Hard times turned me into my dad overnight

Derbyshire Times columnist Anna Melton
Derbyshire Times columnist Anna Melton

The news about Midlands Co-operative Society’s decision to close its Chesterfield department store really did feel like de ja vu.

I feel for every one of the employees – I’ve been there myself when I worked at a company that went into liquidation in 2011.

Receiving that kind of news is a bit like Princess Diana’s death – you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when you heard it. When the death-knell sounded for my former employer I was changing the dirty nappy of my newborn son.

From that point on, every spare second became focused on getting a new job. I became an expert in balancing a baby feeding from a bottle in one arm while job hunting on my laptop with my free hand.

With a new job not forthcoming and money starting to run out, my husband and I embarked on a period of extreme ‘belt-tightening’ as my mum and dad call it.

We’d gone from having two salaries, which we’d based our entire standard of living on – from the house and cars we bought to the food we ate and holidays we had, to having one that literally covered the household bills.

It brought back memories of my dad arriving home from work walking through the house counting: “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,” and then shouting upstairs: “There are six lights on in this house and no-one is in any of the rooms. Do you think I am made of money?”

Overnight I became my father – minus the beard – obsessed with saving money and cutting costs. Not shopping around for a better deal, impulse-buying clothes and over-purchasing food had cost me my ‘rainy day fund’ – as my mum and dad would call it – designed to help you out in the bad times, not for going on a tropical holiday!

As the job-hunting months went on, I really got into my super scrimper role.

I secretly liked (and still do) the fact I could conjure up an entire family meal from next to nothing. I became an eBay expert – buying and selling. Both sons’ birthday and Christmas presents were bought second-hand; my bargain of the year being a ride on car for my youngest that cost me more in petrol to go and collect from Nottingham than what I’d paid for it.

I changed insurers, energy and telecoms providers to save us hundreds and did online grocery shops to manage my weekly food bill and avoid the temptation to throw a new top, magazine or beauty product in the trolley.

Other cost-cutting efforts weren’t so successful; like my attempt to make granola, which the recipe promised to be ‘crunchy and golden brown – not like the pale, shop-bought stuff. And it’s cheaper too!’ Not mine – it was black (as I burnt it) and it had cost me in the region of £9 to make after I’d bought all the ingredients.

Luckily finances have improved but the super scrimper within me remains as committed as ever to the scrimping cause.

by Anna Melton