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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Thursday, March 06, 2003
    Life on the Minimum Wage
     
    Gently breaking into my challenge for Lent - under the auspices of Church Action on Poverty I'm living off the equivalent of the Minimum Wage for the next six weeks. For me that works out at quite a liveable eighty quid; that's because I pay no rent - if I did, the story would be very different. Probably reveal that at present I'm living beyond my means.

    That's part of the challenge - just to make those sorts of observations and face the questions they raise. Already I've had conversations about the rights and wrongs of taking on such a project - and about how some folk would love to have eighty quid to play with at the start of each week. I think I'll probably survive ok; have to stop impulse buying, bypass book and record shops, keep off Amazon.com, etc. The biggest challenge for me will be the week I spend on holiday - in North Wales (renting my friends' cottage is fairly cheap, but food from Dolwddellan Spar ain't), and then roving around Essex and London.

    I've cheated a bit - ie, already booked accommodation down south - but even so I'm having, from day one of Lent, to save up for the holiday week. Otherwise my disposable will be disposed of very rapidly in the smoke. And it'll be interesting to see if I have to borrow (from the future, as it where) to make sure I get through. Debt's a massive effect of low income; I know that myself from times not too far past.

    It's a false economy, I've no illusions about that - today I'm still living off a fridgefull of food bought on higher income, running a car two-thirds full of petrol, etc - but it's definitely thought-provoking. And a sign of solidarity with people on lower incomes who face a struggle to make ends meet all year round. I've been glad to share it on Radio Merseyside twice this week; wonder what the listeners think who have to budget this way all the time.