What's the one little indulgence YOU can't face giving up?

What’s the one little indulgence YOU can’t face giving up even with the cost-of-living crisis biting harder?

  • With the cost-of-living crisis biting harder, most of us are making sacrifices  
  • But there are some things even the most prudent feel they can’t live without
  • Our writers share their own sine qua non, with some very surprising results 

With the cost-of-living crisis biting harder, most of us are making sacrifices. That posh coffee, the new shoes, resisting turning on the heating for a few more days.

But there are some things even the most prudent feel they can’t live without. An online poll received numerous responses when it asked what the one thing you could never forgo was.

Here, our favourite writers share their own sine qua non, with some very surprising results . . .

TOMATOES AT £13 PER KG AND REALLY POSH TEA

Hannah Betts, beauty columnist    

Contrary to popular opinion (not least my Scrooge-like beloved’s), I’m actually not too bad at economising. A student until almost 30, my income wasn’t sufficient for me to be taxed until the age of 28. At 51, I live without luxuries others consider must-haves, namely: meat, booze, a television, a car and offspring. However, experience has taught me that a woman has got to maintain standards in a few scant areas, otherwise she is not so much living as existing.

First off, good tea. Lapsang souchong is less an essential than a basic human right. You may get by with supermarket own brands; I demand the Twinings camellia sinensis version, smoked over a pinewood fire, at £3.49 a box.

Second, decent tomatoes. My financial adviser says that when he sees posh greengrocer Natoora crop up on my statements, he knows he’s in for a fight over expenditure.

Heirloom tomatoes are his — and my — nemesis, at a whopping £13 per kilogram. However, if I cannot afford to go on holiday, nothing instils such a feeling of Mediterranean happiness.

Jo Hansford, celebrity hair stylist can’t go without a good-quality Australian Shiraz or Argentinian Malbec are a must‑have for me. I’ve always loved red wine and enjoy a glass each night — it’s the perfect way to switch off after a busy day in the salon.

Simon Mills, writer: Spending 50 quid on a hot water bottle might seem like an extravagance but this galvanised metal yutanpo (left), a sturdy, Japanese industrial design classic and a mini heating powerhouse, is worth it

A DRIVER — AND THE BRITISH NEWSPAPERS

Barbara Taylor Bradford OBE, author

I couldn’t live without my driver service, which I use weekly. I work in the car, making calls to my UK and U.S. publishers, my agent, my banker, PR, and friends. I have always liked to use my time wisely, and clearing my calls on the move allows me to write at my desk without interruption.

Having a car and driver — I book him on an ad hoc basis for £115 an evening — also allows me to feel safe travelling by myself. I can be taken directly home after a dinner, event or appointment. Bob, my late husband, always used to say: ‘Be in control of everything you do and have your own wheels so you are independent.’ Luckily, it’s a luxury I can afford and I really appreciate it.

My other passion is newspapers. I live in New York and religiously read the British papers every day as I want to know what’s going on in my home country. I went to work on the Yorkshire Evening Post when I was 15, and have been very much involved with newspapers ever since.

Barbara Taylor Bradford’s A Man Of Honour (HarperCollins) is out now.

THE £50 JAPANESE HOT WATER BOTTLE

Simon Mills, writer

Spending 50 quid on a hot water bottle might seem like an extravagance but this galvanised metal yutanpo a sturdy, Japanese industrial design classic and a mini heating powerhouse, is worth it. Fill it up with hot water then pop it in its soft, fleecy bag, being careful not to burn your fingers. It delivers an instant warm, cosy hug — no need to crank up the radiators.

If you put it at the bottom of your duvet to keep your feet toasty in bed at night, miraculously, the weapons-grade yutanpo will still be packing heat in the morning.

I picked up mine at a market in Seoul, South Korea, a few years ago. I wish I’d bought at least a dozen more to be placed, pre‑heated, on every chair and bed in the house this winter.

My dream? To one day afford the cult-favourite copper one, yours for a whopping £150.

PRISTINE 800 THREAD COUNT SHEETS

Jenni Murray, Femail columnist

There is one luxury I really cannot bear to be without. On my bed, there are John Lewis 800 thread count silky-soft white cotton sheets.

Having spent my youth sleeping on the awful brushed nylon bedding my mother believed was cheaper, easier to wash and didn’t need to be ironed, I couldn’t wait to convert to cotton when I set up my own home.

Aggie MacKenzie, TV presenter: I run the washing machine only when down to my last pair of knickers, and I’ve yet to turn on the heating. But one thing I’m not prepared to scrimp on is my splash of Portrait Of A Lady by Frederic Malle

Yes, they’re expensive (£135 for a king-size sheet) and there’s an added expense to keeping them pristine — a laundry.

On a Sunday night, I put a bag containing my fitted sheet, duvet cover and pillowcases on the front doorstep. Monday morning they’re gone. Wednesday morning they’re back — whiter than white and pressed perfectly smooth, at a cost of £20 a time. But oh, the joy of settling into them. Worth every penny.

A DAILY GLASS OF PROPER RED WINE

Jo Hansford, celebrity hair stylist

Good-quality Australian Shiraz or Argentinian Malbec are a must‑have for me. I’ve always loved red wine and enjoy a glass each night — it’s the perfect way to switch off after a busy day in the salon.

On my travels, I often visit vineyards, and Malbec became a firm favourite after I trialled some of the best in Mendoza, Argentina, a few years ago. I’d rather spend £20 or £30 on a high-quality, rich and full-bodied wine to savour, than scrimp with a cheaper bottle. Life is too short!

My other luxury is my Range Rover Sport. I don’t spend much on clothes and, as I am on my feet all day, driving in comfort is non-negotiable. I love driving and it’s always a pleasure to get behind the wheel.

I upgrade every two years. I have a good relationship with the dealer so always get a competitive deal. I’m obsessed with keeping it clean, so it’s washed at least once or twice a week for £25 at the local car wash.

Jo Hansford has salons in Mayfair and Harvey Nichols Knightsbridge (johansford.com).

SOMEONE ELSE IRONING MY SHIRTS

Henry Deedes, parliamentary sketch writer

Seize my television set, remove my satellite dish, turn down the heating in my draughty flat. See if I care.

As someone who prides himself on being careful with the pennies, I resent the idea of vast chunks of my payslip ending up in these greedy energy firms’ already swollen pockets anyway. Heck, I might even consider drinking own-brand supermarket lager should the economic situation become dire enough.

But the thing I really cannot live without is having someone iron my shirts. All that faff, all that fuss.

If forced to get the ironing board out myself in an emergency, the result is an embarrassing hotchpotch even Boris Johnson might feel ashamed to pull over his belly.

Fortunately, the wonderful launderette down the road is still happy to wash and iron half a dozen of my shirts for less than a tenner. It’s the best money I spend all month.

400 ROSES IN A £270 BOTTLE OF SCENT

Aggie MacKenzie, TV presenter

I run the washing machine only when down to my last pair of knickers, and I’ve yet to turn on the heating. But one thing I’m not prepared to scrimp on is my splash of Portrait Of A Lady by Frederic Malle.

I first came across this scent (left) when it was worn by my son’s girlfriend and I knew I wanted the fragrance in my life: think Turkish roses (400 in a 100ml bottle), patchouli, sandalwood and frankincense, with blackcurrant and raspberry notes.

I love how the smell seeps into my clothes — comforting and sexy at the same time. Last Christmas, with no boyfriend to hint at, I decided to treat myself. How big a bottle was I prepared to buy?

The 10ml is £54, so 100ml at £270 seemed almost a bargain. So I took a deep breath, handed over my card, and I’ve not regretted it. Moreover, there’s still about half left. The only downside? My son and his girlfriend split up acrimoniously so I’m banned from wearing it in his company.

LUXURY £25 TIGHTS AND BLACK CABS

Clare Foges, former No 10 speechwriter

CASH may be tight but my tights can’t be compromised on. Luxury tights, to be precise. The top brands Wolford and Falke are my drug. It is with a blush that I must reveal my gossamer thins can cost about £25 a pair. I have tried going back to cheaper ones but the gusset drop is too demoralising. How can one conquer the world when the crotch of your tights hangs around your knees?

Black cabs are another luxury I can’t ditch. I don’t live in London, but whenever I visit, I treat those charming cabbies like my personal chauffeurs.

Each trip I resolve that this time I will ride the Piccadilly and Jubilee lines and save a small fortune . . . then I see the gorgeous orange light of a vacant taxi and my hand shoots up to hail it as though in spasm. Sliding onto those leather seats and shooting the breeze with the driver makes me feel, for ten minutes, like a tycoon steaming through the big smoke on oiled castors.

To me it’s an essential ‘life lubricant’ — one of those expenses that makes the days glide by a little more smoothly.

MY CHOCOLATE STASH IS AN ADDICTION

Rowan Pelling, author

The one essential item in my apocalypse survivor kit would be good-quality chocolate. Where other people need coffee, cigarettes or gin to keep going, I reach for Hotel Chocolat’s Dizzy Dark Chocolate Pralines (£4.50 for six), nibbling at the ambrosia.

I think and write better with 85 per cent cocoa bars by my side. They’re my personal Prozac, and I have a hidden stash in my bag’s secret pocket, or behind novels on my shelves. My spouse once noted: ‘You treat that stuff like you’re a drug addict — trying to hide any evidence from others.’ I’ve been known to go without proper meals so I can feast on Rococo’s Venus Nipples coffee truffles.

The canny chocaholic can still score bargains, though. Staff at the King’s Cross branch of Hotel Chocolat know me by sight, as I always come in asking what’s on discount. And the chocolate department in London’s Liberty often has discounted items close to their sell-by date near the till.

My current go-to item is Montezuma’s organic 74 per cent cocoa dark chocolate buttons (£2.50 from Sainsbury’s): exquisite with a morning cuppa. I’ll give up showering before I surrender them.

P.S. THERE’S NOTHING I COULDN’T GIVE UP

Julie Burchill, author

I can do perfectly well without luxuries of any sort. When I moved out of the marital home, I craved minimalism. My new flat was an austere Art Deco beauty; as I ordered essentials — a bed, chairs, a table — I realised what I didn’t want cluttering it up.

Two years on, I don’t have a TV (my computer will do), a kettle (I live in a bustling cafe quarter) or a telephone — neither mobile nor landline.

As a writer, I’m on my computer when I’m at home and email can do anything a phone call can. And all my life, I’ve had people ask ‘Is your mummy in?’ when I answer the phone, due to my high-pitched voice, which is annoying when you’re a sexagenarian.

Besides, I wanted to see what ‘essentials’ I could do without as part of my ongoing project to become a Stoic — a school of thought which believes that ‘needing’ things is weak.

Also, of course, I love shocking people. The look on their faces when they comprehend that I have not a single phone is the best yet.

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