Thrift is a choice for those who can afford it

to recommend thrift to the poor is both grotesque and insulting

Oscar Wilde. The Soul of Man Under Socialism 1891

He goes on to say :

It is like advising a man who is starving to eat less.

 

Yet isn’t that exactly what this government is telling us? To tighten our belts.

Food writers, TV chefs, glossy magazines, supermarket adverts are bombarding us with family meals on a budget, use cheap cuts of meat, grow your own veg, Save with Jamie and or Cheap and Cheerful recipes from James Martin.

The minimum wage for someone over 25 is £6.31 per hour.If you work a 40 hour week that is just over £252 a week, or £13124 a year, £1093 a month, before tax and other deductions. If you live in a council flat almost a quarter of your income will go on rent. I have checked a local authority for properties to let, and for a one bedroom flat the rent is between £75 and £83 in West Bromwich, Sandwell. If you rent from a private landlord the rent would be an average of £99. And on top of that there are utility bills and Council Tax to pay, about £30 per week depending where you live and time of year. Add to that travelling to work by bus, that is another £12 a week if you have a bus pass or £4 a day if you don’t. Numbeo have a cost of living indicator here on which I have based these figures.

After deducting these from your £252 pay packet you would be left with £135 for everything else. Food, clothes, prescriptions, entertainment, and saving for the spectacles you need, the boiler repair and the phone bill. I haven’t even added in the cost of a TV licence or internet connection or cable.

And then you become ill. Too ill to work. Or you get laid off. And then you have to rely on benefits. From the date of making a claim for Job Seekers Allowance and other benefits, to receiving payment, could take up to three weeks. Sometimes more if you have to be assessed for your fitness to work.

The gas bill is due and you cannot pay it. You cooker stops working and you cannot afford to replace it. To help you ‘budget’ your utility company installs a pre payment meter, which is the most expensive way to pay for gas and electric. Yet it stops you getting into debt by having bills you can’t pay. And then it snows, the temperature plummets and you have £5 to last the next three days.

What would you spend that £5 on?

And this is a scenario for a single person with no dependents. What if there were young children in the family?

Would you tell the young man working in a bar, on a minimum wage to be more thrifty?Could you tell a mom who buys food for her child and lives on tea with sugar to keep her energy levels to eat less?

To work harder?

The Living Wage Foundation work with employers to encourage them to pay a living, not minimum wage. The Joseph Rowntree Association have set a Minimum Income Standard based on what members of the public think is enough money to live on, to maintain a socially-acceptable quality of life. Both organisations agree that the minimum wage is too low.

I heard of a family that only had one lightbulb. Only light the room you are in. They were not practicing thrift, it wasn’t a choice to have one light bulb. They really could not to afford to put money in the meter to pay for the electricity.

And those of us who earn much more than the minimum wage, can make a choice to be thrifty. We can decide to save for a holiday abroad, a new kitchen, a rainy day we hope will never happen. How many of us have made a choice to not eat out or have takeaways for a few months to save for something special? Have you chosen to shop at Aldi instead of Asda?  Did you chose to shop at charity shops and feel triumphant when you got a designer dress for a fiver?

Some of us can afford to be thrifty. Others don’t have that choice, it is thrust upon them. They have already cut back and the cupboard is bare. They hang around supermarkets for when items are reduced and charity shops are not an opportunity to bag a bargain but are the only clothes they can afford. If the boiler breaks they hope the landlord will fix it. In the meantime you have cold washes not showers.

This is a reality for so many people in the UK today. If they are lucky they may get a a job that pays more, that gets them off benefits. If they are not they may get a referral to a foodbank from the Citizens Advice Bureau or Local Authority.

These are the figures from The Trussell Trust. Foodbank is not a lifestyle choice. Foodbank is a life line.

  • 913,138 people received three days’ emergency food from Trussell Trust foodbanks in 2013-14 compared to346,992 in 2012-13

Of course it will never happen to you. You have a good job, a house with a mortgage, a company car and a Final Pension Scheme. Life is good. And you go to Florida on a holiday of a lifetime. On the first day back at work you get a redundancy notice.

Six months later you are still unemployed. You savings have all gone.

Your children get Free School Dinners. A grant for a free school uniform.

Twelve months later you have to attend mandatory job club, with half a dozen other middle managers and directors who, like you, thought it would never happen to them.

Eighteen months later you get a job, on half the salary you were earning before. The bills are the same, the mortgage is in arrears, and so you spend the next one, two, three, ten years paying of the debt you accumulated when unemployed.

No, this could never happen to you.

But if you really want to know how it feels to be hungry, to have a child who was hungry, then read Hunger Hurts by Jack Monroe.

And then make a donation to your local foodbank.

The IDS £53 bandwagon and the legacy of the Thatcher years

Seems I am not the only one blogging or bragging about being able to live on £53 a week. Just read this article in the Express and Star. Hmmm I don’t think he really gets it. Blagging meals from parents and not counting the cost of living on leftovers. Or taking bills etc into account. Ah well, if it sells papers. In the old days they would be tomorrows chip paper, but there are rules about that sort of thing now.

Poor man he had to downshift from Waitrose to Aldi. I feel his pain, I really do.

As I mentioned yesterday I needed to look at how much all my other expenses are and I am shocked. £170 per week. That is with mortgage, gas, electric, water, household insurance and car insurance, cable, phone and internet. I have not even factored in the cost of having a car serviced and MOT’d. I can’t see any way of cutting back except that the cable and internet would have to be considered a luxury. I couldn’t afford to go out to see a film and I couldn’t watch the telly box. If I got rid of the cable service I would have to have a free view box or something to continue to be able to watch any tv. I can get free internet at the library (while we still have them) or at a cafe, although I would have to buy a coffee of course.

That £170 divided by three adults is £56.67 each. so if we were all on Job Seekers Allowance for instance this is what our income would be:

Contribution-based JSA

You can only get contribution-based JSA for 182 days (approximately 6 months). After this, you may be able to get income-based JSA.

Age Weekly amount
16 to 24 £56.80
25 or over £71.70

A household income of just over £200.

or this

Income-based JSA

Status Weekly amount
Single (under 25) £56.80
Single (25 or over) £71.70
Couples (both aged 18 or over) £112.55
Lone parent (18 or over) £71.70
Lone parent (under 18) £56.80

Given those figures the car would have to go and we would have to live on nasty sausages, plastic bread and lentils. I may have to steal from supermarket bins. My only entertainment would be books (thank goodness for the library) and because we couldn’t afford to heat the house it would be bed by 8pm.

How could you even afford clothes? What would happen if you had an interview and didn’t have a suit?

We wouldn’t have to pay council tax, but as we have a mortgage we wouldn’t get housing benefit. There may be other benefits we could claim, yet from this month a Benefit Cap is being introduced:

The level of the cap will be:

  • £500 a week for couples (with or without children living with them)
  • £500 a week for single parents whose children live with them
  • £350 a week for single adults who don’t have children, or whose children don’t live with them

More information about benefits can be found here.

So Iain Duncan Smith, I would love to see you and your wife living on £500 per week, but then you don’t pay a mortgage or rent a house, because you married a rich mans daughter. You get paid much more than the minimum wage and claim more in expenses than most people earn.

What happens if we all eventually get a job and are only offered the minimum wage?

The National Minimum Wage rate per hour depends on your age and whether you’re an apprentice – you must be at least school leaving age to get it.

Year 21 and over 18 to 20 Under 18 Apprentice*
2012 (current rate) £6.19 £4.98 £3.68 £2.65
2011 £6.08 £4.98 £3.68 £2.60
2010 £5.93 £4.92 £3.64 £2.50

How much you really need to live on? If you lost your job tomorrow what would you cut back on? Could you pay your mortgage?

This has been a very humbling and shocking experience. And I am even more cross now that the tax payers are having to pay for an overblown funeral for Margaret Thatcher,  a woman who got us into this mess in the first place. There, I have said it. I won’t watch the funeral of a millionaire who died at the Ritz. Most of us will die, like my mom did, in an NHS Ward or a smelly care home, because we can’t afford a really good one, neglected by those who were paid to care for us. Neglected because the care workers are on a minimum wage, have too many visits to make in a day and worried that they won’t be able to afford to put petrol in the car they need to do their job.

I am sure I have upset some care workers and Thatcherites. Here’s the thing. I don’t care! And neither does this government.