Hello lovelies! After a mammoth break Skint in the City is finally back where it belongs. Sure, camping was a riot, but there’s only so much fresh air anyone can take. And I missed pollution, gadgets and the summer sales of course, as well as the biggest media scandal in memory, so it’s good to be back.
This year’s summer holiday was a blast. Hastily organised, and cheap as chips, there’s nothing quite like camping to provide a tonic to the city grind. Hedgehogs in the tent; communal washing up; being woken by the wind in the trees – quite the antidote to deadlines and pressure. I’d fully recommend it to any scandal-hit executives in need of a little R & R. It’s way cheaper than Champneys.
Camping is the ideal holiday for skint folks of course, and even glamping (ie throw in a double bed and a fridge) is a snip, compared to the cost of renting anything with walls. A fortnight in a very souped-up tent cost £400 – next year I’ll be going for three weeks. Meals were taken al fresco – lots of smelly cheese, strong coffee and budget-friendly picnics. With a free on-site pool, a bike to get around and star-watching at night for entertainment, it delivered a very big bang for very few bucks.
Back in the city, however, I’m content to ditch the stargazing in favour of admiring a new and long-awaited purchase. You may remember my quest for a Smeg fridge I could afford from this earlier post . How I have coveted Smeg’s funky retro curves, its magpie-shiny art deco handles, the fact that it turns an ordinary household item into an object of beauty. The price tag ain’t so lovely though and I must have lost at least thirty bids on ebay as the darlings continually went to homes far more salubrious than mine. Still, with every defeat I became more and more determined to make one of those honeys my own.
And finally, bonanza. Just before I went on holiday I spotted a Smeg on ebay . The icebox was too titchy, but I noticed, lurking in the background, just over its shoulder, another red Smeg that looked just the job. And luckily the ebay listing had a contact number, so I chanced my arm, phoned and asked if the Smeg in the background was for sale. Turns out – oh lucky me – that the firm was just about to list it on ebay. My offer to buy would save them from paying the 10% commission that ebay take from big-ticket items. What’s more, the item was scratch and dent – a welcome phrase to anyone who’s skint in the city. We agreed a price and – ta-da! – here it is! A little piece of luxury gained for a Skint(ish) price.
Smegs retail new for £1500-=£1600. Unfeasible in my world. I got this baby for £599. I’m happy as a sandpiper. It’s still a fair chunk of money but I justify the purchase by telling myself that any new fridge freezer will cost £400-£500 and I really needed a new one. Oh and it’s a stunner – did I mention that?
Here’s what I learned during the great Smeg hunt:
- Seek imperfections – As I outlined previously in the Getting the Luxe Look for Less post, loads of people are put off by a wee scratch on their furniture. Me? Ooh, I’ve learned to love ’em. Whether it’s appliances or dining room tables, shopping at outlets that specialise in slightly imperfect items can save you a bucket. The best site I’ve come across for scratch and dent, or graded, appliances is All Your Appliances which gives great discount on high end appliances. My Smeg came from The Appliance Depot and very lovely the folks were too. It’s got a teeny scratch on the top left hand side, so tiny that when I tried to photograph it it didn’t show up. Worth the giant discount in my book.
- Think outside the box – During the great Smeg hunt I came across a black Smeg at an affordable price. It got me thinking – could I buy it and have it spraypainted? I rang a local car bodyshop, afraid they might think me a madwoman. Turns out, enterprising folks have been using them for years. The guy told me he’d spraypainted full sets of kitchen cupboards, bins and dishwashers, then quoted me £150 to turn a black Smeg red. Now, given that unusual coloured Smegs often cost £500 more than cream or black ones, I found this a revelation. I like the idea of getting kitchen units sprayed high gloss too – keeping this one up my sleeve for later.
- Get delivery bids – Shiply is a genius idea, taking your delivery job to market and asking couriers across the country to bid for your work. You can then choose the price and service that suits you best. Takes a lot of the strain out of buying large items on ebay.
- Go Gumtree – all skint in the city types know Gumtree by now, but I recently started using their ‘wanted’ section to post what I’m looking for, rather than just scanning For Sale. I got a couple of offers on Smegs this way, though neither quite what I was after.
- Don’t give up – the key to bagging true bargains is persistence. The Smeg hunt lasted for months but I was learning what was a fair price and what I was really prepared to pay, as well as loads of tricks like spraypainting and graded appliance outlets. Just as well really, cos that’s my home budget blown for a good long while. I’ll be needing every thrifty trick I can get for the rest of the year!
Sorry for the wordy post, folks – clearly summer holiday slackery is extending to my posts. I’ll be trimming and toning from hereon in, rest assured. It’s good to be home. Hope you’re all enjoying your summer.