Friday, January 23, 2009

The devil in the detail

I'm trying hard to make myself recession-resistant, but it's hard when there's a rat in my kitchen (possibly now a rat corpse, either way full of raisins), a leak in my roof, and the cold wind blowing. In days like these you'd think, as I always have in fact, that a fixed rate mortgage would make sense, in the spirit of 'best to know what you're committed to' shoebox full of envelopes type budgeting.

And it might, if we hadn't sodding well remortgaged at 5.79% for three years just before the Bank of England got busy. It's eye watering, but at the time it felt like the safest thing to do. I was talking to my dad about it, as he was about to transfer me the money for the new boots my parents have bought me for my birthday and I need it to come through as I've already paid for the boots and I can't otherwise pay my tax bill. It's not desperate, I have a job and there are some envelopes whose contents can be moved around a bit, but it's tighter than I can remember for many many years.

Have you thought about switching deals? he said. But there's a penalty, I said. Yes, he said, but if you were to save several hundred pounds a month, then over three years it might well be worth it.

He's right, he usually is. It's just he's not the one who has to do it. I decided to be brave and raise the subject last night, when I got back from drinking strange and interesting beer with A and L. M was already in bed, so I cut straight to the point. He looked at me calmly, put in his earplugs, and turned off his light.

It feels a bit like the Ryanair dilemma. You can save forty quid by taking a four hour bus journey to Stansted, being driven onto a plane with a cattle prod, paying good money for bad sandwiches, and fighting a passport control bottleneck battle at two in the morning with the entire population of Essex. OR you can go to Heathrow and get on a proper flight.

I don't know if there is a right answer. I have changed providers of pretty much everything in the last 12 months, usually for the first time, and it's almost always been a miserable, drawn out experience involving endless phone calls to call centres in far off places following attempted scrutiny of inscrutable small print. And I am numerate, literate, and practical. The less money you have, the more time you have to spend making sure you're not getting ripped off. There's something wrong with this equation.


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