The thrift factor

The thrift factor is not some low budget TV game show, it is more really something I do or engage in almost every day.

I suppose I’ve always been pretty thrifty. My Mum remembers me as a small child, counting out my pocket money and working out what I could afford to buy and seeing how much change I would have and making it last. We were brought up to understand the value of money, to work for what you want and how to make our money work for us.


My Dad is usually pretty surprised whenever I tell him about the latest bargain or deal I have managed to get, whether it is on clothes, a new phone package or rearranging my mortgage all by myself when I was 24 lol. He often calls me a cheap date but I take it as a compliment.

While I try to save money on most things, be it groceries, a good broadband deal or books, I suppose a good example of my thriftiness was my wedding.

Now, I’m not the kind of girl who has been planning her wedding in her head since she was five. I was engaged once before and got as far as making a guest list and thinking about having dodgems at the reception, but got no further than that with any planning. I looked at some dresses in a magazine and the internet and that was about it. After 6 years of engagement I called it a day. When I met my husband we were just good friends for about 9 months before we thought about seeing whether it might work between us, and thankfully it did. We were very much on the same wavelength (and still are) and when we got engaged we already had a venue in mind – Westonbirt Arboretum. It is a lovely park filled with amazing trees and at the end of September going into October, the maple trees are in full amazing autumnal colours. We decided to go for the last day that weddings were allowed to be held there before the facility had to make way for it’s busiest time – which was the 30th September. We picked a weekday – because it was cheaper.


The Great Oak Hall at Westonbirt Arboretum


An inside view!

(Shortly after our wedding, BBC’s Autumnwatch used the hall as their studio for the first week of the show.)

At that time our finances were chugging along at a semi-pathetic pace. I was contracting somewhere horrible and being treated like rubbish and struggling with insomnia and anxiety and ended up leaving. He was paying out a lot of money every month to his ex, but we had plenty in the savings account but it was going to be tough. I spent a year out of work, applying for about 15 jobs a week, having interviews and getting sick of people telling me they didn’t select me because they thought I would get bored too quickly and leave. But the wedding planning had to carry on through this time.

I made the most of eBay – I decided to get a dress made for me by someone on there – it was a bit nerve racking but I was pleased with the end result. It was a fraction of the cost of most wedding dresses but still looked good. I also decided to make my own bouquet, the flower girls posies and buttonholes, and an arrangement for the table in the venue. Nothing fancy, I wanted it to be pretty simple. I ordered different artificial flowers – like hellebore, ranunculus, rose, hydrangea and some foliage and incorporated autumnal maple leaves, and made my arrangements several months in advance. I also got the flower girls dresses from eBay – all Monsoon dresses. We used Quidco when making most of our purchases for anything, so we started racking up some serious money to go into the savings. From switching our energy supplier to cancelling our Sky account and starting up a new Sky+ account and getting £s in cashback, not to mention Marks & Spencer’s vouchers that we used to buy a case of champagne!


My bouquet. The flower arrangements came home with me and are a nice reminder of the day.

We hired a village hall not far from Westonbirt for our reception and had a sort of afternoon tea themed do. It was a mixture of food I had made, food I had ordered from Waitrose (using a voucher my brother sent me for my birthday) and food my Mum and her friends had made. My Mum made our cake, her friend and a helper helped with sorting out all the food and clearing up.


Our very pretty (and yummy) cake

My Dad ended up using CDs from his car for our music when it turned out, that despite the hall custodian telling me that a music CD created by iTunes would definitely play on their sound system – they didn’t. That was the only hiccup of the day. A nice surprise was finding that my Mum had made little pots of jam and marmalade for all the guests. Not to mention knitted a quirky little set of dolls!


We got my stepson’s suit in the Debenham’s sale – and then sold it on eBay some months later when he was too big for it. My husband’s outfit came from M&S and he still wears the tie and trousers for work and the jacket for important things every now and then. We used Vistaprint for our invites that I designed and a family friend took photos for us as well as my Dad and father in law. Our rings came from eBay and glasses hire for the day was free with our Waitrose food order. In all I think it cost us around £2,500.

Group Shot

I’m the one in the white dress…

Our honeymoon was a few days away in a self catering cottage in the Wye Valley – which was paid for by my in-laws who all clubbed together to pay for it. And my lovely sister paid for our hotel room on our wedding night – and upgraded us to a balcony room.


Our gorgeous cottage

We had a lovely day, and it was nice not to feel stressed, and to not be in some sort of financial pit at the end of it all – which wouldn’t be a good way to start a marriage! I still make the most of sites like Quidco and eBay and will certainly shop around and look out for offers or voucher codes when making a large purchase.

So when I am making things I do like to think about the thrift factor. I think about making the most out of the fabric I order, how much wastage there might be and what I could make using the scraps. I am always looking for the best deal, checking out fabric prices, special offers while ensuring I am not compromising on quality. I’m not saying I’ve never made any expensive mistakes, but I learn from them and make sure I do better next time. I get books from the library instead of buying them to scour for ideas and tips and to learn a bit more about sewing. And there is always my Mum for some great free advice (which I got this morning about sewing with zips!)


Fabric scraps – nothing is wasted!

Are you thrifty? Do you make things instead of buy them? Did you have a DIY wedding? Care to share?


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