Thrifty Living: How to get your fair share of life's costly pleasures
Saturday 26 January 2008
It's all about sharing. That's what I said to one of the junior Millards as I whizzed him up the road to Cubs in my immaculate silver Streetcar Golf, which I'd hired from the mean streets of Islington for about the cost of a pizza. Two hours later, we returned "our" Golf to its bespoke parking spot, for the next user to whizz around N1 in. What a fantastic system.
I could have done even better if I'd planned properly beforehand and used the car to go to Sainsbury's while Cubs was ongoing, rather than having an indulgently enjoyable hour filleting the papers. As we know, true cost-cutting always means proper forward planning. However, at least I was sitting in my shared car enjoying myself, not fretting about petrol or car tax, both of which I have decided are thoroughly passé.
Marketing boffin Piers Brown has also decided that owning expensive things like the family Volvo is extremely dull. "Everyone is questioning the value of ownership these days. Unless you are one of the Roman Abramoviches of this world, what's the fun in owning something?" Brown, 35, has devoted his working life to showing us all how we can, ahem, plunder the good things of this world without having to be like Abramovich and cough up and own them in their entirety. How can this sleight of ownership be done? Dear thrift seeker, it is done by "fractionally" owning them.
Brown's innovation is www.fractionallife.com, a website with links to many others, all relating to the growing phenomenon of part-ownership. Fractional ownership allows you to dip into – and out of – a bit of something that you'd quite like to boast about having but don't really have the time, inclination, or frankly the cash, to buy outright. Classic cars was Brown's taster of the fractional world, but now his site can help people to buy a little bit of a variety of delights that are engaging, aspirational and basically bloody expensive.
Like what? Anything. A beach villa, a Porsche Boxster, a racehorse, a Gloucester old spot pig, even a handbag. Yes, handbags have gone fractional. Piers's portal can lead you to a site for women who don't feel right living without the latest Chloé or Mulberry creation swinging from their elbow, but lack the cash to update their collection. If you are such a woman, www.handbagsfromheaven.co.uk is for you. Why bother spending £400 when you can hire a nice chain-link, quilted creation for just £20 a week, and still have that delicious sense of channelling Victoria Beckham?
Of course, you may be above such things and know that what you've always wanted to own is a pig. You can choose a dear little rare-breed weaner (or piglet, to us urban types) from www.numberonepig.co.uk>, know that it's growing up with Old MacDonald on a happy, healthy diet of apples and... other things, and then buy half of it for your freezer for a mere £175. This works out at about £7 per porcine kilo. Yum yum.
"I think fractional living is quite appropriate now, what with the stock market crash," Brown opines. "Did you know, incidentally, that it was identified by J Walter Thompson as a trend to follow in 2008?"
I'm not surprised that the idea appeals to City types, because fractional buying is also about sharing an asset whose value might go down as well as up. All right, rented handbags and legs of pork don't fall into this category, but yachts and airplanes certainly do. Why bother with the risk of buying an expensive asset in its entirety when you can buy just a sliver and have the pleasure of using it on a regular basis, but neatly duck out of copping all the costs inherent in ownership? "Say you'd love to own a jet, but only part of it because the depreciation is so costly, as is the maintenance," Brown says. "You're much better off owning just a bit of it." There is also an investment angle, depending on what you fractionally own. "Some companies have a resell option, others don't."
Once you look into it, the market for shared posh stuff is rather large. You can take fractional ownership of a work of art, a helicopter, a case of wine – or, indeed, a boy band, with www.slicethepie.com, which matches new acts with investor-fans.
The overall notion sounds most engaging, particularly if you like the idea of living in a grand style (yes), but your financial needle is hovering just above empty (er, that's also a yes).
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