06.08.12 Career & Finances
BY Kate Bellamy
There seems to be an increasing tendency in the press, in recent months, to write features based on a bread-line existence. Be it some female 30-something socialite journo who has had to ditch the Prada for Primark or the male-equivalent, whose frugal experience is food related.
In line with the current financial climate in Europe, this seems appropriate. Wherever you turn people are finding things hard. But while budgeting yourself to £25 a week for food is copy fodder for the press, for some it is a reality that they didn’t subject themselves to for that week’s column. Seeing situations portrayed in the press as a ‘social experiment’, then, doesn’t offer much comfort or relief.
Like many others, I’ve had to tighten the purse strings since becoming unemployed but I refuse to jump on the bandwagon of the ‘austere year’. For one, it seems insulting. No one chooses to be poor – this isn’t an experiment, it’s pretty rubbish, really. There’s nothing worse than that feeling when your heart sinks as your wage-earning friend suggests dinner out or happily texts, ‘I’ve got the chocolate, you bring the wine’ as you look forlornly at your last £4. It leaves you with meagre lunch money for the rest of the week and a headache that has nothing to do with wine.
We don’t need to read the news to know we have to face our own financial demons. But how is this best done? Taking for granted our columnists are earning their bread and butter by derisively switching to our budget brand. Subtle deflection? Complete bank balance denial? Honesty? It’s a hard one to call. I know these newspaper features are designed to inspire and offer alternative options for living frugally, so why do I feel I’m being preached to? If I’m honest now, I have found myself with that last glass of wine in hand and no lunch tomorrow and that hangover is even worse.
The first step is admitting we have a problem. All of us. Austerity – or more importantly, financial responsibility – has to be a way of life, not a week. Obviously short of coming up with a solution to world debt (perhaps a genie in a lamp?) isn’t suddenly going to strike as you do the washing up. This is living deliberately on a large scale. More than viewing past financial struggles as evidence of fiscal fun, “During the war we had nothing and we were all happier! And thinner!” (but we were also being bombed). Anyway, if we spend life looking back, we miss what’s going on right now.
Charity shopping has been a recurring trend amongst the pages of the national press. One example chartered the attempts of one Notting Hill resident trading in disposable fashion for charity cast-offs. A lot easier, presumably, when you live in Notting Hill, where charity shops look like Harrods compared to your average Cancer Research outlet. Personally I’ve always been a fan of the bargain bin, ‘vintage’ ever the sartorial watchword. I even once found a beaver coat for a lot less than the recommended retail price. Popping into your local charity should, I think, be part of a routine shopping trip.
The media male, follows his stomach, delving into bins to feed himself for a fortnight. The column admits that in the first 24 hours a pre-planned date breaks the budget and the £50 for two weeks food is gone. This isn’t realistic for most of us. What is realistic is hitting the reduced section of the local supermarket (usually at it’s best after 6pm). Food prices rapidly reduce as sell by dates expire, but there’s no shame in basketing these bargains. It’s ‘use by’ not ‘gone off by’.
Kitting yourself out with a free money mentor is also a good idea, be it a friend, relation or a notebook. Knowing what you’ve got and where it’s gone means you’ll avoid knot knowing till it’s gone. If your rent is half your wage, it might be time to downsize or worse, move home. I know, the horror of moving back in with mum and dad! But think about it, your less likely to spend out on unplanned takeaway when the fridge is empty. The seasonal wardrobe change over is also a great opportunity to re-discover old gems and trans-seasonal dressing can mean one jumper lasts all year.
Who knew austerity was free! Well, of course we all did, these are all things we all ready know. We can embrace bygone golden ages and whip out the sewing machine, make do and mend! We can live off beans and toast for a week if we want, even better if your beans are at a reduced price. But please, newspaper columnists take note: I don’t want to hear how hard it is for you to pass on that glass of Chablis or the things you never knew you could do with a carrot. We know, we’re doing it every day. You’re preaching to the choir.
Featured image by juicyrai on Flickr