Pippa Selby, 31, of Bromley, greater London, hunts for bargains at auctions, car boot sales and online before doing them up so they look new.
The mum, who doesn't work because of medical and mobility issues, has even managed to sell on the secondhand creations she's revamped for a profit.
But she keeps her favourite upcycled pieces for her own home, which she shares with her partner Jay Morris and two children: Erin, six, and Casey, 10 months.
Upcycling is when you take secondhand or old items and bring them back to life with some DIY, a lick of paint and hard work.
Pippa has been doing it for 13 years so her shelves are now full of vintage trinkets she's found for a bargain price while nearly all her furniture was bought secondhand and then lovingly restored.
She buys all her kids' toys secondhand, and last year, she snapped up a hardly used Baby Zen pushchair worth about £370 for less than £200.
She told The Sun: "I’ve been into buying second hand as long as I can remember.
"I grew up seeing my parents, especially my mum, shop at charity shops and auctions, so to me it always felt like second nature."
She added: "People are often surprised when I tell them where I’ve picked something up and for how much, and that’s often enough to whet their appetite to try out secondhand buying."
Pippa became such a pro at spotting a secondhand bargain she could do up, she started an upcycling business called Twice Upon A Time in 2015.
She would scour websites such as Gumtree and eBay for great bargains, or visit auctions, car boot sales and shops selling recycled items.
The young mum would then do them up on a budget, often only spending a few pounds per item to transform the secondhand piece into something new.
She then sold her pieces on for a sizeable profit, or posted pictures on a Facebook page to inspire other aspiring upcyclers.
Pippa has put her business on halt for now due to her medical issues but she continues to upcycle for her own home.
She said: “I find auctions can be amazing for second hand gems and I’m always surprised by how few people go to them and what steals you can get.
“Often you can buy a brilliant piece of mid-century furniture for £20-30 which would be more than £150 online. Car boot sales are always worth a visit too, especially outside of London."
She added: “We probably save about £3,000 a year through upcycling and buying second hand, sometimes more depending on our living situation.
"At the end of last year we moved into a house which needed quite a bit of work and through a combination of bargain hunting, upcycling and doing projects ourselves we’ve probably saved more."
Pippa's top upcycling tips
- Do your own DIY – We removed old carpet from the rooms in our house and stripped and finished the wooden floors ourselves. This cost a fraction of what it would have if we’d hired someone – around £80 per room which included sanding machine hire, tools, and floor wax. It probably saved us around £300.
- Buy kids toys secondhand – We recently bought a secondhand BabyZen pushchair for our son which was hardly used and saved ourselves about £200. It will still be in good enough nick for us to make a bit of money back when he’s outgrown it too.
- Go online – Sites and online communities that sell second hand goods like eBay, Shpock, Gumtree, Preloved, and Facebook Marketplace are great ways to find things locally, and you can sometimes get bits for free.
- Think small – A simple splash of colour with some paint or some wallpaper can also completely transform a piece. Material or old clothing can be put to great use with sewing projects. For example, to make a cushion cover or to upholster something – footstools, seat pads, bedheads, chairs or even to cover a lampshade.
Pippa has been on a few upcycling courses over the years to learn how to revamp secondhand items properly, but she says she also uses Youtube tutorials which are great for first-timers.
DIY can be expensive when you first buy all the tools you need, but Pippa says there are ways to keep costs low.
She said: "Upcycling doesn’t always have to cost, especially if you start small and use your imagination.
“One of my favourite cheap and easy upcycles is framing magazine prints and then painting the frames.
"I’m just about to turn an old boiler cupboard in my son’s room into a wardrobe simply by decoupaging it with vintage comics and cutting up old pieces of wood to size for shelving – it will probably cost less than £10 in total."
Pippa adds that it's a myth that secondhand items are low quality.
She says she often finds used items in great condition and even when they're shabby, she can make them look fresh by giving them a new cover or re-painting them.
She said: "There’s sometimes a misconception that secondhand somehow means reduction in quality but more often than not you’ll find things have been very well looked after and even in 'like new' condition.
“I have occasionally met people who find the concept alien or think that used means dirty or lesser quality, but more common are people who don’t do it themselves for no other reason than they just think it’s easier to go to a shop or buy new."
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She added: "Once people start buying secondhand and see what they can get, it quite often becomes a way of life.
"Sure, sourcing stuff can be a bit tricky depending on where you live and what you’re looking for, but it is all becoming a lot more accessible."
A couple recently saved £17,000 doing up their first home with the help of DIY books and Youtube.
Meanwhile if you're tight on cash this month, then you could try the £2,019 in 2019 money-saving challenge.
Alternatively, there's the £10 a week challenge which could save you £520 in a year.
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