Rosie Millard: Thrifty Living

Don't go broke trying to make money on the great virtual auction

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.

cashl@independent.co.uk

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
Sport
footballLive! Chelsea vs West Ham kicked off 10 Boxing Day matches, with Arsenal vs QPR closing the action
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Sport
football
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Selby Jennings: SVP Model Validation

    Not specified: Selby Jennings: SVP Model Validation This top tiered investment...

    Selby Jennings: Oil Operations

    Highly Competitive: Selby Jennings: Our client, a leading European Oil trading...

    The Jenrick Group: Night Shift Operations Manager

    £43500 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Night Shift Operatio...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - LONDON

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000 + Car + Pension: SThree: SThree are a ...

    Day In a Page

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all