How to Find Bargains in the Charity Shop (Thrift Store)

How to Find Bargains in the Charity Shop (Thrift Store)

I just wish here in the UK we called charity shops ‘Thrift Stores’ because it sounds cool, don’t you think? Also, why can’t I just use that term? Who’s the boss of retail terminology?!

Rant over. So why shop at a charity shop? I guess if you’ve come to this post you are curious about it, even if voyeuristically so. I’ve always loved rifling through charity shops preferring it to ‘proper’ shopping finding it WAY less intimidating than vintage stores, which I never feel cool enough for.

While it was once for fun, now it’s necessary; my personal fashion ethos is to avoid fast fashion and choose ethical where I can. BUT more often than not I opt to buy used, second-hand, pre-loved….whatever you want to call it. Mostly because it’s cheaper, it’s a lighter footprint on the planet and I genuinely love the process of hunting the perfect toaster, camel brogue, skinny jean….etc etc.

I started sharing my finds on Instagram and I always get such a big response I remembered Kayte Ferris’ advice that ‘questions are content’ and wrote this here guide.

picture of legs in mirror

My guide to grabbing a bargain in the charity shop

An awful lot of what I’m saying here is contradictory so I apologise. I don’t wanna give you a bunch of rules so…..just take what you like and ditch the rest 😉

Shop Often

This is quite a simple one most people forget. Charity shopping is a hobby really, because you obviously can’t just go in and expect to get what you need you have to be patient and build a bit of a black book, so to speak.

I really got to know the charity shops near me when I moved here and now I pop into my faves (around five of them) a couple of times a week. Not for long, but it’s good to show your face because my next tip is….

Be nice

Making friends with the staff and chatting to them often is, well, just a nice human thing to do, but it’s also a banging tactic for getting the juicy stuff.

The JUICY GEMS, if you will 😉

Making friends with the staff and chatting to them often is, well, just a nice human thing to do, but it’s also a banging tactic for getting the juicy stuff.

The JUICY GEMS, if you will 😉

mustard jeans

Choose wisely

Don’t turn the charity shop into another way to consume fast fashion. It’s ethical, in the sense it’s the lesser of some evils; it’s better than Primark, but ultimately a lot of the clothes you’ll find in the charity shops are fast-fashion.

I often find Topshop, Zara and H&M pieces either because they’re a poorly made item, very trend-led or have been bought cheaply with little regard as to longevity.

But don’t be too wise

Okay, I know. CONTRADICTION.

I just think you can be too serious. I genuinely love faffing in a charity shop, poring through the clothes, imagining who wore them and what their story was.

Sometimes I buy things, get them home and realise they aren’t quite right so I take them back for a refund (keep your receipt, of course!)

girl with hat and leather jacket in changing room

Try things on

Most stores will have a small fitting room so do try things on. The sizing on the labels might not be right, or it might be a weird fit or whatever so it’s worth the extra hassle of wrestling out of your layers!

Don’t be precious (it’s for charity!)

I know people who haggle in the charity shop, but honestly…..it’s really no big deal. If something is a pound or two more than you’d like to pay, but you have the money, think about the fact it’s going to charity….not into a sweat shop.

If you don’t have the money, then I’d say it’s probably worth a haggle; especially if you’re buying multiple items and the store is chocka with clothes.

vintage chair from above

Find your favourites

I have some regulars I visit for certain things; one does amazing kiddy stuff, one has a patron who enjoys donating clothes in my size and style and others have a great homeware selection.

The point is, it’s a long game. Get shopping, find your faves and stop wasting time in the rest.

Shop online!

Quite a few of the bigger charities have online stores. Oxfam and Amnesty International are my faves and it makes the whole rifling-through-rails a breeze.

A guide to charity shop thrift store shopping #1

Pack a charity-shop kit

I take a couple of tote bags, a tape measure (particularly for vintage finds, or places with no changing room) and a solid understanding of my style and current wardrobe.

A note on sizing

The charity shop tags aren’t always right. Sometime they label a size 12 a medium, but if that size 12 is from Topshop it’s a small (IMO) and jeans are often mislabelled due to their waist sizes.

Et voila! Let me know if you have any questions, or add your own tips in the comments.

L x

Navigating Childcare as a Freelancer

Navigating Childcare as a Freelancer

This is a much requested post AND one I’ve been promising to write for a long time, too. It baffles me in a way and saddens me somewhat too — because it speaks to a much deeper issue really doesn’t it?

Funnily enough, this post was supposed to go live last week (I post every other Wednesday) but guess what? Yep. Childcare issues. Then I went into a four-day solo parenting stint and this post was, naturally, pushed to the bottom of the pile.

And it got me thinking about a few things surrounding childcare; how expensive it is, sure; how HARD it is, yep; but, mostly, how completely unreliable it ultimately is when you’re the primary caregiver. Which, let’s face it, falls on the mother in a heterosexual partnership.

It’s why I decided to quit working over the summer when we first moved from London to Brighton. (Which makes me incredibly lucky, I know.)

To that end, in the depths of my very privileged despair I took to Instagram and posted this…

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It’s one of those days when you feel a bit like working is harder work than it’s worth, you know? I realised I’d stopped booking stuff into nursery days because I’m constantly in fear of #thecall & if I have a bad month (like the past few) I come home with pennies after I’ve paid my share of the bills….. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ I know I sound ungrateful. I’m not. I’m so privileged to have the options I do, and the choices I’m able to make. But FML people….. motherhood and working? Yep, I’m losing that battle right now. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ In closing, I felt the picture to best go with this caption was a recycled image of my feet with inexplicable petals thrown in. As you were ❤️ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

A post shared by Lucy Lucraft (@lucylucraft) on

Unsurprisingly I’m not the only one who feels like this. It is, of course, a failing of the heteronormative, patriarchal society we live in that sees so many women dropping out of the workplace. It’s not always because they choose to be a ‘home-maker’ *cringes* but often because the cost of working is too high.

Yep, that’s right. It COSTS women to work. I never EVER thought that would be a consideration in my life, something I’d stay up worrying about or a choice I would have to make. Naive? Yeah, possibly. But realistically, when we are told our GCSE options will affect our future careers (and, by the way, what do you want to be when you grow up?) and shoved into a ‘careers advice’ session were you told about the glass ceiling you’d eventually hit?

Me neither. I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t change a thing about my career so far. Nothing. But even so, I would’ve loved a little heads up that maternity pay is hard going, that freelance life is best started sooner rather than later and that NOPE, you probably won’t be able to work while the baby naps.

C’est la vie, amiright? So let’s quit bitching and moaning (actually, please NEVER quit that) and have a look at the main childcare options for working parents.

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Long mage with title text and three smaller images of the seaside

Nursery / Daycare

I intrinsically chose this option, not sure why. And I have to say, it’s been the best choice for Anaïs who is incredibly extroverted and loves being around people.

Anaïs started nursery aged five months (I think?) and when I look back, that’s kinda mad! I mean, don’t get me wrong, I would do it again and we absolutely adored her first nursery, which was a tiny townhouse in west London run by the most incredible Spanish lady (it was a bilingual nursery) I just can’t believe she was there before she could even walk.

In Brighton, her first nursery didn’t work out (which was a real lesson in trusting your instincts) but the second one has been amazing. Anaïs loves it, we love them and overall it’s been overwhelmingly positive.

But there are downsides to nursery/daycare and here they are…..

Pros

  • Safe, great for children who love playing with others.
  • Often great activities; our nursery has a weekly artist, musician and they take trips to the local old people’s home too.
  • Good facilities; we visited one with an indoor soft play! Madness.
  • Probably makes transition to school easier, but who knows…
  • Great if you want to get chicken pox out of the way quicksmart. Ditto that hand, foot and mouth and all other gross-sounding illnesses 😉

Cons

  • Expensive. I pay £800 pcm for four ‘short days’ of 8-4pm.
  • All nurseries have different price inclusions, which if missed can add up.
  • ZERO leeway with illness, which spreads like wildfire. Kids be filthy 😉

Childminder

I’ve never used a childminder but know people who have. I looked into it in preparation for going back to work and met with a few childminders through the Childminder.org website.

Pros

  • Many childminders have a setup akin to a nursery, with several children and other childminders.
  • It’s normally cheaper than nursery.
  • Your little one might find it easier to build a stronger bond with a childminder, as opposed to having several different caregivers.
  • Normally, you have to drop off and pick up (as per nursery) but it’s a little more flexible with some childminders.

Cons

  • I found it a bit of a faff trying to find a childminder who ticked all the boxes; location, price etc etc
  • You need to be a little more vigilant and ensure you check your childminder meets legal criterias. Childcare.org gives guidelines.
  • I suppose that were a childminder to be ill, you might be a bit screwed although they do seem to work with others to negate this.

Family/Friends

This isn’t an option for lots of us so feel free to grumble and skip it. But even if it is an option, it mightn’t be the best one anyway. Helpful stuff, Luce….I know, I know!

Pros

  • It’s normally free!
  • Who could be more trustworthy than family? I guess that’s subjective….
  • You get lovely family time as a bonus. Again, I guess this depends on your family dynamics!

Cons

  • It’s potentially not as reliable
  • You’re at the mercy of someone who isn’t being paid….this can be awkward.
  • If you hate your family, it’s probably not your favourite day of the week.
  • You are unlikely to get full-time childcare with this option, although I do know folks who have.

Co-working creche

I looked into this option when I still lived in London as it felt like a really cool option. I was keen to get out of the flat and co-work and I wasn’t yet sure I was ready to leave Anaïs with a stranger full-time. So this seemed like a happy medium.

I visited a few, but quickly realised genuine co-working creche facilities are few and far between and, sadly, none that I saw did both well. It wasn’t right for me, but I know a couple of people who have found it a great option.

Pros

  • Your baby will be close by which is great if you’re nervous about leaving them.
  • It’s a great way to meet like-minded folk in the same, or a similar boat as you.

Cons

  • It can be a pricey option, although the places I viewed varied wildly so shop around.
  • If you hate the idea of co-working, it’s crap. But then, why would you choose this option….
  • You have to lug a baby, and all of your work gear into an office….which didn’t work for me with no car!

Working around naps

Nope. Just nope. The amount of people who still shame me when I tell them that, “No, I can’t write 1000 words for a national newspaper while my toddler plays with her toys.” is alarming.

It might work for you, and that’s great. But for me? It’s a hard no.

L x

How to manage your finances as a freelancer

How to manage your finances as a freelancer

It’s tax return time for sole traders here in the UK and that means one of a few things; you’ve filed it and have to dig into your savings to find the money to pay, you haven’t done it and are panicking about where your expenses are or you’ve done it and feel smug, like moi.

In fact, I did it last October and that was late for me. *Realises anyone reading is now pelting rotten bananas at their screen*

I’ve been freelance for about five years now and I’ve only just realised how bloody good I am at managing my finances. Also, isn’t it great to start a post with an obnoxious brag? No? Woops.

I’m naturally very analytical and have always been pretty good with numbers, something I fought against for a long time because it meant I wasn’t creative – at least, that’s what my parents and school told me. You might relate to this, or perhaps you are in the camp of hating numbers or even being scared of them.

I’m lucky in that I’m not, I know that. Because even I found the most difficult element of switching from traditional employment to self-employment was the money bit.

I found it scary, confusing and overwhelming. I’ve been through three accountants because they are typically men who deal best with other corporate men, or women who earn a lot more than I ever have as a freelancer. And in more traditional forms of freelancing too. I’ve been patronised, ignored and laughed at but guess what? Those fools didn’t realise who they were dealing with, namely someone who used to manage millions of pounds for big name retailers, answering to stuffy, cross men in suits daily.

So, yeah. They all got TOLD is what I’m saying. I found a great accountant who has helped me plug the gaps in my knowledge and empowered me to manage my finances in a way HMRC won’t shout at me about.

So in this post I want to share my process with you, from tracking my income and pulling monthly profit and loss reports right through to what business accounts I use and recommend and finally, how I file my tax return too.

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Managing your finances as self employed freelancer TAX RETURN

Freelance Finances: My Process

I am a touch old school in that I have an excel spreadsheet, where I manually track my expenses, income (both projected and actualised) as well as an monthly profit and loss summary. This helps me plan for the year ahead and make tweaks ahead of time, avoiding the panic of overspending.

I also use an amazing accounts software system my accountant recommended where I create, send and track invoices, project proposals nd I can also file my tax return straight from it.

This might sound a bit unnecessary but the reason for having both systems is twofold: It means I don’t miss anything and therefore know I’m compliant, and I’m actually able to save money as an accountant doing my tax return is three times the price of my subscription.

Here’s what I do:

Daily  

  • Add any incomings or expenses to my spreadsheet and ‘explain’ transactions in Free Agent.

Weekly

  • Check exchange rate and update formula based on fluctuations.
  • Chase late invoices, create new ones etc.

Monthly 

  • Review profit and loss and make necessary adjustments to future months.
  • Based on the above I might decide to cancelling unnecessary direct debits or invest in training.

Quarterly 

  • Proof previous quarters numbers against automated system
  • Plan next quarter: Do I need to increase my prices, drop a client or find more?

Annually

  • FILE MY TAX RETURN! (Ideally in June, but no later than October)
  • Pay Tax and NI contribution.

My favourite tools

Tiny Scanner

For changing receipts into PDF on my phone.

Excel/Google Sheets

I used to only use Excel but the cost of Microsoft Office wasn’t worth it so now I simply use Google docs and sheets.

Free Agent (affil)

Things like Honeybooks and Freshbooks are both much sexier, however I hated that neither were setup for UK accounts.

You can sync your bank account with Free Agent (affil) // (although not my Starling business account yet) and it’s a super sophisticated yet intuitive piece of software.A

Further Resources

This Guardian article is really helpful as is this blog post by Easy as VAT (which is, incidentally, an EXCELLENT resource for anyone self-employed.)

HMRC guidelines and videos are a bit snore but useful for the nuances of tax.

How to Have a Zero Waste Period {Period Underwear Review}

How to Have a Zero Waste Period {Period Underwear Review}

Let’s talk period pants shall we? Another requested blog post this one comes with a video AND some cheeky lingerie shots too. Bet you never thought you’d get to see me in my period pants did ya?

Nope, me neither.

I first heard about Thinx (affil) about a year ago, maybe less, and you probably did too because their marketing is AGGRESSIVE amiright? Similarly to the Mooncup, I remember my immediate reaction being one of vague disbelief and mild ick

Pants you can bleed into? Like a nappy?

But reading more and more and finding my period heavier than ever (something I wasn’t expecting post baby!) I needed something as a backup; initially I’d planned to buy reusable sanitary pads, or make them but I’d never really got on with the whole panty liner thing.

So, period pants became far more appealing. Especially after I heard such amazing reviews (and some terrible ones, for balance!)

In this post I’m sharing my honest thoughts on period underwear, the different brands on offer right now and how/why you might want to use them.

ENJOY!

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Trying to have a zero-waste period? You've come to the right place! I share my essential kit and review the Thinx period panties. Read more at lucylucraft.com #zerowaste #lowimpactliving

HOW & WHY TO USE PERIOD PANTS

Because I don’t use standard plastic sanitary products, simply relying on my menstrual cup my reasons for using period pants is based on necessity as opposed to switching for environmental reasons.

But you might’ve come to this post looking for a reason why you should reduce the waste your period currently produces. The average woman gets through 11,000 tampons in her life which end up hanging around on landfill for centuries due to their synthetic nature.

Let’s briefly talk about the fact you and I are able to discuss different options by virtue of our privilege. Period poverty is real for FAR too many young girls and women here in the UK and, of course, worldwide and for others, using a tampon or disposable sanitary pad is the only option for health and comfort reasons.

So my view is that those of us who are able to make a green choice with relative ease should do so. If only so that those who can’t don’t have to see those annoying headlines and feel guilty – because NOBODY should feel guilty for using a tampon, mmmkay?

Zero waste period pants underwear

Back to why I’ve chosen period pants over pads.

My primary reason is my newly-acquired heavy flow. My period requires one menstrual cup (or 3 daily tampons) for around four to five days right now and pads are often required, albeit not bought or used hence the need for something else as backup.

I bought three Thinx pairs (affil); one high waist black, one standard black and a thong. These three suffice but I’d like to add a couple more, for backup.

Psssst: I’ve only tried Thinx, however ideally, I would use a UK-based supplier so there are a few picks for you at the bottom of this post.

And here’s how they work; the science bit, if you will 😉

PROS

  • You’re saving the world! What could be a better pro than that? But seriously, making the switch to reusables means you’ll see a change in your waste REALLY quickly, which is incredibly satisfying. 
  • You’ll save money, especially if you’re switching from sanitary pads and/or tampons.
  • I’ve found this to be one of the best swaps I’ve made so far. Yes, I didn’t use pads but I was (okay, this is gross and an overshare) often leaking; my period really changed post baby and I started to get really anxious.
  • They just work! I have three pairs at the moment which are just about fine for an average period for me (although I’d like to add two more pairs.)

CONS

  • The main con for me (and I’m reaching here) is that you have to make sure you rinse your pants in cold water before you pop them in the washing machine. That extra step is a nuisance on day two when you really CBA.
  • They feel weird to the touch, sorta synthetic which, of course, they are. But I’ve not found them to be uncomfortable or thrush-inducing while I’m wearing them. But I think it’s a very personal thing, so I wouldn’t order lots in one go.
  • They take a long time to dry, so depending on your flow; how heavy, how long, and whether you are using them alone or with tampons or a menstrual cup too, you’ll need to be organised and potentially have a big stash.

5 PERIOD UNDERWEAR BRANDS

  • She Thinx: (affil)The brand I use right now. They look great, fit well and work a treat but the price is a little prohibitive and, as a US brand, are privy to random customs charges. You can buy them in the UK at Selfridges though.Modi Bodi: An Australian company offering a huge range of products, including swimwear. They use Merino wool in their ranges though so aren’t vegan. But they ship from the UK 🙂
  • WUKA: A UK company (although manufactured in China) their ethos is about creating beautiful underwear that works.
  • Dear Kate: US based clothing brand. I love this brand’s diverse photography and they also offer period yoga pants too!
  • Knix: Simple styles, US based. 
  • Panty Props: Another US brand.

Thus end another thrilling chapter in the, “the world needs to know more about my bodily fluids” series. Hope you enjoyed it!

L x

My Favourite Vegan Recipes: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner!

My Favourite Vegan Recipes: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner!

I meant to publish this WAY earlier but hey ho, I’m rarely on time in life so why would I be online? Actually, I’m ALWAYS on time but that lie made the opening sentence of this post easier to write so….

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Taking part in Veganuary? Here are my tried and tested favourite vegan recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

I’ve been vegan for a while now, vegetarian even longer, carnivorous intermittently, on a diet of breastmilk for a few short months, juicing = NEVER.

And it seems as though a fair few flirt with a flexitarian diet too. Perhaps you’ve found this piece searching for, “vegan recipes for people who like their stomach”, or perhaps for this, “why does vegan cheese make me cry” but more likely this, “vegan recipes because I’ve just signed up to Veganuary and I can’t eat any more Oreos.”

Perhaps none of the above. However you found me, you are in the right place if you want a roundup of my FAVOURITE, tried, tested and devoured vegan recipes.

Breakfast

Disclaimer: If you like chia seed puddings you’re in the wrong place. I hate that stuff!

Lunch

I find lunch a weird one as anything I eat for my tea (dinner) I also eat for lunch. But I’ve popped some great sarnie and soup recipes and some more traditionally eaten at lunchtime. Rainbow sandwich

Dinner

L x

Vegan Meal Planning Tips

Vegan Meal Planning Tips

I feel a bit of a fool writing this post as it’s so simple I’m sure most people have a far better system in place but honestly, this is one of my most requested blog posts (by at least one person ;)).

Reducing your food waste may not be a huge priority but it is one of mine. It’s the easiest way to reduce your overall household waste as, realistically, it involves one of three things; buying less food, eating more food or planning better. I am good with all three of these things but let’s be realistic and accessible to those who don’t want to eat more food, can’t buy less and want the third, most Virgo option on the table. 

vegan cookbook flatlay
flatlay of vegan meal planning

Let’s talk meal planning

I’ve been heavily into meal planning since the whole family became vegan. It’s helped us reduce our waste, eat a bigger variety of food and, genuinely, have a little fun each week. Come on, don’t judge me on this! 

Before you start, all you’ll need is some sort of meal planning notebook. I have a very, very old one that is still going but it’s not the best as there’s no space to add a shopping list. I’d recommend either using a blank pad you customise with the days of the week and a space for a shopping list, or use an online notes app. 

Before I jump in and give you my simple meal-planning tips I wanted to let you know my go-to resources for finding good vegan/plant-based recipes.

My Favourite Vegan Resources  

  • Minimalist Baker always has great, simple plant-based recipes and I’ve never made a dud one! 
  • Oh She Glows is another fave and I especially adore her food photography.
  • Aine Carlin first cookbook Keep it Vegan is a classic I often refer back to.  
  • I adore my beautiful Riverford Autumn/Winter cookbook; the recipes aren’t exclusively vegan but it’s a gorgeous guide to eating seasonally and my go-to when random veg like Pain de Sucre pops up in my veg box!
  • But I couldn’t live without my Vegan Comfort Classics cookbook by Lauren Toyota because I am a carb Queen and I couldn’t live without my comfort food. 

My Vegan Meal Planning Tips

  • Start with what you have: Any veg that needs to be used up lest it grow roots and propagate in your fridge? A glut of pasta you need to get through? I have a weekly veg box so at this stage I also look at what’s coming in my next delivery. 
  • Note the days you’re out: This isn’t tricky for me as I basically never go out but you might have a weekly date night or exercise class or whatever so it’s good to keep note, so you know not to make more than you need.
  • Set categories: I use a bit of a strange system as I rely on what my bulk store has in stock. So to keep it both flexible and reliable I use 5 categories to base my meals on; rice, grain (cous cous/quinoa etc), pasta, potato and legume (lentils, chickpeas etc).
  • Start planning! This is when I grab my cookbooks and start poring over them, picking whatever takes my fancy. Of course, we have staples (Like the chilli from this book!) but I like to add new bits and pieces too. Most importantly, the meals we cook tend to be in line with the seasons as per our Riverford veg box.  
  • Make a shopping list: Pretty important but amazing how I often I forget this step! This is why I suggest having a space for your list as the most simple you can make your meal plan, the easier it is to stick to. At the moment, I write on the back of my meal plan OR pop it on Sunday which is when we tend to wing it a bit. 

And thus concludes one of the least exciting blog posts I’ve ever written! I hope you enjoyed it because I GENUINELY loved writing it!

L x

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Vegan Meal Planning: My top tips to reduce your food waste and enjoy delicious vegan meals each week. Read more at lucylucraft.com #zerowaste #plantbased #whatveganseat