With the world financial system collapsing around our ears, the media has been full of ways to cut back and economise. The problem is, after having had the breadwinner in the family on maternity leave three times in the last eight years and working part-time at some points in between, we've done most of the economising we can already. We don't have a car, we buy own-brand food, we've cleared our debt and we're on the one-from-bottom cable package.
The only obvious thing we haven't done, I suppose, is change energy supplier. This would probably save a little money in the short-term but we'd need to be prepared to swap again every few months to make a big difference on an on-going basis. Unfortunately, the chance of even one transfer going smoothly is pretty slim. I'd be trying to co-ordinate the efforts of the call-centres of two large companies. It would be bound to end in tears. Both companies would charge us for gas and neither would charge us for electricity, they'd send us lots of threatening letters, ignore our phone calls and then two teams of opposing engineers would turn up at the same time to cut off the power supply. They would fight it out in the driveway for the right to disconnect us, their cable pliers held aloft, gleaming in the dawn light, and their battle-cries waking the neighbours.
It's just not worth the hassle (nor the pile of wounded tradesmen outside the front door).
Nope, I really can't be bothered changing energy supplier, so that doesn't leave many new options for saving money. We'd have to start rationing chocolate biscuits or cancel the kids' swimming lessons.
Fortunately we're not at that stage yet. If anything, without any maternity-enforced penury recently, we're feeling more flush than we have for some time. While the rest of the world is suddenly counting pennies, we've emerged from the financial strains of small children but haven't yet reached the difficulties of designer trainers, expensive trips and university fees. We have the opportunity to splash out.
The last few weeks, while Marie has been in her gymnastics class, I've bought myself coffee.
Admittedly, it's not proper coffee - it's only the kind that costs 40 pence from a vending machine - but if you'll remember, I'm a guy who will walk a couple of miles in the rain to save a pound on the bus fare. Buying coffee goes against my nature. Every week I guiltily stick a couple of coins in the machine and then sit down and relax, free from children and unable to do chores, and I sip the coffee, delighting in the frivolous luxury and smiling to myself.
Some weeks the smile has a touch of grimace mixed in because the machine has failed to dissolve the granules in the hot water properly and left me chewing on raw coffee but it's still a pleasure.
You never know, maybe one day I'll buy myself a second pair of shoes...
Yours in a woman's world,