OPINION: Time to tighten your belt

Having lived through the ups and downs of the past seven decades, Horace Camp offers some advice for getting through the coming cost of living crisis

(Shutterstock)
(Shutterstock)

I’VE lived a reasonable amount of time and it always makes me chuckle that much of my lifetime is now officially ‘history’ and is taught as such in schools. All around me wondrous and not so wondrous things were happening, from the moon landing to the rise of punk.

I often annoy my grandson by quizzing him on his knowledge of recent events, such as the Wilson administration.

‘Who?’

‘You know the one with the dog, mac and pipe.’

‘We didn’t do that.’

‘What did you do?’

‘The Cold War.’

You know how it goes if you have grandchildren. You never asked your kids because you still had a life, but grandkids are fair game for time wasting.

It did, however, get me thinking about how life has changed over the past seven decades, mostly not for the better. But if I drill right down, my life has hardly changed at all. Take fashion, for instance. I still dress pretty much the same as I did throughout the period. My haircut, when I’m not sporting a wild man from Borneo look, is still a short back and sides with an offset parting. I concede the colour has changed but that wasn’t a personal choice.

We always had a TV and a telephone. Designs have changed but the basic function is the same. Internet is a new twist on an encyclopaedia combined with a TV and a telephone. We had texting but we called them telegrams for instant messages and letters for the ones on slow boats to China.

As to the Cold War, which Caleb thinks was quite a big thing, well it didn’t touch me at all. And the 1960s didn’t seem much different to the 1950s except there was a lot more food in tins and packets. Oh, and Dad got milking machines, but we were still using horses on the farm.

The ’70s. Yes, once again life was pretty much like the ’60s. The ’80s were very similar to the ’90s. Yet according to Caleb’s history teacher all sorts of great events took place. But was my life impacted?

Not really, except for the EU policy on milk production kiboshing my farming business.

Yes, we had ups and downs. Sometimes we were comfortably off and sometimes as poor as church mice but life generally was pretty much the same. Great political movements and enormous cultural changes were happening around me but I kept pottering on and I didn’t really notice any change for good or bad.

Recessions and depressions came and went but life went on and there was no fundamental change. Stick me back in my chair in the lounge in any decade and only the artex ceilings could give me a hint of which decade it was.

Political leaders rose and fell and regressive and progressive policies ebbed and flowed with each change of leader. But fundamentally, in my house, once I closed my door everything was pretty much the same.

Perhaps I was lucky, being a male, straight, white Boomer and so nothing much needed to change for me?

Or perhaps I was lucky being born into the simpler and more frugal 1950s and being brought up in an almost timeless way of life. My father’s life wasn’t far different from that of his Victorian father.

My children, though, have a higher bar when it comes to quality of life. I had the privilege of a very wise parent who taught me the wonder of nature and the benefit of living a simple life. He would be happy to drink tea from an old jam jar rather than buy a nice tea cup and then not be able to afford the tea leaves.

I’m rambling on for the purpose of lulling you into a false sense of security before hitting you with my Plan A and Plan B for getting through the cost of living crisis which is forming around us as a result of a perfect storm we can’t even blame the States of Guernsey for.

Things are bad now and will get worse before they get better. If we want to survive, then we must bend with the wind. Resist the storm and you will be bowled over. Learn to help yourself. And here I will now sound like a Tory minister. Which is why I softened you up a bit first.

Start now by cutting out all expenses that are frivolous and don’t keep you alive and keep a roof over your head. Look at those standing orders and direct debits. If you can’t eat what you are buying or you can’t heat with it, then cut it out. Remember, a couple of slices of bread with some peanut butter made at home is probably a lot cheaper than anything the coffee shop sells. And a teabag in a flask costs vastly less than your daily mocha or whatever. Write your own name on the cup and save money.

You unfortunately probably won’t have access to a free energy source slow cooker. Not everyone has a dung heap, but you could save a few pennies with a hay box? And, yes, it’s lovely to have a food box service which delivers all you need to cook a lovely meal, but you know all those ingredients can be bought cheaper and a few store cupboard basics will save you a fortune in the long run.

And if you like plant sprouts or microgreens, then grow them yourself at home. No need for a garden. Focus on vegetables and fruit that are in season and cut down on the more exotic, expensive ones. Shop very carefully and don’t miss out on the late night bargains in the reduced section.

I know, I know, Millennials et al don’t expect to live within their means. I’ve seen the social media whines. ‘I am a teacher but I have a week until payday and I only have £1.50 left’ sort of thing. And what is that teacher demanding? A book on budgeting? No, higher wages. Take some responsibility for once and learn to tighten your belt.

That’s Plan A, which is tighten your belt now before it gets too bad and you have more chance of making it through to better times.

The States is working on Plan B, which is designed to make us all happier and guarantee we won’t be worrying about having no money left at the end of the month. The plan is to legalise cannabis and deliver it freely to each household once a week.

That should do the trick?

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