Mr Frugal's daughter returns to the nest causing him to think about spending money on bedroom decoration. Here are his penny-pinching tips for cheap DIY.
Read more from the odd couple of Mr Frugal and Mr Lavish. Mr Lavish breaks the bank in Monte Carlo | Mr Frugal’s glamorous road trip | Mr Frugal’s Christmas tips | Christmas Day with Mr Lavish | Mr Frugal’s money saving kitchen tips
All the bedrooms in my flat were already spoken for when my elder daughter indicated that she too would be requiring accommodation in London.
Funny how Father all of a sudden becomes re-cherished when his central London home is so damned convenient for a sprog’s new place of work.
Knowing that she would be moving in along with baggage on the scale of a Hollywood diva, I could see that there was going to be no alternative – I would just have to evict myself from my beloved bedroom and allow a modest gentleman’s chamber to be transformed into a lush sultana’s boudoir.
And so it was that I ended up pitching camp in my small cramped office. A friend lent me a folding guest-bed. Meanwhile, my clothing, shoes and countless other bits of clobber were distributed widely around the flat, stuffed into any drawers and cupboards with a bit of spare capacity. All I was missing was a late-night sing-song around the camp fire.
But the novelty of this arrangement soon wore off – as did (almost) parts of my body. The base of the camp-bed was a mesh of metal and it was so antique that it drooped like a hammock.
My backside flesh was getting more jags from bits of the metal than a drug addict’s veins, and my bed sores were coming close to needing medical intervention.
As there was every sign of elder daughter’s residency being anything but a stopgap, the office would just have to be turned into a proper single bedroom.
Oh Lord, the prospect gave the meanie in me the heebie-jeebies. ‘Proper’ in this context usually means the whole shebang – a bed, a wardrobe, a dressing-table, a chest of drawers… the cost of such a suite could easily run into four figures.
But dammit, I thought, Mr Frugal’s not going to be defeated by a poxy little makeover. So here’s how it went.
First the bed. No, first the mattress. That’s the only bit of the bed you really need. After a thorough recce around cyberspace, I found a brand-name mattress for £97 including delivery. The base for the mattress was already in place – none other than the floor.
Dossing down in this way has been terrifically rejuvenating. Somehow or another in my student days I managed to by-pass the squatting-on-the-floor bit. Here I was discovering it for the first time forty years on.
In my imagination (I do hope it is true) I see Mr Lavish reclining on an emperor-size water-bed surmounted by an extra layer of the finest duck down. By comparison my little bohemian billet on the floor, what I like to call my happy hippy-kippy, may seem humble.
But, after the bodily assaults from the camp-bed, it is a £97 nirvana. And it has certainly given fresh meaning to the phrase ‘falling into bed’. Getting up off it again in the morning can be a challenge, but, hey, it’s good muscle exercise.
Next I turned my attention to the matter of a dressing table. That was swiftly executed at no cost. I had a spare side-table and a mirror. Place the two in line and you have a dressing table. Job’s a good ’un.
A chest of drawers can be a costly item. But all you need is storage – it doesn’t have to be in the form of drawers. I looked around the flat for something that could be adapted. I hit upon one of those traditional glass-fronted bookcases that look like fittings from an old-style draper’s shop – the kind of emporium where you could imagine Miss Marple purchasing her bloomers. Emptied of its books, this was ideal for Mr Frugal’s modest collection of socks and smalls. Nil cost.
And finally we come the money-saving piece de resistance… the frugalist’s alternative to a conventional wardrobe. Dispensing with the infrastructure of an orthodox bed was having by now a liberating effect.
For some time I had had my eye on an abandoned brass pole in our back courtyard. This, I decided, was to be the pole from which I would hang my garments. But from what would I hang the pole?
The answer came to me in a flash and in pursuit of my idea I set off, believe it or not, to a garden centre. What I needed, I reckoned, was a pair of metal brackets of the type you fix to an outside wall for hanging-baskets.
You can imagine my tight-fisted delight when I discovered that exactly what I had in mind was in the garden centre’s ‘value’ range. They were £2.70 each. For a total outlay of £5.40 I was on my way back home with the two vital structural components required to support my rescued brass pole.
In no time at all my new wardrobe was all in place – an open-plan closet for just over a fiver. In all, my new bedroom had cost me £102.40. Scrooge’s face had a slight smirk of self-satisfaction.
But don’t get the wrong impression. Mr Frugal isn’t half as crafty as he likes to think he is. Pride, as they say, comes before a fall. If you relish the idea of a cocky cheapskate getting his comeuppance, then lend an ear to my tale of the recent botch I made of my bathroom.
The need to do something about the bathroom arose from an earlier pig’s ear of an ‘improvement’.
A couple of years ago, having to leave my home for an extended period, I was getting the place ready for some tenants who were about to move in.
The vinyl on the bathroom floor was in a bad state. But I didn’t want to go to the expense of replacing it just so that a gang of couldn’t-care-less-it’s-not-my-property renters could piss all over it and invite their tipsy molls to pockmark it with their stiletto heels.
Then I remembered that the vinyl had originally been laid on a concrete floor. No problem, dispose of the vinyl and paint the concrete.
One snag, though – the concrete surface wasn’t as smooth as I’d remembered, and, when the black paint was dry, its glossy sheen had the effect of highlighting every little flaw.
It would do for the tenants. But when I re-occupied the flat, the uneven floor started to irritate me. Then I noticed that my local pound shop was selling sets of self-adhesive vinyl tiles. I worked out that seven sets would do the job comfortably. £7 for a floor makeover, the opportunity was too great to pass over.
Or so I thought. I had the floor three-quarters covered when I began to realise that something wasn’t quite right. The tiles wouldn’t stay in place – it was like doing a jigsaw on a bed of slime.
Then the penny dropped – I should first have sanded down the gloss-painted concrete. By now it was too late to make amends.
In a fit of frustrated anger I tore all the tiles off the floor and threw the lot in the bin. I spent the rest of the day scrubbing the adhesive off the floor – and off my hands, feet and knees.
And talking of the pitfalls of parsimony – let me offer you a further salutary lesson. Don’t be stupid like me and buy those cheap pots of paint that some supermarkets flog under their own brand name.
I couldn’t resist a large container of magnolia emulsion for a fiver. I wanted to change the colour of my hallway from green. Two coats normally suffice. After the second coat the walls were still green. You live and learn.
But this confession of gullibility does not indicate a change of heart for Mr Frugal. I remain a dogged torchbearer for the crusade on cost. It’s just that I’m a little wiser. My faith is daily confirmed by the bonnie sight of my £5.40 wardrobe!