# 100 (2013) How Poor Is Poor?
Michael Gove has recently upset pretty much everyone by saying food bank users don’t manage their finances well enough. I don’t doubt there are a small number of people who don’t (look at those people spending on booze and fags and pleading poverty) but the majority of them are just unable to make ends meet no matter what they do.
If nothing else austere times should be encouraging people to respect money more and help those that aren’t prioritising their essentials first and luxuries later. Perhaps it’s time we start to really change the way we live? And this is a prime time to start educating the next generation on how to make their money go further. After all, what’s wrong with going without and managing without luxuries once in a while? As The Telegraph commented ‘humans need a more robust approach to life’.
Things that we consider staple dailies – eating out, entertainment, technology, boozy nights out, public transport were once luxuries. Occasional treats. Now we expect them along side the weekly shop. And people fill the money gap with loans spurned on by low interest. The Telegraph continues: ‘Not only has the welfare system discouraged thrift, the government is deliberately subsidising people to borrow more than they may be able to repay through the “Help to Buy” scheme. Meanwhile savings are discouraged by low interest rates and inflation is bailing out people who borrowed recklessly.’
I was watching ‘The Wright Stuff’ and a caller commented that ‘noone can be that poor when benefits pay that well’. It’s true that some benefits pay better than part time jobs. Caps of £500 a week pay more than I get in a month at the moment. I’ve never been an extravagant spender. But I have learnt to get by on a lot less in the last few years. Maybe life isn’t as interesting. I don’t go out partying and holidays and clothes shopping are almost unheard of. But that’s the way it is. And at least I am not in debt to anyone.
The majority of the population are now feeling the pinch enough that they are cutting back on eating out, cinema visits, holidays, alcohol, clothes and household goods.
But by comparison to our forebears we are still living a life of luxury no matter how much we plead poverty. No matter how tight things get many of us still have mobile phones, go to hairdressers and find just enough for that Friday night splurge. Until you’ve stopped going out, ditched expensive phone contracts and given up on takeaways you’re not really struggling.
We have been conditioned to expect so much more at the lower end of the financial ladder. I guess that’s progress but it doesn’t mean that it’s okay or that things aren’t going to come to a head sooner or later. Because it’s only going to take one interest rate rise and it’s all going to come crashing down.