Tuesday, November 26, 2002

I hate being skint. OK, so it's skint in a can't-go-shopping kind of way, not starving/eviction skint, but it can still get to you. So I've been really vigilant lately about trying to make my money go its furthest, or doing things on the cheap. And let me tell you, I haven't been doing too badly! Here's a few ideas:


While I wouldn't encourage anyone to turn into one of those people that lies down near a bus crash and starts howling, I think it's safe to say most people don't exercise their rights to decent service often enough. In my case, I had a complete nightmare with my bank when I tried to change an insurance policy. After a couple of months of constant phone calls, conflicting paperwork and staff that didn't understand what I was asking for, I wrote in to cancel the policy and included a long, detailed letter slating their administrative imcompetence. Today, I got a letter practically bursting with apologies and a cheque refunding two months' worth of premiums. In the past, I've also complained and was compensated for travel agent rudeness and lack of staff to deal with cinemagoers who used their mobiles during a movie. We're about to send a big ol' letter to BA regarding our pitiable flight to Brussels, too.

Who needs Space NK?

I am a sucker for beauty stuff that smells gorgeous - the more exotic, the better. And while I can't afford to spend £20 on handcream anymore, I still maintain that pampering yourself is an essential factor to staying happy. So when the Guardian weekend magazine ran a home spa article the other weekend, it reminded me that I used to make lots of my own beauty goodies. Some of my favourites:

* Salt scrub - buy a bag of rock sea salt (I got mine from my bulk organic co-op for about £1.50) which will last for ages. Add whatever catches your fancy - I grated in some lemon peel and added a drop of lavender oil . Turn on the shower briefly to get wet, then turn it off and scrub the salt all over. When you rinse off in the shower, the hot water enhances the aroma of the oil and peel.

* Oatmeal face pack - I simply mix some oatmeal, a spoonful of honey and some hot water in a bowl, then apply the paste all over my face. It looks ridiculous but it leaves your skin really soft (the honey apparently helps with dry skin, which is always a huge problem for me in winter...)

* Facial - all you really need is a big towel, a big bowl of really hot water and some dried cammomile (dirt cheap from any health food place). Sit over the bowl with a towel over your head, re-surfacing every so often when the steam gets to be too much. Cammomile also really softens the skin and it smells lovely too. If your face isn't glowing after one of these...

* Hair pack - a mashed avocado sounds like a disaster, but it does work on those dried out split ends! Buy a soft ones from your local fruit stalls for a bargain.

Don't go to Sainsburys or Boots!

This is probably more of a girl thing. Example. You need some basics (bread, butter, eggs) and pop into the supermarket. But instead, you walk out with all of the above plus some buy-one-get-one-free Haagen Daz, some posh condiments that caught your eye and various other stuff that will languish on your shelf. Same for Boots and their blasted buy three, get the cheapest free/triple Boots points offers. But you know what? It's not your fault! Teams of market analysts have plotted your trip round their shop and strategically placed their wares so that you're practically reaching for stuff you don't need before you know it. I have tried to just go in Boots and walk away with toothpaste, and have finally admitted to myself that it's almost impossible to resist the Clarins counter. So I don't go inside. Nope! I send my boyfriend instead, who has amazing powers of resistance and comes home with exactly what's on my shopping list. Our shopping bill has gone down dramatically, and there's finally space in my cupboards as things are being used up.


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