In The Red: I've got an excuse to binge before VAT goes up again

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The Independent Online

Those two words – "credit crunch" – have become the bywords for our times. They come up in conversation more frequently than the weather, and are held up as justification for a million different things. In reality, though, this peculiar phenomenon's effect on me – and on many my age and in similar circumstances to me – has been limited.

Though I own my flat, few of my friends own theirs. I can only think of one person I know who owns a car; the rest of us use public transport. And while we work, few of us have much money stored away. So things such as house prices, petrol tax and interest rates have little effect on us. The biggest blow has been the shrinking jobs market, which has left many of my peers either unemployed or stuck in jobs they don't like. And, of course, the prospect of a pay rise has become far more distant.

At any rate, as a result I didn't expect very much from the pre-Budget report. And that's probably just as well, seeing as there is only a limited number of ways it promises to change my situation. Most of those, as it happens, change it for the worse. Next year's rise in VAT will be a blow; I won't be able to dispose of my income quite so freely as before. It means that the next couple of months are going to be spent stocking up – not just on the obligatory Christmas gifts but also on the range of goods which are suddenly going to cost more come January.

I also stand to lose out now that the stamp duty holiday is coming to an end. For a while I've been considering selling my flat (bought long before the credit crunch) but have dilly-dallied when faced with a stagnant market. The market may be improving, but my flat is going to seem a far less attractive purchase now that buyers face a hefty surcharge on the transaction. On the plus side, the boiler scrappage sounds exciting.

Those of us who don't own cars have listened patiently as drivers, government ministers and analysts extol the virtues of their car scrappage scheme. Now we get a piece of the action, too – albeit in the rather less sexy form of a new boiler, instead of a brand new set of wheels. And I hear bingo tax is going down. So who knows? Perhaps I'll develop a new hobby.

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