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Last Updated: Monday, 28 January 2008, 11:55 GMT
How much do families spend?
Till receipt

The average British family is now spending 456 a week, according to the Annual Report on the Expenditure and Food Survey.

The report is marking its 50th anniversary by comparing today's household costs with what families spent half a decade ago.

According to the statistics, UK households are now spending a greater proportion of their budget on mortgages or rent, and less in food, than the previous generations.

We asked three families to give us a view of their weekly expenditure. How are they coping? Is the money balancing a bit more difficult now? How different are their finances from their parents'?

Then Anne Gall, a pensioner in Wales, reveals how family spending was 50 years ago.

More about the report


Tracy Holland
Age: 42
Family members: 3
Expenditure: 556 a week

We're a happily married couple with a 10 year old daughter. We have a few pets: two dogs, one cat, three guinea pigs and some pond fish (all are rescued).

We spend about 556 per week on all our bills; that absorbs pretty all our cash per month. It's becoming more and more of a worry, I have to admit. Most of it goes to council tax, household fuel, vehicle fuel, income tax, car tax and television licence.

We cope by cutting corners elsewhere - I shop extensively on e-bay for skin creams, clothes, make up, etc.

What I cannot purchase from there I buy in sales. As for food shopping, I try to buy special offers where possible, especially the 'buy one, get one free'.

I cook homemade foods (stews, etc), as these sorts of meals are much cheaper than ready meals.

If we were to be forced to cut back further, we would need to get rid of my car and stop my daughter's riding lessons, which are 6 per week.

I think our expenditure has changed - we now spend more on bills and utilities, as well as car fuel, than we do on food and other essentials.

It would also mean I would be ostensibly housebound, as the public transport round here is lacking, to say the least.

I think our expenditure has changed - we now spend more on bills and utilities, as well as car fuel, than we do on food and other essentials. The government charges more and more in taxes.

Also since the utilities were privatised, they have gone up regardless of inflation so that those in charge get better profits.

In my mum's day cars were a luxury, as was a television (right up until the early 70's for her and my dad), and they didn't have to worry about private pensions and such.

I do not think we're better off these days, it's just our money is spent differently. Additionally credit, up until recently, was encouraged, whereas in my mum's day having things 'on the knock' was looked down on.


Joanne Classick
Age: 31
Family members: 4
Expenditure: 297.17 a week

Most of my expenditure goes out in mortgage, council, bills, transport, food and private healthcare.

When we are short of money, the first thing that we try to stop spending on is going out to eat or drink, buying books DVD's etc. If we are still short of money, then we try to spend less on our weekly food shopping, and only buy new clothes when we really need to.

Over the years we have changed our spending habits according to what income we have had. For about four years we lived on one income, after our children were born. Money was very tight, so very little was left over after paying the bills for any anything else. Going out and buying new clothes was a thing of the past!

I'm sure my parents found it equally hard to balance income and expenditure, especially as they lived though the 15% mortgage rates.

But gradually, as our household income went back up, so did our disposable income. However, with the rising fuel costs (both domestic and petrol) and rising mortgage and council tax bills, our disposable income has declined again.

We do still consider ourselves fortunate though, as we don't have credit card debt and can usually live on our monthly income. We do go without holidays every year though.

I would say our spending habits are not too different to my mother's, although I know she would not have paid for mobile phones, digital TV, etc.

I'm sure my parents found it equally hard to balance income and expenditure, especially as they lived though the 15% mortgage rates. The main difference I would say was that, while my parents had two cars and could afford to run both, we just have one.


Kerriann McLackland
Age: 30s
Family members: 3
Expenditure: 768.99 a week

I'm a property lecturer in my early thirties and live in Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire with my husband Lee and two year old son, Rory.

Our major outgoings are clearly the mortgage, childcare and cars. This highlights our catch 22 situation, whereby two of our major expenses are directly related to going to work and yet we cannot meet the rest of the expenses if we didn't both work full-time.

In June, Rory will be three and then we will be entitled to some government assistance with our childcare costs, which will make a significant difference to our finances.

Our aim is to be on sounder financial basis by summer 2009, as our loan will be repaid by this time, and we also have a strategy to clear our overdraft by the same date.

That means only another year and half of belt tightening! Let's just hope nothing too unexpected comes up during that time.

My feeling is that, as a society, we've swung too far in the direction of material acquisition at the expense of quality of life.

I think that life has got more financially demanding over recent generations, but I believe this is largely because our financial expectations have increased.

Reliance on the car has increased and now there is more societal pressure for material goods.

Life for both my mother and grandmother was financially difficult, and neither generation owned their own houses.

But my mother was able to look after my brother and me full-time until she became a single parent when I was six.

My feeling is that, as a society, we've swung too far in the direction of material acquisition at the expense of quality of life.

My hope is that this pendulum will start to swing in the opposite direction by the time my children are making their own way in the world.


Anne Gall

Fifty years ago I was a mere 13 years old and money was the old pounds Shilling and pence then (.s.d).

Back then, most houses used coal for heating and cooking and hot water, and this would cost around five shillings for a ton.

There were no supermarkets, you used to buy your goods at the corner shops, and if you had a garden you would grow your own fruit and vegetables to save money, and of course in those days parents would buy wool and material and make as much of your clothes they could.

Wages were low, around 2.00 a week depending on what work the breadwinner did.

You used to buy your goods at the corner shops, and if you had a garden you would grow your own fruit and vegetables to save money.

Your toilet was normally at the bottom of your garden, toilet paper in those days was newspaper cut up into squares and hung with a piece of string, your weekly bath was in a tin bath in front of the kitchen range which provide your source of heat water.

Transport was a lot better run in those days. There were steam trains and they used to stop at every station, and a long distance fare would have cost around 2s.6d. There were not that many cars on the road and only if you were well off you could afford one.

Give me the good old days back, things ran at a gentler pace. Postage stamps were a really cheap way of keeping in touch by letter.

Holidays are very expensive these days, in the bygone era you were taken to the nearest beach for the day and you no doubt better enjoyed it, specially when you were allowed an ice cream.

I could go on and on there is so much to say about what has gone on over the last 50 years. As the saying goes, and as I have said it to my own children: if you can't afford, it you have to go without.

Read a selection of comments on this story:

Modern life is too expensive, but not because of what we need, because of what we think we 'Should' have. I have bought a house (At a fairly low price with a mortgage from my partners company), one car and no holidays for a number of years. We intend to start growing our own vegetables and other things to reduce costs, but we constantly hear others say to us 'why don't you have...?' We don't want a second car or a new wardrobe of clothes every 6 months, and we don't need it either. The only thing we do want is a better public transport system at better rates so that we can sell the car to save even more money!
Heather, Willenhall, UK

Our disposable income has taken a knock over the last few months with the increase of petrol costs & fuel costs. Despite taking the precaution of not taking on a large mortgage, we still have to be very careful with our outgoings. Our fixed-rate finishes soon and the new rates which have been offered have been very poor compared to the current interest rate. We have both been fortunate to receive wage increases in the last 6 months but we don't see any benefit as the increase percentage is much lower than the percentage used for council tax, energy and fuel bills.
Kiltie Jackson, Staffs, UK

I'm simply appalled at the woman who claims a second car is a necessity and that she must have creams and lotions...Our weekly grocery bill is usually under 20. Petrol is our major expenditure as my husband and I work about 16 miles from our home. Luckily we work just across the street from each other and flex time assures we can ride together. But even if we didn't, there is a bus service that would enable me to work where I do. Holidays? We love Britain and aren't ashamed to admit it, we drive up and down the country and have a fabulous time. Our major expenditure is our annual National Trust/English Heritage memberships.
Rebekah Wells, Lichfield Staffs

I have 2 children and over the years it has become more and more expensive to keep the family and no real change in the wages to compensate. Why should we have to cope? It would be nice to have a little spare cash once in a while, These government officials don't have clue about real living in the UK so who are they to speculate on other peoples lives.
Michael Rose, Sheffield

There is a tendency to romanticise the past. One remembers the good things and the bad get blurred into oblivion. 50 years ago I was 10 years old and living in a small village in rural Shropshire. The big adventure of the week was going 11 miles by train to Shrewsbury on a Saturday to see my cousins. I remember that my mum always seemed hard up but we were never short of food and it was none of "this foreign rubbish". Clothes were home made; both knitted and sewn. Central heating did not exist and, at this time of the year, ice would be on the inside of the bedroom window! We got dressed whilst still in bed!! But it is nothing compared to the poverty my wife grew up in! No, I would not want those days back again! Today in comparison to then? Today, most of my income goes to the government in various guises. Our house costs 300 times what you could buy one for then but then I earn probably 300 times what I would have earned then. The biggest change is now I eat nothing but "that foreign rubbish" and twice a year I fly a quarter of the way round the world to see my 'in laws'. I can speak to anywhere in the world from anywhere in the world. When I was 10, England was a very big place. Now, the world is a very small place. I know Teluk Intan as well as I know Slough and, probably, have more friends in Teluk Intan than I do in Slough.
Rowan Harding-Jack, Slough, UK

There is something very wrong in this county if the families are spending 456 a week to pay for what are the essentials. The equates to a household income of approximately 30K a year. Just goes to show how the people in the county are ripped off any every opputunity.
Mr Chips, UK

Over the last 50 years it's got worse, every body is greedy wanting to get rich quick, but no one has that extra money to pay out the rise in travel, fuel, and domestic fuel etc. If I had a company I'd lower fares etc more people would travel on transport and leave cars at home... so the idea is more people would travel, get your investment back but over a longer period now does that sound simple. By the way I take the car to work its cheaper!!!
Geoffrey White, Basildon, United Kingdom

50 years ago I was three years old and we moved back from the US into a new, centrally heated bungalow. My parents had bought the land whilst abroad and had a mortgage for the bungalow. They were quite ordinary but very hard working. My father was one of 7 siblings and was brought up with his father on a war pension. He knew what it was to go short, but worked hard to ensure that my brother and I did not. He worked at the Luton car factory and earned about 19 per week in 1960. I am pretty sure he hated it. We ourselves did not have a car until I was ten, Dad would travel the ten miles to work on a scooter or bus in the icy weather. We had one holiday a year usually by the sea for a week, Dad hired a car and we stayed in a caravan. Everything was paid for upfront. My parents always ensured they had 50 in the bank for emergencies. This ethos has been instilled in both my brother and me. Although I have a credit card it gets paid off every month. I don't buy what I cannot afford. Like my parents, my husband and I have worked hard for what we have in life. This doesn't mean I don't like nice things and we do ensure we live well. However, I can see through all the advertising hype and know that we don't need everything we are told we need in advertisements and lifestyle magazines. Often debts are run up because the banks and finance companies encourage people to go into debt. Everyone seems to live in a get rich society mentality where they must have what their peers are having. That life is not reality. Fifty years ago we did not live in such a materialistic manner. We were happy living a simpler and more heatlhy lifestyle.
Dawn Oram, Lowestoft, UK

Back in 1960 I was promoted to a grand wage of 14/13/6 a week. My house cost 1250 and the mortgage was 7/0/3 a month. Electricity was one old penny a unit, after the first block.
Barry Gorman, preston

Food is cheaper than it was even 10 years ago, maybe we have the supermarket price wars to thank for that, but just recently prices have seemed to rise. Rents & mortgages do seem steep now, though mortgage repayments do seem more managable than in the late 80's/early 90's. Electronic equipment and entertainment seems cheaper now than ever before, though heating bills seem more expensive now than in the last 25 years. Finally the cost of running a car has skyrocketed, though we can now get very cheap flights abroad!
Nathan Kirkwood, Bedford, England

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