Spending ‘stays flat in 2011’

Credit spending in 2011 was at exactly the same level it was in 2010, according to the Finance and Leasing Association.

New evidence has emerged to suggest Britons have been managing money more carefully, by keeping down their spending as incomes have been squeezed over the past year.

The Finance and Leasing Association (FLA) has published data of lending by its members showing new spending by consumers was flat during 2011, remaining in line with 2010 levels.

While total finance issued by FLA members was £51,991 million, virtually unchanged year-on-year, there were variations in the extent to which different kinds of credit were used.

Car finance was up by four per cent, with this accounting for just over quarter of the total lent. But three-fifths of FLA lending was made up by credit cards and personal loans and this tally was one per cent down.

Store instalment credit was down by 11 per cent, storecards by ten per cent and second mortgages dipped by three per cent.

FLA head of consumer finance Fiona Hoyle used the figures to appeal to the government to be "cautious" when introducing new regulations on consumer credit and said this should "not limit the supply of affordable, responsibly-provided credit".

But for consumers, not spending too much credit is a vital step in ensuring they stay on a financial even keel. Many will have suffered from past overspending and may still be doing so now.

One way to avoid this is to use a prepaid credit card. Most cards have a credit limit set by the lender and this means there is a constant open invitation to spend, something it can be easy to succumb to and thus blow the budget.

However, with a pay-as-you-go card it is different. This involves loading up a certain amount on line and that is all that can be spent until the next visit.

So by showing restraint at this point, it means consumers know when they go shopping that there is a very limited amount of use they can get out of their card and therefore overspending can be avoided.

Despite the FLA findings, the fact is that Britons still spend heavily on cards. Credit Action's latest figures put this at £1.252 billion a day and while some of that will be on debit cards, the fact remains that curbing excessive spending on plastic is one of the ways in which consumers currently failing to budget well can act to ease their problems.

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