Sunday, 4 December 2011

Festive Freebies

Oh my word. I am knackered. I have just been out on my bike to test my new cycling helmet (yep, if definitely makes me look like a geek) and my thighs aren’t thanking me. You see, I can just about jog up hill, but cycle up one? Riding a bike clearly uses a set of muscles that I have neglected to use in the gym.
And, the best bit? I have just had a workout in the great outdoors – for free. A couple of months ago I cancelled my gym membership and decided to take a more thrifty approach to exercise. Okay, so you have to pay for a certain amount of equipment, but once you have it, you’re done. No pesky direct debits to worry about every month.
So, along with my new love of cycling, I have my running to keep up my cardio, and the Wii Fit I got for Christmas two years ago offers a range of muscle workouts – and gentler exercise if I don’t feel like venturing outdoors or getting too sweaty. And, if I’ve been a good girl, I might just get the Zumba game for Christmas too.
Maybe it’s my northernness or my recent change of circumstances, but I have recently embraced the thrifty life. More specifically, freebies. I have long sang the praises of being able to walk to work – okay, it takes 45 minutes, but so does the bus – which doesn’t burn any calories, is unkind to the environment and costs me £1.30 a pop. Okay, it’s not exactly a huge amount of money, but it all adds up. I have also started to take my flask to work if I am not at my usual office – much as I like a gingerbread latte, they don’t come cheap, and, well, no coffee means no workee.
Then there is Christmas shopping. 3 for 2 in Boots? Oh, yes please! Even better – make your own gifts. I have made three this year – my sister got some framed photographs I took of Highgate Cemetery for her December Birthday and two other friends will be receiving my handiwork on the 25th. Need some new Christmas decorations but can’t squeeze them into the budget? Try Freecycle. I’ve signed up to about 6 in North London, and, although I’ve not yet been quick enough to get anything, I’ve seen two Christmas trees posted on it already – not to mention loads of TVs, DVD players and furniture. It’s my new internet addiction.
Okay, so we have covered shopping and exercise, but what about having fun without splashing the cash? The other week I went to the V&A to see the Annie Lennox House exhibition and a display of entries to the Illustration awards – both free. Then, of course, we had the rest of the museum to get lost in. A perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Feeling peckish? Well, if you hang around a busy shopping street or station for long enough, you’re bound to see someone giving away free samples. Yesterday in Angel I was offered a free Miso soup and chocolate beans courtesy of Itsu. Needless to say, I didn’t say no. And then there’s my old favourite: Complaining. After getting stuck at Peterborough train station on Sunday evening for three hours on my way home from York, I was determind to get at least some of the £88.60 I had paid for the pleasure back. So, on Monday I got online and filled in the “Delay Repay” form. Yesterday I received the full amount back in vouchers. Result. Shame I’ve already booked my tickets home for Christmas...
And lastly, need something doing but can’t afford to pay a professional? Don’t forget your friends. A group of my chums have offered to help me out recently with a bit of a logistical nightmare that was looking like proving very expensive. Someone else has offered me a memory foam mattress cover to aid my achy back in exchange for dinner. Another chum has offered me her old DVD player to plug the hole in my movie watching capabilities that I really can’t afford to fill at the moment. This same friend is also a keen barterer – in the past I have bought her coffee and cake in exchange for a Twitter tutorial, and she has returned the favour in exchange for a homemade draught excluder for her mother in law. It might be old school, but it saves a lot of money – and lets you help each other out.
London is an expensive city to live in. You just need to look at it a bit differently and you can get a lot out of it for very little cash. A case of what you know – and who you know.

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