Alice-Azania Jarvis: 'I've noticed a sudden need to switch things on at every opportunity'

In The Red

Have you noticed it yet? No, not the sudden drop in temperature – though that too – I mean the sudden rise in your fuel bill. Actually, I have to say I haven't – though that may have to do less to do with a sudden conservation drive, and more to do with the fact that it's not yet time for my quarterly energy breakdown to pop through the letterbox. What I have noticed is my sudden need to switch things on at every opportunity: the stove (goodbye salad, hello soup), the kettle, the hot water and, of course, the heating. It's that time of year again.

Every autumn, I make the same resolution: this winter, I promise myself, I'm not going to need the heating on. Not until, ooh ... 20 December. At the earliest. Who cares if I'm cold, I reason? I'll just wear layers. Lots of layers. I can carry a hot water bottle if need be. I'll drink herbal tea.

All so well intended, and then – whoops! – we get to mid-November and suddenly my resolve crumbles. Bugger this, I think. It's not worth it. I'm putting the heating on.

And maybe it's not worth it. Maybe it's not really worth freezing half to death for the sake of one utility bill. But it does rather throw my spending schedule off. Every November I plan to start preparing for the next month's festive spend-fest, putting away a bit of cash here and there for good measure, eyeing up the giftable bargains, snapping up cheap booze when I see it, and making lists of exactly what I'm going to buy for whom, before inevitably, giving up and leaving it all until the last minute, while the ever-present in-store reminders make me feel more guilty by the minute.

Speaking of which: I think I may have found a way to get over the horrifying eagerness with which the shops deck themselves out in the run-up to Christmas. Of course, they've been doing it for a good few weeks now. My local Sainsbury's was made to look tardy by waiting until after Hallowe'en; most shops seemed to stick up the tinsel sometime in late September.

Still, I managed – possibly for the first time in my life – if not quite actually to ignore their nauseating enthusiasm, then at least to rise above it. Somehow, and in marked contrast to last year's pre-Christmas rage, I've stopped it from getting to me. I suspect that this won't last.

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