To shoe or not to shoe…?

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We are in the same situation as pretty much every other penniless parent at the moment, unpaid maternity leave is not fun, I remember the first month I stopped being paid it came as a massive shock that the bank still demanded payment of my mortgage!  RUDE!!!  I may be back at work but the deficit is still felt, we now manage on only my income and the lack of funds is one of the reasons the rennovation of the

Anyway I’ve been investigating other ways of making money (successful ways – ie not playing the lottery) and one of the things I have had some success with is selling unwanted things on eBay.  What things you may well ask?  It started with unwanted building materials, things we had bought in error and not been able to return, then I started hunting round for things we don’t use but have had for ages.  Then I expanded it to my wardrobe (1 year rule…not easy to apply strictly when you’ve been pregnant or recovering from being pregnant for over 18 months).  This worked well…but I became addicted, what else could I sell?

Whilst putting up our wardrobe (Freecycle – thank you again!) and debating whether to buy shoe racks from Ikea the answer became clear…I must part with some of my shoe collection.

NNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOo

Now I’m not obsessed with shoes, I just like them and at 5ft tall finding clothes that fit and suit me is difficult, but let me tell you there’s always a bargain pair of size 3s in every shoe shop sale.  Yes my son’s wardrobe is full of my shoes in boxes, but they’re all “pre-pregnancy shoes” so I can’t wear them.  Cue confused look from the Turk “why can’t you wear pre-pregnancy shoes – your feet didn’t change”.

This is true, they didn’t, but pre-pregnancy I was a 4 inch heel girl, I managed to maintain this through a good few months of pregnancy but eventually just couldn’t take the judgmental looks from other tube passengers when I asked for their seat to rest my pregnancy weary feet…clad in heels.  Eventually I broke and resorted to a smaller chunky heel…then flats.

Pregnancy has completely changed my shoe life, quite recently on a trip to buy a new sleeping bag for Jem I bought 3 pairs of flat shoes – see, I’m growing as a person rather then just wearing heels!

I always thought that post-pregnancy I would simply slip straight back into my heels, but I seem to be broken…they make my feet hurt; they make my knees hurt; I can’t walk properly, in fact it’s not so much walking as staggering (although give me a buggy to hold onto and walking is significantly easier).  What to do?  Well the answer is staring me in the face, so here I go, my finest 2 pairs of heels have already been dispatched to their new owners and all I have left are the photos to remind me…sniff sniff.

Note to self:  In future head directly to the handbag section of TK Maxx rather than shoes.  Can’t grow out of a handbag 🙂

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Happy eBaying

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I have never really been much of a fan of eBay, I mean, buying other people’s used stuff…?

However, as some of you will know, my attitude to “pre-loved” stuff changed in recent years, shortly after I discovered the joy of Freecycling.

I didn’t really get into eBay though, I saw a few things but I never felt very happy bidding, it was only when I was pregnant that I became slightly addicted!  There were so many things I wanted but I couldn’t justify buying them, after several unsuccessful attempts I managed to nab a Baby Bjorn in excellent condition and I’ve even been known to send my parents to North Yorkshire to pick up a coat stand (£1 BARGAIN!!!)

Anyway I’m not writing about my shopping…because no one needs to know the true extent of my guilt

I want to talk to you about selling.  The truth is no matter how much you can get from Freecycle, Gumtree, gifts or eBay there are still things that you want or need.  Put buying a house and trying to extend it in two places and rennovate it from scratch whilst on maternity leave and finances become very tight.

I decided to venture into selling on eBay to try and raise a little extra cash.  I have an embarrassing (not) amount of shoes which perhaps I don’t need (especially as post pregnancy I’m really not up to +4″ heels no matter how much I kid myself) and several items of clothing I either have never worn, can no longer fit into, or just don’t actually wear.  Usually when I have an annual clear out I end up with bin liners full of clothes to take to the charity shop so I felt a little bad about trying to raise funds for myself rather than for someone else, but needs must.

Now, given my purchases I was expecting a bidding war when I put my items on.  I decided to start with a pair of brand new shoes bought at Faith years and years ago.  They were black leather and absolutely stunning.  They had cost around £35 in the sale but I had worn them once, they were uncomfortable, a little too big and slippy on my work floors.  I put them on in front of the mirror many times but would never wear them again.  I popped them on with some fab pics and…

…BOOM…

I got my first bid 🙂

Ok so £2 isn’t great…I waited and waited, but it was my only bid.

I had put on my postage cost correctly but overall by the time I had packaged and sent I was doing it for virtually nothing and wished I’d just Freecycled them or taken them to the numerous charity shops lining my street.

I was rather scared off and just carried on as I was, as I opened up bin liners of clothes that had been wrapped up for a year I just took stuff to the charity shop or kept it under the bed.  That’s when I decided to do a bit more research into eBay and give it another go.  Whilst I’m no expert and don’t make a fortune, it has been a good way of raising a little bit of extra cash whilst clearing out unwanted stuff from our home.

I should feel embarrassed that I have eBayed gifts, second hand things people gave us (family not Freecycle) for our home, baby things and things that I have bought and never used.  But I don’t.

Ultimately if there are things in our home taking up space that we don’t use or wear then they are, to some extent, costing us money in the form of space.  I am a real hoarder so I do find it difficult to get rid of things and have had to come to terms with the fact that I can’t always get the money I want for things.  However, I have now instigated a strict one in one out policy for personal purchases, so selling something makes me feel pretty good as I know I can go out and buy something else!

Ok, so that’s not really a good motivation, and certainly doesn’t fit in with the amazing Say No to New campaign…which I do really want to take part in…but ultimately I love to shop and will do it regardless, so if I can get rid of a bit of the tut it makes us all a bit happier!  It also helps me to save (…no seriously…keep reading…) because my PayPal account stores up the money from selling, I pay the postage fees out and then get a pleasant surprise when I have more money to draw out than I think (because I forget I’ve already paid postage…)

As it has been such a positive experience I thought I would share my top tips with you:

  1. Get a great title – the best eBay titles are not necessarily catchy or appealing.  What they are is informative, remember people aren’t going to search “cute little gold shrug” but they might search “evening” “outfit” “bolero” “short cardigan”.  It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t really make sense as long as it has all the relevant information.
  2. Describe your item well, it helps prevent questions (although you will still get some stupid ones and some pertinent ones) and protects you if there are any complaints about your item in due course.
  3. Keep your tape measure handy – accurate charges for postage are key.  The Royal Mail Price finder will help (I have it saved as a favourite) and I picked up a leaflet at one point with the sizes of packages so I could check them at home easily.
  4. Get to know your postie – as above be careful with your postage and don’t be afraid to argue if the post office tries to charge you for a small parcel when you know you have packed a large letter (yes I have…no I’m not proud of it).  For example our large Post Office always does this, but our local branch always double checks the size with their measurement thingy (technical Post Office equipment name).  I like to go along with a post it of what I am expecting to be charged on each parcel.  If in doubt make sure you err on the side of caution when setting your postage cost.
  5. Charge realistically – remember your postage isn’t just the cost of sending it, you should package well (see below) and remember you pay commission both to eBay and PayPal on your postage.  If you charge £2.80 and that’s what you will pay to post it, you can expect to lose over 40p of that to commission, leaving you out of pocket.  If you don’t mind taking the hit that’s fine, but if it matters to you set a realistic postage cost.  I like to put a line at the bottom of all my adverts warning buyers that my postage costs may seem high, but they reflect the actual cost of sending.  I don’t aim to make a profit on postage but I also don’t subsidise it, my view is I am up front and if people don’t want to pay it they don’t have to.
  6. Be certain you want to sell – as with my first sale I was drawn into the guidance on eBay to start the sale at 99p.  If you just want rid that’s fine, but if not then set a starting price you won’t be disappointed with.  The majority of my sales go on the first bid (and I’m often known to just close the auction when I get a bid because I set my prices as what I want) so if you would be disappointed selling at that price then either raise it or don’t sell it.  I have a few things I really like and have hung onto or kept relisting when they don’t sell, it doesn’t bother me not to get rid of them.  On the other hand I had a dress that I had little attachment to and had never worn despite paying £30 for it over 10 years ago, it never fit and was never going to, so I kept reducing the price until it went.  I made a loss but it was better than nothing!
  7. Don’t be bogged down with feedback – I had one very unfair poor review and it upset me. It’s not stopped others buying and now I couldn’t care less.  If you do get poor feedback have a think about it and if it’s fair then you need to tackle it, but if not don’t sweat the small stuff, it’s not an actual job!
  8. Package well – I am really careful with packing, if it’s a nice item I will wrap in wrapping paper or the thin paper you wrap gifts in…can’t think of the name…then place in a carrier bag and then wrap.  The reason is (a) everyone likes to unwrap something, it adds to the excitement! (b) a carrier offers some (albeit minimal) protection if the packaging gets torn or wet.  I like to use large envelopes if the items will fit, they tend to be more secure, but if it’s too large I buy brown paper from Poundland.  I go through tonnes and tonnes of tape, brown all around the package/envelope and clear over the address.  Maybe I overdo it but no one has complained!
  9. Don’t pay to list – i only ever list on free listing days/weekends.  The more you sell the greater your selling allowances become so be wary of overlisting on those days!  I have paid some fees, if someone messages me and makes an offer I have relisted at a buy it now price so that we can complete straight away instead of waiting until the end of the auction, but otherwise I just won’t pay!
  10. Get excited when something sells!

Seriously, if you are wanting more information check out Money Saving Expert or eBay itself for more top tips!

Turklish travels: Ephesus, one of the seven wonders

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I’m not going to lie, I have little interest in history.

I tend to only be able to last in museums for one exhibit at a time, and our past visits to historical sites tend to lead to grumpiness and boredom.  As we were driving around Turkey earlier this year we decided to drive to see Ephesus, which was pretty exciting as we don’t tend to go and “see” things when we are in Turkey.

Ephesus (or Efes in Turkish, you know, like the beer 🙂 ) was an ancient Greek city pretty close to Izmir, but the site had actually had previous historical importance too.  Anyway it was a large city during Roman times too and was thought to be the third largest Roman city.  It is most famous for having a temple (the Temple of Artemis) which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, however unfortunately this has since been destroyed through time, political instability and earthquakes.  It was one of the locations of the seven churches of Asia which are (apparently) mentioned in the Book of Revelation so it’s a pretty big deal!

It was perfect weather for our first proper day out with the boy (sunny but not too hot) and although I was a bit dubious about taking our pre-loved Freecycle buggy with it’s missing wheel that we’re too stingy to replace around an ancient monument we headed out.

The ticket price was reasonable (TL30, approximately £10 each adult – no charge for the baby), we also paid around TL8 for parking.  We had read on the internet that the charges would be much higher with separate charges for entering different parts of the site so we were expecting to be ripped off but had decided that this was a one off thing that we would be foolish to miss given we were passing by so we were pleasantly surprised, I don’t know if it was just because we went out of season or whether we were just misinformed by the internet.  Anyway we gave the museum, pony rides and tours a miss and wandered around ourselves.

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Wikipedia tells me:

Ephesus contains the largest collection of Roman ruins in the eastern Mediterranean. Only an estimated 15% has been excavated.  The ruins that are visible give some idea of the city’s original splendor, and the names associated with the ruins are evocative of its former life. The theater dominates the view down Harbor Street, which leads to the silted-up harbor.

It was pretty strange to see this amazing walkway which would have led to a harbour, having driven through the mountains to reach it with no sign of water!

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It is the site of a theatre which is HUGE apparently has around a 24,000 seating capacity and is the largest known theatre of the ancient world.  It was quite awe inspiring and even had buggy (possibly not original…) access!  There were three or more entrances to explore, of course not all ideal with a baby but it was pretty awe inspiring even having visited the Colloseum in Rome.

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We followed the path along to the Library of Celsus, I am used to historical things not being particularly well identified or explained in Turkey, but there was good signage throughout (not too much info though – I like that!).

The facade of the library has been carefully reconstructed from the original and apparently was built to face East so that the light would illuminate it for reading.  Jem had rather lost interest by this point so we took the opportunity to ruin his clothes stretch his legs.

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We next  wandered through one of the former Agoras where we saw a tourist giving a cat some water (adorable) and a section of the site set aside for those with visual impairments, which was a great idea…although I’m not convinced it was that great:

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There are other things on site:

Basilica of St John;

Temple of Artemis (one of the seven wonders of the ancient world although only one column remains – we may have seen this…we may not…we’re not sure!);

The Odean (a small theatre);

The Temple of Hadrian;

Ephesus Archaeological Museum;

The Temple of the Sebastoi;

The Tomb of Pollio.

I am not sure what we saw and what we didn’t, but there was a lot of stuff and if you’re interested in the history I would really recommend going with a guide.  For us we did what we could manage and didn’t try and worry too much, just took in the views.  There were plenty of paved areas but it is an ancient ruin so not the smoothest of rides, but I’ve seen much worse.  Of course the advantage of bumps with buggies is sleep!  As the boy was in the land of nod we walked over to the Church of Mary (Meryem Kilisesi) which is an important religious site close to what would have been the Harbour.  Once we got up to the church we had to carry the buggy up and down some steps and the pushing got a little more difficult, but we managed as we wanted to see it (even if Jem didn’t!):

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After this we decided to call it quits and headed back to the car and had our packed lunch.  We introduced Jem to some of the horses in the car park and trundled off to Izmir.  We did pass this amazing plant on our way back to the car – any ideas what it is?  There were loads they are really large!

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Freecycle – my favourite way to shop!

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When we moved from our flat in Tufnell Park we had to decide whether to bring our furniture with us, normally this seems like a no brainer but bearing in mind we were moving into a house that we were intending to gut we thought it might not be such a wise idea.  Instead we decided to travel light and freecycle most of our stuff.  Bookcases, unwanted gifts,wardrobes and beds you name it, we got rid of it.  We didn’t even have to pay to get rid of it, we advertised our belongings on Freecycle and a steady stream of people came to collect.  Whilst you don’t usually get to know much about the background of people collecting we know that some of our items went to great homes, including a band who wanted our ripped sofa for their studio (…I hope they remember us when they’re rich and famous).

When we moved the previous owners had left a variety of unwanted furniture, so we ended up Freecycling again to clear out before we started building.

We did bring a few things with us that we couldn’t bear to part with, one of which was the cat’s scratching post which had been too large for it’s former owner:

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We spent months and months with only a garden chair (from freecycle) and a sofa chair to perch on while we watched TV in our kitchen.  We slept on an airbed from Freecycle (which we still have – it’s an aerobed which needed a puncture repairing and it’s fantastic – we slept on it until I was about 8 months pregnant!)

This was our only chair for many months...sadly the cats claimed it so we had to sit on deckchairs most of the time...

This was our only chair for many months…sadly the cats claimed it so we had to sit on deckchairs most of the time…

Once our house started coming together it meant we were sorely lacking in furniture so we started scouring Freecycle for anything that would come in handy!

We got a bed, wardrobe and a mattress from Freecycle eventually when we had a bedroom, but that wasn’t the best thing about Freecycle.  When it became really lifesaving was when we had a baby!

We have so many thank yous to give to our lovely local Freecyclers, I couldn’t possibly list them all, but to give you an idea of what they kindly donated to us:

  • moses basket and stand;
  • Changing table;
  • Wardrobe (for adults but we use it in the baby’s room);
  • chest of drawers;
  • storage unit (we use it for toys);
  • newborn sleepsuits;
  • Bouncy chair;
  • a Bumbo;
  • a door bouncer;
  • Older baby clothes;
  • Muslins;
  • bibs, lots of bibs!;
  • a pregnancy pillow;
  • a nursing pillow;
  • a breast pump;
  • reusable nappies;
  • baby toiletries;
  • two baby baths;
  • an umbrella fold stroller (missing a wheel which we’ve managed without but could buy a new one!);
  • bath toys;
  • a Mothercare playcentre;
  • a BabyDan portable stairgate;
  • a playpen;
  • a travelcot;
  • toys;
  • an Ikea rocking chair; and
  • an Ikea egg chair.

I genuinely don’t know what we would have done without all these generous donations.  Some of these have already gone onto new owners via Freecycle, some of them we only used to try things out before we invested money in them (like the feeding cushion) but others we have kept and will love until we come to pass them onto a new home.  Our financial situation has been very difficult so it has allowed us to prioritise

The best thing about Freecycle is that it has given items which might otherwise have been thrown out another chance to be used.  Pretty much everything we have received or given away (even old paving slabs or bits of wood) has some life left in it and I just hate to throw things out if they can be used!

I’ve put a couple of photos below so you can see us enjoying some of our wonderful gifts.  To all who Freecycle:

THANK YOU!

Our trusty stroller

Our trusty stroller

Jem puts the rocking chair to good use but has less interest in the play centre...

Jem puts the rocking chair to good use but has less interest in the play centre…

This wonderful suitcase allowed us to buy a travelcot mattress and take it away with us...it's also large enough for babies...

This wonderful suitcase allowed us to buy a travelcot mattress and take it away with us…it’s also large enough for babies…

The egg chair...as you see he likes to stand rather than sit in chairs!

The egg chair…as you see he likes to stand rather than sit in chairs!

The controversial Bumbo, we were warned against it but I was so desperate to have "somewhere" to put the baby I wanted to try it out...he hate it, so glad we didn't pay for it!  You can also see the leg of the changing table behind him...and my changing bag...and my foot...

The controversial Bumbo, we were warned against it but I was so desperate to have “somewhere” to put the baby I wanted to try it out…he hate it, so glad we didn’t pay for it! You can also see the leg of the changing table behind him…and my changing bag…and my foot…

Fantastic bouncy chair, missing it's toys but it worked well for us...it even sent him to sleep three times!

Fantastic bouncy chair, missing it’s toys but it worked well for us…it even sent him to sleep three times!