The media has been wheezing this week at the revelation that a single British person needs to earn at least £13,400 per year - £158 each week - to afford a basic but acceptable standard of living (not including tax, housing or childcare costs). This Minimum Income Standard, as they call it (MIS for short), goes up to £370 per week for a couple with two children, while a single parent with one child needs £210.
What is particularly interesting about the report, apart from making us all panic a bit more about the credit crunch, is that it's findings are based on The Thoughts of The People via a vaguely impressive-sounding consultation process rather than a bunch of crusty academics busily crunching numbers in their ivory towers.
But are we as a nation being a bit greedy in coming up with these amounts? We have to bear in mind that a couple with kids would have to earn double the UK minimum wage to get to the MIS level- certainly not achievable for everyone.
As one half of a couple with two rug-rats and a decent household income, £370 a week seems quite a reasonable amount for weekly expenditure - quite a lot, even, when you take tax, housing and childcare out of the equation. Then again, I don't think I'm especially profligate; I'm more likely to splurge in TK Maxx than on Bond Street, we wouldn't know a luxury holiday resort if it pounced on us, and Alpha and I spend most evenings staring at the goggle box as a result of child-induced exhaustion rather than downing vats of cocktails in a trendy club. The only thing we refuse to skimp on is good food and wine. Surely we can't spend more than the MIS each week?
An MIS calculator will be available online at some undetermined point in the future, but why wait? I'm curious to find out if my supposedly sensible spending adds up to more than I think.
So, in the interest of research, MM and I will be lifting the lid on our spending to find out the hopefully not-too-hideous truth. The added spice will be in the comparison of two of the world's most expensive cities, London and New York.
And so we're not tempted to cheat, we promise we'll collect receipts for every single thing we buy, however large or small, and post them on the blog. We'll also work out a weekly average for our utilities and other regular household-related expenses. We'll be starting next Sunday (we need a week to prepare ourselves psychologically) so watch this space...
In the meantime, you can read the full report here: http://www.jrf.org.uk/