When life feels overwhelming, there’s something immensely comforting in being told what to do, whether it’s the small things – how to chill wine in a hurry or fake-tan your back – or big stuff, such as how to support a friend going through IVF or cope with grief.
Given life’s stresses these days, Sali Hughes’s new book, Everything Is Washable And Other Life Lessons, comes as welcome relief.
Inspired in style, if not tone, by her love of 1950s housewife compendiums, the expansive guide is divided into chapters dedicated to the home, food and drink, fashion, health and beauty, life and finances, and friends, relationships and family. It’s jam-packed with tips and sage advice to help us navigate modern life.
‘I’m a practical person by nature and if people are looking for some kind of release in a friendly, useful book then hopefully I can help with that,’ says Hughes, an acclaimed journalist and columnist from Brighton whose social media followers and friends regularly bombard her with questions.
Here’s a snippet of her life hacks that can save you money and time.
Be savvy when buying second-hand clothing
‘Always buy off-season, when people are clearing out their wardrobes (a coat in the summer, holiday clothes in autumn/winter). The best way of securing a wearable, high-quality designer item for a fraction of its original cost is to shop for something famously made by another designer. So instead of a Burberry or Aquascutum trench coat, look at Max Mara and APC, both of which are less frequently searched for and cost less in second-hand resale.
‘For high-street clothing, rather than looking for a Topshop tea dress, search its sister brand, Miss Selfridge. You might get it for £5 instead of £25. Get to know the websites and how you enjoy shopping.
‘Do you prefer to pay what the seller’s asking, as on Vinted and Depop, or do you enjoy the thrill of bidding, as on eBay? In an auction, bidding an odd number – £31.26 rather than £30 – could make all the difference. I never bid until the final day, otherwise you just drive up the price.’
Make friends with your freezer
‘You’re making things hard, and more expensive, if you need a new recipe every time you cook a dish. Instead, learn how to cook a base for things – whether it’s soup, curry or stew – and then adapt it according to what you have in the fridge.
Also, freeze as much as possible: nuts, bananas (out of their skins), chopped onions, mash, spinach, pastry, egg whites, leftover wine for cooking, peas, herbs, veg offcuts – the list goes on. It’s so much better to put them in a freezer bag than in the bin.’
Box clever with beauty products
‘I understand a really luxurious texture or beautiful package can be part of the sensorial pleasure for people but I hate shoppers who think they have to spend loads to get good skincare and make-up. It’s worth spending money on foundation and perfume but for the most part you can get great mascara, lipstick and eye shadow from chemists and supermarkets.‘
As for skincare, it’s certainly not true that the more you spend, the higher the concentration of ingredients. You can buy an expensive serum with three per cent vitamin C and an affordable one with 15 per cent vitamin C. Work out what your skin needs and look at what’s out there.’
Get cosy on the cheap
‘I’m a real homebody and would rather be at home than anywhere else. Beautiful blankets instantly soften surfaces and transform the look of a room. My threadbare sofa cost me £136 on eBay more than 18 years ago and I keep changing the vintage blankets. It’s the same with cushions: swap them every couple of years and you feel as if you’ve done your room over.
‘Mix various types of textured wooden picture frames for a curated feel. For lighting, use fairy lights, and a soft light bulb for a womb-like feel.
‘When it comes to lamps, keep your base simple and cheap (bases are much of a muchness). Have fun with colour and shape with your lampshade by swapping out a plain one for something posher (way cheaper than buying a designer lamp).
‘There are heaps of lovely shades on Etsy, Pooky and valuelights.co.uk. You can make your own out of otherwise useless wallpaper or fabric offcuts – expect to pay anything from about a tenner for a kit with wires, cutters and so on.’
Have your own bank account
‘I say this from my own experience: it’s so important to not have a joint account as your sole account. Things happen and people do break up. If you have a joint account, make it a secondary account you pay bills into. Do not have your salary paid into it.’
And talk money…
‘It’s so funny that the thing most couples argue about most is the one thing they tend not to discuss before getting married. They’ll talk about whether they want children or where to live but not whether they’re a spender or a saver – or if they consider the money they have as what’s in their account or what they can borrow. Generally, people don’t change in their money outlook without a brutal lesson, so talk about it early on to save a huge amount of conflict later.’
Everything Is Washable And Other Life Lessons by Sali Hughes is out now
Household items: Save or splurge?
Mattress: You spend one third of your life sleeping so don’t scrimp
Bin bags: Cheap, black refuse sacks are the ultimate false economy
Pillows: Look for one that hits the sweet spot between soft and firm
Sofa: It’s one of your home’s vital organs and it needs to be right
Towels: A few quid more and they’ll stay soft and bouncy and absorb moisture better
Paint: Buy a sample of more expensive paint and take it to a trade shop to be mixed up
Toasters: The less it looks like a vintage Winnebago, the more likely it is to live a long life
Cushions: Spend money on the big stuff, then scatter cheap decorative items
Kitchens: Unit carcasses are much of a muchness. Good taps, worktops and fittings make it look high-end
Sheets: More important than a high thread count is whether it fits OK
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