I am being constantly getting phone calls telling me how to cancel my debt. I'm afraid i get annoyed and immediately hang up, so that the last call said, "This is a public announcement, so please don't hang up. From April 6th the Government plans to relieve you of your debts..." As soon as the word 'debts' occurred, I hung up once more.
For someone of my generation these calls are an insult, because we were brought up never to be in debt no matter how hard times were for us - and somehow we managed to keep free of debt. One of the most vivid memories I have of growing up in a large family in the North-East of England in a recession is of my mother often having to say "We can always do without what we can't get!" This was always greeted by a loud, disgusted chorus of "Mum!" from her seven children - but it was very good training for us and she was a wizard at coming up with alternatives that were nowhere near as good but clamed us all down. My mother also managed to be a keen supporter of Methodist overseas Women's Work no matter how tough it was for her to make ends meet, because "their situation is much worse than ours".
The result is that throughout my long life I have followed this principle and never been in debt, though sometimes life has been hard and it meant that because I was the fifth child I was the first to, of necessity, be denied College education. (I have never ceased to take every opportunity to keep on learning.)
There is no doubt that this generation has unprecedented debt problems for various reasons and has great distress because of this. My grandchildren incurred huge debts in order to pursue their chosen University courses. While I applaud their academic success, I can't come to terms with the fact that this is a heavy burden to bear at the start of their careers. I can just about accept this kind of debt for the huge benefit that a university degree can bring (and because I had so wanted to take up the place I'd been offered in my youth).
However, it continually distresses me to see the TV adverts which advise viewers to "buy now, pay later. Nothing to pay for the first year." I have great sympathy for young people setting up home for the first time (and I help them when I can) but is there no other way in these days? Is life really harder now than it was for us in the recession of the 1930s? I know that there are some - homeless and immigrants, for example - who are in dire straits through no fault of their own, but, those apart, are families being encouraged to spend above their means? Would they be happier managing 'to do without what they can't get' until they could really afford it. You may say that it's easy enough for me to write like this because my hard times are over. In a sense that is true, because I have a nice house and garden (where I can grow my vegetables) but on a widow's pension I am still having to watch what I spend and leave enough to support tsunami appeals, etc.
Here in Reading, Christian Community Action is doing a wonderful job to give practical help and advice for those in desperate need and I am glad to support them. But I still ask whether so many people ought to be in debt, just by buying what they fancy instead of waiting until they can afford it.
With Christmas approaching some families run themselves into debt because they want to 'put on a good show' of food and presents. Other families stop giving presents to the adults in the family to save money. So I'm repeating what I wrote in an ealier post, in case it helps one or two families to enjoy a happy debt-free Christmas -
My daughter-in-law came up with a suggestion that I think is worth sharing in case it will help your family too. The idea is that all the adult names are put into a hat and each member of the family draws one out and buys a present for the person whose name (s)he has drawn, thus buying only one present - but the children are excepted. Before making the draw, a reasonable price is agreed that each present should cost. This way, every adult receives a good present and no-one knows who has bought which present for whom - and, best of all, no-one has run themselves into debt by trying to buy more presents than they can afford!