Recently, Johan and I have been discussing articles on the Daily Mail (we read it for humour purposes only) and a funny parody on the Independent websites about certain middle class households complaining that they can’t manage on £100,000 a year incomes without their child benefit (I don’t have the spoons to hunt for the articles today, unfortunately). Now I disagree with the child benefit changes because it’s going to cost more than it remaining universal due to administration costs, it’s unfair for those families with only one person working and earning just over the limit, and the fact it can increase problems of financial abuse against the main child carer in some families (if one parent who works withholds money from the parent caring for the children, the child benefit may be all that parent has to buy food and clothe them. This can happen in any income family).
The funniest bit to use was where people were complaining that they couldn’t manage only spending £1000 a month on food (for a family of 5, I think). Now we consider ourselves very lucky, in that the level of benefits we get covers our needs. As I used to have to manage on a budget of £80 a week for two people, I actually feel rich having my DLA (though my disability does bring extra costs with it). As neither of us can work (I’m too ill and Johan is saving the state thousands by caring for me rather than me living in a care home) we appreciate having enough money for little luxuries, as we have no other way of getting income. We’re both very grateful for what we get and both of us want to pay back into the system as soon as we’re able.
One of our bigger luxuries is having a food budget of £100 a fortnight. On that we can afford to eat very well, get nice food in, and can get what we like inclnduding treats. Due to Johan’s difficulties with executive function we need to get a lot of preprepared and easy to cook food, which can be more expensive. We’re also both quite fussy, which reduces our options quite a bit. Luckily, we can easily afford this with such a large budget, and often come well under so can get takeaways as a treat as well. It also helps as my diet can change drastically without warning- if I relapse I can no longer chew and need liquid or pureed foods (which we get from a specialist online shop). When that happens we can afford it without having to worry.
Now this is quite a large budget and if we needed to reduce our outgoings for whatever reason, it would be one of the first things that would be cut. Last year we managed fine on a food budget of £50 a fortnight, and if necessary we could cut it down further (when I lived alone I could manage on a food budget of £30 a month, even with my fussiness and problems with food preparation, and it was healthy food, not just noodles).
The idea that people struggle with a budget of £1000 a month for 5 people seems strange to us. Though the budget works out about the same per person as ours (Edit- no it doesn’t, it’s about double. Danni can’t do maths), food actually gets cheaper when bought in bulk. I mentioned earlier that we often struggle to spend the entire budget. We have a pretty full freezer and cupboards even at the end of the fortnight (we buy a bit less fridge food as with our fussiness and my eating problems due to illness it might not get eaten before it goes off) and if necessaary we could manage a lot longer eating from the cupboards and freezer (and sometimes we even skip a full shop as we have plenty in and just spend £10-20 on fresh stuff that fortnight).
What must they be eating? We often get the luxury brands of food, and more than we need so we have plenty of backups. How much wastage do they have? If they’re really struggling, then I’m sure they could cut down in other areas- we live on quite a bit lower than the average wage including all benefits (including housing, council tax and disability) and are comfortable and don’t go without much that we want (though maybe our wants are less than theirs?). And I’m sure they don’t need to buy wheelchairs, specialist equipment or keep the house as warm due to disability.
Now I know there are a lot of families that really are struggling with the costs of living. Food and energy prices are going up, and incomes aren’t so what used to be manageable isn’t now. This isn’t about them. It’s specifically about those families in the Daily Mail going “oh, woe is me, we can’t manage on £100,000 a year”. They can reduce their lifestyle to match their income. Lots can’t (and need help, but that’s for another blog post).
(On the health front, my lovely GP came out and is organising tests, a scan, and referrals to the OT and a dietician. No immediate solution other than to continue drinking stuff with calories in it, but I’m coping with the pain enough to manage to eat a bit once today so I’ll be okay until things get sorted.)