Less conspicuous consumption, more conservatories. That is the picture of the economy emerging from official figures that strikingly contradict the caricature of a spendthrift nation borrowing to fund a live-now lifestyle. Financial Times

But in this decade’s upswing, an army of house-proud consumers have ploughed cash into their homes rather than frittering it away on holidays or designer clothes.

In short, they have met the equivalent of the government’s “golden rule” by borrowing for investment and not for current spending.

The figures suggest that, however deep the slowdown becomes, households are in a better position to weather the storm than they were in the late 1980s, making the economy as a whole more robust. Since most of the money borrowed has gone into buying newly built homes or improving existing property, there will be something to show for the investment even if the housing market takes a tumble.

Evidence of not-so-spendthrift Britain abounds. Most important, household consumption has fallen sharply as a share of gross domestic product.