. airport food at Innsbruck due to delayed plane departure (which was great - the food that is), my best friend Imodium (I suffer with unmentionables at altitude) the cost was £3,497.50.

The first thing I did was add up the actual cost where I knew it, which was most as even ski pass prices are fixed, and then add a forecast spend. having a total figure I broke it down by the months, weeks and days between the booking and the final payment date. I had to pay a 20% deposit immediately upon booking which I took off the total. I then set about tackling our household budget. I allocated income to spend and set aside the amount each month we needed to pay by the end of September. The time frame was 8 months.

Breaking down the amount into a daily amount meant Mr MDS lost his daily coffee habit as £2.50 helped bring down the £14.57 daily cost of the holiday. I also set a limit on Christmas present spending and did it gradually. Clothes spending was out although I did have enough money to get a few things from H&M. H&M is my current level when it comes to budget. I cannot afford anything else and I'm fine with that as I wouldn't swap the views and moments for anything.

 December 28th sat outside on a hotel terrace drinking hot chocolate in glorious mountain sunshine

Petit garcon enjoying his post race win celebratory ice cream on the hotel terrace

A monthly meal planner meant reduced spend on food, household items and wine all contributed to the funds. All my income went on the holiday minus my bills. I also started a declutter process which resulted in sales of Mr MDS's stuff sat in the garage. However he couldn't help himself but buy a Belstaff gilet. It was his only indulgence as we won't count his work suits and shirts, which were an absolute necessity and I did get two amazing suits from Paul Smith and Hugo Boss at knock down prices in the summer sales. In fairness I had repaired and repaired his previous suits before they were beyond redemption. I also updated his work mac which was an H&M purchase 3 years ago with new buttons from John Lewis.

We didn't need any ski gear as we had it all or could borrow from family. The petit garcon needed everything but apart from his ski jacket from John Lewis I managed to get the rest as his birthday presents in early December (handy) and off eBay or Ski Warehouse within budget.

The scrimping and saving meant no going out, no more weekly cinema excursions (the Ides of March was the hardest to resist) and plenty of book swaps with Vintage Vixen. I even saved all our change and went to the coin bank at Sainsbury and use it pay for groceries so I could allocate more food money to the holiday.

The benefits were the pleasure of saving up and this has really turned my spending habits around. We spent nothing for Christmas, no extra food in. We didn't buy each other any birthday or Christmas presents which was the wisest decision we made, not that we go mad but even a single spend of £50 saved is a good sum when you have other priorities.I did have a birthday lunch with birthday money and vouchers but again it was planned and had a fund allocated. Mr MDS is in August and a few days after his sister so he piggy backed off her 40th birthday celebration which was a lovely evening meal and then we had a his favourite a barbecue at home!

The holiday was such a joy all the effort and worry about whether it was the right thing to do was dispelled. My anxiety was based around the validity of spending money on a holiday when I had a credit card to pay off. My preference would have been to pay the card off first but I also didn't want to leave a ski trip any longer as we hadn't been for 6 years. I know the latter remark sounds dreadful given the hardships many families face but we are not  particularly well off, we really do just get by and if we weren't working then it wouldn't have even been a thought let alone a reality.

I found blogs like Frugal Queen hard core helpful and motivational when necessary. This year I will finally clear and cut up the credit card. The idea of using it any more fills me with revulsion. I'm sure I'm not alone in having one for emergencies but when I used to have a monthly even weekly emergency when I was doing my MA, the amount soon built up. To date I've been treading water with my credt card but this year it will finally be gone. My next plan of action is to clear all my clothes that have languished for years in my wardrobe and also sell the petit garcon's hardly worn ski items as he is a growing lad.

Equally I will continue to supplement my income with my part time Stella & Dot work. If any one would like a trunk show then email me or phone me - my details are on my Stella & Dot webpage!

Whatever you want to achieve you can do it!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

You can do it!

Last year in January I set myself some goals. The main one was to stop the rot. The rot being the obvious health and wealth of course. It is true that living in a capitalist country produces anxiety around these two matters. They are interlinked. Wealth is the driver and wealth denotes status and then the important factor of health. If you are wealthy then you can afford to be healthy. This doesn't mean having a beautiful functioning colon or other such matters. No, this means looking healthy. Well groomed, preferably thin, a good handbag and pearly white teeth are par for the course.

My wealth and health goals were of a different nature. On the wealth side it was to lose the trappings of capitalism and the acquisition of goods. This was a hard step change to make. I am nothing but a magpie when it comes to clothes. I adore fashion and trends but I have come to a point in my life when I need to grow up over this. I substantially cut and decreased my clothing spend last year. I became happy with keeping costs low and shopping at H&M. This year I start with a new perspective and will happily avoid the shops and all manner of trappings. I will still be an avid voyeur and follower of fashion but I have more important things to attend to and will have to reuse, reuse and reuse my clothes like never before.

Health wise I still remain obsessed by what we eat. I have spent a year researching food and weight for my forthcoming book (more on this later) and feel even stronger about the need for proper eating and the ditching of processed foods. If you only buy real food you cut your overall spend and the pounds on your body. I write this post just before I tackle our January meal planner and boy is it going to be a frugal month. In fact the frugality is not just due to cash flow but a natural urge to purge and cleanse. Our excess has mainly been alcohol and yummy cheeses over the festive season.

But the best goal I set myself last year was to going skiing at Christmas en famille. Mr MDS and I had enjoed a few skiing trips before the petit garcon and as I'm a late learner and somewhat of a ski scardy cat I wanted petit garcon to be confident and an experience which wasn't all about opening presents on Christmas day. I booked it feeling foolish and excessive in lots of ways, after all we were going to Italy in the summer but as usual I worked out all the costs in advance and began saving. I took on extra work and even did a few hours lunchtime supervision at petit garcon's school to earn more but not incur costs. When you are a zone 6 commuter the cost of travel eats into freelance work! I tried selling skincare, I was truly rubbish at that and now I sell jewellery as an aside and this I am loving.

I had a weekly goal and I did it all by the end of September. I realise there are more important matters to attend to like my credit card bill but that is this years task and it won't take long as it is cheaper than a ski holiday! The importance of this post it to think big and think different in order to motivate yourself. I cannot explain the benefits of having gone away over the Christmas period or convey the pride or rather joy I felt when petit garcon won his beginners slalom race. Being outdoors every day and in the mountains was an injection of something I would never have got in any other way.

View from the top of the mountain across to Italy

Me at the top of the mountain in my gear - 10 year old salopettes from M&S and ditto Helly Hensen ski jacket bought in their discount shop at Bicester Village before it became all designer focus. Always keep ski stuff as it is all about warmth not fashion. Also everyone used to laugh at me with my ski helmet all those years ago but now almost everyone wears them. They keep your head warm and safe (er).

This woman was all about the look! I couldn't resist a sneaky snap and she didn't notice. It was some get up.

 The petit garcon getting some pre race practice in!

If anyone had told me I was a spare ribs and frites kind of gal I would have laughed. Not anymore.

My next post will be how I did it in detail as I want to show how achievable anything is regardless of your circumstances. Then of course there will be lots of fashion posts to come to achieve a new season look on a very very tight budget!

Two tweets this week stuck in my mind. One by Penny Golightly about her Jump Start January focus, which you can read about on her blog as linked. The other was by Couturecoco which was simple less is more.