A week in the life of “Austerity Britain”

Miss Thrifty9 June 26, 2010

Sunday 20 June

*  We begin the week with news that 44 per cent of UK households expect their finances to worsen over the next year. Will this statement set the tone for the week to come?

Monday 21 June

* In advance of the Emergency Budget, John Redwood MP publishes a blog post warning that Government cuts are on the way and suggested that the state can make adjustments to its spending, just as a household can:

If you are living a middle class lifestyle and your income goes down by 10% you have plenty of options. You can holiday nearer at home and cut out the foreign trip. You can eat in more than in the local restaurants. You can trade down for a cheaper car. You can draw some money out of the savings account to tide you over until your income goes up again. You can buy more of the value items at the supermarket, and put more vegetarian dishes into the home menus. You can discover home entertainment to keep the leisure bills down. You can turn down the thermostat a little and put on a jumper.

To you and me this is glaringly basic stuff, no? (Hey, maybe he’s been reading some personal finance blogs!) Well, according to The Daily Mail, which runs the headine:

Cold and Hungry? Wear A Jumper And Eat Vegetables: Tory MP Sparks Outrage With Advice On How To Survive “Bloodbath Budget”

absinthe drinker * Fortunately, we aren’t all cold and hungry. Will this be Britain’s most lucrative ever week of sales? asks The Daily Telegraph. The paper is referring to the art market: it is predicted that up to £450 million will be spent on Impressionist and Modern art during the week, with one of Lord Lloyd Webber’s Picassos set to lead the goldrush.

Tuesday 22 June

george osborne

* Drumroll… It’s Emergency Budget time! Osborne’s pronouncements go on forever and a day; it’s very tense, like a roller coaster ride that sends you crankety-cranking slowly upwards one minute, and swooping down, around and upside down the next.  I’m not going to go into the details here – it’s been covered to death everywhere else – but in summary, I’m quite pleased that the personal tax allowance is going up by £1,000 next year and quite annoyed that VAT is going up from 17.5 per cent to 20 per cent.  For every plus there’s a minus, but when all is said and done, it could have been a lot worse, couldn’t it?

The press runs dark, brooding photographs of the Chancellor emerging from Downing Street with the red briefcase aloft, as if he should be wearing a black hooded cape and brandishing a scythe. I don’t think they need to: Osborne has a permanent facial expression that suggests horror and nausea, as if he has just eaten a particularly unpleasant spoonful of tapioca pudding. When he smiles, he reminds me of Wednesday Addams.

Wednesday 23 June

* I pick up the latest issue of Private Eye magazine which, as always, has the national mood spot on:

private eye

Thursday 24 June

*  A manufacturer of super-expensive mobile phones launches its latest model in the UK. This phone, the iPhone 4, is smaller and lighter and more powerful than the model that came out this time a whole year ago . The iPhone 4  costs £499 for the basic model, contract-free, but this price is no bar for the tens of thousands of Britons who spend hours queueing at phone stores up and down the country. Apple’s flagship store in London has already drawn a queue of 600 would-be iPhone 4 owners by 7 am. Perhaps they have been wearing jumpers and eating vegetables, I don’t know…

Friday 25 June

thrifty sandwich

* For my husband today begins with a jolt, when he is woken up by me yelling at the radio, “WELL MAKE THEM FRIGGING SANDWICHES THEN!” The morning news bulletin on BBC Radio Four reveals that some children from poorer homes are having to “take it turns” eating school lunches, because they don’t qualify for free meals and their parents can’t afford to pay for more than one school dinner a day. The average primary school dinner costs £1.77 a day – which does add up, especially if you have more than one child. Certainly a homemade sandwich, a packet of Hula Hoops (YES, I would put Hula Hoops in a child’s packed lunch – SO FLAME ME), some carrot sticks and an apple would come in at a fraction of the price.

However the Ofsted report, from which the damning hungry children headline comes, is also at pains to point that packed lunches are a non-viable option for “many” poorer families. This is because, and I quoteLittle account was taken of the fact that many families whose income was low did not have transport and therefore had to rely on what was available in the immediate locality. Am I being too harsh here? Because that’s the worst excuse I’ve ever heard.

*  The owner of Currys reports that sales of TVs were up by 40 per cent last month. Apparently a key sales driver is thought to be a promotion applied to televisions costing £599 or more; every time England scores in the World Cup, purchasers will get a voucher for £10. (Bet they’re gutted now – LOL.)

Saturday 26 June

* It turns out that some of those devoted Apple fans who queued and queued and queued for their must-have £499 iPhones have come unstuck. Unfortunately, unless you hold this sliver of cutting-edge technology in a particular way, it loses its mobile signal, which sort of ruins the point of it.

Today a cunning solution is proposed: apparently, a dab of nail polish or a little bit of duct tape in the right place sorts the problem.

I like this thrifty solution to an expensive problem. But do you know what? Expensive new iPhones wearing their little swabs of duct tape seem to sum up this sometimes confusing and contradictory week in the life of Austerity Britain perfectly.

What will next week bring?

Sandwich image credit: sweetonveg.

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9 Responses to “A week in the life of “Austerity Britain”

Please educate this American on what is a hula hoop? I’m sure it’s not the large plastic circle I’m used to….

June 26, 2010 at 10:24 pm

missthrifty says:

Ah, you’re missing out Bucksome! A small bag of chips, shaped into cylinders – and just big enough for a small child to slip onto their fingers, like rings.

Voila: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hula_Hoops

June 26, 2010 at 11:16 pm

Thanks for the info. I’ll have to try them next time I go over the pond!

June 27, 2010 at 4:52 pm

Claire says:

I’m rather surprised that you’re annoyed at VAT going up. It seems to me to be quite a good thing.

Firstly, you have a choice about whether to consume or not and therefore to pay it or not; especially as most necessities are currently VAT free and remain so.

Secondly, I hope it might make us all a bit more aware of the endless consuming we do and anything that helps us do this has to be good for the environment as well as the economy. (eg do I really need another television? apple gadget? etc?).

Finally, I genuinely don’t believe we’ll notice the difference, we certainly didn’t when it went down.

June 28, 2010 at 11:25 am

missthrifty says:

@Claire This is all true – but like I said, it could have been a lot worse! There are a couple of things I don’t like about VAT – aside from the regular arguments about it being outdated and so on.

Firstly, it’s quite a lottery at the supermarket: some goods carry VAT and some don’t, and it all seems so arbitrary! For example, raisins packaged for baking are non-VATable, but raisins packaged for snacks are. (More of this here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/consumertips/7854289/How-to-make-your-shopping-list-VAT-free.html – I’m planning a post on this topic.)

Secondly, even if you are super-frugal at the supermarket and avoid the VATable goods, you’ll still get whomped with your household bills – and it is difficult to avoid paying for the leccy and gas.

A rise in VAT isn’t the end of the world and, as you note, at least we have SOME control over our purse-strings when it comes to forking out on it, but the rise annoys me nevertheless!

June 28, 2010 at 1:25 pm

Claire says:

Yes, i do see your point and look forward to your post about the seeming randomness of VAT in the supermarket. I don’t really shop in the supermarkets much so I think it passes me by. (We have a brilliant food and farmer’s market and I tend to shop there as much as possible – it’s cheaper, better quality and well it’s not a supermarket).

I agree about the gas and electric, we are lucky to have a large, open-plan house, but heating it in winter cripples us! I guess I will be getting my knitting needles out come the Autumn.

Anyway keep up the good posts, I always enjoy them.

June 28, 2010 at 3:16 pm

herdmarmo says:

“I don’t really shop in the supermarkets much so I think it passes me by. (We have a brilliant food and farmer’s market and I tend to shop there as much as possible – it’s cheaper, better quality and well it’s not a supermarket).”
What I can not believe!

December 20, 2010 at 7:47 am

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