Jobseeker’s Challenge: Two weeks on

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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11 Responses to Jobseeker’s Challenge: Two weeks on

  1. Christine says:

    If you were a real job seeker the cat food would be the money that you would need to make job applications. Kitchen roll is also a luxury that goes by the board in favour of the good old tea towel. Meat becomes a luxury as does cheese. You certainly learn how to make variations on vegetable soup with tins of various sorts of beans (try the oops shelf for dented ones) or lentils and pearl barley. Moral of the story is that you need to keep a well stocked store cupboard so that if you suddenly end up on the dole you at least have a stash of food whilst they take their time processing your claim. You\’d have to pay the energy bill out of your own allowance in real life. And council tax too unless you could get the benefit for it. Telly or internet? Or neither? (Keep the internet for jobs/banking/entertainment) Land line phone or mobile? Rehome the pets? Have you got furniture you could sell in order to keep the car running (cash in hand if possible)? Erm – bad idea to have savings as these are taken into account. And unexpected expenses are clothes wearing out – if the roof leaks or something breaks down you can try asking for a crisis loan and then pay it back over time. Living with the job seekers allowance takes up most of your time and mental energy without having to apply for jobs as well.

  2. Dot says:

    The soup ideas good but you do have to rotate these bargain meals or you would go mad! Meat – I find chicked breasts at certain stores (in bags) goes a long way. You just learn to shop around and go for the reduced section at certain times. Its an art in itself.Stir-frys and bagged salads are cheap enough.I buy french cheese as its uner a £1 and seem to eat alot of sandwiches.Only porridge oats for breakfast. If people want to visit me I tell them to buy take-away ! I dont think its possible to have 3 meals a day though. As for emergencies, you can try for a crisis loan but they have set criteria and your not guaranteed to get a penny. I was refused. Plus if you pay it back it makes your income even less! Your far better off selling something. Its a daily battle trying to keep sane and search and apply for jobs. I keep my internet as its ideal for a wider jobsearch doing CVs etc and for keeping tabs on your bank.

  3. Richard says:

    To keep a change going in your meals (after all with JSA budget you are really looking at 1 meal a day) use sandwich bags and freeze the extra soup or stew you\’ve made. That way you don\’t have to eat the same meal for 3 days on the trot.When times get very tough eg large bills or something brakes you may have to tighten the belt and live off the 1 pack of 8p noodles a day with added garden herbs, it\’s not a nice situation but you can survive for a couple of months before you start crawling the walls. I\’m not advising people to do that, but sometimes unexpected problems call for drastic measures, and you end up dropping weight like no-ones business.Save money on heating, by not using it, if you\’re cold put more layers on. Don\’t splash out on expensive shampoos and conditioners, just use a shower gel for washing body and hair, Original Source varieties work well and a 99p bottle lasts ages.

  4. Christine says:

    If I remember rightly there is only so much money in the crisis loan fund and when it runs out you have to wait till the next April before there is some more money in the pot.

  5. Kathleen says:

    As we dont exercise enough I believe we do not need 3 meals a day,and if you buy bananas, oats,ready cooked chickens,these are good basics , along with cheap apples and fruitand veg. It is still very hard but overall you could be fitter, but you shouldn\’t have to forced into living this way, but out of choice we would all be healthier if we cut out 1 meal a day.

  6. Kimberly says:

    Very challenging. My husband and I are about to adopt a baby and I will be off for 3 months without pay. We will be living off one income, and we thought that was challenging. What you are doing is much more challenging and gives me encouragement that we can do this!

  7. Sandi says:

    You shoul dhave checked you figures – as a couple you woul dhave had JSA of £94.95 thereby giving you an additional 34.45 per week.

  8. peter says:

    I really don\’t see what all the fuss is about there is no unemployment problem in this country at all, it is just a nasty rumour put out by people who haven\’t got a job

  9. gwynneth says:

    What about the likes of me. nearly 71 with a husband who is unfit for work and I am still looking for work, ( dream on girl) and all I have is pension. Bills and a mortgage to pay. Still waiting for replies for council tax and help from the government. Spent all mothers day filling out forms. and we have lived on stews for years, can\’t afford meat.

  10. louise says:

    Its dammed tough out there, but nobody hurries whilst your tearing you hair out, this doesnt boost your moral and give you that confidence to "go get that job". i signed on with the job centre, they sent my forms over re housing benefit/council tax and guess what these forms were never received. Been un-employed now about 2 1/2 weeks and that was after accepting a tempjob, now i find out my un-employment cover on my car isnt valid coz i took a temp job, you just cant win….. cant cut back any more as i buy the cheapest of the cheapest.Another thing that goes against you is your age, i`m 48 and anybody readingt his will know what i am talking about, it shouldnt happen but it does. On wards and upwards

  11. Dave says:

    Im NOT unemployed but when i was i decided to become self employed. I opened a small newspaper shop and the minute I opened the door, Liverpool council where there demanding "Business rates money " demanding money for the disposel of rubbish and other odious organisations demanding money because I had the nerve to start my own business and try to make my own money. For the last 4 years I have been living of approx £5000 a year, most of this going on community charges and other bills. During this recession, the government have been brazenly standing up and saying what they are doing for small business\’s. What they are doing is NOTHING. The council have already threatened me with court because i was 4 days late on business rates. All these rates are is another tax to penalise people who want to do something I recieve nothing for my £80 a month. I have had no help whatsoever in all my 4 years trying to make ends meet and like a fellow scribe above, I sent off forms twice for help with community charge and housing and guess what ?????? they never recieved either of the paperwork. This country is rotton to the core making people like myself and others above live like animals whilst this government can commit fraud to their hearts content with no comeback except a "Sorry my accounts were wrong". Within a few months, i will have to close down and go on the dole as the government agencies have made it financially impossible to trade. I really hope they have a good laugh over us during their drinky poo\’s in the commons and i only wish the worst possible outcome for every last damn one of them.

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