Forgive us our debts - it's the season for spending

WHATEVER became of the good old days, when folk stopped shopping the minute they ran out of cash?

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It's way too late for warnings about falling victim to the annual consumer guilt trip formerly known as Christmas.

So-called finance experts predict that nearly two thirds of Brits have gone into debt to finance tomorrow's celebrations.

They don't say!

Next they'll be telling us there's a wee stooshie at Rangers.

They should have said "gone deeper into debt" (which could also apply to Ibrox).

Last year, an estimated four million people took out loans to cover the cost of Christmas, and consumer champions Which? says, one in 10 is still paying them off today. I doubt it's so few.

According to Which?, 93% of us feel under pressure to spend too much (which is especially true when PlayStation 4 is in ludicrously short supply and some sellers take advantage and jack up the price).

Austerity-hit we may be, but Brits are predicted to spend an average £868 on food, drink and presents this year.

As usual, Scots Santas are the most generous.

Our average family spends around £413 on pressies (I should be married to Mrs Average), while those in the south of England — with the deepest pockets but the shortest arms — are the nation's Scrooges at £335.

UK Christmas spending is tipped to top £40bn for the first time.

That may offer some relief to battered high streets but just imagine, if they had grounded Santa's reindeer — and I don't mean to make burgers — we could have wiped out a heavy chunk of national debt.

That may also have messed up the peak season for retail thieving, which is predicted to net £978m in a six-week crook-fest of shoplifting, employee theft, and cyber fraud.

Then there's the estimated £84m on gift cards which will go unspent, with the industry admitting six per cent of cards and vouchers expire before they're used.

Add in the cost of 300m tonnes of extra waste, including 226,800 miles of wrapping paper - enough to go round the world nine times - and all the gifts that will be binned because you wouldn't be seen dead wearing them.

Did you feel under pressure to buy first class stamps to ensure all your cards arrived before the big day?

More fool you. A waste of money.

Ofcom's rules on first class delivery times don't apply between December 2 and 31, and last Christmas almost half of them arrived late.

I see tenants of Tory-led Hammersmith and Fulham Council received distinctly second class Christmas cards last week.

THE inner London council, endorsing the bedroom tax ideology of their No.10 masters, sent cards to every tenant warning: "Don't over-indulge this Christmas. Pay your rent!"

The card, which showed a pound coin fizzing in a glass — a la Alka Seltzer, as opposed to Weegie Irn Bru — was aimed at that 46% of their tenants in arrears.

You can understand why the 54% were not best pleased.

Glasgow Loves Christmas is our city slogan. Go and marvel at the lights in George Square and admire the impressive tree (just what the City Chambers needs, more dead wood).

For some Glaswegians, though, this will more accurately and shockingly be the season of ill will.

Even without the iniquity of the bedroom tax, family stresses and financial pressures come to a head, and adverts such as John Lewis's on telly tip expectations over the edge.

Domestic abuse peaks at Christmas, while January's traditional dripping roast for divorce lawyers may be diluted somewhat by the absence of an Old Firm New Year hate-fest.

Age UK estimates about 450,000 people will be on their own tomorrow, although I'm sure not all of them will be unhappy about that.

But loneliness is not exclusively reserved for the elderly. There are lonely young people, too, in need of somebody's presence more than presents.

Now, you may long ago have concluded that -much like the wee boy who was told his empty box was an Action Man deserter kit - I'm saying "Bah Humbug" to this annual unholy celebration of consumption and greed.

That's far from the truth. With Nancy and our two boys we have always loved Christmas in our house.

Sadly, it will be my first in 39 years without a mother-in-law to joke with.

Nancy's mum Jeanie Sheppard, who in her later years very happily shared our home, passed away last December 30, aged 89.

Like so many families, we have absent loved ones to toast tomorrow.

At least for a wee while you can ignore the calorie cops. Extra pounds are inevitable between Christmas and New Year, courtesy of that magic turkey which keeps reappearing until almost February, but it's far more important to watch what you eat between New Year and Christmas.

So I truly hope you and yours have a Very Happy Christmas.

Celebrate it in, and with, whichever spirit moves you, but at least give it a run for your money.

Finance

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