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State Pension Blog: disaster strikes
In the fourth part of Greg Kingston's blog, the organisers throw a spanner in the works, taking his budget for the week down to single figures.
by Greg Kingston on Jul 05, 2012 at 09:14
Greg Kingston (pictured), along with 100 of his colleagues at pension provider Suffolk Life, has accepted a challenge from his employer to live off £70 a week. That's how much charity AgeUK says a typical pensioner has left after bills, council tax etc. Here's yesterday's blog in case you missed it.
I was all set to write about food today. I’m fortunate to enjoy the sorts of meat that are not popular these days – liver, kidney – and that are therefore cheap. They formed the bulk of the meat in my shopping basket for this week.
I do the majority of the cooking in my household anyway, so I’m used to choosing the ingredients. We also grow our own vegetables: at this time of year there’s a regular supply of lettuce, Swiss chard, radishes and bok choi.
So I was looking forward to rather smugly announcing how much money I’ve been able to save, and how well I’ve been able to eat.
Big Brother strikes
Instead, my already fragile budget has been hit by a shock. The organisers of the challenge delivered a message overnight:
'One of the various things we talked was whether you could manage to save anything out of your £70 budget – after all, if you were a real pensioner living on the basic state pension, you would need to save for holidays and emergencies.
'Well, as luck would have it, such an "emergency" has happened. During last night, you experienced a power cut. As a result, your fridge was without electricity for several hours, and it failed to keep all your food fresh. You have "lost" food to the value of £3, which can no longer be eaten and has to be replaced.
'Now, we don't want you to really throw any food away – that would be too wasteful. However, your spending budget has reduced to £67 for the week.'
A tight budget gets tighter
I don’t want to get too bogged down by the details – in reality I’d consider claiming against my electricity provider, or the food would still be edible etc. This challenge is to operate within a single week, and the harsh reality is that my remaining £10.22 has now been reduced to just £7.22 with two days remaining.
At this stage the amounts don’t seem important. I didn’t spend anything yesterday, a feat I’m set to continue to the end of the challenge. What is important is the overwhelming sense of a lack of control, the fact that I can’t influence or improve my position. It is incredibly frustrating.
This turn of events brings into focus the wisdom of previous decisions, and my visit to the cinema along with the refreshments I bought that sparked the anger of some commentators yesterday. As I mentioned at the time, I did feel pretty down after than that.
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