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Spend & Save

£1-a-day keeps the credit crunch at bay: a budget for hard times

Most people fail to fulfil the outlandish claims that can sometimes be made under the influence of alcohol. Inebriated promises rarely seem such a good idea the next day when reality kicks in.

But Kath Kelly is the kind of person who takes her resolutions seriously. Bemoaning her financial situation to friends in a pub two years ago, the Bristol teacher made what was thought at the time to be little more than an empty promise – to live on £1 a day for an entire year.

Now she has not only successfully completed her task but has also written a book about her experiences, aimed at those looking at ways to tighten their belts in the economic downturn.

"My mates all tried to stop me," she said. "They thought I was mad. They imagined I'd be living like a monk, never going out, or freeloading off them. But it wasn't like that at all. In fact, I was out all the time."

The £3,000 annual rent on her flat had already been paid, and Ms Kelly, 47, decided to try and squeeze all her day-to-day expenses – travel, food, clothing and socialising – into her parsimonious pound-a-day budget.

She began searching local newspapers for events with free buffets, picked fruit and berries from roadside bushes and only shopped in supermarkets at the end of the day to capitalise on produce that had been reduced to clear.

"I was the queen of the buffet," she recalls. "I went to the public lectures at Bristol University that had a buffet afterwards, and I went to the library's 100th birthday where they had a buffet as well.

"Every time there was a public event and a crowd was needed, I was there. I dragged my mates out to free events, too. I couldn't buy rounds at the pub or anything like that so I'd drag them out to art openings and book launches."

Scouring the streets for loose change dropped by passers-by, Ms Kelly, who teaches English as a foreign language, collected £117 – nearly a third of her annual budget.

Nor did her new-found frugal ways stop her from going on holiday or finding love. Ms Kelly met her current boyfriend while working as a volunteer on an organic farm and even managed a trip to France to see her brother by persuading kind-hearted members of the public to give her a lift.

"I hitch-hiked to the Channel Tunnel, got a free ride as the passenger of a French woman and hitched to Brittany, where my brother is doing up a house," she said.

"On the way back I travelled on the ferry with a lorry driver, and had dinner at the drivers' canteen."

The challenge nearly failed within weeks when her bicycle, which enabled her to get around without spending any money, was stolen. But luck was on her side. A friend loaned her a newer model until, a few months later, she spotted a similar bike to the one that had been stolen. The bike was slightly different but was unlocked and, other than two flat tyres, in good shape. She took the bike to a police station where she was told that if no one claimed it in six weeks it was hers.

"So there was a happy ending after all," she wrote on a friend's blog.