Tuesday, 24 January 2012

£26000? In my dreams!

Today  I have been inspired to write a post after reading a very good recent post from Scarlet.

As you will all have seen the recent news about people complaining that their benefits may be capped at £26000 and complaining about it, I was made very angry that people are playing the system in order to stay at home and do nothing, but can probably still afford lots of nice things to eat and new clothes and, I am sure, having their nails done etc.

I earn significantly lower than the national average, indeed, about half it seems, as my industry has taken quite a hit in recent years. I have seen a drop of about 4000 in my wage over the last couple of years and have I gone crying to the benefits office? No, I have changed my lifestyle significantly. Don't get me wrong, I have certainly not done this unwillingly, but have actually embraced the challenge 100% and I believe myself to be the winner in this. I have left a city I didn't enjoy living in and made the brave decision to move somewhere that I only know a handful of people, but in which I can make my life work on a small income. I can afford my mortgage repayments better now, I can grow my own food (if I could afford to plant things, which I can't at the moment, but hopefully by spring.....) and I can enjoy living close to nature. I don't go out to the pub, I have stopped my spending on new clothes 100% and have begged and borrowed things like a freezer from friends and family. At the moment I am living without a fridge because I can't afford one, so am keeping my fresh food in the garage where it is mercifully cold. But don't misunderstand and think that any of this is in the spirit of complaining, because I feel that I am richer than I have ever been in everything other than money. It makes me so cross to hear people on benefits complaining because they cannot have things that they consider their 'rights'. Benefits are not there for people who want to sit at home and watch Jeremy Kyle, but they are there for people with a genuine need, who have lost a job and don't know how to feed themselves until they get another or who genuinely don;t know where to turn to.

I have started to change the way I live completely, I don't go out for meals, I cook everything from scratch, I don't buy books, I use the library, I use my car as infrequently as possible and walk if I can. Holidays are a thing of the past (although I feel now that I am living in a holiday destination!). I will be foraging come spring. The major supermarkets are no go areas now, unless I genuinely cannot get an item anywhere else - Lidl and Aldi are life savers. Shopping for anything non essential is over. Gas and electricity wastage is not an option, I will use what is needed at that moment, heat the rooms I am going to be in and use blankets and throws, light the room I am using. Baths are a thing of the past as water is saved carefully, a short shower is all I am having. Internet usage is now capped to save money and phone calls are only made in my 'free' period, ie, evenings and weekend. Mobile phone usage is now a bare minimum and for emergencies.

And yet I still feel there is so much to learn from people like ilona or Frugal Queen can who put me to shame with the amount of frugality they employ. I wonder how many of the benefit people complaining about being capped at £26000 are doing as much to save money?

I love my new life and am now even considering a new job or career, were it possible to work somewhere walking distance from home. We will see what the next 12 months bring, but meanwhile I will be giving the news a miss to stop myself getting upset and shouting at the television.


  1. It is very frustrating when people feel it is their right to money / benefits from a Government.

    Mankind seems to have lost their pride in earning their living and has made it their life's work to demand, and live, on freebies.

    I can't wait until we move to our (very basic) off-grid farm permanently and, until we can get a borehole drilled, are dependent only on the municipal water, whose account we promptly pay each month... Electricity, food - those we intend providing for ourselves.

    I can't wait.

  2. How true Dan. When I moved into my first home, I couldn't afford a fridge and it was summer. However, I found that if I stood my milk carton in a deep bowl of cold water it stay fresh for days as long as I changed the water daily. I also stored my meat and left over food in the same way (in bags though!) Yeah, I got a little wet getting into it but that is better than throwing it way. I had a shady roof above me that I could access as a temporary 'fridge' but got fed up traipsing up to it. The bowl idea worked much better.

  3. Thanks for the mention Dan. I am still really angry about it. Two of my teeth have broken in the last 2 days - I'm certain I'm ageing quickly on the inside - at 46 I have a heart condition normally seen in post-menopausal women, I have had cataract surgery on both eyes, and now my teeth are crumbling. I may have to have the teeth removed as the 'cheap' alternative, as I'm certain that I won't be able to afford to have them crowned. Anyone playing the system could have them crowned for free and they wouldn't have to pay for the prescriptions that keep me out of a hospital bed either. The welfare state was set up as a safety net, not a meal ticket to a comfortable life with all the latest gadgets. My nephew is 30 years old , has barely done a day's work in his life, yet always has the latest gadget that Apple brings out - and usually within days of its release - it's sickening.

  4. Britain is a welfare state in the process of being dismantled. The people dont bother me so much as the system. It was bad when I lived in Britain, whole generations who have never worked. Bill Clinton reined all that in here in the States, you have to been rock bottom to get even the smallest amount of help (that includes selling your house to pay your medical bills)
    While thrift is a good thing and making the very best of ones resources is important I am not a fan of self sufficiency, it is not the way modern economies work - I believe it is the road to poverty.

  5. people should not feel 'entitled'! to benefits, they should see them as a stop gap until they get a job! rant over!

  6. Wow! You are a brave man Matt making such significant changes, but sound so happy and enthusiastic about your future.

    I think you are at the start of a very interesting journey.

    One I might be considering in the next 5 years.

    Good luck!

    Sft x

  7. I agree. I was on benefits as a single parent, but went to college and uni to improve my situation. I am not in debt and my job is okay but you never know what is around the corner. I do think benefits should be for those that need them.

    I shall continue to read your blog and learn a thing or two. I am frugal to some extent and like to prevent waste, save money and reduce my consumption but I do splash out now and again but I do research first so I get value for money.

  8. Rarrr I was so shocked that people were given that much! And then they were saying that including child benefits, that level raises up to £50,000!!!! WHAT?!

    I don't understand. My parents both work/worked hard for minimum wage all their lives, and even with income support are living on the barest minimum. How can people get £26k by not working at all??

  9. Just catching up with your blog and this post particularly struck a chord with me. It ties in nicely with my increasing frustration and sometimes downright anger at the decreasing levels of personal responsibilities shown in the UK.

    I also have to hear on a fairly regular basis the exploits and holiday details of some people I know that play the system (one of them does work but certainly isn't earning a fortune) like a fiddle.

    It downright p's me off and at the same time makes me feel like a mug! I don't know when *I* will be able to afford a holiday to Cuba but these people certainly can and I have only ever claimed benefit once in my entire working life (24 years) when I broke my elbow whilst I was a temp so had no sick pay entitlement. And as you say, that is what it should be there for!


  10. The figures being banded about are not for a typical family on benefits, and it infuriates me as then the average person then as this idea that all of those on benefits get this amount of money. I certainly do not. Please please please do the math.

    I have taught for years, redundancy and now on benefits with my 3, soon to be working again. There are a lot of people like me now on benefits, everything I have I have saved for, and believe me we dont have much, everything i have bought for my children I have grafted for, these last 4 months have been an eye opener at how people view those on benefits, yes there are those that sit on their backside and do nothing but wait for the money to drop into there accounts, but we are nto all like that.

    by the way, hi - new follower

  11. Believe me, I know that it is not everyone. Benefits are there to help people in need, when in need. My bugbear, like everyone else, is the people who are playing the system for all they can get, sitting at home on their backsides with more money than those who are working hard for it.