Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Keeping the Credit Crunch out of the Kitchen

I’m feeling smug again. Well, perhaps smug is too strong a word. With the recession officially upon us, I’ve been revising LawCare’s information pack about debt and financial problems, just to make sure it’s as good as it can be now that it’s going to be in more demand than usual. As I look over some of our case files and research the subject with agencies like National Debtline (0808 808 4000) it’s terrifying to see the desperate state some people end up in, often through no fault of their own. It leaves me feeling very relieved to have no debt at all (that’s right, not a penny). In fact, I can’t help thinking “there but for the grace of God go I.”

The funny thing is, in my case my escape from debt is largely due to the grace of God. I converted about fifteen years ago to a church whose leaders repeatedly insisted that we should avoid debt, and thus I have dutifully done so ever since. Our credit card (which we use only because of the perks which come with it) is paid off in full by direct debit each month. My car is an N-reg which I bought fourth-hand in cash. Most of our furniture was left to us by my grandmother when she died in 1991 and thus our sofa is older than my mother. As for my kitchen … my kitchen was built in the early eighties by the man who owned the house before us. It is, let’s say, a little dated. Not only that, but three cupboard doors are missing, and there are only two drawers left, one of which covers the Pyrex in the cupboard below it with little flakes of plastic from the runners each time we wrench it open.

But we have scrimped and saved for four years, and gone to Homebase (never again!) with real cash money, and bought a new kitchen. As I write this, our builder (who doesn't offer credit terms) is installing it. No "Buy now - Pay later" deals for us.

We regularly get door-to-door salesmen, attracted by the apparently lamentable state of our driveway or guttering. We tell them we’re saving up to the get the work done, and they cheerfully tell us that they can offer us credit. It’s extremely useful to be able to respond “Debt is against my religion.”

Most people, however, don’t have that restriction. If they want a new sofa (i.e., one that isn't 65 years old) and the shop offers interest free credit and nothing to pay for a year, they will take it. If they need a new kitchen, they will go ahead and buy it on credit. Advertisements tell them again and again that they need the latest games console, that the prices on these exotic holidays have been greatly reduced and they really must have one, or that they can spend up to £2,000 today in the catalogue. Everyone else seems to have these things, and they don’t see why they shouldn’t. They don't seem to realise that buying on the "Never-never" actually means paying on the "Always-always".

It’s tragic when it all falls apart, and I hope our “new improved” and FREE debt information pack will help lawyers who have innocently fallen victim to the credit trap. I had to put up with a yellow plywood kitchen for four years while we saved up for the new one, but rather that than still be despairing of paying for a custom built designer kitchen long after the novelty has worn off.

LawCare’s free and confidential helpline is available 9-7.30 Monday-Friday, 10-4 weekends, on:
0800 279 6888 (Solicitors, Law Students and Legal Executives in England and Wales)
0800 279 6869 (Solicitors, Advocates and Law Students in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man)
0800 018 4299 (Barristers, Clerks and Judges in England and Wales)
1800 991801 (Solicitors in the Republic of Ireland)

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