"A single person in Britain needs to earn at least £13,400 a year before tax for a minimum standard of living, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) says.
A couple with two children need to spend £370 a week and a pensioner couple need £201 excluding housing and childcare costs, the charity says."
I found the budgets fascinating. They used focus groups to establish what would make a reasonable budget for each group to live on, right down to a shopping list for groceries and the component amortized cost of the dustpan and brush used in the kitchen. The groups also decided what was a luxury item (and, therefore excluded) and what is a necessity.
The closest thing for us, I guess is the budget for a couple with two children. Total cost per week, excluding childcare £435.96. I've found myself studying the lists and comparing our real life to them.
Mr and Mrs Average spend more than we do on food and drink, eating many more biscuits (that's cookies for you Americans) and preprepared foodstuffs than we do. However, we spend double on housing costs - they pay about a third of our mortgage payment in rent. And I'm not sure if the assumption that the Averages live in a "band B" council house is viable. Since the big sell-off of council homes in the 1980's (sold to their occupants at a deep discount), getting council housing has been well nigh impossible for anyone with a reasonable income. The BBC were quoting living costs of £27,000 per annum for a couple with two children, which is approximately the average salary in the UK. At that level, the council housing officers would expect the Averages to rent private housing.
(NB: The "band B" thing is council tax, our local property based tax. Housing is banded based on values and each property of a certain type in an area is considered to be in the same band and is, therefore, taxed at the same rateable value. If the Averages have your standard three bedroom British house, it would fall into band D, at twice the amount in the budget.)
On the clothing front, I spend less than the £516 per annum clothing budget Mrs Average is expected to spend. If she asked me, I'd suggest that a) she shops the charity shops for some things, and b) she gets up at 4am on the 27th December and goes to the Next sale (doors open at 5am) for work clothes and smart casual stuff. That would give her more for money.
My favourite item from Mr Average's clothing budget is the £5 woollen hat, which is estimated to last for 5 years. Somehow, I don't think so - if it really is wool, it would cost more than that (even if Mrs Average did the necessary with the needles). And why does he have walking boots when his wife doesn't? And wellies, ditto.
OK, I've had my bit of fun. On the whole, I think these budgets are far more realistic than the figures the government bandy around and use to set benefits such as the state pension and unemployment benefit. At least with these budgets, you can live.