Dear Philip Hammond,
I’ve been looking at the public debt figures and can see why George used to get his knickers in a twist about it, 1,542.6 billion as of December 2015 (not including public sector banks) does seem like a ridiculously large number. Maybe a bit smaller now the pound is worth less post Brexit, but still huge. And then I had a look into consumer debt which stood at around 1.458 tr at the end of Nov 2015, including mortgages. I can’t find any more up to date figures, but bloody hell. If austerity measures were such a good idea to shrink the public debt, then no matter what your stance is on austerity now (ignoring the debt for a bit but cutting back on the raise in minimum wage in the autumn and hoping nobody notices perhaps?) it must definitely be a good idea for us consumers!
So I thought I should do my part, and as such I’ve written up my own ‘Consumer Austerity Budget’, or CAB if you will.
Summer 2016 Consumer Austerity Budget
The easy so called ‘low lying fruit’:
- Clothes, Shoes Handbags and other accessories: I reject the idea that I need an outfit to represent all the different women I am. I can be whatever I want to be in my pyjamas. BUDGET SLASHED.
- Daughters clothes: She’s one. She poos on them. And if she’s well-dressed now what the hell will she be like when she’s a teenager? I’ll have to buy her a new outfit every week. Hand me downs from her nieces and second hand items are fine. BUDGET SLASHED.
- Makeup and Toiletries: Every claim beauty products make in advertisements to ‘enhance’ appearance is air brushed nonsense. I can cut back to necessities like toothpaste, soap, nappies and toilet paper, use down to the last dregs all the random beauty products I have lying around and then only replace them if I have to with versions containing the fewest chemicals possible. BUDGET REDUCED.
- Cleaning products: With one in two people getting cancer and the NHS budget being slashed I think it’s important to practice preventative medicine and reduce the amount of chemicals I and my family are exposed to. So I will try to buy cleaning products with the fewest harmful chemicals, which may actually end up being more expensive. SLIGHT BUDGET INCREASE (hopefully offset by reduced private medical bills in the future).
- Daughters toys and books. We live near a playgroup with hundreds of communal toys and books, and near several playgrounds for outdoor toys. I can swap toys and books with friends and use hand me down toys and books from her nieces. BUDGET SLASHED.
Wow, I can see why George kept doing this! Cutting things is FUN. More low lying fruit:
- Electronic Devices: Between my husband and I we own a TV, laptop, two smartphones, a tablet and a kindle. They are all between 1 and 7 years old, but luckily for us they software upgrade themselves ALL THE SODDING TIME, for free! So no need for another one then. BUDGET SLASHED.
- Entertainment and Communication: Not sure if you’ve heard or not, but the internet has been invented. I can chat to my friends and family and get all my music, news, information, movies, TV, games, and the worlds largest store of cat videos all for the price of my monthly internet connection. BUDGET SLASHED.
- Books: I will try to buy second hand books, investigate what library services are left around me and book swap with friends. BUDGET REDUCED.
- Commuting and Exercise: I live within walking distance of a bakery, butcher, grocery shop, supermarket, weekly farmers market, pharmacy, doctor and dentist. I’m also within walking distance of bus and tram public transport options so I can get anywhere else I need to go using them. All this walking, plus the energy required to look after a small child means no gym membership required. BUDGET SLASHED.
- Travel: Living under a flight path and having to cope with all the increased security measures at airports as well as the awfulness of budget airlines has taken the magic out of aeroplane travel. Also going anywhere with a small child is the opposite of relaxing. Stay-cationing and only travelling to see friends and family it is! BUDGET SLASHED.
I’m on a roll! Now to look at some areas that are a bit trickier:
- Mortgage, furniture, home decoration and energy bills: With the help of the bank of mum and dad my husband and I have bought a small, energy efficient house. It’s size means we don’t need much furniture (and most of what we do need we bought off the previous owners secondhand) or much in the way of decoration. The combination of small size, high levels of insulation and a mechanical ventilation system with heat recovery means our energy bills are low. BUDGET SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCED.
- Security and Language training: These might not seem connected, but for security purpose instead of investing in some high tech surveillance system for the house I’m going to make friends (think of them as allies) with my neighbours so they can watch it while we are gone and so that in case of emergencies (storms, powercuts, flooding, fire etc) we can all help each other. Luckily happiness experts assure me that even fake smiling in order to make friends will lift my mood. Smiling however, won’t cut it entirely to make friends, and given I live in a French speaking community in Brussels that means drastically improving my French, hence language training is required. I walked past an old peoples home near us the other day though and it got me thinking- who is lonely and has time on their hands to chat to me and will put up with my terrible French in return for some company and to feel that they are doing something useful by improving my aforementioned terrible French? Old people! And they bloody love small children so won’t mind if I bring my daughter along (and bonus, she is an excellent ice breaker. Another bonus: loneliness is terrible for your health so providing stay at home mums like myself and old people with company will reduce our healthcare needs). So I’m going to go to my local commune and the local old peoples home and ask how best I could set up such a scheme with their residents on a purely volunteer basis.French lessons without spending a penny! BUDGET SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCED.
- Daughters education: Now you would think that with you and every other government cutting school budgets, I would be thinking about investing the savings I’ve made from my budget cuts in private education for my daughter. Well I thought about it, and then I remembered THE INTERNET HAS BEEN INVENTED. There are tutorials on bloody everything on the internet! Any subject that she is struggling with, or is interested in beyond what is taught in the classroom, she can find out more on the internet!! Yes, I will need to supervise her use of it so she doesn’t fall into the tangle of the dark web, but I’m going to have to do that anyway. BUDGET CUT ENTIRELY.
- Childcare: I’ve made such massive savings that I don’t need to go back to work and do a bullshit corporate job where I spend maybe 5 hours a week on something that I think is actually productive and the rest of the time on admin or in seminars on subjects such as ‘How to create brand you’. (How I spent my life in the 6 years I worked for various large corporations. Unfortunately non bullshit jobs, i.e. ones whereby if you were to strike people would actually care, tend not to be paid very well or are unpaid like parenting itself). I don’t need to pay someone else to look after my child, I can do it myself. My husband can even go down to 90% of his normal hours and help to look after her too. My family, neighbours and friends who live in the area can also help, and in return I will help them when I can. BUDGET SLASHED.
- Food: Again to practice preventative medicine and because it tastes better and is just about the only thing all nutritionists agree on, I’m going to buy only real, whole food, not food products. I’ll buy as much as possible from farmers markets, and the organic sections of the supermarket to reduce the amount of chemicals I and my family are ingesting. No processed food means spending more time to shop more often for fresh food, and much more time in the kitchen preparing meals, but fortunately not working means I can do this. To alleviate some of the increased costs from buying non-processed food, I’m going to cut down on eating meat (I’ll learn how to make more quinoa/lentil/chickpea dishes), and start growing some of my own fruit and veges. Gardening I’m told is also an amazing mindfull activity and will increase my happiness levels, so I’m winning all round. BUDGET INCREASE (hopefully offset by reduced private medical bills in the future).
- Water: I’m going to install rainwater butts so we can collect rainwater from the roof and use it in the garden. SLIGHT BUDGET DECREASE
- Healthcare: George has been destroying the NHS for years, but I’m hoping the lifestyle changes I’ll be making to implement this budget will ensure I do not need to spend too much on private healthcare in the future. BUDGET DECREASE.
High five Ozzie and Hams, I’ve made some incredible savings here, reduced consumer debt, AND I get to spend more time with my daughter and doing things that will make me healthier and happier (unlike the austerity measures imposed by George, which seem to have had the opposite effect on peoples lives). Not sure what it’s going to do to the old economy though… Pre-Brexit I was going to invest a good portion of the savings in renewable energy and cover our roof in solar panels, not because I thought it would make me a financial return, but to stimulate local jobs and oh yeah, stave off our current path of environmental suicide whereby we all buy SUVs and frack the entire world, including freaking Yorkshire, but sadly now I don’t know how much longer we will be here in Brussels. My husband is a British official working for the EU and we will probably be out of here within the next 5 years and both have to start looking for jobs that want us to be ‘flexible’ (i.e. not care about job security) so we’ll need savings to be able to face future uncertainty.
WHICH IS SHITE, because what the hell kind of use is money in the bank if our environment is destroyed and my daughter cannot breathe clean air?AAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh.
I don’t direct this rage at anybody who voted Leave. I understand that they have probably been facing this uncertainty and instability for years and maybe don’t have the option to move somewhere else or don’t want to move because they are already supposed to be at home. Instead I too direct it at the political and economic system that has created this situation, and as well as implementing this budget I will spend the free time I have being as irritating as I can to challenge the status quo. To that end I will continue to write this blog, and I’ve gone full Corbyn and joined the Labour party, and will pay my £25 to be able to vote for him in the Leadership contest.
Good luck for the autumn budget and the next general election. You’re going to need it.
An angry housewife