I've been practising spending money. How am I doing?
i) My passport expires in January, so I thought I'd better renew it before George Bush introduces any newlaws forcing me to slice off my fingertips and staple them to the back page. It's surprisingly easy to renew your passport online (you fill in your details and they send you a completed form to sign) but one thing never changes - the dreaded trip to the photo booth. These evil machines have become rather more modern than I remember 10 years ago, so the one I visited took my photo digitally without flashing which was a bit unnerving. It also spoke, which meant that everyone queueing outside the booth could hear me reject the first three attempted photos in favour of the fourth. I'm not chuffed with the resulting image, but at least I only have to show it to the occasional immigration officer over the next decade.
cost: £45 (passport renewal) + £4 (passport photo)
verdict: Essential (and a bargain at less than a fiver a year)
ii) Last week my old ITVDigital box started playing up, switching itself off at unexpected intervals, so I've been out buying myself a Freeview replacement. The old box only lasted three years but hey, that's longer than ITV Digital managed. My new box is a Sony VTX-D800U, a sleek little silver number which, by carefully plying the Aladdin's Caves of Tottenham Court Road, I've managed to acquire for rather less than the recommended price of £99. It may be top-of-the-range but it can't counteract my flat's appalling TV reception so I'm still left without ITV and Channel 4, and with certain other channels all blotchy and virtually unwatchable. QVC and bid.up-tv, alas, are crystal clear.
cost: £85 (fourteen quid off)
verdict: Pretty much essential (and impressive haggling)
iii) The only decent compilation album out this Christmas is UltimateKylie. Disc 1 covers the Stock, Aitken and Waterman years, while disc 2 chronicles the deConstruction interregnum and the subsequent Parlophone renaissance. Very few pop careers contain quite so many standout singles (the fab:dross ratio is very high) so I couldn't resist buying the album when I saw it in Woolworths yesterday for £3 off. And then, when I got home, I checked how many of these 33 tracks I already owned and it was nigh all of them. I could have burnt my own Kylie compilation for free and replaced "Especially For You" with "Your Disco Needs You" into the bargain, but I didn't. Have I got the hang of consumption yet?
cost: £12.99 (the same as Amazon, but without the delivery charge)
verdict: An absolutely lovely waste of money