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 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 she makes guests bring tea bags. They also have to come wearing an extra layer of clothes because Ilona chooses to switch the heating off unless absolutely necessary. However, when it comes to making that tea she prefers to boil water in the microwave rather than switch on a power-thirsty kettle. Despite all this, Ilona, who admits she wears boy’s 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 doughnuts, four cans of Aldi pear cider or maybe a bottle of wine, which lasts a month. “But I never go mad,” she insists. Er, no. Quite.
It must be a tough old life. Ilona writes the price she paid on every single food package to ensure she doesn’t pay more next time. She also goes shopping after 7.30pm, when supermarkets start to make final reductions. But before you criticise me, Ilona isn’t 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 eight months, and washing-up liquid almost a year, because she prefers to rinse and scrub plates with water. All these money-saving measures mean Ilona saves a fortune. She spends just £10 a week on food and paid £32 on her last quarterly gas bill. When it comes to personal hygiene she brushes her teeth once a day using toothpaste. The rest she just uses water. I’m sorry, love, but that’s not living - it’s just existing. I’ve known some tight people, including someone who refuses to put the heating on if the oven’s been on, even in winter, and another who once took all the leftover food home from a restaurant to make fish cakes! But it’s not 1940, and there isn’t a war on. No, life is to be enjoyed. 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 -you may as well live it. Besides, as my lovely (generous) mum always says. A shroud doesn’t have pockets, so you can’t take it with you.