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Surviving the recession on benefits

Money - Seeing the future

The recession is affecting most people, but if you have lost your job then it’s even worse. In the UK cuts in all welfare payments and provision are hitting the least well off most. While the government panders to the rich who try to avoid taxes; the most vulnerable in society suffer. They are often thought of as scroungers who spend all their time drinking in the pub . The truth is very different.

Job seekers allowance varies depending on circumstances but it only £71 a week for the over 25’s and couples on £111.45 are worse off. Couples can ‘share’ the water, energy and telephone  bills. You can normally claim housing benefit and council tax too, but those benefits are being cut. The allowances for children too are be reviewed and might be cut.

People in Western nations might feel much worse off that the middle classes whose typical earnings are way about the average which is around £25,000 a year. Typical earnings for many are minimum wages of less than £11,000 a year and even less than that for many part time workers. The gap between the highly paid workers in the City of London and people on minimum wage is huge. The executive drinking the coffee in Starbucks is likely to be earning ten times what the person serving them earns. Starbucks as a company meanwhile make very little profit and pays very little corporation tax because they make payments to their parent company overseas. This syphoning off  profits is quite legal and quite a common practice for multinationals.

It all seems so unfair, but being on benefits in the UK is better than in  a developing country. The choice in many countries is work or starve, but at least your friends won’t criticise because you don’t have the latest smartphone.

You can survive by thinking like someone in a third world country, don’t waste anything and look after the possessions that you do have. Don’t get into debt and be a slave to the banks, pawn brokers or pay day loan companies. They are just the vultures circling above you ready to pick your bones. If you have a real emergency, try asking about a crisis loan at Jobcentre Plus.

You can contact Jobcentre Plus on 0800 032 7952.

If you have to pay rent or other housing costs, make those a priority. Try to cut down on energy needs, switch off lights when not in use. Spend an afternoon in the library or art gallery to save on heating costs. Go to bed early to save on heating costs. I went to bed early and watched TV in bed last night, it was cold outside and so my house soon cooled after the heating went off. I was warm enough and it probably saved quite a lot off my heating bill. That alone can save a £1 a day in winter and I was quite comfortable watching TV in bed. I even chat to friends using my laptop and the internet.

You can cut down on luxuries, but you will probably have to shop around for food too. Always look for special offers. You can make good use of staple foods like potatoes, bread and rice. Make use of cheaper protein foods. Eggs are quite good value. I’m having egg, chips and peas for dinner tonight, quite frugal and a favourite meal. Try replacing meat with vegetable protein. Lentils added to stew in winter will mean you need less meat. Compare the price of different meats and make the most of the cheaper ones. I generally find chicken and pork the cheapest. If your diet is getting a little boring, try cooking the food in different ways.

Anxiety and insecurity is a plague that people who are unemployed find intolerable. It is tempting to take a break from the worry and have a few drinks or even get drunk. That gives rise to all the rumours and gossip amongst the chattering middle classes who resent paying their taxes. Try to keep busy in the evening, take up a cheap hobby or even watch TV; anything to keep off the booze.

If things are really bad, see if you have a food bank where you can get food in your area. It is likely to be cheap processed food, but it will help and you can save your money for fresh fruit and vegetables.

You might also be able to barter a little or sell unwanted household stuff on a car boot sale. If you’re fit and healthy, someone who isn’t so healthy might welcome help with their garden. You could grow vegetables in summer and share them. If you’re young, you can benefit a lot by having a friend who is older and has different problems to you that you can help with.

If you’re older and not so fit, but have a lot of knowledge and experience to share with someone younger that might benefit you both. People find it difficult to achieve anything alone, but collectively, it can be much easier.

If you have an opinion on this subject, please comment using the comment box. Comments are moderated (usually quite quickly) and you can subscribe to the comment stream and you can also subscribe to the blog and get updates when new posts are published. There are more blogs on my other website, a zillion ideas.


2 responses

  1. Sound advice.

    3, November 2012 at 9:42 am

    • Hi Nick,

      Lots of people are struggling now. People who reply on electricity for heating and have those key things for the meter must struggle. But imagine being all electric, living away from main shopping centres and maybe be disabled too. I have a choice of markets and supermarkets, enough money for everything and gas central heating. While I don’t want people to have 10 kids so they can get more benefits, I understand the suffering of those who are finding it tough going.

      We have a divided society. I think it might get worse.

      3, November 2012 at 10:45 am

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