Thursday, 16 December 2010

Over half of Irish people get into debt for Christmas

As kids, my siblings and I always had a good Christmas. The Old Dear would walk us up to Gearys on the corner of Grafton Street, facing Stephen’s Green, and we would see the ‘real’ Santa there.

We had started asking awkward questions like how come there was a Santa in Switzers, in Arnotts, and every shop of any consequence in Dublin?   The others were “helpers” we were assured. The “real” one was situated in Gearys (a toy shop). 

We loved it of course, as the real Santa gave you balloons that “went up” – presumably they were filled with helium – which you attached your message to and duly dispatched to the North Pole. 

At the time, I had no idea of the sacrifices the old pair had to make to ensure that Santa left the latest Hornby train set, Matchbox Motorway, Scalextric, push-kart or whatever else under the tree. But they did. Which makes you think of the pressures people are subjected to – or subject themselves to – over the Christmas commercial money-spinning season.

Even people who have very few pennies to rub together will pull out all the stops to give their kids a good Christmas. It could even be argued that – like communion suits and dresses – the more spectacular the Christmas gifts (proportionately anyhow), the poorer the family.  It’s all they have – their opportunity for extravagance.

In our case there was another, more personal, factor. Our own wonderful mum – may she rest in peace – had an evil old witch of a mother who once left her a bag of soot via the proxy of Santa. As an aside, the same dreadful woman (my grandmother, such as she was) had been known to her childhood playmates around Charlemont Street as “The Butcher”. That will tell you something.  Anyway, the soot thing was never going to happen to us, no matter how tight the financial straits were nor how naughtier than nice we may have been.

What got me thinking about all this was a report that appeared in the Examiner last Monday stating that over half of the Irish adult  population will get into debt just to meet the cost of Christmas, with “a third borrowing on credit cards to cover the cost [who will then face] an uphill struggle to get back on track — it will take a quarter of us three to six months to recover financially from the festive outlay.”

Bloody hell. Now, given my own experiences, I can see how parents want to get their kids the latest X-Box, Playstation, Wii, or whatever else. But what about this pointless sham of spending money on presents for friends, siblings, and extended family? And what about all the stress involved? What about all the queues in the shops? And those awful songs being piped through every shopping centre and department store, with unnecessarily clinging tills as percussive background?

No – don’t get sucked into it. Christmas is one of the few times when most of us can get a few days off work to relax, be slobs, and eat and drink too much.  Apart from making sure Santa comes (usually for those with kids) there shouldn’t be any other pressure on you or anyone else.

For my part, I’ve sent off a balloon asking for a new X-Box.

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Dakota said...

Eh GM thanks for sharing. There was I going to say ah sure the olden days were great, fado, fado..Good to hear you like Christmas, though. Sad to hear your Mum passed away.

Christmases, yes, not like they were GM, seriously comercialized, now. I hope it will be worth it for the comercial sector, this year. The crowds in Dublin city centre last weekend were comparable with mid 00s. Getting in and out of the city centre and for that matter all surrounding environs is off the radar scale. So there must me serious sales going on somewhere? As I mention it, driving on the roads this year - in Dublin - is like driving through an open air asylum. Dangerous and very unpredictable. I was genuinely shocked with what I saw over the last week or so, on the roads. Stuff if you read it in a book you wouldn't believe. Much worse than this time last year. Anyway its Christmas, so now is probably a good time to say it, Happy Christmas to you GM and all the regulars on the Blog.

The Gombeen Man said...

And a happy Christmas to your good self too, Dakota - and thanks for condolences re folks. Both long gone, I am afraid. Scary.

Do you know, I have a theory for the extra heavy Christmas traffic? A theory corroberated by some sales assistants I've spoken to over the past few days.

They reckon that because of the snow and the bad roads, all the shopping trips are being compressed into a shorter timeframe. So you're getting two weeks shoppers in one week, effectively. Think there could be something in it...

On the M50 twice today. I think I'd prefer take my chances on the wall of death. At least its only down to yourself in the latter setting!

Dakota said...

I heard that myself, GM, about the panic buying thing. Seems to be going on in a lot of shops especially the bigger stores. Could well explain the extra traffic and possibly the behaviour as well (never saw such raw emotion before on Dublin roads, and you think you've seen it all. It's hope for the best type of scenario at the moment).
Great way of thinking about the M50 GM! No comparison when it comes to safety.

Anonymous said...

Matthew 25:1-13, This story is like the ten wise and ten foolish virgins.

The wise virgins spent their money on oil and kept the lamps alight . They were sensible and they remained virgins for the rest of their lives. The foolish virgins spent their money on booze and crack cocaine and other frivolous frolics. Needless to say they did not remain virgins for very long. Is it better to stay sensible and bored to fuck, or to be fucked into insensibility.

anna said...

Yes it's just unfortuante, credit card culture took hold- I think people are wising up now to huge interest rates- 25%- you might only pay for a few items- but the interst rates make repayments go Up and Up-and Irish banks pushed them Relentlessly- when I was back living in NI I was amazed to hear Dublin work mates saying their banks - Unprompted- would mail them, offering Another 5000 on their credit card!
Northern Bnak certainly never offered me an increase beyond £1500- in 5 years.
If you need money advice get on www.moneysavingexpert.oom; excellent UK site, run by a Martin Lewis: Martin says UK people ( no doubt Irish also) need to be taught money management at school as the Germans are. Well worth a look.
ANYWAY! It's Xmas: remember those whose jobs may be in jeopardy;
A Clerical Officer friend of mine in a different Department was at a very recent work Xmas do when a Minister not from his dept called in. This attractive blonde female Minister is from a Northern county, which already had highest unemployment & redundancy rate in the country, for several years before the recession-
My CO friend, who earns 30,000 PA, or 420 clear a week and has a hefty mortgage on a 1- bed room flat , got conversing with the Minister:

CO FRIEND : I can't believe you'll be out electioneering, with the bad weather and times that's in it!
MINISTER: Well, we don't all have secure jobs in the Department of XX.!