I haven’t blogged in a while, though I’ve been meaning to. I’ve been meaning to write about the unexpected expenditures that make a big part of household spending but aren’t generally thought of when doing ‘could I live on £73 per week’ thought experiments.
Further down is my current day-to-day spending to show how the kind of spending everyone would ideally be doing for the sake of the environment – using sustainable foods and businesses – quickly takes us to £73. There is nothing beyond the necessities bar my dog, and he is already taking up the household and personal hygiene budget.
The problem is that the one-off, occasional, unexpected expensive costs aren’t very occasional. I’ve lived in my own flat for eight months now. I’m not responsible for walls or roof, because it’s a flat, so I am saved those costs. However, since moving I have spent over £50 per week on ‘occasional’ ‘unexpected’ costs – and that isn’t counting the up-front costs of moving into one’s first (or any) home, the expected costs of mobility scooter maintenance, or the high cost of the ThermaSkirt heating I had installed in my lodger’s room so that I didn’t have to worry about making her ill or the long-term costs of heating a damp room.
£150 on two replacement parts for the boiler, because it kept losing pressure
£325 on a power flush for the central heating system, because the system was filthy and this was causing a variety of problems as well as being likely to cause major problems in the future if not cleaned.
£250 on a new bathroom fan. The existing one was supposed to vent through air bricks, but actually drove sickly-sweet rodent-wee smell back into the bathroom. The new fan went directly into the external wall so a new hole had to be made for it, and wiring taken from the kitchen to the new fan.
£150 for a second, outdoor freezer because between me, my dog and my lodger, the relatively large freezer of my fridge-freezer still wasn’t big enough.
£100 because my dog ate some rich dark chocolate with espresso and martini.
£500 because my dog developed a pilomatrixocoma – a benign hair-follicle tumour which, left in situ, would keep growing until it burst and exudes weird keratin-y gunk. Or something like that.
£200 on half-price new mobility scooter batteries, on top of the £300 of scooter batteries bought only five months prior to that (either they were dud, or my charger got disconnected from the mains without me realising it for a prolonged period, thus killing the batteries)
£130 on a dehumidifier to dry out my lodger’s very damp (wet) and mouldy room, plus a heated clothes dryer to make drying clothes indoors a little less bad (note to self – liaise with lodger so that laundry is only put on when my assistant is going to be here to put it out for me, and when it is a dry day so the washing can go outside).
I’ve also had ThermaSkirt put in my lodger’s room to combat the major condensation and mould problem that that room has. I’ve carpeted the room for free by taking off-cuts from my sister, but a new carpet to replace the mouldy one would have set me back at least £200 even if it were cheap and unfitted. I’ve also been given a free wardrobe to replace the mouldy one and am waiting on a free second-hand desk.
Of course, I could have saved the money and let my lodger suffer from cold, damp and mould spores, and myself borne the cost of replacing any chip-board backed furniture every three months and all other furniture on a yearly basis as it would be mouldy. At some point there would have been a horrendous floor-replacement cost, as it turns out that the underlying floor is flooring-grade chipboard, which I imagine is also susceptible to mould.
Those are leaving aside the costs of the carpet for the lounge, wall paint, the curtains for the two bedrooms and the lounge, the new washing machine and fridge-freezer to replace the ones that were supposed to be left behind by the previous occupant, a robust mobility-scooter shelter, and an external socket. Also a garden shed, lawn mower and hoover. But those things should all last years; it’s the others which are all the ones you don’t think about when considering what is and isn’t affordable to live on, but which make a large difference. That’s one third of my UC payment.
I’m fortunate that I have had the money for these up-front costs. One of the major difficulties of being poor is that when these costs aren’t met asap, they simply grow and become a much bigger expense a few months or years down the line.
Here’s my current day-to-day spending:
£25 on food (it was £20. I switched to grass-fed-only meat, which is more expensive, but also much more nutritionally valuable and far better for the environment. I eat around 50g of meat per day. I’ve also increased my fruit&veg, and make a point of including one portion of dark/leafy green veg every day)
£17 on electricity and gas. That will go down in the summer when I use less central heating. I should also look at using the slow cooker more, although the downside is that my assistant then won’t be around when the food is ready to portion it out for the freezer and wash up the slow cooker. It would also only really work for me if either everything went in all at the same time, or things that don’t need very long are cooked separately and added at the end, because I’m not good with household chores healthwise. My assistant already cooks beans separately, because then the galactans that cause problems for my IBS-type symptoms are leached into water that is drained off rather than into whatever is being cooked.
£8 on water. Down from £9, so not much of a saving really. I might add some water-saving tricks, though I’m already using a third less than an average two-person household. Still, every little helps.
£4.75 on insurance. It’s expensive, relative to my possessions, because I’m with an environmentally-friendly company.
£6.25 on mobile and internet. I don’t have fibre, and my mobile is the lowest contract I know of. I sometimes consider going onto PAYG, but then it would be expensive to phone the DWP. And as I also seem to periodically have to phone other companies, such as TV licensing and the previous-but-one energy supplier, to sort out their mistakes, I think I should stay on my £4.95 per month contract for as long as it’s available.
That takes me up to £61 per week and I haven’t bought any personal hygeine or household items yet. Nor have I set anything aside for white goods repairs or replacements. I’m okay for travel so long as I stay within a 10mile radius, due to having a local travel pass.
My dog costs £9 per week, but of course people on benefits shouldn’t have such a luxury as a pet, and certainly shouldn’t feed that pet a healthy grain-free diet…
I’m a Christian, so I also pay 10% of my income to my church, but I regard that as a personal choice rather than a necessity as such. I don’t expect my benefits to be enough for me to be able to afford a basic standard of living using only 90% of my benefits…
Ignoring the tithe, the top-up of my council tax would take me to the end of money if I were only on JSA or UC equivalent. Fortunately, I’m on UC LCWRA, earn £40 per week and also get the lowest rate of PIP.
Even so, the only reason I still have money in my bank account is because a person I lent some money to a while ago has repaid most of it (don’t panic – I did keep the DWP informed of this loan, as they treat it as still ‘my’ money and therefore part of savings).