I circled them for weeks, possibly even months. The Gravity X Jeans – black, baggy, cool with a big X written on one of the back pockets. These were the same back pockets that were way down the legs so that I would be able to retrieve something from them – even while sitting down. Day after day, I visited them in the Rave Shop in the English Market. I’d missed out on Joe Bloggs Jeans and Naff Naff jackets, I wasn’t going to make the same mistake again
Gravity X were ‘swanky’ jeans so they cost a bit more than than the Penney’s efforts I usually subsisted on. They would be the most expensive trousers I’d ever bought. What was strange was that I’d already saved up the money – it was balled up in my tight little fist – but I was suffering from chronic Frugality Induced Pre-Purchase Anxiety. I fretted about spending all that money on one pair of jeans. Was I cool enough to wear them? One day I eventually decided I was.
Unfortunately I’d agonised for so long that by that stage baggy jeans had gone out of fashion to be replaced by combat trousers – and I was left standing outside Coachford disco trying to tuck baggy trouser-legs into the top of my Doc Martens.
Fast forward a decade-and-a-half and I’m plagued by the same ill-conceived frugality. In the supermarket we’re pondering the Ballymaloe. “Will we get this one?” “No,” I say squinting at the price label on the shelf. “Get the big jar, It’s 12 cent per kilo cheaper”
The big jar goes in the trolley. Never mind that we’ll never eat all that relish before the Use By date. Never mind that half of it will have to be thrown out because there’s penicillin growing on the top of it. At this moment in time, the sums say it makes economic sense.
During the boom years, it was a guilty secret to be thrifty. The prevailing wind was in the other direction. People were watching Nationwide on 80 inch TVs. Holy Communions resembled MASH as people hopped out of helicopters. The sliced pan was in danger of becoming extinct, to be replaced by artisan bread.
In supermarkets packaging made it difficult to go for the prudent option. Tesco Value, for example, in its sterile white, red and blue packaging leaves you in no doubt as to what it thinks of you if you buy it. “Oi, Colm!” it barks in an Essex accent “Get me into you, you slag! Ingredients? What do you care mate? Shovel this into your gob and sit back on the sofa and watch Jeremy Kyle.”
Tesco Finest seems to be more of a food consultant. It discretely whispers to you:
“If Sir would forgive me for being so bold, might I suggest myself as an option if Sir is considering a dinner party with soft lighting and interesting people and conversation about theatre and typeface, sean-nos and Sartre. While Genevive, Meánteistiméaracht and Julian are getting comfortable, they can dip me in some hummus.”
But the ‘careful with our money brigade’ were always there in the background. Tut-tutting the excesses, congratulating ourselves on our self-control. “Nothing at all wrong with making your own sandwiches, you’d get sick of focaccia too, you know?” as we saved our money for the deposit on a house that then halved in value.
Now emboldened by the economic malaise, parsimonious and patronising, the thrifts are out in force again – offering unwanted advice to our more carpe diem friends. There are a number of steps that you can take if you want to trim some fat from your budgets. Here’s my top five tips:
- If you have a child making their First Communion or Confirmation this year, just come clean with your own parents and finally admit that neither you or your child are actually a Catholic.
- White people – as a cheaper alternative to dreadlocks and cornbraids, consider not getting them at all. They look silly.
- iPhone fans – if you can’t afford the real thing, why not carry a small piece of shiny plastic around with you. Every so often take it out and rub it smugly.
- If you are at the self service till in the supermarket and the machine says “Unexpected Item in Bagging Area” smash it to pieces with a lump hammer. It will not save you any money but will make you a Champion of the People.
- Slightly strange 50-year old women – in order to save money on police protection, avoid putting a neighbour’s cat in a wheelie bin.
With Standard and Poor downgrading us again and fears of a double dip recession growing, the future is looking tight.