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There's No Need to Turn the Clock Back to Save Money ; Thrifty Living

Jan 12, 2007

By Rosie Millard

HOORAH AND triple hoorah. Two interesting things arrive in the post (NB Tip #456, get used to using snail mail, it is cheaper and more time-efficient than long phone calls). Firstly, a letter to say my parking ticket appeal worked! Thank you, gracious Islington Council, for seeing my point of view (Tip #457, always, always appeal if you think you have a tiny chance of getting away with it). The letter said I could send a response, so I did. Congratulating the council on its fair-mindedness. Brown-nose, I know, but there is probably a Millard file of parking misdeeds in the Town Hall and it doesn't do to be impolite.

The second thing is a copy of Martin Lewis's (aka Mr new book, Thrifty Ways for Modern Days. As he explains, this book is not written by him, but is a compilation of "handy hints on living better for less" from the community who regularly tap advice and info on to his website. As Lewis explains, it's not quite how he lives his life (because, naturally, he has no debts to pay off).

"Money-saving new style is my thing," he says. Meaning what? "Cutting your bills without cutting back." Not changing your lifestyle, this is more about changing your mortgage provider, reorganising your house and car insurance and setting up direct debit payments on your zero-interest-rated credit cards. It's not a bad policy; I managed to save more than [pound]1,000 last month simply by changing my car insurer. Anything, essentially, that you can get an electronic hook into you can probably get done cheaper elsewhere, by searching on the net. And is no bad place to start.

But this book is old style. Forget credit card balance transfers; this is about bunging economy cola down your loo. It makes for rather engaging reading, I have to say. "If you're stumped for what to make from the contents of your fridge, check out - type in the ingredients and it comes up with a list of recipes."

Cookingbynumbers is a site written by someone called Tom Tuke- Hastings, who appears to be an expert on making vodka jelly. Encouraged by this, I click on a description of foodstuffs which are in my fridge, namely apples, lemons, butter, eggs and salad. I hope I might be guided to something like the River Cafe lemon and apple cake, a delicious invention half way between a souffle and a sponge, but no. Tom Tuke-Hastings thinks I can make - mushroom omelette. Hmm.

Back to the thrift guide, which by now is busily telling me to banish onion smells from my hands by rubbing them on the back of a ladle, and to use my old knickers as floor cloths.

Of course what old style thrift relies upon, firstly, is a huge amount of time to devote to the cause. In a way, this is true of many money-saving devices; clearly walking somewhere is going to take a bit longer than blowing a fiver on a cab, but I quail at the notion of old-style savings achieved by "running up" my own clothes, or fiddling around with olive oil and sugar rather than opening a yummy tube of Clarins hand cream, or making a rug from carpet samples patched together with gaffer tape. Or saving offcuts of wood from making shelves (when? how?) and turning them into coat hangers. When you can buy a whole bundle from Ikea for about 30p.

Secondly, I think old-style thrift is tapping into something other than just pure economis-ing, and that is a general despair with modern life itself. Fixing a squeaking door by rubbing a candle stub over the hinges, rather than simply using a squirt of WD-40 is not overtly thrifty, it's retrograde in the extreme.

And I fear, fellow thrift seeker, if you decide to wrench your life around to the confines of this book, you are bound to drive your friends and family mad, running up shelves and refusing to throw anything away in case it could be made into a coat hanger. That is, if everyone you live with hasn't been admitted to hospital having broken their legs falling down the stairs (because you have dusted them with talcum powder, which is meant to stop squeaks) or their wrists, thanks to tripping over your rug sourced from carpet samples and gaffer tape.

I'm with Martin Lewis on this. Give me a zero per cent balance transfer any day.

(c) 2007 Independent, The; London (UK). Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.

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