A more cautious approach to spending?

Retail figures for the Easter weekend have been reported as less than encouraging news for the economy.  Visits to high streets were down, trips to shopping centres were even lower and only retail parks – home of the garden centre and DIY stores – showed better footfall figures.

Traditionally warmer weather would see shopper numbers increasing, so what is happening?

The rise in online shopping is one cited reason – and perhaps we are just finding better things to do on a sunny Easter weekend?  

Perhaps too we are beginning to think about our budgets before we dash to the shops.

Along with other debt charities, we have been doing our best to encourage people to think carefully before they spend – and particularly to think before they take on credit which they may struggle to repay in the future.

There are still many thousands of families who are facing higher priority bills – rent or mortgage, council tax, gas and electricity, food - than their income will cover.   Most of us know of families who have suffered from redundancy and other severe income reductions over the past few years.  We also all know people who are now on reduced contracts – or the now infamous zero-hours contracts – or who are working for themselves because they cannot find a permanent job. 

But the lower numbers in the shops over Easter also suggests that many people – whose finances may appear to be picking up - are taking a more cautious approach to spending.

Debt Advice Foundation Chief Executive David Rodger said: “We hear every day from people who have simply never been on top of their finances.  They were never taught how to do a budget for themselves, and they have fallen prey to the relentless marketing of credit.

“But for some people, we believe the message is getting through.  For people who have access to online tools, for example, it is much easier to do the sums, keep a note of income and outgoings. Many organisations like ours offer advice and some very straightforward ways to run a family budget.

“One of the simplest ways – for which you don’t need to use a computer - is just to have two bank accounts.  Set up one as a bills account, with the priority direct debits going out of it, and a regular monthly payment in to cover them.

“In your main account you will then only have access to what is left over once the priority bills have been paid.  It may come as a shock to some to see just how little is left over at the end of the month, but at least you know exactly how much you have left for non-essential spending.”

For more on the retail visitors story, click here

For more on poverty levels, click here