Is this the luckiest day of the century?

KEEP it to yourself, but I think I may have found the answer to the credit crunch. And it's nothing to do with Mervyn King or Gordon Brown, or that strange fella in Number 11 with the snow-white hair in a style all too reminiscent of a Benedictine monk.

No, this is not about interest rates or inflation. I haven't given up eating out, or the odd bottle of wine. I haven't set aside the Finest range and opted instead for the Savers. I'm sure all of that would help, but who needs it when you've got the foolproof assistance of the universe on your side? Why fiddle about with balance transfers and austerity measures when the planets are aligning to send positive fiscal messages to me, you and, of course, bank managers across the land?

What's my secret? It's the power of eight, of course. Today is the eighth day of the eighth month of the eighth year – 08 08 08 – in case you hadn't noticed. You've got to admit, there's a pleasing symmetry to that. And for millions of Chinese it's much more than just a pretty pattern.

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In Chinese culture the number eight is linked with prosperity and good fortune. Partly it's because in Chinese the word for eight ("pinyin") sounds like the word for prosper or wealth. In some of the regional dialects it sounds like the word for fortune and in Cantonese, eight is "baat" and fortune is "faat". And if that's good enough for a billion Chinese, it's good enough for me, given the state of my finances.

Today is the day an entire nation has been waiting for and it won't come back around for a hundred years. Presumably this is why the Chinese chose it as the start date for the Beijing Olympics, in the hope of getting some kind of edge over the Americans when it comes to gold medals. What I do know is that while the economic downturn continues to put the squeeze on our spending, I'm up for every bit of help I can get.

"In China, the eight is strongly associated with wealth and good fortune," says Colin-M Baker, chairman of the International Association of Numerologists. "Think about the 1980s: big fortunes were made by certain people but on the other side, social order broke down, to some extent, with the poll tax riots. People forget that each number has an opposite side. Eights are about building up and destruction. It's about cycles and how in life we move from one cycle to another. Look at its shape – two zeros – heaven above, earth below and how the two interrelate."

Cosmic interrelationships or not, I reckon today is the day to tackle that nasty bill that's been hiding at the bottom of a pile of junk mail, or to finally call the bank to have that long-postponed 'chat' about the state of your overdraft. I'm also thinking of placing a bet and buying a Lotto ticket. I really do hope that Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling have at least a few meetings planned. It's not like they couldn't do with some extra help.

Personally, I'm quite looking forward to following the lead of the Chinese. I'm going to organise my finances – actually my life – around the auspicious number. That means After Eights at every opportunity – not just after dinner in kitsch restaurants or at Christmas. I've just moved in to a place with an eight in the address so, happily, I shan't have to move house again – although, of course, I would have considered it, had it been required. I'm also delighted to report that there are two eights in my bank account number, so no need for a change there, either.

Of course, the fact that I'm already fairly well covered in terms of eights means I have to question why I haven't as yet seen much positive improvement in my fortune – I did find a fiver the other week, but I'm not sure that counts and I think it might have been mine anyway – but I'm sure things will come right today.

Numerology isn't only followed in China, of course. Western numerology – the use of numbers to divine the future and interpret a person's character and fortune – has spawned countless books and websites which promise to unlock the secrets of financial and personal success, usually for a numerically significant fee. Eights are special in the West, too, linked to business success and wealth. It's an added bonus that when you turn the number on its side, it's the symbol for infinity. The cosmos moves in mysterious ways.

Blair Gorman – 'Master Numerologist' (although you do wonder who hands out these scrolls) – promises on his website to reveal the recipe for a fulfilling life, to reveal the secrets of success, how to avoid negative influences and how to find happiness. "That would really be something, wouldn't it?" he asks. Yes, Obi Wan, I mean, Master Gorman, that really would be something.

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I tried to get the 'free reading' that Gorman offered, but the junk e-mail filter on my PC wouldn't let it through. Perhaps computers just don't understand the rarefied world of numerology?

It's not a new phenomenon, though. Pythagoras, as well as being extremely interested in triangles, was fascinated by the esoteric relationship between numbers and physical objects or living things. It was his assertion that all things can be expressed in numerical terms, because they are ultimately reducible to numbers that gave rise to the whole thing. Then came the practice of attaching digits to letters of the alphabet to reveal a person's true nature and prospects. You know, a is 1, b is 2 and so on.

Personally, I've not tried it for about 20 years but I do remember hours spent in the playground trying to work out whether my best friend would be a better match for Gary Jones or Mitchell Todd, using what I now realise was a primitive form of numerology.

Ask a bona fide mathematician about numerology these days and you'll probably get a response similar to what you'd get if you were to suggest throwing salt over your shoulder and avoiding cracks in paving stones as a way to personal contentment. Not so in China, though.

The power of the lucky number is strong, so today millions of Chinese will be buying lottery tickets, placing bets and getting hitched. And not only there. Gretna is having a run on nuptials, with couples from all over the world choosing today as the ideal day to say 'I do'. None of the 69 couples set to marry in the Dumfriesshire village is from the Far East, so it just goes to show, this lucky numbers business is a global phenomenon.

But Professor Richard Wiseman, who specialises in quirky areas of psychology including luck, isn't so convinced. "In the West, 7 and 13 are seen as either lucky or unlucky. In parts of both China and Japan, 4 is seen as unlucky, with many Chinese hospitals not having a fourth floor, and some Japanese people being nervous about travelling on the fourth day of the month.

"There is some evidence that being anxious might affect your behaviour and bring about bad luck – for example, there are statistically more accidents on Friday 13th than you would expect because drivers are nervous."

In China, though, lucky numbers are big business. People spend thousands more pounds to buy houses located at number 8, or flats on the eighth floor. There's a premium on mobile phone numbers and car registrations that include the digit. In Chengdu, a city in China's Szechuan province, the telephone number 8888-8888 was sold for $270,723. It'd be just my luck to do that then get barraged by double-glazing and kitchen refit pitches.

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I ask Colin-M Baker what he'll be doing on the day? "Nothing really," he says disappointingly. "I'm not really ritualistic in that way." For my own part, I've decided that scrapping my mobile contract to get more eights in my number is maybe a step too far. I've also decided that wearing shoes three sizes too big, or going on a crash diet to fit into size 8 clothes is unnecessary. At 8:08pm, though, I will say a positive little chant. Well, it can't hurt, can it? Mr Darling, you should do the same.