16 Nov 2015, 5:21pm
personal finance rant


  • November 2015
    M T W T F S S
    « Oct   Dec »
  • Archives

  • The Guardian misinforms punters how to deal with the cost of Christmas

    The Guardian, which is a broadsheet paper aimed at the left-of-centre middle classes, hipsters and other good sorts, brings us an article on how to deal with the fiscal impact of Christmas. Which is absolutely, totally, stupendously wrong on all counts. It is like, WTF is wrong with these guys. It’s a total riot of wrong-headed gormless thinking. They trip up right out of the starting gate, with the headline.

    Overdraft or a ‘money transfer’? How to ease the cost of Christmas

    Repeat after me, you addle-brained punters, you never, ever, ease the cost of anything by borrowing money to pay for it 1. You always make your future self pay more and go without so your greedy current self can Have. It. Now. That’s fine and dandy when you’re in short trousers, but by the time you’ve gotten to 18 and over when you can legally buy beer and drive a credit card, you should have noticed something about Christmas.

    Christmas is not a random event

    It’s so unrandom that I can tell you when it will be in a hundred years time – 25th December 2115 since you ask. It’s not a random event or some act of God – well, depending on who you speak to it might be, but not in the OMG that’s totally unforeseeable category of things.

    less bad than the timer.. just. Still begs the question, why...? Just why make it, why buy it?

    Do not spend more than you have to on crap like this

    The choice is not overdraft or money transfer, you blithering nincompoops, because the other thing about Christmas is that is a totally gratuitious and elective expense. There is nothing at all wrong with spending shitloads of money on consumer trash to see the beatific smiles on your kids’ faces for five seconds if you save up for it first. You did, didn’t you? We presume since you are an adult you have noticed that regular things happen, er, regularly…? Mind you, I do wonder when the writer was born

    This is a relatively new facility on offer to some credit card holders, and allows someone to take part of their credit limit in the form of cash that is paid directly in to their bank account.

    Err, I used this newfangled facility to borrow £15,000 interest-free from MBNA to put down as a bigger deposit on my first house, over 25 years ago. There was a lot wrong with buying that house, but the MBNA loan was repaid and did not cost me any more than £15,000. This feature ain’t that new.

    Not only are the Guardian normalising infantile consumer behaviour, they are also telling their readers

    Go find a store that is offering x% higher prices for your Christmas goods. And shop there

    Normally you’d look for money off, but borrow for Christmas and you are spending more on your Consumer Stuff than you need to, which is the mark of a prize airhead.

    It’s simple. You spread the cost of Christmas by saving up for your consumer splurge before Christmas. Otherwise all you are doing is getting the same goods but paying more, or paying the same money and getting fewer goods. And that’s just pain stupid, dear Guardianistas. Don’t do it to yourselves.

    If you need to borrow money for Christmas, you can’t afford it

    So do yourself and your family a favour, cancel it for a year, and resolve to start saving in January for this predictable expense that will come round in 12 month’s time. You worked hard for that bloody money, and it’s rude to take 10-20% of your time working for the Man and just toss it down the toilet because you can’t think ahead. Suck it up for this time and resolve to get your act together for next Christmas, because y’know what? You have 13 months, starting now 😉

    That’s an F for Total Fail, Guardian. Do not borrow money for predictable expenses, because if you do you are spending more to get less.


    1. unless you can borrow for a total effective cost below inflation, which is not the case now

    Agreed absolutely Ermine and am happy to see that practically every comment on the article makes the same points that you have!

    I’m chuffed to the the Grauniad’s readership is more on the ball than their writers of puffery. But i got a rant out of it!

    I have observed that the Guardian commentators are not the same as who we thing of as Guardian readers.

    I am pretty sure they are Internet trolls who go there for sport. 🙂

    Haha, funnily enough I’ve included that Guardian link in a post I’m currently drafting about what I won’t be doing this Christmas!

    There’ll be a rich seam of bizarre batty behaviour for that post! I hope you’ll be selling your Xmas vouchers too which was another top wheeze advocated there 🙂 I simply couldn’t wrap the Ermine skull round the idea of exchanging money which is universally usable to vouchers which massively restrict the recipient’s range of spending, and make it time-bound. Barmy in all directions!

    I will never get used to how easy it is to brainwash consumers – I don’t even remember halloween being a thing in this country 5 years ago & now it’s yet another stupid event parents think they have to accommodate …..& in doing so teach them everything wrong about life.

    The cry you hear rising up from the planktonic masses though if you point out they can’t afford useless tat for their little preciouses at Xmas are usually variations on the themes of ”I don’t want them to feel poor compared to everyone else/unloved/different”. This gives all the wrong messages – if you don’t fit in there’s something wrong with you, consumption solves emotional issues, what others think of you defines you, being capable of independent thought is strange, etc., etc.

    When I were young ……. we were taught that nothing could buy real love & I remember those occasions fondly for a time the whole family got together, caught up on what had happened since the last time, cooked together all day long & generally re-affirmed bonds. For us kids, we were set a modest cost limit to buy only a very few symbolic gifts & understood exactly why – the reasoning behind it. That is why today we understand what is really important in life, vs knowing the cost of everything but the value of nothing & come hell or high water are never, never in debt.

    the kids axis seems a rich seam for marketers 😉 Combined that with a good dose of manufactured FOMO and independent thought flies out the window.

    The Guardian, misinforming people? Never! Yet another example of how shite their newspaper is I’m afraid. The only half-decent paper still available to buy is the FT…

    I fear I’m part of the problem – I haven’t bought a newspaper for years. There’s an argument to be made that we used to get better journalism when some of us actually paid for it, like with the FT now 😉

    I don’t buy newspapers either but as a free resource (other people gift me theirs when they’ve finished with ’em) they’re still as good a way as any of lighting the wood burner 🙂

    I never quite understood the point of paying good money to end up feeling worried sick that the world was about to end. I mean, was it a year or so back one of them (can’t remember which) forecast something not far short of an ice-age and I barely needed the central heating on. Brilliant !

    I take it you don’t read Tim Price’s weekly articles then … ? (http://www.thepriceofeverything.typepad.com, or maybe you do ;-))

    The argument “you get what you pay for” stands up fairly well for most things, but there’s a few in the computer software arena these days I’d contend are demonstrably under “the best things in life are free” category. Some freely distributed stuff leaves me in total awe of the (often unpaid) talent that’s on display in the finished product. Some great things are being done by people simply because they WANT to do it, not because they’re being PAID to do it, though I accept this is probably a minority these days sadly, the way “money” and “what’s in it for me ?” gets into everything.

    Totally agree. Gave up the Guardian last year after 35 years. Have switched entirely to magazines other than Saturday FT.

    Andrew Hagger seems to be doing paid PR for HSBC. I remember HSBC paid him to do a research and he came out with a startling revelation that HSBC’s advance account is best current account in the market. Seems more of a sales pitch.. very nicely explained and rebutted by Ermine

    Interesting, because that explains the bizarre nature of is scenarios. Borrow £750 for 21 days, if that helps you are a dude with a spare disposable income of £9,000 p.a (assuming you suck your gut in and spend zilch in January). In that case you should definitely not be such a gormless git and save up first. His other one of 2.5k for 42 days, let’s call that two months, eh, if a fellow with a spare disposable income of £15,000 p.a. assuming they can ground elective spend and discharge that, and, well, to be honest they should be ashamed of themselves for wasting £35 which could otherwise go to consumer spend or even to charity rather than HSBC!

    17 Nov 2015, 7:52am
    by London Rob


    Hi Ermine,

    Great post – I am glad I am not the only one with that view of Christmas! Sadly my other half is a mad Christmas fan so there is a limit to how much I can close it down – fortunately we keep an eye out throughout the year for small gifts that people will use, rather than pointless junk, so when Christmas does arrive its no extra expense, other than maybe a slightly higher alcohol and food bill!


    Hehe – I’m not actually advocating closing it down, unless you’re skint. I’m all for a decent fire festival at midwinter and a bit of communal feasting in these cold northern winters. Just save for it first – indeed historically people would fatten their farm animals etc for this time so they didn’t have to feed them extra against the cold to keep them through the winter, hence a bit of a blow-out at this time of year. Like your small gifts, that’s saving towards the fire festival – in a different way.

    17 Nov 2015, 8:12am
    by Emma Plays with Fire


    Excellent rant Ermine! Just what I was looking for to inoculate myself against the festive advertising bullshit.

    It was kind of rude not to, and perhaps I can leave Christmas alone in December, though the feast of gratuitous spending and outrageous consumerism is hard to resist ranting against!

    17 Nov 2015, 8:31am
    by Neverland


    Bah! Humbug!

    Indeed – there’s no point ot advancing years unless one gets a bit curmudgeonly with it. Adds character and grist to the mill!

    secret santa is a good one to reduce anxiety and expenditure – one gift is all you need worry about, and typically there is also a guide price..

    if you are at a loss what to buy for that one gift make sure that it is consumable.

    so all in gift expenditure can be happily and communally capped to say £10 ish, everyones a winner. If its consumables, then within a few weeks all traces are gone and your house isn’t filled with more junk.

    its what a wise and rational jesus would have wanted, or those wise and rational fire-gods if you are of a more pagan persuasion

    the trouble is the wise and rational gods of consumerism running up against tthe unwise and irrational consumers 😉 They’re taking the latter to the cleaners. I think the old gods were told to get on their bikes as far as Xmas is concerned many years ago.

    Hadn’t heard about the Secret Santa idea before other than as giving trees and the like. I see the idea has already been monetised 😉

    You know I think perople start to save, then think, jesus, £x per month just for Christmas, oh no, not this year, I’m cutting back.
    Then roll on Christmas and they get all riled up by the John Lewis advert and embark on yet another credit fuelled spending fury.

    17 Nov 2015, 4:52pm
    by The Rhino


    yes – i had to suppress an unnaturally strong desire to go out and buy a job lot of telescopes with the old credit card

    18 Nov 2015, 9:44am
    by Rowan Tree


    I’m looking forward to the midwinter sunrise when the sun is reborn. I’ll be out there.
    As a child I loved the Son being born, so I’ll get out the (very) old nativity set. Along with some very old decorations to surround the midwinter feast. Singing carols and going to a Wassail. I try to tune out the hype, but the mischievous Lidl advert does make me laugh.

    sun, son – freudian slip or typo?

    18 Nov 2015, 1:10pm
    by Rowan Tree


    Neither! Think about it – the pagan festival was taken over by the Christians, in turn taken over by big business. But we are fortunate enough to be able to chose how we celebrate (or not!) the midwinter, to pick out the things we like – even if I do mix up the myths, legends and stories a bit. It’s a time of birth, hence the dying sun being reborn on the winter solstice for the pagans, and the Christian nativity. I love them both.
    I’m not keen on the big business Christmas and try not to do much of it, although I like your idea of buying a job lot of telescopes – not enough people looking through them out there!

    18 Nov 2015, 1:24pm
    by Rowan Tree


    Telescopes from the point of view to see the bigger picture – time and space, and our place in it, not the John Lewis advert, yuck! I’d forgotten about that!

    18 Nov 2015, 4:57pm
    by The Rhino

    you only see the bigger picture if you put them to your eye the wrong way round. I see what you did there with the homonym now – very good..

    Maybe I’m just getting old and cynical but most of the adverts I see these days leave me dumbfounded. I mean, with my sensible trousers on (thank Martin Brundle’s grand prix commentating from the past for that one) there’s precious little being advertised that I’d seriously consider buying.

    Quite a few adverts leave me wondering what the hell they were trying to sell in the first place because, to me at least, it certainly wasn’t obvious.

    Another heap disappears because I see something fad-ish that won’t stand the test of time and will end up being the next toasted sandwich maker that got used once … about ten years ago and is now at the back of a chaotic cupboard awaiting the inevitable decluttering exercise.

    Even a sizable chunk of the remainder leaves me thinking “yes, but there’s cheaper just as effective alternatives to that too”.

    What’s left ? Pretty much the stuff that I’m surprised anyone NEEDS to advertise in the first place because the product pretty much sells itself.

    A lot of new products won’t have any track record for reliability, what it’s like to live with over an extended period, etc. I know a long deceased relative who used to say “Never be the first to buy anything new – it takes time to get the faults out of ’em”. This was far enough back that he certainly wasn’t talking about computer software either.

    I suspect that advice may not work as well now because product lifecycles have shortened in some cases to the point where they don’t bother with refinements and revisions to the original, but just go and release a whole new unrelated product (with no proven history, again).

    I’m with that relative of yours – never be the first. Pretty much to get anything – I was tickled to buy a second-hand CD from Amazon for £1.55 which had the original 2007 buy me for only £12.99 – those heady days before the financial crash when people had money, eh?

    Old stuff used to last better – I am still using an Epson Perfection 1200 SCSI scanner which is now 20 years old. Whereas anything dependent on anything Cloud has the life of a mayfly – I never buy hardware which needs an app because it’ll become unserviceable in a year or so. If it’s so ephemeral I just don’t need it.

    “Old stuff used to last better” – quite so. Back around 1990 I bought a Kenwood hi-fi stack (yes, I know, young and impulsive, roll on 25 years and I’m certainly not the same person ;-)) Anyway, I think I remember it costing £800 (gulp!) and it was actually the store demonstrator, still in great condition all the same. The point is it’s still in my living room, working perfectly even now. About 15 years ago it needed a power chip in either the amplifier or the graphic equaliser replacing – they can suffer a bit from heat apparently (not in my living room these days, but that’s another story :-)).

    Two things cross my mind: firstly, it must’ve been bloody well engineered in the first place (but then it is Japanese and they definitely made some good stuff in that period). The second thing (and by no means insignificant): what the hell would £800 back then be worth today ?! My 2015 brain would definitely blow a fuse given that decision to make again now, what with the environment we have today. Maybe I made a good choice after all but with bad (or even non-existent) reasoning at the time 🙂

    Like you say (repeatedly and, in my view, with good reason), we look back on things we did in the past, just shake our heads occasionally, and put it down to “experience” (or the lack of it) …

    As to “The Cloud”, oh God, I’m staying well clear of that one thanks – that’s one that old Geoff Boycott would describe as “a bit of a loosener well outside off stump, a ‘getting out to’ ball rather than one to take on”. I may be taking a more “natural” view of things here, but to me clouds can disappear as quickly as they arrived (unless you’re on top of Helvellyn waiting for the damned things to clear off and give you the view back). Nope, that one’s not gonna fly here, NEXT !! …

    A timely reminder that before Christmas it’s the day that alien visitors would use as justification for our complete annihilation and destruction… Black Friday. 27th November.

    Rowan Tree – I also adopt your liking for getting out in the elements for some sun re-birthing and I even own a telescope.

    “a broadsheet paper”: not for many years. Its current size is “Berliner” which seems appropriate given how much diluted Communist/Nazi stuff the Guardian preaches.

    One of those things one doesn’t really appreciate from the online version 🙂 Shades of JFK in 1963 too. Or that curiously luminous beer that delivers such a sore head the day after.

    In my life experience Christmas schlock has been overdone for 40 years at least. We don’t borrow for it but In my view it is strictly an exercise in consumer largesse.
    I doubt that many recipients of all this stuff are appreciative either, but there you have it. I’m usually happiest when the darn season is put to bed until next year. Humbug!
    My railing against it is so much urine in the wind so usually I just shut up and ignore all the commerciality – which started here just after Halloween.

    19 Nov 2015, 3:21pm
    by Neverland


    I think this particular article in the Guardian is a bit of soft target for snark

    However the Personal Finance section of the Torygraph continues to throw up gems that both deserve a roasting and hold up a mirror to contemporary aspiration, the increasing relative poverty of successive generations and just how much Torygraph journalists must be paid, e.g.:


    Thank you for that, neverland: a jolly laugh. I take it that the point is that these two thirty-somethings are really highly paid by most standards, certainly by mine, but will be potentially priced out of what they want in life by even better paid financial people, and, gulp!, wealthy foreigners.

    They’ll have to compromise, just like the rest of us. My own advice: sell the BTL and the owner-occupied house, and buy a house within the catchment area of superior state schools. Two couples we know have done this, and still claim moral superiority by describing themselves as socialists and loudly decrying private schools. Using wealth to exploit catchment areas is what I’ve learned to call semi-private schooling.

    20 Nov 2015, 4:54pm
    by The Rhino


    that is a classic – bringing back 16k a month, 2.5k on a mortgage, even if we say 50% of that is taxed, so net 8k they are spending 5.5k a month! Is that even possible! they must be subsisting on 50 pound note sandwiches

    I am dumbfounded – in so many ways. FFS if you’re gonna spunk 600grand on edukayshun

    it costs £600,000 to privately educate two children from nursery age to their A-Levels, and then send them to university for three years.

    sometimes you have to think laterally. What’s the point of education in an industrial consumer society but to enable a life of higher wages and less debt-slavery to The Man? Drop the public school foolery and put down £300k a head in some serious investments (and no, that leveraged BTL isn’t one) and just give them the option open to the children of aristocracy the world over – a life of leisure on a trust fund, make ’em Paris and Nicky Hilton, or those Ecclestone daughters. There’s what, nearly twenty years till they come of age, and it eliminates the risks of automation meaning there are no jobs for them – they can say Jobs? Am I bovvered…

    They have to be expecting a massive increase in their children’s pay to get any reasonable return on investment of that sort of wedge

    That’s where they’re proposing the most horrific misallocation of capital IMO, but this one runs a close second

    The couple could, alternatively, sell their buy-to-let to pay the school fees – but they don’t want to miss out if the property rockets in value in the future. They also see it as a long-term nest egg to boost their pension.

    – i mean for Gawd’s sake say they’re in their thirties and they’re going to be pensioners in forty years’ time, and it’s a characteristic of asset classes that have skyrocketed recently to continue to do so for 40 years

    and yet for all that money sloshing about they owe four times more on credit cards than I have ever owed on cards (barring the interest free card loan to lift the deposit to buy my first house). Madness…

    It’s almost as if they’ve written the article with this blog in mind 😉

    If not then troll bait, I definitely think so! (or they got a kick back from the banks mentioned. Who knows?!)

    22 Nov 2015, 1:30am
    by Investing Tortoise


    Interesting comment on the DM which gave me a double-take

    Wealthy’? Hardly. The do own two properties, heavily mortgaged, and have no net savings, after considering credit card debt.

    It’s accurate, but it’s hard to recognise that when it comes to people earning that much. Hard as it is to see in the context, they are neither rich nor wealthy because none of that flow sticks to the sides to become stock

    22 Nov 2015, 3:41pm
    by Neverland



    Isn’t the internet a marvellous thing:


    It seems that the Brownsons are:

    – much to my surprise, real

    – stupid enough to put their names in a Telegraph article speaking about their financial circumstances in detail

    – sponging off the state for a living one way or another: one as a “transport and security” consultant to the EU; the other suing local councils for people “tripping” on pavements

    “sponging off the state for a living one way or another: one as a “transport and security” consultant to the EU; the other suing local councils for people “tripping” on pavements”: harsh. How could people in London be so rich unless many, many of them sponged off the state? That’s what London is for.

    @Neverland that’s amazing – it’s hard to know whether to be cheered or sad! I’d made the TFS assumption of some of the Torygraph sketches. I’m not averse to having a laugh with some bait, but to realise that there really are people carrying on like that is distrubing.

    What’s even more disturbing is that such boneheads get paid that much – back in the day you had to be reasonably sharp to be a management consultant. Misguided, maybe, but damned clever. Clearly hings have changed. Props to them for extracting so much from the system, but they’re still tripped up by the fundamental problem. You need wisdom as well as luck to turn income into wealth 😉

    > That’s what London is for.

    that’s going to be a bear when London becomes a city-state in the next couple of decades!

    23 Nov 2015, 11:38am
    by SpreadsheetMan


    Votes for an exploratory Ermine Xmas shopping trip report?

    There must be wonky cat-faced kitchen timers in the wild by now?


    perhaps a Black Friday outing to watch the cash-strapped Great British Public spew £1bn – a public spectacle where the public are, indeed, the spectacle 😉

    23 Nov 2015, 1:16pm
    by Neverland



    Ho ho ho! I’m in the Christmas spirit already:


    Bring out the Putney village stocks!

    I think Neverland’s already got his teeth into those guys, a mustelid can’t pinch a his beautifully eviscerated prey, merely sit back and enjoy the carnage 😉


    Leave a Reply

  • Recent Posts

  • Subscribe to Simple Living In Somerset via Email

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.