Rosie Millard: Thrifty Living
Don't go broke trying to make money on the great virtual auction
Saturday 15 April 2006
After four months of trying to saw through debt, and realising it is as resilient as a Californian Redwood, I've come to the sage conclusion that there is a gulf between actual saving, and perceived saving. I am rather rubbish at the first, and rather brilliant at the second, although I have the fervent hope that one will eventually merge into the other.
My bedtime reading, The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn (available on Amazon), is full of gripping rags-to-riches anecdotes from Americans saying: "We now dry all our clothes on the clothes line, turn our appliances off from standby, and now we save $998 a year on our electricity bill!", or "We halved our food bill by using budget grocery stores!" I'm not so sure. I do all these things, yet nothing seems to have been halved, neither food, electricity or indeed any other bill.
Take my recent foray into the frugal world of eBay. Landed with seven pairs of beautiful curtains after a house move I decided the time had come. "I'm going to auction all those curtains on eBay," I announced to Mr Millard at midnight one night.
Three hours later I was ready to go. I had achieved my eBay password, taken loads of photographs of the curtains, downloaded them and presented them for sale on the great virtual auction. Of course, in preparation for the sale of the century, I had already had them all cleaned, which had cost me £300. And then there were all the payments to eBay for listing each curtain and each photograph, which came to £60. Never mind. Who knows what they will get on eBay, I thought excitedly.
The next day, there they were, sitting on eBay under designer curtains. "Hooray! The auction has begun," I said, running through the house before sitting down at my computer.
"Do you know," I said to Mr Millard, "I really think we may make enough money on this sale to go to Tuscany this summer." He rolled his eyes at me and wandered off to see how the garden was progressing. Frugally, we are growing everything from seed this year. What with an Arctic spring this plan has so far been a bit of a non-starter.
My seven pairs of curtains were on eBay for 10 days. Nine days after putting them on, I still had no bids. Loads of "watchers" had logged on, but no-one who was prepared to show me the money. I now know this is the way eBay works. Everyone waits until the last few minutes and then tries to scoop a bargain by paying as little as possible. I eventually sold three pairs to a nice woman in Bristol called Lucy, who paid just over £400 for them. "It was so exciting," she said to me the next day. "The bids went mad in the last few seconds!" I only wish they had gone mad a bit earlier. They cost about £4,000 to buy.
Her husband drove up from Bristol the next day to collect them, probably spending about £100 on petrol.
"I hope this purchase is going to be more successful than Lucy's last venture onto eBay," he said dryly. "She bought a VW Combi for £1,500. It was beautifully kitted out, but impossible to drive. We had to sell it back. At a loss."
Still, the sight of the curtains going out of the house, in return for an actual cheque in my hand, even if the net gain was a mere £50, has got me thinking. "Let's have an attic sale," I say to Mr Millard over re-heated lentil casserole and a bottle of wine from Berry Brothers Wine Club, (which I suggest is a brilliant way of saving money yet still having decent booze in the house. You fork out £60 a month and a case of delicious wine appears on your doorstep once every two months. Is this thrifty? Debatable, but it will save those last minute dashes to the supermarket which can wreck a weekly budget.)
"Let's have an attic sale," I continue, "and then, when we've built up some cash, let's buy a VW Combi Van and go to Tuscany in it. That would be a cheap way of going on holiday."
He looks at me as if I'm mad. "What happens when it breaks down and all the children are sick everywhere?" he says. "And we don't have anywhere to park it." Alright, Mr Grumpy. Call it the eBay enthusiasm of the early adaptor.
Here's Rosie's thrift tip. Don't buy jars of baby food. Spend £12 on a hand blender instead. Then, watch the Pavlovian reaction of your baby when he hears you blending his lunch.
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
Liam Neeson's Downton dreams
Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage
Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour
Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason
Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama
Five Questions: Changes to car tax discs
Less than half of Brits carry country's £1.5tn debt burden
A student's guide to financial survival: You don't have to drown in debt at university
Misleading websites banned for tricking people into paying for ‘free’ government services
10 tips for taking out a personal loan
- 1 Thailand beach murders: Thai PM suggests 'attractive' female tourists cannot expect to be safe wearing bikinis
- 2 Scottish independence: What you shouldn't tweet about if you want to avoid jail today
- 3 Scottish independence: Five reasons Salmond is secretly hoping for a 'No' vote
- 4 Isis plan to 'behead random member of the public' in Sydney thwarted by Australian police
- 5 Scottish independence: Andy Murray backs Yes campaign in eleventh hour decision
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Russia freezes Ukraine into submission: Kiev admits country doesn't have enough fuel for winter
iJobs Money & Business
£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...
To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...
To £85,000 + banking benefits: Saxton Leigh: You will be expected to carry out...
Up to £90,000 + benefits: Saxton Leigh: Credit Risk Audit Manager required to ...
Day In a Page
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green
Look forward to a brighter future at two-bedroom Sunny Cottages, ideal for Londoners looking to downsize
A three-bedroom red-brick cottage with outbuildings and pretty gardens, £200,000