Rosie Millard: Thrifty Living

'At least I have Given up Chanel for Superdrug...'
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The Independent Online

So, a moment of reckoning. Not with my bank, although it has finally relinquished all of my statements. (Brief note: if you are with the Yorkshire/Clydesdale, have requested your statements for the last six years, and are currently tearing your hair out in despair, be patient. They will arrive.) No, the reckoning has been made with my accountant. Poor man. I'd been wilfully ignoring his repeated requests for my 2005-6 accounts, until I realised that I would totally ruin his holidays if I allowed him to wait a minute longer.

So, I sealed myself in my office for two days, and applied myself to a towering pile of faded receipts. Everything went into a long list. The longer, the better. The more you can claim as a taxable expense, the shorter your resultant tax bill will be. Fascinating work. However, keen readers will know that 2005 was when I went into financial melt-down, kicked off my Life of Thrift, and, for the first time in 40 years, entered a world of prudence and extreme economies. So I hoped that this volte-face might be reflected in my accounts. After all, giving up Daniel Hersheson and Chanel in favour of the local hairdresser and Superdrug must have some effect, surely.

After a few hours alone with my calculations, I felt ready to do a bit of spreadsheet comparison. Let us see. Old-style 2004 Rosie apparently blew £291 on cabs in a year. Whereas New-style Rosie, who shuns cabs, spent... what? £545? Blimey. Well, they must all have been work related.

Let us continue. Theatre trips (old Rosie)? £158. Theatre trips (new Rosie)? £345. Well, I became a theatre critic halfway through this, so all of these tickets were clearly background preparation.

Let's turn to clothes. Old Rosie spent around £2,800 on clothes in a year. New, economic Rosie spent £1,800 on clothes (and shoes) in the same period. Result! I have indeed changed my habits. My sprees, if they happen at all, now take place in the safe terrain of Florence & Fred, at Tesco.

Some things just didn't add up at all, however. I seemed to spend a huge amount on the congestion charge. But I'd apparently travelled everywhere by cab. And phone bills: my mobile and landline are both on supposedly cheaper tariffs, yet I am sad to see that I have managed to fritter away around £300 more on my mobile. Meanwhile, my landline, even though it is on bargain-basement TalkTalk, seems to have doubled in cost. How? Your guess is as good as mine. It's not as if I have a secret Parisian lover. As if.

Maybe I'll switch back to good old BT. At least BT is still courteous enough to bother sending out paper bills, rather than expecting you to download them for your records.

On the bright side, my haircuts have seen the light. Before you all start jumping up and down in indignation, I only claim a weeny bit for hair and make-up expenses. (Hell! I have a sexy byline picture to maintain.) Anyway, I seem to have saved £350 there.

I've also saved £2,000 on computer costs, because a) I didn't need to buy anything giant, and b) I changed my repair man from someone costing £800 an hour to someone costing £80. Shop around, thrift-seekers. It pays! And I've saved around a grand on travel expenses. The glorious Oyster card can answer for this, but the simple ploy of staying in the UK a bit more is just as effective. Indeed, this summer I'm saving many thousands of pounds on the family holiday by choosing to spend it in Britain. Radical!

In summary, my expenses are around £4,500 lighter, which is very good indeed. Pat on head and gold stars all round. Although, of course, if one is being anal about these things, one should really spend more on tax-deductible expenses, not less. Any savings need to be on real costs, like eating out and childcare.

So, my newly slender accounts might mean that I will have an even more hideous tax bill than last year to face this Christmas. Penalised for spending less: it's a Gordian knot of irony.

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