With just a week to go before I leave my salaried job, my thoughts have turned to our household economy. I will have to find ways of saving money.
This idea does not upset me. In fact I am looking forward to the challenge. Ever the optimist, I anticipate that I will find an upside to enforced frugality. Already I have become addicted to a certain cut-price supermarket chain whose cheap goods have an appealing exoticism. My weekly shop now feels like a lightning tour of mainland Europe. It is exciting to pick up a product which lists its ingredients in 20 different languages. It is refreshing to see that the manufacturer has not assumed that English is more important than the other, showing a sort of inverse imperialism.
Poring over the supermarket till receipt, I am reminded of a conversation with my grandmother who, in preparation for my grandfather’s retirement, was rehearsing aloud to me one day the economies that she planned to make.
“I will use two sheets of lavatory paper instead of three,” she confided.
Even then, at the age of 8, I was impressed by the elegant simplicity of this solution. At a stroke, Grandma had sliced a third off her future toilet tissue budget. This logic could be rolled out right across her storecupboard. Sharing a teabag between two mugs instead of allocating one each will halve your tea costs. A level teaspoon of sugar instead of a rounded cuts a quarter off. Substitute sherbet pips for sherbet lemons – my goodness, on a one-to-or one basis, you are talking about an 80% saving at least.
I have always wondered why climate campaigners don’t adopt this sensible system for saving energy. If only everyone would just use less power, there’d be no need to do battle over controversial wind turbines or nuclear power plants. It just takes a little effort and imagination. There would be unexpected benefits too. Turn off the lights while you’re watching television, for example, and you’d gain the atmosphere and excitement of a cinema. Add a box of popcorn (home- made, of course, for a matter of pence – and healthy into the bargain), and you’re set up for a very cheap and environmentally-friendly evening in.This system would work equally well with fuel. Instead of keeping the usual three lamps on in the dining room, turn on only two – hey presto, a third off your dinner-time lighting bill. Use an inch less water in the bath, and you’ve got a 10% cut but you’ll still be just as clean.
I am therefore ready to embrace this economy business wholeheartedly. At least, until my husband emerges from the bathroom that I’ve just stocked with multilingually-labelled toilet paper (10 rolls for £1, what a bargain!) “I hope you’re not economising on toilet paper?” he pleads, a pained look on his face. And I haven’t even told him yet that he’s only allowed two sheets.