Rosie Millard: Thrifty Living
How I emerged from Knightsbridge without spending
Saturday 20 May 2006
This week was tough. I took a walk down one of London's most dangerous interchanges, namely the junction of Sloane Street and Knightsbridge. Right in the height of the summer season. I wasn't intending to, but I got off the bus too early. I then had to brave the windows of Harvey Nichols and the mannequins of Ferragamo.
I felt a bit like Ulysses, strapped to the mast. Only my temptresses were not naked women, but various brands; Miu Miu, Zara, Prêt a Manger (well, I was hungry). Quickly, I had to devise a series of strategies. Here, then, is my top ten of How Not to Spend. Follow these pointers and you will be able to emerge, like me, unseduced by the array of persuasive summer delights currently on display across the nation.
1. When on the high street, wear your best clothes. If you are in a pair of skinny white jeans already, then it's unlikely you will buy any more to augment your collection.
2. Dump the idea that when summer comes, it is imperative to buy a new swimsuit/pair of flip-flops/bag. Come on! You know last year you only wore that funky M&S tankini for a fortnight. If you revive it around the pool in France this year, you will discover everyone is wearing this year's tankini from Boden, which means that you can pretend yours came from Marni.
3. Remember that linen always has a best before time span. This is before it has been washed. Once. Linen looks great when you get it out of the bag and put it on, for about two hours. After that it will achieve lifelong creases and tea-bag yellowing. It's not a great look. Linen is perfect for models in the Boden catalogue, and one-off occasions, like weddings.
4. Remember to carry a deep scepticism within you about supermodels. Don't be fooled; they need a lot of help to look as great as they do, even when they are snapped kissing Jemima Khan. The clothes they are promoting will not necessarily make you look as great as they do in them. Twiggy and those ghastly middle-aged striped white blazers from M&S are a case in point.
5. If you must buy something new, go into Boots and pick up some emery boards, or other cheap purchase. You will get a 50 per cent off sunglasses voucher. Use this to buy a pair of funky £40 Animal sunglasses. You will get another 50 per cent off sunglasses voucher. Sell this one to your sister. When she uses it, she'll get another voucher, which she can pass on to your mum, and so on.
6. Keep walking. If you walk long enough, you will eventually chance upon an institution that is free. Library, park, the Royal Courts of Justice. Just beyond Knightsbridge is a giant local freebie, the V&A. I spent a wonderful time there gazing upon the Great Bed of Ware, which can hold about 12 people at once.
7. Self indulgence is very unfashionable. This week I bumped into the sculptor Antony Gormley who told me that he had turned down an invitation to go to India this spring because it was "self-indulgent". Going long-haul shopping and touting loads of giant paper bags around is as self indulgent as using up loads of CO2s.
8. The World Cup is however very fashionable. It's also a cheap thing to get into. Pick up either a Brazil singlet from H&M or an England flag from Woolworth's. You'll be in the right groove, plus you'll have change from a tenner.
9. Pick up a free newspaper and fold it twice over. Then put the resulting package into your handbag. Your wallet is now buried under a whole wedge of tiresome newsprint which is both dirty and cumbersome to remove. Result? You don't get your wallet out, because you can't be bothered.
10. If you are near the Royal Courts of Justice in London, go to the second floor in the Thomas More Building, where every day about 30 personal bankruptcies are heard. If you smile sweetly at the clerk, he will let you sit at the back of court all morning. Here, you will hear petition after petition, from people who have gone bust for the simple reason of not paying their tax, overdoing it on fruit machines or hanging out too much in places like Knightsbridge. Its sobering and enough to make you run home and open a 20p tin of baked beans, this week hailed as the nation's most popular meal.
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