In case you needed cheering up – the media seem to love doom and gloom stories in January – research has emerged that might back up the concerns some of you expressed about credit cards and debt this week.
The Post Office Christmas Club claims that 29 per cent of people in the UK are worrying about how to pay for their excess spending over Christmas. 10 per cent of the 2,000 people they interviewed went into debt to pay for the festive season and 37 per cent of them are cutting back on essentials, such as food and utility bills, to pay back the money.
The Post Office is plugging its Christmas club which enables people to put money away regularly towards Xmas 2010. The minimum pre-payment has been cut from £5 to £2 because the club said customers told them they were unable to afford to put much money away. If you pay into the club, your cash is locked away and you can’t get your hands on it until 1 November each year. Personally I don’t think Christmas clubs are the best way to save for the festive season. Usually you’re tied into shopping at that particular store and you can’t get hold of your cash if you need it for something else. But at least with the Post Office Club you can use your club card in a number of high street shops.
If this research is a fair reflection of what is going on in the UK, then it makes me feel sad and angry. True, times are hard and many people are struggling financially, but why does Christmas always come as such a surprise? It’s the same few days every year. Why do we bow to this pressure to overspend on our loved ones? Why can’t we see beyond the tacky TV advertising campaigns and understand that we don’t have to bankrupt ourselves to enjoy Christmas? That said, I’ve been impressed by the attitude of many of you who use this blog in refusing to overspend and making Christmas about family, friendship and having fun rather than running up debts. I wish the rest of the UK could do the same.
Surely there is more to life than being a consumer. I’m so tired of being seen as that and nothing else. Peter recently left a comment which resonated with me, saying how fed up he is of everybody and their dog trying to sell him home insurance. I know what he means. I think one of the problems is that we are no longer seen as individuals (if, of course, we ever were) we are all just consumers – targets to be sold as many products as possible 24/7. I watched an interesting programme the other week on BBC 3 about the noughties. It argued that during the credit boom of the last decade even politicians began to see us as consumers rather than voters, deciding which election literature households would receive based on their postcodes and shopping habits. If this is true, then it is particularly depressing.
We are complex human beings. Surely there is more to us than what we buy? But by overspending at Christmas and other times, we are not just endangering our financial health and stability, I think we are being complicit in this notion that we are all just consumers. Effectively we are demonstrating to companies and institutions that, yes, you are right, we are only what we consume and nothing else. Surely it’s time we showed them that enough is enough and there is more to us than that?
Are you tired of being seen as a consumer rather than an individual? Do you ever see this situation changing? Leave a message as I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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