Our Amanda took on the challenge of living off of Statutory Sick Pay for a week.
This is how she got on:
Monday 16th Jan
So after paying my bills I'm left with £48 for the week. I am feeling confident that I can do this. I don't spend a lot Mon-Fri anyway, the weekend may be a little tricky especially as I have a pre-arranged night out on Friday but with careful planning I reckon this is completely doable. I have bought some ingredients ready for my homemade lunches and evening meals that came to approximately £15, so I'm down to £33.
"Mum can you top my account up please" - text from Joe. Damn! This is for his dinner money. I hadn't accounted for this as I was sure there was plenty of credit left on his account, obviously not! The minimum you can top up is £5 but I'm wondering how realistic it is for a 15 year old to live off that all week.a tenner it is! £23 remaining. I must NOT spend anything else for the next couple of days.
Long story short we're on our way back from PC World, I haven't been home yet and both me and Joe are ravenous. Normally on days like this I'd totally be calling for a chippy tea, but as I add up the cost in my head I know we can't afford it. I go home and make omelettes.
Tuesday 17th Jan
I feel quietly satisfied that I haven't spent any more of my remaining £23 yet. I have brought my lunch and am making the most of Liz's fruit basket in the Leeds kitchen : ) happy days.
"Curwood we're doing a Costa run, you want anything?"
"No thank you, I can't afford Costa on SSP"
"Want a hand-out?"
"No thank you, Nescafe Gold Blend is fine".
Banging head so walk to Sainsbury's for some tablets. Get distracted by an iceberg lettuce and some humbugs - £21.20 remaining.
Wednesday 18th Jan
For the first time in my life I made homemade soup last night, so at least living on SSP is broadening my culinary skills. I've brought leftovers for lunch today so still have £21.20 left for the rest of the week. Normally at this point in the week I'm making plans for the weekend, I feel a little deflated as I know my options are going to be limited on my budget. I shouldn't need to spend any money today.
Arrive home and Joe's girlfriend is here so seems polite to invite her to stay for tea. As she accepts my invitation I grit my teeth, knowing that that the chicken I planned to stretch out for 2 meals over 2 days will now be gone and I need to plan something else for tomorrow – I feel guilty that I'm a bit cross about it.
Thursday 19th Jan
I'm collecting money for a buffet for our night out next weeks for Mike Flynn's 30th. I realise I haven't paid my own contribution yet. Dilemma, pay £12 now out of my budget or go hungry when everyone else is tucking in next week, I convince Carl who wasn't going to eat to go halves with me - £12.20 remaining.
6.30pm – arrive home
You've got to be kidding me... The Window cleaner has been!
Gone are the days when you could hide from the window cleaner if you were skint when he came collecting (is that just me?) mine puts his bank details on the back of this slip. If I was on SSP for real I'd have to cancel this luxury and send Joe up the ladders - roughly translated as no longer being able to see out of my windows. £2.20 remaining. I'm in for a great weekend… Oh and it's Super Noodles for tea.
Friday 20th Jan
I'm not going to lie I'm starting to get fed up with living on SSP – shameful really, considering I'm only 5 days in. There was no milk in the fridge this morning, Joe's starting to complain there is no food in the house (he's not far off to be fair and the poor kid only wants an apple for school) and I can't say I'm looking forward to my 19p pea and mint soup for lunch.
I call for milk on the way home and remember we also need shampoo. Goodbye L'Oréal and hello Alberto Balsam – 20p remaining!! Night out cancelled, which I was really looking forward to so I'm not in the best of moods. It's back to mine instead for leftover un-chilled Prosecco from Xmas… yummy.
I hand over a 70p fee for picking up a redirected parcel in the post office without thinking. Oops! I'm officially in SSP debt. -0.50 remaining.
We take full advantage of Vitality cinema tickets (side-point, this experiment also made me think of the benefit of WOP) but Joe funds his own bus fare and KFC from his Christmas money.
My friend offers to sub me "until I'm back on my feet" to take me out for the afternoon, which makes me feel a bit like a charity case, but at the thought of staying in and being miserable instead - I accept.
I can't do the laundry as I would normally, due to the fact there is no fabric conditioner or washing powder left. I'd normally get a 'big shop' during the week which obviously I haven't been able to do. I'm also due to have my nails done and can't, something that I do religiously every fortnight that now seems like a huge unobtainable treat. I am genuinely feeling pretty frustrated now and can't wait
for this experiment to be over!
I think that's the key point, this is an experiment. Come tomorrow my cupboards will be re-stocked, I can get my nails done and there'll be clean laundry in the world again. For many though, including me, this could be or is very real and many families are living off SSP week in and week out. As I reflect I realise that I haven't needed prescriptions this week, it hasn't been Christmas or someone's birthday, I haven't needed to provide clothing or pay for a school trip – all basic things that we often take for granted that we fork out for without thinking.
I'm sure I would get better at this, planning meals for less and learning to live without, but would I want to? Er, no! I'd love all those clients who decline IP because they think they can cope to try this themselves. I'm certain they'll change their minds and take some cover!