CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Today’s youngsters think living within your means is outdated
Secret Spenders: Beat The Price Rises
Paul Merson: A Walk Through My Life
Whisper it softly, for fear of the Twitter mob’s fury, but just maybe Kirstie Allsopp was right after all.
The 50-year-old homes-and-hobbies presenter provoked righteous youthful outrage on social media last February when she dared to say that the surest way to save for a home was to eschew petty luxuries.
‘When I bought my first property, aged 21, the EasyJet-coffee-gym-Netflix lifestyle didn’t exist,’ she said. ‘I used to walk to work with a sandwich.’
Kirstie was castigated for her pampered privilege. Being the daughter of a hereditary peer didn’t help her case.
Presenter Anita Rani brought in a forensic accountant and a lifestyle guru to rein back the madness. Really, any pensioner could have explained it — and that’s the problem
But presenter Anita Rani came to the same conclusion on Secret Spenders: Beat The Price Rises (C4) as she helped two couples slash their outgoings and pay off debts.
Daryl and Natalie complained that they couldn’t afford to get married on a combined income of £42,000 a year. They were spending £750 a month on eating out, buying so much food in Wagamama that they brought the leftovers home in plastic pots.
But their extravagance was dwarfed by the self-indulgence of Rae and her husband MK, who were missing payments on their credit cards even though they lived rent-free with Rae’s dad. Between them, the couple earned £3,000 a month, but MK was spending half of that on clothes and shoes.
He had wardrobes full of fashionwear that had never been unwrapped, and sometimes went shopping twice a day.
Anita brought in a forensic accountant and a lifestyle guru to rein back the madness. Really, any pensioner could have explained it — and that’s the problem. An entire generation now regards ‘living within your means’ as an outdated morality, like going to church or celibacy before marriage.
The accountant, Peter Komolafe, made the insightful point that spending with contactless cards and smartphones is now too easy. He suggested reverting to cash, but an even surer method was the chequebook. Seeing the numbers mount up on the stubs in the book was a genuine deterrent, like carrying a nagging bank manager in your jacket pocket.
‘We believe you need an intervention,’ Anita said to MK, describing his spending habits as an addiction. That belittles real addictions, the kind that brought alcoholic and compulsive gambler Paul Merson to the brink of suicide.
The former England footballer, 54, who hasn’t had a bet for more than a year and has stayed sober since before the pandemic, was talking through tears for much of A Walk Through My Life (BBC2). Setting a gentle pace across the North York Moors national park, for six miles from High Askew to Gillamoor, Merse tried to explain his battles with addiction, without becoming overwhelmed by emotion.
A city boy, he wasn’t expecting the solitude and beauty of the countryside to affect him so much. ‘It’s just hitting home,’ he wept, ‘being here, not with the hustle and bustle.’ The format obliged him to recite a poem, one that sounded like an extract from a self-help manual. He was much better when left to ad-lib. Slipping over on the muddy path, he moaned: ‘I’m like Bambi on ice.’
And hearing a man practising the bagpipes, he mused: ‘That’s gotta be one of the hardest things to do, innit? Harder than learning German.’
The theme he returned to constantly was how intensely he wanted to live to see the youngest of his eight children grow up, and his deep gratitude to his wife, Kate.
‘I can’t wait to get home,’ he said, choking up again, ‘and tell my wife how much I love her.’
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