Rosie Millard: Thrifty Living

Christmas panic setting in? Eat another mince pie

Spendthrift Janie and I are having a mince pie, or three. Well, they are small. And I have made them myself. "So, no hydrogenated fat whatsoever," I point out. "And they'll have only cost about 3p each." Indeed. I even found a jar of Lidl mincemeat from last Christmas with which to fill them. I'm hoping they will cheer Janie up. Since her parents bailed her out this summer, her finances have taken a somewhat regressive position. And now there's Christmas to hurdle.

"Did you see that piece in the Mail?" she moans. "Three women, all in debt, saying they will never pay off what they owe. Never. Oh, God. Do you think that could ever be us, Rosie?" Mm. I tend to use a marathon mentality when considering just how much I owe to the Clydesdale, Mastercard, Goldfish, and a variety of obscure mortgage lenders. In the same way that marathon runners just take it one mile at a time, I never think of the whole sum at once. I just try to pick various corners off.

For example, I paid off a credit card last night. And then cut it up. Six days before the 0 per cent interest deal on it expired. Ha! I have another mince pie.

"Well, I've saved £12 on my TalkTalk bill," says Janie. What, for a day? "No, for a year. I registered on the net and now get my bills online. Which saves £1 a month." She shrugs. "I know I have a mortgage of £450,000, interest only, but you know. Look after the pennies..."

I do know what she means. There's something wildly fulfilling about clawing back even the most meagre of sums into the gaping maw of your overdraft. Do it once every 10 days. You'll be glad you did. This week, for example, I managed to rescue £25 from the bank, who wrongly charged me for, well, being overdrawn; £44 from Eurostar for selling me something that didn't exist; and £45 from the hairdressers, via the simple ploy of arriving so late for my appointment that I had to forgo the cut and just have my hair coloured instead. Well, my mother always said that no one needs to have their hair cut every eight weeks, and that the concept was just a ruse of the hairdressing industry to make more cash.

So, a grand total of £114 saved, which is really quite a lot. "I'm just treading water," I say to Janie. "But at least I'm not sinking. And in the Christmas run-up, even treading water is quite impressive."

She nods. "I'm trying to arrange Christmas shopping via a policy of giving away freebies," she says. "I've been collecting things that PR companies have sent over, or simply freebies I can pick up in shops, for the last two months. I've got a good stash of them." I bet she has. Janie, a sometime beauty writer, still has good links with the cosmetic industry, which is wont to send her Jiffy bags full of exfoliation cream and fake tan every now and then.

"I got a huge stash from Lancôme the other day," she says. "I was very excited, but when I opened it, it was full of skincare for the over-fifties. Still, great for my mother-in-law."

Giving freebies is a great Christmas thrift tip, and can apply to anything from office calendars to corporate snow domes. Take the stuff home, wrap it up, it'll make someone very happy on Christmas Day. But it can be a risky business, particularly if the recipient is over 10. If the gift looks too much like a freebie, by which I mean it has a great big sticker on it saying NOT FOR SALE, you will be rumbled. "I know," says Janie. "My husband's boss was married to someone who worked for the Burton Group. Every year, the whole team would get these striped shirts from Burton."

Thrift Queen Laura turns up. "Sorry there aren't any pies left," we mumble. Never mind. She waves a small orange book triumphantly. "This," she says, "is going to be my key to Christmas." Oh yeah? "We've just been talking about freebies," says Janie. "No, no," says Laura. "Dressing up freebies as presents is immoral. This is what you need." We look at the book: Bargain Hunters' London, by Andrew Kershman.

Maybe this could be the answer to my thrifty Christmas. Janie surveys the book, doubtfully. "Look at this," she cries, "a charity shop that sells Chanel suits for £900!"

Then again, the freebie idea still seems quite attractive.

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at

i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    SThree: HR Benefits Manager

    £40000 - £50000 per annum + pro rata: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

    Recruitment Genius: Office Manager / Financial Services

    £30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 1999, a highly r...

    Jemma Gent: Year End Accountant

    £250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you a qualified accountant with strong exp...

    Jemma Gent: Management Accountant

    £230 - £260 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Do you want to stamp your footprint in histo...

    Day In a Page

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower