Be careful when going into shops

An old friend

A minor triumph in the early stages of my self-imposed austerity project.

A brief summary below. First was the unepxected delight of being reunited with my seven year old bicycle. In January of this year I’d discovered the bike lock had jammed. With no obvious way of forcing the lock, the bike remained attached to the train station rack until last week when National Rail staff helpful took an angle-grinder to the thing and set it free. I collected it on Friday evening. I was terribly relieved.

For most of the weekend (when it wasn’t raining) I was incredibly keen to get back on the bike, intent on reinstating my cycle route to work. But there was one problem: I now have no bike lock. There’s no point in going out on a bike ride if I have to stop and I can’t lock it up. Read More

Is Madoff someone to blame for the economic crisis?

Making plans, originally uploaded by Thoroughly Good.

Best of luck to David Cameron who today seized the opportunity to occupy some kind of high-ground concerning the growing financial crisis.

Is it a recession ? Is it a credit crunch ? Is it an impending catastrophe? Who really knows. I’ve heard conflicting assessments quite a bit just recently. I’m confused. But then that’s hardly surprising given that I got a C-grade at GCSE maths. I was a creative, more artistic. Maths just wasn’t my thing. At least, that’s my defence.

Cameron is right, in some respects. If there are people responsible for defrauding financial institutions out of billions of pounds (or dollars) then they should really be brought to book. So too those individuals in the financial institutions who will undoubtedly plead the victim card for having been swizzed by a clever fraudster intent (if we are to summise correctly) on making a fortune at the expense of others.

What strikes me hardest is to what extent I feel relieved at hearing about Bernard Madoff’s arrest. It’s an utterly selfish, misguided and shameful sense of relief rooted firmly in a clear demonstration of denial on my part.

It goes like this.

In trying to lift us out of the economic crisis, the Government’s watchword here is to get as many people as possible to spend as much money as possible thus kick-starting the economy. We need more money flowing through the system. So go spending.

Those of us in debt are also aware at the same time of the need to cut back. These are lean times. We need to be more effecient, cut back on an extravagant lifestyle. These supposedly demanding economic times also remind us that we have a debt to pay back. We must also pay that back if the economy is to get back on it’s feet. At least, that’s the way I see it as I sit and think about my debt bill.

Inevitably I do look back on the past five-ten years and rather wish I been a little more prudent back then like I am slowly teaching myself to be now. I seem to be managing to plan food shops and curb present buying and focus on smaller, less expensive Christmas-related pleasures quite well now. Why couldn’t I have succeeded in doing that years ago and thus avoided the bill I face now?

Then I read about Bernard Madoff and remind myself about how little I understand about the economic crisis. Was it just that banks became unable or reluctant to lend to one another or is there actually someone or (a group of people) who can be blamed for the crisis? Were there fraudsters at work? Are we now able to blame investment bankers for the problems we’re in now? And, if we are, is it possible that me NOT borrowing money over the past ten years wouldn’t have made any difference anyway?

That’s where my argument falls down largely because I’m not informed enough about that which is levelled at them. At least, that’s how it feels. Money and the economy and politics are all subjects I feel I need to know more about before I can have an opinion.

And here I am and here you are reading this. Lack of knowledge hasn’t stopped me writing this. Regardless of my lack of knowledge, as a consumer I’m slowly beginning to feel less guilty about the debt I racked up over the past ten years and that – shamefully – is down purely to the fact that it appears I have someone else to blame for the financial crisis we face. And that leaves and extremely sour taste in my mouth, I’m prepared to admit.

Getting your homework back

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News that the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee is getting together for a bit of a chinwag always comes as a surprise. It’s never a nice surprise. I suddenly become very subdued, my eyebrows tense up and I begin to nervously rub my chin. What will they do? Will they increase the interest rate or keep it as it is? Will we be able to afford the mortgage payments or not.

Of course, we will be able to afford the mortgage payment. We wouldn’t be living here if we couldn’t. But even so, news that the committee is meeting to discuss the possibility of increasing the rate is always a bad thing.

It feels a little like a report card. As though someone has assessed all our financial committments and spending habits and made a decision accordingly. Have we behaved or are we about to be punished?

This time around it seems we’re safe although reports suggest that we’ll almost certainly be hit after the next meeting. Either way, there’ll still be that moment when I’m transported back to school waiting for my homework to be handed back.