When I was a kid, living in the UK in the 40s, Christmas (that’s what we called it then) was not a time for uncontrolled spending. This was probably due to two main things: we had little or no money and there was very little to spend it on anyway. How things have changed! Now there are thousands of things to buy, and the kids know about them all. But whether we can afford to buy them – now there’s a question. The television is lousy with advertisements for things to buy your loved ones. Every other email I open is offering me stuff to give to my family and friends. The shops are loaded with stuff, most of which I find it hard to imagine anyone wanting. (Or at least, if we really wanted most of it we would not be waiting until now to get it. I mean, do people only buy pajamas at this time of the year?
And I have been led to believe that we are having an economic crisis. I know that governments have decided that we must be encouraged to spend our way out of it. I am sure they know what they are talking about. And I can see that saving in the current economical climate is rather pointless. But to go into immense debt just to buy a few tawdry things for a festival celebrating what, exactly? This is no longer a religious festival – it’s far more about doing something bright and lovely in the middle of winter, and most people regardless of religious culture do something special right now.
But people are spending more than ever before. And some of them already know that they have no jobs to go to after the holiday. Many more must realise that they may not have enough money coming in during the first months of 2009 to pay off their credit card bills. People’s homes are going to be repossessed soon, due to their inability to pay the mortgage. Hoe are they going to pay their credit card bills, in the face of everything else?
I shouldn’t really worry. After all, I faced the fact, long ago, when I retired to care for a sick husband, that I would be living on a relatively low fixed income for the rest of my life. Yes, I have some savings – and look what they are doing at the moment! I’m tempted to spend it all (that’s what the government seems to want) and have fun while I may. Of course I try to earn a little extra all the time. Don’t we all? But this saving ethic that my generation have taken on – is there any point in it, really?
However, I cannot leap into debt with my credit card in the way that my children’s generation do. Maybe it would be fun – but I don’t like that feeling in the pit of my stomach which accompanies a bill I cannot pay. Perhaps I could learn to change my attitude. I’m all for learning. But I don’t want to learn this spending thing. I have never ‘shopped ’til I dropped’. I don’t enjoy it at all. Shopping is not a therapy for me – it is sometimes a real misery. (And before you make a leap -in decision about my sex, I’m a woman. And what’s more I quite enjoy wearing pink)
But I won’t get into debt to buy presents just for the sake of it. I buy presents on a regular basis. I see something ideal for someone I love and I get it. If it’s appropriate I give it immediately. If not I wait for birthday or holiday time. I’m not a spoilsport. I love giving. I just hate being out of control of my finances. I’m not going there – it’s a country I do not want to visit. So, try not to judge me as a miserable old person. I’m just someone who remembers when there was less to give and people expected less. I think it’s great that so many things are available today. I love my house full of gadgets, I love electronics, wouldn’t want to do without the internet or my laptop computer. I don’t want to censure people for buying things for their loved ones. I’m just really worried about the misery they may be building up, getting a credit card bill that will blight their lives until they up it again to finance their holiday. And I wonder, will we be having holidays in 2009? Will anyone except the extremely rich be able to afford one?