How to: Control your finances

By Oscar Quine

Those old purse strings. So damn hard to keep tight. Fear not, Michael Taillard, PhD in Financial Economics, has the figures all worked out.

"The money you have to spend each month, your 'discretionary income', is the amount of income remaining after accounting for taxes and survival necessities. Keep a careful record so that you don't spend more than this."

"Everything you buy is a collection of tools intended to meet your needs. Explicitly list what features you want and why. Are there other products which do the same things, that you already own?"

"Set your priorities. If you didn't know you needed something until seeing it, you don't need it; ask whether you need the newest/best, or if it merely serves your ego; remember that buying on-sale is still spending."

'Introducing Personal Finance,' by Michael Taillard (Icon, £6.99) is out now

Rotating column: Loveless poem

By Simon Usborne

How about a love poem for Valentine's? It's today, you know. But damned if I'm going to sit and compose one (sorry, love). Instead, here's the work of a poet bot. will mine your Twitter account for inspiration for verse, and everyone's been at it. You can choose a sonnet, a rondel or, in my case, an indriso, which I've never heard of. So here it is, my Valentine:

I've seen him. Great hand flap.
Will keep an eye out, thanks man.
Op, that'll be the thunderclap...
From Private Eye's gift guide
'Olympicopolis' cultural quarter.

Beautiful, isn't it? And the site's great for Valentine's haters, because however often I repeated the process, nothing from my stream of digital conscience produced anything remotely romantic.

Instant Ethics

By Ellen E Jones

Dear Ellen

Q. I was sent some flowers at work by a company; is it acceptable to turn up to a date with a dozen red roses?

A. Let this column offer you a little friendly advice: arriving at a date with anything other than a smile and a friendly demeanour, especially if it is flower-shaped, absolutely screams 'potential bigamist'. Leave those flowers on your desk.


Micro extract: Coronation streak

"The 1953 Coronation attested to female values, speaking eloquently of our nation's attitude to women. At its heart was their personification, the Queen, our nation's paradigm of beauty and blamelessness."

Taken from 'Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes: the Story of Women in the 1950s' by Virginia Nicholson (out 5 March, £16.99, Penguin)

Four play: Capital offence

1. Salman Rushdie*

2. Colonel Gaddafi

3. Jerry Falwell

4. Geert Wilders

*Grand Ayatollah issues fatwa today,1989

All Good Things

By Charlotte Philby


Heaven scent

We thought Jo Malone branding couldn't be messed with – then we saw the packaging for the new My Wanderlust collection. The products themselves – fragrances, candles, soaps – aren't bad either. From £28,

Sock it to 'em

We're assuming he didn't buy you socks for Valentine's Day. In which case, treat yourself to the super-soft and totally un-take-off-able cashmere collection from Pantherella. Romantic? No. The perfect antidote to winter chill? Yes. £30,


Plunge in

The Bathing Beauties tea towel (above) is inspired by a group of hardy Cornish swimmers, and 10 per cent of sales goes to the Jubilee Pool in Penzance. £8.50,