Why I’m Richer for Being Poorer

The joy of making do.

Who’d have thought that scrimping and saving and eating leftovers could be rewarding? James Delingpole explains why he doesn’t miss his old, affluent lifestyle as much as he thought he would.

James Delingpole graphic

The best fishcakes I’ve ever eaten were the ones I had the other night. This had less to do with their culinary sophistication – just a bit of leftover cod, some mash, a little parsley from the garden, a sprinkling of flour and some salt and black pepper – than with how they made me feel. With each mouthful, I thought, ‘This is nice. This reminds me of when I was a child in the 70s.’ More importantly, it made me think, ‘Gosh. Aren’t I brilliant? I wonder how much money I’ve just saved?’

How different things are from two or three years ago. Back then, it would never have occurred to me to use up that paltry half dish of sorry-looking leftover fish. I would have said, ‘There’s barely enough to feed one there, let alone two,’ and slung it in the bin. And why not? Back in those days there was money to spare…

No, don’t worry. This isn’t another of those pieces arguing how wonderful it is, how chastening and good for the soul that we’re currently in the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. Speaking for myself – and I’m sure for most of you too – I’m finding the new austerity pretty grim. The daily gnawing anxiety; the cheeseparing; the constant ‘no you can’t have that’ to the uncomprehending children; the rows; the lack of holidays. This is not the life I spent the past 25 years working so hard for.

But this is not going to be a wallowing-in-misery piece either. If there’s one thing I have learnt amid all the teeth-grinding worry, it’s how remarkably adaptable the human spirit is. Sure, I’m not totally happy, but I don’t think I’m any less happy than I was when I had more money. Life hasn’t got significantly worse; it’s just different. Instead of enjoying the ‘lifestyle’ of a 90s professional, I’ve now gone back in time to experience the scrimp-and-save world of my grandparents.

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