Thursday, July 16, 2009

Kicking against the pricks

One of those possibly ill-advised work-related posts. But hey. 
There's a pay freeze this year for UK-based staff at NGO X. I kind of get why. Were it up to me, I'd freeze the higher salaries and up the lower ones a bit, but it's not up to me. We do have a union, of which I am a member, and if there's an argument to be had, it's in a collective bargaining environment. It's a free country still, and we shouldn't lose sight of that. 
But there are some money saving measures which have been introduced with (to my knowledge) no consultation at all. For example, you can now no longer request a cash float if you are travelling within the UK, the EU or the US. You should use your NGO X credit card, they now say, or pay with your own funds and then claim it back. This is more cost-effective. 
Well, not for me it's not. I do not have an NGO X credit card. I also do not have a personal credit card. I once had the former, but they cut back on them a few years ago, and to be fair I never missed it that much. I have never had the latter.
But I will be in New York for work from 27-31 July, which is (to state the obvious) the end of the month. And at the end of the month, I'm skint. This is what happens when you have a fixed rate mortgage and a part time salary. And generally it's fine, because generally I can control my expenditure. But four days in New York will cost money that I will not have at my disposal and cannot easily access right now. 
My manager was happy to support the case for an exception, and I'm optimistic that, because I was brave enough to ask and she is senior enough to have influence, there will be a cash float forthcoming. But it's a dumb thing, speaking-in-a-personal-capacity, to have a blanket policy on. It assumes individual staff members have a) a corporate credit card, b) pillowed personal finances or c) easy access to credit, and a) are rare unless you are relatively senior and travel a lot, b) is a palpably unfair assumption and c) is what got the world into this mess. 
So I was recounting this saga to a colleague earlier today. I got to the 'and I don't *have* a personal credit card' bit. 
'Is that an ideological position?' he asked. 
Yeah, I said. Mostly. 
And it is, but not many people notice that. I could afford to pay my Poll Tax back in 1989 (I was at university and my parents basically said 'send us the bill') but I chose not to, because it was ill-thought through and wholly inequitable. If only those who literally cannot comply do not comply, it becomes something about them rather than something about the thing they are not complying with. 
Sometimes, you've got to exercise the choices you're lucky enough to have. On the whole, I don't believe in credit. Mortgages, yes, and microcredit, yes, but generally, if you can't afford it, save up for it and then buy it, do not buy it and then worry about how you're going to pay for it. So why would I *need* a credit card? 
And I can count the times I've wished I'd had one on the fingers of one hand. I may be weird, but I may also be the future. So now I need to work on that policy. Wish me luck.  

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Blogger Spine said...

Odd. You have cash-flow problems at the end of the month but chose not to make use of a great tool for smoothing out bumpy cash flow.

Anyway, cost-cutting is almost invariably silly. My news organization has recently cut costs by reducing our access to news. Go figure.

7:22 am  
Blogger Jo said...

Well, I'm stubborn. And I have seen too many people get into trouble with them. If you have genuinely got slender finances, I think it's best not to overspend and then try and recoup.

9:06 am  
Anonymous Al said...

Yeah, I won't have a credit card either, for the same reason - I don't want to spent money I don't have. I'm lucky not to particularly want to spend money anyway.

I have an NGO X credit card though. Maybe I'm more senior than I thought?!

9:18 am  
Blogger Jo said...

I can see the use for things like buying gig tickets to something for lots of people who then pay you back. Not having one means someone else usually has to do that. But apart from that...

Al, you have a clear business need as a purchaser of sticks and badgers, no?

9:57 am  
Blogger Duncan said...

I'd say a credit card is only "a great tool for smoothing out bumpy cash flow" if you have sufficient cash float to ensure you can always pay it off in full.

If you have any risk of not settling the balance each month then its a terrible way to smooth cash flow.

11:49 am  
Anonymous Kate said...

I use a credit card so that NGO (not X) gets some benefit from me using one; then pay it off at them end of the month. But I am sad enough to have finances on a spreadsheet so I know how much there really is in the account rather than the large amount it looks like there is. I just have to remind my fellow account holder not to believe the figure that comes up at the cashpoint!

12:17 pm  
Blogger tomato said...

arrrghhh.........just reconsidered and deleted a co-rant from this comments box.

Suffice to say: sister, I feel your irritation/pain/anger.

Good luck with getting that point across.

And cheers to you too Duncan, for pointing out the very thing I've gotten sick of hearing myself say.

11:14 am  

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