What's happened to your spending since Covid hit?: "My spending has changed so much. Yet what comes through the door as physical products seems to have lessened. First to understand how it's changed you'd need to know about my precovid spending. Back then I was on income support and had no credit, no cards, a little debt from budgeting loans but other than that my expenses were easily manageable. Child tax credits were weekly, of little over £100 which paid bills and food. Income support was fortnightly, this paid towards any larger bills, but also a day out, maybe a trip to town, and anything I needed to prebuy for (such as birthdays or Christmas), or anything kids needed (clothes, crafts, books, etc). Then child benefits came monthly, this would be our big day out, maybe to a big soft play centre, or beach trip or we'd pay in installments to visit a theme park (normally once a year using this money, as there's a local company that does outings for families that can be paid in installments). My largest expense, after bills, was travel (buses aren't cheap around here), food bills were quite managable. I was able to shop around then, visit markets or fukton foods or home bargains, etc. Then it was crafting and home school supplies that came second. We often had enough money for a monthly, sometimes fortnightly takeaway (which is very important to my mental health as cooking is a trigger for my ptsd, so a night off was extremely valuable). Also the food I could get was often healthier, more meats and veggies. That was roughly our precovid spending. Then covid hit, it wasn't so big a deal at first. The first thing I noticed was food bills went up, along with electric bill (as we're home more using tech more and as couldn't shop around for lower priced foods). I knew I'd be forced onto universal credit in the April, I'd be saving little by little since the January, but by April what little I'd saved had needed to be spent on medicine (things like calpol and child vitamins went up in price a huge amount), new shoes, etc. So I had to take an advance payment out. But that also disappeared fast, and I wasn't used to monthly payments. In the wait for payments of UC to start I had to take out an argos card (to get clothes and can be used in sainburys at a push, so was like a food safety net), and credit through studio when dryer broke. Everything hit me in one really really bad month. Now, each month I get paid £1207 (already taken the repayment of the advance), within the first day, heck the first few hours really, I pay all my bills for the month - phone, rent, Internet, credits, gas, electric, council tax, prime (which I get for cheaper cat food/litter options than buying in a shop, bulk buy every couple months online, and also for kids TV and online education resources), the odd little credit monthly payment (discovered a website in early lockdowns that let's you pay over three months and sells cleaning stuff, household bits, etc - online pounds hop basically, cheaper to buy cleaning supplies through them than through amazon or Iceland or whoever I could find to deliver foods). Ad suddenly the food bill was over £200 per month. Because the children are eating more, because the prices went up and multideals stopped, because I was paying for the convenience of home delivery and had extremely limited choice over what foods were available. I had to buy less healthy in favour of more filling. Cheap and cheerful food stuffs. More microwave options as the microwave used less electricity than the oven, every penny counted. I needed food bank help also, which was a horrible experience (I'm grateful for the team that worked to feed our community but the bread was a hugely traumatic issue for me, so often past its date and mouldy). I got less takeaways, less home made foods which expensive ingredients (herbs and spices aren't cheap when you need more than one or two of them, and hard to get online). While I've now gotten into a bit of a spending time with swing, learning which credit payments to skip in favour of meals, learning to juggle and wiggle this payment or that payment around. Still end up with nothing left after maybe the first week, two weeks if we're lucky. Covid realities, and their participation vouchers, help me a lot. They fund a takeaway each month that gives me a much needed night off cooking, or they go towards Christmas shopping. What made thbiggest shift for me, spending wise, and enabled me to stop using the food bank, was a new fridge freezer, late in the summer. A friend of the family helped me get it, in combination with the argos card, and the freezer space was twice what I had before. Meaning I could take advantage of Iceland 4for£10 on frozen meats and had more space for frozen veggies. Slowly reintroducing healthier meal options for my kids. Iceland also changed their bonus card options during lockdowns, used to be you could only add money to the bonus card in store, but when they made it online I was able to add money to the card in payday and relax knowing that later in the month, when money would be scarse, I'd still have the ability to buy food. That's our biggest expense now, food. We now spend less on crafts and school books, shifted online (and amazon prime helped with that) for a lot of things educational. We don't go anywhere now, mostly home or in garden or maybe walk on the street a bit (kids don't like that much cos lots of drug users and just creepy sorts around here, garden feels safer), so that saves on travel. But when we do need to travel its gone up, taxis are cheaper than bus these days. It's all pretty topsy tervy. I miss being in income support. I miss the low but steady and secure income. Funny how a hundred or two every week or two felt like so much more than the thousand and change once a month. I miss not having to worry about bills, not stressing over food. Covid wasn't the big issue, just made a touch issue even harder, the big problem is universal credit. Its not enough to do more than not die on. Especially not during a pandemic. Especially not for families with children, single parent households without options. It's not enough for my children to thrive. Why do they have to be punished cos the parent isn't deemed worthy enough of value in a capitalist society."

Victoria B
Nov 27, 2020

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