For those living on the poverty line #ThriftyLiving is a necessity not a lifestyle choice

How much is your electricity bill?

How much is your electricity bill? - Credit: Getty Images/Hemera

I cannot lie. I bounded down the stairs with something approaching delight when the doorbell rang to announce the arrival of the oven repair man.

As with so many areas of life, you don’t miss something until it’s gone and after the heating element blew, my oven had, to all intents and purposes, gone.

Seven oven-less days were enough for me and I have to admit I celebrated its return immediately in the best way possible - by treating myself to a bowl of oven chips. In that moment I couldn’t have cared less that it costs around £3 a week to use an oven for just an hour a day. I deserved those chips.

But after the last salty fry had been eaten and the oven knob firmly returned to the off position, I began to regret my decadence. I had betrayed my thrifty aspirations. Hadn’t I pledged, only days ago, that I was going to use my oven a little more cleverly once it was fixed? Wasn’t I going to have several oven-free days a week and cook at least two meals at a time (saving one for another day) when it was on?

Actually, I soon realised, there were even bigger issues at play here. Last week, after reading about the cost of using various electrical items (fridge freezer 30p a day, PC 7p an hour...), I realised just how much money I was throwing away: leaving the landing light on at night time, running the dishwasher before it was completely full and yes, using the oven more than I needed. It all adds up. But what if it was more than this, as it is for thousands of households across the UK? What if it was a choice between heating my home and eating? What if I was in fuel poverty?

Living a little more thriftily is, for me, an ideal, a way of trying to live a little less wastefully, saving a little more money and treading a little more lightly on the planet.

And, I realised in that moment of post-chip decadence, the irony is that in many ways it’s a lot easier to do that the more money you have. Money gives you options.

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At a very basic level, people on the lowest incomes are often on pre-payment meters - one of the more expensive ways of buying electricity, they often live in poorly insulated homes and perhaps only have access to less efficient forms of heating.

For them, it’s not about living thriftily. It’s about financial and perhaps even physical survival.

Moving up the scale, what if you wanted to save money on fuel bills and help the planet by installing solar panels? You’d have to find up to £10,000 to install them and that’s if you owned your own home. If you’re renting, I guess you’d have to forget it.

All that in a week of publicity about the growing gap between rich and poor and how the top 1% of the population own an increasing percentage of the country’s wealth. It doesn’t mean I’m going to abandon my thrifty goals. If anything, it means I should redouble my efforts. And eat fewer oven chips.

Share your money-saving tips on twitter, using #ThriftyLiving, email sheena.grant@eadt.co.uk

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