Doing without Paying too Much

Posted by in February's Magazine

We’re all still feeling the bite of the recession and the new austerity; TheTories are still in charge for a few months, and being thrifty is the thang. Not the thing. The thang. You can brag about how cheap that new coat from the charity shop was, how that bottle of Argentinian Sauvignon Blanc was in the clearance section at Tesco, how you managed to get a steal on some tickets from easyjet for a weekend in Berlin; “eating out is so reasonable there.”

What with the new recipes from the Guardian’s very own low-cost food blogger Jack Monroe to the fancy (but thrifty!) continental dishes I’ve never heard of (I’ll just pop to the supermarket for a half cup of fresh parsley, I’m sure the store won’t mind if I leave the rest and only pay 13p). Of course the average family has several slices of stale Poilâne bread lying around for a Panzanella salad. If not, some slices of a Tesco own brand loaf will do, right?



The middle classes are glamming up living poor, fancy terms for remaining in the UK for the holidays – the staycation, glamping – drip from tongues. Being luxuriously poor is officially in, yo! My contribution? I’ve looked around the internet, heard some people talk, and compiled a list of places, each being ranked by how acceptable faux poor they’ll make you seem in front of your equally faux poor pals. Who wants to do without things? Nobody! We just want to do without paying much. Let’s have at ‘em!

Apparently Lidl is trendy! The nerve. Ugh. I’ve been shopping there for years. The Christmas selection is to die for – Lebkuchen never tasted as good as when it’s £1.49 for a whole box. But now it’ll look like I’m trying too hard. Which is so weird. I haven’t actually seen this in action, just heard about it from people more in the know than I. Do trendy people walk around London carrying their baskets of cheap veg with their receipt sticking out of their Roberto Cavalli jeans? Will H&M start stocking t-shirts with Lidl’s logo on them? Maybe they’ll manage without such vulgar apparel now that they don’t have to want for their vintage wines, pine nuts and freshly baked bread – all of which Lidl stocks. They’ll be fine!

Sorry y’all, shopping at Waitrose just won’t cut it. I’ve heard stories told of how you really can shop at Waitrose for little. How it really is cheap, “I can do my weekly shop for as much as anywhere else, it’s true.” Really? No. It really isn’t. The Waitrose shopper who buys whatever their bargain range is called is delusional. Bargain Waitrose is over twice the price of everywhere else. You’re not fooling anyone, Abigail’s Party. Try again.

“Oh. You must have got that at Ikea.” When did getting reasonably priced furniture from Ikea become something to turn ones nose up at? IKEA is just making real everything Bauhaus, and a number of other famous historical design collectives, wanted: Well designed items accessible to all! What’s the problem? So what if everyone has the same white Expedit bookshelf. Didn’t Tony Blair teach you anything? It’s not the bookshelf; it’s what you put on the bookshelf that counts.

As well as how you photograph the bookshelf once you’ve styled it, and what filter you apply to your images, and what app you choose to disseminate your style choices through (Blair didn’t really have much to say on the last three). Ikea is much too common to be a good bargain choice. If you really want to wow it has to be freecycle, just choose to omit how you got your new pieces home when recounting your free furniture adventure to your friends. (“Man with a van, how much did that cost?”). Of course the ne plus ultra of a story would be finding something in a skip and dragging it home.

Charity Shops
Ugh, don’t bother. Do you know what charity shops say to me? They say, “I have so much time on my hands I can happily spare a few hours sorting through racks in a charity shop for this second hand dress, originally from Primark. And what a bargain at £4.99!” No. For real second hand chic try the boot sales – it proves you don’t have time for wondering round charity shops when they’re open because you’re working so hard your only day off is Sunday

So yeah, rock up to a car boot sale on Sunday morning, you can even let it slip that you are working from home in the afternoon. Then, why not treat yourself to a take away café renversé from some fancy coffee store (because you’re worth it), as an added bonus, Greggs is usually shut on a Sunday so you have your ready made artisanal beverage excuse lined up in case you meet anyone you know.

Twitter: @reddotbluedot

Illustration: Jessica Taylor

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