Belts have had to be tightened of late due to the dramatic fall in income resulting from the general decline in the media industry. I lay the blame for this squarely at the feet (or should that be fingers?) of evil bloggers who write for free, leading commissioning editors to believe that content is no longer something that should be paid for as so many are prepared to give it away.
Well I say if you can't beat 'em, join 'em and not having to dance to the tune of a features desk does have its benefits. The deadlines are more relaxed and I get to write about what I like, not the fluctuating weight of the stars of The Only Way is Essex.
In any case, I digress. I have been attempting in my vague and chronically spendthrift way to introduce some austerity measures of my own. To wit - don't shop EVERY day and downgrade from Waitrose to Tesco wherever possible (which is not often if you live in an area ringed by the invariably knowingly undersold supermarket). However my sterling efforts to snap shut the FDMTG purse have been undermined of a seemingly unending run of birthdays.
They kicked off with my partner in crime Mr FDMTG's birthday on the ill-fated 11 September. He has never felt quite the same about his celebrations since we watched carnage at the World Trade Centre from a hotel room in St Kitts in 2001, so I feel it's important to go all out to cheer him up amidst the mournful memorials that surround the date of his birth. This added up to a round of meals out and presents. Lots of fun, but it hit the domestic budget hard.
Then there was my big one and I celebrated hitting 40 by spending lots of cash on sparkly dress, shoes and jewels (from uber talented Helen White), while other half re-mortgaged the house to pay for a slap up party complete with 80s tunes, embarrassing dancing and vodka jellies.
Next up was little Mr M, who turned six with a grand total of three celebrations. There was tea with the family in our local Italian, then a trip to town for afternoon tea and the theatre to see Horrible Histories. Finally he had a go-karting party with all his friends. After all of which I was too fearful to tot up the total. I simply blush with shame at all this indulgence lavished on a six-year-old.
The final birthday before we enter into the carnival of Christmas (and guess whose turn it is to host the family this year?) is my eldest who turns eight on Halloween. Initially I thought having a small party with just six little boys would be cheaper than our usual bash for the entire class of 30. How wrong can you be? Boy insisted on an assault course style birthday. Not an easy thing to pull off in London, so we ended up booking a secret location in Essex to go quad biking and complete a high wire course at a cost I am too mortified to admit.
Then I thought we had been let off the hook as he requested a quite night out with mummy and daddy on his actual birthday. At last something that might not break the bank. But then he started to notice all the Halloween paraphernalia popping up in the shops and performed a swift U-turn, demanding a spooky after school tea with all his cousins. Sigh.
Bang went my resolution not to shop as I spied a 3 for 2 offer in Waitrose on Halloween decorations, and then there are the costumes, the cake, the food......