Thrifty Living: In with horse shampoo, out with hot trousers

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The Independent Online

God, it's hard to whittle down debt. It's almost as grim as dieting. And it's the first weekend of a long month. However, I stop thinking about the £47,000 elephant in my living room via instant gratification, by visiting my Other Bank. My Other Bank is a financial institution in a land far, far away from Debtland. In it is a clutch of secret accounts. They have standing orders. Weekly standing orders. They have personal identities. Mr Tax and Ms VAT are two. Nanny Tax is another. Rainy Day is a fourth. Effectively, they are the Four Horsemen of Financial Recovery and exist to protect me from things arriving via the post and hitting me in the financial solar plexus. Even the experts say they are the way forward.

"Each time you make a savings deposit, you will be backing away from the edge, and that feels so good," writes Mary Hunt in The Complete Cheapskate, my current favourite read. Mary Hunt is America's female answer to the wondrous Alvin Hall. She offers thrift tips both from the crashingly obvious (try state schools for your children rather than forking out for ruinously expensive private education), to the bizarre (Orvus horse shampoo will bring your "holiday sweater" back to shop-fresh softness). These gems are woven thorough an array of financial case studies that all resolve in a life of happiness and credit. (Apart from one scary paragraph, which kicks off by admitting, "Some financial situations are beyond repair.")

Anyway, according to Mary, I have acquired a "life-changing tool", thanks to my secret accounts. Looking at them renders me a bit internet-Scrooge, I know, but I have faith that these life-changers will save me from the taxman. Or, indeed, the nanny's taxman. Our lovely nanny, from whom I'm forever cadging fivers (well, actually, twenties) has more spending money than I do. She's constantly popping out to Waitrose to buy top-up groceries. I can't possibly ask her not to. It's just too embarrassing.

"You can only stop your nanny buying posh food by planning all your meals right through the week," says my mate, the gorgeous Rachel, who is coincidentally also staring a £12,000 overdraft in the eye. She urges me to sit down every Sunday night and make a meal plan. I tell her about thrift queen Laura and her four separate meals from a chicken, and her latest, which is four separate meals from a lamb. "Wow. How does she manage that?" asks Rachel, with the sort of vocal thrill we used to use for discussing hot trousers at Topshop, or hot dates at the youth club. What has happened to us? We are now all facing 40 and the unspeakable prospect of being overdrawn all our lives. Something has to give, and that is hot trousers at Topshop. "Roast it with lentils," I say. "Then mince the remainder and use for spag bol one day and lasagne the next. Finally, use the rest of it to make meatballs. Apparently there is a good recipe in Nigella." We both fall about at the idea of Mrs Saatchi grappling with a debt of £47,000, but then everything is relative.

I tell her about The Complete Cheapskate. "Have you tried flylady.com?", asks Rachel, referring to the cult life-organisation website.

I click on to flylady.com and I'm plunged into a whirl of advice on stain removal, tidy hallways and getting dressed in the morning. Everything involves a lot of Post-it notes. Clearly, life learning is the new black and flylady herself a zillionaire. I then spend the next five minutes in a spin of despondence, wishing I had thought of flylady.com, or indeed, had written The Complete Cheapskate. My mother calls, full of the joys of spring. Well, if I'd just spent a week in Morocco within sight of the High Atlas, I'd be chirpy. "There's a whole thing about Britain's bargain boom in the papers, darling," she says. "Looks as if everyone is following your advice and shopping at Leedle." It's Lidl, I tell her, sulking. I read the article. I then look at my e-mails, which consist of various urgent missives from my French banker, Yves, who tells me I am still credit interdit, and one from flylady.com, which advises me to go and sort my laundry.

Rosie's thrifty tip: We are officially in spring. You can therefore treat taxis with disdain.

cashl@independent.co.uk

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