In an ideal world, we’d all have lots of disposable income, which we would dispose of in lots of ways, supporting the various strands of our economy, local and otherwise.
It would be truely disposable too. We wouldn’t feel any guilt about spending it, because we would have paid all our bills, and debts, and put enough money into savings not to feel like we were being frivolous our postponing some serious money worries by frittering away the little we have.
But it isn’t an ideal world. And I don’t think many people I know can say all of the above about their financial situation. I certainly can’t.
Technically, if you’re in debt, you don’t have any disposable income. Because every bit you spend elsewhere is not being used to repay your debt. Even saving feels difficult because if you end up getting in more debt because you put too much aside in savings one month, what’s the point? Of course, it’s much of a muchness at the moment with 0% credit cards and negligible interest rates. But you have to give yourself some spending money in your budget – even if it’s only a few pounds a day. The question is – what do you spend it on? Some people can’t do without a newspaper. Some people buy a coffee, or lunch. Some people might be very good, read their news on line, take their home made sarnies and flask to work – but save up to buy themselves an outfit, or a pair of shoes every so often.
I was thinking about it at a meeting the other day about trying to get people back into Hebden Bridge – (visitor numbers have fallen since the recent floods, perhaps through a perception that everything is closed, but I can assure you there are still a good 70% of our fabulous shops and cafes and pubs open and waiting for you). I regularly do a trawl around the shops in Hebden, but I will admit, I don’t buy much. Bits and bobs. The rest of the time I drool. There are some amazing shops selling beautiful things, but I see them as out of my price range. Having got myself into most of my debt during periods of manic spending (literally, my slightly bipolar side, impulse control failure leading to a conviction that I really need to buy 100cds in a week) – I have gone the other way. I don’t buy “things” very much. Practically speaking, I don’t have room for them. My house is overcluttered, I have piles of books up the stairs threatening to topple over and kill me one of these days. I have (what I consider) lots of shoes, but only one pair of each type (eg. trainers, walking boots, heels, smart shoe). Ok, maybe two, but it’ll be the newer pair and the knackered pair. I buy an item of clothing which isn’t to replace something falling apart maybe once every three months, and usually from a charity shop. There’s something in my head that has clicked, and says that despite how lovely the things might be, I can’t afford them.
But – and this is the interesting thing – I still happily spend money on drinking in pubs, eating in restaurants and getting the occasional takeaway. I can no more afford £40 on a meal for two than I can £40 for a lovely lamp, or bowl, or set of plates that I don’t need. But that bit of my head hasn’t got the memo yet. Someone who doesn’t drink may spend an equivalent amount on a new dress. We all have our temptations. Whether we can afford to be tempted or not. I shouldn’t be spending any money on anything really. But I do. And for the time being it is the pubs and restaurants that benefit. Maybe if I finally succeed in controling my drinking, and clear out the house a bit, I might indulge myself. I really really want two of those amazing Magpies in Home-oh. (bad luck to have just the one…)
However, a happy aside is that I am determined to try and ensure plenty of local businesses benefit from our wedding next year. Probably the only chance I’ll have to spend that kind of money – and I can trick myself into thinking I’m really spending on the guests not me. So once I know the colour of my dress fabric (being made in Heptonstall by Nicola Wheeler) I’m off hunting hats. But in the meantime, I’m going to try and do my little bit by telling people about the lovely things on offer in Hebden, so if you need somewhere to get rid of that disposable income, you might decide to come along.