Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Feeling the pinch.

It's a hot topic this recession is. Piping hot. Never in all my politically conscious years have I ever been tuned in so much to the effects of escalating costs and inflationary rises.

Yesterday it was announced that UK inflation had hit 3.3% - it's highest rate in ten years. And it gets worse, it's forecast to hit 4% by Christmas. And how does Alastair Darling respond? By advising caution in settlement of pay increases for the private and public sectors.

The guy's got a hard job, admittedly. Gordon Brown brought us into the recession, then got rewarded by being given the top job so he can plunge the rest of the UK into a disastrous quagmire. He's hardly been in post and he's started by inviting George Bush over here with his over-inflated security cronies and antics of how we're all best buddies. And he's only saying that as we're now not indebted to them after clearing our war debt last year after they so heroically came over and supposedly won the war for us and then financially screwed us over by charging us for it (after leaving us to sink in the gloom for the first 3 years of the war). But I digress. Alastair's been left trying to climb out whilst battling the political avalanche that beseechs him each time he calls out and rocks the walls of the pit with his rumbling quotations.

Currently a backbencher is paid £60,675 salary. That's just a backbencher. It stands that cabinet ministers get even more! What do they do in this time of recession when they're advising their constituents to reign in the purse strings, curb their spending and use public transport to ease up on the environmental damage and to save money? They demand a £10,000 salary increase to be imposed over three years! Not exactly limiting their wishes below inflation. Then they hiss at Mr B for blocking them and suggesting £650 per year for the next 3 years. Further suggestions by Mr D imply that they should receive the same percentage increases as the key-sector workers. So realistically that means nothingl then. Maybe that's what these MPs need. A zero percent increase so they too can learn the art of budgeting in an ever increasing trend of price hikes whilst juggling the same income from month to month.

I've had to do it. I know plenty of others who have.

And I've been amazed at what I can live on. Not by choice, but because I've had to.

With bread hitting £1.40 per loaf, up from 79p per loaf last year, I'm finding packed lunches for myself and the children are expensive. Factor in the costs of a packet of crisps, a yogurt and a chocolate bar, the lunchtime shop is now nearly half of what my original total food bill was a year ago. Given that each week we use about five loaves, plus fillings, toppings etc I'm spending near on £50.00 per month just to make sandwiches! Maybe I don't help as I use butter rather than spread, but there are times when I refuse to compromise the quality of the food I eat purely because the price label has gone up.

I'm now introducing the children to pasta and rice salads, crackers and cheese and even heated up leftovers put in a thermos food flask for them to eat at lunchtime. Mainly for variety of diet, but also to stretch out the maximum potential of the food currently sitting in the larder.

Washing detergents are also up. Meat's up. My leg of lamb in the supermarket on Sunday cost me nearly £9.00. I balked. Not only at this, but because I bought it from a supermarket. I don't buy meat at supermarkets. I have a butcher, but he's closed on Sundays.

Fruit and veg up. Again, I don't do fruit and veg from a supermarket. I refuse to pay for food sprayed in wax and picked unripe so it can fester in a crate and 'ripen' during importation. No thanks. I'll have mine fresh and local if you don't mind. Plus it's cheaper. It will be even cheaper in a couple of years when the allotment's sorted.

Fuel. Don't get me started there. Just in the last couple of days a petrol station was slammed for charging £1.99 for both diesel and petrol in order to 'conserve stocks', due to people panic buying their fuel as a result of the 4-day fuel driver's strike. Heck, it's only 4 days, I hardly think the fuel pipe coming under the Channel is likely to dry up in that time - what is wrong with people?!!! But then I see myself being cautious with the fuel. I don't put as much money in and I try to stretch the journeys. Before all this, once the red light came on, I'd fill up. Now I try to see just how many additional local trips I can squeeze in while the light's still on. What's more, sometimes I'll stick a tenner of fuel in and the light's still on!! Just yesterday I conducted an experiment. I've put £15.00 of diesel in Doris and set the trippy. I'm seeing just how far my money goes. I've also reduced my motorway speed down to 60mph to see if the easing on the accelerator and lowering of the revs really does reduce fuel consumption as these television experts keep telling me. I shall see just how far I've gone when the light comes on again.

Gas and electric. I've given up trying to keep up with this. Gas I'm in credit. Electric I'm in debit.
Council Tax. Again increased by 4%. Did I get a 4% increase on the services I received?

So, in the last two years I've learnt to be careful. I've looked at our income and worked out our outgoings. I've looked at what's left. I've factored in child benefits and tax credits for the month and calculated 'disposable' income until the next pay day. But you know, we don't have that disposable income. Our bills have increased so much that our food and fuel now comes from that part of the budget. And the government are thinking of forcing us to save.

With inflation at 3.3%, Mr D recommending sub-inflation pay increases I'd like to know just how he suggests I save what I have at the end of the month - an overdraft.

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