Why is it all so expensive?

Alex Molton questions how the average person – or family – is supposed to thrive when just being alive is so expensive.

A magnifying glass held up in front of stacks of coins


Having worked really hard to save some cash and carefully planned (and finally booked!) our first family holiday abroad to ensure we could afford to go without getting ourselves in a pickle, I was feeling pretty smug when we reached the Easter break. Cue dead washing machine, which fell off a cliff overnight, leaving us drowning in muddy football kits and soggy dog towels (thanks again to lovely friends for letting me pop over with endless loads, and even drying and folding one!). I was disappointed to spend our hard-earned cash on such a boring (but unavoidably necessary) purchase, but with a little bit of flex in the finances, we managed it.  Then a letter came from school to confirm that Son#1 has got a place on the History trip next year, with the first payment due next week. Yay, so exciting!! Oh, hang on, it costs how much?!

They say things come in threes – and so followed on the dog’s annual vaccinations (again not an exciting spend, but not one we could swerve). Very quickly things moved from being on an even keel to looking a bit precarious. Pants.

Thankfully, although our daughter is keen to own every team’s (it seems) football strip and all of the latest goalkeeper kit being flogged by amateur keepers on YouTube, our children are generally not very materialistic (unless you count sweets). Having worked most of the Easter holidays and with the kids all a bit bigger now we have also managed to avoid spending too much on childcare or entertainment thus far, so hopefully with some careful budgeting we will catch up. However, I have friends who are struggling to make ends meet all of the time, despite working all of the hours they can and having the wages of a partner in the household coffers. Quite a few have been using food banks since Covid and are likely to continue to do so.

Where we live is quite an an affluent area of the country where there is quite a big divide between the haves and the have nots, with giant detached mansions just a street away from dilapidated council housing. Actually a lot of of the people I know who are forced to count the pennies are the ‘squeezed middle’; those who are trying to manage to fund a holiday a year, but tend to check out the cheaper options in the supermarket and start saving for Christmas in January.

The tricky thing is, it’s just so expensive to be alive in modern times. I don’t mean having a big house, fancy cars and the latest phone, but just keeping everyone fed, clothed and happy. For many of us there is a constant balance to be struck between whether we spend money on this big thing or that this month, and considering which payments we can put off for a bit longer. It’s tedious and so exhausting.

With a few days booked off next week we are hoping to patch together some cheap and cheerful family days out reasonably locally. With a smelly terrier and squashed sandwiches in tow they won’t be a glamorous affair, but we will get to spend time together as a family, arguing about what goes on the car radio, elbowing each other in the back seat as we struggle all to fit in our on-its-last-legs hatchback and hopefully having a few laughs with family in- jokes and, as is often the case with us, misheard sentences which end up being randomly hilarious. Suddenly I feel really rather rich after all.


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