‘With the help of credit and store cards, many of us are able to buy things we can’t afford.’
I was at Tesco the other day and I saw that KitKats were on offer (2 for £1). I had a bit of a chuckle to myself because it reminded me of the days when I used to savour every bite because I knew that it would take another ten or so days of saving before I could eat some more. When I was little, I used to save a few pesos of my lunch money every week so that I could buy KitKats. It was tough back then…I had to save for a long time before I could fund my own treats.
I don’t like the taste of KitKats anymore. I don’t know whether my taste palate has changed but I have new favorites now; I’ve moved on to Lindt and Galaxy bars but KitKats will always mean so much more to me than any other chocolate bar. They remind me of the self-discipline I developed by saving for the things I wanted. I loved running to the store and handing the store clerk my cash. Buying something as simple as a chocolate bar was a weekly accomplishment for me and looking back, those were the memories I will always treasure.
With the help of credit cards and store cards, many of us are able to buy things we can’t afford. I can still remember the first time I was asked if I wanted to open a store card. I was 18 years old and I was buying £8 worth of costume jewellery from an Arcadia store called ‘Outfit’. The sales assistant asked me this misleading question, ‘Would you like to open a store card today to save 20% on this purchase?’ I had the money to buy the £8 jewellery but all I heard was the word save 20% so I agreed to open a store card. At first, I was confused and thought it was a store loyalty card but then she prepared all of the paperwork for me to sign and she picked up the phone to a financial company. That was when I realised that it was a store credit card I agreed to open and by this point, I felt too embarrassed to back out of the transaction and so I agreed to sign up. Back then, I still didn’t fully understand the ‘credit card’ rules of the world and the consequences of not paying the credit borrowed on time. The store clerk never bothered to explain either. I guess they could argue that it’s our responsibility to read the terms and conditions.
‘I will never forget it because it taught me the pitfalls of borrowed credit.’
The problem with that transaction was this- all I heard was the word ‘save’ but no, I didn’t save at all. I made the wrong decision and ended up opening this store card I didn’t plan on opening in the first place. I was eighteen years old and stupidly signed my very first store card which I forgot about when I got home. I never even used the store card ever again after that but a letter came through the post telling me that I ‘failed’ (Honestly, I forgot…) to pay for the £8 credit I borrowed that was on there for a month and it charged me a whopping £12 late payment fee. I called the store card provider straight away, paid it all off and cancelled the card.
I will never forget it because it taught me the pitfalls of borrowed credit. I know it may seem obvious that when you borrow money, you pay it back. As an eighteen year old student, I had more important things clouding my naive overloaded brain so I didn’t remember impulsively opening a store card. They should really call it a store ‘credit’ card.
‘I encourage parents to have this conversation with their children.’
See, my mother never used credit cards. She only bought the basics and the things we really needed so we never had the whole ‘money management’ talk at home. She didn’t use credit cards and so I’m sure she didn’t know much about them either. I encourage parents to have ‘money management’ talks with their children.
‘We just constantly purchase things without really realizing we are parting with our hard earned cash.’
We are so used to paying with debit, store and credit cards that we forget the real value of saving up to buy the things we need or want. We are inundated with adverts everywhere we go. There are billboards and images everywhere of things that promise to make us better as long as we buy them now! We just constantly purchase things without really knowing that we are parting with our hard earned cash. How many hours did you have to work to pay for that new dress or shoes? Have you ever paused in the middle of a purchase and asked yourself, ‘Do I really need this?’ It’s so easy to pay for things nowadays that budgeting is so much harder to do.
‘Buying becomes a habit and sometimes habits become addictions.’
They have even introduced the new ‘Contactless’ way of paying for items. We don’t even need to enter our pin numbers anymore or sign any receipts. All we need to do is tap our cards for purchases less than £30 and we’re good to go. They’re even on our smart phones now! I must admit that it did come in handy once, I was in the car and I left my purse at home. I wanted some french fries and so I used my phone’s contactless payment method for the very first time and I must say, I was pretty impressed by the convenience this service can provide too.
Recently, Amazon just unveiled Amazon Go, a cashier free convenience store where the consumer scans an app and they are then allowed to browse, pick an item they wish to purchase and walk out of the shop. You get automatically charged because cameras follow you everywhere but not only that, I’m sure it’s taking notes and scanning the items you’ve picked up and were interested in so they can store some info on what you may purchase in the future (for marketing purposes).
We are no longer aware of the things we purchase and buying becomes a habit and sometimes habits become addictions. That’s when shopping becomes a dangerous vice to have. I understand that there will be times when we may need to borrow some credit to buy the things we ‘need’ and that is okay in emergency situations but it is important to remember that it is always better to save for the things we ‘want’ so that we don’t accumulate so much debt that will haunt us later.
‘Everything seems to evolve now to enable us to have less contact with others.’
As some of you may have noticed, I feel like as humans, we are becoming more and more detached from the things that surround us. Everything seems to evolve now to enable us to have less contact with others. We have become self- absorbed and pay no regard to where our new items may end up once we are finished with them. We don’t think about the things we buy because the credit is readily available (to borrow). They have slowly introduced self-service till points now and before you know it, there won’t be any grocery cashiers we can chat with about gluten intolerance, veganism and other stuff. We just zap the item, tap our cards and we go. As we advance towards the future of automated customer service, I often wonder whether this is really what the world needs? With all the negative things happening in the world, I think we need more contact with each other now than ever before.
It is always better to spend time with others like our family, friends and new people so that we may seek out new experiences and create lasting and more meaningful relationships with them. Take a minute and think about what you’re doing. Does this add value to my life? Take a minute and ask the person serving you how their day is going. Make more intentional purchases. Spending time in shopping malls to shop until you drop as a way of killing time is never a good idea. Our time is so precious and limited so let’s not kill it.
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