Friday, July 25, 2008

A Bigger Grindstone

Define poverty.

Living on the streets?

Starving, having to steal food to survive?

Dying, having to sell your body to live?

Or just not earning enough money to be able to live decently?

Karen and I don’t particularly lead a profligate lifestyle. We’re not out partying every night (in fact although we went out for a meal Wednesday night to celebrate out wedding anniversary it was the first time we’d been out together in over 5 months). We don’t hit the shops every weekend in wild shopping splurges.

And yet, doing some sums and some short range financial forecasts we discovered that we’re pretty close to being in the crap. Karen needs to return to work in September as we simply can’t afford to have only one of us working indefinitely. This means paying for child care for Tom. Even if Karen only works school hours to try and relieve the burden of this we still need to find an extra £400 a month to cover the nursery costs.

We just do not have this money.

It’s ridiculous. We can’t afford to work. But can’t afford not to work. What are we supposed to do?

We only have three options.

1) Give up the rat race, claim benefits and hope we don’t lose our house as a consequence. Neither of us fancies this kind of lifestyle. This option is definitely out.

2) Bite the bullet and accept that over the next 4 years or so until Tom starts school we are going to slide inexorably into debt. Well. Not so much slide as bullet-train into debt.

3) Bite a bigger bullet and do all we can do slow that inexorable slide right down to a more manageable level. This means me getting an extra part-time job to bring in extra money to cover some of the child care costs. A morning or evening cleaning job most likely.

Karen isn’t happy about it (and I’m not exactly ecstatic) as she doesn’t want to see me flogging myself along the rocky road to a heart attack. But the alternative is a sizable debt that could totally destabilize us and take us decades to pay off. With the economy so shaky at the moment it seems to me some extra money coming into the house would not be a bad thing at all.

So. I am now officially looking for work. Even though I already have plenty. Full-time job. Part-time web design business. Novel on the go. One more year at University. Maintaining a wonderful home life.

Busy busy busy.

Sigh.

So does all this mean that I’m poor? Or just not poor enough?

Who knows? But at least I’m not sewing Nikes in a Kolkata sweat shop... or selling my body in an Essex lay-by.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ring Families information service on 0800 234 6346 or visit www.direct.gov.uk/parents....also make sure you check your tax credits situation....

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Can you train Karen in the web business so you are able to take up extra work/she can work from home?

By the way, if it cheers you up any you have won an award (see my blog)

Steve said...

Thanks for the advice Anonymous - succinct and informative. I like your style.

Aw, thank you Laura - I'll take a look at your blog as soon as I get home. For some reason the work sensors refuse to allow your blog anywhere near my workstation browser!

Tristan said...

I know how you feel - Stan's nursery fees are like taking on a 2nd mortgage! The tax credits threshold is quite high, but you guys might be eligible. There is also the childcare voucher scheme, but in truth that only saves a maximum of £90 a month each off your tax (your employer takes up to £240 out of your monthly salary as a pay sacrifice and pays it through a voucher company to your nursery, so you're taxed less).

-eve- said...

Woww.... it sounds hard... you put this very well; the dilemma of not being able to make ends meet, whether or not one works. Good punchline; it could be worse, and at least you both are in it together... so you'll pull each other through somehow... (or if you know your neighbours, an idea would be for other moms to also take part time jobs, and each take one day of the week to care for each other's babies... )

Steve said...

Hi tris, I think we've already exhausted the tax credit option but the voucher scheme might be worth a look-see - cheers!

Inventive idea, Eve, alas none of our neighbours have kids of a comparable age to ours!

Reluctant Blogger said...

oh gosh, Steve, you don't need this, do you? I have no ideas re solutions. Back in the early 90s I was in a very similar situation and just struggled through it - the childcare thing lasts a very short time after all. I just didn't spend any money really - it's surprising how little you can live on and when you do it at that level perversely the challenge is actually quite satisfying - I remember once in London living on about £12 in a week after I'd paid the mortgage - my daughter and I, and we did OK!!

I guess you should aim to minimise the debt but focus on the fact that as soon as Tom is in school your childcare costs will be largely gone.

But it sounds dire, Steve.

At least you are not contemplating selling your body!!!

Steve said...

...for the simple reason, Gina, I doubt we could live on £3.57 a week! I might get more if I sold my body to medical science! Things are a bit dire - as Tris points out, you have to work to pay off your mortgage but to do that you effectively have to take out a second mortgage to ensure the kids are looked after and so you have to work even more... it's a vicious circle. Unfortunately I think there is only one solution... and that involves me scanning the jobs pages of the local rag. It won't be forever and I'll have a great rags to riches anecdote to tell everyone when I make my first billion!

Daisy said...

steve...i totally understand your situation...we had much the same when we had our child...it isn't feasible anymore to be able to have a one income family with the price of things it is too expensive of a bill to put on one income...i took in other kids to sit for them while their parents worked, sold door to door vacuum (yes i did), and bartended on the weekends...day care is too expensive...if i would have gone back to work full time i would have been working to pay the day care and that didn't make sense, so i did little odd things when my husband was home to add to the pot we could barely piss in...it's hard and i do feel for you...

Steve said...

Thanks Daisy, life does seem to be tough for a lot of people at the moment and I find myself yearning for a far simpler way of life... but of course that doesn't mean it will be any easier! I guess in everyone's life there are tough moments... the details may change but life just throws such trials our way to test us.

Old Cheeser said...

I feel for you Steve - so sorry to hear things are tight - it really can't be easy. I hate to rub it in but it makes me kind of glad for not having kids - I can see that they're an extra financial burden. Of course that makes them sound like some kind of financial outgoing which is rather heartless - I'm sure your two boys are a source of joy and happiness to you in many ways. On the brighter side, you won't always have to take care of them financially so that's something I suppose (even though that's some years off!)

Anyway, I hope it all works out. What about your novel? Have you finished it yet? It would be great if you could make some cash from that...

Steve said...

Hi OC, nobody in the UK can deny, I think, that having kids is an enormous financial burden... but yes they are so worth it in every way. In many respects the money doesn't even come into it. Alas, practicalities do... and most practicalities these days cost money! It's frustrating when other countries offer much better incentives and far more help for people who wish to bring children into the world. The UK is really backwards in many respects.

As for the novel: 150,000 words so far - now into the last quarter of the story. I'm aiming to have it finished (hopefully) by the New Year... and yes, if it made some money it would be wonderful but I'm really not getting my hopes up!

The Sagittarian said...

Steve, no consolation I know but i know how you feel. When our kids were smaller and it was time for me to go back to work, it seemed I was only working to pay the childcare - there was nothing for me at the end of the payday! Treading water became the norm. Now they are older and the childcare fees are so much less but its pretty much the same story. How did that happen? I was going to "save myself rich" with the money from childcare going into the bank!
...I think Anony Mouse has the right idea. Fingers crossed for your novel eh?

Steve said...

Hi Amanda, yeah we've been treading water for years too - I just don't see how it can be like that when we've both been working! Life is just too expensive!

The Sagittarian said...

Apparently it beats the alternative tho' no-one has confiremed that with me first hand!! Hang in there, the light at the end of the tunnel isn't always a train!

Steve said...

True - even a decent funeral these days costs 2 grand but at least it's one all inclusive down payment and not HP...!

Brother Tobias said...

Find it hard to offer anything positive, especially as outgoings seem set to crank up in all directions. Councils should be in the vanguard of setting up creches to support staff...they have the potential premises and the expertise. Don't suppose there's any prospect of persuading your employers to win some brownie points by getting ahead of the game?

Steve said...

Brother T, the thought of entrusting my employers with young children is, quite frankly, terrifying! I'd sooner employ Amy Winehouse as a childminder...

Tenon_Saw said...

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Steve said...

Thanks muchly Tenon_Saw - will have a look-see.

Dominic Rivron said...

Anyone who has been through those years where you're trying to raise a family and pay a morgage will understand what you're saying.

The best advice I know of is
1. Relationships come first. However hard you have to work, make time for each other.
2. Keep fit. Someone told me to run two miles three times a week. If that appeals (perhaps you do it already),you need to check out the best way to go about it, but it worked for me. It complete negates that horrible feeling that you're destroying your health.
Reading back what I've written it sounds like cold comfort, but when I reflect back on that period in my own life I think it's true.
The poet laura-eate's advice strikes me as really good, too.

Steve said...

I take your point Dominic - I must admit my biggest worry is not having time for my family, either because I'm out at work or simply too tired to participate. As for the health thing - I'm lucky in that my main job provides me with lots of scope for walking and being on the move. I tend to walk to and from work too - hopefully this is providing me with enough cardio-vascular exercise to keep me relatively fit and healthy.

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