Alice-Azania Jarvis: Kind tips on homemade treats don't quite cut it

In The Red

Let me tell you what this column is not: a channel for advice. Or, at least, it's not a channel of advice from me to you. No doubt you will have picked up on this by now, but in case you haven't here it is, laid out on the table. When it comes to wisdom, I have nothing to offer.My life is spent scuttling from one financial scrape to the next. If I ever try to tell you what to do – please – ignore it. Otherwise you might end up insolvent.

No, instead of offering advice, I can offer something else. My problems.I have plenty of them – more than enough to go round. Indeed, after nigh-on three years of weekly musings, there has yet to be an occasion on which I've thought: "Ha! Nothing to moan about this week!All looking rosy." This has never happened, because there's always something the matter.

There's probably some philosophical point to be made here – something to do with the infinite capacity for the human being to improve, to learn, to do better. But, in much the same way as I'm not about to start offering you guidance, I'm not going to be the person to make it.

What this column is, I've come to realise, is the polar opposite of an advice column. It's a complaints column. I complain, and you respond. Collectively, you are my financial agony aunts. It's been going on for so long that I can't remember when, or how, it started. But, after a few weeks of writing about my financial woes, they began to appear. The emails, pinging into my inbox.

One early example told me I should cook a whole chicken at the start of each week to see me through packed lunches and dinners. Sound advice, I'm sure – though, embarrassingly, as yet unsuccessfully followed. Blame a year-and-a-half of vegetarianism plus my inability to leave food uneaten. Ever. Others gave me advice on fundraising when I decided to run the marathon – some very useful, some a little too ambitious. Recently, dozens and dozens have told me how I could go about finding cheap cinema tickets: by going on weekday lunchtimes, by moving to Plymouth, by signing up to various clubs and societies. And even more recently – this week, in fact – have had tips on how to keep my cosmetics costs down. Dye your hair, but go to a training academy instead of a proper snipper. Don't bother with posh moisturiser, drink water instead. Were it not for your nuggets of wisdom, I don't know where I'd be. Possibly fine, possibly not. But almost certainly poorer.

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