OK. Don’t panic. Don’t panic. I’ve got five minutes fifty-two seconds before my basket expires. That’s loads of time! All I have to do is quickly find one more item to bump up my total to £75 so I’ll get free delivery.
Come on, Becky. You can find something.
I’m scrolling down the BargainFamily site on my computer screen, feeling like a NASA operative keeping cool under unspeakable pressure. The onscreen timer is in my peripheral vision, ticking down steadily beneath a heading that reads, Your Basket Will Expire Soon! But you can’t give in to timer fear when you’re shopping on discount sites. You have to be strong. Like tungsten.
Shopping has really changed for me over the years. Or maybe I’ve changed. The days when I was a single girl, living in Fulham with Suze and going round the shops every day, seem ages ago now. Yes, I used to spend too much. I’ll freely admit it. I’ve made mistakes. Like Frank Sinatra, I did it my way.
(Except “my way” involved stuffing Visa bills under the bed, which I bet Frank never did.)
But I’ve learned some important lessons, which have genuinely changed the way I go about things. Like, for example:
1.I don’t use carrier bags anymore. They used to be my biggest joy in life. Oh my God, the feel of a new carrier bag . . . the rope handles . . . the rustle of tissue paper . . . (I still sometimes go and swoon over my old collection at the back of the wardrobe.) But now I use a bag for life instead. Because of the planet and everything.
2.I’m totally into ethical shopping. It’s like a win-win! You get cool stuff and you’re being virtuous.
3.I don’t even spend money anymore. I save money.
OK. So obviously that’s not exactly, actually, literally true. But the point is, I’m always looking for a good deal. I see it as my responsibility as a parent to procure all the items that my family needs, at the most cost-effective prices possible. Which is why BargainFamily is the perfect place for me to shop. It’s all reduced! Designer labels and everything!
The only thing is, you have to be a fast shopper, or else your basket expires and you have to start again. I’m at £62.97 already, so all I need is another item around 12 quid. Come on, quick, there must be something I need. I click on an orange cardigan, £13.99, RRP £45, but when I zoom in, I see a horrible lacy border.
No, I bought a white shirt last week (100 percent linen, £29.99, RRP £99.99. I must remember to wear that, actually).
I click on my basket to double-check on what I’ve already got, and a pop-up window bursts forth, announcing, You’ve Saved £284 Today, Becky!
I feel a flash of pride as I survey my items. I’ve saved a whole £284! I’ve got an adorable bunny rabbit dressing gown for Minnie and a fantastic DKNY jacket, down from £299 to £39.99 in clearance, and a huge rubber ring shaped like a flamingo, which we can use next time we go on holiday.
And OK, yes, I could theoretically check out now and pay £5.95 for delivery. But that’s not prudent. I’m not a former financial journalist for nothing; I know these things. It’s far more economically sound to find yourself something else that you need and get the free delivery.
Come on, there must be something. Tights? Everyone needs tights.
Oh, but I’m always bumping up orders with tights. I have so many black opaques, they’ll last me till I’m 105. And those tartan-patterned ones I clicked on last week were a big mistake.
I click on Homewares and scroll down the items quickly. Silver antelope sculpture, was £79.99, now £12.99? Hmm, not sure. Scented candle? Oh God. No. I can’t buy another one. Our whole house is like one big scented candle. In fact, Luke said the other day, “Becky, is there any chance of buying a candle called Fresh Air?”
I’m just squinting at a bread bin shaped like Big Ben when a pop-up appears in front of my eyes—Your Time Is Running Out, Becky!—and my heart jumps in fright.
I wish they wouldn’t do that. I know my time is running out.
“I know!” I hear myself saying out loud. “Don’t stress me out!”
Just to reassure myself, I click back on my basket again—and my heart stops. The flamingo ring is sold out!
Noooo! I was too slow! Argh. The trouble with discount websites is, you can’t see the people snatching bargains away from you. Now my heart really is thumping. I’m not losing my jacket, nor Minnie’s dressing gown. I need to fill this basket and check out, pronto.
“Mummeee!” Minnie’s voice hails me from outside the door, immediately followed by Luke saying, “Minnie! Darling, leave Mummy alone when she’s doing her mindfulness. Sorry, Becky,” he calls through the door. “Didn’t mean to disturb you.”
“Er . . . that’s OK!” I call back, feeling a tiny stab of guilt.
I know Luke thinks I’m sitting here peacefully doing my mindfulness meditation. And I was. In fact, it’s still running in the corner of the screen, so in a way I am doing it, except I turned the volume down so I could concentrate on shopping.
It’s become a bit of a routine, my mindfulness. I come into the study and turn on the meditation and it keeps me mentally well balanced. And just occasionally I log on to a shopping site too.
The thing is, the stock on the BargainFamily site changes every day, so it makes sense to check out Deals of the Day. Minnie needs a new dressing gown, so I started with that—and then how could I not buy a DKNY jacket for £39.99? I mean, that’s an insanely good bargain and it’ll last me forever. Which meant that obviously I had to add some other items to get the free delivery. That’s when I turned down the volume of the mindfulness guy. He’s nice, but he’s a bit serious and he distracts you from the task at hand.
Anyway, shopping is mindfulness, if you ask me. I’ve forgotten about all my other worries right now. I’m in the moment. I’m in the zone.
I glance at the timer and my stomach flips over. Two mins thirty-four before my basket expires. Come on, Becky . . .
Hastily, I click on Accessories. That’s the answer. You can’t have too many accessories, can you? And I could always give one as a present.
I swiftly scroll down a page of boring clutch bags, weird hats, and nasty-looking gold necklaces. Every time a page loads, I feel a burst of optimism, but then my spirits fall. There’s nothing. What’s wrong with me? Am I that fussy?
I’m starting to think I’ll have to admit defeat and pay the delivery charge for the first time in my life, when the next page loads. And something catches in my throat. Can that be . . .
Are my eyes playing tricks on me?
I’m staring at a turquoise printed gossamer silk scarf. Surely it can’t be . . .
Denny and George? On BargainFamily? Seriously?
Blinking in disbelief, I read the description. Silk scarf, was £239, our price £30.
Thirty quid for a Denny and George scarf? Thirty quid?
I scroll down and there are two more underneath. All 100 percent silk. All stunning. All Limited stock. Shit. I need to hurry!
Without pausing to consider further, I start clicking. Buy. Buy. Buy. View Basket. Check Out. I feel like a virtuoso pianist, hitting all the right notes, on top of her game. And I’ve made it with twenty seconds to spare! My basket is intact! My credit-card details are stored; this should take no time. . . .
Your password is not secure.
A pop-up has stopped me in my tracks, and I stare at it breathlessly. What’s the problem now? I peer at the screen, reading the rest of the message.
Would you like to change your password? We suggest C?/x887dau.
I bet they do. Well, they can just sod off. My password is fine. Carefully, I type in Ermintrude2 and click a final Complete.
I lean back in my chair, panting as a new message appears on the screen. Congratulations! You saved £879 today!
I mean, it just shows. A penny saved is a penny earned, which means I’ve effectively earned £879. In one online shopping session! If I made that every day, it would be . . . I shut my eyes, trying to calculate. Well, anyway, a six-figure salary. I think sometimes Luke doesn’t appreciate this fact about me: that I’m quietly generating our family thousands of pounds, all the time.