Thank you, Mr Cameron, Mr Clegg and Mr Osborne (and your chums) – Now with added edit. Because I can.

Or just break out the cooking sherry in sheer desperation.

So, as expected, and like the majority of not-quite-starving families, we have lost some of our Child Tax Credit. £70.00 a month, to be precise, plus our Working Tax Credits have disappeared completely.

£70.00 a month could be worse, I know that. I will still receive £350.00 per month plus the Child Benefit which will keep the wolf from the door; and staying at home to care for the children is still financially more viable than having to find childcare between 7.30am and 7.00pm and having to cover the school holidays (childcare costs would be in part funded by tax credits anyway).

£70.00, however, is roughly equivalent to my share of the monthly shop (excluding milk, as we have a milkman. We’re so retro). It is equivalent to two decent warm coats for the boys come the Winter. It is the monthly electric bill (we have no gas in this house, so what little heating we use is from the electric as well). It’s a few days’ camping with the children.

I’m not going to whinge about it. We do OK. We are really very lucky to have friends who give us some gorgeous, beautifully kept second-hand clothes for the boys, we are happy to live without the luxuries so many other people seem to consider essentials (just don’t take my phone, damn you! You will have to prise that phone from my cold, dead hands). There are people in far worse situations than we are.

It is getting harder, though. Food prices are expected to rise over the coming months due to the disasterous effect that the ‘summer’ has had on many areas of British farming. British produced fruit, vegetables and cereals are likely to see marked increases, and that of course will lead to a knock on to the meat and poultry markets (including egg production) as animal feed increases in cost. Like a chain of dominos, this will be replicated across the board as greedy manufacturers and retailers realise that they’ll have a perfect excuse to shove up the prices of everything. Tesco, bless them, are already getting us used to these price hikes by introducing them already. Ever the philanthropists, it is gracious of them to break us in gently rather than horrifying us into a stunned silence in the aisles.

It’s time to get creative. Plan A (where the ‘A’ stands for Austerity) is now go. Watch out, kids. Chocolate and shop bought jam will soon be rationed, and you’re going to forget what oranges and bananas look like .

If you think that’s bad, just wait until you’re going to school in your wellies, and wearing pants made from old sheets.

That should cut down on the party invitations quite nicely, I reckon.

(cue evil, cackling laughter)

Edited to add:

This is just for clarification, really. I lay in bed last night and I mulled this post over, thinking that I came across as ungrateful and nit-picking and that, in short, I must appear to be really useless with money.

I’m sure there are quite a few people who consider £350.00 a month from the government a lot of money. It IS a lot of money, yes, and I am extremely grateful that I live in a country where I do get help to enable me to stay at home and bring up our children. There are families out there who are in a far worse position than we are. I honestly do not know how they manage.

Yes, Richard got a payrise. A small payrise, and nowhere near the rate of inflation – a story mirrored by many families across the UK. The payrise has been negated by the overall increase in the cost of living – our monthly electric bill, for example, has obliterated the extra in his monthly pay (though we are expecting a rebate, eventually), and the increased cost of everything else means that we were considerably worse off than we were last year even before our tax credits were slashed. Again, we are far from alone in this.

By the time Richard pays the bills, he is left with a tiny amount to ‘play’ with. The CTC and the CB payments I receive pay for two weeks’ worth of shopping, essentials for the children (and I mean essentials), school shoes, school uniform, school dinner money, nursery subs, school and nursery trips, birthday presents for family and friends, occassional days out, bus journeys to and from various hospital and clinic appointments, and putting money aside each month towards the Christmas fund. Occassionally, I too need new shoes, or a new coat. There are some months where I do have to put money aside for a couple of months to be able to afford them comfortably without robbing Peter to pay Paul. It leaves no extra money free for savings, or a pension.

I don’t want to use Plan A as a soapbox for my leftie leanings. I want to use this as a challenge, a way to see where we might be inadvertently wasting money, an experiment in seeing how long we can make our money last and whether we can change the way we live for the better.

We are, indeed, living in an ‘Age of Austerity’. I could shout my mouth off about why we, the everyday family, should not  be punished for the wrongdoings of the banks and the other establishments that got us into this almighty mess; but that will not clothe my children or put food on the table.

It is, essentially, about trying to be positive.


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