Meet Ilona Richards, a retired truck driver who is well known as 'Britain's most frugal woman'. Some of her tips for simple living include scouring supermarkets for discounted food, having guests bring their own tea bags, saving ink by making your handwriting smaller, a weekly bath to save water, and flushing the loo only once a day with old bathwater.
Richards prides herself for her frugality in nearly every single aspect of life, managing on only 2,400 Pounds of her state pension of 10,000 Pounds a year. She detests wastefulness, so she tries to make everything last as long as it possibly can. She can make do with a bottle of dish soap for an entire year, but that's probably because she hardly does any cooking. She's a vegetarian, because it's cheaper, surviving on a vat of vegetable stew made from expired produce. She makes it last an entire month.
There are plenty of other examples of thriftiness all around her kitchen. For starters, she doesn't use her kettle to make tea. "I usually heat up my cup of water in the microwave," she said, speaking to Daily Mail. "It takes two cups to cover the kettle element and I only need one, so why waste it?" Her oven has been broken for ages, but she hasn't had it fixed because she has no use for it.
Richards isn't squeamish about using food that's past the expiry date. "I do regular inspections of what's in my fridge," she said. "I see if it looks fine. I sniff it - does it smell? I feel it - is it squishy? I just eat things when they need eating and I love the food I make." She currently has six giant jars of low-fat mayonnaise in her pantry, which she bought at a discounted price of 20p each. "Out of date, obviously - sell by June 2015 - but, of course, they'll be absolutely fine."
Wander around the rest of her house and you'll find that Richards doesn't own a TV. Why would she, when she can watch everything, including BBC iPlayer, on her computer? Her hairdryer is over 30 years old, and the carpet on her stairs is patched with duct tape. A tube of toothpaste lasts her a year, and she strictly follows a "one-light-on-at-a-time" policy. She doesn't switch on the light during night-time trips to the loo, preferring to use a wind-up torch instead. Her washing machine is used once a week, with a teaspoon full of washing powder, only if her clothes are visibly dirty or smelly. Fabric conditioner, of course, is out of the question.
Richards doesn't believe in having guests - she actively discourages people from visiting her by making her house too cold. She allows herself an hour of heat a day, and sometimes two hours if it's freezing. This way, she's able to keep her gas and electricity bills at less than 30 Pounds a quarter. Her clothes are purchased from charity shops, and she doesn't believe in cleaning herself much either. She bathes only once a week, and strip-washes in the kitchen sometimes, using only "two kettles of water".
If you're interested in picking up more tips on frugality from Richards, she documents everything on her blog, meanqueen-lifeaftermoney.blogspot.com Her posts have quite the following, but despite all the attention she's been, Richards says she isn't doing it for the publicity. "I'm just living my life the way I choose," she said. "I go on walking holidays, I eat well. But I'm living within my means - that's how I was brought up."
Richards was raised in Burton upon Trent, in East Staffordshire, where her father was a baker and her mother worked in a factory canteen. As a child, she longed to earn money and be independent, but her frugal lifestyle began only in 2009, when she lost her job shortly before her 60th birthday. She still had a small mortgage to pay off, so she started to tighten the belt until it became a full blown obsession.
Richards doesn't always restrict herself, though, spending money as and when she sees fit. She did buy a new refrigerator in December last year, and sometimes treats herself to a bag of potato chips. She also bought herself a ticket to a Lesley Garrett concert to celebrate her birthday in May. But there are some things she cannot wrap her head around, like buying designer clothes or using credit cards.
"All this bling and glitz - it doesn't impress me," she said. "I think it's a sign of insecurity, while I'm confident in my own skin. People don't seem to know the difference between want and need. They might think 'Ooh, I need a new phone,' but I'd say, 'If your old phone works, then you don't need a new one.' To go out and use plastic and get loans! It's not their money!"
"People keep saying I'm mean. But I'm not mean; I'm careful and I'm very proud of the way I live."