1. Mrs Beeton's Top Tips for the Modern Housewife

    Friday, January 16, 2009
    Back in 1861, Isabella Beeeton wrote The Book of Household Management which quickly became a staple text for housewives of the time. It may surprise you to learn that Mrs. Beeton was in her early twenties, a journalist not long married when she embarked on the creation of this epic text in response to her own question: why had no-one written a manual for wives to explain how to conduct the household after marriage?

    Even today, much of Mrs. Beeton's advice holds true. Underlying the principles of modern housewivery are several of her sayings and kitchen maxims - though their meaning may be interpreted slightly differently for the 21st century woman.

    Here are the best of Mrs. Beeton's tips, with their interpretations for the modern housewife and mother:

    There is no work like early work

    If you begin housework early in the day, you can finish sooner and enjoy an evening of relaxation (either with your loved ones, your favorite book or movie and wine with your friends).

    Starting work as soon as you wake up is particularly useful for today's working parents: rather than have a mountain of housework to accomplish when you walk in tired and hungry from your day's employment, you could instead arrive home to a home already clean and organized with very little to do before dinner is made and eaten.

    It's not only good housewifery, it's good for the soul to have personal time free from the toils of keeping house!

    A good manager looks ahead

    Don't let the wording of this maxim confuse you! As a housewife or mother, you are the manager of your household in the same manner as a landlady manages a hotel.

    By looking ahead, you can ensure you are organized and well-prepared for any eventuality. From maintaining a diary or calendar of events to laying out your clothes in preparation for the next day, forward-planning can save you time, energy and even money.

    Clear as you go. Muddle makes more muddle.

    This is a lesson I wish I could have learned from my mother many years ago. Despite having seen how effectively she cleaned up after herself every day of my childhood, the actual reason why eluded me until quite recently when the proverbial light-bulb lit up above my head!

    If you leave all your cleaning-up to be done in one session, you will be faced with a mountain of cleaning which can make you feel even less inclined to complete! Instead, cleaning up as you go means you achieve this in small, bite-sized chunks. Your home will appear cleaner, even while you are cooking or have your mind on other tasks.

    Not to wash plates and dishes soon after makes more work

    Simply put, if food on plates and cookware is left to dry and harden it will take more time and effort to clean them.

    Try to at least rinse the food off plates soon after dining to make it easier for yourself later.

    Dirty saucepans filled with hot water begin to clean themselves

    This one leads on from the previous tip and is one of the best advices for cleaning the kitchen I have encountered. My friend recommends leaving these saucepans on the still warm hob (or on a low heat of sauce is already baked on) filled with very hot water and a drop of washing up liquid. By the time you have cleared the table and washed the other dishes, your saucepans will require only light cleaning as the cooked on sauce will literally slide off.

    Spare neither borax nor hot water in washing up greasy articles

    Hot water is essential: not only will this help in the cleaning process, the heat helps dishes to dry themselves, forsaking the need for drying by hand (which when you think about it, is unhygienic, due to germs passing from your tea-towels back to the plates and saucepans).

    Borax - while considered old fashioned - is an excellent cleaning solution which is much more environmentally friendly than most washing-up detergents. I discovered this after reading Anthea Turner's book where she recommends it highly, though there was no mention of where it may be purchased!

    If you are looking to buy borax, try your local Wilkinsons or Boots store (you'll likely find it near the cleaning products, sensitive washing-up liquid, etc.) though it's not available to purchase from either online store. Alternatively you can buy in bulk from Dri-Pak.co.uk.

    But of course, if you are blessed with a dishwasher there is no need to wash by hand ;)

    A place for everything, and everything in it's place.

    While this maxim may seem like common sense, applying this to every aspect of your home can work wonders and ensures your house virtually cleans itself!

    Now personally, I am not a naturally tidy person (and the other members of my family are even worse!), but I have discovered this maxim to be the most important and helpful saying to ensure a tidy house for the following reasons:
    • If something does not have a definite "place" in your home, it is clutter and should be disposed of/recycled/given away
    • If something is lying around, it is not in it's place and should be put away.
    • Every time you get something out, put it back as soon as you have finished using it (this applies to all members of your household too!)
    While these things cannot automatically make your home clean, it will make it tidy, and homes which are tidy are a breeze to clean!

    Final thoughts

    Although Mrs Beeton's maxims are almost 150 years old, their principles still echo true in the hearts and minds of today's modern housekeeping experts. Being something of a book-lover, I gorge books such as Anthea Turner's Perfect Housewife and Claire Coulson's House Rules and have found to my delight that when we read between the lines of these pages, Mrs Beetons original maxims still hold true.

    If you would like to read the original Household Management text, you can find this online at MrsBeeton.com or on Google's Book search; download this as an eBook from Project Gutenberg or spoil yourself with a hard copy from Amazon.

    I hope you have found Mrs Beeton's lessons as useful as I do. Please feel free to leave your comments and suggestions below.

    Image credits: Mrs Beeton book cover by Joan Thewlis, Calendar by Patrick Haney, Washing the dishes by K0P, Kitchen Counter by Evelynishere. All via Flickr Creative Commons.
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  2. How to get Free Make-up, Skincare and Perfume

    Thursday, January 15, 2009
    Being money-savvy parents, we often have to cut back on luxurious treats for ourselves. That beautiful new shade of lipstick you saw in your favorite magazine or the fabulous new fragrance advertised on TV could certainly take a chunk out of your weekly housekeeping allowance and perhaps your birthday some months away.

    Instead, why not take advice from the Glamumous notebook and source out free alternatives: samples, giveaways and other methods of satisfying your hunger for beauty products which have absolutely no impact on your wallet.

    This, my fellow frugal mums, is having your cake and devouring it!

    There are many ways of acquiring free beauty products (cosmetics, skin care, fragrance, etc.) such as:
    • Internet promotions and giveaways
    • Becoming a "club member" of your favorite brand
    • Vouchers from magazines (often for full-sized premium products)
    • In store promotions
    Here are my tried and tested methods of getting free make-up, skincare and perfume samples, you can enjoy your luxuries without having to worry about the costs.

    Internet promotions and giveaways

    This is the first method I ever tried and has still proved the most reliable, cost-free method of finding free beauty samples and giveaways ever used.

    Basically, you scour the internet for free samples, paying particular attention to "deal sites" and message boards where other frugal aficionados post their latest finds.

    It's time consuming, especially when you have to fill in your details for each and every single offer you encounter, but it's well worth it. Last night, for example, in the space of an hour I ordered about 10 different fragrance samples (for myself, DH and as well-wishing gifts for friends and family), 2 full-sized lipsticks, a full-sized mascara, nail varnish and other body care products.

    Use a different email address

    To do this, you will need a "ghost" email address (sign up at Hotmail or Google Mail for a free account) as many offers require you to sign up for newsletters in order to receive your gifts. Don't be tempted to use your main email address or within a day you will end up with an inbox full of stuff you don't really want to read (or which could potentially tempt you into spending - after all, we're trying to be frugal).

    Every now and again (I usually check once a month or so), check your "ghost" email account for details of any new offers and vouchers. Also, keep emails which detail your username/login details for any sites you have registered with to ensure you can access future offers.

    Finding free samples and giveaways

    While you could search for free samples through Google, I prefer to take the shortcut and scour through sites and bulletin boards where members post their latest frugal finds.

    My favorite place for finding free beauty samples is HotUKDeals.com. This is truly a treasure trove for all things free (or at least, very cheap!). You will need to scour through many posts to find products suitable for you, or search the site instead. Luckily you don't need to register in order to link through to the listed sites, though if you find something wonderful it's a great feeling to share your find :)

    Another highly useful site is MoneySavingExpert.com, in particular, the Freebies section. Here you can find a hoard of free stuff, giveaways and the like. It's not quite as comprehensive and up to date as HotUKDeals, but is well worth a look (or sign up for the newsletter to save time).

    Here's a handful of the best promotions running at the time of writing this post to give you an idea of what to expect:
    These particular offers may well expire soon, but there will undoubtedly be more for you to try on the HotUKDeals and MoneySavingExpert sites!

    Become a member of your favorite brand sites/Join mailing lists

    While most of the best deals can be found on bulletin boards and other freebie sites, there will undoubtedly be some which slip through the cracks.

    So to make sure I get freebies and samples from the products I like (or would love to use if I could afford them!), I sign up to receive newsletters by email/post and enjoy "member status" of sites where this is possible.

    Here are some of my favorites (be sure to visit the websites of your own favorite brands if they aren't listed here!):
    • Club Olay: an excellent membership with regular freebies and discount vouchers by mail, plus invitations to special events.
    • Loreal Paris - Beauty Confidential: Joining allows you to create your personal profile so any freebies are tailored to your needs. Skincare samples are sent frequently; make-up can be acquired through regular limited giveaways, and you may also receive vouchers/samples of haircare products. This is one of the best and most valuable beauty memberships I use.
    • Elizabeth Arden Newsletter: I've received vouchers for sample perfumes and Eight Hour Cream, plus notifications of seasonal offers and in-store promotions from signing up here.
    • Rimmel London: I personally haven't received any postal freebies from Rimmel. Instead, registration is useful for participating in the "Win one of 10,000" product giveaways which happen regularly. The odds of winning 1 od 10,000 products is pretty good and certainly worth a few moments' registration.
    • Maybelline New York newsletter: Few samples available, but you may be sent vouchers and do receive automatic registration in prize deaws.
    • Chanel Newsletter: When new products are launched, you may well receive a free sample in the post (I received a sample sized lipstick and several mini perfumes). Also, receive notice of in-store promotions which are also useful for freebies.
    • Dior Newsletter (and free samples?): I wasn't aware that Dior had a newsletter until today (though I had searched as this is another of my favorite premium brands). If you're reading this soon after posting, you may still be able to claim a sample of their new foundation range by signing up. If this offer has expired, sign up anyway as future offers may be available.
    • Lancome Newsletter: Infrequent (though always welcomed) freebies, and notification of offers, in store events and such.

    Magazine Vouchers and Freebies

    A favored method of persuading consumers to purchase magazines (especially the premium, £2.50+ types) is to offer a free gift, either with the magazine itself or as a voucher which can be redeemed in store.

    In recent months, I've seen magazines offering free Elizabeth Arden eye shadows, Clinique perfume and even full sized mascaras!

    For the cost of the magazine, you could well receive something far more valuable in return and have a magazine of inspiration and reading material to boot. Don't forget to look through the small print of ads in case a different (non-advertised) sample is offered too. You may find a URL to claim yet another discount voucher, or discover a newsletter you haven;t signed up for before.

    Also, be sure to check out the websites of popular magazines from time to time as other freebies may be available exclusive to the site. Glamour and Marie Claire are sites I visit regularly, and I often see ads and offers available which have not been featured in the actual magazine (especially when you sign up to the sites' weekly newsletters too!).

    In-Store Promotions

    One final method I have found of discovering free cosmetics is using in-store promotions. Now these vary in type, so I'll explain a few of the tactics I have personally used:

    Buy something, get something free offers

    For offers such as these, you will initially need to spend something in order to receive a valued free gift.

    Premium brands such as Clinique ("Bonus Time" offers), Dior and Elizabeth Arden seem to do these on a regular basis, whereby if you purchase two or more products, you can receive a set containing a selection of seasonal items. Boots No.7 and 17 ranges also offer similar deals and generally offer exceptional value for money.

    Store magazines and loyalty schemes

    Many stores offer free magazines for customers in which vouchers and the occasional freebie voucher are often found. Superdrug, Boots and many leading supermarkets offer such magazines which you can pick up free in-store.

    If your favorite shop or outlet offers a loyalty card with which you can earn points from purchases, sigh up for it! Besides the obvious "points=cash-to-spend-in-store", you will likely receive other useful offers and vouchers to assist your frugal quest for luxury.

    Make friends with shop assistants

    Each time you visit your favorite stores, make a point of being polite and friendly to the people working there. Saying "hello" and "thank you", asking questions and showing an interest helps you develop a friendly relationship with beauty counter assistants, and in turn you may find yourself in receipt of beauty tips, demonstrations and the occasional freebie (especially when you make a purchase).

    Boots Advantage Card

    For me personally, Boots Advantage Card has been the best loyalty scheme ever. I tend not to purchase all of my toiletries and such from Boots: instead I look out for promotions, extra points days and such when buying from Boots would be advantageous to my budget.

    This means that over the course of time, I can save enough points for my absolute favorite luxuries: Chanel lipsticks and YSL Mascara which I covet like no other products :) Yes I know it seems outrageous for a frugal mummy who shops at Aldi (with vouchers!) to indulge in such expensive products. But I can assure you, for all the expensive cosmetics garnishing my dressing table, I haven't actually paid a single penny!

    Here's the way I see it: I only purchase from Boots the things I would need to buy anyway for the family. I could spend the same aount elsewhere without earning points. Effectively this means the Advantage card points are a bonus, just for me.

    Furthermore, using your Advantage card offers access to even more ways to save: in-store, you will find Advantage card machines where you can use your card to print vouchers for more points, money off your total spend, and even the occasional free sample.

    To make your Advantage card work even better for you, why not share with a friend or family member? My mum and sister share a card so their points add up more quickly. Don't forget, you can also use your Advantage card online!


    In this article I have shared my tried and tested methods to help you find free make-up, skincare and fragrance to help you feel luxurious without having to feel guilty about spending your weekly housekeeping finds.

    Getting things for free means that you will have to compromise on your expectations. Many of the free beauty treats you can find are sample sized, limited to the first X customers, or accessible only by spending (wisely of course) on other products first. You probably won't get that Chanel lipstick in the exact shade you want (though it can happen...).

    But who cares when you can have luxuries landing on your doorstep or finding their way into your shopping bags every week without any feelings of guilt?

    If you know of any other recommended methods, please feel free to share these with Glamumous readers and leave your comments below.

    Image credits: Cosmetics counter by Eliazar, Boots shop sign by Redvers,  Magazine cover by Fotographix.ca, Rouge by Kanko. All via Flickr Creative Commons.
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