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“The trouble with discount websites is, you can’t see the people snatching bargains away from you.”- An excerpt from ‘Christmas Shopaholic’

Don’t panic. Don’t panic. I’ve got 5 minutes 52 seconds before my basket expires. That’s loads of time! All I have to do is quickly find one more item to bump up my total to £75 so I’ll get free delivery.

Come on, Becky. You can find something.

I’m scrolling down the BargainFamily site on my computer screen, feeling like a NASA operative keeping cool under unspeakable pressure. The onscreen timer is in my peripheral vision, ticking down steadily beneath a heading that reads, Your Basket Will Expire Soon!

But you can’t give in to timer- fear when you’re shopping on discount sites. You have to be strong. Like tungsten. Shopping has really changed for me over the years. Or maybe I’ve changed.

The days when I was a single girl, living in Fulham with Suze and going round the shops every day, seem ages ago now. Yes, I used to spend too much. I’ll freely admit it. I’ve made mistakes. Like Frank Sinatra, I did it my way.

(Except ‘my way’ involved stuffing Visa bills under the bed, which I bet Frank never did.)

But I’ve learned some important lessons, which have genuinely changed the way I go about things. Like, for example:

1. I don’t use carrier bags any more. They used to be my biggest joy in life. Oh my God, the feel of a new carrier bag . . . the rope handles . . . the rustle of tissue paper . . .(I still sometimes go and swoon over my old collection at the back of the wardrobe.)

But now I use a Bag for Life instead. Because of the planet and everything.

2. I’m totally into ethical shopping. It’s like a win–win!

You get cool stuff and you’re being virtuous.

3. I don’t even spend money any more. I save money.

So obviously that’s not exactly, actually, literally true. But the point is, I’m always looking for a good deal. I see it as my responsibility as a parent to procure all the items that my family needs at the most cost-effective prices possible. Which is why BargainFamily is the perfect place for me to shop.

It’s all reduced! Designer labels and everything! The only thing is, you have to be a fast shopper, or else your basket expires and you have to start again.

I’m on £62.97 already, so all I need is another item around 12 quid. Come on, quick, there must be something I need. I click on an orange cardigan, £13.99, RRP £45, but when I zoom in I see a horrible lacy border.

White shirt?

No, I bought a white shirt last week. (One hundred per cent linen, £29.99, RRP £99.99. I must remember to wear that, actually.)

I click on my basket to double-check on what I’ve already got, and a pop-up window bursts forth, announcing You’ve

Saved £284 Today, Becky!

I feel a flash of pride as I survey my items. I’ve saved a whole £284! I’ve got an adorable bunny rabbit dressing gown for Minnie and a fantastic DKNY jacket, down from £299 to £39.99 in clearance, and a huge rubber ring shaped like a flamingo, which we can use next time we go on holiday.

And OK, yes. I could theoretically check out now and pay £5.95 for delivery. But that’s not prudent. I’m not a former financial journalist for nothing, I know these things. It’s far more economically sound to find yourself something else that you need, and get the free delivery.

Come on, there must be something. Tights? Everyone needs tights. Oh, but I’m always bumping up orders with tights. I have so many black opaques, they’ll last me till I’m 105. And those tartan patterned ones I clicked on last week were a big mistake.

I click on ‘Homewares’ and scroll down the items quickly. Silver antelope sculpture, was £79.99, now £12.99? Hmm, not sure. Scented candle? Oh God. No. I can’t buy another one.

Our whole house is like one big scented candle. In fact, Luke said the other day, ‘Becky, is there any chance of buying a candle called “Fresh Air”?’

I’m just squinting at a bread bin shaped like Big Ben when a pop-up appears in front of my eyes – Your Time Is Running Out, Becky! – and my heart jumps in fright.

I wish they wouldn’t do that. I know my time is running out. ‘I know!’ I hear myself saying out loud. ‘Don’t stress me out!’

Just to reassure myself, I click back on my basket again and my heart stops. The flamingo ring is sold out!

Sold out!

Noooo! I was too slow! Argh. The trouble with discount websites is, you can’t see the people snatching bargains away from you. Now my heart really is thumping. I’m not losing my jacket, or Minnie’s dressing gown. I need to fill this basket and check out, pronto.

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