£53 a week

Ian Duncan Smith claims that he could live on £53 a week. I don’t doubt it. I could easily live on £53 a week.

I could save on travel by cycling from my flat, conveniently located in London’s Zone 2. If my bike breaks down, I can repair it with all my tools—or just ride my other bike.

For short journeys, I can walk, and if my shoes wear out, it’s OK: I’ve half a dozen other pairs.

I’d have to cut down on the electricity: storage heaters aren’t cheap. Fortunately, my flat is modern enough that it never really gets freezing cold, even with the heating off. I can always just put on some warm clothing. I’ve plenty of that.

Food’s no problem, either: I’ve a rack full of pans, and a cupboard full of herbs and spices that let me cook simple, wholesome food on the cheap. Dal and rice costs pennies per serving.

I’d have to cut down on wine and beer, but I could still drink plenty of fancy Japanese tea. I’ve a few nice teapots to brew it up in. It probably doesn’t cost much more per cup than generic teabags from the corner shop.

For the well equipped, it’s easy to economise. If not, it’s a lot harder. If you can drive to Tesco, buy loo roll by the cubic metre, then store it in a store room of your mansion, you’ll pay less per movement than someone who buys a couple of rolls a time from Costcutter. If you have a well-stocked kitchen, you can make nourishing food from a few cheap ingredients.

I suspect, however, that for those who have little, £53 doesn’t go very far, and that discussions of cost rather miss the underlying problems.


  1. Xiangdian

    Wrote at 2013-04-12 14:28 UTC using Firefox 19.0 on Windows 7:

    Well written! I’m curious about your Japanese tea.
  2. Olle Jonsson

    Wrote at 2013-04-19 07:19 UTC using Chrome 28.0.1478.0 on Mac OS X:

    You sir, are no curmudgeon. Agreed: Living cheaply takes an expensive tooling and a home in which to do it. And time, oh time, which is being occupied even for the poorest, by bureaucracy-whips of many kinds.