Time poverty and shopping around

Have you switched your bank account recently?

Probably not, according to an article in today's paper, despite a huge rise in bank charges.

The article quotes an 'Economist and expert in household finances' who is quite critical of households who are complaining about the water charges, yet not shopping around for a cheaper bank accounts and insurance policies.

He's right.  Many of us aren't.

Do you want to know why?   I think the answer is in the article.  The group most likely to regularly switch suppliers are men under 35.  Here are some possible reasons.

1.  Because they are likely to be computer savvy.  
2.  They probably don't have kids or other responsibilities, so they have lots of free time.
3.  It may be a competitive thing: perhaps the latest bar boast is who pays the least.

I remember those halcyon days when I was young, single, feckless and under 35.

I worked long hours, but once the work was done, my time was my own.  There were a handful of utility bills to be paid, plus the rates, and the only thing that I remember shopping around for was motor insurance.

How much has changed in 30 years!  Now a depressingly large amount of time is spent on household administration and the ever increasing number of forms to be completed and bills to be paid on pain of being cut off or prosecuted or fined or even imprisoned.

It's seems to me that Government organisations and corporations have managed to get all of us ordinary people to do their paperwork for them.  While still upping taxes, charges and prices of course.

Yes you can shop around, but most companies offer a bewildering number of choices.  That is not for our benefit, it's for theirs.  After all, they are trying to make as much profit as they can, so it is almost impossible to get the right package, despite all the 'helpful' websites out there.  Switching is not always straight forward either.  I am without a credit card for two months now due to the inaction of a certain bank that is closing down its operations here.  Then there's the whole issue of direct debits.  They're not in your interests really.  Otherwise they would be optional, but they're not if you want to get the 'cheapest ' option.  And it can be difficult to cancel them on switching.  And who has to sort that out?  Oh yes, the poor householder, who was trying to save money by going to a direct debit option in the first place.  Perhaps some people don't bother.  That would explain why the packages were so cheap in the first place.

You would also feel overwhelmed if you looked at the total number of bills, accounts and services that you could switch in a year.

So let's try (luckily not all these apply in my household):


Mobile Phone

House insurance
Car insurance
Life insurance
Health insurance

Then there's all the things you should review like...

Your bank account
Credit card
Sickness policies
Mortgage protection policies
Pension arrangements

And all the other things you have to pay like...

TV Licence
Property Tax
Water Tax
Income Tax
Motor Tax
Lots of other Taxes
School contributions
University Registration Fees

Most of them involve form-filling too!  

And if you're self-employed or receiving any kind of social welfare payment and/or have a dependent with any kind of additional needs, there's a whole additional universe of paperwork to add to the above.

Just imagine how much time it would take, and how much it would cost if you paid yourself a reasonable hourly rate while ploughing through all the research, paperwork and phone calls that would be needed to review and change all of these every year.  You'd almost certainly need wine, and perhaps blood pressure tablets too.

Perhaps it's actually cheaper just to stay put....


  1. Yep. I admit I don't change many things either. Too much work and too many options. Well said.

    1. Thanks Julie, we often seem to be on the same page on these things!

  2. This is so true. I am in an admin whirl at the moment and it's doing my head in! Just bought car tax after discovering it ran out end of March...OOPS!x

  3. It's all so true. You end up feeling life's just too short to spend on it, but then we're spending money instead...

  4. I switched something recently and kind of changed another. I will never get that time back, I thought I'd never be finished with it! Now I know where I went wrong....I forgot to have some wine!!

  5. We do switch a reasonable amount but sometimes I can spend days trying to sort something with one particular utility company - calling before work after I drop the kids off (they're not open), trying to sneak in a call during work ends with me being on hold for ages then having to hang up before I get through. Then possibly them calling me back while I'm trying to make dinner for the kids. I'm in charge of utilities and my husband insurances, alarms etc. Then there's all the separate stuff.

    Actually, yeah, if I could afford it, I would pay someone to manage all of it for me :)

  6. I've always considered that the government push (UK) towards opening up lots of 'choice' in schools, hospitals, pensions and now encouraging people to spend all their time changing banks and utilities suppliers etc etc is a ploy to keep people so busy on these things which should be a no-brainer that they're not looking too closely at what governments are up to.
    Take a bank account for example - as many must be moving away from a bank as towards it. I've had my main bank account for 37 years and am happy with it. They've never made any major mistakes and always been helpful. The effort involved in researching others just ain't worth it.

    1. I think you may be absolutely right there Brigid. It's all about control again really, isn't it?

  7. Crumbs, I got a headache just reading the list! :/

  8. Don't you just yearn for simpler time sometimes? The days when someone got an envelope of cash at the end of the week, they paid their rent, a couple of utility bills, bought food, sixpence in the savings box, and the rest was for drinking at the pub (which was all the social networking needed).

    1. I really really do, even though it could take weeks or months to get a phone connected, it all seemed a lot easier!

  9. That is a big big list ooh for simplicity