My financial resolutions for 2013
It's that time of year for New Year resolutions, when we vow to do better than we did last year. Having reviewed all the lumps and bumps that turned my life into an obstacle course in 2012, my New Year's resolution for 2013 is to do something about my profligate spending.
Don't ask me where all my money goes. I search my bank account for clues, but I can't find any answers.
I don't have many expensive vices, though I admit I can't resist an occasional night at the theatre, especially when I read a glowing review.
Play-going is excruciatingly expensive these days: with the average price of a ticket around £50, for two of you that's £100 even before you've bought a programme (£5) or an icecream (£3).
As Kevin Spacey said recently, these enormous prices are "the single most embarrassing thing about being in the theatre". But as I only go to the theatre about once a month, that can't be why the cash drains away from my bank account.
I don't drive a Jeremy Clarksonstyle gas-guzzler - my car's a hybrid picked for cleanliness, quietness and economy.
I expect my clothes to give me value, too. My tweed trouser suit may be on-trend this month, but it was bought at least 15 years ago. Shoes? I buy a couple of pairs a year, and then it's usually in a sale.
What about my trips to Bicester Village, the outlet for so many cut-price designer bargains? I go there once a year, usually to buy myself a new coat - always half price. Half a rather large price, I confess, but then the coats I've bought there have lasted many years.
If you divide the price of my Bicester coats by the number of times I wear them, they're amazingly good value, compared with the cheap and cheerful clothes you only wear once. So giving up Bicester may not save me much in real terms.
Newspapers are an expensive addiction. I've cut down to three papers a day, and none at all on Sundays because the Saturday mountain of newsprint takes me all weekend to climb. They must cost me at least £1,000 a year. As a journalist, they're a professional necessity.
What about luxuries like beauty treatments? I used to go to the hairdresser three or four times a week in my TV days, but now it's more likely to be once every three weeks. Yet still the money flows out of my account. So my New Year resolution for 2013 is to plug the leaks and economise - but how?
First, I'm going to give up resolving to go to a gym. Not that I actually go, but I do toy with the idea. Statistics say that 20% of us who buy a year's gym membership give up in the first six months (and my local gym costs £150 to join, plus £79 per month - that's £1,098 for the first year). So giving up that idea has already saved me a fortune.
Stopping all my insurance policies would save a good deal, until the next flood or major breakage. Then I suppose I'd live to regret it. Do my own cleaning? Excellent in theory, but it would mean giving up my normal money-earning daytime occupations, and my work for ChildLine and my new helpline for older people, The Silver Line.
Give up Waitrose and M&S groceries and buy Asda's own brand instead? It's a thought, but then I'll have to factor in the cost of petrol to get there.
Why don't I just resolve to give up drinking champagne on special occasions? Cava is just as nice, and kinder to my stomach. It may not actually save me a great deal of money, but it will make me feel virtuous. Forget it.
All these ideas depress me, so my resolution for 2013 is to take up a new and very expensive vice this year - so I can give it up in 2014. Much more fun.