Day 43: The Yo-Yo Diet

“Shopaholic”, I hear you cry, “have you gone on a diet?”. Well, my friends, in a way. It occurred to me earlier that this cut-back exercise is quite like a diet in some respects; a self imposed restriction on things I like.


Given the similarities, are there lessons I can learn from yo-yo dieters, without making the mistakes myself?

The yo-yo cycle often occurs because dieters are so strict with themselves at the start. The effort is so extreme that is is completely impossible to sustain.


Likewise, I found my sudden halt in spending pretty tough, and have a longing for some former favourites. I miss flicking through a magazine, buying into the latest trend, enjoying a large glass of Chilean Merlot on a Friday night. It’s oh-so-tempting to slip back into old habits.

Initially, dieters feel great; they’re looking forward to the weight loss, and they’re proud of themselves for shunning the sugar. As time crawls along, though, it seems harder to sustain. Tired and fed up, they reach for a pick-me-up: food.
Again, I relate to the experience; I felt very self-satisfied with my initial budget-slashing, and looked forward to watching the debt diminish and the savings stack up. When I passed the first thirty day marker, still in debt and still running a deficit, my motivation wavered. I felt like reaching for my equivalent of the dieter’s chocolate bar: the shops.

So, having failed, and feeling upset, the dieter eats more and more until they regain the weight they lost (and usually a bit more).

And here’s the lesson. Now that the initial excitement has passed, and I am in the humdrum period of living with less, how do I ensure I do not slip backwards?
Already I’ve clocked myself casually buying tea at Pret-a-Manger and “forgetting” my packed lunch. It’s so easy to forget how quickly all those “little extras” used to kill off my cash.

Perhaps the trick is to treat myself with non-monetary rewards. Here are a few of my practically free treats:
1) Time spent relaxing is pretty cheap; a candle-lit bubble bath, chilling out in front of the TV, doing the crossword and listening to the radio are all pretty much free, and are all amongst my favourite things to do!
2) Living in one of the most hectic cities in the world is fantastic, but escaping to the country is a retreat, and another cheap thrill. Just looking at the sky and the stars, listening to the birds sing or breathing in the heady fresh air all make such a difference; I know it sounds clichéd and trite, but it’s true.
3) Unfortunately for the real yo-yo dieter, food is a great pleasure, and as I’ve learned, doesn’t have to be expensive to taste delicious and be nutritionally balanced.

“Joy” comes in all kinds of guises, and what qualifies for my list won’t necessarily be on yours. One thing’s for sure, though. Having a few reliable freebies on the list, whatever they may be, certainly helps the shopaholic to cut back!

Thanks for reading,


Day 31: The Acid Test


This is the acid test.

Consider these facts. For one month I have (unlike a usual month) bought no DVDs, books, magazines or newspapers. I have not once eaten out, or been out for drinks. I have cut down on buying drinks (tea/water) when out and about. I have cut my rent by £175/month. For half of the month all of my food was paid for by the company. For the two weeks when I paid for my own food, I made my meals from scratch, rather than buying ready meals; I took packed lunches to college. I have not been to the theatre or cinema, etc, at all. Not once have I bought cosmetics, accessories, etc.

So, what do you reckon, have I managed to live within my means, and not get overdrawn?

Made up your mind?

Well, the answer is: No, not this time, I’m afraid.

And here’s how it happened. . .

The Wicked One-Offs

There were a couple of “unfortunate incidents” this month. For one, my super-efficient, low-emission, congestion-charge-free car. . .

Rosa, my car

. . .scored a spectacular own-goal by racking up a £60 congestion charge fine, which was exacerbated by a £30 “admin fee” to my company car organisers. Yes, you read that correctly; “congestion-charge-free” and “[£90] congestion charge fine”. That’s because, somewhere in the need-a-magnifying-glass-to-see-it small print, TFL informs those who can hunt down the terms and conditions, that even congestion-charge-free cars have to pay £10 annually for a congestion charge exemption. Otherwise you still get the fine. Ouch.

The second annoyance involves my downsizing to a smaller room. In order to do this, I’ve enlisted my wonderful Superman of a friend, Dan, to come and help me move. I’d never be able to move beds, bookcases and chests of drawers without him. Nevertheless, there are a few unavoidable, one-off costs of moving.

The Awful Annuals

Unfortunately, this was also a harsh month for annual payments. My resident’s parking permit was £65, and the television license we finally got around to paying was £48.50 each.

Less awful is the £12 I shelled out for the NUS card, which often gives me a discount of 10% in shops, and which easily pays for itself.

£10 annual congestion charge fee exemption. See above. Grump, grump.

Queasy Quarterlies

Isn’t it horrible when the gas bill lands on the doormat? Especially over the winter months. Fortunately, having just survived the British summer, the gas and electricity bill wasn’t too scary. Nevertheless, it’s another £44.83 to add to the pile.

The other quarterly I paid for this month was a haircut, which I bought a voucher for, at £29.00, and which I hope to use in late October.

The Miserable Monthlies

It’s this category where the costs stack up at an eye-watering rate.

Rent, at the new, lower level is still nearly £500.

My travel-card came to £135.50, because in addition to the three weekly passes I had to buy to get to college, I also had some weekend travel, which meant topping up my Oyster card with a large bank note.

Next on the list are council tax (£58 per month) and my gym membership (£51).

I pay £33 for my mobile phone, and £10 for the landline and internet. I have a monthly prescription, which is £7.65 a pop.

Petrol, net of reimbursements from work, came to £80 this month. I’m paid a pittance for my petrol expenses. This is for several reasons; firstly, due to the efficiency of my car. Secondly, reimbursements simply aren’t keeping up with increasing fuel prices. Lastly, as I lease rather than own my car, I am remunerated for petrol only, and not depreciation or anticipated repairs and maintenance.

Add to these fixed costs a variable amount for food, depending on whether I’m away with work, and for how long.

The Rest

Until our new housemate moves in, I’ve covered her portion of the television license (£40). Of course, this only impacts on my budget in terms of the month’s cash-flow; overall I’ll be no worse off.

A couple of things I’ve already mentioned in the blog: a couple of bargain Christmas presents and the costs of renovating an old desk, as well as buying a water bottle, to save money on bottled mineral water.


So, Shopaholic still has a LOT of Cutting Back to do to really earn her stripes . . .


As always, suggestions are very welcome. Click the “Help!!” tab in “The Learning Curve” at the top of the page.


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