Is Frugalism Anti-British?

DJ and I went on a rare trip out last night to see comedian Dylan Moran. Normally we never go to gigs as they’re usually so expensive and DJ isn’t keen on crowds. But we are ardent fans of the Black Books star and had saved up to see him as a treat. The venue was packed – evidently we weren’t the only people who felt they needed a good laugh in the current climate.

This wasn’t lost on Moran who poked fun at the London audience, joking about how many times they might be made redundant over a lifetime (roughly 20, he estimated – I hope he’s wrong). In fact he made many insightful remarks about consumerism, dressed up as gags. He said that shopping had in some ways replaced religion – people now bought pointless stuff to fill up their lives. And at one point in the evening Moran quipped that the UK is ‘a prison where you’re forced to shop’.

Obviously he was being daft and making us laugh, but I think he makes a valid point. The government is doing its level best at the moment to coax us to a shopping mall, despite the fact that many of us are more concerned about whether we’ll have a job next month. I’m sure if Chancellor Darling had any money left to hire some vans, round us all up and drive us to Lakeside or the Trafford Centre or wherever then he would. But for now he hopes that the temporary cut in VAT will have the same effect. It’s interesting to see that the chief executive of Next, Simon Wolfson, thinks he’s got it completely wrong. Here’s a link to his letter to the Times this week.

In Taiwan they will be handing out coupons to citizens to encourage them to hit the shops and stimulate the economy. And remember after the September 11th attacks how George Bush told America to go shopping? Some economists have been wondering whether he should reiterate his remarks.

But for those of us who are busy saving our pennies and avoiding the shopping malls – is being frugal in this climate somehow anti-British? Are we disloyal citizens because we’re not propping up the economy and joining in the government’s debt jamboree? Remember the Compact members in the US who signed a pact not to go shopping for a year? At the time they were heavily criticised by some commentators as being anti-American.

Will a Woolworths or car manufacturing employee somewhere lose their job because you or I failed to max out our credit cards this weekend? It’s an interesting dilemma. However, not everyone has the choice to spend, spend, spend now and pay later, and I’m sorry, but I for one will not be leveraging up my plastic this Christmas no matter how much I genuinely feel for anyone facing redundancy. But I’d be interested to know your own thoughts on the matter.

Have a great weekend, Piper xxx

Will the Chancellor’s VAT cut get you out spending? Do you think it’s anti-British not to go shopping? Will you be heading down to ailing Woolies this weekend to stock up on cut-price goodies? Leave a comment and let me know.


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7 Responses to Is Frugalism Anti-British?

  1. Kerri says:

    My comments about Woolies are in the post below so I won\’t repeat them (my hometown has also just seen it\’s Mothercare store close too btw). The VAT cut won\’t encourage me to spend more but it does cheer me a bit as I already planned to try and finish of my remaining xmas shopping on Mon/Tues so hopefully I\’ll save a little – though I am only taking with me the cash I have saved over the year so there\’s no chance of me overspending. The only thing is, the car park is astronomical and its not practical to take the train on this occasion.
    As far as, is it anti-British not to go shopping – I think it\’s quite the opposite. What about the \’Make do and Mend\’ campaign during (and directly after) WWII. People were encouraged to make what they had last and repair where they could, and be imaginative too. Ok, so a large part of that was also do to verious raw material shortages, but to me, that is what being Bristish is actually about – not a spend spend spend culture which to me is more American. Every time we go down that route, it ends in tears… just look back to the selfindulgent yuppy culture of the 1980\’s…. the lessons are in history but it seems that many choose not to learn from them.

  2. Christine says:

    The government has not thought the VAT reduction through. All
    stock on the shelves will have been bought at the present rate of 17.5%
    VAT and that is what companies will have to declare on their VAT returns –
    so logically it can\’t be sold on with the reduced VAT unless the seller
    is prepared to take a 2.5% reduction in margins. I doubt if businesses
    can afford to do this at present. The other side of the coin
    is that road transport has just seen a rise in costs. The price of fuel
    will see a drop in the VAT part of the bill which the firms can claim
    on their VAT returns. However the fuel duty has risen by 2.5% to
    compensate the government for the loss of income. Now fuel duty is a
    tax that has to be paid like income tax and is not refundable.
    Therefore the road haulage industry has just suffered a rise in its tax
    take which it will want to pass on to its customers. These customers
    will be you and me when things are delivered to our door or the shops
    in which we make purchases. I wonder if we shall be told that this 2.5%
    has been taken up in the cost of transport so we shan\’t see it in a
    price cut. When the VAT rate rises again in January 2010 the
    shops will need to have money to pay for this change. So don\’t expect
    anything in the January sales then as the 2.5% will be needed against
    the restocking of the shelves. But lets be realistic, if customers are not buying at 20% off or even 50% off in some cases, why should an extra £2 off something at £100 be an incentive if their credit cards are full to the limit and their total income is required to pay food, fuel, rent or mortgage, clothes and travel to work?

  3. margaret says:

    Loved your comments. Remember Maggie Thatcher who also said we who do not shop were being unpatriotic?
    Such politicians are frighteningly stupid. No industries – mostly wiped out by Thatcher or sold off by other politicians, and a shrinking manufacturing base, so we were expected to \’circulate\’ our cash to each other. When that wasn\’t enough, then we had to circulate our \’future\’ cash to each other via credit cards. Doesn\’t take a great brain to realise that debt = POSSIBLE future cash. In a way we are using up our futures to live now – totally daft! I do shop and spend, but only within what cash I have right now, which is in fact the only cash I actually have. At the same time, I also save. However, anyone who has savings is punished in this society. You may have peanuts for income, but if you have that dire thing called savings (of more than £8000), no tax credits or pension credits for you. Low interest rates also means a lower income for such people. I remember going to my bank and asking (tongue in cheek) if they offered Sharia loans (no interest either way), and requesting a Christian loan: \’neither a borrower nor a lender be\’, and reminding the totally flummoxed bank manager of Christ overturning the money-lenders\’ tables, albeit probably because they were in the temple courtyard! Said he didn\’t know much about \’religion\’! Not that I did particularly either – was just trying it on!
    I hear of people who say they have to live together as they can\’t afford to marry, saying that a wedding will cost thousands of pounds – rubbish! The licence is about £40-50. Or others who move house every couple of years to \’make money\’ – they\’re going to sell eventually to realise all that money and live in the gutter? Someone out there has put something into their drinking water and turned them into spending junkies? Or are we a nation of sheep, and the government a pack of sheep dogs?
    Wish I could meet Dylan Moran and give him a pat on the back!
    Margaret Georgiadou

  4. Kath says:

    I\’d be upset about being called unpatriotic, if those in government were qualified to bandy about such terms.
    Just so happens that I\’m a mother first, patriot second.
    And as soon as government can be made to realise that they are british first, and global citizens second;
    they may remember that our country was founded on job creation first and shopping second.
    I refuse to believe that shopping is the only method of job creation.
    In fact I find it anti-british of anyone that thinks so!

  5. rik says:

    The only reason they say it\’s anti-British not to shop is to try to get people to shop out of guilt. It\’s just another marketing trick for the "sheeple" (people who\’ll follow where they\’re told). I agree with Kerri about the make do and mend era, you could hardly call that anti-British! If they really want to know what\’s anti-British, how about what successive governments have done to Britain? Of course I feel sorry for the people who might lose their jobs, but why would I spend money I don\’t need to when it\’s needed by my own family? It might sound selfish but charity really does begin at home.

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