Controlling credit card spending

Television viewers may recently have come across the series Spend it like Beckham. Devoted to the cash-splurging habits of the informal first family of Britain, the programme gave an insight into some of the more expensive excesses of a pair of self-acknowledged shop-holics.

"Handbag and shoes to match, please"

Victoria Beckham is perhaps one of the most famous shoppers on the planet, apparently disposing of £100,000 a year on new outfits and a keen aficionado of the very finest designer clothes. She once said she would "go shopping every single day" if she could and admitted that, when she sees something she likes, "I buy it in every colour and I buy shoes in every colour to match, as well as handbags".

If only we could all spend it like Beckham

Unfortunately for most of us, it is not possible to be a professional shopper like Ms Beckham. For the average person, £100,000 would probably more than cover a whole lifetime’s clothing expenditure. However, it seems the glamorous lifestyle of celebrities such as Victoria Beckham – along with the likes of Paris Hilton – are inspiring people to go on shopping sprees of their own – often using their credit cards.

When the flexible friend bites back

Credit cards can be a very useful addition to a wallet when used correctly. Sadly, statistics increasingly point to a nation that likes to shop ’til it drops, but also tends to look the other way when the bill comes in., an online community for information and advice about Individual Voluntary Arrangements, recently played host to a debt conference in London.

It’s a culture problem

Speakers included Melanie Giles, an insolvency practitioner with over 20 years experience in the field, plus a vice president of the Institute of Credit Management, who has been involved in the credit industry for over 41 years. Another speaker, James Falla, is the managing director of a debt consultancy and is regularly featured on BBC as a debt expert. All were unanimous that a "have now, pay later" culture is to blame.

It takes two to tango

According to the panellists, it is not just spendthrift behaviour on the part of the consumer that is responsible for the current debt crisis affecting so many Britons. "People are borrowing too much money and banks are lending too much money" said Mr Fulla. Victoria Beckham reportedly splashed out more than £8 million in her first year of married life.

In contrast, the average personal debt in the form of overdraft and credit card borrowing in the UK is £4,550. The difference is that Victoria has a multimillionaire footballer husband to cover any unforeseen bills that may arrive, while people working for average salaries often face a massive struggle to get back on an even keel.

Education, education, education

According to debt charity Credit Action, Briton’s consumer debt is increasing by around £1 million every minute. So what can be done about it? According to James Fulla, "education is the key". Credit is not bad in itself, he said, but people nee to be given "real world education". Melanie Giles agreed and said that financial education "should be essential for school-leavers" because "we are really financially illiterate today".

It seems the government also agrees, having recently announced a programme of initiatives designed to promote "financial inclusion" across the nation. One scheme, backed by £90 million in funding, will provide for personal finance education programs in schools and colleges and hopefully go some way towards reining in the rising levels of consumer debt.

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