On your marks……Get set……Get into debt…..

Well it’s sneaking up once again, and the shops have their annual exercise in getting rid of over priced tat.

I am of course talking about Christmas, now I know it’s not yet even November but the fact remains that the retail industry is gearing up for it’s annual exercise in removing money that people haven’t got from their pockets in return for stuff they give to others who actually don’t want to receive it in the first place.

Now the one advantage of being an atheist is that generally this madness passes me by, mums annual present will be sorted by the wife. She will have asked mum weeks ago what she wants. But come christmas day she will still find it a surprise simply because she will have forgotten she had ever mentioned it. Which of course begs the question as to why Sue asks her in the first place, but that’s female logic for you.

When I was a mere youngster presents seemed much simpler, and we were happy whatever we got. There were no computers, at least none that would fit in the average house, nor were there mobile phones and computer games. Remembering back there was no peer pressure that I can recall where we had to have the same as or better than our friends got. These days children want the latest, the perceived best and of course the most expensive. They seem to have lost the appreciation that money does not grow on trees. Many families are suffering from the current economic problems and simply don’t have the money to spend on what their precious little snow flakes are demanding.

But children don’t appreciate that, they just want to out do present wise what their friends are getting. The sad fact is that their friends parents are probably as short of money as their own parents are. Its a vicious circle, and of course a slow slide to poverty. Without doubt it’s a tough time for many families and it’s also a time when people will go into debt they can’t afford to stop their offsprings thinking they don’t love them. It’s a shame that many children seem to think their parents love is directly related to how much money they spend on them.

When I worked in retail we had a period where by law you had to pay a 10% deposit for anything you bought on credit, actually remembering back some luxury items required something like a 33% deposit up front. The theory behind this was of course if you couldn’t afford the deposit then neither could you afford the monthly payments that followed. Agreements were for a fixed period of 6-12-18-24 or in some cases 36 months. But in all cases you knew exactly what the monthly payments were  and for how long together with knowing exactly at the end how much you would be paying. Bad debts weren’t that common as credit checks were quite extensive and you had to show you had the ability to pay.

Now the company I worked for had publicly said many times that if the need for a deposit was removed then bad debt would shoot through the roof. The were proved right because that’s exactly what happened when the legal requirement for a deposit was dropped.

These days you will not have a fixed term agreement you will pay by using a credit card, typically at a very high overall interest rate. I have seen people get a credit card with say a £2500 credit limit. They then assume they have that amount in their pocket to spend, where more accurately they have the ability to accumulate that amount of debit, but because they can spend it they look on it as cash and it is of course far from that.

So spend wisely this christmas, it’s still no fun to be paying off the debts you accumulate this christmas when the next one comes around. Remember if you have cash in your pocket or bank account you have it to spend, if it’s in neither of those places then it’s not money your spending but it’s debt your accumulating.


City of no hope and no glory

For the first time in it must be two years I ventured into the city centre.

I came out depressed to be honest.

There were people just sitting about on the floor leaning back against shop fronts, there was litter blowing around. An old chap begging whilst playing an old accordion. To misquote a comedians well known phrase he played the right notes but in the wrong order.

People were just wandering about with no aim. It could best be described as moving unemployment.

The faces showed no hope and no expectations.

We walked through the major shopping centre. Now when I first moved here to Peterborough 28 years ago it was a lovely centre, well kept, all the shop units full and  busy even mid week with shoppers.

What a change now, it’s full of display tat, and stalls scattered about that make it look like more of an indoor market than a shopping centre. It’s lost it’s sparkle. People were sitting on the cold marble seats looking depressed downtrodden and bored.

There are boarded up shop units, with information painted on them giving details about the centre, in I think the vain hope you will not notice they are empty. There was a Sky TV stand with a couple of men on plying the benefits of satellite TV, to be honest they looked as though they would be more at home selling dodgy second hand cars on a bit of waste land.

The bus station where we caught the bus out was no better, yet more people sitting about not even waiting for buses, rubbish on the floor and a couple of security guards who looked more dodgy than the people they were keeping an eye on.

Peterborough city centre has changed, the council have just spent money on covering much of it with free WI-FI. Looking at the place I can think of many other ways the money could have been better spent.

As I said at the start it was a depressing experience.