Rosie Millard: Thrifty Living

Breakfast at the beeb. A thrift queen has her say...

I'm invited on to the BBC's Breakfast to talk about money. Why me? Well, it's the summer season, isn't it? On the way into TV Centre, I think about all the thrifty things I am going to discuss. How I now dye my own hair at home. How I only spend money on shoes, and the occasional haircut, because as every thrift queen knows, if you have classy feet and hair, what's in-between doesn't really matter. How I always cook stews for the children to come home to after a day out, so we don't need to spend £60+ at a pizzeria on food that no one actually wants. How I am, in effect, a living example of how you can beat £20,000 off your credit card bill but still look like a groomed superstar. Ha! I walk into the studio.

"And welcome to Rosie Millard, the nation's most famous spendthrift," is the introductory line from Breakfast's Bill Turnbull. All my notions about discussing how very fiscally careful I am fly out of my groomed head and I find myself turning into an imbecile gabbling about how I went to Paris for a day and came back having bought a £110,000 flat. And that I have been known to spend ever so much on my haircuts. Well, you know, Cherie and me...

I am sitting next to a man from Radio Four's Money Box, who, as if on cue, starts to roll his eyes. Mr Money Box clearly thinks that I am a sofa-ensconced example of that well-worn cliché, the female airhead who is rubbish with money. This annoys me. "Well, the Paris flat was actually a great investment," I hiss at him. Indeed, it is now worth £220,000 which after only three years isn't at all bad, although since I know nothing about remortgaging, selling or indeed French Capital Gains Tax, my 100 per cent paper gain is rather meaningless.

Back to Breakfast. The reason that I and Mr Money Box have been invited on to the show in the first place is thanks to a survey by the Skipton Building Society, which shows that joint bank accounts are yesterday's news. Married couples, it transpires, would much rather have their cash in separate accounts. This is probably because we are all in debt and want to hide it from our partners.

"What arrangement do you have?" asks Turnbull, trying to keep a straight face. I explain that Mr Millard is frightfully good with money, or at least he was before we were married, so we have a joint account for the household expenses. This means we can always pay the gas bill. We each have a separate bank account for our own expenses. Which in my case means I sometimes cannot pay the credit card bill.

"So, how much is your debt really?" says Turnbull, as if I have never been asked this humdinger of a question before. "Well, Bill, it used to start with a 5," I reply. "Then it went down to something starting with a 4. Now it starts with a 3. But do you know what, I'm easy with it." "You certainly are," he rejoins, sternly. Naturally if I hadn't been easy with it, I probably wouldn't have agreed to join him on the Breakfast sofa and chat to a watching nation about it, but I don't remind him of this.

After our chat, he reveals that he is wearing a fantastically expensive pair of shoes. The priciesthe has ever bought. "How much did they cost, Bill? Did they start with a 1? Did they start with a 2?" He gazes at me mysteriously. "My God!" I whisper as the studio manager sets up the next guest, "They start with a 3!" Respect. Clearly Bill Turnbull operates on the same policy as I do about shoes and hair. Unless the BBC pays for his footwear. "You must be joking!" he explodes. "There is no such thing as a clothing allowance for presenters!" Poor Bill.

He looks at me with interest. "I like the way you use figures. Is this the way you spendthrifts talk about debt these days?" he whispers. I nod. "Yes. Those of us in real, huge debt only talk about the first digit. We tend to leave the zeros alone."

I walk out of the studio with Mr Money Box. To my amazement, he has some words of praise. "Yours is quite the right approach. Have a joint bank account for your joint expenses and household needs. Then if you each have an income, you should each have a separate bank account." Even if mine has a negative balance which starts with a 3? "Yes, probably," says Mr Moneybox. "It's your money." That's OK then.

cashl@independent.co.uk

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