A study has shown that shoppers tend to overspend by as much as £30 when they do their weekly shop at the supermarket, something that an old-timer like me finds is another rather sad reflection on our modern rush-rush, over-stressed world.
One of the principal reasons given is that too many people, after working long hours, tend to do the weekly shop on the way home from work, and just want to get it over with as quickly as possible and get home for a well-earned rest.
And apparently very few people now bother to make a list before setting off for the supermarket, again because they are simply pressed for time, trying to fit in all the obligations, such as child-care/work, that constitute modern life.
Now I have always made out a list beforehand, taking into consideration possible menus for the week ahead, as it is surely infuriating if you forget some essential item. It just makes sense to plan ahead.
Perhaps this is one of the advantages of spending my formative years in the late 1950s into the early 1960s, a period of comparative austerity when the great majority of households had to keep a tight rein on the family budget.
Most working people were paid weekly in cash, and unless you were careful how you planned out the week ahead there was a real chance of ending up skint before pay-day – and there were plenty who did, an age of austerity was not marked by universal wisdom. For sensible folk, it was not difficult to come to terms with the reality of your own financial situation, and ingrained valuable habits in many of us.
Today, most of us have our flexible plastic friends, the debit and credit cards, which give us the freedom, within certain limits, to spend as we wish – something that is possibly more of a bad thing than a good one.
I was always amazed by the level of personal debt that many younger people, encouraged by the banks and other lenders, wracked up in the 1980s and 90s, something that vast swathes of them must have regretted when the economy crashed in 2008, with the loss of jobs and cutbacks in overtime that blighted lifestyles throughout the country.
But to return to the theme of overspending on the supermarket weekly shop, especially when tempted to make wasteful purchases of special offers, often buying in quantities of food we don’t need, resulting in the surplus being thrown away.
That kind of wastefulness would have been regarded with horror by many members of my grandmother’s generation, who knew how to make the most of meagre resources – the alternative was to go hungry.
I’m all for progress, and there is much about the modern world that is very comfortable and I appreciate very much, but the feeling always lingers that there are two sides to every coin and the wasteful habits that so many consider normal today are perhaps at odds with a world where resources are, if anything, diminishing under the relentless onslaught of a booming global population.
It does make you wonder what lies ahead for people currently in their 20s and 30s, when they become pensioners.
Will they cope? I hope so.