Lisa Markwell: Free at last from spend, spend, spend

Related Topics

You wouldn't know it from logging on to your bank's website, but loans are out of fashion. Despite the flashing, dancing, screamer adverts for borrowing money that bellow out at us, as a nation we're paying back our debts like never before. It's a move which can only be seen (by us) as an upside to the recession.

Let's not get too excited, there's still £1.5 trillion of debt to go round, but we managed to knock more than £600m off the balance sheet in July, more than any other single month since records began. My esteemed colleague, economics editor Sean O'Grady states that it's bad news for the economy, since if we don't spend, then Britain can't be hauled out of recession. But on a personal level, doesn't it feel better to be in the black with fewer geegaws around the house, than still firmly in the red, with a swanky '59' numberplated car on the driveway? Companies have spent most of the last few months restructuring, working out ways to keep afloat, so it should come as no surprise that individuals might have a go at the same approach. Looking at our personal bottom lines and all that...

The "spend now, pay later" model of economics has caused plenty of casualties – I should know, I've come perilously close to insolvency through such pursuits as trading credit cards like Top Trumps. It's been a source of great satisfaction to receive letters from Barclaycard/Capital One/Egg saying, "we've decided to close your account, due to lack of activity over the last 12 months". I thought I'd never shake the buggers off.

The new austerity has already had us attempting to see our houses as somewhere to live, rather than get-rich-quick investments, and wearing clothes for longer than six weeks, no matter how much magazines blare out announcements about "the new drop" of "must-haves".

Now we want to pay off our debts instead of paying money into a sad-sack, no-interest savings account. The Centre for Economics and Business Research says its bad news for the Bank of England and the Government, because it shows that quantitative easing hasn't worked, while the Mortgage Advice Bureau call it a massive retrenchment.

But there will always be better-off folk who can be relied on to spend, spend, spend (hello to Victoria Beckham and her dozens of £5,000 Hermes Birkin bags). Chanel put the price of their insanely expensive handbags up recently, to keep them exclusive. They're not worried about the lack of consumers, then.

What's peculiar about the giant repayment movement is the reported phrase "since records began". When I read that I thought, wow, that's major. Then I noticed that records began in, er, 1993. Why on earth didn't anyone keep a record of personal lending before? It's not as if loans for home improvements or new cars were invented in the 1990s.

I'm informed by a veteran wealth-watcher that while that's true, it's only in the last couple of decades that personal lending has become as important as personal expenditure, the traditional method of calculating where we are as a nation, financially. Our parents' generation didn't borrow like we do, after all. My mother is bemused by my habit of booking holidays on a credit card only to grumble about how the interest has increased the cost of the trip over the next 12 months.

This year I, like myriad others, have flown less, spent less and paid for it all from my current account – being part of the new austerity is a good feeling. (I still got stiffed on the nightmare Euro exchange rate, but that's another story.)

We come in all shapes and sizes

A new book by design guru Stephen Bayley imagines the female body as a structural form. It's tempting to look at it as a jazz-mag dressed up as art – there are dozens of pictures of naked women – but since we're objectified every day, in every way, all over the world, I'd rather it was by an erudite commentator than a bloke on a building site.

He calls us a masterpiece of design, the perfect marriage of form and function. It's worth remembering that, using it as a mantra, even. We are allowed to be rounded like Marilyn Monroe, or bony, like Carla Bruni. And as an aside, it's also worth noting what a friend of mine once said: if a gentleman caller is close enough to notice your imperfections, he's too close to care. Or maybe they're not even imperfections, just alterations to the original building, eh Mr Bayley?

Perhaps the new editor of The Sun could contemplate replacing the traditional Page 3 girl with an image from "Woman as Design", complete with the author's comment on why our differing shapes are all part of the blueprint.

Memories to inspire our children

Could any of us fail to be moved by accounts of evacuees, celebrating – if that's the right word – the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War? Hearing them recount their experiences – of being sent to the distant countryside with just a label on their lapel and a change of clothes – it seems extraordinary now. The idea of children being chosen by complete strangers that would become their foster parents, as they are penned in trainloads at a village cattle market, is unimaginable. Then there's the almost unbearably poignant memories of little ones who returned home years later, their accents and behaviour changed irrevocably by their strange, temporary world.

My children love to hear my mother talk about her gaggle of siblings waved off at the station, but the scene is blurred in their minds with the fictional Narnia evacuees. They just can't believe that any circumstances called for something as drastic as Operation Pied Piper. It behoves us to keep memories of the kindness of strangers alive for the next generation.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Letter from the Education Editor: This shocking abuse of teachers should be taken seriously

Richard Garner
Brand loyalty: businessmen Stuart Rose (pictured with David Cameron at the Conservative conference in 2010) was among the signatories  

So, the people who always support the Tories... are supporting the Tories? Has the world gone mad?

Mark Steel
War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?