A couple of recent stories by Simon Read in the UK’s “Independent” newspaper (see below) reveal that UK consumers are once again extending their credit card debt, after a period when the trend seemed to be reversing.
What’s more, they are using cards not for luxuries (i.e. “discretionary spending”) but on essentials.
Christmas is coming: the debts are getting fat
The situation for many of those “hard-working families”, as our politicians like to call them (surely that’s discrimination against single people and lazy people?) will probably get worse in a month or two. Why? Not just because of the underlying economic situation and rising inflation, but because of the “retail eternity” (to quote my hero Loudon Wainwright III) that we call Christmas.
We have been conditioned to believe that one can’t celebrate Christmas properly without spending a load of money. So those in debt are going to get deeper in debt. If you have young children, peer pressure and the blandishments of advertisers will try hard to ensure it.
US blogger promotes debt-free Christmas
That’s why I gave three hearty cheers when I found that an American blogger called Brad Chaffee had started a discussion thread called “Debt-Free Christmas”. I communicated with Brad and told him how much I liked the idea; he got back to me promptly, saying that the concept was very much alive and well in his family, even if the blog thread is less active right now.
What I take as the meaning of his “Debt-Free Christmas” was not so much to get right out of debt at this time of year – that would be a very tough aspiration – but how to find practical ways of having a great Christmas without getting further into debt; despite inflation and peer pressures.
Gift spend limit
In future posts I’ll be talking about how we’ve done it in my family. The most successful method was putting a limit on the gift spend per person. That forced a rethink, compared with the previous procedure of: “Oh God, only a week to go and I haven’t finished my gift shopping; must throw some more money at the problem”.
The new rule didn’t just save money, it unleashed lots of creativity.And we had just as much fun, maybe more.
Over to you
I’d like to throw this open. All contributions welcome!
WANT TO KNOW MORE?
For Simon Read’s article in the Independent, 6 Nov 2011:
For info on my e-book “Back to the Black: how to become debt-free and stay that way”:
Kindle version: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004PLMAQM.
Other versions: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/22886