Rosie Millard: Thrifty Living

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The Independent Online

They get no better, my travails with my finances. They even went vaguely global this week. En route to Italy for a business meeting, I decided to draw some euros on my MasterCard at Stansted airport. I know, the punishing interest-rate on credit-card cash withdrawals makes this a stupid habit, but needs must. And my bank card was out of bounds, due to various ructions in my current account caused by quite reasonable things such as a VAT bill and the purchase of a £4,000 sculpture for our kitchen. Well, everyone has their weak spots.

So imagine my surprise when my Mastercard is rejected, and not even by a machine but by the nice man at a Bureau de Change. At exactly the same moment my card is being handed back to me, my bank manager Anne calls urgently to discuss my current account. "I can't speak to you now," I say emotionally, heading towards Gate 30 with exactly zero funds, in any currency. On the transit train, I work out a plan of action. It's nothing original. I think the best approach is just to go with the flow. I call Anne and give her this plan of action. It calms her down for about one minute.

On board my Ryanair jet, I realise I'm starving. Problem. All food on Ryanair has to be paid for with cash. Well, let's give the MasterCard another chance. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

"A cheese sandwich and some Pringles, please, and do you take Mastercard?" I ask the steward innocently. "We do," he says. Yippee. We exchange. I get the sandwich, he the troubled Mastercard. "I'll give it back at the end of the flight," he says. Excellent plan. If I eat the sandwich really quickly, it doesn't matter whether the card gets through or not, because I'll have eaten the evidence. Which I do. And the Pringles.

The steward reappears. "Just sign this," he says. All's well. Let me tell you, there's nothing like the challenge of travelling across the Continent with precisely no cash to give your inner chi a good boost.

Actually, this was exactly the right mindset to take to Italy. I'm meeting John Parkin, an English former advertising executive who has set up a new-age style business in Le Marche. It transpires he has a rather new-age approach to money. "I just say, 'F*** It,'" he says. Sorry? Yes. That's it. F*** It.

He's even written a book about it. According to Parkin, a F*** It rationale is fairly hardline, but is essentially as follows: "Have no judgement around money, and leave things just as they are. Because money is just an abstract means of exchange." The F*** It approach is thus: "Just shake your head and say, 'Oh F*** It.'" Via this simple technique, you'll release yourself from all tension about money.

How should we think about filthy lucre, then? "Just envisage it as a process of exchange for value. You do something the world values, and the world gives you something for it. The better you are at something, the more you will be given for it," says my guru, as we weave around a series of vertiginous hairpin bends near Urbino.

Yes, but what about nurses, or teachers, or people who do things brilliantly but are not given much back in exchange? Parkin shrugs. "If you have no money, say 'F*** It' and enjoy life as it is." Hmm. I'm not sure I can realistically envisage having this conversation with Anne at the Clydesdale, but we press on.

"I'm a great believer in circulation of money," continues Parkin, as we career around a precipice. "When there's relaxation, things flow. It's the same with money. If you stop being uptight about money, you may well start to spend more, invest more and be more generous. And this gets the flow going. You'll tend to find that more money then starts to come your way. Essentially, by spending more money, you will find you will make more money."

I nearly fall out of the car, I'm laughing so much. My dear Parkin! Spending money is what I've been doing for 20 years. And up to this moment, I have found that any "circulation" around my bank account has been distinctly one way. Frankly, it's more of a drain than anything else.

Equally, I am doubtful that uttering profanities to my never-shrinking debt mountain will do anything other than make me feel foolish. No, I don't need swear words. I need Thrift, and hard cash. But what can I exchange in order to get the circulation flowing back my way?

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