Northern Ireland is apparently the second most thrifty region in the UK. Linda Stewart talks to three local people careful with their cash.
'I do clothes swaps with my friends'
Writer and teacher Helen McClements (41), from Belfast, who publishes the Sour Wee Blog, is married to Stevey and has two daughters Natasha (7) and Georgina (8).
"I blame my parents," she says. "My mum and dad lived in Papua New Guinea and Africa before they had children. They weren't missionaries, but they had a firm belief that you didn't spend a lot of money on material things when there are people who don't have any breakfast, so we didn't spend much money on clothes.
"They always valued experiences over natural things. That came through to me a bit and I would feel guilty about spending money on clothes, although I do do things I really enjoy.
"I'm not a skinflint, but the ideal shopping experience for me is to spend money in a small boutique. If you're going into a boutique like that you're keeping the town's vibrancy alive and you are also able to ask them questions."
One example is her daughter's approaching first communion. One friend has loaned a dress that had been worn by both her daughters, and another friend has loaned white shoes.
"Everything is borrowed and everything has been given to her with such love. It's like our christening gown, which has been passed down through the generations," Helen says.
One of her favourite pastimes is the simple clothes swap, an idea that she picked up years ago from friends in London.
"They all worked in the arts and theatre, and they didn't have a bean. They would do a clothes swap every three months and as soon as you arrived you plundered the bag," she says.
"There's one top that's still rolled out on our holidays when we go to Spain. One girl, Jo, passed it to Fiona, then she took it back for a while, and then passed it back. Now I do clothes swaps with my friends - it's a brilliant night and I always send them pictures of the outfit.
"I'm wearing stuff from shops that I never go into and would probably never wear otherwise, so it's fun and it's different."
Helen says it's not just clothes that are recycled.
"I never manage to go past a skip without having a look in it and my children are so embarrassed," she laughs.
She has underbed storage drawers that she asked the owner to give her from a skip. It was just a matter of cleaning and disinfecting them. And she also keeps an eye out for treasures in the charity shops.
"A lot of people are cleaning their houses out at the moment. There's a furniture charity shop on Ormeau Road and I got a bookcase there at the start of month for the girls," she says.
"I have a gorgeous old mahogany dressing table from there, and a chest of drawers."
While some of her friends budget around £50 a month for clothes, she says she can go without that "but I'm never out of coffee shops, because that's an experience".
She adds: "At the moment I'm wearing a necklace from my friend Brenda, a shirt from Primark that I got via my friend Louise, and a jacket that I also got through Louise.
"I could walk round my house and tell you where I got everything.
"I believe very strongly that you spend your money on experiences."
'We saved £1,000 during lockdown'
Claire Smyth (40), from east Belfast, works for an estate agent. She is married to Gareth, has two daughters Emmie (8) and Leila (7), and runs the Facebook page Family Fun NI.
She admits she hasn't always been thrifty.
"Before we had children my finances were my own and I really didn't have to be as thrifty or careful with my money," she says.
"But when I got my first home my interest changed and the money was spent on home, rather than on personal items, and that changed again when I had children. Home became the second priority again. Every penny counts."
Claire says she is always careful to check the price per 100g to make sure supermarket offers aren't deceptive, and she makes great use of vouchers and points promotions.
She follows the social media accounts of her favourite shops so that she knows when they are offering deals.
Claire also says the community of parents on Family Fun NI will tip each other off to deals that they've spotted in shops.
"If we see something on the shelf, we snap a picture and share it and that creates a massive response. It can be anything from an item at the end of a sale or an item that wouldn't be on a general promotion, it's a great community," she says.
She estimates that she saved more than £1,000 over the course of lockdown because events and attractions were closed and she had to come up with new family activities gleaned from friends and social media.
"The National Trust was sharing ideas. There were all these free resources that were available to help entertain the children and create an active family. All of a sudden the parks and open spaces became more of a go-to than the soft play centre and trampoline parks," she says.
"We would easily have saved £1,000 over lockdown - that was not having to go to a soft play centre, not buying drinks, teas or coffees and having a picnic instead. You were saving on petrol and you didn't have to buy clothes, you made do with what you had. It really did add up."
'We furnished the house for £100'
Fiona Anderson (26), a senior account executive for Morrow Communications, lives in Holywood with her partner James (27), who works for the Fire Service.
An avid thrifter, she runs the Instagram account for @HolywoodOxfam. During furlough she helped out at Oxfam in Holywood, and says the shop has seen a huge spike in sales in the last few weeks.
"My mum grew up on the border between Derry and Donegal, she was from a farming background and grew up making, mending and doing everything, and passed it onto me," she says.
"My grandmother used to shop in the amazing charity shops in Edinburgh and all my life she would send us over the most amazing clothes. We would get parcels of gorgeous saris and beautiful Chinese silk clothes when we were tiny.
"So I've always loved clothes, but I've made a really concerted effort in recent years to support local brands and local shops. I've become a bit more conscious about where clothes are made."
Fiona says she has seen a real move among young people towards shopping in charity shops, and during lockdown decided to put her digital and social media skills towards helping Oxfam, posting clothes that would appeal to younger people.
"Sales went through the roof and people were travelling from all over Northern Ireland to buy the things," she says. "We got a lot of vintage pieces and designer clothes and they were flying off the shelves."
Fiona has also turned her penchant for thrift towards furnishing her new home.
"We moved into our house a year ago and we've done everything ourselves. We've done all our own DIY and renovations, learning from YouTube videos how to do these things," she says.
"It's things like buying material from people on Facebook to cover chairs and make curtains. I go to charity shops at the weekend, buy furniture and upcycle it, and then sell it on Facebook Marketplace - that has been a good money generator."
She is a big fan of the bargain aisle in her local Tesco, the bargain corner at Ikea, and also goes to the Refill Quarter on Belmont Road, where you can bring your containers to be refilled with anything from cereal and washing up liquid, to rice and pasta, saving money on brands and packaging.
By shopping in the sales and scouring charity shops she reckons she has reduced her monthly clothes bill by half and probably only spends about £50 a month on clothes.
She also waxes eloquent about Revive, the recycled furniture shop run by East Belfast Mission.
"They have absolutely amazing furniture," she says. "We pretty much furnished the house for £100 - that's the bed, chairs and dining furniture. And on Facebook Buy and Sell we bought a Welsh dresser for £30.
"You go on Instagram and see people doing unbelievable things with their houses, but spending a fortune to do it. However, you really don't have to."
Northern Ireland was runner-up in a survey of the thriftiest regions of the UK, second only to London, according to restaurant discount app Enjoy Stevie