Broke Folks’ Guide to Self-Care

Money can’t make you happy. But a lack of it can make you pretty unhappy. Being skint sucks. It doesn’t matter how cool being poor becomes, how many warehouse bars you open, how many pairs of ripped jeans you buy, the realities of actually having no money are pretty horrible. Even if you’re not actually living in poverty, which I never have been, thank goodness, having to obsessively count your pennies and swither over every purchase you make can take a nasty toll. And it’s easy to forget about looking after yourself when you’ve got bills stacking up. But honestly, self care is the most important thing. The most important. If you don’t take care of yourself and be kind to yourself, you’re going to burn out. Here are some of the things that I do to keep myself happy and healthy, even when my budget looks bleak.

1. Get the basics right.

Eat five pieces of fruit and veg a day. Drink two litres of water. Get eight hours sleep. Take 10000 steps.

Getting the basic stuff like this right is probably the easiest and most effective way of improving your physical and mental health. All of the things I listed up there are things that aren’t hard to do, they just take a little bit of effort. I know that I need to micromanage myself, or I would never do anything with my life. So I bought a 1.5 litre bottle for my desk. I fill it up in the morning and I make sure I finish it before I leave work. I have a pedometer which allows me to see exactly how much or how little I’ve done. When I’m feeling particularly organised, I make myself little lists where I can check off each glass of water or portion of fruit and veg. I’m basically a gigantic toddler, but I know how to make that work for me.

2. Make your space beautiful.

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Not loving your home is absolutely rubbish for your state of mind. Your home should be somewhere that makes you feel safe and happy and…well…at home. But on a budget, a lot of us aren’t exactly living in Buckingham Palace. I’m really lucky that I found a beautiful flat in London, but I’ve dealt with some horror stories in the past. A university halls room with salmon walls, a resident tarantula and a carpet worthy of a penny arcade. A flat where the mouse infestation stopped us worrying about the seemingly unstoppable cracks in the ceiling and walls. An endless parade of heinous mouldy bathrooms. It might seem like putting lipstick on a pig, but dress your home up. I promise, it’ll make more of a difference than you’d think. I have an enormous, brightly patterned bedspread and it makes me smile every time I look at it. I love to buy fresh flowers and put them in my bedroom, even if it’s just a 95p bunch of daffodils in an old peanut butter jar. I put photos of people and places that I love on every surface, on pinboards, on the walls. A set of fairy lights across my desk took my halls room from magenta nightmare to cosy boudoir. Candles can change the whole feel of a room. Surround yourself with things that make you feel happy and peaceful. And try not to worry about that weird stain on the wall.

3. Move your body.

Most of the time, there is nothing that I want to do less than move my body. I sometimes think I was destined to be a large shrub rather than a person. And this only gets worse when I’m feeling low. But my very wise mother, who taught me most of the clever things that I know, taught me that everything feels better after a little dance in your kitchen. Grab your laptop and put on a song you love. You Shook Me All Night Long, Little Bitty Pretty One and the Power of Love (the Huey Lewis one) are my guaranteed brain pleasers. Now start dancing. Really dance, with your arms flailing about and everything. If you’re feeling down, this will probably feel totally contrived to start with, like some awful teambuilding exercise. But persevere, by the end of the first song, you’ll be loving it for real. Nothing gives me a bigger boost more immediately than an emergency danceathon.

4. Don’t move your body.

We spend most of our lives rushing around, doing a million things at once, competing with each other to be the most busy. This, shockingly, is not very good for you. Spread a blanket out on the ground. Put on one of those 10 hour meditation music mixes on Youtube. Lie down. Close your eyes. Take deep breaths. Let your mind wander. Don’t feel guilty about pressing pause for a little while. It’s amazing the good that taking ten minutes to be still and shut the hell up can do for you. Some of my best epiphanies come from lying on my floor with my rabbit licking my forehead and wondering whether he can start eating me yet.

5. Go outside.

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Fresh air and sunlight and exercise and pretty things are all totally good for your wellbeing. Know where you can find all of these things? OUTSIDE. I know, outside sucks. If I was a shrub, I’d be an indoor shrub. But once you get off the sofa and through the door, outside is actually sort of great. If you live near a park, go and take a wander. Trees are good for the soul. If it’s a nice day, take a picnic. Food tastes better outside. Bonus points if the park has a pond or a lake…being near water makes me instantly about 42% happier.

6. Treat yo’self.

One of my favourite things in the world is a really scalding hot shower. Yes, I know it’s bad for my skin, but you can pry it from my crusty old hands. Buy yourself a really incredible smelling shower gel and take time to relax in the shower. I’m still eeking the last out of a Rituals shower gel I got for Christmas, but Dove and I Love have genuinely gorgeous scented products for brilliant prices. I’m a sucker for anything scented with peach, orange or jasmine. Cover yourself in gorgeous bubbles, close your eyes and pretend you’re in a Japanese spa. This is one of my top everyday pleasures, and I refuse to berate myself or feel silly for taking joy in such an insignificant moment. There are no little pleasures. There should be no guilty pleasures. Don’t be afraid to take happiness at every available opportunity. A lot of people might make fun of this, but that’s only because being cynical is the easiest way to pretend that you’re smarter than everyone else without actually having to learn stuff. Cynics suck. If people are trying to dim your happiness, it’s usually because they’re unhappy themselves. I will never stop being delighted by hot showers, long, long hugs, swipes of red lipstick, lazy cups of tea. I know I bang on about this all the time, but that’s because it’s important. Happiness is a choice, and you should choose it every single time you can. It’s also a habit, which you need to practise. And the more you practise, the easier and more reflexive that choice will become.

7. Feel grateful.

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This one comes right off the back of the last one. Just because happiness is a choice doesn’t mean it’s an easy one. It is so, so tempting to mope instead. This seems like a fundamental flaw in the human psyche, but it’s true. We would rather be right than happy. We would rather be the martyr. We love a moan. For the past two weeks, I’ve been having a really rubbish time. With the exception of a completely life changing holiday, I have been miserable. Every little thing that could go wrong, did. Over and over again, and it really wore me down. These things pile up, and they can really get to you. So on my lunch hour, I went to a cafe, bought a hot chocolate and made a list of things in my life that make me happy. They ranged from travelling to new places, to having freckles, from Facetiming my mum, to baking apple pies. And actually, I found that I had a lot to be grateful for. I filled two notebook pages. Nothing had changed, the crappy things had all still happened, but suddenly the good was shining through. Lying on the floor like in number 4 is also an excellent time to have realisations like this. I don’t want to sound self righteous, or like I’m suggesting that if you’re unhappy, it’s your fault. It absolutely isn’t. And I’m no Pollyanna, it took me a fortnight of sulking and some very good advice before I got my head back on properly. But you can choose to see things differently. It’s really hard, and requires a bit of sacrifice, but it’s possible. Give it a go.

Life can be hard. It can be really, really hard. And when it is, it’s tempting to think of yourself as unimportant, and spend time focusing on everything else. But taking the time to do something good for yourself is so, so vital. You are important. You’ve got this. You deserve to be happy. Be gentle with yourself.

At Home Facials For Broke Folks

One of my favourite things to do in the world is to treat myself to a bit of pampering. In an ideal world, this would mean escaping to Gleneagles every other weekend for mango oil showers, facials and massages. Unfortunately, until somebody decides to publish my book and make it into an amazing blockbuster movie, that’s not really an option. But I hate to let a tight budget get in the way of some good me time.

So this is for you, my fellow broke girls. A step by step guide to my super budget at home facial.

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1. Light a gorgeous candle.

This is very important. Also, stick on some chill out music or an episode of Don’t Tell the Bride or something. It’s time to relaaaaax.

2. Cleanse your face.

First, remove any eye makeup. I use a cotton pad soaked in Garnier Micellar Water. Be gentle with your eyes. Scrubbing at them can irritate your eyes and pull out your eyelashes, and tugging at the delicate skin underneath can cause premature wrinkles. Use soft sweeping motions to remove makeup. Then you can cleanse the rest of your face and neck. I have really dry skin, so I like thick, oily cleansers like Lush’s Ultrabalm. I smooth it into my face in circular motions and then wipe clean with a microfibre cloth. Coconut oil also makes a great cleanser but because it’s quite comedogenic, it can block some people’s pores, so listen to your skin on this one. But if it works for you, it leaves skin feeling super soft and clean and helps grow long, fluttery eyelashes.

3. Exfoliate.

Exfoliating removes build up of dead skin cells, allowing product to penetrate more thoroughly and leave your skin fresh and glowing. But be careful, you don’t want to overdo it. Don’t sand your face, you don’t want to take all your skin off, just the dead stuff. I’m still using my resurfastic, a microdermabrasion stick that was gifted to me a few months ago. But soft microfibre cloths also provide good exfoliation without damaging your skin. I picked up a stack of 6 of these for a pound in Savers. Again, use gentle circular motions and rinse.

4. Steam things up.

Fun fact: pores don’t open and close. They’re just little openings in your skin; they don’t have the muscles needed to open and shut. So all the stuff about steaming your face to open your pores and splashing cold water to close them is basically a myth. But steam can loosen all the junk that is hiding in your pores, which makes them appear smaller. Fill a bowl with some boiled water and leave to cool for a few minutes. Seriously, don’t stick your face over freshly boiled water. Steam that temperature will have no hesitation in messing your face right up. Once it’s at an acceptable, non-scalding temperature, cover your head with a towel and hover above the bowl for about ten minutes. Only your face has to hover. No worries if you can’t hover your entire body. If you have a cold, put a couple of drops of eucalyptus oil into the water and breath in healing goodness. Be warned, this will get a whole lot of crap out of your lungs. After ten minutes, rinse your face.

5. The mask.

Ah, the most satisfying and instagrammable part of the whole facial: the face mask.

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Everybody loves a bathroom selfie.

I am currently obsessed with the Body Shop’s Warming Mineral Mask, which uses kaolin clay to draw out impurities. Unfortunately, there has been no scientific research that definitively proves kaolin clay has benefits for the skin, but I’m willing to overlook this for how awesome this mask feels on my face. It warms up on your skin and gives the feeling of stepping into a hot bath, but on your face. My skin always looks brighter after I use it, but take any miracle claims with a pinch of salt. If money is super tight, you can make your own face masks using ingredients that you probably already have!

Stuff not to put on your face, even if the internet tells you to:

  • Lemon. Lemon’s spot zapping powers have nothing to do with its antibacterial properties and everything to do with its bleaching abilities. The acids in lemon juice can reduce the appearance of spots by bleaching away some of the redness. They can also give you face burns. Don’t put bleach on your face.
  • Sugar. Sugar is a great scrub ingredient for your body, but is waaaay to rough and jagged for the skin on your face. It will scratch your face right up. And ain’t nobody got time to try and apply makeup on a scratched up base.
  • Bicarbonate soda. Ooooh, I am guilty of this one! I used to use baking soda to exfoliate my face and was thrilled with how smooth it felt afterwards, oblivious to the damage I was doing to my skin. Bicarbonate soda is far too alkaline for use on your skin, as it disrupts your skin’s barrier. And the more you use it, the more damage you do. Yikes.
  • Toothpaste. Don’t put toothpaste on your damn spots. Toothpaste gets rid of spots by drying out your skin, which I’d imagine isn’t really what you’re going for. Also, all that minty fresh menthol can be seriously irritating on your skin.

Stuff you should totally put on your face:

  • Honey. Honey is antibacterial and hugely hydrating, so is a great ingredient in DIY face masks. Just stay away from beehives. And hungry bears.
  • Porridge oats. Oats are an extremely gentle exfoliant, and their healthy fats also help to moisturise and boost your skin’s protective layer.
  • Yoghurt. The lactic acids in yoghurt make for a great chemical exfoliant – perfect if your skin isn’t up to physical exfoliation.
  • Avocado. Okay, if you’re buying avocados, you probably aren’t broke. But in case you just fancied getting hands on with your skin care, avocado’s vitamin A and D content can help to repair damage in the skin, leaving it nourished and comfy.

Leave your mask on for the recommended time and then rinse well.

6. Toning

Swipe a cotton pad soaked in alcohol free toner over your skin. This removes any traces of dirt or face mask, and helps prepare skin to absorb your moisturiser. I use Garnier’s Micellar Water again, because obsessed.

7. Moisturising.

Now that you’ve spent all this time cleaning your face, it’s time to put some niceness back into it again. I’m currently using Inlight’s Organic Night Balm, which I was gifted a sample of, and which I rave about here, but it’s pretty pricey. On my budget days, I use E45 cream. Seriously, I slather my entire body in this stuff and it’s magical.

And you’re done! Sleep on your beautiful clean skin and try not to ruin it the next day by stroking your face incessantly.

Do you have at home spa days, or is this a weird Fiona thing? What do you put in your DIY face masks? Have I missed a vital facial step? Get in touch in the comments or at EscapologistGl!

The Broke Folks’ Guide to London: Disobedient Objects

Today, I decided it was time to get a bit of culture, what with living in a city entirely filled with art, music, fashion and theatre. So I headed to the V&A to check out their Disobedient Objects exhibition, an exhibition of everyday objects that have been used in protests across the world. Suck it, man who assumed I was there to see the wedding dresses.

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This is what a feminist looks like.

In Scotland, September basically might as well be January, so I foolishly wore the world’s biggest cardigan, only to take it off 10 seconds after leaving the house and cart it around all day. My life is so hard sometimes.

Anyway.

The exhibition is amazing. Genuinely breathtaking. My advice would be to shut down your computer right now and go see it yourself. But if you’re too far away, or can’t be bothered, or just want a little sneak preview, you cheeky thing, you, read on.

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The exhibition takes place in a small barred room, accessed underneath a security gate – a little nod to the use of barricades in protest since whenever barricades were invented. A soundtrack composed of music, chants and speeches from various protests is broadcast via a revamped Bike Bloc – an old discarded bike, with speakers welded into it, used to breach the security cordon at the COP15 Climate Summit in Copenhagen in 2009. I fully regret not taking a photograph of it, it’s quite a contraption. Banners in every colour and language stripe across the ceiling, messages of hope and anger strewn through them in equal measure. And then, there are the Disobedient Objects themselves. I couldn’t take photos of all of them, so here are just a few of my favourites.

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After Hurricane Sandy hit, independent movements were set up to provide aid and assistance to those who needed it, as well as to criticise the lack of national response. When the National Guard did arrive on the scene, the immediately reported to the volunteers for training.

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Text reads “This season’s well dressed blockader may choose to carry -“. Because who says fashion and protest can’t mix?

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Legal advice for gay people in case of arrest, including the credit-card sized bust card advising them of their rights. Also, an excellently intimidating gay rights banner and a somewhat fabulous blockader’s guide.

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One of my favourite installations at the exhibition, this video showed a newsreel detailing the escapades of the Barbie Liberation Organisation. In 1993, the BLO switched the voiceboxes of around 500 talking Barbie dolls and GI Joes, before returning them to the shelves to be sold as normal. Serious props to the little girl who, when asked by a newsreader if she was disappointed when her Barbie started making explosion noises, said “I thought it was hilarious, so I just started laughing”.

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These are arpilleras, artworks made by women using appliquéd textiles. The practice originated in Chile, where the pieces were sold through solidarity networks, providing income for the women and their families. As powerful men are wont to do when it comes to poor women, the leaders of the country dismissed the pieces as simple “folk art”, blind to the frequently subversive messages they were disseminating.

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Oh, my mistake. How did a perfectly ordinary photograph of the Sun get in here?

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A museum sign which definitely was not in any way encouraging you to commit acts of protest against seriously fucking unfair income growth in the UK.

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Placards, stickers and billboards supporting causes still going on throughout the world. There was even a little hint of home…

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This is a seriously amazing collection, and I feel thoroughly honoured that I got to see these objects, and thoroughly grateful to the people who used them to improve the lives of myself and those like me. Stay disobedient, folks, it’s how things get done.

The Broke Folks’ Guide To London: Fashion’s Night Out

This week saw the glamourous and gorgeous of London descend on the shopping district for a night of fun, fashion and freebies. Enjoy that alliteration, I did it just for you guys. That’s right, it was time for British Vogue’s Fashion’s Night Out.

At first glance, I might not seem like the best fit for Fashion’s Night Out.

Everything in my wardrobe is at least two years old.

The vast majority of photos on my phone are failed selfies, deemed too embarrassing to ever see the light of day.

And I’m so skint that my dad took pity on me and topped up my Oyster card for me last week.

But I do love a good night out, and I thought, why shouldn’t the broke girls of London be represented? Note: these people can smell poverty, they really can. But if you can hold your own in a little River Island dress among a sea of Chanel and Mulberry, and feel totally fine quaffing the free champagne and sailing purchaseless past cross security guards, go for it.

Problem number one: I had nothing to wear. I raided my wardrobe and decided that you can’t really go far wrong with a pretty dress.

Tah-dah! My pretty little dress.

Tah-dah! My pretty little dress.

I examined my outfit from every angle, only to be completely ignored by the majority of people I encountered. Seriously, even the flyerers didn’t see me half the time. They can sense the high street coming off me.

I called my driver and had him take me to Oxford Street.

My driver is so darn generous.

My driver is so darn generous.

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Yes, that is a portable Elemis spa. I seriously considered it, but figured that it would probably be unwise having spent the past 45 minutes carefully applying my face.

First stop on my whirlwind tour was Jo Malone, who were launching a new fragrance: Wood Sage & Sea Salt. I grabbed my first glass of bubbles and set about sampling as many gorgeous fragrances as I could.

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The new fragrance was lovely, but as predicted, failed to knock Peony & Blush Suede off the pedestal as my favourite of their scents. What surprised me though, was that I did find a perfume which did: Nectarine Blossom & Honey. I’m not usually a fan of honey scents, but this one was light and sweet without being cloying, and had me wandering around creepily sniffing my hand for the rest of the evening.

Having hung around sipping champagne and sniffing things for as long as I could without becoming suspicious, I headed to my next shop, my favourite of the evening: Space.NK Apothecary. Despite the River Island dress, I received a genuinely lovely, warm welcome, and the ladies on the door made me feel right at home straight away. By the time I got inside the shop, I had another glass of champagne in one hand and a stripy box of popcorn in the other. Excellent.

The range of glorious skincare on offer was heaven for a skincare junkie like me. Seriously, reading about other people’s skincare routines is like meditation to me – tell me what you put on your face! I did consider sneakily giving myself a full Eve Lom facial with all the testers, but decided that would probably be frowned upon. But I am so definitely heading back there for some goodies when I am less broke. They were also launching their beautiful new Silver Screen lipstick range, which they were showing off by giving glamourous femme fatale makeovers in the back of the shop. And they were running a lucky dip, which proved very lucky for me!

Such happiness.

Such happiness.

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I won a gorgeous Lipstick Queen lipstick in Sinner Red, a cool-toned Cruella red that made my eyes green like whoa.

Lipstick and swatch:

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Swatch on my face:

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This creamy lipstick packed one hell of a colour punch, with not a hint of shimmer in sight. This was a big plus: I have serious attitude problems when it comes to shimmery lipsticks. It also boasts awesome staying power, surviving a plate of risotto and two cups of tea after I got home. Can you feel the glamour?

Heading up Oxford Street, I came to House of Fraser, where the red carpet was well and truly rolled out. Here, the official Vogue Fashion’s Night Out cover shoot was taking place, complete with the chance to get your makeup done by YSL head makeup artist, Fred Letailleur and YSL goodie bags. This was an agonising decision, dear readers, because if I had gone for it, this would have been a very short blog post: the queue was all the way into the back of the shop. If anyone got one of the coveted YSL goodie bags, it would be great if you could tell me that what was in them wasn’t even that good. Slightly heartbroken, I gawked at the skills of the makeup artist for a while and then slunk away to continue my journey.

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I stopped off at Molton Brown, my favourite splurging site, to try out the new fragrance they were launching: Oudh Accord and Gold. The scent was a bit honey-y for me, so I wasn’t crazy about it, but the packaging is typically beautiful for Molton Brown, with gold flakes suspended all through the product. Also, they had macaroons, champagne with gold leaf and a super-friendly security guard, so I’m willing to forgive them.

Continuing down Regent Street, I passed shop after designer shop that looked more like nightclubs than shops. DJs, photographers, velvet roped queues, even live magic acts were on full display all the way down the street.

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I browsed J Crew, which had the best champagne, but also the snootiest assistants by far. I seriously considered buying something, just to show them up, but then figured that that was probably the point, so refrained. They were launching two new fragrances, and having read a lovely interview with Creative Director, Jenna Lyons, I decided to try them out. No. 57 is a unisex fragrance, and of the two, it was the one I preferred. It was woody and smoky, and very sexy, but still not a patch on my beloved Jo Malone. I wasn’t a fan of the No. 31, it reminded me of the sickly sweet body sprays you fog yourself with as a teen. But if you like sweet, flowery scents, you might be onto a winner.

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The accessories section was absolutely jumping, and I soon discovered that free gifts were being given away with every purchase. However, even the embellished hair ties and coasters were coming in at about £15, so again, I had to resist. Lots of shops were doing free gifts with purchases, so if you were a broke girl with a little bit of money, as opposed to a broke girl who actually doesn’t know if she’ll be able to buy food in a month, the evening could be very lucrative indeed.

Last on my trip was a little flurry of bath and body shops. I nipped into Crabtree and Evelyn, and immediately fell in love with their Wisteria scent. It smells so much like parma violets. I realise that I just said I didn’t like sweet floral scents, but I will always, always make an exception for parma violets.

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Right next door was L’Occitane, a longtime favourite of anyone with a nose. I feel like I’m not alone in saying that I’d buy up the entire shop in a heartbeat, but I particularly fell for the Jasmine & Bergamot range from their Grasse collection. This was the one time in the evening that I truly swithered over getting my purse out. It is absolutely gorgeous.

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Last up was a shop a bit closer to my price range, and my heart: Lush. At this point, things were starting to wind down, but after five glasses of champagne, I didn’t really mind that too much. I just had time to nip in and pick up a tub of their much-applauded Ultrabland cleanser. Only having used it once, I can’t really say what it’s going to do for my skin in the long run, but in the short term, I’m impressed. The waxy texture makes it loads of fun to use, and the oil base means that it melts makeup away with no scrubbing or scraping. It’s also super moisturising, making it one of the few cleansers I’ve used that doesn’t leave my face feeling tight. Just soft, glowing glowiness.

Haul for the evening:

  • Five glasses of champagne.
  • A macaroon.
  • A box of popcorn.
  • A cone of donuts.
  • A beautiful lipstick.
  • A snazzy new cleanser.

And all that for only £8. Not a bad night out for a broke girl. I did all this in two hours as well, so if you were more committed/wearing more comfortable shoes, there was loads more on offer.

Things I’m gutted I missed:

  • Topshop were doing glittery lips. I know I said I had attitude about shimmer, but straight up glitter? Bring it on. They looked amazing.
  • SOMEONE was giving out champagne ice lollies. If anyone knows who, do let me know.
  • Links London were doing fashion illustrations of their guests. I walked past just after 6 and foolishly thought that the queue was too big. This was only because I had not yet seen the queues to come. So beautiful, and a lovely keepsake.
  • The Radley dogs were in House of Fraser somewhere. There are photos of them all over Instagram. I just have no idea where they were. Curse you, enormous department store!

Would I do it again? Hell yes I would. It was loads of fun, and I got to do tons of research for when my broke-ness finally ends (no word yet on when that will happen). Who knows, maybe next year I’ll have enough money to go on a shopping spree. But for this year, I’ll take all the free champagne I can get.