This was first published on 25 September 2013.
It’s the 17 September, still a week away from pay day and all you have left is £6.20 to your name. In the cupboard there is only enough food to feed your family for three days and on top of this your one year old only has four nappies left.
This is the situation we found ourselves this month. We knew it would be tight financially, it always is, but this month was worse than others. Normally, a week before payday we at least have enough food to last even if there isn’t any money left.
This time is was different.
We were literally surviving on the breadline.
When you’re faced with a situation like that, what is the first thing you do? Well, the first thing we did was panic, then cry, then panic again.
For the first time in a long time, we had gotten ourselves into a situation that I was unsure how to get out of. We’d always struggled financially but never to this extent.
The good news (if you can call it that) is we did make it through to payday, we did survive.
Surviving on the breadline
First of all, we needed to set some priorities. There was us, our nine year old daughter Daniella and our one year old daughter Chloe. We needed to eat and Chloe needed nappies.
These are what we wrote down on a scrap of paper in order of importance:
1. Feeding the children
2. Nappies for youngest
3. Feeding mum and dad
Next, we went to the kitchen and made a list of all the food we had in the cupboards, fridge and freezer. It wasn’t a great deal but more than we presumed.
We worked out that with the food we had in the house if we were careful, we could feed the children breakfast, lunch and dinner for four days. This would mean me and Skint Mum missing out on “proper” dinner a couple of times but we were OK with that.
So that left us with three days’ worth of food to purchase and sort out nappies. It was getting late and we were both emotionally shattered so we went to bed.
I didn’t sleep much that night. It was 2 am when I last looked at the time. Lots of things going through my mind. I felt like I’d let my family down by getting into this situation. I kept having flashbacks about bills coming through the door, creditors ringing demanding money, and me having to borrow from anywhere and anyone just to keep our head afloat.
I had let them down.
The next morning Naomi left for work and Daniella left for school, leaving me and Chloe to go to the shops and try to make our £6.20 stretch as far as possible.
The first item I looked at was nappies. We normally bought Pampers but I obviously couldn’t afford them so I grabbed the cheapest ones I could find. It was the shops own brand, 20 nappies for £1.41. I was concerned about the quality but what else could I do?
Next on to the food. I had just under a fiver left so I headed straight for the pasta which I knew would be reasonably cheap. Grabbing three bags of basic shapes for 29p per 500g I started to think we could do this.
Pasta sauce next, two jars cost 39p per 440g and I could split the jars if I had to. I then headed to the frozen aisle where I picked up twenty frozen sausages for 91p and a 1kg bag of frozen mixed veg for 75p.
That left me £1.48 which I used to buy two tins of new potatoes for 15p each, two tins of beans for 25p each and six bananas.
When I arrived home I put the kettle on, sat Chloe in the lounge, laid all the food we had and what I had brought onto the kitchen side. We had done it. We had enough food to last until more money came in the following week.
OK, I’ll admit, the food we had wasn’t the most nutritious also there wasn’t really any variety but at least we could eat. At least when I put my children to bed every night I knew they had a full belly.
Today is payday and it all starts again. After all the bills are paid we don’t have much left. The last week has really opened my eyes to how close we actually are to the breadline every single month.
I’ve realised we cannot carry on living pay check to pay check because it’s not living is it? It’s surviving.
Starting from this month, Skint Mum and I are going make some changes. We are going to stop surviving and start believing. Believing that we don’t have to live like this. Believing that we can make a better life for our family.
I don’t want to live in poverty. I don’t want my children to grow up thinking this is normal.
We want a better life and I’m going to use everything I have to achieve it.
Do you struggle to make ends meet? What have you done to change this? What advice can you give for us not to be in the same situation next month?
Ricky Willis is the original Skint Dad. A money-making enthusiast, father, and husband to Naomi. He is always looking for unique ways to earn a little extra.