What living in poverty is really like…

Last weekend at one of my tutorials my tutor was talking about how help is often put out there for groups of people in need, that often isn’t accessed because they don’t see themselves as being in that group. And I realised thats me. We are living in poverty. But I do not actively see that. I am not consciously aware that I am.

I’ve tried to make a life for me and my boys where they do not go without. But thats not easy. And as a result I’ve ended up in debt. Why? Because the standard benefits don’t cover living costs and extra for the uniforms, days out, food. When I first moved out of home I ended up with credit cards, catalogue accounts, you name it. In a bid to meet the demands of birthdays and xmas’s. To be able to give my family and friends presents.

Eventually those all ran out and I was left barely scraping by. And thats how its been ever since.

Today I got a letter I’d been dreading. The one that would tell me how much of my rent would be covered by housing benefit and how much I would have to come up with of my own benefits. The answer? £150. Doesn’t sound alot but when that is two weeks worth of weekly benefits thats alot. Not including the overdue gas bill that needs to be paid. The overdue payments on debts. This week we literally have nothing. There is £7 in my account and that has to last until next Thursday.

But do you know what? We are happy. It might be stressful constantly having to think can I afford that, what can I put on ebay, is the gas going to get cut off? But the most important thing is we are together and we have fun. What does piss me off is that although I work its still not enough. And that even if I worked more hours a recent calculation by my job centre advisor showed I would be worse off for working more hours than I would be staying on half earnings half benefits. The system is ridiciously fucked up, pardon my language there, and it is a complete cycle of debt for people in our situation.

What does upset me also is when people say, oh I know what its like for money to be tight. Yeah tight is one thing, having NOTHING is a whole other ball game. What do you do when you need nappies and there isn’t enough in your account. Or when the cupboards are bare? Most people have a back up of savings. I don’t, all those savings went onto debts and even still it wasn’t enough.

So there you go. In black and white. What its really like to have NO money.


27 thoughts on “What living in poverty is really like…

  1. We don’t have any savings, although we had put money aside for our son for when he’s older but we don’t touch it and lately haven’t had the extra cash to add money to his savings account. I know my savings account has 8p in it, because I had to use what was left to pay my student bank account off, and it still was no way near enough. I try not to think about the fact I owe my bank that money but I know they’ll ask for it soon.

    I guess I’m lucky to have someone working full time to help pay the bills so we’re not at the same level as you, been close to having to move out with only debt to my name but didn’t happen in the end. I wish I knew how I could help you, but I do know that benefit life sucks and depressing to know people in our country live in poverty.

    *bighug* x

  2. It’s pretty bloody shocking to know that so many adults and children live in poverty in 2012, when the country has recently spent billions of pounds on a few weeks sport. There are so many things our country can do without, luxuries that only the well off or the ones with regular income can truly afford. Yet there are, I think, 3m+ children living in poverty in the UK and that is an absolute disgrace.

    The benefit system is completely fucked up. The problem is that our current government spend too much time blaming the previous government rather than helping families who are genuinely in need. And meanwhile, they live it up in chauffeur driven cars, poncing around London and eating caviar for breakfast.

    Good things will come.
    CJ x

    1. Oh how very well put! They really are. They have no idea what half the country are experiencing! Would love to see Cameron try and feed his family on a tenner a week! X

  3. I know exactly where you are coming from, one month we had nothing not a penny and one of our kind neighbours had herd us talking about how we was gonna have to have no dinners so the kids could eat and they kindly went a brought us some food and since then even now we are always thinking of ways to try an save money but we never can as we pay out more than whats coming in

  4. Honey, I know exactly how you feel. I was in the very same position when Ethan was a baby. I had to fight hard to get housing benefit and I worked in a club in the evenings to pay my bills. I lived on tinned tomatoes on toast for 2 years so that I could afford to buy nappies and food for him. You do what you have to do to make it through the week, I sometimes went for a couple of days without a square meal.
    Its sad to hear that 22 years later things haven’t changed and that you are having to fight in the same way that I did.
    Stick in there.

    1. It’s funny isn’t it that so much has changed in 22 years in the way of technology etc but in other aspects nothing has changed. Your an inspiration to me to show me it does get better! 😉 thanks hun! X

  5. Having worked in benefits advice I can say you are far from alone, doesn’t make it right but that’s sadly a reality. I think you need to speak to CAB to get some proper advice, they can offer much better advice than the job centre and know of all types of grants, support etc that might help you. Obviously I don’t know your exact situation but see if there is a uniform scheme with your local council (speak to Education Welfare) and get some proper advice asap, there is more out there than it appears, they just don’t advertise it

    1. Hadn’t heard of uniform schemes! Will have a look at that thank you! Have looked into grants etc before and most don’t apply to us as we are wrong category etc but Defo need to again to see if anything has changed.

  6. Great post hun and more people definitely need to talk about it! I was in a similar situation earlier this year and found myself coming home from Tesco, closing the house door and balling my eyes out as I was struggling to put food on the table for my daughter.

    The help offered is chronic and people shouldn’t be living like this, stressing about buying a loaf of bread and how to keep the house warm over a very cold winter. When I separated from the other half I was so unhappy I never even considered how I would afford everything, it was just a case of knuckling down and trying my absolute hardest to make it work and give my daughter the life she deserves.

    It’s a hard slog and unexpected bills etc are a ball ache – unfortunately there are more in this situation than you would think – if more people spoke out about it then something may actually change!xx

    1. That’s the thing isnt it. We don’t speak out. We all suffer in silence with the stress and just pretend like everything’s ok. Maybe it’s time we all started shouting about how hard it really is! X

  7. It’s shit, isn’t it? I’ve had my eyes opened this year to exactly how useless the benefits system is. Until I was in this situation (getting divorced and losing my house and everything) I had no idea people could be left in a situation where they had NOTHING. And right now I have nothing, and without my mum helping me there are times (right now being one) we’d starve. And we have to live with those choices (food? Loo roll? Uniform?) all the time and it’s impossible. Much love.

    1. Family are amazing aren’t they! Mine help where they can but they have their own bills too so it’s limited. It’s scary when you reach a stage with such little money and so many things that need to be brought. You really learn prioritising right?! Hope things look up for you soon Rachel!

  8. I think you’re incredibly strong for speaking out and like Suburban Mummy says there are other benefits out there that you must look into EVERYTHING.
    I think it’s very sad when we see so many super rich people around us living the life of Reilly and others in poverty, it’s not right and it needs to be sorted.
    Best of luck I hope by writing this some good things come your way.

  9. This makes me so mad, you work, you are studying and still you struggle. The system is flawed – the benefits supposedly lift over the poverty line and no one in the UK is in poverty. Your basic needs are met. Utter rubbish!

    It is so wrong in our civalised society that so amny struggle. You do a fab job – stay strong.

  10. Its shit isnt it. It makes you feel like crap and its endless. I know. But one day I know I can look back and say I brought those two lovely children up on next to nothing . I’ve had £3.29 left in my account all week not being able to buy food till money goes in. And even then it wont be party time. But I would rather my children grew up knowing money doesnt grow on trees and sometimes you cant have everything you want than growing up having anything and everything they wanted.
    In the meantime my ramblings and understanding doesnt make it all go away.

  11. I know how you feel, I was scraping by when the 10 yr old was a baby. I didn’t realise I was entitled to housing benefit when I was on maternity leave, let alone anything else so went back to work when she was 3 months old because I didn’t think I had a choice, even then I struggled to keep a roof over our heads paying full rent, debts I’d accrued buying things for her she needed and that sound of the gas or electricity meter beeping to tell me I’d run out of credit before the electricity went off or I had no heating when it was bitterly cold.

    I still worry about money, probably more so now because it’s not me earning it and if the man loses his job we’re well and truly stuck. We don’t have money for treats and I’m not sure where Christmas presents will be coming from this year but at least we have eachother I guess.

    It does get better I promise x

  12. A very brave post to write. I’ve been in the same situation, after my husband left he refused to pay maintenance for 3 years (and the CSA were useless) AND he left me with over £7,000 of his debt to clear. I was also made redundant, and if it wasn’t for the kindness of my parents I would have gone under. There were so many times were I didn’t know how we would get to the end of the week in one piece. Fortunately things are better now, I’m working part-time which has worked well but of course the money isn’t great, but it’s a hundred times better than it was a few years ago.

    I feel for you Hayley, but you’re doing an amazing job by staying positive. Are you absolutely sure you’re claiming everything you possibly can? It’s always worth checking with a Welfare benefits advisor, there might just be something else out there.

  13. Sending Hugs Hayley! I know how hard you work and it must be so frustrating to feel that there is nothing more you can do. Car boots/ebay/parkonmydrive.com/cutting out vouchers/etc can only so far and its TIRING to be forever counting pennies. Hold your head up high and know that your two boys have EVERYTHING they could ever want or need from you and that is the most important thing. Also don’t be too proud to ask for or accept help when its offered. xxxx

  14. Completely with you there.
    Baby number 2 will be here in 5 weeks, I’ve stopped working to have baby and have no job to go back to and hubby hasn’t worked for a yr and a half due to a medical condition which resulted in him having a nervous breakdown 😦
    We have no savings, lots of debt and I despair if I think too hard about our situation 😦

  15. It makes me so sad to hear that working harder doesn’t make you better off. What you say about being happy is true. We should all be able to be more honest about what we can and can’t afford, there is so much pressure in society to buy and spend and consume. Good Luck and well done for saying this x

  16. I know exactly what you mean, we were living in a 2 bed slum it was damp over crowded, every penny we had went on bills etc. If it wasn’t for the Salvation Army giving us food. I don’t know where we would have been, hubby and me used to go without food so we could get milk and nappies for the kids. It taught me to save where ever possible.

    I hope you get some advice from the CAB and they can help.

  17. Well doen Hayley, an important post to write and get out there. For the last year I have been workign with a lady living in poverty and the benefits system amazes me. She is just lucky to have some good friends at last but of course she shoudl nto have to rely on other people. So crazy when workign more does not make you any better off!

    Mich x

  18. Great post, and I can understand where your coming from. I’m a student (nursing) and am trying to manage on a bursary. I’m in arrears with my rent (I get £385 a month and my rent is £378), yesterday I went to pay some rent at my HA and the team leader asked me why I wasn’t claiming housing benefit – I assumed as a full time student I wasn’t entitled (I’ve no dependents). The team leader seems to think I should be entitled to something and I hope she’s right as I’m fed up of sleepless nights and constant fear of demands.

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