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We behaved. We saved. But perhaps we should have spent it after all

First off, let me apologise to my children. Sorry, kids, that you never went to New York. We got the brochures and then decided that it was just too expensive. Same with the planned trip to Oz to see the godparents. And of course then there were the skiing trips. How many brochures for those have I, with some regret, thrown into the green bin down the years?

And for my daughter there's a special apology. Sorry you knew enough about our financial situation not to even bother asking us to go on the language exchange programme when you were in secondary school. You knew we couldn't afford it -- and when I found out the cost I had to agree with you, much as though I felt like a failure.

And then of course for my wife there would have to be a whole raft of apologies. For the holidays in Wales (not that we didn't enjoy them) when others seemed to be paddling on beaches in the Indian Ocean rather than the Irish Sea. For the fact that we drive a six-year-old car and have walked out of various car dealers in the past 12 months with many a backward glance. And most recently for the house we wanted but decided not to even bid on because the move would wreck what savings we had. Savings which are now being taxed at 30 per cent to help bail out the state -- that's on money which has already been taxed before we squirrelled it away.

So yes, I'm sorry for the small lives we have led. The opportunities we let go by.

Because maybe if we had taken some of those opportunities -- bought the house, gone on the holidays, changed the car -- we'd be in debt, rather than having put the money away as our parents taught us to do. And maybe we could be lining up for one of the Government's new debt relief schemes for the little people. And maybe we'd have a few more memories than just those of always seeming to say no, not this year.

None of the above of course means that there shouldn't be some kind of relief scheme for the worst off of those mired in debt. It doesn't mean that I don't realise they are much worse off than we are -- at least at the moment. It doesn't mean that I reckon it's all their fault or that I don't feel sorry for them. How could you not when you hear some of the heart-rending tales? And they are certainly more far deserving of help and far less the authors of their own plight than the bailed-out bondholders. But that doesn't mean that this particular camel's back doesn't suddenly feel broken.

And I'll tell you what else it doesn't mean. It doesn't mean that I don't feel sorry for my own family -- even though my wife and I are lucky enough to be employed and have a relatively small mortgage. It doesn't mean that I now don't question whether our prudent ways have been the right ones. And it doesn't mean that those who do manage to avail of the planned debt relief schemes shouldn't have to undergo the most rigorous tests to make sure they are completely on their uppers. It's the least I should expect if I'm faced with the prospect of more bailouts for others while we have to keep on saying no to our own small dreams.

Sunday Independent