Monday, 11 July 2011


I make enough money to live on. I don't need a fancy car, I hate sailing and flying, I'm not interested in big TV and I don't own one of those games machines. Waste of time. Although, I think, in the attic, there might still be a Sega master system I once bought on eBay for £8. I'm not sure if it still works. There was a game called 'Masters of Darkness' I enjoyed but never completed.

One year I had to pay 40% tax. I was made redundant and they gave me a big bag of money with 'Get Out' written on it. That was a one-off. I refuse to earn enough to pay that much tax again. There's no point busting a gut for half pay.

So it was with some surprise that I read this line -

That sum — £50,000 — is the amount people feel they need to earn in order to send a message to others that they are established and successful.

Really? Does anyone actually feel that way? Do people feel the need to send a message that they are established and successful? To whom? I don't give a cod's arse what the neighbours earn and what they think of me is their problem - although in certain cases I admit I have enhanced their problem deliberately to keep them away. Most of them don't know I have a PhD and most don't know I'm a published author. I have never felt the need to tell them because it is not relevant to discussions about weather, planting, or drinkies. I will certainly not tell them what I earn and I will never ask what they earn.

The article is worth a read for its comic surprises. The impoverished Southern family on fifty grand are a delight.

About 40 per cent of the Sewells’ income goes on their mortgage, which leaves a reduced sum for them to live on every month — and virtually nothing for any of life’s luxuries.

That works out at over £1500 a month for the mortgage. Holy crap. There are four of them so they could live in a house like the one I have. My mortgage is now under £300 a month. But then my house is nowhere near as grand as theirs. Well, it's a matter of taste. They like 'grand' and I don't worry about that. If you like 'grand' then you have to pay for it. Good luck to you if you can. If I could I'd probably get somewhere with a tower. A laboratory in the tower would be wonderful.

As for life's luxuries, today I have been scoffing the first of the raspberries and strawberries from my garden. The gooseberries are nearly ready too. No processing, no packaging, no sprays and no cost. Luxuries can be free, depending on how you define luxury.

This was especially funny -

1. The couple have surrendered their £75-a-month gym membership, old clothes are mended and even hair cuts are rationed.

Seventy-five quid a month for the torture chamber? At that price, buy one of the self-torment multigyms yourself. It's cheaper. A friend of mine has one in his shed, it looks like something out of a 'Saw' film but you wouldn't tell him that because he looks like the Hulk. Old clothes, I wear without bothering to mend until they are in danger of being illegal and haircuts are necessary when it starts to get in my eyes. But then...

2. Melanie has also cut back on using the car. ‘The increase in fuel prices has affected us, so I’m trying to walk more,’ she says.

So... she'd drive everywhere and keep fit by paying £75 a month to the gym. Is there any point trying to explain? Could anyone do so with a straight face?

‘I don’t think people in other parts of the country realise how much more things cost down South.

Yes, we do. That's why we don't live there. On my income I'd be renting their shed, and probably not all of it.

I can’t even afford regular check-ups at the dentist.

Who can? Get yourself some stout pliers and a bottle of whisky. Remember, whisky first. It'll still hurt but you won't mind. Oh, and don't get so drunk you pull the wrong one.

By contrast, the Northern family are portrayed as having an idyllic lifestyle. They even have rocks stuck to the wall. Oh, the decadence!

I'm even further North. If I was on fifty grand a year I would take every other year off. Sure, if you want to have ponies and to drive to the gym and to windsurf and to send a message to other people, and you're willing to work for it, good luck to you. I don't want to stop you and I don't want to see you taxed into oblivion to pay for some lager-swilling lout with fifteen kids by seventeen fathers. You work for it, it's yours. Or should be.

But really, are you only doing it so that other people can see your success? Is that a real reason for working that hard? It that really worth a heart attack or a breakdown?

If you're working like crazy because you want enough money for a Rolls-Royce and a mansion, that's fair enough. All I ever wanted as a kid was an oscilloscope, a laser and a Silva compass and I obtained those years ago. I have lots of lasers now. I've been trying to graft one in to a solar-powered light but it needs 3V and two rechargeable batteries only produce 2.4V. A three-battery solar light is my main ambition now. And a four-battery one, because I have a little 4.5V train I've been trying to make solar-powered too.

I can understand someone working hard because they really want to own something and are earning the money to pay for it. I cannot understand why anyone would pay for petrol to drive to the gym they have to pay for, when they could walk there and back for free and get just as much exercise without going in. But hey, you earned the money, spend it how you want.

What is completely incomprehensible to me is this idea that people bust a gut to earn money just so they can send a message to other people that they are earning this much money. What's the point? I know the guy next door to me is richer because he recently had a bar installed in his house and it was all proper carpentry - I mean the channeled uprights were cut from blank wooden pieces right there, on site - and not out of an Ikea flat-pack. It looks really, really good. He did not do that to impress me. He did it because he's a pisshead, like me, but with more money.

Am I jealous? Well, I'd quite like a bar but I could make one. Not to that standard but once it's coated in ash and starts to go blurry, who's to know? He does not talk about his income. I don't talk about mine. Usually we discuss the Macallan because that's his favourite or we talk shit in slurred voices.

I suspect the guy across the street is richer because he works every hour of the day and does little else. He is not a boozer, nor a smoker. Is he bragging about it? No. He's a joiner and he once helped me fix my shed. The question of money did not arise.

I don't know anyone who feels any need to send a message about their success. Do they exist? If so, it sounds a terrible waste of a life. Work for what you want, not what you think will impress other people.

If it's not worth working yourself to death for your own benefit, it's certainly not worth doing it for someone else's.


Lawson Narse said...

You aren't involved in the PAYE scam Leggy. Why feed the beast?

Anonymous said...

The key phrase in the laugh-a-thon was "the children from a previous relationship"

If this was two parents in a 'conventional relationship' then the mortgage would be more or less dead by now.

Anonymous said...

Is not 'keeping up with the Jones' a common happening especially amongst the women folk.

The Underdoug said...

I can't help thinking of Danny DeVito's line in the David Mamet film Heist:

"Everybody needs money. That's why they call it 'money'."

The concept of 'enough' seems to have vanished from popular consciousness. I think that this was intentional on the part of the slavemasters.

Anonymous said...

Very very good post!

JuliaM said...

"Really? Does anyone actually feel that way? Do people feel the need to send a message that they are established and successful? "

Not me.

microdave said...

Amongst all the home made stickers & posters that hide some of the rust on the back of my ancient Panda, I really ought to have one that reads:

"DILIGAF" - This car is paid for, MOT'd, Insured, Taxed, AND IN FRONT OF YOU!!!"

petem130 said...

Great post.

The only person I want to impress is me. I so don't care about what other people do.

Let's be honest here. We never really know how other people live their lives, we just get their edited version. Who cares anyway.

elf n safety officer said...

I hope they've not used bluetack to stick those boulders to their living room wall.

Anonymous said...

The mail is missing the point again. If the northern family was living in the south they would be earning far more than 50K, and if the southern family was living in the north they would be earning maybe 25K. Is 50K before or after tax?

Anonymous said...

Quite right.

Ive done it. University, post grad and into one of the professions for 20 years. Opened my own business 10 years ago. Paid employees, dealt with all the regulation, VAT, taxes, accounts, leases, etc. etc. What did I get to show for it? 70 hour weeks, weekends spent doing accounts or filling in HMRC returns, an alcoholic wife and unhappy kids.
Oh yes, and my living room was a bit bigger than yours and I lived in a nice road and paid a shed load of taxes and a ridiculously large mortgage.

Now? I have binned it all. I'm going back to where I grew up where I can buy a bog standard 3 bed house for £130000 and I am going to grow vegetables in my garden and get a bog standard 20k job where I go to work at 9 and leave it all behind at 5, see my kids and grandchild and just chill and enjoy life.

Im in my mid forties and I feel like a twat for doing what I have done for the last 25 years.

Anonymous said...

£50 flamin' grand, who, besides local government officials, gets that sort of moolah?

James Higham said...

All of which reinforces the point that poverty is completely relative.

Anonymous said...

"In Surrey, 41-year-old Andrew Sewell is an area sales manager in the construction industry. His wife, Melanie, is an occupational therapist, and together they have a combined income of £50,000."

So not actually doing that well fact decidedly average.

sixtypoundsaweekcleaner said...

Blimey, they're doing almost as badly as me.

Shinar's Basket Case said...

I've been 'well off' and I've been broke. I've lived in hi-end apartments and on the street. I've habitually not left the house without a grand in cash on me and I've begged for smokes and loose change at stations.

Guess what I discovered?

Being poor sucks.

Sorry, I know money isn't everything and that it doesn't buy happiness but it sure as fuck lets you be miserable in comfort.

Don't get me wrong, I don't want to be rich or impress people with wealth or material things but
I'd like to be in the position of not having to think about money. I mean being able to go buy a new laptop or go for a meal or buy a whole packet of UK DUTY PAID fags or even, perhaps, fill up the car with petrol and NOT HAVE TO WORRY what we're going to eat tomorrow.

Although it's going to take a lottery win to cover this coming winter's gas bill...

anonimsi said...

This article looks like propaganda to me. are these actors or do people really want their details spread over the daily mail for no reason. Perhaps some people do. It’s all to reinforce the message of working harder and harder without thinking to much about why you’re doing it.

50k in London is still very good money and the only reason you’d be finding it insufficient is if you’re handing it all over in tax and debt payments.

In other words, you’re not wealthy at all, you just have a good cash flow, and a lot of worry.

Leg-iron said...

Shinar - I've been at both ends too, and being properly poor is not something I'd like to ever revisit. On the other hand, working harder and earning more just means paying more tax.

So I earn as much as I need and then stop. I will not pay high rate tax because they'll just waste it.

A lottery win would be good but I'd have to buy a ticket and with my gambling record, the odds are not good at all. I don't gamble, not for any moral reason, but because I'm no good at it.

anonimsi - interesting you should look at it that way. Snowolf has today seen something similar on TV.

Work eight hours, sleep eight hours, play eight hours. We never should have sent them that book.

opinions powered by