This is a great little piece from Bernard Salt, for The Australian.
Well worth the read…
I AM reliably informed that in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings the first step is taking ownership of the problem.
In other words there is no chance of sobriety until there is an admission that “I am an alcoholic”.
The Catholic Church operates on a similar principle with regard to sinners. First you must confess and then repent your sins in order to have even half a chance of salvation. And what’s more, the penance paid is directly proportional to the scale of the sin. Small sins require less penance than big sins. (I sometimes wonder whether this scale needs to be reviewed, because some small transgressions today might be deemed “worth it”.)
I think the alcoholics and the Catholics have something to teach the Australian consumer during these trying times.
After a decade of access to easy credit and full employment, we have come to believe that we have a god-given right to spend regardless of the cost and regardless of the debt ultimately incurred. And in a rising employment market, who cares? Next year’s income will be greater than last year’s, so we can all handle just that little bit more debt.
But now with an economic firestorm bearing down upon us, we are suddenly in a very different mood. “Please save us from our credit card debt and lead us not into temptation but deliver us along the path of righteousness and unto eternal solvency.”
Just as alcoholics anonymous have a 12-step plan and Christians have the Ten Commandments to keep them on the straight and narrow, I think wayward consumers could do with is a step-plan leading to fiscal salvation. But I must warn you that such a path is difficult and is lined with temptation and with the empty promises of false profits.
Mark my words, Australian consumers, the likes of Harvey Norman will forever tempt thee with crazy never-to-be-repeated prices on the latest McMansion appliances. Are you prepared to stand fast amid such wanton discounting? If so, then you just might be ready to take on my eight-point plan towards a life of lesser consumption. Or at least it was eight points, but I managed to get the same value out of six points. See how easy this thinking is.
No1: Make the shift to generic brands.
No2: Replace the overseas holiday with a cheaper domestic version.
No3: Ask yourself every day what choice you made to conserve cash that you might not have made last year.
No4: Postpone discretionary consumer spending.
No5: Why stop at postponing discretionary consumer spending? Postpone capital investment.
No6: Cancel your reservation at that glamorous restaurant down on the waterfront.
Read on for detail around each step…
You will appreciate that my six-point plan to fiscal salvation might be regarded as seditious by the Australian Government because it fails to promote spending. But here’s my defence. I think this is likely to happen anyway. It might be crudely summarised as the “flight to value” and it will surely surface in every aspect of consumer behaviour by the middle of this year. Oh, and apparently shoes can be worn until they wear out. Extraordinary.
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