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Profligacy, the cause of the problem: not in Bulgaria - spoiled kids and broke

"The kids were spoiled, getting anything they wanted. We were too, thousands of pounds on clothes, some never even worn, endless trips to the beauty and hair salon, two thumping great cars. We never used a bus! Private dentists and doctors. The list was endless and so much of it unnecessary. But whilst we could get more money on credit cards, it didn't really matter. We also thought that with house prices going up, we'd made a huge profit on the house. Now, we've lost most of the gain on the house with the property prices crashing and anyway we'd have to sell to get whatever profit is in it, then where would we buy next?"

The family agreed that some big decisions had to be made. Reducing their broadband package, no new computer games, no new clothes, getting rid of Sky tv, selling one of the cars, and more...

"I was so depressed", Sue added. "Suddenly images of my mother and grandmother came to mind. Only three tele channels and a small pot of Nivea face cream for my birthday. Rampant spending has left us broke. I had never had to think about money before.  It came a complete surprise to me how much a 'latte' is - four pounds is insane and I'd think nothing of having three or four during the day. In our situation it seems a stupid waste of money. Now, it's coming up Christmas and I feel as if I've failed if we can't buy the kids what they want: it's making me panic. All my energy now is consumed by just trying to get through each day spending as little as possible".

James backed up Sue's thoughts, saying, "The kids are far from happy but at least the calls from the credit card companies have stopped. That's already taken a weight off my mind. I'm just shocked how easy it has been for us to keep on spending, spending, spending without thinking about it. I just can't believe how normal, intelligent people like us could think we can't live without spending 100 pounds on dinner out for just us two, or simply won't buy wine at less than 20 pounds a bottle because low cost means low quality in our heads - or on whatever things we want, without having the money to do so. Our whole culture seems geared towards us believing that having endless luxury items is essential and our 'right'. My father would turn in his grave".

Compare this tale of woe with a British family living in Bulgaria. Similarly to Sue and James, they are a couple with two children. They are debt free: no mortgage, they own their detached four bedroom-two bathroom home outright: two cars: no credit card debts and no loans.

With the low pound, this has meant their income is now worth 30% less than a couple of years ago. However, even though their money is less, they still have an excellent quality of life and have taken the Bulgarian habit of saving a little every month, which has now stacked up in less than a year to 6,000 pounds. The family are happy, all well clothed and well fed. The children both have mobile phones and a few computer games but actually prefer taking off outdoors with their friends to sitting at home on the computer. The parents pay for additional private tutorage for the boys for German language lessons. They eat out in a good restaurant once a week and have a family meal out every weekend. All this, despite the fact they are on a fixed income of 24,000 pounds a year.

The Brits are paying for their recent profligacy by lowering their living standards and trying to rebuild capital for the future. The Bulgarians, by contrast, have always had the knack of living within their means, so have remain largely unaffected by debts and the global crisis.

Many Britons have been forced to change their lifestyle and spending through the crisis. How long will it last? How long will they be happy to keep saying 'I can't afford it'. One gets the impression that one sniff that mortgage lending or personal lending is going to ease and life in the UK will be back to the normal binge-spending round. The culture means that they are more likely to start sufffering from 'frugal fatigue' and surrender their new-found thrift. The Brits may temporarily flirt with prudence but are really seduced by spending.

Many canny Brits and other EU citizens have already turned their backs on this way of life and instead paid attention to Bulgaria - where prudence and thrift are a natural way of life, thus avoiding the giddy highs and lows of Britain's rollercoast economy and culture - and buying into a better quality of life!