Saving and investing: Why we’re not (quite) as broke as we think

2nd March 2011

That was at least two/three years back, and these shelves are no longer a secret, in fact you be hard pressed to find any bargains any more. Most of them get snapped up as soon as they go on display.

Ditto charity shops, people think nothing of buying second hand furniture, baby clothes or designer brands anymore.

In fact we thrive on it – as one writer documents on MSN Money.

It's not surprising Brits have this new-found hunger for a bargain. Supermarkets in the UK charge more than their EU counterparts for food.

The impact of rising prices has worried city experts who, as reported in The Guardian, could face a government inquiry for raising food prices above the rate of inflation.

Investment bank UBS even predicted that the supermarket sector could be investigated for pushing up UK food prices faster than in the rest of Europe. UBS suggested that major retailers may be increasing their profit margins from food sales, which could prompt politicians to take action.

That's as well but in the meantime, VAT and NI hikes are also making us feel a little lighter of wallet.

Or are they?

Poverty, and prosperity, are relative. And in most cases when we think we are poorer we are comparing ourselves with how prosperous we felt a few years back.

These are the same selves who used the boom in house prices to remortgage their house, and quite often spend that money on desirable luxury items, such as holidays, expensive gadgets, or home improvements.

The same selves who would turn their nose up at a wrinkled packet of bran flakes because we could put the shopping bill on our 0% paying Tesco/Sainsbury/M&S credit card – justifying it to ourselves that we were earning loyalty points in the process.

Most of us were – quite simply extravagant. Or, as one journalist colleague, put it "just plain greedy".

Greedy or not, extravgance is not an option and because credit is no longer quite so cheap, most of us are choosing to pay back our debts and live within our means.

We were never in bountiful times, let's not kid ourselves.

And this new frugality has a real upside

In its first MoneyMood Survey of 2011 Legal & General revealed that the number of people who are in the mood to save has risen to 69 per cent, the highest level since the measurement began six years ago.

Good news considering the big Isa season push is about to start, as mentioned by Jeff Prestridge in his latest Mindfulmoney blog

Over the last year the percentage of men who say they are in the mood to save has shown the largest rise, up 12 per cent to 70 per cent (was 58 per cent). However, the percentage of women who say they are in the mood to save has also continued to rise, up to 67 per cent (was 63 per cent).

Mark Gregory, executive director of Legal & General said: " Both men and women appear to be driving the revival of the saving habit with seven out of 10 in the mood to save.

Even the latest report on overdrafts doesn't seem quite so bad.

The Telegraph reported that one in ten people live with a permanent overdraft and that 37% of consumers are either always overdrawn or have used their overdraft facility at some point during the past 12 months.

Reasuringly most of those number are in the younger age group of 20 to 29 year olds; only 18% of the over-70s surveyed by moneysupermarket.co.uk had used their overdraft at all in the past 12 months.

And even better half of those without an overdraft said they would cut back on spending or dip into their savings to stop themselves from going into the red.

Times are a changing – hopefully.

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