We're all broke, about to get even broker, and Christmas is just around the corner. Oh, and your friendly energy provider is about to hammer you with a bumper-sized gas bill just as the winter chill arrives. What comfort is there for the middle-income British family facing a startling 7 per cent drop in their spending power? Everywhere you look, experts are offering their "amazing" money-saving tips to help bring down your household costs, so let me add my suggestions, none of which involves vouchers:
Home entertainment First of all, ditch the Sky subscription. There's plenty of crass, over-commercialised programming on Freeview, and, besides, why shouldn't Rupert Murdoch feel the pinch, too? Agreed, having to watch ad breaks is a drag, but now you're almost penniless you just can't afford to miss the latest 2-for-1 deals being promoted by Sainsbury's and M&S.
Dining out You know window shopping? Try window dining. Get dressed up in your best heels and frock, then spend 10 minutes browsing the menu posted outside your favourite restaurant. Have a good gawk at the diners through the window, smile graciously at the bemused maître'd and walk away happily unencumbered with the bill. I did this last Sunday at the River Café and saved £170.
Shopping Elton John used to buy everybody he knew a watch from Cartier at Christmas time. Take a tip from the singer by taking up multi-buy deals at Tesco. Last week, due to a glitch on its tills, the retailer accidentally priced Terry's Chocolate Oranges at 29p instead of £2.75. One bargain-hunter is said to have snapped up 192 chocolate oranges for £56, a saving of £472. Mum, dad – I hope you like chocolate orange!
Energy Call the EDF customer hotline to find out about their basic tariffs. During the time you're left on hold – "due to the exceptional volume of calls we're experiencing" – switch off all non-essential electrical items in your home. You'll save a fortune in those hours.
Holidays If you were a self-styled "national treasure", you could simply approach an ITV commissioning editor and get yourself an all-expenses paid 12-part travelogue. Ditto, if you're a young lobbyist with powerful friends. The rest of us need to be more creative. Home swaps, rough camping, protest "occupations" and house arrest (don't knock it – did you see Julian Assange's accommodation?) are all cheap alternatives to a fortnight in Sardinia.
Next week: the brilliant online vouchers that save you £15 over a year at Pizza Express, provided you fill out a customer survey, buy the app, and can prove you eat a Sloppy Giuseppe twice a week.
* One of the best bargains in Hammersmith, where I live, is about to be pulled: the chance to see Rafael Nadal play for just £5. It's a deal given to locals living near the Queen's Tennis Club, and in June I was thrilled to be able to turn up and watch the Spaniard whacking the ball from the base line for under a tenner. Now Nadal has said he'll be skipping the Aegon Tournament, held at Queen's.
Instead, he'll play in Germany at Halle, not because they're paying him a fee ($750,000), but because he is taxed on sponsorship earnings when in Britain. "In the UK, you have a big regime of tax," Nadal complained last week. "They take from the sponsors, it is very difficult."
Earnings from Nike and Armani and the various watch companies that clamour to decorate his body have helped make him an estimated fortune of more than £50m. One watch brand paid him half a million to wear one of its products for a single match.
But Nadal, living in the amoral world inhabited by many sports stars, won't accept that the more you earn, the more you'll be taxed. Perhaps we won't miss him down my way next summer. It's difficult to regard anybody this ignorant and greedy as a hero.Reuse content