Thanks for all your suggestions this week on the Jobseeker’s Allowance and how much you think it should be, as well as your ideas for improving the Job Centre system and training schemes. You raised many interesting points which I’ve been mulling over. I’ll let you know more about the petition plans soon. But, for now, back to my challenge to live on the equivalent of the Jobseeker’s Allowance or £60.50 a week.
If you recall, I mentioned last week that we had friends coming to stay last weekend – something that DJ in his wisdom had arranged months before. I was concerned about how this would eat into our budget. After DJ has covered the mortgage and council tax, and energy, phone and other bills have come out of the allowance, we only really have about £20 for the week’s shopping. Luckily for the challenge budget, our friends decided that they would only come for the afternoon, rather than stay the night. Like us, they keep chickens and there was nobody available to let the girls out in the morning.
So in the event, we only had to cook them one meal and they supplied the wine. We had a roast and, by skimping on the meat and using lots of side dishes, we made the chicken last us another couple of days. I boiled up the bones and made stock too, which we later used in a soup. After a week of not going out, our friends’ company was very welcome. But it’s clear that if you were a jobseeker for any period of time there is no way you could afford to go out or have anybody to stay. Some of you have pointed out that even if you get housing benefit and live alone, it tends to cover only one bedroom in your home and not two.
To save on the food budget, I went shopping on Monday afternoon after 5pm to try to take advantage of early evening price cuts. I was pleased to get 25 per cent off some cheese and some duck fillets were slashed to £1.99 as they were about to go off. I froze these and then defrosted them later and used them in the soup. I also made a chilli con carne which I feel like I’ve been eating all week. It did three meals for two of us, although I am a bit sick of it now. But despite my efforts, I only have £2 left of the week’s food budget.
And despite trying to use up cupboard and freezer items, even over two weeks many stock items have simply run out and we’ve had to replace them – toilet roll, kitchen roll, cat food etc. It’s surprising how much these items eat into the shopping budget when you have to buy a few of them. Luckily I found four toilet rolls for 46p in Somerfield. On a longer term basis, buying in bulk from a pound shop might help. Unfortunately we don’t have much storage space at home, so we tend not to take advantage of this. The car’s petrol gauge is also nearing empty. I’ve been trying not to use it so I don’t have to fill it up. Filling up the tank costs about £30. If I were a real jobseeker I’d have to sell the car altogether, although I’d then have to rely on our expensive local bus service or trains to get to job interviews.
It’s only been two weeks, so of course this challenge doesn’t show the longer term effects of being out of work for months and months, not to mention the psychological effects. But even after this short period, I can’t see how it’s possible to survive on the Jobseeker’s Allowance for long. And that’s without any unexpected expenses, such as a leaky roof or something breaking down.
What do you do when you’re on the Jobseeker’s Allowance and an unexpected expense comes along? How do you cope?
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