This time of year it’s all too easy to let your spending get out of control. I’ve got a sizeable credit card bill thanks to Christmas spending – including our trip to Edinburgh – and it has to be paid by the end of this month unless I want to accrue interest. Which I don’t, obviously, so that means digging into the savings.
I don’t think my spending was totally out of control.
But I’ve forked out too much on presents just because I’m not confident enough to be restrained. Who wants to look like a Scrooge even though I personally would welcome fewer presents: there are only so many chocolates/scented candles/bubble bath that I want.
Anyway, the real spending danger for me is still to come: the sales. While I would never queue up overnight for the chance of picking up a bargain, I love internet sales. And some of them start on Christmas Day. I could do with a new television and bed linen, but to be honest, I don’t need either. I think I might end up hiding my cards so I don’t end up spending on so-called bargains: after all there will soon be another sale.
But there’s an alternative to my hiding the cards ploy. Barclays has announced that its customers will be able to switch off some types of spending on their debit cards. The categories (not specific retailers) include supermarkets, restaurants and petrol stations. But the real benefit of this service is that it allows cardholders to switch off spending on gambling in betting shops, online and lottery tickets – and on premium rate websites and phone lines: ie, competitions, TV voting and ‘adult services’ (I think we all know what that means).
This move, which Barclays developed with the help of debt charity the Money Advice Trust, has been welcomed by those working with problem gamblers and vulnerable people with mental health issues. Martin Lewis of MoneySavingExpert and the founder of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute says: ‘Mental health and debt is a marriage made in hell. Many with mental health issues struggle to control their spending - whether through gambling, shopping or premium phone lines – and I commonly hear from people with thousands of pounds of debt as a result’.
Currently the service is only offered by Barclays and is just on debit, not credit, cards. But it’s a good move. Out of control gambling can destroy families as well as bank balances, after all.
And see our guide to debt here