Mrs Williams

Thrifty Thursday – A Wedding Special

So, as mentioned yesterday, this week is mine and Matt’s wedding anniversary. It is crazy to think that a year has passed, and we have had TONS of fun!! We actually have two wedding anniversaries, as we got married twice (as you do)…so Monday just gone we celebrated our LEGAL anniversary, but next Monday is a year since our actual wedding. I love having two excuses to celebrate.

Anyway, our wedding was one of my best ever efforts in terms of thrift and creativity, and as its getting into wedding season, I thought I would use this week as a chance to share some of what I tried and learned, what worked and a little of what didnt…and a chance to show off some of my beautiful pictures! My parents are Salvation Army officers and despite their incredibly low income, they worked hard to save money since I was born to pay for our wedding, so we really wanted to make sure that the way we spent that money in a way that honoured how hard they had worked both to earn and save the money. So here’s what we did…

1) The Dress

I went dress shopping two weeks after we got engaged in a wedding shop in Brisbane. I was over visiting my parents for Christmas, spending a week at their home in Papua New Guinea and then a week in Brisbane. The dress was beautiful, and the fact that I found it with my Mum (bearing in mind that she wasnt able to be involved in any of the rest of the planning) made it ‘the one.’ The dress was AU$2200 and by a brand called ‘Essense of Australia’ so I wasnt sure that I’d be able to have it or get it. However, after some online research, I found that it was available in the UK and that a place in Basingstoke had it for £1200. That still seemed like a lot.

My very lovely friend Sarah got her dress second hand online and really pleaded with me to look around before spending that kind of money…literally the same day, shopping on I found the dress in this shop, it was a shop sample so had been tried on a couple of times, and it was a size bigger than I needed, but it cost me £500!!! One of my bridesmaids found me a friend of a friend who did the alterations for £50, and I ended up selling the dress, again on preloved for £300 after the wedding, so my total spend was £250…a far cry from the original $2200.


The Centrepieces

We spent SO many hours trawling charity shops, but we managed to collect enough teapots to have one on every table filled with flowers.  We had different cream coloured flowers on every table. Another friend of a friend helped us with the flowers, so it really didnt cost us very much at all, and they looked wonderful. I have friends who have spent SO much on centrepieces, so this was a thrifty and cute option, and my Grandma reckons we can auction all the teapots now and make some money back!


The Favours

These were the best and worst bit of the wedding planning effort. Instead of a cake, Matt and I had three tiers of cheese, so I decided to hand make individual jars of chutney for every guest (100). A friend of my Grandma’s saved her baby food jars for me, and then my bridesmaid, Anna and I took over her Mum’s kitchen on three different weekends to sterilise the jars and make the chutney. We had 5 flavours. Apple and Ginger pickle was NOT GOOD…I mean, apparently it tasted ok by the wedding, but on the day we made it it just smelled awful and even after some time to mature, the smell was too similar and brought back memories that just made it impossible to like. We also made rhubarb chutney, caramelised red onion chutney and, the favourite, curried rhubarb chutney (its honestly one of the best things i’ve ever tasted). Then we covered them in Gingham, wrapped some parcel string around and added cardboard tags. The just looked awesome and totally added to our vintage country fayre type feel. And so quirky 🙂

The decorations

So Anna and I also made bunting using scraps of fabric we collected in the lead up to the wedding, we cut out the triangles, and her wonderful Mum stitched it all onto ‘bias binding’ to make it into bunting.

We then used Matt’s Mum’s old uni trunk for our table plan, and I made 60 cupcakes for our evening reception…that was actually the only bit I wished I hadnt done. Two days before the wedding, that was really just one thing too many for me!!


So there you have it. Our little handmade, thrifty wedding. A year on!

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Jubilee 2012

Now, I must start this with a somewhat controversial statement. I love the Queen! I know there are lots of issues with monarchy, but I think ours is something to be proud of. Politically I think it’s great to have a national figurehead and ambassador who is not tied to political standpoint, and who does not represent government decisions. Economically, the royal family bring in tons of money to the UK economy and frankly, our current queen has shown a massive amount of class and dignity through hundreds of world changes and difficult situations, so I’m a fan. I’ve had some red, white and blue cupcakes today, and I’m enjoying the jubilee coverage on TV.Its nice to have something to celebrate in this country!!

However, watching this jubilee stuff is interesting. Our country are celebrating BIG time this weekend, because someone has done a job she was born into and had no choice about for 60 years at no personal cost or sacrifice really, whilst living a life of luxury. Do you know what Jubilee actually means?

The word Jubilee comes from the bible, and describes the ancient law that at the end of seven cycles of seven years, so every 49 years, debts were cancelled, slaves were freed and lands were returned to their original owners. This was the jubilee year, recognising that God actually owns everything, so noone should hold onto anything for too long.


The significance that this kind of action would have on our society is unimaginable!

Here’s a jubilee worth getting involved with

This would be something worth really celebrating!!!

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Charity Shopping!

You may remember that my challenge for lent was not to shop. Well, its been a bit of a failure, and a real reminder to me of how much I buy, and how much I feel I need it. This is a challenge which will go way beyond Lent 2012 as I am challenged to massively reduce what I buy, and seek to find more creative ways to avoid the influences that make me feel i need ‘stuff.’ One of the reasons i’ve failed a bit with the shopping challenge of lent is that we are going to America in 4 weeks, and I have needed to buy gifts for our family over there to make up for Christmases and Birthdays since we saw them last. Whilst this fits into the ‘allowed during lent’ category, going to the shops, or even shopping online has created massive temptation for me. This combined with a mini adult-acne breakout during this lenten time has resulted in me doing some shopping, but just shampoos and make-up stuff, I have managed not to buy any clothes.

One of the things I specified at the beginning of lent was that I could shop in Charity shops. The whole concept of charity shopping sits so much better with me than giving money to the companies who make most of the clothes I like, not only stopping waste, opting out of the mass consumption of high street shopping AND finding a treat from someone elses cast offs, but also giving money to charity. However, the area I lived in up until recently, Shirley in Southampton, had about a million charity shops, but I never found ANYTHING I liked in any of them. So I’d all but given up on charity shops. But we’re off to America in 4 weeks, as I mentioned already, and since the sun has come out, I’ve realised that 3 years of uni has left me with NO summery clothes.

One of the issues is, as much as I wish I was, I’m just not quirky.  I have friends who can pick things up in a charity shop that looks like my great Gran donated it, and can wear it and look like they belong in a fashion magazine. I am not one of these people. I can’t pull off quirky. I also am terrible at accessorizing, I rarely remember to wear jewellry except my wedding ring and a watch, I never wear belts, and I have ONE handbag that I use with every outfit, so when I’m shopping, I need to find stuff that just goes together, without needing any quirkability to pull it off.

Then on Saturday, whilst up in Northampton visiting friends, we went to Olney in Buckinghamshire. Just as we were leaving, we popped into one last charity shop, and it was like a dream come true. Full of clothes I would wear, and set out in a manageable and non-jumble-saley way, I managed to get a skirt and a top for £10. The shop, for anyone who’s interested, was ‘Mercy in Action’  and if I lived any closer it’d have a role as a new regular for me.


The top is a bit odd, as it sort of ties up at the sides, so I’m still not massively sure how I’ll wear that one, but it looks pretty good with skinny jeans so I like it.

THEN, Lucy blogged about some excellent charity shops in Farnham, and my friend Chloe clocked it and suggested we pay it a visit. Cue me frantically writing 1000 words of my dissertation yesterday morning so we could justify a trip. Sadly Lucy lied and said it was in Hampshire when it is in fact in Surrey (to be fair, I had no clue) so it was a bit of a drive BUT, boy was she right about Farnham. Chloe and I had an amazing day in the sunshine wandering from charity shop to charity shop, snubbing our usual favourite shops for these second hand havens and, in every shop, laughing at the staff who invariably got VERY flustered when we wanted to pay by card…note to self, next time CASH!! Then, as if our day couldnt get any better we overheard a woman in one of the shops saying that if you want charity shops, you really ought to check out Godalming. YEAH WE DID, quick drive round Surrey and we found ourselves another little charity shop haunt.

So now I’m SORTED for my holiday, I’ve got a nice selection of bits and pieces, and my total spend for yesterday was £30! Not only that, but I realised the answer to charity shopping…rich people throw out nicer stuff! So if you go somewhere posh like Surrey, rather than scummy Southampton, the stuff in the charity shops is WAY nicer! And finally my charity shop curse is lifted, I can actually buy stuff in them!!

So here’s my excellent finds from yesterday (Cardigan, originally Monsoon, £6. Green top, originally Monsoon £5, Black and White top, originally Dorothy Perkins £4, Brown and Black top (modelled by me) originally Oasis £5, Colourful skirt, originally Bowden £6, Green skirt, my one attempt at ‘quirky’ originally Topshop, £4!)








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Thrifty Thursday: Food Co-Ops

So, this week I’ve been feeling a little unqualified for Thrifty Thursdays…not sure I’m doing enough thats thrifty.

However, one thing that I do pride myself on is cooking and baking most of our food from scratch. I dont think I realised that that is actually pretty rare, but I basically dont use ready made foods, and dont even use many (I’d love to say any, but i’d be lying) packet mixes or jars of sauce.

We’re moving house next week, and will be just a bit too far to keep shopping at the farm shop we usually go to, so I’ve been looking around for alternatives…and that is how I discovered food co-operatives. The concept being that if people get together, and then buy in bulk, they can get lower prices direct from suppliers. For people who want to buy organic foods, this is a good way to be able to do it in a…wait for it…yep THRIFTY manner!! These co-ops are run by the community for the community and operate on a not-for-profit basis

This website contains a list of local cooperatives, including a few in our fair Southampton. Im not sure there is anything here that orders as regularly as we might need for lots of things, but bulk items and baking stuffs might well be doable. If not, we may have to look at starting our own.

Im so convinced by the concept of organic food, but Im also assured in my hatred of supermarkets. Selfishly I think this would be an excellent way for me to keep my tummy, pocket and conscience happy. But I also think there is something beautiful about people taking control of their food needs and know a little more about where their food comes from, and what a great community activity, getting together to box up your orders, or to split a massive bag of rice amongst five of you. wonderful!! I’ve contacted a couple of local people to see how we can get involved in this so will keep you posted…


Thrifty Thursdays : 5 uses for Coconut Oil

I dont like to be too much of a copycat, but my friend Mel ( and recent blog find and person i sort-of-know-through-other-people Lucy ( do something on their blogs called Thrifty Thursdays, and I have found them to be super inspiring, challenging, and sometimes pretty funny…its amazing what we’ll try out to save a few pence.

However, in the name of trying to be eco-friendly, as well as being a student and needing to be bank account friendly, some of these thrifty tips have come in useful, and the whole idea of ‘make do and mend’ as well as making my own things appeals to me greatly!!

So, my very first Thrifty Thursday tip is…

I have only just discovered coconut oil…having seen it for sale in our lovely little farmfoods store, I finally bought some last week to make my own toothpaste (4 tbsps coconut oil, 4 tbsps bicarb, 10 drops peppermint oil). I mentioned it on twitter, and suddenly got a new follow notification from a wonderfully bonkers account devoted to promoting the wonder and usefulness of this creamy goo!

A jar of coconut oil is not going to be the cheapest thing on your shopping list, but boy is it handy. So far, these are the things I’ve either tried or had reccomended (not just by the bonkers twitter people)

1) Making toothpaste. This takes a bit of getting used to as it doesnt froth like normal toothpaste, but my chompers DO feel clean and my breath hasnt yet caused comment from Matt so I’m seeing it as a winnner

2) Hair conditioner/air freshener. My very cool and highly gorgeous friend Chloe whacks some of this stuff on her hair in an evening, sleeps with it on (you def need to put a towel over the pillow), then wakes up and washes it out to reveal beautiful shiny and strong tresses. Her hair is serious envy-fodder so as I write, I have a head covered in oil just waiting to be rinsed. Its not a great look while its oily, but it did make our bedroom smell gorgeous!!

3) Diet aid. There are a few people I know who swear by this. Basically, coconut oil is the good kind of fat (I dont know enough science to explain it properly) so eating a couple of spoonfuls of this oil a day can actually help you lose weight, and can cancel out your cravings for other stuff. Its also proven to lower cholesterol so sounds good to me.

4) cooking/spreading. It can basically be used as an alternative to butter, and with all the health benefits listed above, get it in your cakes/on your toast. Im not yet convinced it’d be a winner on a corn on the cob but apart from that, I’m willing to give it a try

5) Skin care. Its just a great moisturiser. I whacked a bit on my lips this week instead of skanky chemically lip balm. Its actually sposed to be really good for eczema, and totally safe for use on babies bums

Seems like miracle juice to me

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Penny for your thoughts…literally

so, also inspired by some other blogs, as well as some conversations we had over Christmas, I realised that I’m pretty good at finding crafty little ways of making and saving money.
I left school 8 years ago, and since then have basically never been in what I would consider a reasonable financial situation. I’ve had jobs that didnt pay much at all, then one job that paid ok, but I was living in London and already in too much debt to enjoy it. Then for the last 3 years I’ve been a student.

Now I’m not great with money, and I like nice food and travelling too much to save masses, although i’m doing better these days…but I do think I’m pretty well practiced at finding ways to do some things I like for little or no money, and at making money by not doing very much.

So…tip number 1 = online questionnaires.

These wont make masses of money quickly, but they also dont take long at all. They’re the kind of thing I do whilst plonked in front of the telly, or to kill ten minutes between paragraphs of an essay. I try to keep an eye out for ones that have the most points/pay the most money, and then I save up points and get vouchers for a treat. Its a good way to allow myself a little something as a treat once in a while without feeling any guilt…or to get a dress for a special occasion.

The best ones I have found are…

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So I am already proving to be useless at blogging regularly, must try harder

This summer has been a weird one, I have been off uni and Matt has been in a new job with long hours away from home. I’ve been fairly lonely at times and have felt a little down at not achieving much. In the end I got myself a little temp job just to save myself from going insane.

But in the midst of all of that, Matt and I have started asking lots of questions about what the future holds for us. I have another year of uni to do, so its not an imminent decision to be made, but we have started to think about it. a lot. During that, we have also been to see Shane Claibourne, a really inspiring Christian speaker and political activist, which massively shaped our thoughts.

Shane Claibourne is a guy from East Tennessee, born in a conservative Christian family, brought up in the church and crowned Prom king at his school…nothing amazing about that. But then during college he met Jesus and, in his own words, it messed him up. He suddenly began to feel that the things that mattered to him weren’t actually that important and that there were things in the world that he suddenly became very passionate about. so…10 years on, he lives in Philadelphia, working with the poorest families and communities. But this guy isn’t a youth worker, or a community centre manager, he literally lives alongside these people. He heard that there were some homeless families in Philly who had moved into an unused Cathedral and were about to be evicted by the church…this didn’t sound right to him so he went down and stayed there with them, and got arrested with them, and went to court with them, wearing a T-Shirt that says “Jesus was homeless.”

He felt really strongly that America made a wrong decision when it bombed Iraq, so during the first bombings of Bagdad, he was there, hanging out with Iraqi people and trying to show them that there were Americans who cared about their plight. He learned a lot there from he Iraqi Christians who sat with bombs falling around their churches praying for Americans.

We passionately believe that faith in Jesus has to translate into living differently. We believe that we, in our current position of having no big ties or responsibilities, are called by God to do something about the poverty and injustice and sadness we see all around us. Sadly, we don’t yet know what. We don’t know how to start or who to help. But, we have started on a journey of learning and reading and trying to find out some answers. We are actively looking for opportunities and are more carefully considering our own decisions about how we spend money and time. It is an exciting but scary time

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