Thrifty Living: Can you imagine me camping? No, it's Tuscany or bust
Saturday 08 April 2006
So, the ubiquitous designer and trend-spotter Wayne Hemingway has told us that thrift is preferable to ostentation these days. He cites the equally ubiquitous Cath Kidston (she of the £65 bread bin) as evidence. Kidston has designed a tent in which everyone can go trendily camping. Very beautiful it is too, sprigged with flowers and available from Millets.
Well, I don't want to go camping this summer, I tell Mr Millard. I feel like stamping my foot and shouting: "I WANT TO GO TO TUSCANY!" I want heat, and proper tomatoes, and to stay in a villa with a pool. I'm happy to slum it, a bit. I'll do a bit of self-catering. But I do not want to sleep on a camp bed and eat off plastic plates. I do not want to fight with a Camping Gaz burner, or cut my finger on a tin of baked beans. I particularly do not wish to go camping in England on some ghastly wet campsite, with a communal toilet "block", even though I know this is the sensible option. And living within your means is all about being sensible, and planning ahead. We know this now.
My friend, Thrift Queen Laura, has triumphed over the whole holiday issue by buying her own wood in which to go camping. "What?" I shout at her. "Yes, well, I was given some money and we thought that rather than put it down for a deposit on a cottage in Southwold, which would be far too expensive, why not buy a wood?" she says. "So now we can go camping whenever we like." The wood is about three acres in area, in Kent. There's no running water and no buildings whatsoever, nor are any allowed, but there are trees and birds and, er, insect wildlife.
"What about going to the loo?" Loos - the unavailability of them - are my personal camping phobia. "Well, you go outdoors," says Laura equably. "It's amazing; we drive down and set up the tent, and the next morning we wake up in our own wood! And spend all day there. Just think about it."
I think about it, for about one second. Then I think how much nicer it would be to wake up somewhere like Forte Village in Sardinia where the service is so good that people come and lick the sleep out of your eyes every morning. Sadly, Forte Village costs thousands a week, so clearly the camping option is nearer the Millard reality.
Laura advises me to visit Tightwad Central, which has become her lifestyle guide. This American website (www.tightwad.com) does not look like something Wayne Hemingway would visit. Or Cath Kidston. Advertising itself as a site "dedicated to empowering people via personal economics", it is full of astonishing advice, like how to make a lamp out of a drink can, a tablespoon of corn oil and an old sock. "Perfect for camping," the site says. Another tip is to use liners from cereal packets as greaseproof paper for all that home baking we thrifty people do.
Then the site goes a bit bonkers. One idea is to pay tips in "unusual currency", which will apparently "save you money, and better motivate workers". It suggests $2 bills, which are out of circulation in the US but still legal tender. I suppose Scottish pound notes would do. But can anyone seriously imagine pulling that off? Just think: "Ah, thank you, garçon! This is for you," you say, putting a rustling bunch of one-ers into the hand of your hapless waiter. Once out of the restaurant you charge about laughing your head off, because you have saved a miserly fiver by conning the waiter out of a tip. No, I don't think so either.
However, as I am now hopelessly devoted to frugality, particularly if it means I can somehow still go to Tuscany, I plough on through Tightwad and am led to a picture of a terrifying-looking woman called Jonni McCoy, who gave up a career at Apple in San Francisco to be a SAHM (Stay At Home Mom) and learnt to live off 45 per cent of the family income. Her experiences led her to write the "best-sellers" Miserly Moms and Frugal Families, which Tightwad urges us to buy.
Well, now that Jonni is a millionaire thanks to millions of us thrifty mums buying her books, what I really want to know is: is she still living a thrifty lifestyle? Or has she dumped the tent and decided to go to Siena this year?
Here's Rosie's thrift tip. Cutting up all your credit cards is unrealistic, so keep just one. But make sure it never leaves the house with you.
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