Rosie Millard: Thrifty Living It's impossible to break up with a finance company

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The Independent Online

The experts still try it on, though. "Of course we can cancel your card," says the woman from the Halifax smoothly when I call her to break the bad news. "But I must tell you that senior management has put you forward for a promotional rate loan." As if I've just been nominated for the Orange Prize. "What's the duration?" I say, cautiously. Sensing victory, she nears her quarry. "It's tailor-made for you," she purrs. Now that's a phrase almost as meaningless as its partner in cliché, namely "bespoke".

Let us focus on the £28,000 still bouncing around on three cards, one of which is going to come out of 0 per cent purdah in August. I know: it makes you feel good just to read about it. I suppose a loan could go down well with Anne, my bank manager. So, come on, spill the beans, what's the promotional rate? Please make it 0 per cent. Please. Go on. I know you can. "It's 6.9 per cent," the honey-toned woman says. What? Are you kidding? "No thank YOU," I say, and hang up.

But not before confirming that my Halifax One account has been closed. For good. Banks and credit card companies take note of all the current cards you possess. Your credit rating is based, to a certain extent, on how many of the blighters are in your wallet. Recently I have been attempting to close down a roster of cards I opened in the 1990s, including something called Cahoot.

I have never used this account. If I ever had any Cahoot details, I lost them ages ago. Yet Cahoot will not allow me to shut up shop. The head of Cahoot has probably put an indelible stain on my credit rating, I imagine. In fact, I became so frustrated that I e-mailed him the other day, in CAPITAL LETTERS, which in e-mail speak is akin to having a full-scale office tantrum. CLOSE DOWN THIS CARD!!! I ordered.

"Oh, no, Miss Millard," comes Cahoot's silken response. "In order for us to operate effectively, you must first write to us on lavender-scented paper, enclosing your passport, a 25-digit PIN code, your 35-digit card number, the expiry date of your blood group and the bar code on your library ticket." Or something like that.

I hate these cards. Apparently they even have a specially invented vocabulary so that you don't spot all the mantraps they are setting for your finances.

Maybe I am just too soft to be a person whose account is never overdrawn. Last night, I was pinned down by someone called Susan at an exhibition at which I was giving one of the opening speeches. After my witty oration, Susan came up to me. Sadly, she was not about to tell me how much she enjoyed it. "Your finances are in disarray," she pointed out."Do you do 0 per cent finance cards?" Er, yes, I do, I mumbled. "Good. I myself have three of them, with £10,000 on each. Do you put away money each month for savings?" Uh-huh, I nodded, to my fiscal Lady Bracknell. "Well, where else are you going wrong?" she demanded. I shrugged haplessly, scanning for Mr Millard so I could bring him into the fray, and blame him. "These are my tips for you," she continued. "No taxis. No eating out. No new clothes. Lots of free wine at exhibitions."

I returned home from this bruising encounter to find a charming letter from a Mr Richard Gregory who lives in financial contentment in Suffolk. Apparently he used to have "a fairly steady and considerable overdraft". Until? "It has been my great fortune to meet and marry an extremely competent lady who has overseen my economic affairs," says Mr Gregory.

Apart from the fabulous fortune of wedding this financial wizard, he now keeps his account in the clear thanks to two habits, namely a) bringing home-made food and G&T onto easyJet and b) using a commission-free Nationwide card at cash points when abroad. Great. So all I need to do is marry someone else, never hail taxis and carry a bottle of Gordon's with me. Then I'll be very well off.

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