There’s an age-old saying: Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves. This is what Ilona Richards must live by, because she’s been named Britain’s most frugal pensioner. But Ilona doesn’t save the pennies because she’s starving; she does it because she can. In fact, she’s so proud of her penny-pinching ways that she’s shared them with others. Ilona, 66, who claims she lives on just £2,400 a year, explained she first adopted a thrifty lifestyle after being forced to quit her job at 59. Good for her, I hear you say, but having read her Scrooge-like tips, it’s a wonder she’s got any friends left. She’s so thrifty that she makes her guests bring their own teabags whenever they call. They also have to come prepared wearing an extra layer of clothes because Ilona chooses to switch the heating off unless it’s absolutely necessary. Her home is kept spic and span thanks to a vacuum cleaner she found in a skip. However, when it comes to making that cup of tea she prefers to boil a cup of water in the microwave rather than switch on a power-thirsty kettle. Despite all this, Ilona, who admits she wears boys underpants (because they last longer) and cuts her own hair, believes she isn’t tight because she will ‘indulge’ herself. Now and again she’ll treat herself to a reduced pack of donoughts, four cans of pear cider from Aldi , or maybe even a bottle of wine, which last her a month.
“But I never go mad,” she insists.
Er, no. Quite.
It must be a tough old life having to watch every penny quite so closely. For example, Ilona writes the price she paid on every single food package to ensure she doesn’t pay more for it on her next visit. She also goes shopping after 7.30pm, because that’s when the supermarkets start to make their final reductions on food. But before you criticise me, Ilona isn’t a pensioner on the breadline; she lives like this because she enjoys it. Instead, she ekes out the last scraps from everything. A bottle of shampoo lasts her eight months, and a bottle of washing-up liquid lasts for almost a year, because she prefers to rinse and scrub her plates with water most of the time. Er, I think I’ll pass on the beans on toast, thanks. Mind you, she also recommends eating dinner straight out of the pan to save on hot water. All these money-saving measures mean Ilona saves a fortune on the cost of living. She spends just £10 a week on food and paid just £32 on her last quarterly gas bill. In fact, she aims to spend no more on £1 per meal, and proudly writes down all her purchases in a notebook. When it comes to personal hygiene she only brushes her teeth once a day using toothpaste. The rest of the time she just uses water. I’m sorry, love, but that’s not living - it’s just existing. I’ve known some tight people in my time, including someone who refuses to put the heating on if the oven’s been on, even in the depths of winter, and another who once took all the leftover food home from a restaurant to make fishcakes! But it’s not 1940, and there isn’t a war on! No, life is to be enjoyed with your friends and loved ones. I’m all for being sensible and tightening my belt from time to time, but there’s sensible and there’s this. You only get one life so you may as well live it. Besides, as my lovely (and generous) mum always says. A shroud doesn’t have pockets, so you can’t take it with you.