I was interested to read an article in Huffpost Parents this week. It reports on a claim that a family of four would need £40k a year to live comfortably.
I have to admit that I’m somewhat surprised by this figure. Why? Well, we’re doing fine on a significantly smaller amount and there are five of us!
The cost of living is an emotive topic so I wasn’t sure whether I should write about it. Times are hard for many and our government is out of touch with normal people.
But, given my experience since having kids, I think it’s worth sharing my take.
Our household income is below the UK average and we live in one of the most expensive parts of the country.
This probably puts us in the category that our PM lovingly referred to as ‘Jams’. That said, we don’t go without anything we truly need and are all happy.
I’ve been the family’s sole earner for eight years and, in that time, have had a couple of spells of unemployment. Things were touch and go, but we never missed any bills and I didn’t claim JSA because of the dehumanising effect of the benefits system.
Three years ago, I was earning a little under £40k with the opportunity to hit it if I stayed in my job. There were four of us then, with youngest on the way. While I had to pay an obscene amount to stand up on trains, we were more than comfortable. We were actually saving money every month.
But the role made me miserable and no amount of money is worth your health, so I turned down the offer of an improved contract, left and went freelance. It was a big risk but one I simply had to take.
Happily, we’ve been fine ever since despite me earning much less than I used to. And there’s a simple reason for this. We’ve always lived within our means – even before children were on the scene. We knew we were going to have kids, so worked hard and saved as much as we could.
When I was earning a lot, we only spent what we needed to and put away as much as possible. Now we’re living a hand to mouth existence with fluctuating earnings, we have the cushion that we built up for ourselves.
Admittedly, we don’t have a car to run but, again, this comes down to careful planning. Although we live in a semi-rural area, we chose where to live based on the proximity of schools and public transport.
We haven’t been on any kind of holiday for four years, but they’re not essential. Spending quality time as a family isn’t dependent on your location.
A similar approach applies to birthdays and Christmas – we spend what we can afford to and never use the credit card.
So can a family of four live comfortably on £40k? I suppose it comes down to interpretation. One person’s ‘struggling’ will always be someone else’s ‘well off’.
Personally, I think we could live very comfortably on that amount as a family of five. It would be unusual to have that much coming in!
What do you think? Could your family live comfortably on £40k?