A THRIFTY mum-of-four has decked out her second-hand Christmas tree with 500 festive baubles which she's collected from charity shops for over a decade.
Savvy Claire Jinks, 56, of Sidmouth, Devon, who co-owns a women's clothes shop,spends ten hours decorating her tree with vintage baubles she's picked up for just 10p.
The grandmother-of-10, Claire whose husband, Simon, 49, manages a shop, finds most of her treasures in charity shop bargain bins and revealed that her spangly £100 stash is now worth around £1,000 – if she was to sell them.
The mum-of-four said: "I go into secondhand shops and if there are baubles there, I will rummage through the whole box until I find all the vintage ones. Everywhere I go I nip into the shops to see if I can find anything new.
"This year, I went to one charity shop with a huge basket of baubles and spent about half an hour sorting through them. Then, when I took them over to the cashier, she noticed they were all vintage.
"I told her, 'I know what I'm looking for.'
"In every country I've been to I've collected a Christmas ornament. I've got ones from Spain, Iceland and America in my collection.
"One woman who saw a post about my tree in a Facebook group even sent me a box of 30 vintage ornaments from the 1950s and 60s a few years ago."
Claire, mum to Madison, 33, who works with her, upholsterer, James, 37, chef Daniel, 35, and student Poppy, 23, kickstarted her bauble collection 10 years ago with a box full of vintage treats she bought for a few pounds in a secondhand shop.
Yet, despite having a suitcase and three boxes filled with glittery delights, her favourite decoration is far less showy.
She said: "I've got a lot of fancy baubles, but my absolute favourite is a little cardboard one that someone probably handmade in the 30s or maybe during the Second World War.
"Everyone who has seen it tells me to throw it away, but I feel it has a lot of Christmases left in it, so I didn't want to part with it."
Baubles and her tree – which she paid £5 for in a charity shop in 2019, after her old one wore out – are not the only secondhand or repurposed items to feature in Claire's festive celebrations.
Proudly declaring that the only "new" thing she bought for her home was the TV, she prefers foraging for fruit to make chutneys to buying Christmas presents on the high street.
She said: "I've always bought stuff secondhand. It's tied into my sense of reusing everything and not wasting anything. The only new thing in my house is probably the TV.
"In our family, Christmas is huge. We make a lot of our own gifts and presents for each other. One year I went foraging and made a hamper filled with jams and chutneys that I then gave out to the family.
"I'd be happier if someone bought me a £1 teacup they'd really thought about than an expensive gift from a high street shop.
"In our family, a lot of thought and care goes into what we give each other, so we know it's something the recipient would really appreciate and we never buy new."
Sadly, her love of shiny baubles is not shared with her husband, who groans when she pulls out the Christmas tree.
She said: "My husband hates it. He looks at me like I'm a nutter. He's a bit of a Grinch though and I've got him a Christmas jumper saying 'bah-humbug' on it."
But he does appreciate Claire's eagle eye for a bargain, which saw her selling her collection of 50 tea pots and 300 cups – each costing no more than 50p – for a tidy £500.
She said: "One day I woke up and thought, 'I don't really want these anymore.'
"Then I heard about a woman who was having a vintage theme for her wedding, so she bought the whole lot.
"She was really pleased and I got quite a few pennies back in return."
Claire also believes her collection of vintage and unusual baubles – many of which are glass from the 1950s and 1960s – that she spent about £100 on in total, could be worth £1,000 – although she has no plans to sell them in the near future.
This year, Claire – who tops her fir with three vintage glass ornaments – has had to skip one of her favourite festive customs, which involves inviting her neighbours over to pick a chocolate from the tree, because of Covid-19 restrictions.
But she has made the most of every second of festive cheer she can by decorating her tree in time for the first day of Christmas on December 1, saying: "I really thought people needed cheering up this year with everything that's been going on.
"Usually, we would have neighbours and friends over to look at the tree, have a little chat and then pick a chocolate from it before heading off home.
"This is in honour of a childhood tradition, where my nan's tree would be multicoloured and I was allowed to pick a chocolate from it.
"As a kid, I thought it was really magical. I think that sparked my desire to collect vintage things and I enjoy having a connection to something that felt special to me as a child."
The pandemic has put a stop to another tradition, which sees her and her family cooking together for hours at one of their homes and handing out homemade and preloved gifts to her children and grandchildren.
Instead, she will be celebrating Christmas in her bubble, which includes her husband and their youngest daughter Poppy.
But it will take more than Covid-19 to dampen her festive cheer.
She concluded: "While it won't be the same sort of Christmas, not being around everyone, this year, it will still be lovely in its own way.
"We will all really appreciate having a reason to celebrate and, hopefully, next year we'll be able to mark the festivities as we usually do."
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