Rosie Millard: Thrifty Living

Leftovers in a Lidl bag - This must be a trip to remember
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The Independent Online

Spendthrift Janie and I are having a couple of macchiati in Carluccio's and discussing Judith Levine's best-seller Not Buying It - A Year Without Shopping. The question is, can you live without doing damage to your credit card - for a year? "She probably did it just to write a best-seller," points out Janie. "If she is really trying to quell the voracious consumer greed of America, why doesn't she just give the book away?"

We think about what you would do without shopping to leaven the balance of a day. "You'd probably have more sex," says Janie. Apparently a friend of hers is having an affair with a City banker. They are so smitten with one another's physical delights that they don't bother with dawdling around the Square Mile or, indeed, going to restaurants. They just gaze into each other's eyes, and then head straight for a frisky two-hour session at the Great Eastern Hotel by Liverpool Street Station, room price an eye-watering £315.

"Which in itself, is obviously shopping. As is going to the gym, as is paying the mortgage," continues Janie. "Actually, in the Capitalist West it is pretty hard to find anything to do which is without a balance transfer of some sort."

Oh, God. Don't speak to me about balance transfers. I have become so ferocious about transferring balances and not allowing the credit-card companies to slap even one day of interest on my "loans", that this week I managed to transfer something that had already been transferred onto something else, and am now in some vile balance-transfer web, involving £10,000 of credit and, obviously, an awful lot of debt.

But never mind all that. We are going away. Obviously, we are not following Janie to Barbados, or wherever she is headed. That's what comes of having a husband (as opposed to a lover) in the Square Mile. No, we are headed to a farmhouse in France, and doing it the Thrifty way, which as fellow Thrift-pickers will know is the interesting way. Our holiday will start at 2.30am when Mr Millard is going to put on his trainers and shorts and sound reveille for the family. Gathering around the Volvo, he will then drive us down to the station. Hey! We may be taking the nanny away with us but that doesn't mean we need to waste £20 on a minicab with crap suspension. He will then drive home, park the car and run back to join us in the pre-dawn air at City Thameslink. Hopefully he won't get mugged en route.

Reunited on the platform (or not, in which case we will have to leave him behind) we will board the 3.25am train to Gatwick. Yes, the milk, the mail and the Millards, together bound for the Surrey countryside. We are getting the 6am flight to Bordeaux because this was the cheapest one on that BA.com offer back in June. Back when the country was expecting a rain-drenched, cold summer and getting a £29 flight to France seemed like a great idea, no matter what time of day. Naturally, this means we will arrive in France before the nation has itself sounded reveille.

Once the car hire place has opened, we will then collect our vehicle, also booked via BA.com, which is great if you utilised beady-eyed focus on the small print. Which you will have done, since you are a balance transfer expert and thus experienced in the ways institutions wriggle out of Great Deals (pace Carphone Warehouse, Thrifty Living 29 July). You must make sure the quote includes local tax, collision damage waiver, theft protection, unlimited mileage and the vehicle registration fee. If it doesn't, you will be charged extra.

After this we will saunter around Bordeaux in a zombified state of sleep deprivation, eating half-cooked food scrounged from our fridge and brought over in a Lidl carrier (why waste it, after all?) before driving into the countryside of the Dordogne.

Ten days of self-catering heaven in the land of foie gras and snails then awaits us, along with my mother-in-law, who doesn't like garlic. And I am a vegetarian. Armed with last year's guide book, this year's recipe book and the sneaking suspicion that we will have an unremitting diet of baked beans on toast, I know it won't be long before we crumple, leave the kids with Granny and charge off, weeping with thrift-induced ketosis, to a Michelin-starred restaurant. There to do damage to the credit cards.

cashl@independent.co.uk

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